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The men’s triathlon is about to begin — covering it live!

Here we go on a cloudy day in London that looks perfect for a triathlon. The water is warmer than the weather, but they’re calling it a wetsuit swim, of course. Bevan Docherty’s bike is in place and he’s about to walk into the transition area, along with Britain’s Brownlee brothers. They just got a huge cheer.

11:30 a.m.

And they’re off. they’ve now formed four lines in the water — drafting to conserve energy. Impossible to tell where Docherty or the Americans are in the bunch.

It is absolutely packed in Hyde Park. More people already than for the women’s race.
Richard Varga is in the lead for Slovakia in the swim 12 minutes in.

Vargas and Javier Gomez out of the water first. Jonathan Brownlee out fourth. Docherty is in the latter half of the first big pack, but makes one of the fastest transitions.

It’s being called one of the fastest swims in Olympic history.

11:50 a.m.

The first biker went down, but not sure who it is yet. Looked like the rider in front of him zigged instead of zagged and tripped up his wheel. Looks like Celustka of Czechloslovakia.

Polansky of Russia stops for a flat.

The lead group of 5 inincludes J. Brownlee, J. Gomez, A. Brownlee, and A. Fabian of Italy. They are really working together. R. Varga, the top swimmer, is also in that group, of 6 not 5.

Docherty in 14th with teammate Gemmell in chase pack. probably 15 riders in that group.

Docherty in the middle of the chase pack but moving to the front as they make a second pass through the transition area.

NEWS — Simon Whitfield, the Canadian triathlete who is the only one with as many medals as Docherty, just dropped from the race. It is his fourth Olympics.

There are 2 other chase packs, the last of which looks like it’s out for a Sunday stroll, at least compared to the others.

We’re a little over half an hour into the race.

Docherty was 23rd out of the swim. Gemmell was 24th. American Hunter Kemper came out 21st. The were about 30 seconds behind swim-leader Varga, who exited in 16:56. Manny Huerta is 52nd out of 55.

The lead pack has been caught by the pack with Kemper, Docherty and Gemmell. Docherty is biding his time in 15th, about midway through, which may be a credit to his experience — not wasting energy at the front of the pack. The man at the front is Hays, the little talked about Brit team member.

Looks like the lead pack has about a minute advantage over the chase pack.

Sorry folks for any typos. The glare off my screen in the press area is intolerable.

That gap is 1:15

12:20 p.m.

Lap 4 of 7 down and Docherty still in 15th, Hays still leads and Gemmell in 4th. Didn’t catch where Kemper is, but he’s in th mix here.

With two laps left, Docherty is 16th. Great Britain is leading the charge, probably hoping to get the Brownlees a few smidges of extra seconds heading into the transition. Huerta is in the second group, 38th overall

Wonder if anyone is going to attack on the final lap. Someone is going to have to if they’re going to hold off the Brownlees or Lopez on the run.

Sounds like the lead over the chase pack is about 2 minutes, so that pack is a nonfactor.

Press row is filled with British journalists, as well as someone from 220 Triathlon and the Canadian Olympic Committee. Affable group, one of the best I’ve been on the row with so far.

Well, there iw an attac, but it’s by one man: Alistair Brownlee. He’s pushing the pace ahead of the pack, but how can he keep it up — unless his teammates are holding back the rest of the pack.

12:38 pm

Kemper of the USA is 12th, Docherty 18th as they head into the final lap. We are in this.

12:48

OK, second transition is under way. Docherty, wearing screaming orange shoes, leaves in 16th place. Kemper is in 19th. Luis led the pack coming out, but the Brownlees were right on his tail. They are a pack of three now, I beleive. Or is that Gomez? Yep, the Brownlees and Gomez. All the favorites in one neat bunch.

Docherty is moving fast. He just passed Gemmell I believe, but he’s 13th and still a ways behind the leaders.

Hmm, I think one of the Brownlees has the same shoe sponsor as Docherty. Same melon orange day-glo shoes.

Dccherty’s still 13th and gaining, but he’s going to have to really push it to catch the lead 3.

12:50 p.m.

Docherty has company, but I can’t tell who it is. Someone in green.

1::01:32 and the Brownlees and Gomez lead with two of four laps down, just as they have from the start. Looks like Jonathan has been dropped, though, so we’ll see what happens with Bronze.

Docherty is in 12th now and pushing hard. There’s a solid group of four just before him.
Things are getting exciting, at least if you’re a Brit. Alistair looks gold bround, but what’s going to happen with Johnny, who has dropped off and is being prsued by two frenchmen?

Categories: Bevan Docherty, Olympics, Your neighbors | Leave a comment

Triathlete Bevan Docherty ‘Inspiring a Generation’ after move to Santa Cruz

New Zealand triathlete Bevan Docherty relaxes at his Santa Cruz, CA home Sunday, July 8, 2012 where he trains. Docherty won a silver medal at the 2004 Athens Olympics and a bronze at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. (Anthony L. Solis/Sentinel)

By JULIE JAG
jjag@santacruzsentinel.com

LONDON – Bevan Docherty had no intention to “Inspire a Generation” – the official slogan for the 2012 Olympics – when he set out to qualify for these Games in men’s triathlon.
Known as a solitary man, Docherty had zeroed in on two goals:
A) He wanted to become a member of his third New Zealand Olympic triathlon team.
B) He wanted to put himself in position to win the gold, which, when added to the silver he won in 2004 and and bronze he won in ’08, would make him the only triathlete with a complete set.
Being a role model to a couple of fresh-faced kids 10 years his junior didn’t necessarily fit into his plans.
Yet at least two young Olympic-caliber racers credit Docherty for altering their careers. Win the men’s triathlon in Hyde Park on Tuesday, and he could alter the sport and “Inspire a Generation” of triathletes to move to sea-level training grounds like Santa Cruz.
“Bevan is a huge influence in my life at how committed and driven he is,” wrote Tommy Zaferes, an Aptos native and Rio 2016 hopeful, in an email. “How he can train so hard, and still be a solid family man. That’s a tough double!”
Endurance athletes stereotypically flock to high altitude bases to train for big event. Docherty went against the stream. Looking for warmer winters and a lower elevation than Boulder, Colo., where he had been living during his 2008 Olympic campaign, he and his wife, Cheryl, flew into LAX airport late in 2009, hopped in a car and started driving up the coast in search of a new home for what would eventually be a family of five.
“We stopped in Monterey for the night and we were all excited, thinking this could be it,” Docherty said from his Westside home. “Then when we woke up, it was all fogged in. As soon as we drove in to Santa Cruz, we knew this was it.”
Docherty could check off all his boxes in Santa Cruz. It is near a major airport, is big enough in size but small enough in feel, has good training terrain and, being on the coast, is at sea level. Docherty, who hails from Taupo, New Zealand, believed he could train more vigorously at sea level than at altitude. He could, likewise, get the benefits of living at altitude – more oxygen carried in the bloodstream – simply by sleeping in a high-altitude tent, which he and Cheryl do nightly.
That thought pairs with results of a study out of Oxford, where he and the rest of the New Zealand team have been stationed during the Olympics. It has also caught on with Matt Chrabot, the alternate for the USA triathlon team and the top-ranked American on the International Triathlon Union circuit, who moved from Colorado Springs, Colo., to Aptos in June.
“It was too much and too stressful,” Chrabot, said of living in the mountains. “I push myself really, really hard and after a while my body couldn’t take it. It kind of broke me down, and I was like I’ve got to find a sea level training location that I can train at all year long.”
On Docherty’s advice, he chose the Santa Cruz area.
“I just met Bevan [at a race] and Bevan’s like, ‘Come out and train with us, we’ve got Tommy Zafares and [Ironman standout] Paul Matthews,’” Chrabot, 29, recalled. “Tommy and I started talking on Facebook and I said I’m going to come out and train with you guys.”
That made quite the band of merry three-sport men. But again, that wasn’t Docherty’s intention.
Docherty set the wheels in motion by contacting Zaferes shortly after he moved his family to town, but he mostly he was looking for a swimming partner. Zaferes began his competitive career as an Olympic-hopeful swimmer who lined up next to multi-medal Olympians Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte during national competitions and at the 2008 Olympic swimming trials. When an ill-timed cold derailed that dream, he had returned to Santa Cruz to coach a club team and dabble in triathlon.
“When I first talked to Bevan and swam with him, I didn’t really know who he was,” Zaferes wrote. “I had only competed in a few triathlons at this point, and only after other people were like, ‘Dude, he’s not just a good triathlete from New Zealand, he’s a two time Olympic medalist!’ was I like, ‘Whoa, sweet!’”
After a few months of helping Docherty improve his swim times, Zaferes joined him for a couple of bike training rides. That initial effort didn’t go well.
“I crashed on our second ride together in 2009, and was definitely not at a point in my career where I was able to keep up with him,” Zaferes wrote. “After that ride I didn’t really start training with him again until the middle of 2011.”
In the meantime, Zaferes improved his bike skills and Docherty started his push to make his third New Zealand Olympic team in the Olympic-distance [1.5 kilometer swim, 40k bike and 10k run] event.
The road would have a few more twists this time around. Not only had Docherty, 35, aged four years since Beijing, but he and Cheryl added two more children – McKenna and Thatcher – to their brood, giving them three in all. He didn’t qualify to the Kiwi team as early as he had in the past, which meant he had to spend more time worrying about getting in than preparing for the Games. In addition to all of that, he dropped his coach, deciding to go it alone less than a year before the Games.
“The past few years have not been ideal and I wanted to change it up a bit,” he said. “It’s kind of scary to change it up in an Olympic year. But, you can keep going down the same path and hope things change or you can switch it up. I have that kind of personality that I struggle to trust anyone else.”
But Docherty began to trust Zaferes as a training partner. As the fledgling triathlete developed into a more capable racer and started plotting his own path to the Olympics, Docherty stepped up as a sounding board. That was especially true after Zaferes also decided to go without his coach – 2004 triathlete and Santa Cruz High graduate Victor Plata — a decision he said Docherty had no hand in.
Zaferes had been desperately trying to latch onto a spot on the USA team bound for London, but everything would have had to go right and then some for him to do it. Instead, Docherty suggested he pace himself for Rio de Janeiro in 2016 and in the meantime gain experience racing the European circuits.
“I know when I qualified for the Olympics, I was ready. It came naturally. A lot of others force the issue, went before they should have and end up 30th or 20th,” Docherty said. “My first year [in 2004], I won the World Cup, the World Championships and an Olympic medal.
“Going into the Olympics, my dream was to win an Olympic medal. In hindsight, it should have been to win the gold, but I can’t beat myself up over it. It was still a bloody good race.”
This time around, gold is the only goal for Docherty. He will be relying on experience to help him overcome British favorites Alistar and Jonathan Brownlee and a flat London course that’s not especially suited to him.
But after his move to Santa Cruz, he feels he’s in a good position. And whether he planned it or not, he’s already inspired a generation of Santa Cruz triathletes to continue his Olympics legacy.
“It actually surprised me that more top athletes weren’t here,” he said, “but they all seem to be starting to come.”
Racetime is 11:30 a.m. BST Tuesday (3:30 a.m. PDT — will be aired live on NBC)

Categories: Athletes, Bevan Docherty, Events, Olympics, Triathlon, Your neighbors | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Scotts Valley’s Murai’s Olympic wish coming true

By JULIE JAG

jjag@santacruzsentinel.com

 

LONDON – On a typical London day, in which the rain and the sun took turns controlling the skies, Erick Murai took refuge in the close confines of an arena seat. There, with his father on one side, his brother behind him, and people from all reaches of the world and speaking dozens of languages around him, the Scotts Valley student settled in to watch a women’s basketball game between Canada and Brazil.

It’s been a long trip, but Murai’s wish to attend the Olympics is coming true.

“Oh yeah,” said Murai, 18. “I’m really enjoying it for the most part.”

For two years, Murai has been battling acute lymphoblastic leukemia. To fight the disease, he has to take daily chemotherapy pills and receive monthly spinal punctures to help the medicine reach his brain – a schedule he’ll have to keep up for at least a year. While he was receiving treatment at Lucille Packard Children’s Hospital late in 2011, someone from the Bay Area chapter of Make-a-Wish approached Murai about granting him a wish.

Murai, who played basketball his freshman year and football his sophomore year at Scotts Valley, wanted it to involve sports. So, after his first choice of meeting NFL player Maurice Jones-Drew didn’t pan out, he decided to dream bigger, picking the biggest sporting event he could think of – the Olympics.

To his surprise, the group gave that wish the go-ahead. In all, Make-a-Wish America expected to send 43 Americans and 11 others to the Games, which run through Aug. 12.

Murai, who is traveling with his father, Gerrod, and brother, Christian, left Tuesday and will return Monday. He had only flown once – with the Falcons football team to Oregon – and he had never been out of the time zone, so just being in London has been a new experience.

“It’s pretty nice when it’s not raining,” Murai said. “That latest downpour wasn’t that great. We didn’t come prepared, we only have one umbrella.”

Murai said the trip has also involved more walking than he expected. Of course, that included extra miles spent trying to navigate the city, which has been turned into even more of a maze with the barriers erected around Olympic venues.

“Dad has us walking in circles just to cross the street,” Christian Murai, 15, joked.

Erick Murai specifically requested the chance to see basketball. Within hours of landing Wednesday, he was sitting almost courtside, watching the Team USA women romp over Turkey, 89-58. He also was treated to a session of three women’s basketball games on Friday, including the Canada-Brazil game. In between, the trio headed to Horse Guards Parade on Thursday night, where they watched four beach volleyball matches.

“I think that was more enjoyable than basketball,” Murai said.

That sport a big hit with the Brits as well, mostly because it involves women in bikinis playing close to the center of the city.

“It doesn’t hurt,” Murai said. He quickly added, “They were pretty good matches.”

The Murais likely won’t get to see Kobe Bryant, Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony. The Dream Team plays Lithuania in the early men’s basketball session today, and they have tickets to the late session, their final Olympic event.

The Olympics may be the centerpiece of this trip, but the Murai men are making the most of all London has to offer. Today they will see a performance of Phantom of the Opera at the historic Her Majesty’s Theatre and on Sunday they will take in The Taming of the Shrew at the replica of Shakespeare’s The Globe.

They’re even tasting the local fare when they can. They haven’t been able to sample any bangers and mash or fish and chips yet, though, because Erick must finish eating at least three hours before he takes his nightly chemotherapy pills.

Still, he says the jet lag has slowed him as much as the leukemia treatments. Both make it hard to wake up when his dad tries to roust him at 7:30 each morning. But, Gerrod Murai doesn’t want this wish to be wasted in a hotel room.

“This is not a sort of relaxation trip,” he said. “It’s a lot of running around and getting things done.”

Categories: Beach Volleyball, Events, Olympics, Travel, Your neighbors | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Moreno, women’s boxing to benefit from Olympic debut

 

 

By JULIE JAG

jjag@santacruzsentinel.com

LONDON – History will be made Saturday when a pair of women climb through the ropes and into the ring for the first women’s boxing match of the modern Olympic era.

Carina Moreno wanted to be there. And in a small way, she will be.

The Watsonville boxer sparred with Marlen Esparza, who will represent Team USA in the flyweight [112 pound] division, to prepare Esparza for the hard hits some of the European fighters will deliver during the course of the next week. More significantly, as one of the first generations of female boxers, Moreno beat back obstacles on the way to helping the sport make its debut in the 2012 Games.

“I think it’s great, it’s about time they make it in the Olympics,” Moreno wrote in an email. “I just don’t know why it took so long.”

Moreno took up boxing in 1999, two years before the creation of the first women’s world championship. Even then, she dreamed of being an Olympian. By the time the International Olympic Committee approved women’s boxing as an Olympic sport 10 years later, however, she had, for financial reasons, already turned professional. In Olympic boxing, unlike basketball, beach volleyball and a myriad of other sports, that makes her ineligible to compete.

“It’s very disappointing to see all the attraction and endorsements they are getting, because if they would of had it when I was an amateur, I know for sure that I would be in their position,” wrote Moreno, referencing Esparza’s sponsorship by Nike, Coca-Cola, Proctor and Gamble [Cover Girl] and McDonald’s. “But this doesn’t affect me at all. I think it will help all the women boxers.”

Many expect the addition of the women’s boxing to the Games and the attention sponsors are paying to vault a sport that has been experiencing waning interest on both the male and female sides back into the spotlight. Team USA men’s and women’s coach Basheer Abdullah said the Olympics will give young girls someone like them to look up to in the sport, someone to show them there is a future for them in it, whether it be at the amateur or pro level.

“I think after this Olympics our gyms are just going to be flooded with women boxers,” he said. “I think the timing of bringing women on board in an Olympic sport and the sport of boxing is great because the talent has improved immensely.  I think that we’re going to see some great, exciting boxing in the women’s program at this Olympics.”

Neither Moreno nor most of the 36 women fighting for the first gold medal in each of three weight divisions, knew of a female fighter they could look to for guidance as they grew up in the sport.

Moreno mimicked a male cousin who boxed. Team USA veteran Quanitta “Queen” Underwood, a 28-year-old lightweight [132 pound], found a role model in Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, 17-year-old Claressa Shields, Team USA’s welterweight [165 pounds], modeled herself after Sugar Ray Leonard and Joe Lewis.

In fact, Shields doesn’t even like to be compared to other female fighters.

“I figure I’m the best female boxer out there,” she said. “I know there’s not one male in this world that’s seen me box that’s said I fight like a girl.”

Esparza, meanwhile, now admires Lucia Rijker, but she grew up idolizing Horace Chavez.

“That’s who I tried to emulate when I was little. That’s how I learned about boxing,” said Esparza, 23, who took up the sport at 11 at her boxing-fanatic father’s urging. “I used to call boxing ‘Chavez’. I’d say, ‘Chavez is on, Chavez is on!’ and my dad was like, ‘Those are just boxers.’

“I definitely only knew about boxing when I was little. I’m talking about as far as I can remember, like until 5 years [old]. I thought that was part of everybody’s life. I thought that was life. Guess I was a little wrong.”

So few girls boxed at the time that Esparza says she now realizes how lucky she was to find a trainer, Rudy Silva, who would take her on as a student. Unfortunately, she added, not much has changed since then.

“It’s still hard. My trainer literally gets attacked for time,” said the Houston native. “He got laughed at a lot for paying attention to me. He got told one time, ‘Why do you even pay attention to her? She’s just going to get pregnant.’ That sort of thing, and he didn’t care. To run into something like that was close to impossible.”

Esparza, who got started around the same time as Moreno, said she hasn’t enjoyed being a trailblazer.

“It would have made my life a lot easier growing up” to have a female role model, said Esparza, who plans to give up the sport after these Olympics and her degree at a university. “There were so many days of: Am I doing the right thing? Should I just go to school? Should I just forget about this? Am I going to go anywhere with this? Is it going to be worth it? So, it was a lot of those days where it was like, ‘Why am I doing this?’ If I would have had somebody there, it would have given me something solid to go on versus just wishing and hoping and gambling.”

In the long run, though, that wishing and hoping and gambling worked. It delivered her right where she wanted to be – fighting for an Olympic medal. She and Shields received first-round byes, so their opening bouts will be Aug. 6. Underwood will fight in the first day of competition Sunday.

But Esparza is one of the lucky ones whose weight class will be featured. The Women’s International Boxing Federation features 18 weight classes, but only three made the Olympic cut.

So, the women of boxing aren’t taking their hand wraps off just yet. In fact, they’re warming up for another battle: to bring in all weight divisions..

“It’s always a struggle. They‘ve been fighting for this moment for years. And I don’t think they’re finished fighting,” coach Abdullah said. “I think they want more and they deserve more. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see some more weight classes emerging, too.”

Just getting boxing into the Olympics is a start, though. In addition to creating more competition, it presents something both veterans like Moreno and burgeoning starts like Esparza can be proud of.

As Abdullah said, “The Olympic Games don’t define them as role models. They were role models before they got to this point.”

Categories: Athletes, Boxing, Events, Marlen Esparza, Olympics, Photos, Your neighbors | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

SJSU volleyball player making Brits proud

Britain’s Savanah Leaf, left, spikes the ball as Algeria’s Sehryne Hennaoui, (1) and Lydia Oulmou defend during a women’s preliminary volleyball match at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Monday, July 30, 2012, in London. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

By JULIE JAG
jjag@santacruzsentinel.com

LONDON – Savanah Leaf simply wanted to return to her roots when she decided she would try out for the Great Britain women’s volleyball team almost a year ago – before she even knew the squad would be competing in the 2012 Olympics. Now the 18-year-old Marin Academy graduate is making the Brits roar on the sport’s biggest stage.
“I didn’t think I would be here four months ago, I didn’t think this would be possible,” Leaf said following Great Britain’s 3-0 loss to Italy in pool play Wednesday night at Earls Court. “I see my family up in the stands, and it’s just incredible. It’s amazing.”
Leaf, who at age 8 moved with her mother, Alison, from London to the Bay Area, was considered a long shot to make the GB team. At 18, she holds the distinction of being the youngest British volleyball player at the Games of any discipline and the only American on the team. She played just her freshman season at San Jose State after graduating from Marin Academy in 2011, and she has no international experience.
So it would seem playing at the Olympics in front of a capacity crowd of 19,000 – many yelling “GB!” and “Smash it!” – would be intimidating.
“The first game definitely got me nervous, especially since we were playing really tall Russian players that are really well known, so that gave me some butterflies,” the 6-foot tall Leaf said. “But I’m actually kind of getting used to that big crowd and actually I’m feeding off of them. It’s helping me so much.”
Team GB coach Audrey Cooper said that is true of the entire team, which may have contributed to some of their somewhat unexpected success.
“When they give you that roar, that just gives you a lift. It just gives you a real boost. Everyone’s reacting to that,” Cooper said of the crowd. “It’s like a cauldron to do battle. No sign of nerves.”
The volleyball team’s historic first Olympic win came in wee hours of the morning Tuesday when GB defeated Algeria, 3-2. To advance after losing to Russia and Italy, it will need to win one more match and claim a few sets in the other. The team finishes Pool A play against the Dominican Republic on Friday and Japan on Sunday.
Leaf has tallied seven kills and two aces in limited play at the Olympics. On Wednesday, she made three kills and an ace in two sets against the strong Italian team.
“She is an absolutely delightful, mature 18-year-old. She’s just lovely,” Cooper said. “She has made a significant impact on the team already and she is pushing for that starting six position. She’s a little like a sponge as well, she picks up information quickly and asks superb questions. She has a really bright future.”
About 18 months ago, Leaf decided she wanted to play for Great Britain and sent Cooper a recruiting film her mother, an animation director at Pixar, put together. Cooper invited her to join the team for a training camp in Sheffield during Christmas break when Leaf planned to visit her mother’s hometown of Wetherby nearby.
“First I was thinking about the team, I wanted to make the GB team,” Leaf said, adding her motivation initially was to play in front of her English friends and family. “And then when I found out about the Olympics, I was like I really want to try out for this team.”
Leaf’s dark-horse status may have been what initially endeared her to Cooper and the GB players, most of who have been competing together for four years or more. Locally, Team GB has earned the nickname the DIY team because it has supported itself by holding bake sales and adopt-a-player drives after it was cut off from its public funding in 2010. Players have also left behind mortgages and boyfriends to be part of the first united Great Britain team – until 2006 it was divided into Britain, Scotland, Ireland and Wales — to compete in the Olympics. The team qualified automatically as the representative from the host nation.
“She’s gotten along really well,” said Ciara Michel, 27, a middle who made six kills and three blocks against the Italians. “She’s so young and such a raw talent. She goes out there and plays big, like we’re all trying to.”
Leaf already has plans to return for the European Championships in September, when she will also be starting her first season with the University of Miami, where she transferred after the 2011 season. Right now, she’s trying to believe she’s actually at the Olympics, playing in front of a packed stadium of hometown fans and, of course, staying at the Olympic village.
“It’s like a dream, kind of,” Leaf said. “There are so many athletes that you watch on TV and so many amazing athletes from around the world that you meet every day and everyone’s telling you their stories. It’s crazy.”

Categories: Athletes, Events, indoor, Olympics, Volleyball, Your neighbors | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Americans denied Olympic tickets

By JULIE JAG
jjag@santacruzsentinel.com

LONDON — Pete and Leslie Haddad’s Olympic event, the ticket mad dash, began as soon as they stepped off the train in London.
Carting their 4-year-old son Jackson along in a stroller Monday afternoon, they raced past such historical landmarks as Big Ben, Westminster Abby and Trafalgar Square and headed straight for Horse Guards Parade, just steps from Buckingham Palace. They had less interest in seeing her majesty the Queen than the queens and kings of the court in an Olympic session of beach volleyball, which both Haddads play regularly at Main Beach.
They reached the finish line – a box office near the venue entrance – only to discover that, as Americans, they were disqualified before they even started. No Olympic tickets, at any price point, not even to events with unsold seats, have been made available for foreigners to purchase in London.
“It sucks,” said Leslie Haddad, summing up the feeling of a growing number of Americans and other tourists who have been left feeling stranded.
On Monday night, the London Organizing Committee of the Olympic Games, or LOCOG, released more than 3,000 tickets to the public in response to criticism that too many seats in the “sold out” venues went unoccupied. Jackie Brock-Doyle, the LOCOG communications director, said 3,800 tickets across 30 sessions in 15 sports were released .
However, all were distributed through the london2012.com website, which Americans and many other foreigners cannot access. They can’t stroll around the Olympic Park, either. Access is restricted to ticket holders of events held inside the park – which excludes those attending off-site events such as gymnastics, equestrian, judo, archery, fencing, boxing, soccer and volleyball – and to holders of Olympic Park tickets, which are also only available for sale to British residents.
“I feel really handcuffed, I can’t go anywhere,” said Kyle Dixon, who flew from Philadelphia to London with the hope of distributing T-shirts from his Aradii Wardrobe line — some of which feature the slogan “We Are Freedom” — to multi-national Olympics fans. “We really thought it would be easy. We thought getting into the park would be free. We didn’t expect what we got here.”
The policy of prohibiting access to the park strays from that of previous Olympics, according to Patti Mascetti of Bristol, Conn. This is Mascetti’s third Olympics — she attended the 1984 games in L.A. and ’96 in Atlanta — and she said she never has felt so shut out, nor had such a difficult time purchasing tickets during the Games.
“We still tried into 1:30 last night and got nothing,” Mascetti wrote in an email. “My group here wants to go to Olympic Park and ask for tickets [and] ask [to] put the response in YouTube [because] the stories are never the same… and we are obviously not in the right place or time to get any of the 3,000 tickets!”
Part of the problem is that the IOC distributes a limited number of tickets to each country’s National Organizing Committee. The NOCs then distributed them to their country’s residents, typically through third-party agencies. The agency for the United States and six other countries is CoSport, which has a London office but is only selling tickets online – where they have been sold out for months.
LOCOG’s Brock-Doyle said residents of the UK had been promised priority for these Games.
“We made a promise, as you know, at the very beginning [that] 75 percent of tickets would go to the British public. We also said, after we saw the demand, that if people had tickets they wanted to return, we would try to make sure British public had access to them. The box offices we have are primarily there to pick up tickets that have been bought online,” Brock-Doyle said. “We always said we wanted the British public to be in there and the demand from the British public has been so enormous that we will continue to drive any tickets that we get — any contingencies, any returns — directly to British public.”
When asked what course of action non-British tourists hoping to get into the Games should take, Brock-Doyle replied: “My suggestion would be to enjoy some of the great live sites that are out there, but we’re going to continue selling tickets to the British online.”
That’s just what the Haddads ended up doing. They had just a couple days in London after spending most of their time abroad in Bristol, where Pete, who works for Hewlett Packard, had been sent on a business trip he learned about three months ago, long after U.S. tickets sold out. So they took in the sights they’d rushed by in their hurry to find the box office, and they watched some of the Games on a jumbo screen set up at the Tower Bridge. If they wanted a live performance, they needed only to look over at little Jackson, who was practicing his pommel horse and floor routines and judo on the grass.
But Brock-Doyle’s advice didn’t sit well with many others who traveled thousands of miles and are paying beyond peak prices for lodging and foot to be here during the Olympics.
“There are empty seats and we have money and we want to pay, we want to get in. Instead we have to stand outside with our flags,” said Catherine Arnprister, 23, of Los Angeles, who arrived at one gate to the park with three Australian and American friends, their faces painted with their country’s flag.
“Only letting the English in with the extra tickets isn’t in the spirit of the Olympics,” Arnprister added. “Everyone should have a chance to enjoy them.”

Categories: Behind the Scenes, Olympics, Travel, Your neighbors | Tags: , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Scotts Valley teen headed to Olympics courtesy of Make-a-Wish

By JULIE JAG
jjag@santacruzsentinel.com

When representatives from the Make-a-Wish Foundation asked Erick Murai for a couple of renditions of his one true wish, the former Scotts Valley High running back and cornerback kept it simple: He said he’d like to meet an NFL player, preferably Jacksonville Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew.
That wish fell through, so Murai will have to settle for his alternate request. In the place of Jones-Drew, he may get to meet a couple of NBA players — ones with names like Kevin Love, Kobe Bryant and Lebron James. And, he’ll to fly 5,300 miles and across nine time zones to do it.
Murai is headed to London, where they don’t have the kind of football he played before being diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia in 2010, but they do have the 30th Summer Olympic Games.
“The whole experience is going to be kind of nice,” said Murai, 18. “Traveling and being in a different country and the whole thing is going to be nice.”
Nice may seem like a lukewarm adjective for what may be the most extravagant wish ever granted by Make-a-Wish, a nonprofit that specializes in turning extravagant wishes into realities for children ages 2 1/2 to 18 coping with life-threatening medical issues. But Murai can easily be forgiven for not wasting his energy sorting through descriptors. He needs all he can muster to fight his cancer.
Murai ingests chemotherapy pills [which also affect his cognitive thinking] daily and travels to the Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital in Palo Alto once a month for a lumbar puncture to help the treatment bypass the blood-brain barrier. He began receiving chemotherapy in 2010, shortly after he went to the hospital complaining of shivers and neck pain – nothing too unusual for a young football player – and was diagnosed with leukemia. He will continue the treatment routine for about another year with the hope he can eradicate all the spores, including the ones in his bone marrow, where the cancer originated. If the treatment is successful, he will return to Palo Alto for periodic checkups for three more years.
After that, Murai may get the wish he holds above all others.
“It is possible it will never come back,” his father, Gerrod Murai, said of the cancer. “There’s a 60- to 70-percent rate.”
Murai will get to bring his father on the trip with him, as well as his younger brother, Christian, 15. In all, Make-a-Wish plans to send 53 children and their families — 42 from the U.S. and 11 from other countries — to the London Games, according to Sarah Kaplan of the San Francisco Make-a-Wish chapter. Kaplan said it is impossible to know how much those wishes will cost until they have been completed, nor does the price tag matter.
“All wishes are expensive, some more so than others, but our goal is to grant the one true wish of children with life-threatening illnesses,” Kaplan wrote in an email. “We are committed to providing impactful experiences for wish kids and their families, no matter the wish.”
During one trip to Stanford for treatment, Murai was told to start dreaming.
“They asked me what I would want for some wishes and … I wanted to travel and do something with sports,” Murai said. “I thought of some other things. Then I remembered the Olympics were coming up this summer. I decided that would be a good choice.”
The Murais leave July 31 and return Aug. 6. It will Erick’s second flight ever. He took his first when he traveled with his Falcons football teammates to Oregon for a game last fall.
“It’s going to be an incredible opportunity really,” said Gerrod Murai. “I’ve seen so many Olympics on television, but I never thought I would actually be there. There’s quite a few really exciting things going on with the Phelps record and the basketball…. The idea of being able to see all of that will be pretty awesome.
“It’s a little overwhelming.”
He might even say it’s a Dream Team come true.
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Follow Julie Jag as she covers the Olympics at http://www.scsacrossthepond.wordpress.com.
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GET INVOLVED
Make-a-Wish
Make-a-Wish has granted 212,000 wishes to children with life-threatening medical issues since it was founded in 1980. The biggest expense for most wishes is airline miles. Donate your miles or money here.

Categories: Olympics, Your neighbors | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

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