Posts Tagged With: Missy Franklin

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

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

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