Team USA or team UCONN?

LONDON – Six members of the USA Women’s basketball teamand the team’s coach all have a connection to the University of Connecticut, and this team bonding is a key factor in a team’s success, they said.

Team takes a break in practice to listen to Coach Auriemma’s strategy. (Photo by Colin Brown)

Sue Bird, Swin Cash, Asjha Jones, and Diana Taurasi all won a national championship together in 2002 with the Huskies and Maya Moore and Tina Charles added rings of their own in 2009 and 2010.  These three championships are all a part of head coach Geno Auriemma’s seven total national titles.

“I think it helps that six of us went to UCONN and we’re familiar and comfortable,” Bird said.

Running a lot of the same sets that they did at school helps the women learn the playbook.

“UCONN kind of has its own philosophy about a lot of plays and a lot of things are similar from when I was in school.  You don’t really remember the plays so much but you remember the concepts,” said Asjha Jones, one of Bird’s teammates.

Bird says that the women who played at UCONN have a close bond.

“Anybody will tell you, some of the friendships you form and the people you meet and the bonds you make in college kind of last a lifetime and for me,” she said. “I’ve played with three of the other women on this team and it’s definitely there.”

When the former Huskies are happy to play with one another once again, the team as a whole has a tight bond.

“It’s like old times reminiscing, but we’re also really close to the other players too,” said Jones.

 

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.”

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.

In conclusion …

Before we left on this trip, everyone in my hometown fawned over me. They could not believe this opportunity I had earned, and they were congratulating me on great things before I had even so much as started packing. To my credit, I told them all the same thing, this trip is a vacation unless I make the best of it.

Cheers, to the group that made it all worthwhile. (Photo by Jillian Fellows)
I think I failed.

Making the best, does not mean doing everything you want to do and then some. To me, making the best is taken what you are given no matter how small or insignificant that opportunity may be. I had pipe dreams, and they never materialized, and all I had left was day dreams.

True I was given little. Actually, a classmate and I were given the least, but I still could have done more. It would not have been easy or convenient, and truthfully it’s easier and probably fair to blame others for my misfortune, but where will that get me?

Better to focus on the positives, I saw a beautiful city, had some once in a lifetime opportunities and met some of my best friends. Maybe I did not achieve any of my professional goals, and I will tell that first to anyone that asks me how London was, but I will quickly tell them of all the fun I had here and to not think for a second I regret anything about coming. And in that regard, I ended up making the best of this trip.

The Olympics are more than the games

When I tell people that I went to the Olympics, they instantly get supremely excited and start some version of 20 questions.  How was it?  What was it like?  Were you at opening/closing ceremonies?  My answers are usually generic to a tune of something like this: “It was really cool. I had so much fun.  It was a once in a lifetime experience.”  But the one answer that I give that throws some people off is to the question, “what was your favorite part?”

Teams from Germany and Brazil prepare to face-off in the Round of 16. (Photo by Colin Brown)

The majority of people would think that my favorite part would have something to do with the Olympics.  Possibly watching the United States women’s soccer team at Old Trafford, attending beach volleyball matches or getting the chance to interview both the men’s and women’s USA basketball teams.  Nope.  Not my favorite part.  Don’t get me wrong, those experiences were unbelievable, but they weren’t NO. 1 on my list.

My favorite thing about my trip to London was meeting new friends from a wide variety of countries.  If you know me personally, you know that I am an incredibly sociable and outgoing guy. With that said, it was easy for me to talk to random people that I found myself surrounded with.

Italians, Irish, Greeks, Aussies, Germans, Brazilians and of course, Brits — I met a wide variety of people in London. Learning about our differences in cultures and how to say small phrases in my new friend’s native language are memories that I will never forget.

My Italian friend taught me that “fettuccine alfredo” does not exist in Italy; rather it is called something completely different.  My German friends answered my question that had long been on my mind: do Germans pronounce the social media site, tVeeter?  (They pronounced it tweeter, and had no idea what I was talking about when I said that they pronounce their W’s as V’s, such as bratVurst.)  My English friends taught me about “slimin’ a bird,” which you’ll have to go to England and figure out the meaning for yourself.

One of my favorite experiences (even though it lasted under a minute) was speaking French to the woman standing behind me in line at a haunted house that we went to. I jokingly asked her if she was scared, but she didn’t understand me. I asked her if she spoke English, and she muttered that she did not know what I was saying. I had heard her daughter speaking a few minutes prior and recognized the language since I have taken French classes throughout high school and a bit at university (that’s what the Brits call college!)  In French, I asked the woman again if she was scared and proceeded on with the conversation for about a minute or so.  I have always wanted to speak French with a native of the land, so for me that was an awesome experience.

I could go on for days about all of the international cultural details that I learned while in London, but that’s for another day.  In short, the Olympics were awesome, but it is the people that you meet that make the experience exceptional.

They’re just like you and me

Kevin Durant. 2012 Olympic games: 156 points scored.  19.5ppg.  My new buddy.

You read that right; the Durantula is one of my “boyz”.  So is Deron Williams. OK, maybe not entirely, but I did get to hangout with them along with the rest of the USA men’s basketball team when I was in London. On my birthday, Aug. 11, I was fortunate enough to get the opportunity to attend the men’s basketball practice and interview the players of my choice. I can’t really think of much better of a birthday present than that (sorry, Mom).

After checking in at the front desk of the University of East London, Scott Hutchinson, Jenna Stenger, Jake Corrigan and myself waited with a few members of the Associated Press for our escort to take us to the practice facility.  As our escort arrived to walk us across campus, she brought along Bill Plaschke, a well-known sports journalist. Instantly I knew that I was just a little lion cub entering into a jungle of big cats.

Anthony Davis works on his jump shot during practice. (Photo by Colin Brown)

We arrived at the practice center and sat outside the gymnasium in a lobby, sipping on complimentary OJ and watching some Olympic action on the flat screen mounted on the wall.  Looking around the room, some cuties from the Arizona State journalism program caught my eye.  But they’re not who had my attention.  Also waiting to speak with the ball players were David Aldridge and Gene Smith, two NBA personalities.

“Wow,” I thought to myself.  “I have the same amount of access as these top dogs right now, and I’m just a student journalist.”

The time finally arrived that the media could enter the gym. Granted it was 2:45 p.m., and we were supposed to go inside at 1:30 p.m., but I guess when you beat a team by 83 points you can pretty much do as you please.

(Side note: A lot of NBA action had gone down in the previous day and that was a blessing in disguise. Dwight Howard had been traded to the Lakers, so everyone and their brother wanted to interview Kobe. This gave us a lot of access to the other players.)

When you walk in the gym it is a surreal feeling. I’m not one to get star struck or anything of that nature, but when you realize that the best players in the world that you watch every night on Sportscenter are waiting for you to interview them, you get lost in a daze of sorts.  Anthony Davis was shooting three-pointers from the corner. LeBron James was stretching out.  Kevin Love, Deron Williams, Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony were sitting in a row kickin’ back on their folding chairs.

Scripps London’s Jenna Stenger asks Brooklyn’s Deron Williams a few questions. (Photo by Colin Brown)

Once you get over the overwhelming feeling of who you’re in the gym with, it was easy to see that they are just regular guys.  I spent the majority of my time talking to Deron Williams because for some odd reason that I can’t figure out, none of the other members of the media were interviewing him. Deron Williams! Easily a top-five, if not top-three point guard in the league! He noticed our Ohio University polos and told us that he is from Parkersburg, which is an hour away from Athens across the Ohio River.  At the end of the day we had talked to Deron maybe four or five times. Like I said, he was wide open to talk. And by the fourth time he started heckling us about coming back to him, but it was all in good fun.

(Check out this video of Scott Hutchinson and I asking Deron to spell Krzyzewski! Brooklyn’s Deron Williams Attempts to Spell “Krzyzewski”)

As members of the media, including us, were surrounding Carmelo, Scott and I noticed that Kevin Durant was sitting alone twiddling his thumbs.  The scoring leader of the NBA without a single member of the media to talk to — again, I was shocked!  We decided that Kevin was the perfect person to ask our question. So Scott proceeded to something along the lines of: “Hi Kevin. When I’m shooting hoops in my driveway, I like to consider myself an elite player, so after shooting a jump shot I yell Kobe, or LeBron or Durant.  Whose name do you yell?”  Kevin leaned forward, cracking a smile and a laugh, and told us that he doesn’t do that anymore, but as a kid he would say, “Jordan!”  We told him that that is a pretty good name to pick.

Between asking players whose name they yell, or how to spell head coach Mike Krzyzewski’s last name, my time at the men’s basketball practice was truly unforgettable.  Sure, I didn’t get to ask LeBron if he wants to come over and shoot hoops next time he’s in Cleveland, but I wouldn’t want to embarrass him in a game of H-O-R-S-E anyway.

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.