Anthony Joshua caps off British Excellence in the Olympics

After Freddie Evans was embarrassed at the hands of Serik Sapiyev by a score of 17-9, in the Welterweight Final at the Excel Center on Aug. 12, it looked as though the British faithful were going to go home disappointed.

“He just beat the piss out of Freddie,” Adrian Downing said of Sapiyev as the Gold medalist made his victory lap around the ring.

Freddie Evans and Serik Sapiyev minutes before the start of the match. (Photo by Chris Longo)

“You’d think with how loud this place was for him (Freddie), he could have at least put on some kind of a show,” Downing’s brother Tom added.

Downtrodden, the British faithful had almost forgotten the mountain of a man who was fighting in the last match of the night, the Super Heavyweight final.

Standing 6′ 6″ with biceps that look as if they had been sculpted by the Italian sculptor Michaelangelo is Anthony Joshua. In his way was athe defending Olympic champion and two-time world champion Robert Cammarelle.

Early on, Cammarelle showed everything that made him a heavy favorite. Dipping and ducking, while throwing occasional jabs Cammarelle dominated despite Joshua’s huge size advantage. Joshua looked clumsy and oafish as Camarelle went up 13-10 after 2 rounds.

The final round started with much of the same, before Joshua went into desperation mode as the crowd willed him on with chants of “Joshua! Joshua! Joshua!” Despite the dominating round, nearly everyone in the arena — including the Italian coach who began celebrating and pumping up the crowd during deliberation, thought Cammarelle had won.

Shockingly, the judges made their decision as an 18-18 split decision to much murmuring from the crowd. That murmur became an absolute roar when three judges awarded the match to Joshua.

Lennox Lewis, Britain’s greatest Super heavyweight attended the match as did current World Heavyweight Champion Wladimir Klitschko.

British boxing fan Tony Williams could not help but look at Joshua’s victory as a passing of the torch.

“With Lennox here, and the Ukranian here, it’s big. When Joshua turns pro, he’s going to make us proud,” Williams said.

 

 

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.

 

Olympic support, success for Great Britain at all-time high

The bell sounded the end of the third round and both fighters took to their corners. The audience was noticeably nervous to hear the judges announce the final result, but still bellowed with the support of a home crowd.

“And the winner, with a judges score of 14-11, is Luke Campbell of Great Britain!”

The crowd erupted in elation. Campbell threw his arms in the air, returning the crowd’s love. His job was complete;  he knew he had made his country proud.

Photo by Tim Dix
Photo by Tim Dix

This was the scene last Saturday at Excel Arena, where Campbell became one of Great Britain’s 29 gold medalists. In a Summer Olympics where hosting the games seemed exciting enough for many supporters of Team GB, they have managed to have their most successful Olympics in history.

“Really quite nothing like it in recent memory. Not football, not the Tour (de France); this has got to be the greatest moment in Britain’s athletic history,” said Oliver Perkins, of London, who had just returned from watching some of the Olympic events with his mates.

After winning the Tour de France in mid July, Bradley Wiggins, affectionately known as “Wiggo,” kicked off the games by winning gold in the cycling time trial. While supporters of Team GB were ecstatic with Wiggo’s gold, they had no idea of the dominance the game’s host country would display during the rest of the Olympics.

“I never thought it would go this well for Team GB, but I must say it is brilliant we’re doing so well,” said Tom Bellack, a gamesmaker. “It really has added to the all-around success of the games.”

Talk of Wiggins being knighted by Her Royal Majesty was rumored when Scotsman, Andy Murray, won gold against arguably the greatest tennis player of all-time, Roger Federer, in the men’s tennis singles final. After Murray’s redemption of his Wimbledon final against Federer, the dominoes began to fall.

Jessica Ennis won gold in the heptathlon, Zara Phillips (granddaughter of the Queen of England) won silver in equestrian, and then Team GB’s dominance of the Velodrome began. Winning 7 gold medals in just 10 events in the Velodrome, the results had other countries in bewilderment of how strong the British performances were. Isabella Gautheron, France’s cycling chief, even went as far to suggest they were using dirty tactics and “magic” wheels.

“They hide their wheels a lot. The ones for the bikes they race on are put in wheel covers at the finish,”  said Gautheron to French newspaper L’Equipe.

Photo by Scott Hutchinson

While some countries have questioned how they are doing it, Great Britain’s overall success cannot be denied. Team GB finished third in the final medal count, amassing 29 gold medals and 65 medals overall, making this statistically the greatest Olympics in their history. Team GB finished fourth in medal count at the Beijing Olympics, but that has not compared to the national pride felt from winning in these 2012 games, according to David Ackley, a fan of Great Britain and the Olympics. Being the host of the games as well as one of the top medal winners has support of Team GB at an all-time high.

“Having them do so well has really sparked Londoners interest in the games,” Ackley said. “I’ve never seen the city bursting with so much pride for our athletes.”

While larger countries like America and China dominated the overall medal count, Great Britain’s success has made the people of the UK proud, Ackley said.

“Hosting the games and competing like we have, has really made us all proud.”

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.

Cricket Fans Believe 20/20 Cricket Has a Place in the Olympics

Colin Brown and Danny Medlock talk to the Cricket community about Cricket making a possible return to the Olympics.

Cricket is a bat and ball game originating in the south of England in the 16th century. It has not been played in the Olympics for over a century despite the International Cricket Council being made up of 106 member nations. The IOC has seen the popularity of cricket and invited the ICC to apply for a bid in the Summer Olympics. In addition to international cricket, county cricket is played in England. Middlesex Cricket Club (our hosts) play their home games at the birthplace of cricket, Lord’s Cricket Ground but have temporarily moved their home games to the Uxbridge Cricket Club as Lord’s is the current home of Olympic archery.

The London Lowdown: Series Finale

London Lowdown-The End

As the Olympics end, Tim and Scotty host the final London Lowdown podcast from the UK. The boys attended the U.S. men’s basketball team practice prior to their gold medal game and interviewed multiple players about what winning the gold would mean to them.

 

Varner takes gold in +96kg freestyle wrestling

Twice it seemed like U.S. wrestler Jacob Varner was on the verge of being thrown off the mat. Twice, however, he tiptoed the edge of the mat and leapt behind his opponent to score single point takedowns.

That was all he needed to win the gold medal Sunday in the 96+kg weight class at the London 2012 freestyle wrestling competition.

Varner, who grew up in Bakersfield, Calif. before wrestling for Iowa State, beat Valerie Andriitsev of Ukraine 1-0, 1-0 to win the first U.S. gold in the heavyweight class since his coach Cael Sanderson won in Athens 2004.

Scripps London was on hand as Varner captured his historic medal and captured the moment in the slideshow above.

For coverage, read Associated Press writer Luke Meredith’s coverage.

Team Handball: The middle child of the sports world

Jerome Fernandez of France catches a perfectly placed no-look pass and squares up to his defender. He gives a strong head fake right, then dribbles left to the top of the key. Fernandez winds up and fires a screaming shot to the upper 90 of the goal. Croatian goalkeeper, Venio Losert, launches his entire body to the right as the ball soars past his extended arms.

What sport did I just describe? Basketball? Soccer? None of the above?

For a sport as intense and pleasing to the eyes as it is, team handball does not get the credit it deserves. We all probably remember playing some form of it in 7th grade and thinking, “I don’t know what that was, but it was kind of cool.” Handball combines some of the best elements of soccer, basketball, and one of my personal favorites, dodgeball, to create a sport that is as or more explosive than any of the three. Watch 10 minutes of team handball in the 2012 Olympics, and you will know exactly what I’m talking about. Diving shots, behind the back passes, absolutely insane saves; there isn’t a dull moment.

The team handball players aren’t just failed athletes at other sports, either. These are men. Fernandez, who I mentioned above, is a whopping 6′ 6″ and 234 pounds. Another Croatian, Mirko Alilovic, is an even bigger 6′ 7”, 243 pound brick wall. Dirk Nowitzki, former NBA MVP, was dominant in handball before he ever touched a basketball. They’re not jumping out of the gym any time soon, but hurling a ball at blinding speeds while your body is parallel to the ground still gets my blood pumping. But don’t take my word for it, turn on an Olympic match and just watch these guys.

The USA does not have a team competing in the 2012 Olympics, and this does not really come as a surprise. When was the last time you heard of the USHA, or the U.S. Handball Association? Never? Yeah, me too. I do, however, believe that handball in America could have a future.

How many wannabe basketball players does a randomly selected college rec center have? Trust me, if their were college dodgeball teams, I would be the first one at tryouts. All they need is a couple lucrative sponsorships and a TV deal with ESPN and we’ve got a blossoming new American pastime. Someone give the Donald a call. I’m sure he’d be gung-ho about investing in another sports league.

Until that materializes, we’ve got a once every four years look at a game that amazes and captivates unlike any other sport. Next time the guide on the T.V. says “team handball,” stop for a second and just watch a few minutes. Trust me, the six weeks in gym class did not do this sport justice.

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.”

The day I shot Lebron

When I went to USA Men’s Basketball practice on Thursday, Aug. 9, I did what every Clevelander has wanted to do for years. I shot LeBron James.

Well, sort of.

Let’s rewind to the lobby before practice. Tim, Chris and I were sitting at a table making a game plan as reporters from ESPN and NBC stood around us. While they were calm and collected, I sat at the table with Tim’s words ringing in my ears. “Kerry, these are arguably the most famous athletes in the world.” Thanks Tim.

We decided that I would take pictures during the practice while the two boys went out and got quotes. Some people might have been mad that they were not going to be talking to players, but I knew this was the best choice for me. There are few places that I am more comfortable than behind a camera, and the nerves before the practice made it clear that I would not be able to make an audible sentence.

After two hours of waiting, the media was let into the practice. When we walked through the doors, I froze. All I saw was camera crews and reporters surrounding chairs that I could only assume were occupied by athletes. I took a deep breath, and dove into the swarm. That was the first time I shot Lebron. He sat there with his Beats on, microphones just inches away from his mouth as he talked in a low voice. I got some good pictures and went to find Tim and Chris.

The two had asked me to make sure I got pictures of them interviewing athletes. They said it was for their stories, but I know they really just wanted a new Facebook profile picture. After a few shots of them, I was drawn to Kobe. He sat in a chair with media surrounding him as well, but he was much more receptive to the attention. His face was so expressive, and his personality really reflected in the pictures.

I then recognized Coach K, a man that my older sister is a huge fan of. I went to take a picture of him for her, when he was suddenly swarmed with reporters too! It was as if everybody noticed his presence, and then he was the only one in the room. Chris went over to interview him, and when I got in to take pictures, an ESPN photographer shoved me. After throwing a dirty look and an “Excuse me, I’m not moving,” he rolled his eyes and called me sassy. I think that I was made for this industry.

A few minutes later, LeBron started shooting free throws for photographers. I got on the key to get some pictures, when one of the shots rebounded off of the rim and towards my head. I caught the ball and went to throw it back to the superstar, but I froze when he put his hands out to catch it. My jaw dropped and he laughed at me, along with a number of other reporters.

We were shooed out of the gym and back into the lobby, where Chris, Tim and myself had a giddy moment of excitement before heading back to the train. Having the opportunity to shoot some of the biggest athletes at the age of 18 is something that I will always remember, and am extremely grateful for.