Posts Tagged With: London 2012

Checking Olympics, and other items, off my bucket list

USA’s Serena Williams celebrates after beating Russia’s Maria Sharapova 6-0, 6-1 for the Women’s Singles Tennis gold medal match at Wimbledon, Centre Court for the London 2012 Olympics in London, England on Saturday, Aug. 4, 2012. (Nhat V. Meyer/Mercury News)

Julie Jag

jjag@santacruzsentinel.com

Gabby Douglas, 15, sat in a conference room, surrounded by reporters and Olympic officials with at least 20 years on her. One dusted off the cobwebs and mustered the saliva to ask Douglas, who days earlier became the first African American girl to win the gold medal in the gymnastics individual all-around competition, what she expected the impact of her historic victory to be.
“I’ve always wanted to inspire people,” replied Douglas, as she held court over the group.
“The thing about the Olympics, [there’s] this quote you see: ‘Inspire a Generation.’ You know, now I can check that off my bucket list.”
That moment near the end of my expedition into covering my first Olympics got me thinking about bucket lists. I hadn’t ever really made a physical list of the things I wanted to experience in life, nor taken an inventory. But Douglas’ remarks unlocked a mental file I had apparently stored away in the recesses of my brain. Attending the Olympics in an official capacity was right near the front.
While in the process of fulfilling that wish over the past month, though, I got the opportunity to places checkmarks next to several other life experiences — some of which I didn’t even realize were in the bucket until I’d experienced them for myself. This is the short list:
Serena Williams wins gold with authority
Whatever the reason, this stands out as one the highlights of my Olympic experience. Part of it can be explained by the intimate confines of Wimbledon’s Centre Court, where an entire crowd of 15,000 can share in an inside joke like friends at a dinner party. Part of it related to Williams’ demeanor, more powerful and amped up than ever in her 6-0, 6-1 dismantling of Russia’s Maria Sharapova. What really made it memorable, though, were the post-match antics — Williams dancing on the grass in excitement over her gold-medal performance and the American flag fluttering to the ground in the midst of the national anthem.
USA women’s soccer team gets revenge on Japan
This moment also had more to do with the building and buildup than the game itself. The USA and Japan entered with a tense history, especially from the Americans’ point of view. We were on the losing end of the same matchup for the Women’s World Cup championship in a game that went down to penalty kicks. The USA women made no bones about wanting revenge, plus they had barely escaped Canada in their semifinal. That led to the teams packing 80,200 vocal, flag-waving, sign-hoisting fans — an Olympic record for a women’s game — into Wembley, already one of the world’s iconic soccer venues.
The teams made the game almost as riveting as the anticipation. It was a close, well-played contest full of skillful shots and a couple rub-your-eyes-in-amazement saves by Hope Solo. As far as memories go, of course, it didn’t hurt that the USA came out on top.
Watching the fastest man alive with my own eyes (and seeing him be too slow to escape a gaggle of autograph seeking reporters)
Twice I headed to Olympic stadium to see Usain Bolt prove, again, he’s the fastest man alive. The first time I completed my own sprint, weaving through the thick crowds in my wedged sandals as I tried to get from the jam-packed Stratford train station to the stadium before the 100-meter final. When I got there, I was told the press seating was full. I’m more stubborn than that, though, so I sneaked into the back of an open-air broadcast booth and knelt down until the gun went off. Bolt finished not 100 feet from where I stood, the clear winner, albeit in a close race.
I thought about waiting around to hear his reaction in the press conference. One look at all the time he took “bolting” around the track and the long line of broadcast outlets waiting to interview him, and I figured it would be midnight and he would be exhausted, before the lowly print media got their time with him. Little did I know he planned to stay up until 3 a.m. celebrating with members of the Swedish handball team.
The second time I saw him may have been his last Olympic race. He was gunning for a trifecta by adding the 4×100 to his golds in the 100 and 200. Luckily, I was already at the stadium to cover the women’s 800 final and had snagged a nearly front-row seat. The seat became even better when I discovered that to my right sat an amicable reporter for the London paper The Sun, who happened to be a veritable expert on Bolt, having just finished writing a biography on the runner.
The race was riveting. Team USA and Jamaica quickly emerged as the leaders, but the chance of disaster cropped up at every handoff [in fact, the third-place Canadian team was disqualified for an illegal one]. It came down to the final leg, with the USA’s Ryan Bailey and Jamaica’s Bolt — who doesn’t usually run the anchor leg — taking the batons at the same time. But in a head-to-head footrace, Olympic rookie Bailey, who took fifth in the open 100, couldn’t keep up. Bolt not only broke the tape first, but had the consciousness of mind to immediately form an “M” atop his head in tribute to his friend and adored British distance runner Mo Farah, a two-time gold medalist in London.
The press conference that followed more than an hour later proved with the wait. In fact, it might have been more of a spectacle than the actual race. In it, Bolt’s relay teammate Yohan Blake said of the team: “We are not normal guys. We are from space, I am from Mars.” In a more bizarre outburst, “journalists” from around the globe asked Bolt everything from how did he expect to live a normal life now that, as they put it, he is “truly and by far the greatest athlete to ever live” to whether he would tweet a picture if he found himself in the company of Norwegian women’s handball players that night. As the capper, at least a dozen of these “journalists” rushed the stage after the conference to ask for autographs, while the rest of us cringed.
Feeling the bond of beach volleyball’s gold medal winners (even as the floor falls out from under them)
Standing on top of the podium together for the third time in as many Olympics, Kerri Walsh and Misty May-Treanor still couldn’t hold back the tears during the playing of the “Star Spangled Banner.” The best known beach volleyball players in the world went out on top, and this time they did it the hard way.
Life had changed so much for the two of them since winning in Athens and Beijing — two kids for Walsh, an Achilles injury for May-Treanor — that they needed couples therapy to get through it. Like any relationship worth fighting for, though, the tests only brought them closer, and that was clear in their cooperation on the court.
It was illustrated even more not 30 minutes after the medal ceremony, when they found themselves on rock-bottom once again. Actually, it was plywood bottom.
The floor of the packed “mixed zone” interview area collapsed under the weight of the unexpected mass of reporters who showed up to cover a sport they could no longer ignore now that the duo had hammered harder than one of Walsh’s spikes into the national spotlight. Walsh managed to hop to level ground and she quickly helped her teammate out of the hole she’d fallen into.
Hey, what are partners for?
“The bond we have and understanding we have for each other is so special,” May-Treanor said. “Kerri said it a couple of times, the first two medals, I think it was more volleyball. The friendship we had was there, but it was all volleyball, volleyball. This was so much more about the friendship, the togetherness, the journey, and volleyball was just a small part of it.”
Holding a historic Olympic medal
The Olympics revolves around medals — those who get one and those who don’t. Still, it didn’t occur to me to want to get a close look at one until Abby Johnston, half of the duo that won silver in 3-meter synchronized diving competition, noted how heavy her hardware was during a post-win interview.
How heavy is it? This question led to one of my coolest first-person experiences. There is something magical about a medal, even a silver one. They’re a piece of art and yes, they are heavy. In fact, they weigh about 14 ounces.
Somehow, though, they carry more weight when put into perspective. It was the United States’ first medal in synchronized diving since it became a sport in 2000.
Experiencing the pride of a country (or what moved Mo Farah)
All we heard heading into London for the Olympics was what a disaster they were going to be. The masses weren’t happy about having to pay for these frivolous stadiums and improvements to the train system, especially during an economic downturn. Then, once we got there, they weren’t happy about being turned away while empty seats glared at them from the TV screen. Making matters much worse, several days of competition passed without the Brits bringing home a single gold. Panic started to set in.
But on Day 6, a couple of female rowers broke the golden spell for the host country. Three days later, local darling Jessica Ennis nearly brought down Olympic stadium when she won the heptathlon. It bolstered the Brits’ the national spirit, uniting them in ways even they didn’t expect. When the medals started piling up, each one dusted off a little more pride. Londoners even started talking to each other on the subway, which apparently never happens.
By the time Mo Farah raced to victory in the 5,000 on the eve of the close of the Games, the country practically glowed with glory. They sent the Somali runner — considered by many a true symbol of the nations-uniting purpose of the Games — and the Olympics out with ear-rattling cheers that clanged through the 80,000-seat Olympic stadium.
Nice thing was, when they weren’t cheering for the home team, they respectfully applauded and lauded outstanding athletes from other countries, even the big, bad USA.

Categories: Archery, Athletes, Badminton, Beach Volleyball, Bevan Docherty, Boxing, Cycling, Events, Gabby Douglas, Gymnastics, Kerri Walsh, Olympics, Soccer, Swimming, Table Tennis, Tennis, Track & Field Events, Triathlon, Volleyball | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Highlights of the 2012 Olympics

By JULIE JAG
jjag@santacruzsentinel.com

LONDON – In a whirl of color and sound bites of familiar tunes by British stars, London said goodbye to the Olympics.
Sunday’s closing ceremonies packed in the slightly stale stars and the crowds, filling the 80,000-seat Olympic stadium fuller than a steak-and-ale pie. Yet, that fanfare and the excitement over the torch being passed to Rio de Janeiro in 2016, paled in comparison to the Games themselves.
Perhaps it’s because this is the city’s third go-round with the Olympics, or my first time covering them live, but London seemed to know the script by heart. Here were some of the highlights:

Best Athletes in the Best Venues
The number of dream matchups that play out during a short 17-day span is mind boggling for someone who hasn’t been to an Olympics before. Every day I was here I felt like I saw one epic sporting event and missed three or four more.
I saw Serena Williams, probably at the top of her career, completely dismantle Maria Sharapova in the intimate atmosphere that is Wimbledon. A week later I went to Wembley, the historic soccer stadium, to watch the USA women’s team get its sweet revenge and a gold medal against Japan. In between, I crammed into a press box to glimpse Usain Bolt proving he really is the fastest man alive and snuck into swimming to see Michael Phelps get a step closer to the Olympic medals record. That list doesn’t touch the memorable moments from swimming, diving, equestrian, boxing, wrestling, taekwondo, volleyball, basketball and more that have sadly begun to blur together.

Giddy over Girl Power
Women had more of an influence on these Games than any other. The U.S. sent a higher number of women than men for the first time and they repaid the effort with far more medals than their male counterparts. So did the women of China and Russia. But that’s not what made this Olympics one of girl power. That had more to do their lasting impact.
Gabby Douglas stood out for more than her hair and may have altered the sport of gymnastics as a result. Gold medal beach volleyball players Kerri Walsh and Misty May-Treanor gave a clinic in how far a strong bond, bolstered by some couples therapy, can take a team. And Claressa Shields and Marlen Esparza made a big impact by winning medals in women’s boxing, a new sport this Games, to show women can be tough and feminine and to keep the U.S. from its first-ever boxing shutout.
And that’s just for starters. The maturity, grace and freakishly fast swimming of 17-year-old Missy Franklin and the spunk of the U.S.’s first judo medalist Kayla Harrison made a lasting impression. So did the picture of a Saudi Arabian woman running the 800, marking the first time that country allowed a woman to represent it in the Olympics.

Brits Break Out the Olympic Spirit
It turns out the Olympic Spirit does exist, and not just in the text of the International Olympic Committee’s charter or the words of an official’s speech.
Though there had been some grumbling about the cost of hosting the Games during an economic downturn, the British turned out in droves to support “Team GB.” When local sweetheart Jessica Ennis won the heptathlon, they created more noise than a fleet of jumbo jets. But they didn’t limit their applause to the home team, [which is good since last-minute tickets weren’t available to foreign fans], giving rousing support to any valiant effort.
Nor did the British limit their goodwill to the stadiums, which seemed to take even them by surprise. In one press conference, a British reporter asked a panel of IOC and London Organizing Committee of the Olympic Games [LOCOG] about the troubling trend of people actually talking to each other on the Tube, as the underground railway is called.
“I would like to unreservedly apologize to you for the outburst of excitement and commeraderie on the Tube,” Sebastian Coe, the LOCOG chair, responded in typically wry humor. He added, s“I think it’s fantastic.”
The pleasantries may not last long. One local reporter suggested they might be over before Sunday night’s dousing of the flame since two popular soccer teams with little love for each other, Manchester City and Chelsea, began their preseason Sunday afternoon.
Still, one can hope that the effects, like the careers of the many aging stars brought out for the closing ceremonies, will linger.

Categories: Athletes, Events, Kerri Walsh, Olympics | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Olympic photos: Day 17, final assignment

The day is here. Tonight is the Closing Ceremonies of the XXX Olympiad here in London and a few short hours after the torch is extinguished, Julie and I will be on a plane bound for home. And you know what? It’s time.

I’ve really enjoyed my month Across the Pond, shooting photos wherever I go and meeting very good people from all over the world. There was the nice man from Cameroon who played the sax on the train for Julie and I; the lawyer couple from Yorkshire who didn’t understand the American political process and shared my distaste of the Spice Girls; the Spanish man who loved everything about American culture and especially the sports (he’s a 49ers fan and watches the NBA finals live from Spain); and who could forget Charles, the Londoner who held and umbrella over my camera so I could photograph the women’s marathon in the pouring rain.

Someone asked me yesterday if I was homesick and it didn’t hit me until that moment but I really am. It will be nice to get a full night’s sleep and not have to sleep on an air mattress on the floor of a closet-sized dorm room. While I think the Tube is the greatest feat of public transportation in the world, it will be nice not to have to travel a minimum of 45 minutes each direction just to get to the action. That being said, I can’t wait to come back and see the UK properly, without the distraction of The Games. Though I will still have my camera in tow.

On this final day of competition, the men’s marathon wound its way through the maze that is the streets of London. Team USA’s Mebrahtom Keflezighi finished fourth after leading early. And with that, I’m off.

Categories: Athletes, Events, Olympics, Photos, Track & Field Events | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

Girl power gets U.S. to top of medal count

By JULIE JAG
jjag@santacruzsentinel.com
LONDON – As the United States and Japan women’s soccer teams prepared to square off Wednesday for the gold medal before an Olympic-record crowd of 80,205 vivacious, flag-waving fans, a familiar Beyonce tune thumped through at Wembley Stadium.
Who run the world? Girls!
The women aren’t just running the world at these Olympics, they’re jumping throwing, punching, swimming and kicking their way onto the podiums and into the spotlight.
For the first time in history, the United States sent more ladies than men to the Games, and the women have shown they’re not letting that opportunity go to waste. With one day left, they’ve collected 58 of the country’s 102 medals. In Athens in 2004, for comparison, the U.S. earned 101 medals, 39 of which came in women’s events. In Beijng 2008, the number was split.
“I’m thrilled to see how the women have done, thrilled to see how the United States has done. It’s amazing to be a part of something so much bigger than myself,” said judo champion Kayla Harrison. “To be able to say I’m a strong, confident young woman and an Olympic champion is amazing, and I hope we have a million little girls who are inspired right now.”
Harrison played a big part in elevating the medal count by winning the country’s first gold in judo. The 3-meter synchronized diving duo of Kelsey Bryant and Abby Johnston brought home the first medal in that event and Santa Clara native Hayley Anderson won the USA’s first marathon swimming medal. Both took silver.
Also for the first time, the U.S. nabbed two medals in the three weight classes of women’s boxing, which made its debut at these Games. Middleweight Claressa Shields took gold and flyweight Marlen Esparza snatched a bronze.
In addition to their success, athletes with a history of bringing home hardware pushed the envelope, especially the teams. Women’s water polo, for example, finally found gold after taking silver in 2000 and 2008 and bronze in 2004. The USA women’s volleyball team also notched a silver after losing to Brazil on Saturday. The women’s soccer team three-peated for gold, while the basketball team won its fifth Olympic championship.
“I play a team sport so easy to connect yourself with all the other female athletes, but I’m just proud to see everyone doing so well and I’m just proud to see USA as a whole is doing awesome,” said water polo player Brenda Villa, a Stanford graduate. “So, it’s not just the females. But does it give you a smile? It does.”
But girl power isn’t just the result, it’s also the catalyst.
Sanya Richards-Ross basically ran a victory lap in the anchor leg of the 4×400-meter final Saturday after her teammates gave her a behemoth padding over the field. It was her third gold medal in the event, but also the most dominant, something she attributes to a closer connection with her teammates.
“Everybody was kind of in their zone and I think it was rubbing off,” Richards-Ross said. “I think this was the most time I’ve spent with my teammates at a Games, and I think we encouraged each other a whole lot and I think that makes a big difference.”
Scott Blackmun, CEO of the United States Olympic Committee, said the outburst from the ladies is a product of Title IX.
“If you look at the U.S. medal performance over the last 10 to 20 years, a lot of the success we’ve had in comparison to other nations is our women. We’re very proud of that,” he said. “I think Title IX really gave us a head start because of our national commitment to make sure women were getting the opportunity to be involved in sports.
It’s something we’re proud of but I think the rest of the world has clearly gone the same way at this point, but we’re glad we got ahead of the curve.”
True, the U.S. isn’t the only country tapping into its female talent. China, which is second in the medal table with 87 total has gotten 49 of those from women. Russia, fourth on the table with 78, got a whopping 43 from its females.
On the opposite end of the scale stands the host country, Great Britain. While third on the medals table with 67, just 19 of those were won by women. Then again, after the other three countries were through, there weren’t many more to go around.
“Our success here kind of speaks for itself,” said 17-year-old swimmer Missy Franklin, who won four golds and a bronze in her Olympic debut in London. “We’re proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish not only as a women’s team but as the USA team.”
The question is, will what the women accomplished on the Olympic stage bleed over to life after the Games. The most recent incarnation of a women’s professional soccer league collapsed in 2010, the year Santa Clara team FC Gold Pride won the WPS title. Women’s professional basketball continues to draw a fraction of the crowds that turn up for the NBA and female cyclists get paid pennies on the dollar when compared to their male counterparts.
But Theresa Edwards, the USOC’s chef de mission for the London Games, said all that’s needed is a little time before girls start running the sports world outside of the Olympics.
“I just think that a lot of things take time,” Edwards said. “I think you just have to keep trying and working hard for it, but you can’t belittle the fact that we’ve come a long ways as women in sport and we enjoy doing what we do and we enjoy being the absolute possible best at what we do. And think personally we’ve got to keep doing that and allowing opportunity for young girls to come behind us and keep doing the same thing.”

Categories: Athletes, Events, Olympics | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Olympics photos: Day 16, women’s race walking

Race walking just doesn’t seem funny anymore, it seems hard. And this race was a great one, at least at the end. Olga Kaniskina from Russia lead the 20 kilometer race the entire way and was on a World Record pace when, with 1 kilometer left to go, her fellow Russian, Elena Lashmanova, stormed past her and took the gold medal AND the World Record.

Team USA’s Maria Michta didn’t do well compared to the rest of the field, but she did run a personal best time and did it with a smile on her face whenever she was near her friends and family in the crowd, which also happened to be near me, so I got a lot of photos of her smiling.

Like always, I had to get to my spot about 2 hours early to get a good spot. Met a nice couple from Yorkshire though and talked about our different culture and politics. Pretty funny to hear a Brit’s take on American politics. And yes, they told me I’d have to deal with The Wave being called the Mexican Wave since that’s what the entire world (except the US) knows it as.

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IOC testosterone policy is not gender neutral

By JULIE JAG
jjag@santacruzsentinel.com

LONDON – Claressa Shields, the 17-year-old boxer who claimed the first gold medal in the middleweight division in Olympic history Thursday, is proud of her masculinity in the ring.
“I know there’s not one male in this world that’s seen me box that’s said I fight like a girl,” Shields told a gaggle of reporters at a training session last week.
Strong, cocky and tough — traits normally associated with men — they helped her pummel all three of her opponents on her way to the gold. But Shields knows she is 100 percent female, which is why she wasn’t so keen on an idea being bounced around to make skirts a required part of the uniform for female boxers, who made their debut at the Olympics this year.
“I didn’t even understand that. I guess it was to separate the men from the women,” Shields said. “I was like, we got different names, women got breasts, we got butts. I can tell which is which.”
Yet if an official or opponent decides to question which Shields is, because she won’t wear a skirt or any other reason, her career may be what takes the knockout blow. According to researchers Katrina Karkazis and Rebecca Jordan-Young, a new testosterone testing policy put in place by the International Olympic Committee little more than a month before the London Games basically reinstitutes gender policing at the Olympics, a practice the IOC discarded more than a decade ago.
“This isn’t just about intersex women, this is about all women,” said Karkazis, a senior research scholar at the Center for Biomedical Ethics at Stanford. “If you have small breasts, big muscles and a lower voice, you are just as suspect. How is that different than Caster Semenya? It invites a kind of scrutiny that is really scary.”
The policy allows the chief medical officer from any country’s organizing committee, an IOC commission member or the athlete herself to question a female competitor’s levels of the androgen hormone. Androgen, the original anabolic steroid, occurs naturally in the body but can react differently than its synthetic form and appears distinctive from its synthetic form in doping tests. If the woman is found to have levels similar to a man’s and it gives her a competitive advantage, she could be required to undergo hormone therapy or be banned from competing in women’s events.
The policy ostensibly stems from the case of Semenya, an 800-meter runner who holds the fastest qualifying time for today’s 800 final at Olympic park.
At the 2009 World Track Championships, Semenya crushed the fastest time in the world that year — previously held by Soquel’s Maggie Vessey – by more than a second. It was also nearly four seconds faster than the South African runner’s previous personal record.
Skeptical opponents questioned whether Semenya was actually a woman, and their accusations set off a heated discussion of gender in sports. At the center was an embarrassed Cemenya, who had to sit out 11 months while undergoing gender testing before she was declared to indeed be a woman.
With the London Games upcoming and Semenya in position to qualify, the IOC met with various groups – including some representing hyperandrogenous and intersex people – in Miami in 2010, according to IOC media liaison Mark Adams. There they laid out a policy for differentiating between male and female competitors.
Since 1999, the IOC has recognized athletes’ gender to be whatever they claimed in their legal documents.
“It is important to emphasize that the policy does not include ‘gender testing’ or ‘sex testing,’” IOC spokesperson Andrew Mitchell wrote in an email. “Female competitions are for females, male competitions for males. The new rules are not intended to find a new definition for what is male and what is female. They only address the problem where females have functional androgene [sic] levels in the ‘male range’ [with consequent competitive advantages] and how such females should be judged in relation to their participation in competitions for females.”
That’s just the problem, say Karkazis and Jordan-Young. They say an athlete’s naturally occurring androgen hormone levels aren’t an accurate litmus test of how masculine or feminine a person is, even if the person is in the gray intersex range. Higher levels also don’t necessarily equate to better performances, even when a male or female’s body is receptive to the hormone.
Its may provide some advantage, they say, but no moreso than other traits like the cavernous lung capacity of British rower Pete Reed, who can take in nearly twice as much oxygen as Lance Armstrong, and the hyper-flexible joints of American swimmer Michael Phelps.
“It’s not like it’s irrelevant,” said Jordan-Young, an associate professor of women’s gender and sexuality studies at Columbia University. “But what you can’t say is you can predict strength and speed from testosterone.”
In addition, testosterone levels fluctuate. For example, the body naturally boosts testosterone levels in response to winning, and the first five placers in a final – the winners – are the ones who are automatically tested for doping. Athletes also generally produce higher levels than average. So a fit woman could win a medal, test for unusually high levels of testosterone and, if she also looks masculine, be singled out as a candidate for hyperandrogenism.
That raises another problem with the policy, according to the researchers. It unfairly places the spotlight on women who don’t conform to the popular idea of how a woman should look.
The year after Semenya was suspended from competition, Alysia Montano of Berkeley, who runs with a flower in her hair, took over the 800 world record for 2010. She, too, cut close to four seconds off her PR and was also coming off a foot injury that sidelined her for 2008 Olympic trials. Yet, her gender was not called into question.
“Could she have high testosterone?” Karkazis said of Montano. “Yeah, but the sense is no one is making a big outcry about it [because she looks more feminine].”
As with most things, the need for separation of the sexes mostly comes down to money. Medal winners receive usually receive cash from their country – the U.S. pays $25,000 for gold — and may receive additional bonuses from sponsors. As far back as 1936, then, there has been concern that men would enter women’s events to unfairly capitalize on those spoils. The IOC began gender testing in 1968 and it continued through 1996, when it stopped the process under social pressures.
Karkazis said she would like to see the IOC revert to a policy in which it does not gender test.
“Every biological way [of determining gender] has created these gray areas that make it sort of subjective, so we say [go by] legal sex,” she said.
Karkazis and Jordan-Young, who met earlier this week with Arne Lundqvist, chairman of the IOC’s medical commission, said they were told female athletes had requested a policy be put in place.
However, neither gold-medal boxer Shields, nor the women at a USA Track and Field team press conference last week, nor many of the wrestlers, weightlifters, swimmers and other athletes seemed to have given the policy much thought. They may not have even  known it even existed.
“Some things you don’t focus on,” said USATF head women’s coach Amy Deem. “You can only control so many things. I only focus on what I control, and I can’t control that.”

Categories: Olympic Preparation, Olympics | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

USA defeats Japan, 2-1, for Olympic gold

By JULIE JAG

jjag@santacruzsentinel.com

LONDON — Cal’s Alex Morgan put the ball at Carli Lloyd’s feet and put the USA up early, Hope Solo  put a force field around the goal and then Lloyd also put on the exclamation point. The USA women’s soccer team got its sweet revenge — and the gold — with a 2-1 win in the Olympic championship match Thursday night at Wembley Stadium.

Lloyd scored her first goal in the seventh minute on Morgan’s near-goal cross in traffic and she put the USA up 2-0 with her insurance shot in the 54th. Hope Solo seemed  seven times wider than her svelte frame would suggest as everything the Japanese sent her way was tipped out. Shinobu Ohno, determined all match to find a way to score, finally uncovered a hole in the 62nd. She cut in for a wide open shot on the right side. Solo stopped that one, but the ball dribbled behind her slightly and was cleared by another USA player … right back to Ohno. She then crossed it over to teammate Yuki Ogimi for the goal.

That would be it for the Japanese, though. They attacked viciously in the first part of the second half, but the USA defense controlled the tempo and the ball most of the way until the end.

Canada, whom the USA defeated 4-3 on a Morgan goal in overage time in the semifinal, took bronze.

Categories: Alex Morgan, Athletes, Events, Olympics, Soccer | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

USA vs. Japan women’s soccer showdown NOW

It is on! The rematch of the World cup match that the USA lost to Japan is taking place for Olympic gold at Wembleystadium.

Cal’s Alex Morgan had played a huge role in getting the USA to this game, scoring the winning goal against Canada, and she has already pitched in here. In traffic right in front of the goal she shot a cross to Wambach who shot it in with the side of her foot. 1-0 USA.
The crowd here is amazing. Seems like a few more USA fans than Japanese, but actually it’s pretty close. Chants of USA everywhere and a constant excited hum. The pints must not have settled in yet.

Hope Solo is doing more than just looking pretty in goal. She’s made two punching saves that have kept the USA in front. On another, she got a little help from Rampone when a shot went wide. 39:00 and still 1-0 USA.

HALFTIME: USA 1, JAPAN 0

Japan’s keeper Miho Fukumoto has had to make, unofficially, four good saves. She just let that one early one through for Wambach.

Solo’s had a couple of doozies herself, and this is still anyone’s match.

54:00

Carli Lloyd gathers up the ball and sends a high fier from the left to the right side, right into the goal. USA up 2-0. Then, she rushes to the far end to celebrate with the bench.

63:00

Yuki Ogimi in the right spot for an easy goal after Shinobu Ohno cuts in and gets a perfect pass. It’s deflected by Solo and a Team USA teammate picks up the dribble but her clear goes right back to Ohno, who sends it over to Ogimi for the score.

2-1 USA

FINAL: USA 2, JAPAN 1

An epic game. Japan pressured the USA women the entire time, especially Ohno, but Hope solo woulcn’t let anything through and revenge — and gold –

belongs to the Americans.

 

 

 

Categories: Alex Morgan, Events, Olympics, Soccer | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

USA strong in long distance swimming

I am now fully regretting not going out to long distance swimming with Tony. Then again, it’s probably much more fascinating on TV. How do these women keep up this pace for 6 miles? What makes it really interesting, of course, is that there is a somewhat local swimmer in it in Santa Clara native Haley Anderson, now of Granite Bay. She’s in fourth after just about two hours of swimming. Arms of steel.

Look at that! She just finished with the silver medal behind Hungary’s Eva Risztov. 1:57:38.2 for the winner, 1:57:38.6 for Anderson. Can you imagine .4 seconds being the difference after six miles and two hours of swimming. What a race, a sprint to the finish in marathon swimming!

 

Look for Tony’s photos soon.

Categories: Events, Olympics, Swimming | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Walsh and May-Treanor win third Olympic gold medal

Miss May-Treanor, left, and Kerri Walsh Jennings celebrate a win over April Ross and Jennifer Kessy during the women’s Gold Medal beach volleyball match between two United States teams at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Wednesday, Aug. 8, 2012, in London. (AP Photo/Dave Martin)

By JULIE JAG

jjag@santacruzsentinel.com

LONDON – Just like old times, one more time.

Former Scotts Valley resident Kerri Walsh Jennings and partner Misty May-Treanor looked every bit as in sync in winning their third straight Olympic beach volleyball gold medal Wednesday night as they had winning the previous two. But this one meant a little bit more.

“This feels very new for me. It feels way different than it ever has,” Walsh said. “It was the best. We saved the best for last.”

In the sand at Horse Guards Parade, a temporary venue surrounded by buildings steeped in history, beach volleyball’s most recognizable pair wrote the conclusion to their own. They added the 2012 medal to their collection from ’04 and ’08 with a 21-16, 21-16 victory over fellow Team USA players Jennifer Kessy and April Ross. Then, with May-Treanor sticking with her promise that this would be her last match as a professional, they closed the book.

“Emotionally, we have lived so much life together the past 12 years but especially the last two. We’ve really come together and we’ve been so connected,” Walsh said. “We really wanted to win a gold medal together, but we wanted to do it in a certain fashion. And we wanted to stay connected and create this bond that is unbreakable and to really cherish every moment, and we did that.”

As soon as Ross’ serve at match point sailed over her head, Walsh raised both hands in the air in victory. Then, faster than one of her hard-driven kills, the tears started falling. She raced over to the stands, where husband Casey Jennings picked her 6-foot-3 frame off the ground, then she, in turn, picked up her two young boys. Later on the medal stand, surrounded by Kessy and Ross and the bronze-medal winning pair of Juliana Silva and Larissa Franca of Brazil, both cried and sang like they’d never won before.

Truth is, they know how to step up on the podium almost as well as they know how to dig and block. Since they first partnered in 2001, they’ve won 40 of the 78 international matches and only missed out on the top four in 14 of them. In Olympic play, they went undefeated, dropping their first and only set in 12 years and 43 sets to the Austrian team earlier this week.

After they won their debut match of these Olympics, opponent and four-time Games veteran Natalie Cook of Australia dubbed Walsh and May-Treanor beach volleyball royalty.

“Just the amount of tournaments they’ve won – I know how much energy it takes to win a tournament – and for them to do it for years and years is impressive,” agreed Kessy. “My hat’s off to them. That is ridiculous in the end.”

Before they gave up their crowns, May-Treanor and Walsh wanted to add a little more gold to the treasury.

But everything wasn’t the same as they had left it in Beijing. May-Treanor ruptured her achilles while practicing for the show “Dancing with the Stars” and was trying to make a comeback with Nicole Branagh. Walsh, meanwhile, had taken some time off the court to give birth to her two boys – Joseph, 3, and Sundance, 2. When she returned to the sand, she tried to pair with a couple other partners, but none of them matched what she had with May-Treanor.

It took some needling, but in 2011, Walsh finally convinced May-Treanor to make another medal run.

Even after both committed to returning, though, their mojo didn’t. Walsh remained the dangerous net player she had been even when she was in high school at St. Francis in San Jose. May-Treanor still had indescribable defensive instincts. Together, though, they struggled to find their winning form, especially in tournament championships.

“I didn’t really understand what peaking meant, ever, until this time around,” said Walsh, who plans to find a new partner for 2016. “In the prior Olympics we didn’t have to peak, we were just feeling good. But this time around, we had a really terrible year up until about a month ago, and we had to work really hard to get where we are now. It was all emotional, all very mental, and we were in a place we’ve never been before.

“I truly believe going through those challenges the way we did made us even stronger than we were before.”

Once they reached London, the pair wasted no time digging their chemistry up from the sand inside Horse Guards Parade. With each win, their confidence and comfort level grew. It practically skyrocketed after a come-from-behind win over the Chinese team of Chen Xue and Xi Zhang in the semifinals.

Kessy and Ross, a team they’d beaten twice in three meetings this year and hold a 28-5 record against, didn’t give up the medal easily. They clung to within a point of their opponent for at least half of each set. When the pressure was on, though, Walsh and May-Treanor just had too much history together.

“It’s hard to stay on top. Winning the first gold medal, we were young, it was sweet, it was like ‘OK, we did it.’ Winning back to back gold medals is very difficult – the target’s huge,” May-Treanor said. “To go for a three-peat, I don’t know if you could write this script the way that it turned out.

“But, we believed.”

 

Categories: Athletes, Beach Volleyball, Events, Kerri Walsh, Olympics | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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