Athens Native Returns Home from Olympics with Lifelong Memories

From small town aspirations, to international success. That has been the formula for Grenada national swimming coach Hollie Bonewit-Cron.

The 34-year old Ohio University graduate and Athens native coached Esau Simpson to a Grenadian best time in the 100-meter freestyle at the Games. Simpson finished first in his heat, but failed to advance in the competition.

“I am taking with me the memory of Esau’s preparation for the Games and his specific race,” said Bonewit-Cron. “It was so great to watch him win his heat in the morning and achieve a personal best time, new Grenadian National Record, as well as a new Grenadian Olympic Record.”

Bonewit-Cron was named the Grenada swimming coach after Simpson asked her to coach him in the Olympics. Bonewit-Cron coaches Simpson at Nova Southeastern University in Florida, where she is the head coach.

Athens native Hollie Bonewit-Cron coached the Grenada National swimming team at the 2012 Olympics. Photo Credit: NCAA.com

Even after being part of the biggest sporting event in the world, Bonewit-Cron is grateful for her hometown.

“I have often thought about my experience with growing up in Athens and feel that I am grateful for being part of such a great community,” said Bonewit-Cron. “But also having the initiative to achieve my goals, all of which I learned from growing up in a smaller town like Athens.”

Bonewit-Cron began swimming at the age of six after watching her brother compete. Bonewit-Cron was a three-time All-Mid-American Conference first team selection during her four years at Ohio University. She was a 17-time MAC Champion and during her junior season, was named the MAC swimmer of the year.

Following her time in Athens, she became the assistant coach at the University of Florida, before starting the program at Nova Southeastern.

“I could relate to athletes and learned to coach through my mentor,” she said. “I decided that I wanted to continue down the coaching road during my first year at Florida.”

Bonewit-Cron said she will always remember taking part in the Opening ceremony.

“I am so grateful to Grenada for selecting me to walk in the opening ceremonies,” she said. “The electric atmosphere as we walked out of the tunnel and into the stadium is indescribable.”

The Athens High School grad also said she thinks this will not be the peak to her career and wants the opportunity to coach at the Olympics in 2016 in Rio De Janeiro.

“If Grenada allows me the opportunity to coach for them in 2016 in Rio, I will definitely be there,” she said. “They are such a great country that welcomed me with open arms as an American.”

Bonewit-Cron plans to return to Athens and Ohio University this fall, when she will be inducted into the Ohio University Athletic Hall of Fame during Homecoming weekend in October.

 

Mangold fights injury to compete for her country

Holley Mangold is leaving London with a special sense of pride. The 5’8″ and 350-pound weightlifter from Columbus, Ohio proved many doubters wrong when she competed in the 75+kg division at the 2012 Olympics. Although she finished 10th of 14 competitors, Mangold said she isn’t upset about her finish.

“I am really happy and proud I was able to pull it together,” she said.

Mangold had to fight through a torn tendon and intense pain in her wrist to compete for her country. She had re-injured the wrist two days before her competition, but decided to fight through pain. She lifted 105 kilos in the snatch and 135 in the clean-and-jerk. She was also one of only two U.S. women to compete at the London Olympics in Weightlifting.

Mangold was one of two U.S. women to compete in the London Olympics in Weightlifting.

Holley has always been involved in a sport. Sometimes even multiple sports at once. At the age of 5, she was the speed rollerskating champion of Ohio.

“I started sports because my parents put (my siblings and myself) into them,” said Mangold. “I think my mom threw me into swimming as soon as I could float.”

Mangold even played football for 12 years, including playing in a Ohio High School State Championship Game. Her brother Nick is an offensive lineman for the New York Jets in the NFL, and Holley credits him as the reason she became interested in football. Although she didn’t necessarily pick the most popular sports among teenage girls, she said her family stood behind her every step of the way.

“My family was super supportive in both football and weightlifting,” she said. “It was great growing up in a sports oriented family. It meant I always had something to do and games to play.”

Her family also fostered some friendly competition among siblings.

“There was a lot of competition, not only in the sports we played, but in everyday activities,” said Mangold. “I believe that helped us always strive to be the best we could be.”

The Holley Mangold story doesn’t end in any athletic arena, though. Mangold had three majors during her time at Ursuline College – theology, sociology and philosophy – as well as a 3.8 grade point average. She had to learn to balance a heavy school load as well as the sports she loved.

“I fell in love with school,” says Mangold. “I wanted to learn as much as I could about the subjects that I was interested in. I became really good at school for the first time in my life. The more I did, the easier it became to balance.”

The 22-year old’s story of how she got into weightlifting only goes back a few years. When she was 18, she decided to change to weightlifting after finding her coach, Mark Cannella.

When looking back on her experience of competing at the Olympics and representing her country, Mangold is at a rare loss for words.

“It was an unforgettable experience,” said Mangold. “It is indescribable how proud and honored I felt.”

Holley plans to continue her training and compete in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil in four years at the next Olympic Games.

USA Men Prepare for Rematch of 2008 Finals against Spain

London, England – The United States men’s basketball is undoubtedly the favorite in the Olympic competition, and anything less than gold would be a shame. However, the team is getting used to the pressure.

“We have expectations on us to win every single game. If we lost an exhibition game, it would be the biggest news,” said Kevin Durant. “We went through that in 2010 in the World Championships. We can’t let that affect us. We have to come out and play our game.”

The United States took home the gold medal in 2008, only four years after they had fallen apart in Athens, claiming only a bronze medal. This team has been put together differently, though. Most of the players have played on an Olympic team and in the World Championships and have put years of commitment into the Gold medal pursuit.

“You feel the pressure, but every athlete here has to deal with pressure,” said Kobe Bryant. “Every event in every sport has a favorite. It’s part of what we do.”

The team will match up with a Spanish team that gave them a close ballgame four years ago. The U.S. won 118-107. The Spanish are led by a trio of talented big men in Pau and Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka.

Durant
USA forward Kevin Durant speaks with media on Saturday before practice to prepare for a Gold medal matchup with Spain.

“Pau is one of the best players in the world. We are obviously very concerned about him,” said Bryant.

Spain is a better team than they were in 2008,” said LeBron James. “They have a great team. I am not surprised we are playing them.”

Spain has been a defensive minded team throughout the Olympics, holding opponents to only 73 points per game. On the other hand, the USA has been dominant offensively, shooting 45 percent from three-point range and averaging nearly 117 points per game. However, the Americans aren’t going to take Spain’s offense lightly.

“Offense will come because we have so many great shooters,” Durant said. “On the defensive end, we have to do what we have been doing by getting steals and forcing turnovers. We all have to be locked in and ready to play.”

Sometimes all you need is a little luck

Saturday was one of the longest days I have had in London, but it may have been the most rewarding.

After committing a cardinal sin of journalism, mostly due to the delayed transportation through London, and missing an interview, I had to wander around the outside of the Olympic park for hours. While the Olympic park and the mall outside usually is fun, this time it was very early and I was tired and frankly somewhat bored. Eventually, I left to head to the train station and meet up with two other students to head to the USA BMX press conference at the Main Press Center.

Michael Phelps smiles at his final press conference following an Olympic event.

What I didn’t know was this was going to become a day I would never forget. After getting quotes for my story at the press conference, we decided to take advantage of our day passes at the center. We wandered around the whole campus, eventually stumbling into every Olympic Committee’s office including the USOC. At the United States’ office, we were told of an upcoming Michael Phelps press conference that night. The USOC schedules press conferences last minute every day. Immediately, the reaction was to stay and attend.

Jamie Grey holds up her gold medal after finishing first in the shooting event early on Saturday. Photo by Olivia Arbogast.

We then headed to a Shooting press conference to help pass the time. We almost didn’t even make it on time, yet we were one of only a handful of press there for Jamie Grey’s gold medal press conference. Just to see her with her gold medal was incredible. The best part came moments later. After the press conference, she came down for one-on-one interviews, but all the press had left. Some of the media workers with the games began talking to her with us and asked to hold her medal. She obliged us, and I took pictures with a gold medal. It actually was very heavy and just incredible to hold something with such significance. I mean, how many people get to hold a gold medal?

Afterwards, we met up with Amanda Barren of WKYC (NBC) in Cleveland. The station did a story on the team and our trip to London. Be on the look out for the video.

The best may have come after. We headed up to the massive press conference room and reserved front row seats as we were told Michael Phelps and Missy Franklin were on there way. It was an experience of a lifetime. To see Michael Phelps following his final Olympic event ever was amazing. Then Missy Franklin was great, a 17-year old who took home five medals and numerous records. The coolest part of the press conference may have been that I asked the final question to Missy and didn’t slip up even being slightly nervous.

Me and Jamie Grey’s Olympic Gold Medal. Photo by Olivia Arbogast.

I didn’t even mention that following the Phelps press conference I was able to meet one of my journalistic heroes in ESPN’s Mike Wilbon.

What an absolute amazing day. Afterwards, I couldn’t even put it into words. So instead, I slept on the train, which got us back at 1:30 a.m. At that point though, I didn’t even care how tired I was. Saturday was a special day.

Chris Longo and I pose with ESPN’s Mike Wilbon following the Phelps press conference.

BMX cyclist Crain takes unusual route to the London Games

BMX Cyclist Brooke Crain hasn’t exactly taken the most direct path to the Olympics. But she is an Olympian, regardless.

Just days after a crash that severely injured teammate Arielle Martin, lacerating her liver, Crain was selected to compete in her place. Crain, the youngest member of the US BMX squad at 19 and a native to Visalia, Ca is excited to be part of the team despite her route.

“This is obviously not the way I wanted to make the team, but at the same time, I am part of the team,” said Crain. “I am moving forward and going to do the best job to represent Arielle and my country. It is exciting and a dream come true to me. Just to be able to say I have been to the Olympics and been an Olympian is just unreal.”

Photo by Olivia Arbogast. Brooke Crain speaks to media on Sunday afternoon.

Crain found out she was headed to the Olympics just two days before the team left last Wednesday. The team purposely came late because of the long wait until their competition after the Opening Ceremony. Martin’s 27th birthday was on Monday, the day that Crain found out she would join the team, making it even tougher.

“I think the day it happened, it looked pretty bad. We had our moment for her that day and the following days after we found out what happened,” said Cyclist David Herrman. “But since we have boarded the plane, I have tried to put that in the back of my head. I do feel bad for her. She was ready to compete, and this happened and it is unfortunate, but I am here to race.”

With such a short time to prepare for her race, questions have come up as to whether Crain will be mentally ready for the games, especially at such a young age.

“I know for a fact that not knowing until a couple of days ago has played into her favor,” said Head Coach John Herrera. “ I trained her as if she was going to be here.”

Even with the loss of Arielle, Brooke remains excited about the chance to compete at the Olympics.

Brooke’s only communication with Arielle has been through a birthday card she sent her, with Justin Beiber on it.

“She always jokes about how much I love Justin Beiber, so I thought it would make her laugh,” she said.

Crain is set race on Wednesday evening in London and said she is prepared.

“I have had a clear mind,” she said. “Going in it’s whatever happens, happens. I am just going for the experience. So I haven’t been worried or stressing about it. I haven’t had any time to do that.”

 

Atmosphere at the Olympics is unrivaled

London is no longer a British city, but an international city. Ever since the Olympic torch was lit a week and a half ago, people from all over the world have taken over the city.

Walking through the tubes and the city, you’re not afraid to talk to anyone. Everyone is friendly. There is something absolutely unquantifiable in the air. Everyone becomes friends. Not just friends though, best friends.

There is a great respect for every other nation. Old rivalries are lost. The world has truly come together. It is something that I believe everyone should experience.

If there is anything I have learned since the games began, it’s that the sports don’t matter so much. It’s not just the winning that is important. (Although I will say, winning is very important to many fans). Spectators pour into arenas to watch sports they may have never seen or heard of and sometimes to see athletes from countries hundreds or thousands of miles from their own.

I came to this realization in maybe the oddest of places. Standing in a line with people from many other countries to pick up tickets for the 2012 Games, I met David Chin, possibly the epitome of an Olympic super fan. Chin has attended 10 Olympic Games and just keeps coming back. There is a certain Olympic virus that goes around. I have always heard everyone tell me that this will surely not be my final Olympics. I think they are right.

Being at men’s gymnastics days ago with the seats I had was a surreal experience. Not only was it great to see Danell Leyva come back to claim the bronze medal for the U.S., but it was amazing to see the crowd support every gymnast no matter the country. The experience of watching these world class athletes get their medals was absolutely amazing.

The Olympics are contagious, and I have the disease.

Olympics comes full circle for David Chin

Photo by Hans K. Meyer
David Chin stands on the street outside the CoSport Olympic ticket pickup location Monday, July 30. Chin has attended the last 10 Olympic games.

Walking down the street, you would never notice David Chin. He doesn’t cover himself in pins like most Olympic fans and he doesn’t wear his country’s name like a badge across his chest. His looks don’t scream Olympic super fan, but his history with the Olympic games stretches over 35 years.

Chin’s Olympic adventure started back in his home country of Canada during the 1976 Montreal games. Since then, Chin has caught what he calls the Olympic fever as he has now attended 10 Olympic games as he adds London to his list.

“It’s not just the sports. It’s the atmosphere, the people, the friendliness,” he said. “Every (athlete) is willing to spend the time to talk with you. It’s amazing how the games can change people’s attitudes (to others).”

Chin has seen more than just events at the Olympics. He usually buys about six to seven tickets for each Olympics, but has seen his fair share of Opening Ceremonies, sitting in on Seoul, Atlanta, Sydney and Athens’ ceremonies.

“This is a once in a life time experience,” he said. “Most athletes may only get one chance. It only happens every four years, or two if you count the winter Olympics.”

For Chin, the Olympics has truly become a family affair. Chin’s daughter has worked at a handful of Olympic games and is in graduate school training to work for the IOC.

She started as a volunteer in the 2010 games as a hostess for an Olympic family, Chin said. Her host was the president of the Ethics Commission, and he and his wife didn’t speak English. His daughter was a perfect hostess becasue she speaks five languages.

Chin has no plans to stop his Olympic trips. He said he plans for months before the games and works out his holidays to be during the games so he won’t miss a single day.

He has spent much of his life traveling or living in other countries.

“I’m Canadian, living a lot of my time in Hong Kong, driving a French rental car from Paris and now in the United Kingdom,” he joked.

No one can attend just one Olympics, he said.

“This will not be someone’s first and only Olympics,” he said. “They say you catch a bug. You have no choice but to come back.”

Something special is happening in London

So many thoughts come to mind when I think about my experience at the Olympic Opening Ceremonies. Memories of me as a child watching them with my grandmother come rushing to my head.

You see, when I was three years old (almost four), my Grandmother was selected to carry the Olympic torch through Cleveland for the 1996 Atlanta Games. I ran along her side with my parents carrying a paper mache torch. Since then, I have always watched the opening ceremonies with her. In my youth, the Olympics became a staple. This past Friday night, when the games kicked off and I watched the opening ceremonies in London with nearly a thousand people, it really hit me. I had come full circle.

Posing with a Nigerian basketball player before the Opening Ceremonies

It had always been my dream to go to the Olympics. It is still amazing that I am here, and it hasn’t all hit me yet as to exactly what I am experiencing. I am in awe of the sheer magnitude of the games. Watching the games on television does not even come close to doing them justice.

At the Olympic park, athletes freely walk with spectators. They are always available to take a picture or sign a quick autograph. There is no special high paid athlete status that holds these athletes back from their fans. The games have begun. The Olympics are truly here.

If there is one thing I have realize and will allude to in many other blogs, it is that the Olympics is what is right in sports. The Olympics epitomize sport.

London’s Games Budget: Cost of the Olympics May Be Worth It

LONDON – Despite reports of mounting Olympic costs, London’s residents said they see enough benefits to offset the expense.

Mark Daily of Horsham, UK said that the games will not only help the economy, but benefit the people of the country.

“It can be argued that people could spend their money on something better, but on what exactly?,” he asked. “You really just have to look around you. Look at people’s faces. They are loving every single minute of it.”

Even though a recent study  said morale would not improve much in the British workplace, Daily said the Olympics could jump start spending.

“You want to get the economy moving and get people feeling better about themselves,” he said. “It is a lift that people need.”

Even business owners who have had to shut down for parts of the Olympics due to massive crowds and busy streets still believe they will make a profit from the Games.

“Because of all the hype we have been busy. Things have picked up,” said Jose Codaba of Dorking. “In general things have picked up in the last couple of months.”

Games directors have said that many of the venues will remain as sites for other athletic events in the future to help revitalize the east side of London. For example, the Olympic stadium,  the Aquatic Centre, the Handball Arena, the Hockey Centre and the Velodrome will all stay after the games to promote athletics and recreation in London.

“It is worth it because a lot of corporate investment is going on here. This has become so popular,” said Bill Weursfuld of Surrey. “People from Europe will want to visit the UK to see where this is all happening and where it happened and we have had such a huge television audience it will create a lot of tourism.”

Seven years ago, when London was chosen, the government promised a budget that was much smaller than the current budget of 9.3 billion pounds (roughly 14.6 billion American dollars). This number is about four times the initial budget projection of 2.4 billion pounds and much of the late additions have come for games security. However, now projections show that the games may come in slightly under the latest budget.

Concerns have risen with a turbulent European economy that the London Games could eventually hurt the British economy. The 2004 Games in Athens, Greece are still being paid off and are considered one of the reasons that Greece was sent into such financial problems.