Marathon Runners are both Crazy and Patient

Even if we lived in a world where we had to jump through a ring of fire every time we wanted to change the channel, marathon runners would still make us look lazy  —  and at the same time much more sane.

Think about it. Marathoners run 26.2 miles, while at any second, their bodies could “hit the wall.”

Look to 1996, when Uta Pippig famously won the Boston Marathon for the third consecutive year, this time, with her own diarrhea and menstrual blood dripping down her leg as she crossed the finish line.  Marathoners train too hard to pull themselves from a race, especially if they think they can still win or set a personal best.

Ohio University Zanesville professor Kitty Consolo has won more than 400 races ranging from the mile to two RevCo Cleveland Marathons despite suffering from severe asthma and multiple allergies. In 1985, she said she was in fantastic shape but developed a sharp pain in her right side.  It turned out to be a grapefruit size ovarian cyst, and she had to have major surgery to remove it.

“(It was) kind of like having a C-Section without the baby,” she said. “I was told not to drive or work for 8 weeks and wait even longer to run. The next day, I jogged 15 minutes in the hospital parking lot and did not need morphine.”

She said she went home in three days instead of seven and went back to driving and teaching the next week.  Four weeks later, she flew to Barbados and won a 10km.  Three weeks later she ran the Cleveland marathon and won for the second time.

Craig Leon, a former Ohio University runner and coach, is now a professional marathoner having finished 26th at the U.S. Olympic Trials. Relatively new to the sport of marathon running Craig still marvels at how he is able to complete such a grueling task.

“It’s (finishing a marathon) hard to even describe,” he said. “It’s such a surreal feeling. Even at any point in my training, I never go out and run 26.2 miles. My biggest workout is a 30K, so you’re thinking to yourself, I’ve got to run X number of miles more and do it at a faster pace when I get to the race. I’d be lying if I did not say it doesn’t scare the crap out of me.”

That feeling eases with experience but always looms before a race, he said.

“Each one I feel more comfortable, but I’m always nervous because you never know what can go wrong in such a long race.” Leon said. “On any given day you can really pop, but at the same time, even if everything is going well up until the race, you can wake up with a sinus infection or get a blister on mile 15 and you’re done. It’s really a cruel race.”

It’s not just the race that is spoiled by something as petty as a cold or a blister. It is the months of training and sacrifice. Leon runs twice a day every day whether the middle of summer or Christmas day. Still in his 20s, Leon wishes he could cut loose more.

“I’m at the point of my life where I’d love to go out with my friends and live it up, but as a runner you’re so reliant on your body you can not abuse it, like say a golfer,” he said.

Consolo is now making her return to running as an Elite Masters Runner. She trains 37 hours a week including physical therapy. She has also written for Runner’s World and other magazines. She said she thinks patience is important to distance running and holds most of America back from competing with the rest of the world.

“One has to be able to focus for long periods of time and be patient,” she said. “Many today want a quick fix. Marathon excellence takes years of persistence to develop, and maybe that is why countries like Ethiopia and other African nations excel.”

Leon also said he thinks patience is the greatest skill a runner can have.

“You won’t see a return on investment tomorrow,” he said. “It will be months, years.”

In spite of all these sacrifices, the reward is not winning. There are not enough major marathon victories to go around. The competition fuels them, but the places they see and the people they meet make it sweeter.

“Runners go through these struggles together, even though we compete against each other,” he said. “We’re friends outside of the races and were constantly traveling to places that are nice enough for a marathon to be run there.”

Ohio’s marathon man, Craig Leon, barely misses Olympic cut

Craig Leon winning the Eugene Marathon. (All photos used with permission of Craig Leon)

As he made his way through the scenic town of Eugene, Oregon and up through the gates at famous Hayward Field at the University of Oregon, Craig Leon had to marvel at what he just accomplished.

“It was a weird feeling,” he said. “At no point during training did I think I was going to win that race, I just wanted to finish.”

Not only had Craig Leon just completed his first marathon, he had completed his first marathon in first place, and was just four minutes off U.S. Olympic trial qualifying pace.

Bobcat Lineage

Craig Leon is not the first athlete in the family to go to Ohio University. Bob Leon was a four-year letterman basketball player from 1975-1978. Craig grew up playing basketball, and it was his first love. Basketball is a winter sport though, and his mother, Marilyn, also a Bobcat, wanted Craig to be involved with something in the fall.

“They didn’t have a golf program at the junior high level, or I would have done that,” he said. “So my mom said why don’t you give this cross country thing a try, I think you’ll like it.”

Leon believes he would not have lasted long as a junior high cross country runner if it wasn’t for how the first practice played out.

“The very first day of practice we started at this park and then we ran two miles to Dairy Queen and we had ice cream, I thought we were going to do that every day. We never went again,” Leon said.

When Leon got to high school, he was an above-average runner, continually placing in the top 5 on a talented Van Wert High School cross country team. His junior season, he joined the track team which helped him to shave off a full minute from his personal best in the 5k and he placed 11th in the Ohio State High School Championships in both cross country and track.

Leon as a late bloomer, had limited scholarship offers, but he always knew he’d be an Ohio Bobcat. He walked on, joining Ohio’s cross country team. He was raw, but he improved as he made the rolling hills of Athens his newest friend. By the time Craig’s career was over, he was the team’s top runner, a MAC Cross Country runner-up and an individual qualifier to the NCAA championships. His biggest accomplishments lay in front of him, however.

The Internship

Leon graduated in the fall of ’07 with a degree in education, but he decided to stick around Athens in order to pursue a master’s

Craig Leon with one of his heroes, world champion Bernard Lagat. (All photos used with permission of Craig Leon)

degree in athletic administration in the College of Health and Human Services, as well as help out coaching OU track.

Leon also applied for and won an internship at the 2008 U.S. Olympic trials in Eugene, Oregon thanks in large part to OU alumnus Mike Young, a sport scientist with USA Track & Field. Leon’s responsibility was to film all the action at Hayward Field, so the athletes and their coaches could go back and study their mechanics frame by frame.

Leon was in a lame-duck phase in his running career at the time. He was still running but not training for anything. He was at the point in his life where he had to decide if he was going to run professionally. The internship helped him make a decision that would shape the course of his life.

“Being out there re-energized me,” he said. “It was the turning point. It made me decide I wanted to do this. Had I not done this (taken the internship) I do not think I would still be running.”

Leon met the athletes he idolized on this field. Just two years later, coincidentally, he would be a champion on this same field and would call these athletes some of his best friends.

Still the Boy Who Wanted Dairy Queen

To pursue his dream, Leon didn’t have to watch his diet.

“I’m like a garbage disposal,” he said. “Actually travel portions aren’t big enough for me and I’m not going to pay for two dinners. There are some runners that literally count the number of calories they eat, I tell people I’m on a see-food diet, I see food, I eat it.”

While he does not sacrifice on food, he sacrifices a lot socially.

“I’m at the point of my life where I’d love to go out with my friends and live it up,” Leon said. “As a runner you’re so reliant on your body, you can’t really abuse it, like say a golfer.”

The sacrifices are ultimately worth it.

“I have traveled to 40 of the 50 states in the last 8 months,” said Leon, who answered this question in the heart of Piccadilly Circus in London.”It’s a pretty sweet gig.”

Marathon Man

When Leon arrived at Ohio University, he had never run for 60 straight minutes in his life. He had a successful collegiate career running times between 23 and 27 minutes. As a pro, however, he decided to focus on the marathon.

Craig Leon running for Ohio University. (All photos used with permission of Craig Leon)

“Ultimately, the marathon is where I’m going to have my most success,” he said. “There are about 5 or 6 guys who have separated themselves, but then the difference between 8 and 40 isn’t much. If we were going to run a 5k on that track I wouldn’t even be in that top 40.”

Leon is admittedly not a world-class sprinter, but he makes up for it by honing the skills that the best marathons need to be elite, skills that have little to do with your athleticism. The key skill is patience, he said.

“Patience in training (because) you won’t see return on investment tomorrow. It will be months, years. Patience even in the race (because) it’s a 26 mile race. If you get too excited, too early, you can really get yourself in trouble the last three or four miles. There is a certain blue-collar toughness, running twice a day, running twice a day on Christmas, running twice a day on Thanksgiving, I also think there is this element of confidence, a belief that you can push your body farther than maybe it would go. I don’t think we were put on this Earth to run as hard as we can for 26 miles. I feel awful for 10 days after it. It hurts to walk.”

Enjoying Running

Growing up playing basketball, Leon understood that the only way you get better at running is through practice. Now, he mixes speed and strength training into his regimen, but at the end of the day there is only one way to improve as a runner.

“When you go to the gym to play basketball and you work on your dribbling, shooting, different drills,” he said. “With running, you go running. There is not another way to become a better runner than to go running, so you have to find a way to make it fun.”

Most people cannot wrap their heads around running for fun. Leon somehow makes a career off of it.  Competing and goal setting are the only ways to enjoy it.

“You’re going to have days where it’s not fun, but every once in awhile you get these runs that just bring you back, whether it be a nice day or if it’s a crappy day and you make it through it and it’s not that bad,” he said. “The thing for me with running is, this is what my next big goal is and knowing that every little thing I do from now until that time whether it be a month, three months, six months, a year, working toward that goal and makes it so much more meaningful and fun for me.”

Minnesota and the Olympic Trials

After Leon realized he was just four minutes away from qualifying for the Olympic trials, he set that as his next goal. He attempted to do that at the 2010 USA Marathon Championships, held in Minneapolis.  To accomplish that goal, Leon needed to run under 2:19:00 or finish in the top 10.

“At mile 25, I was in 10th place and I knew no one was catching me and that I was way ahead of the time I needed,” he said. “For a mile I got to truly soak in what I did. It’s very rare in any sport where can you soak in what you have just accomplished and all the work you put in as you’re doing it.”

Next up for Leon was the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials in Houston, Texas, where he finished 26 of 121 racers, 26 of which did not finish. Leon ran a time of 2:15:42, almost three full minutes faster than his time in Minneapolis. Oddly enough, that same time would have placed him 22 at the 2012 London Olympic Games.

What’s Next?

When just three men can qualify to run the marathon each Olympics, and the Olympics come around just once every four years, Leon has to wonder what will define his career.

“If I stopped running today, and asked myself from where I started would I ever accomplish this much I’d say no, but I know I can do so much more,” he said. “There are certain things I think about that are top things. I want to have top-10 finishes in the major marathons. I’m doing Chicago in the fall or the Boston marathon or the NYC marathon and the US championships. And at the end of the day, I don’t know how I will quantify, but those are the races that are important to me. And if I can continue to do well with that, and I like to think I can continually improve, and as long as I see that improvement over the last few years, then I’ll say hey you did it right, and you had fun.”

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.

 

Americans swim for a different red, white and blue

LONDON – As the saying goes, there are plenty of fish in the sea.  Everyone knows who Michael Phelps, Missy Franklin and Ryan Lochte are, but there are many more American swimmers that most Olympic viewers never hear about.  These are citizens, born and raised in the United States, but swimming for another country.

Margaux Farrell poses for a picture in front of the Olympic rings. (Photo provided by Margaux Farrell)

Margaux Farrell, a member of the French Women’s 4x200m relay team, is a unique story.  Farrell graduated from Indiana University this past spring where she won three Big Ten swimming titles.  Her mother, Slyvie Farrell, is a former swimmer for the French national team that missed qualifying for the Olympics by one one-hundredth of a second.  In the 2012 Summer Olympics, Farrell swam a leg in the semifinal race for the 4x200m women’s relay, in which later that night her team won the bronze medal.  From living in the Olympic Village to swimming in the pool, Farrell talked about her Olympic experience and her bond with her mother.

Colin Brown: What is it like to be an American student swimming for an international team?

Margaux Farrell: It’s fine. A lot of swimmers go to school in thE US, so there are many foreigners that I recognize from NCAA meets. I’m fluent in French though and have spent a lot of time in France so I feel just as much French as I do American.

 

CB: Do you live with the French team in the village?

MF: Yes

 

CB: Are you friends with some of the American athletes? If so, do you hangout with them at the games or mainly your French teammates?

MF: Yes I am, but I stayed mainly with the French.

 

CB: What have you learned from your mom about swimming on a national level?

MF: I’ve learned to cherish the experience more than anything because in the end that is what you’ll remember most.

 

CB: How close are you and your mom when it comes to swimming?

MF: My mom and I are close when it comes to everything.  She’s really my best friend.  People always say that we are the same!

 

CB: What kind of advice or tips does she give you before swimming?

MF: She tells me to relax and that I’m going to be fine and that no matter what she loves me.

 

CB: I saw that you swam the semifinals for the 4×200 and in the finals the team got bronze, so as a leg of the qualifying team, do you receive a medal?

Farrell’s bronze medal that she won as a member of the 4x200m relay team. (Photo provided by Margaux Farrell)

MF: Yes I did.

 

CB: I was told that you were initially in the Olympics as an alternate, is that accurate?

MF: No, it’s called that I guess but most major teams bring 6 people so they can put up the most rested relay each time. I was always going to swim though.

 

CB: Describe the feeling you had when you were told that you were going to be competing for the team. What kind of emotions were you experiencing?

MF: I was excited, but it didn’t fully hit me until I left IU and went to Europe because I had so much other stuff going on like school and graduating so I didn’t focus on my qualification at first.

 

CB: When you walked in to the natatorium for the 4x200m race, what emotions were you feeling then?

MF: I honestly don’t remember much.  I know I was nervous in the days leading up but calm on the day of.  I tried to just look at the pool and not up at the stands, it was just another 200 like I had done before and that is what I had to keep telling myself.

 

Farrell takes a picture with her French teammates. (Photo provided by Margaux Farrell)

CB: Describe any added pressure that you felt that you hadn’t experienced in past races at any point in your life.

MF: Well this was swimming for my country on the biggest stage of athletics so I obviously had to do well but the people I trained with and swam with were supportive and encouraging so I felt ready to do my job for the team.

 

CB: Competing for your school is a big deal, but what is it like to compete for an entire country?

MF: It’s a lot of pressure.  I had a lot of people counting on me and I had a lot at stake so I needed to be focused and determined but it ended up working out just fine.  I imagined that moment for years and trained hard for that so I had confidence in what I was going to do and when I dove into the pool I just had to have faith in my training and my abilities to not have any regrets and just go for it!

 

Nicholas Schwab, an upcoming senior at Indiana University, represented the Dominican Republic as the team’s only male swimmer.  Schwab swam in the 200m Freestyle where he won his heat with a time of 1:53.41 and qualified 36th overall in the event.  He talked about what an amazing experience he had swimming for the Dominican Republic.

 

Colin Brown: What’s it like being an American student swimming for another country?

Nicholas Schwab: It’s a wonderful experience.  I get the best of both worlds.  I am proud to be American, and I am proud to be Dominican.

 

Olympic swimmers practice before their races. (Photo provided by Nicholas Schwab)

CB: How did you end up swimming for the Dominican Republic?

NS: Last summer I applied for dual citizenship through my mother.  We went to the Dominican Republic and I swam in their national competition.  It was great!  I decided that I wanted to gain international experience so the best chance for that at this point was to swim for the Dominican Republic.

 

CB: What were the qualifications like?

NS: I was entered into the games through the universality rules, meaning one guy and one girl given the times are fast enough can be approved to go without FINA A or B cuts.  Being the fastest Dominican, and with a 1:53.8 in the 200 free I was able to qualify for the games.

 

CB: What is it like living in the Olympic Village with all of the other athletes?

NS: Really cool.  I’m surrounded by amazing people.  I’ve been meeting huge athletes—even WR holders.  It’s a great experience, really helping me to grow as an athlete.

 

CB: Do you live with the DR athletes or fellow American athletes?

NS: I live with some of the Dominican coaches and medical staff.

 

CB: Do you hangout with a lot of the Americans in the village?

NS: Not really.  I have some friends from Suriname, actually; it’s been great to spend time with them.

 

Nicholas Schwab poses for a picture with his fellow Dominican Republic swimmer, Dorian McMenemy. (Photos provided by Nicholas Schwab)

CB: What is it like to be the only male swimmer for DR?

NS: It’s a pretty special feeling.  I am a unique person, it just adds to my personality.  It encourages me to represent the country as best I can.  Not only am I representing the DR in the games, but I am also representing the entire sport back at home in the DR for all of the athletes there!

 

CB: What about the female swimmer, Dorian, who is also from the US? Are you both close? Do you have a special bond being the only swimmers?

NS: Dorian is a great girl; she is very, very talented in swimming and will continue to grow in the sport with the years to come.  I look forward to seeing her success.  We are friends but we live in different states so we don’t see each other very often.  She has a great family and we all get along very well!

 

CB: How does swimming at Indiana help you with the pressures of International swimming?

NS: In all honesty, it seems to be the other way around.  The international experience and swimming in the Olympics has really helped my college career out.  This exposure to such high levels of competition has helped me put things into perspective, and really have fueled my motivation for college swimming, especially going forward.

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.

Olympic Village provides a safe haven for athletes

For three weeks during the summer games, more than 16,000 athletes from around the world call the Olympic Village their home away from home.

Olympic Village in East Stratford, London. Photo Credit: Holly Moody

“The village is a sanctuary that allows piece of mind and allows these guys to do what they do in the most extraordinary ways,” said Sebastian Coe, President of the London Organizing Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic games.

Whether it’s coming back from a competition or a hard day at practice, for centuries the Olympic village has provided many athletes with a place to unwind and relax their bodies.

This year the LOCOG took the planning and construction of the Olympic Village to the next level to ensure that the competing athletes are not only comfortable but have everything that they need and want at their fingertips.

The village in East Stratford, London alongside the Olympic park not only features everything from a hair salon and grocery store, but also the largest dining hall in the world seating 5,000 athletes and athletic staff. From protein drinks to made to order burgers, the culinary staff at the village is prepared to cater to a variety of tastes providing cuisines from various countries.

‘The Olympic village is amazing,” said U.S. gymnast and gold medalist Gabrielle Douglas. “They have great food and different varieties to pick from.”

Serving more than 60,000 meals daily the staff keeps busy planning a new menu every day for each meal.

Athlete have their own dorm style space complete with bedding and furnishings. It provides them with some privacy and a place to relax away from the excitement of the games.

“The dorm rooms are really nice a decent size and you get to kind of have your own space,” Douglas said. “I think that they are comfortable, and I love the sheeting so that’s always a good thing.”

Despite speculation about what goes on behind the scenes in the Olympic Village the athletes find it to be a hangout for them to mix and mingle with one another. There are many spaces for them to kick back and have fun including a game room and lounge.

“We’ve gotten to meet a lot of great athletes,” said Douglas. “It’s like were getting to hang out with the popular kids and we try to learn each others sports.”

Some heads of National Olympic Committee’s including Gunilla Lindberg, Secretary-General of the Swedish Olympic Committee have also made the Olympic Village their home.

“LOCOG you will have problems with us moving out because it is a very nice place to live,” said Lindberg. “I would say that they Olympic village is the heart of the Olympic games,” said Lindberg.

[View the story “Chatter Box” on Storify]

Gabby Douglas hopes her gold medal inspires others

Sixteen year old Gabrielle Douglas earned the gold medal at the women’s gymnastics individual finals Aug. 2.

At a press conference on Thursday, she talked about being the first African American to win gold individually in women’s gymnastics.

“This quote you see ‘inspire a generation’ so, you know, I can check that off my bucket list,” she said.

Although she has already made history in her first Olympics, she looks up to the other athletes who have been around for many games.

“The swimmers are like, ‘OK when you’re, you know, done with your competition you guys can come over and sit with us,’ and we’re just like in awe,” she said.

All in all, it’s not about the fame for her but about being a role model for others and keeping her fans happy.

“I love the crowd; it definitely motivates me to do better greater things,” she said. “I’m going to put on a great show for them.”

US women focus on defense to combat Australia’s height in basketball semis

LONDON – They may have size on their side but does Australia have the defense to tarnish the U.S. women’s basketball teams record?

“They’ve got a huge front line so were going to have to engage and neutralize that size advantage,” said Assistant Coach Doug Bruno.

The U.S. women’s basketball team remains confident as it moves into semifinals on Thursday night at Greenwich Arena to take on Australia.

“We need to continue work on our defense, work on those layups and our offensive rebounds,” said forward Tamika Catchings of the WNBA’s Indiana Fever. “If we continue to work on those things I think we’ll be alright.”

Candace Parker, the tallest member of the U.S. women’s team at 6’4, will be up against players such as Elizabeth Cambage of Australia at 6’8” and Lauren Jackson at 6’5”. Head Coach Geno Auriemma was confident in Parker’s ability to be able manage the team’s size on the court.

“Candace is one of the biggest players in the tournament size wise,” he said. “Once she catches the ball where she wants it there is nothing you can do about it.”

Team USA’s guards will have to push defensively in order to win this game, he added.

“It’s all about making shots in the Olympics because every other team is good offensively, so you’ve got to be just as good offensively and then you’ve got to be better defensively,” he said.

The team has its sights set on yet another gold medal.

“I want that stature,” said forward Angel McCoughtry of the WNBA’s Atlanta Dream. “My name would not only be Angel Mcoughtry, it would be Angel McCoughtry Olympic gold medalist.”

Game Time will be 5 p.m. in London, noon EDT.

Columbus Olympian ready for action

LONDON – Even though he is a native of Bulgaria, Tervel Dlagnev moved to the United States at the age of four. He did not start wrestling until his sophomore year of high school. From there he continued to wrestle when attending Nebraska-Kearny. Now the Columbus resident will represent Team USA in men’s freestyle wrestling.

Tervel Dlagnev speaks with his warm up coach during practice Tuesday.
Photo by Kayla Hanley

This is Dlagnev’s first time on an Olympic team. At 6’2″ and 120 kg/264.5 lbs, Dlagnev said he knows what he needs to do to prepare himself.

“I’ve had four years of preparing my thoughts, my body and getting ready in every way,” said Dlagnev. “I know what has to be done and I know the expectations so they’re not sneaking up on me.”

The first round of freestyle begins Friday, Aug. 10, and Dlagnev hits the mat on Saturday.

“Everything is going well,” said Dlagnev. “I feel that physically, mentally, and spiritually I’m just great.”

He is thankful for the fans from Nebraska, Texas, and even Columbus, Ohio who have been supporting him.

“ [To my fans] thanks for the support first of all,” said Dlagnev.  “Tune in Friday, Saturday and Sunday because USA freestyle is going to make some noise.”

Handball hoopla: Popular Olympic sport hasn’t yet reached States, but Americans want it

Despite the lack of a handball team from the U.S. playing in the London Olympics, dozens of Americans lined the stands Wednesday in the Copper Box of Olympic Park to watch the game.

As the women of Brazil and Norway battled it out on the court for a spot in the semifinals, American flags waved proudly in the stands.

“We have never seen handball before except for when we watched it on TV, and then we came out here, and it is unbelievably exciting,” said Tori Anthony of California. “We were so in it, and we didn’t know any of the teams or any of the people, but the comeback was awesome.”

Handball resembles a mix of soccer, basketball and water polo. Finding a handball team in the U.S. can be difficult.

“We are a huge water polo family, and a lot of us coach handball, so a lot of us are going to start using it as a cross training because it is very similar,” said Jessie Cima from California, who added that handball wasn’t originally on her family’s agenda when they decided to come to the Olympics.

“It was one of those things that we wanted to see because it is so similar to water polo,” she said. “And it just kind of worked out that we could come here to watch handball and then go see water polo.”

According to the Olympic website, the game was developed in Germany, Sweden and Denmark throughout the 19th century. The game made its first appearance at the Olympics in Berlin in 1936, but for women, it did not appear until Montreal in 1976.

Anthony and Cima said they want to figure out a way to get handball better recognized once they are back on U.S. soil.

“We were in Germany last week watching it on TV, and we got really excited about it,” Cima said. “But watching it live is a lot different. It’s awesome, and I want it to come to America and for it to be this big just because it is so exciting. It’s fast, and it’s entertaining.”

Anthony said she doesn’t want to wait another four years to see the game played again, and she said she hopes it will gain popularity fast in the U.S.

“We are all talking about how we can get it bigger in America because it is so fun,” Cima said.

Texas-native Roy Blatis, who found his tickets online to the handball quarterfinals, said he also thinks the U.S. should have a handball team, and that it would be a great success because Americans are so athletic.