OLYMPIC NOTEBOOK, Issue 19: Croatia Wins First Gold Medal In Water Polo

OLYMPIC NOTEBOOK, Issue 19: Croatia Wins First Gold Medal In Water Polo


WRITTEN BY SHARON ROBB

August 12, 2012

Croatia won its first gold medal of the 2012 London Olympics on the final day.

Legendary water polo coach Ratko Rudic guided Croatia to an 8-6 upset victory over Italy Sunday in front of a packed crowd at the Water Polo Arena.

For Rudic, it was his fourth Olympic gold medal as a coach after taking silver at the 1980 Olympics as a player. Rudic coached Yugoslavia to gold in 1984 and 1988 and Italy in 1992 and now his native Croatia.

Croatia was the only undefeated team in the tournament.

“The gold medal is the reward for our high level of play,” Rudic said. “We had eight wins out of eight matches. I can’t remember any Olympic tournament where the winner was so dominant. This is a result of hard work by a team who spend days and nights analyzing the opponents with great enthusiasm.”

Maro Jokovic scored three goals to give Croatia a 3-2 halftime lead. Croatia continued to add to its lead, 5-3, and Jokovic scored two more in the fourth period for a 7-3 lead.

Croatian goalkeeper Josip Pavic was named the most valuable player of the tournament. Teammate Niksa Dobud was also selected to the all-star team.

Both teams scored four goals on man-up situations with Croatia having seven attempts and Italy, 10.

Said Croatian player Miho Boskovic, “Amazing. It’s the best feeling ever. We will celebrate very hard.”

Croatia had already beaten Italy, 11-6, in round play and had that confidence going into the gold medal game.

Croatia’s Sandro Sukno made history by winning a gold and following his father’s footsteps. Goran Sukno of Yugoslavia won an Olympic gold medal at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. “He is even happier than me,” said Sukno.

In the bronze medal game, Serbia defeated Montanegro, 12-11, despite both of Serbia’s coaches being ejected in the final minute of play. Serbia overcame a three-goal deficit in the final period.

Hungary defeated Spain, 14-6, to finish fifth.

Australia knocked off a demoralized U.S. team, 8-4, to finish seventh, its best placing in 20 years. The U.S. had won its first three matches and then lost five in a row to place a disappointing eighth.

“We had a rough two weeks, this wasn’t a very good way to finish, for sure,” said U.S. coach Terry Schroeder. “We never recovered from the losses to Serbia, Hungary and Croatia.

“We played a pretty good first game against Montanegro, but there were signs against Romania and Great Britain which didn’t look good. It’s hard to figure out right now.”

In 2008, the U.S. had won the silver medal. The 2012 team had 10 players back from the 2008 squad. The players had skipped the club season in Europe and its lucrative contracts to train together six days a week for seven months this year leading up to London.

“Eighth is definitely a failure,” said U.S. top player and team captain Tony Azevedo. “Once you start playing badly, it’s hard to get out of that mindset. But we’ll learn from this and hope the younger generation will build from the success in 2008.”

In the final aquatics medals table, the U.S. finished first with 36 medals (18 gold, 10 silver and 8 bronze) followed by China with 22 (11 gold, 6 silver, 5 bronze), Australia (1 gold, 7 silver, 4 bronze) and Japan with 11 (3 silver, 8 bronze).

The biggest aquatic disappointment was host country Great Britain with only four medals (1 silver, 3 bronze).

Hungarian Breaks Swim Record

Hungary’s Sarolta Kovacs broke the Olympic record for the swimming leg of the women’s modern pentathlon while her compatriot Adrienn Toth took an overall lead in the race for the final gold medal.

In the swimming leg, a 200-meter freestyle, the two fastest swimmers broke the previous Olympic record of 2:08.86. Kovacs set a record of 2:08.11 while Britain’s Samantha Murray clocked 2:08.20.

Laura Asadauskaite, 28, of Lithuania won the modern pentathlon gold medal. Murray took the silver and Brazil’s Yane Marques won the bronze.

1,454 Days Until Rio 2016

The United States set the gold standard at the London Olympics winning 46 gold medals and 104 medals overall.

The gold medal total was the highest for the U.S. in an Olympics held on foreign soil. It was the fifth consecutive Olympics that the U.S. has led the medal count.

“We had very, very high expectations coming into the Games and I think our expectations have been exceeded both on the field of play and off,” said Scott Blackmum, chief executive of the U.S. Olympic Committee.

Swimmers won the most medals for Team USA with 31. That equaled the Beijing team’s total but the London swimmers won 16 gold medals, four more than the Beijing team.

China finished second in gold medals with 38 and 87 overall and Russia had 82 total including 24 gold.

Great Britain won 65 medals, 29 of them gold. Big contrast to 2008, when they won 47 medals, 19 gold.

Sharon Robb can be reached at sha11cats@aol.com

 http://www.swim4soflo.com

OLYMPIC NOTEBOOK, Issue 17: Ous Mellouli Wins Men’s Open Water 10K Gold Medal

OLYMPIC NOTEBOOK, Issue 17: Ous Mellouli Wins Men’s Open Water 10K Gold Medal


WRITTEN BY SHARON ROBB

August 10, 2012

Ous Mellouli of Tunisia, an open water swimming rookie, won the gold medal in the men’s 10K open water swim becoming the first athlete to claim medals in the pool and open water at the same Olympics.

It was Tunisia’s first and only medal of the London Olympics.

Mellouli broke away from a small pack of swimmers in the lead group in the sixth and final lap at Hyde Park’s Serpentine to win in 1 hour, 49 minutes and 55.1 seconds.

Last week Mellouli won a bronze medal in the 1500-meter freestyle and in 2008 the gold medal in the 1500. He overcame shoulder and elbow problems and a virus.

“I don’t think this has ever been done before,” Mellouli said. “It was possibly one of the toughest things to do. The 10K hurts, you’re in pain, once you hit a wall, you just keep pushing when you hit a wall again, you keep pushing.

“Nothing compares to this,” Mellouli said. “There’s no way I can top this achievement.

“The conditions were definitely to my advantage,” Mellouli said. “It wasn’t really rough and it wasn’t too cold. I come from the Mediterranean so that was a big worry for me. This was the easiest of the three open water races I’ve competed in.”

At times, Mellouli would flip over and swim backstroke to see what swimmers were gaining ground on him. At one point, he was ahead by 13 seconds.

“As a country, we’ve been through a lot in the last couple of years,” Mellouli said. “I hope that every Tunisian will turn on their TV, look at my success, be happy. I hope that this medal brings them some joy and some pride.”

Mellouli trains at Southern Cal with Dave Salo. He gave Salo, USC open water coach Catherine Vogt and former USC coach Mark Schubert for his success in training.

Germany’s Thomas Lurz, 33, who took bronze in Beijing, won the silver in 1:49.58.5.

Canadian and first-time Olympian Richard Weinbeger, 22, took the bronze. It was Canada’s 17th medal of the Games and Canada’s first open water medal. He just 5.2 seconds behind Mellouli.

“It was just brutal,” Weinberger said. “It’s easier to be up front and have no draft and be on my own. It’s better to put energy out pushing the pace rather than fighting. I’m still working and gaining speed and endurance.” 

American Alex Meyer, 24, coming back from a broken collarbone and swimming in honor of his good friend, Fran Crippen, was tenth in 1:50.48.2, less than a minute out of the medals. Crippen’s parents called Meyer the night before his race to wish him good luck.

Meyer had a good start and was in fourth place after the first few laps but got caught up in a pack of swimmers, never regained his momentum and faded quickly.

“It’s definitely been an emotional time for me,” Meyer said.

Crowd favorite Benjamin Schulte, 16, of Guam, finished nearly 14 minutes after Mellouli in last place. Fans stayed to watch him and applauded loudly when he finished.

The U.S. swimming team, including Haley Anderson’s open water silver medal, finished with 16 gold, 9 silver and 6 bronze medals, its best medal performance since the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics.

Diving

China’s Qiu Bo and Lin Yue were the top two qualifiers followed by Germany’s Sascha Klein after the men’s platform preliminaries at the Aquatic Centre.

The top 18 advanced from a field of 32 divers after the six rounds of diving into the semifinals on Saturday.

Qiu Bo, 19, the reigning world champion, led with 563.70 points. Lin Yue, 21, was second with 532.15 points, putting China in a position to claim two more medals including a seventh gold in diving.

Klein finished with 525.05 points and his German teammate Martin Wolfram was fourth with 496.80 points.

After two rounds, the favorites were looking nervous. Nick McCrory was ninth, world silver medalist David Boudia, tenth, Tom Daley, 15th and defending Olympic gold medalist Matt Mitcham, 16th.

Daley, a former world champion, ended up finishing 15th. McCrory qualified eighth with 480.90. Mitcham finished ninth while Boudia just squeaked in at 18th. “It was a tough competition,” Daley said.

Lin Yue of China was the only diver to score over 100 points on one dive.

Water polo

Italy will play Croatia, the only undefeated team remaining, for the gold medal on Sunday.

Italy, looking for its fourth Olympic title, upset World Cup champion Serbia, 9-7, in the semifinals at the Water Polo Arena. Italy’s Valentino Gallo and Amaurys Perez each had  three goals.

Croatia, which has never won the gold medal, beat Montenegro, 7-5, in the other semifinal.

Three-goal hero Felipe Perrone led Spain into Sunday’s fifth place playoff game with an 8-7 victory over the U.S. men’s team. The U.S. will not play Australia for the seventh and eighth places.

Synchronized swimming

In front of a crowd of 17,000, defending Olympic champion Russia performed a near-perfect four-minute routine to top a field of seven teams and clinch the gold medal with 197.030 (technical, 98.100 and freestyle, 98.930). It was the Russians’ fourth consecutive gold medal.

Olympic Notes

Track and field athlete Bryshon Nellum was selected as Closing Ceremony flag bearer for the U.S. Olympic team on Sunday. Nellum was voted by Team USA members. The 400-meter runner was told by doctors in 2008 that he would never run again at a world-class level. Through perseverance and dedication, Nellum proved them wrong. “I’m humbled by this incredible privilege,” Nellum said. “Four years ago I wasn’t sure I’d ever run again, and now I’m leading Team USA into the Closing Ceremony of the Olympic Games.”…Belgian swimmer Fanny Lecluyse, 20, was sent home before the end of the Games after returning to the Athletes’ Village drunk at 3:30 a.m.

Olympic Tweets

“It’s nice if you make the Olympic Team. It’s better if you do well when you get there. You must have that goal to do that.”—U.S. Olympic men’s coach Gregg Troy

“Every time you go on deck, you change the life of someone, just for a moment, maybe.”—Frank Busch, USA Swimming National Team Director

“Going to repel down a mountain in the Alps tomorrow, the biggest threat to my life isn’t the mountain at this point, but dealing with mom afterward.”—Jimmy Feigen, U.S. Olympic swimmer

Sharon Robb can be reached at sha11cats@aol.com

 http://www.swim4soflo.com

OLYMPIC NOTEBOOK, Issue 13: South African Swimmer Admits To Using Illegal Dolphin Kick

OLYMPIC NOTEBOOK, Issue 13: South African Swimmer Admits To Using Illegal Dolphin Kick


WRITTEN BY SHARON ROBB

August 6, 2012

In a stunning admission, Cameron van der Burgh of South Africa told the Sydney Morning Herald that he used a series of illegal dolphin kicks at the start of the men’s 100-meter breaststroke final which he won.

Van der Burgh said he robbed Aussie breaststroker Christian Sprenger of the gold medal.

“It’s got to the sort of point where if you’re not doing it, you’re falling behind or you’re giving yourself a disadvantage so everyone’s pushing the rules and pushing the boundaries, so if you’re not doing it, you’re not trying hard enough,” van der Burgh told the Herald.

He also said that “99 percent” of the swimmers are taking advantage of the rule allowing dolphin kicks by adding more at the start or implementing them where not allowed.

Video clips have also surfaced to support his claim.

“I’m not willing to sacrifice my personal performance and four years of hard work for someone that is willing to do it and get away with it,” he said.

Van der Burgh won the 100-meter breaststroke in a world record 58.46, one of nine world records set during the swimming in textile suits.

Van der Burgh said the cheating would stop if FINA, the sport’s international governing body, would introduce a system to allow for underwater video judging. Rules do not allow swimmers to use the dolphin kick in the breaststroke except for one dolphin kick each during the underwater pull at the start and after the turn.

Several other swimmers in the prelims and semifinals used illegal dolphin kicks according to van der Burgh.

Swimming notes

The White House announced on Monday that President Barack Obama supports a measure that would exempt U.S. Olympians from having to pay taxes on their Olympic medals. Press secretary Jay Carney said Obama would do everything to support our athletes including signing into law legislation introduced by Republican Senator Marco Rubio of Florida. Rubio wants Americans who win medals to keep all of the prizes the U.S. Olympic Committee awards to winners. Olympians who earn gold medals receive $25,000, silver winners get $15,000 and bronze winners earn $10,000…

Ryan Lochte is taking in the sights and sounds of the Olympic Games. On Monday he took in the U.S. men’s basketball game with teammate Conor Dwyer and rapper Ludacris…The media is still following Michael Phelps, this time his personal life. Phelps and his girlfriend of five months, Megan Rossee, were spotted on the red carpet at the Speedo party this past weekend. Rossee, a 25-year-old model based in Los Angeles, accompanied Phelps to both the U.S. trials and Olympic Games.

Diving

American Troy Dumais qualified third and Brandon’s Chris Colwill was in seventh place after the preliminary round of six dives in the men’s 3-meter springboard diving at the Aquatic Centre.

Russia’s Ilya Zakharov was top qualifier with 507.65 followed by China’s He Chong with 500.90.

Dumais, who has never finished higher than sixth in the individual event, had 486.60 and Colwill had 461.35. Canadian Alexandre Despatie, who is coming back from a bad diving accident where he hit his head on the board last month, finished ninth with 458.55.

It was less than a perfect opener. Two divers scored all zeroes while two others got low scores for badly executing their dives. Even China diver Qin Kai, the leader after four rounds, dropped to 11th when he missed his forward 4 ½ somersaults tuck worth 3.8 degree of difficulty. He just missed landing on his stomach.

Stephen Feck of Germany landed on his back in the third round and withdrew after feeling faint. Britain’s Jack Laugher slipped off the board and missed his dive. Both earned all zeroes.

The top 18 advance into the semifinals on Tuesday.

Water Polo

At the end of preliminary round play, Croatia and Serbia are the only undefeated teams going into the quarterfinals. Croatia has five wins and Serbia has four wins and one tie.

Croatia will play the U.S. men’s team, the fourth ranked team in its group, in the first game of the quarterfinal round on Wednesday. Serbia will play Australia in another quarterfinal game. In its final group game, the U.S. lost to three-time defending champion Hungary, 11-6, and Serbia trounced Romania, 12-4.

“Serbia and Hungary are two of the best teams in the world and they made us look pretty bad in there, so we are going to have to go home and regroup and get ready for quarterfinals because that’s the only game that really matters,” said Ryan Bailey, a member of the Beijing Olympics silver medal team.

Synchronized swimming

The U.S. duet team of Mary Killman and Mariya Koroleva advanced into the diet final on Monday. The team, making their Olympic debut, scored 88.270 points to finish 11th in the free routine and moved into tenth in the overall standings with 176.170 points. The duo scored 87.900 points in Sunday’s technical routine. The top 12 teams advance into Tuesday’s free final. Russia’s Natalia Ishchenko and Svetlana Romashina are top qualifiers with 196.800 points.

In the aquatics medals table, the U.S. continues to lead with 33 medals (16 gold, 9 silver, 8 bronze) and China is second with 16 (10 gold, 3 silver, 3 bronze).

Sharon Robb can be reached at sha11cats@aol.com

 http://www.swim4soflo.com

OLYMPIC NOTEBOOK, Issue 12: USA Swimming Leaves Lasting Memories At 2012 London Olympics

OLYMPIC NOTEBOOK, Issue 12: USA Swimming Leaves Lasting Memories At 2012 London Olympics


WRITTEN BY SHARON ROBB

August 4, 2012

Michael Phelps, the most decorated athlete in Olympic history, had his last hurrah Saturday on the final day of swimming at London’s Aquatic Centre.

The 27-year-old ended an unprecedented Olympic career with another gold medal after bringing the U.S. team from behind in the 4×100-meter medley relay.

Phelps walked off the pool deck officially retired with 22 career medals including 18 gold medals. At these Games, Phelps won four golds and two silvers, again more medals than any other swimmer.

“I could probably sum it up in a couple words,” Phelps said. “I did it.

“I have been able to do everything I’ve wanted,” said Phelps, who made his Olympic debut as a 15-year-old at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. “I’ve been able to put my mind to the goals that I wanted to achieve. If you can say that about your career, there’s no need to move forward. It’s been an amazing ride. I am taking everything in, the memories I have from this week will never go away.

“It’s time for other things,” Phelps said.

Including a hometown celebration parade already in the works in Baltimore for Phelps and his longtime coach Bob Bowman.

Tweeted Miami Heat’s Dwyane Wade, “He’s gone somewhere no man has ever been, greatest Olympian athlete ever.”

“Just witnessed the end of an era,” said Ricky Berens. “Honored to say I have been a teammate of Michael Phelps, the greatest Olympian ever.”

“I don’t think his shoes will ever be filled,” said Missy Franklin. “Hopefully, I can make little paths next to him.”

Phelps was honored with a special individual ceremony after his final race with a Lifetime Achievement Award. FINA president Julio Maglione presented Phelps with a silver trophy recognizing his achievements.

The U.S. foursome of backstroker Matt Grevers, breaststroker Brendan Hansen, Phelps in the butterfly and freestyler Nathan Adrian won the final men’s relay in a textile-best 3:29.35, nearly two seconds ahead of Japan in 3:31.26 and Australia in 3:31.58.

The U.S. women’s 4×100-meter medley relay performance was even more exciting with a world-record performance from Missy Franklin, Rebecca Soni, Dana Vollmer and Allison Schmitt in 3:52.05, ahead of Australia in 3:54.02 and Japan in 3:55.73. The women’s relay record has now been broken in five consecutive Olympic Games.

It was Franklin’s fourth gold medal and second world record, crowning her America’s new swimming queen.

“It was so perfect in absolutely every way,” Franklin said. “That was the most fun relay I’ve ever been on and to finish off with a bang. Watching Michael is so inspiring for me. It gives me so much motivation. I’m so sad it’s all over but I’ve learned so much from this experience.”

Western Kentucky’s Claire Donahue, who has trained several times at SOFLO’s Academic Village Pool, also walked away with a gold medal after swimming relay prelims.

“Gold medal baby,” Donahue tweeted. “I am an Olympic gold medalist.”

Said her coach Bruce Marchionda, “She had a great experience at this year’s Games and has represented our program and this university exceptionally well. Claire performed on the biggest stage and has made us all very proud.”

In the women’s 50-meter freestyle the race was over at the 15-meter mark as Ranomi Kromowidjojo, 21, of the Netherlands won another gold medal in an Olympic record 24.05. She also won the 100 freestyle earlier in the week. Her .23 second margin of victory in the 50 was one of the most dominant in the event since 1968.

Belarus’ Aliaksandra Herasimenia took silver in 24.28 and 33-year-old mom Marleen Veldhuis of the Netherlands won the bronze in 24.39. Defending champion Britta Steffen of Germany was fourth in 24.46. Arianna Vanderpool-Wallace, the first swimmer from the Bahamas to make a final, was eighth in 24.69. American Jessica Hardy was seventh in 24.62.

Despite a few anxious moments in the men’s 1500-meter freestyle, China’s Sun Yang, shaking off an inadvertent false start after hearing a whistle in the stands, shattered his own world record in 14:31.02. Sun was on world record pace early in the race and never relented. Canadian Ryan Cochrane took the silver in 14:39.63 and Tunisia’s defending Olympic champion Ous Mellouli was third in 14:40.31. There are now four men in the mile that are under 14:40.

“My coach said I was in good shape and that I could break my world record,” Sun said.

The U.S. swimming team’s medal total was 30, 16 of them gold. It was the team’s most impressive showing since the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. Overall, nine world records were broken in the textile era. Only Phelps and Soni were able to successfully defend their Beijing crowns.

Women’s Triathlon

The women’s gold medal came down to a sprint to the finish for Switzerland’s Nicola Spirig to edge Sweden’s Lisa Norden in a photo finish. Spirig, a surprise winner, covered the 1,500-meter swim, 26.7-mile bike and 6.2-mile run course at Hyde Park in 1 hour, 59 minutes and 48 seconds. It was Switzerland’s first medal of the Games. Aussie Erin Densham took the bronze in 1:59:50, edging American Sara Groff who finished in 2 hours.

Reigning world champion Helen Jenkins of Great Britain faded to fifth. On Sunday, former Florida Atlantic University cross country runner and Florida Gold Coast swimmer Manny Huerta of Miami will compete for a medal against a stacked field in the men’s triathlon on the same course. Huerta will be joined by teammate Hunter Kemper, a four-time Olympian.

Laura Reback Bennett, a former North Palm Beach Swim Team swimmer and at 37, the oldest woman in the field, was in the lead pack after the swim and bike but faded on the run to finish 17th in 2:02:17.

“I just don’t think I had the legs for it,” Bennett said. “I didn’t really feel great all day, to be honest, and I don’t really know why. It’s just some days you just don’t show up.”

Bennett’s husband Greg is a top pro triathlete in Australia.

“In Australia, you can become a professional triathlete at 16 and it is acceptable not to go to college and focus on racing and make a profession of it,” Bennett said.

“I think that is why the Australians have dominated. I think that is one of the hiccups in the U.S. We are not getting the athletes until they are out of college.”

Diving

China’s Wu Mingxia , the top qualifier for the women’s 3-meter springboard finals, is five dives away from winning a gold medal and clinching her record-tying sixth Olympic diving medal. Mingxia qualified with a 32.30-point cushion ahead of Italy’s Tania Cagnotto, a four-time Olympian. Americans Cassidy Krug was fifth qualifier and teammate Christina Loukas was sixth. The finals are Sunday.

Water polo

Serbia handed the U.S. men’s team its first loss of the Olympics, 11-6. Vanja Udovicic scored three goals for Serbia which jumped out to a 3-0 lead and had an 8-3 lead early in the second half. The U.S. tried to play catch up. Serbia remains unbeaten at 4-0. The U.S. has already secured a spot in the quarterfinals in the group play. Hungary and the U.S. will play in their final group game.

Sharon Robb can be reached at sha11cats@aol.com

 http://www.swim4soflo.com

OLYMPIC NOTEBOOK, Issue 11: Phelps, Franklin, Ledecky Make History; SOFLO’s Atkinson Eliminated In Prelims

OLYMPIC NOTEBOOK, Issue 11: Phelps, Franklin, Ledecky Make History; SOFLO’s Atkinson Eliminated In Prelims


WRITTEN BY SHARON ROBB

August 3, 2012

With the Miami Heat’s LeBron James, Prince William and his wife Kate Middleton looking on from the stands at the Aquatic Centre, it was one of the most spectacular nights of swimming at the London Olympic Games.

On the seventh night of swimming, Michael Phelps added to his legacy while teenagers Missy Franklin and Katie Ledecky, the new faces of American swimming, showed why the U.S. will remain a swimming powerhouse even without the sport’s most decorated athlete and why U.S. women have re-established their dominance in swimming.

Phelps, trailing in seventh place after the first 50 meters, came back to win the 100-meter butterfly to collect his 21st Olympic medal, including 17 gold medals in his last individual swim of his Olympic career.

Phelps turned it on in the final 25 meters to touch first in 51.21 seconds for his second individual gold medal. It was another three-peat for Phelps who has won the event at three consecutive Olympic Games.

South African Chad Le Clos, who out-touched him in the 200-meter butterfly, took the silver in 51.44 along with Russian Evgeny Korotyshkin who tied him for second.

“I don’t even want to complain about going slower, having a bad turn or finish,” Phelps said. “At this point all that matters is I won. I am not going to knit-pick about my races. I am just happy that the last swim was a win. That’s all I really wanted coming into tonight and this one was a bigger margin of victory than the last two combined. I have had a great week so far and I have one more race on Saturday.

“My start of the meet wasn’t what we wanted but I seemed to pick up some speed at the end of the meet and was able to finish with two individual golds. To be able to finish that way, I can’t really finish any better so I am pleased with the outcomes.”

Teenager Missy Franklin dominated the women’s field in her favorite event, the 200-meter backstroke, to win her third gold medal of the Games with a world-record performance.

It was the seventh world record of the swimming competition in the post high-tech suit era and ended a 40-year drought for the U.S. in the event.

Franklin, 17, led from start-to-finish and led the final 100 meters by a body-length to win in 2:04.06. Her time was 0.75 seconds faster than the previous record set by Zimbabwe’s Kirsty Coventry at the 2009 World Championships in the now-banned high-tech body suits.

“I can’t believe what just happened,” Franklin said. “In that last 25, I knew I was giving it everything I had because I couldn’t feel my arms and legs. I was just trying to get my hand to the wall as fast as I could. It doesn’t get any better than this.”

It was the second individual world record for Franklin who set the 200 backstroke short course record at a FINA World Cup in October 2011 in Berlin, Germany.

Franklin has four medals in her Olympic debut (three golds and one bronze). She has one event remaining on Saturday, the women’s 4×100-meter medley relay.

“This journey has been so amazing, I still haven’t stopped smiling,” Franklin said. “I think it’s so awesome that so many swimmers have been able to come here and break world records while a lot of people think you are not going to be able to. I had the time of my life out there. It is my favorite event and I could not think of a better way to end off my individual swims.”

U.S. teammate and University of Florida Gator Elizabeth Beisel took the bronze in the 200-meter backstroke in 2:06.55. “We both did awesome, I am so excited,” Beisel said.

U.S. women swimmers continued to dominate in another awe-inspiring race in the 800-meter freestyle.

Fifteen-year-old Katie Ledecky of Bethesda, Md., the youngest swimmer on the team and in the women’s field, broke the longest-standing record in U.S. swimming. Janet Evans held the American record in the women’s 800-meter freestyle for 23 years until Ledecky won the event in 8:14.63 to win her first gold medal. It was the second fastest time in history.

Spain’s Mireia Belmont won her second silver medal of the Games in 8:18.76. Great Britain’s favorite Rebecca Adlington hung on for the bronze in 8:20.32.

Ledecky didn’t even make her first Olympic trials cut until last year.

“It’s really unbelievable right now, I just blew away my goals,” Ledecky said. “I just got really fired up when Michael and Missy won. Just being here is incredible.

“Michael is the first Olympian I ever met when I was 6,” Ledecky said. “Just to hear a good luck from him before the race was really cool.

“I was ready to swim my race. I was figuring out that I was pretty fast. At one point I thought if I am going to be close to that world record I don’t even care. I just want to get my hand on the wall first.”

In the biggest shocker of the night, France’s Florent Manaudou, swimming in Lane 7, upset a stacked field to win the men’s 50-meter freestyle in 21.34. Manaudou is the younger brother of three-time Olympic medalist and French star Laure Manaudou, who jumped out of the stands to hug her brother on the pool deck.

Favorite and defending Olympic champion and reigning world champion Cesar Cielo of Brazil could manage only a bronze in 21.59 behind American Cullen Jones who took the silver in 21.54. U.S. teammate Anthony Ervin had a terrible start and was out of the race early.

“I think if I did not believe in this victory I would not have finished first,” said the Frenchman. “I knew the key to victory would be to stay relaxed during the race. My objective was to make the final so I couldn’t be happier. My sister told me she was very proud of me. I hope I will have the same swimming career as her.”

The average age of U.S. swimmers who won gold on Friday night is below 19 years old.

In the aquatics medal table, the U.S. has 31 medals (14 gold, 9 silver, 8 bronze). China has 13 (8 gold, 2 silver, 3 bronze), Japan has 9 (2 silver, 7 bronze) and Australia has 8 (1 gold, 5 silver, 2 bronze).

SOFLO’s three-time Olympian Alia Atkinson of Jamaica was 37th in the 50-meter freestyle prelims in 25.98 in her final race of the 2012 Games. Her time was just off the national record of 25.95 set by former Comets swimmer Natasha Moodie. Atkinson broke her own national record in the 100 breaststroke four times and once in the 200-meter breaststroke.

In other races Friday night:

Women’s 50-meter freestyle semifinals: Ranomi Kromowidjojo of the Netherlands earned the top seed for finals in a near Olympic-record and textile-best 24.07.  American Jessica Hardy also qualified in 24.68 along with Bahamian Arianna Vanderpool-Wallace and Sweden’s Therese Alshammar, despite a pinched nerve.

Water polo

In women’s water polo, Australia and Spain finished at the top of their groups after preliminary matches. Spain knocked off Hungary, 13-11, winning by the two-goal margin they needed. Australia beat Russia, 11-8. The U.S. came from behind to defeat China, 7-6.

Diving

Americans Christina Loukas and Cassidy Krug, after a few shaky dives, survived the opening round of the women’s 3-meter springboard prelims and advanced into the semifinals. China’s Wu Minxia was top qualifier with 387.95 points.

Sharon Robb can be reached at sha11cats@aol.com

 http://www.swim4soflo.com

OLYMPIC NOTEBOOK, Issue 4: Temperature, Olympic Fever Rising In London

OLYMPIC NOTEBOOK, Issue 4: Temperature, Olympic Fever Rising In London


WRITTEN BY SHARON ROBB

July 26, 2012

The unseasonable 90-degree weather outdoors in London is having a sauna-like effect on the London Aquatics Centre indoor facility.

While facility officials are trying to temper the hot air rising from the vents, air temperature was 85 degrees and water temperature 79 degrees on Thursday, just two days before the swimming events begin.

“The folks have done a great job working on the facility,” U.S. Olympic men’s coach Gregg Troy of University of Florida said.

“I guess it’s a little bit warmer than what they usually get this time of the year. It’s been a little warmer on the deck, but it’s not unreasonable. I think it’s going to be a whole lot warmer in the stands. We’re from Florida so we’re used to the heat and it’s a little advantage from our standpoint. I think they’ll get it taken care of.”

Michael Phelps and his coach Bob Bowman and several other members of the U.S. team met with the media on Wednesday and Thursday.

Phelps was asked what keeps him motivated.

“How many toppings do I want on my sundae? “ Phelps said. “I am having fun. My goals are keeping motivated. I am excited. It is kind of annoying sitting around and waiting the whole time. As soon as we are in the village, we wanted to compete.”

Phelps swims against Ryan Lochte in the much-hyped 400-meter individual medley on Saturday. He said it’s a great way to get the U.S. team started off on the right foot.

“Everything we have done has never been easy,” Phelps said. “It is always a challenge to have things go perfectly. For the very first night it is going to be a challenging race. It is going to be an exciting race.”

Added Bowman, “For someone who wants to promote the sport of swimming, there is not a better way than for him to swim that race. It will be a very tough race. It will be a coach’s dream and I think a spectator’s dream.”

Missy Franklin, who will swim in seven events, said she is honored to be compared to Phelps but added “There is only one Michael Phelps. He won eight gold medals and no one is going to do that again.” Franklin is trying to become the first female swimmer to win seven medals at an Olympics.

Natalie Coughlin said she is not done with swimming and may train for the 2016 Rio Olympics.

“I think a lot of people assumed that I was done and I never said that,” Coughlin said. “The hardest part of being an athlete is the day-to-day training and I enjoy that, so I might as well keep doing it.”

Lochte was answering just as many questions about his love life as his swimming career. The media seems to be making a big deal over his friendship with Aussie swimmer Blair Evans. He said they were just friends and that he hadn’t seen her in a year and was happy to see her.

Lochte and Phelps are suite mates in the Athletes’ Village. They have been playing cards and watching DVDs of Breaking Bad and The Wire, he said.

Lochte was asked about his game plan to beat Phelps and Lochte downplayed the rivalry the media has built up.

“I am not really going to swim to beat Michael,” Lochte said with a smile. “There are a bunch of others in the race to worry about. Michael is my competitor but we also have a great friendship.”

U.S. Swimmers A Hit On YouTube

If there is a gold medal for best Olympic YouTube, the U.S. Olympic swim team wins hands-down.

In a parody of Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe” video, swimmers and coaches were featured in one of the funniest and entertaining videos featuring Olympic athletes. USA Swimming’s Mark Russell was videographer and editor, Kathleen Hersey was director, Caitlin Leverenz was executive producer and Alyssa Anderson was producer. Natalie Coughlin choreographed the airplane dance scene. Swimmers did it between workouts to blow off a little steam, they said.

It did show that this is probably the loosest, most tight-knit Olympic swim team in USA Swimming. “It is one great group of swimmers,” texted USA Swimming’s Jack Roach who opened the video swaying along with Michael Phelps. “It has been so much fun.”

Brendan Hansen dancing under water is one of the video highlights. “My underwater dancing is much better than on land, trust me,” Hansen tweeted.

Matt Grevers booty dancing, Ryan Lochte puckering up, Missy Franklin dancing and lip syncing with emotion and Dana Vollmer breaking up a kiss between real-life couple Rebecca Soni and Ricky Berens were just some of the hilarious highlights.

Miscellaneous

With the departure of Stanford women’s coach Lea Maurer, who resigned to spend more time with her family, Missy Franklin has dropped Stanford from her list of top college choices. She said that three of her visits are UC-Berkeley, Georgia and USC. She is expected to have a few more visits. Franklin has retained her amateur status to compete in college, turning down prize money and endorsements…

The U.S. team’s opening ceremonies outfits were pricey. The men’s outfit cost close to $2,000 each while the women’s was nearly $1500. The men’s blazers and shirts were $1,000 along as well as the women’s blazers and skirts. But then again it is designer label Ralph Lauren, a U.S. Olympic sponsor. Lauren and the U.S. Olympic Committee were blasted for having the outfits made in China and not in the U.S. Lauren has already promised to have the 2014 Winter Olympic uniforms made in the U.S…

Sweden’s world champion Therese Alshammar may be forced to drop out of the Olympics because of a severe pinched nerve in her right shoulder which she has had for the last few months. It’s begun to affect her back and prevents her from a complete full shoulder rotation. She is undergoing treatment and could improve over the next few days according to team trainers. She has already dropped off the 400 freestyle relay…

Former Miami swimmer and 1984 Olympian Michelle Richardson is serving as chef de mission for Nicaragua and will carry the country’s flag in Friday night’s Opening Ceremonies Parade of Nations. Her brother Frank competed in the Olympics for Nicaragua. Chinyere Pigot of Suriname and Metro Aquatics will also be a flag bearer. Davie Nadadores swimmers Jemal Legrand of Aruba and Sofyan El Gidi of Libya were also selected by their peers to carry their countries’ flags in their Olympic debut.

Sharon Robb can be reached at sha11cats@aol.com

 http://www.swim4soflo.com

OLYMPIC NOTEBOOK, Issue 3: Let The Games Begin, SOFLO’s Three-Time Olympian Polyakov Swims Saturday

OLYMPIC NOTEBOOK, Issue 3: Let The Games Begin, SOFLO’s Three-Time Olympian Polyakov Swims Saturday


WRITTEN BY SHARON ROBB

July 25, 2012

Surrounded by the grandeur of historic buildings and pageantry that can only happen every four years at the Summer Olympic Games, Vlad Polyakov, who grew up training at the Coral Springs Aquatic Complex with some of the best swimmers in the world, will be the first South Florida Aquatic Club swimmer to compete in London.

The 28-year-old St. Thomas Aquinas High School alum will make his third Olympic appearance for Kazakhstan at the Games. He also competed in Athens in 2004 and Beijing in 2008.

Polyakov will compete in the men’s 100-meter breaststroke prelims and semifinals on Saturday, the opening day of swimming, one of the most popular events along with track and field, soccer and gymnastics. While he is not a medal favorite, he is favored to make the championship final on Sunday night.

SOFLO teammates Alia Atkinson of Jamaica and Arlene Semeco of Venezuela will also compete over eight days of pool swimming in multi events. The open water 10K events are Aug. 9-10.

Several swimmers including Polyakov and Michael Phelps will not march in Friday night’s Opening Ceremonies to rest for Saturday events. Phelps will compete in the 400-meter individual medley.

The Opening Ceremonies are expected to be one of the best in the history of the Games. Former Beatle Paul McCartney has been heard practicing on-stage this past week by several athletes and coaches. Director Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire, 127 Hours) is organizing the Opening Ceremonies entitled The Isles of Wonder. The production is expected to be very British, of course, featuring James Bond movie star Daniel Craig and soccer hottie David Beckham. Legendary boxer Muhammad Ali is also expected to have some involvement as well. Ali is in London for the Beyond Sport Ambassadors award ceremony.

On Wednesday, U.S. fencer Mariel Zagunis, a two-time gold medalist in sabre, was named the U.S. flagbearer for Friday night. She was chosen by her peers at the Games and is the first fencer to carry the flag since 1968. In 2004, she was the first American fencer to win an Olympic gold in 100 years. Her parents were 1976 Olympians.

London is the first city to host the modern Olympics there times. In 1908, the Games were reassigned to London from Rome after Mount Vesuvious erupted. After 12 years of Olympic moratorium because of the war, the 1948 Games were held in London.

The Games will feature 10,500 athletes and coaches from 204 nations in 32 sports competing for 302 medals. In addition to Atkinson, Polyakov and Semeco, SOFLO coaches Chris Anderson and Bruno Darzi will be on the pool deck. Former Douglas and Coral Springs Swim Club swimmer Nick Schwab will make his Olympic debut for the Dominican Republic.

China, which surpassed the U.S. in gold medals four years ago in Beijing, will again challenge the U.S. for Olympic supremacy, only not in swimming where the U.S. is favored to maintain its longstanding tradition of dominating the sport. Australia and Brazil will win their share of swimming medals.

Phelps, who won a record eight gold medals in 2008, is entered in seven events. If he wins three medals of any color, he will surpass Russian gymnast Larissa Latynina, who won a record 18 medals in 1956-1964 as the most decorated Olympian. Phelps mom, Debbie and two sisters will be cheering him from the stands in what he insists will be his final Olympic Games even though his mom keeps saying she wants to go to Rio de Janeiro in 2016.

Teenager Missy Franklin is expected to be women swimming’s breakout star of the Olympics. She is already being called the female version of Phelps, only with more of a bubbly personality.

Swimmers have been practicing at Olympic Park Eton Manor, a sports and leisure venue in Leyton, London that features five indoor swimming pools side-by-side-by-side-by-side-by-side, three 50-meter pools and two 30-meter pools.

“Unbelievable pool, warm up was mind blowing…damn, the Olympics is awesome,” tweeted Schwab.

There will be around-the-clock coverage on NBC, NBCSN, NBCSP, MSNBC, CNBC, Bravo, Telemundo and NBCOlympics.com live streaming every sport and social media including Twitter. It will be the most media exposure the Olympics has ever had, more than 3,500 hours.  

SWIMMING SCHEDULE

July 28, Saturday: Morning session, MEN: 100-meter breaststroke, 400-meter freestyle, 400-meter individual medley heats; WOMEN: 100-meter butterfly, 400-meter individual medley, 4×100-meter freestyle relay, heats; Evening session, MEN: 100-meter breaststroke semifinals, 400-meter freestyle final, 400-meter individual medley final; WOMEN: 100-meter butterfly semifinals, 400-meter individual medley final, 4×100-meter freestyle relay final.

July 29, Sunday: Morning session, MEN: 100-meter backstroke, 200-meter freestyle, 4×100-meter freestyle relay heats; WOMEN: 100-meter backstroke, 100-meter breaststroke, 400-meter freestyle heats; Evening session, MEN: 100-meter backstroke semifinals, 200-meter freestyle semifinals, 100-meter breaststroke final, 4×100-meter freestyle relay final; WOMEN: 100-meter backstroke semifinals, 100-meter breaststroke semifinals, 100-meter butterfly final, 400-meter freestyle final.

July 30, Monday: Morning session, MEN: 200-meter butterfly heat; WOMEN: 200-meter freestyle, 200-meter individual medley heats; Evening session, MEN: 200-meter butterfly semifinals, 100-meter backstroke final, 200-meter freestyle final; WOMEN: 200-meter freestyle semifinals, 200-meter individual medley semifinals, 100-meter backstroke final, 100-meter breaststroke final.

July 31, Tuesday: Morning session, MEN: 100-meter freestyle, 200-meter breaststroke, 4×200-meter freestyle relay heats; WOMEN: 200-meter butterfly heats; Evening session: MEN: 100-meter freestyle semifinals, 200-meter breaststroke semifinals, 200-meter butterfly final, 4×200-meter freestyle relay final; WOMEN: 200-meter butterfly semifinals, 200-meter freestyle final, 200-meter individual medley final.

August 1, Wednesday: Morning session, MEN: 200-meter backstroke, 200-meter individual medley heats; WOMEN: 100-meter freestyle, 200-meter breaststroke, 4×200-meter freestyle relay heats; Evening session, MEN: 200-meter backstroke semifinals, 200-meter individual medley semifinals, 100-meter freestyle final, 200-meter breaststroke final; WOMEN: 100-meter freestyle semifinals, 200-meter breaststroke semifinals, 200-meter butterfly final, 4×200-meter freestyle relay final.

August 2, Thursday: Morning session, MEN: 50-meter freestyle, 100-meter butterfly heats; WOMEN: 200-meter backstroke, 800-meter freestyle heats; Evening session, MEN: 50-meter freestyle semifinals, 100-meter butterfly semifinals, 200-meter backstroke final, 200-meter individual medley final; WOMEN: 200-meter backstroke semifinals, 100-meter freestyle final, 200-meter breaststroke final.

August 3, Friday: Morning session, MEN: 1500-meter freestyle, 4×100-meter medley relay heats; WOMEN: 50-meter freestyle, 4×100-medley relay heats; Evening session, MEN: 50-meter freestyle final, 100-meter butterfly final; WOMEN: 50-meter freestyle semifinals, 200-meter backstroke final, 800-meter freestyle final.

August 4, Saturday: No morning session; Evening session, MEN: 1500-meter freestyle final, 4×100-meter medley relay final; WOMEN: 50-meter freestyle final, 4×100-meter medley relay final.

August 9, Thursday: Women’s Marathon Swimming 10K.

August 10, Friday: Men’s Marathon Swimming 10K.

Sharon Robb can be reached at sha11cats@aol.com

 http://www.swim4soflo.com