Maggie Vessey has been on a tear lately in Europe, making a strong comeback after missing out on a spot in the Olympic Games.
Here’s a peek at what it’s like to throw the hammer, and the javelin for that matter — two little-known Olympic sports. Thanks to Geoff Foley, the UC Santa Cruz track club coach who holds all-comers throwing meets at Shaffer Park every Thursday and Saturday.
Here is an excerpt from my fencing Out There column. Check out the entire thing at http://www.santacruzsentinel.com.
Mom raised me right. In our house, we were taught the universal rules of sharp objects: Don’t run with scissors, don’t angle the point of a steak knife up when shuttling it to the dinner table and don’t hit people with sticks. We did not want to poke somebody’s eye out.
Over years of reinforcement, these rules embedded themselves in my psyche. I obeyed them without question…
Until I tried fencing.
Halfway through my first lesson with instructor Robin Phillips, in one corner of the downtrodden gym inside Garfield Park Christian Church, he asked me to take the long, thin, triangular blade of my sword and whack him on the head.
He was wearing a protective fencing mask, of course, but it didn’t make much difference. He could have been wearing a full coat of armor. My arm wouldn’t budge.
He took a step forward and bowed his head a bit, beckoning me to attack. Nope. Nothing.
Another step. Another bow. Another reassurance that it wouldn’t hurt me or him.
I finally convinced my arm to extend, landing a blow to Phillips’ head. I wielded it so forcefully that had I hit a flower, it might not have even shed a petal.
I about soiled my “whites,” as the fencing jumpsuit is called. Phillips, a gentle and jovial man, had countered with a hit of his own atop my mask, this one with force of a lumberjack hacking off a tree limb. The blow rattled my nerves as much as my mask, which with its meshed face and lack of peripheral vision, already had me feeling like a claustrophobic beekeeper about to get stung.
It didn’t matter that Soquel High alumna Maggie Vessey entered the 2012 Olympic team trials 800-meter run final on Monday as a top prospect for one of three Olympic team spots. She couldn’t find her signature kick and finished a heartbreaking eighth in 2 minutes, 3.44 seconds. Here, she talks about it in a post-race press conference.
Well, here it is. Plenty of fodder for laughs, but also proof that I attempted “track’s most dangerous sport” and lived to tell about it.
Tallahassee, FL — Santa Cruz’s Ariel Rittenhouse was an Olympic athlete before her first day of college. A member of the US Diving team at Beijing, she’s training to earn a sport for the team that will take her to London.
“Just to be able to prepare, know what you’re going in to, because if you don’t know you’re a little nervous because you don’t know what’s going to happen but having been there it helps with the whole process.”
In 2008 she finished fourth in the three meter synchro event. This time she’s competing individually.
Rittenhouse adds, “Individual is nice, just to have my own time, so it will be nice to be by myself.”
After not competing her sophomore year at Southern Cal, Ariel transferred to Florida State. Since then she has been working to get back to her Olympic level.
“She has been away from it for a little while and she still is really trying to get back into her top form,” says FSU diving coach Patrick Jeffrey.
Having the experience of going through the Olympic trials is a tool that she thinks will help her.
Ariel adds, “Knowing that I’ve been there before makes it a little different. The first time was something I had never experienced. I had never been to a meet that was so televised and so big.”
“We’ve been through the US Nationals, we’ve been to the NCAAs, she’s done better at both of those,” Jeffrey adds. “She’s been out there in front of everybody again and this could be the event.”
The trials run June 17th through the 24th in Federal Way, Washington.
Here it is, the motion picture event you’ve all been waiting for … Julie Jag plays Ping pong, er, table tennis.
For those of you who missed it, there was a video to go along with my story on archery. Christina Gullickson, a former Sports chick who now works in web production put it together, and I think it is great. Check it out, but see the one on the Sentinel site if you’d like the words and lips to match up.
Also, if you’re wondering how you can try archery — and I definitely recommend you give it a shot — check out the Santa Cruz Archers website or stop by the archery range near DeLaveaga (check out the website first for directions) on Saturdays from 1-3 p.m., where Randy can give you an introduction.
If you want to catch some Olympic-caliber table tennis in person, this is your weekend. The ICC California State Open is scheduled to be held Friday – Sunday at, where else?, the Paddle Palace in Milpitas. Milpitas has a strong table tennis community and a 16-year-old girl from there just qualified to compete in London.
Here’s a video of what you might see. Try to get past the first couple of whiffs to the good stuff: