Monthly Archives: July 2012

In case you missed it, Day 5

Here’s what happened while you were sleeping, working, eating, etc.


LONDON, July 31, 2012 – The United States women’s team won gold with a score of 183.596 at the 2012 Olympic Games at the North Greenwich Arena. Russia earned silver with a 178.530 and Romania took bronze with a 176.414. China placed fourth with a 174.430.

This is the second women’s team gold in U.S. history, the first coming in 1996. The gold-medal finish is the sixth consecutive team medal for the U.S. women. Dating back to 1992, it is the second-longest active women’s Olympic team medal streak behind Romania (1976-2012).

The U.S. Women’s Team features: Gabby Douglas of Virginia Beach, Va./Chow’s Gymnastics and Dance Institute; McKayla Maroney of Long Beach, Calif./All Olympia Gymnastics Center; Aly Raisman of Needham, Mass./Brestyan’s American Gymnastics; Kyla Ross of Aliso Viejo, Calif./Gym-Max Gymnastics; and Jordyn Wieber of DeWitt, Mich./Gedderts’ Twistars USA.

The USA had the highest team score on vault (48.132), balance beam (45.299) and floor exercise (45.366). The U.S. placed third on uneven bars (44.799) behind China (46.399) and Russia (46.166).
Women’s National Team Coordinator Martha Karolyi said, “We are certainly enjoying this moment. This is the result of the teamwork and what we did through the years. All the hard workpaid off in the end.”

Vince Hancock (Eatonton, Ga.) became the first American man to defend an Olympic gold medal in skeet shooting by winning the event Tuesday afternoon at the Royal Artillery Barracks.

Hancock shot a 148 to hold a two-clay advantage over silver medalist Anders Golding of Denmark. Nasser Al-Attiya of Qatar won the bronze with a 144 after winning a shoot off over Russia’s Valeriy Shomin.

With Hancock’s result today and Kim Rhode’s yesterday, the United States swept the skeet gold medals.

Hancock set an Olympic record in qualifying, missing only two targets for a 123 score. He hit 25 possible in the finals. He becomes the second American to defend a gold medal in shooting in an individual event. Gary Anderson achieved the feat in free rifle (no longer on the program) in the Tokyo 1964 and Mexico City 1968 Olympic Games. He becomes the 11th Olympic shooter from any nation to defend a gold medal in an individual shooting event. He is only the second American man to win a skeet shooting gold medal, along with Matthew Dryke in 1984.

Frank Thompson (Alliance, Neb.) shot a 119 in qualifying and finished in eighth place.

Bob Willis (Chicago, Ill.) finished 10th in race 2 of the men’s windsurfing event. He stands seventh overall in the 10-race series, being held in Weymouth and Portland. Racing continues today.

First-time Olympians Erik Storck (Huntington, N.Y.) and Trevor Moore (Naples, Fla./N. Pomfret,Vt.) scored a race win in the fourth race (of the 15-race series) in the men’s skiff (49er class) to climb to ninth overall in the 20-boat event.

Paige Railey (Clearwater, Fla.) scored results of 12th and 17th in the women’s singlehanded dinghy. Combined with her Day 1 scores (8-5), she is now in ninth overall among 41 competitors.

Mark Mendelblatt (Miami, Fla.) and Brian Fatih (Miami, Fla.) added eighth and ninth race finishes to their shoreline in the men’s keelboat (Star class). They are in sixth overall at the event, being held in Weymouth and Portland.

Powered by a goal from Shannon Taylor (Midlothian, Va.) in the 28th minute, the U.S. women’s field hockey team scored a 1-0 victory over Argentina Tuesday evening at Riverbank Arena in London’s Olympic Park. The win evened the U.S. record at 1-1 in Group B play.

Team USA will return to action on Thursday, Aug. 2, when it faces Australia at 10:45 a.m. BST.

Paced by hat tricks from Peter Varellas (Moraga, Calif.) and Ryan Bailey (Long Beach, Calif.), the United States men’s water polo team posted a 10-8 win over Romania in the Water Polo Arena in London’s Olympic Park Tuesday evening.

Trailing 5-4 at halftime, the U.S. reeled off three unanswered goals in the third quarter, part of a 6-1 run that extended from late in the second quarter until two minutes left in the match.

Adam Wright (Seal Beach, Calif.) added a pair of goals for the U.S., while Tony Azevedo (Long Beach, Calif.) and John Mann (Newport Beach, Calif.) added one apiece.

The Americans are now 2-0 and share the top of the Group B table with Serbia, while Romania falls to 1-1. Next up for the United States is host Great Britain, scheduled for 6:20 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 2.

The U.S. men’s beach volleyball team of Todd Rogers (Santa Barbara, Calif.) and Phil Dalhausser (Ormond Beach, Fla.) dropped their first set, but bounced back to score a 2-1 win over Spain’s Pablo Herrera Allepuz and Adrian Gavira Collado at the Horse Guards Parade Tuesday evening.

Now 2-0 in Pool B, they will complete pool play on Thursday, Aug. 2, when they face Petr Benes and Premysl Kubala of the Czech Republic at 9 p.m.

The U.S. team of April Ross (Costa Mesa, Calif.) and Jennifer Kessy (San Juan Capistrano, Calif.) scored a three-set victory over Marleen van Ierse and Sanne Keizer of Holland Tuesday night at London’s Horse Guards Parade.

The 21-15, 12-21, 15-8 win improved the American tandem to 2-0 in pool play. They will close out the preliminaries on Thursday, Aug. 2, by taking on Spain’s undefeated duo of Elsa Baquerizo McMillan and Liliana Fernandez Steiner to determine the winner of Group D. The match is scheduled to begin at 4:30 p.m. BST.

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Olympics photos: Day 5

Today is all about those poor people who traveled all the way from the U.S. only to be denied tickets or access to the Olympic park.

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Americans denied Olympic tickets


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 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.”

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Olympic photos: Day 4

I ran around Monday trying to track down a family from Felton who are in town and trying to catch the games. Julie’s working on their story in a few days. I knew where they were but was about 5 minutes behind them for 4 hours. Got plenty of walking in though. We set a specific time and place to meet Tuesday where they can see a little bit of the games. Their story is one of thousands here in London having to  do with the ticket process. Look for Julie’s in depth story in a few days.

So since I was trying to track them down I wasn’t near many Olympic areas and didn’t get as many photos as I would have liked. I tried to make myself feel better by telling myself it was my day off, but I still should try harder. Tuesday might be a bit more of the same: I have a portrait to take for another of Julie’s stories then I go meet that family again. Wednesday though, I’m heading over to Hampton Court Palace to shoot the Cycling Time Trials. Later this week I’m getting a look around the Olympic Park, which I haven’t been able to see yet. I’ve talked to a few folks that have been to other Olympics and they were shocked that the Olympic Park is only open to people who bought tickets to an event inside the park. The rest of us have to watch it on TV. I wonder if they are worried about too many crowds in a tight space.

Anyway, here’s a few of the photos I did manage to grab as I walked in circles.

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Monday news at a glance

Don’t pretend like you already knew. Here are a few of Monday’s bigger results:

Marti Malloy (Oak Harbor, Wash.) threw Giulia Quintavalle of Italy to score an ippon and win a bronze medal in women’s judo 57kg class Monday afternoon at ExCeL North Arena 2.
Malloy’s bronze is the second women’s medal won by the USA in women’s judo, along with the bronze won by Ronda Rousey in the middleweight division at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games. Malloy’s coach, Jimy Pedro, is a two-time Olympic bronze medalist (1996, 2004). Malloy’s medal is the 11th the U.S. has won in judo (three silver, eight bronze).

David Boudia (Noblesville, Ind.) and Nick McCrory (Chapel Hill, N.C.) won the bronze medal in the men’s 10m synchronized diving competition, held Monday afternoon at the Aquatic Centre in London’s Olympic Park.
The Americans posted a score of 463.47, 23.31 points behind the gold-medal effort of China’s Yuan Cao and Yanquan Zhang, who scored a 486.78. The silver medal went to Ivan Garcia Navarro and German Sanchez Sanchez of Mexico with a 468.90.

The line-up for the U.S. women for the team finals at the 2012 Olympic Games has been submitted. The women compete on Tuesday, July 31, at 4:30 p.m. at the North Greenwich Arena.
The U.S. Women’s Team features: Gabby Douglas of Virginia Beach, Va./Chow’s Gymnastics and Dance Institute; McKayla Maroney of Long Beach, Calif./All Olympia Gymnastics Center; Aly Raisman of Needham, Mass./Brestyan’s American Gymnastics; Kyla Ross of Aliso Viejo, Calif./Gym-Max Gymnastics; and Jordyn Wieber of DeWitt, Mich./Gedderts’ Twistars USA.

The U.S. women’s line-up is:
Vault: Wieber, Douglas, Maroney
Uneven bars: Wieber, Ross, Douglas
Balance beam: Ross, Douglas, Raisman
Floor exercise: Douglas, Wieber, Raisman

The U.S. men’s gymnastics team finished fifth in the team event, competed Monday evening at North Greenwich Arena.

The Americans posted a score of 269.952, which was more than six points behind the gold medal winners from China, who had a 275.997. Japan took the silver with a 271.952, and host Great Britain won the bronze with a 271.711, the first medal won by the country in gymnastics since the Stockholm 1912 Olympic Games.

The fortunes of the U.S. team, comprised of Jacob Dalton (Reno, Nev.), Jonathan Horton (Houston, Texas), Danell Leyva (Miami, Fla.), Sam Mikulak (Newport Beach, Calif.) and John Orozco (Bronx, N.Y.), were affected by the pommel horse, where they were seventh among the eight teams, and the vault, where they had the sixth-highest score. It marks the first time since the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games that the U.S. men have not won a medal of any color in the team event.

The U.S. men’s gymnastics team finished fifth in the team event, competed Monday evening at North Greenwich Arena.

The Americans posted a score of 269.952, which was more than six points behind the gold medal winners from China, who had a 275.997. Japan took the silver with a 271.952, and host Great Britain won the bronze with a 271.711, the first medal won by the country in gymnastics since the Stockholm 1912 Olympic Games.

The fortunes of the U.S. team, comprised of Jacob Dalton (Reno, Nev.), Jonathan Horton (Houston, Texas), Danell Leyva (Miami, Fla.), Sam Mikulak (Newport Beach, Calif.) and John Orozco (Bronx, N.Y.), were affected by the pommel horse, where they were seventh among the eight teams, and the vault, where they had the sixth-highest score. It marks the first time since the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games that the U.S. men have not won a medal of any color in the team event.

Misty May-Treanor (Costa Mesa, Calif.) and Kerri Walsh (Saratoga, Calif.) improved to 2-0 in play at the London 2012 Olympic Games with a 21-14, 21-19 win over Marketa Slukova and Kristyna Kolocova of the Czech Republic Monday night at the Horse Guards Parade Grounds.

May-Treanor and Walsh, the two-time defending Olympic champions, resume preliminary round play on Wednesday, Aug. 1, when they will meet Austria’s Stefanie and Doris Schwaiger at 11 p.m. BST.
In other action,

“Jake Gibb (Bountiful, Utah) and Sean Rosenthal (Hermosa Beach, Calif.) fell to the tandem of Mariusz Prudel and Grzegorz Fijalek of Poland, 21-17, 21-18, in men’s beach volleyball action at the Horse Guards Parade Grounds in London Monday night.

The loss dropped Gibb and Rosenthal to 1-1 in preliminary round play. They will return to action on Wednesday, Aug. 1, against Aleksandrs Samiolovs and Ruslans Sorokins of Latvia in a match scheduled to begin at 4:30 p.m. BST.

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Luck runs out for Scotts Valley and Olympic cyclist Shelley Olds


LONDON — Shelley Olds knew she wanted to be an Olympian.
She might have gone in soccer or running, both of which she excelled at in college. But by chance she took a tandem mountain bike ride in 2005, and the Scotts Valley resident, who previously had sold cell phones, decided a life on the bike was for her.
Track cycling caught her fancy, but just as she was reaching her peak in her best event, points, the International Olympic Committee unceremoniously axed it from the Games. That didn’t stop Olds. She took to the road and, on Sunday, nearly wound up on the podium.
A flat tire knocked Olds back to seventh on the 89-mile course that wound through London and finished up at the Mall near Buckingham Palace. That’s the best finish for an American woman since Jeanne Golay placed sixth in Barcelona, Spain, in 1992, when Olds was 11.
But Olds found that as little consolation after being so close to taking home a medal.
“Seventh place, I guess I can be sort of happy with that,” said Olds, who formerly raced under the surname Evans and recently moved to Gilroy, “but when you’re that close to a medal and then you’re in seventh, then it’s different.”
Olds had a three-in-four chance of winning some hardware when she sagely jumped with a late breakaway that included eventual winner Marianne Vos of Holland, silver medalist Lizzy Armistead of Great Britain — who delivered the host country its first medal — and bronze medalist Olga Zabelinskaya of Russia. With 40 kilometers to go, the women worked together to put space between them and the main peloton.
That is just where Olds wanted to be. The points race in track cycling features a sprint every 10 laps, and Olds had transferred those skills to the road. She had said before the race she was hoping it would come down to a dash.
Then, her front bike tire, along with her dream of medaling, came up flat.
A mechanic made the change, but even with the help of her USA teammates, as well as the German and Italian teams, pushing to catch the leaders, the effort fell short.
“That’s just bike racing,” Olds said. “I had to stop and wait for a wheel change. It wasn’t a very fast wheel change. I was almost chasing to get back on to the end of the bunch. At that point, I thought there was still hope because Italy, Germany and the US weren’t represented. I thought the three teams could chase enough to bring it back.
“Those girls were just riding too strong and they never came back. It’s really a disappointment.”
Olds almost deserves a medal just for reaching the 2012 Olympics after the IOC cut her track event in 2010. After the decision, she immediately switched exclusively to road riding, which she had dabbled in previously. She joined the professional domestic team Peanut Butter & Co. TWENTY12, now Exergy TWENTY12.
“She started out with us as a category 4 rider and through to cat 1 and national champ and also track world cup multi-time medalist,” said Nicola Cranmer, the general manager for the TWENTY12 team.
Still, the Olympics loomed as the goal.
Olds found quick success. She joined a European team, started training in Spain and won stages of the Tour d’Italia and the Tour of New Zealand. But it couldn’t be that easy for Olds.
Just as the time for selecting the four U.S. Olympic team was drawing near, she fractured her wrist while racing in Italy. The injury required a cast and doctors’ orders to not race on it for six weeks.
That gave Olds one race in which to secure her spot: a UCI World Cup race on Chongming Island in China in May.
“When I broke my wrist I wasn’t able to climb for a long time because of the cast. I couldn’t stand and move around,” Olds told “I focused all my energy on the race in China because I knew that was what I could use to qualify for the Olympics. It was completely flat. So, I focused all my training on flat racing, sprints, power work on the flats.”
Olds knew she wanted to go to the Olympics, so she made it happen. She found an opportunity late in the cold, windy and rainy race and seized it and the victory, and later the final spot on the Olympic team.
When met with the same conditions at the Olympics, Olds seized it again. This time, her luck just didn’t hold out.
“ I’m really devastated because I believe I definitely could have medaled,” she said. “That was the winning move and I was in it.”

Categories: Athletes, Cycling, Events, Olympics, Shelley Olds | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

At the men’s gymnastics finals

At North Greenwich now for the men’s gymnastics final
The USA’s Danell Leyva scored 15.2 to put him second behind Ukraine in the floor routine. Next up was samuel Mikulak, who fell to his knees on one landing. Having trouble finding his score. ThenJacob Dalton who looked smooth although a little flat until the last passage, when he made a little op. That give a him 15.466

The US is in fourth place behind the Ukraine, the UK and Japan.
After the floor routine, the USA, which qualified first, is in fifth, with Russia moving up past the Yanks.

Dalton up now on the pommel horse. It’s odd how they announce some athletes and others compete in obscurity at the same time. Sounds like the Americans and the Brits will always have the spotlight. Others, it’s hit or miss.
Very smooth performance for Dalton and a clean landing. How do these guys not get carpal tunnel with all that wrist work?
Here’s something you dont’ see on TV — two US officials adjusting the pommel horse by moving the support bar in the middle and it looks like the handles atop it.
Oooh, that’s not good. Leyva twice comes off the pomel horse, then he just walks away.
Mikulak is up next. nearly flawless performance after little bit of a shaky start draws high-10s.
Now John Orozco … He sits on it at one point, which I don’t think is what is supposed to happen in this event. Nope, no high-5s.
US has dropped to seventh of eight in the team standings.

Mikulak up first and pretty impressive — of course who isn’t impressive when they’re on the rings? Now it’s Jonathan Dalton. The feats they perfom on this aparatus is amazing.
Wow, big cheers for the Great Britain vaulter Thomas, and the Americans join in when Dalton lands an excellent routine with just a wobble on the landing.
Now Orozco — man these guys are strong. They’re doing things on squirmy rings I can’t eve do standing on one leg.
US killed it on rings and now are back up to fourth with 131.156 points. Japan now leads with 137.955, just ahead of the UK [137.180] and the Ukraine [136.796].

Orozco winds up on his hind side after a twisting vault. This is not off to a god start. Aw, there are tears in his eyes. That’s tough to see.

Mikulak is next … one big step sideways on the landing but otherwise a solid vault. 15.966.
Dalton also takes a big side step, but this one to the other side. 16.066

The USA drops down to sixth. It would be pretty much impossible to catch China with its 187.031 points.

Maybe the US doesn’t like the limelight. The TV cameras are ignoring them a little more now, and Miklak puts up a good routine and sticks the landing. 15.266. Plenty of chants of USA-USA.

Orozco a little shaky still, but he lands nicely and gets a score of 15.133.

Leyva keeps his concentration even after a thunderous cheer for the UK’s Thomas on the horzontal bar. Thomas gets a 15.2, Leyva a 15.366

US in fourth behind the UK, but China hasn’t gone yet.

Wow, Horton really stuck that routine. He looked like one of those kids toys where you pull the string and they go around and around a bar, except that he also flew off of it and grabbed right back on. Nice that he ended at the same tie as the Chinese floor routine competitor so they shared in the grand applause. 15.2

Leyva is next, another nice routine. This is obviously one of the USA’s best events. Nice, 15.866.

Wow, the brits love Kristian Thomas. He scored 14.33 on floor and they’re going crazy.

Looks like the Americans are out of the medal. Fourth but we’re waiting on Japan’s score
China takes the gold, but the big news is the UK, which grabs the silver. Ukraine gets the bronze and the US is fifth behind Japan.

Uh oh, I think there might be a riot. The scoreboard changed from what had been announced at the end of the competition. Japan leapfrogged over the UK to take silver and the Ukraine got knocked out of the medals. Of course, right after the announcement, the announcer asks the crowd to show their appreciation for the judges. I’ve never heard such loud booing. This place went from elation to bitterness just like that.

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Hsing Falls to No. 2 Seed, 4-2

Ariel Hsing (San Jose, Calif.) gave No. 2 seed Xiaoxia Li of China a stiff battle before succumbing, 4-2, in third round Olympic women’s table tennis action at the ExCeL North Arena 1 Sunday evening. Scores for the games were 11-4, 9-11, 11-6, 6-11, 11-8, 11-9.

Hsing and her teammates now turn their attention to team play, which begins on Friday, Aug. 3, when they face Japan at 10 a.m. BST.

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Former Scotts Valley cyclist top USA finisher in women’s road race

Former Scotts Valley resident Shelley Olds, center, came in seventh place and was the top U.S. sinisher during the Olympic Women’s Cycling Road Race on Suunday, July 29, 2012 in London. (Anthony L. Solis/Santa Cruz Sentinel)

Former Scotts Valley track and road cyclist Shelley Olds, now of Groton, Mass., finished in seventh place in the Olympic women’s cycling road race, which was staged in London Sunday afternoon.

The gold medal went to the Netherlands’ Marianne Vos, who covered the route in 3:35.29. Elizabeth Armitstead gave host Great Britain its first medal of the London 2012 Olympic Games with her silver medal finish, while Olga Zabelinskaya of Russia won the bronze in 3:35:31.

Other American finishers were: Evelyn Stevens (Acton, Mass.), 24th, 3:35:56; Kristin Armstrong (Boise, Idaho), 35th, 3:36:16; and Amber Neben (Irvine, Calif.), 36th, 3:36:20.

More info to come!

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Former partner of SC diver wins US’s first synchro medal

US Silver medalists Kelci Bryant, left, the former partner of Santa Cruz Olympic synchronized diver Ariel Rittenhouse, and her teammate Abigail Johnston pose with their medals during the 3 Meter Synchronized Springboard final at the Aquatics Centre in the Olympic Park during the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, Sunday, July 29, 2012. It is the USA’s first synchro medal and first medal of any kind since 2000. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)


LONDON — Four years ago, when Kelci Bryant stood next to teammate Ariel Rittenhouse of Santa Cruz on the 3-meter springboard for their final dive of the Beijing Olympic Games, she knew too much.
Bryant had glanced over at the rankings after the pair made its fourth dive and saw that Germany had pulled into a tie with the U.S. pair for the bronze medal. With her country’s first synchronized diving title on the line, she felt the pressure, and, ultimately, that may have contributed to the two-point difference that eventually kept the Americans off the podium.
This time, Bryant didn’t look before she leapt.
Back in the Olympics with new partner Abby Johnston, Bryant turned a blind eye to the team scores in Sunday’s diving final at the Aquatic Centre at Olympic Park. It paid off in silver when the U.S. team finished with 321.90 points, behind diving powerhouse China’s 346.20 and ahead of bronze-medalist Canada [316.80].
It is the United States’ first synchronized diving medal since it became an Olympic sport in 2000. It is also the country’s first diving medal of any kind since that year, when Laura Wilkinson won gold on the individual 10m platform.
“I wasn’t watching in the scoreboard. I made that mistake in 2008,” Bryant said. “Knowing that we were tied with Germany going into that final dive added too much extra pressure, and this time I just wanted to know that, no matter what, we would go out and dive our best, and we know that we did.”
Bryant and Johnston scored 72.0 on their final dive, a back 2½ somersault, their second-highest score of the day. While Bryant may not have been peeking, Johnston was. And, she knew the color of her medal depended on how the Canadians, who were next up, fared.
“I was in shock and I wanted the last divers to go,” Johnston said of knowing her team had done nothing to spoil the silver for itself. “I was fidgeting like crazy when they were coming up with the Canadians’ score.
“When I went to Opening Ceremonies, I thought that was the highlight of my life, but I think this is it.”
Johnston, 22, is a fairly new arrival to diving. She started as a gymnast before taking up diving in 2002 and finished fourth behind Bryant and Rittenhouse at the USA selection camp for 3m synchro in 2008. She began casually diving with Bryant in 2010, but the two didn’t become monogamous until last year.
Bryant and Rittenhouse, meanwhile, both went through something of an upheaval after the Beijing Olympics.
Rittenhouse enrolled in USC, where she dived solo for little over a season before opting to retire. Last year she transferred to Florida State and found renewed enthusiasm for her sport with the help of Seminoles coach Patrick Jeffrey. With less than a year’s training under her, she qualified for the U.S. Olympic Trials in the individual 3m springboard, but finished last. She said she will aim to dive in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.
“It has been so long since we have gotten a medal and I am thrilled that it came in the very first event for diving. Watching it really made me motivated for Rio 2016,” Rittenhouse wrote in an email. “I wish I could have been there this time, and now I really want to be at Rio. So hopefully in four years it will be me up there on the podium.”
Bryant, 23, left the University of Miami for personal reasons upon her return from China. She later enrolled at Minnesota, where she was reunited with Wenbo Chen, who coached her and Rittenhouse through the 2008 Olympics. He also helped her turn Bryant’s eyes toward London.
Part of Bryant’s preparation included living in China, where Chen is from, and training with a naval dive team in Northern Shanghai. There, she tried to absorb the discipline and speed and style techniques that make China’s program so successful. In Beijing, the Chinese won all but one of the eight diving gold medals — the 10m men’s was won by Australia’s Robert Mitchem.. This year they will be looking for a full sweep, and Wu Minxia and He Zi’s haul put them on that path.
“It’s making other divers step it up and bring it to the next level,” Bryant said. “I can’t see how watching flawless dives could be a bad thing. If anything it inspires people to be better and work harder.”
The Americans started the day in third place behind Wu and He and Canada’s Emilie Heymans and Jennifer Abel. They moved into second after the next round, trailing the Chinese by less than two points. But Wu, who won gold in Beijing with Guo Jingjing, and He broke away on their third dive — an inward 2 ½ somersault from the pike position — for a six-point lead they would never surrender.
As Canada, Italy and Great Britain moved up and down the scoreboard, the Americans stayed steady in second. Johnston attributed that consistency to Bryant’s Olympic experience, which was something neither Bryant nor Rittenhouse could benefit from as newcomers in 2008.
“Her experience was crucial. She was helpful in and out of the pool, she told me a lot about the way the Olympics ran to some of the things you go through, even getting our apparel,” Johnston said.
“I think that is what gave us an edge. I was naive and she had this Olympic experience.”
Together, they took a leap of faith and earned a place in history.

Categories: Athletes, Diving, Events, Olympics, Photos | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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