OLYMPIC NOTEBOOK, Issue 18: Boudia Stuns Diving World, Wins Gold Medal By 1.08 Points To End U.S. Drought

OLYMPIC NOTEBOOK, Issue 18: Boudia Stuns Diving World, Wins Gold Medal By 1.08 Points To End U.S. Drought


WRITTEN BY SHARON ROBB

August 11, 2012

In one of the most exciting finishes in the sport’s history, David Boudia pulled off a huge upset to win the gold medal Saturday on the final day of diving at the London Olympics.

Only 15/100ths of a point separated the top three divers going into the sixth and final round of men’s platform.

China’s Qiu Bo and Yue Lin, top qualifiers after prelims and semifinals, were overwhelming favorites to medal going into the finals followed closely by Great Britain’s 18-year-old poster boy Tom Daley and Boudia.

It was Boudia, competing in his second Olympics, who captivated the crowd of 17,000 at the Aquatic Centre with his consistent diving after barely qualifying for the semifinal round by finishing 18th, the last qualifying spot.

Boudia, 23, of Noblesville, Ind. is the first male diver since former University of Miami and Mission Bay diver Greg Louganis won a gold medal on platform at the 1988 Seoul Olympics; first male diver to win any gold medal since the late Mark Lenzi won on springboard at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics and first U.S. diver to win a gold medal since Laura Wilkinson in 2000.

“That’s the greatest performance I’ve ever seen him have,” said Boudia’s coach, Adam Soldati.

Going into the final round, it was Daley leading with 460.20, and Boudia and Qiu tied with 460.05.

Boudia nailed his back 2 ½ somersault with 2 ½ twists (3.6 degree of difficulty) for 102.60 points to overtake the lead and finish with 568.65 points. Qiu scored 100.80 on the same dive to finish with 566.85 and clinch the silver. Daley scored 90.75 on his reverse 3 ½ somersault (3.3 degree of difficulty), finished with 556.95 and bronze medal.

It was the first diving medal for Great Britain in 52 years and only the fourth aquatics medal for Britain at these Games.

Boudia looked in a state of shock as friends, family and coaches took turns hugging him on the pool deck. He finished second to Qiu at last year’s world championships in Shanghai.

“It’s very hard to believe,” Boudia said. “When I was 13 I was petrified with the height of the 10-meter platform. It took me almost six years to overcome that fear and here I am now, after winning the Olympic gold medal in this event. “My goal was to focus on one dive at a time.”

Entering his final dive, Boudia had no idea he was in contention for the gold medal. He wasn’t looking at the scoreboard, he said.

“If I had known the margin needed to win, my heart would have been pounding and the pressure would have been building,” Boudia said. “I was so calm.

“It’s very hard to believe,” Boudia said. “I’m in disbelief. I dreamed about this. It didn’t even feel like I was diving. It was so surreal.”

When Boudia climbed out of the pool, a Canadian diver told him, “You can smile now.”

“To be in the record books alongside Greg Louganis, the greatest diver in the entire world, Olympic legend, is amazing,” Boudia said. “The rest of the world is definitely catching up behind China.”

Said Louganis who told Boudia two years ago not to be afraid to leave the pack behind, “I have no words to explain what I just saw.”

Qiu, 19, visibly shaken, started crying against a wall. Chinese divers had won six of the seven gold medals awarded going into the final day.

“I have competed so many times but I have never had that much nervousness,” Qiu said. “It is OK. I am still young. I will be back.”

Daley and most of the British diving delegation were in the pool celebrating the 18-year-old’s medal success. It was probably one of the most wild bronze medal celebrations in any sport at the Games. Daley was clearly the favorite of the crowd that included soccer hunk David Beckham and his children clapping wildly.

“It’s simply an amazing experience, after all the difficult times I had in the last 18 months,” Daley said. “Despite all the ups and downs, the medal is here. The crowd certainly contributed to this outcome. I am over the moon with the bronze.”

Boudia had nothing but praise for Daley, whose father died of brain cancer at age 40 last year.

“Tom Daley dove absolutely amazing,” Boudia said. “In front of a home crowd, this kid had so much pressure on him, and he stepped up to the occasion, got a bronze medal and made his country so proud.”

Daley was actually awarded a mulligan in the opening round of the final when his coach filed a protest saying his diver was distracted by flashing cameras in the stands. A FINA judge allowed the protest and Daley was allowed to do his dive over. He raised his score from 75.60 points to 91.80 on his back 2 ½ somersault with 2 ½ twists.

The U.S. finished second in medals in diving with four, signaling a resurgence in USA Diving that has been dormant for years. Boudia also won a bronze with Nick McCrory on platform synchro; Kris Ipsen and Troy Dumais took a bronze on 3-meter synchro and Abby Johnston and Kelci Bryant won a silver in 3-meter synchro.

“It’s massive, it’s a massive step forward,” said Steve Foley, the high performance director for USA Diving. “I hope we can take it forward with a little momentum and hopefully build on it for Rio.”

McCrory, the other U.S. diver to final in his Olympic debut, finished ninth with 505.40 points.

Reigning Olympic gold medalist Matthew Mitcham of Australia failed to advance into the final after missing his last semifinal dive.

Olympic Notes

Michael Phelps is about to improve his stroke and it’s not in swimming. The 22-time Olympic medalist has been signed for the upcoming season of Golf Channel’s The Haney Project. The show, hosted by Hank Haney, former coach of Tiger Woods, will follow Phelps around over the course of the season as he attempts to conquer some of the world’s greatest golf courses. “As I enter this next chapter of my life, I think I will be able to shift my competitiveness to anything I put my mind to,” Phelps said. “And golf is one of the things I want to focus on. I want to play all the world’s great golf courses, but I’d like to play them well.” Past seasons have featured Charles Barkley, Ray Romano, Rush Limbaugh, Sugar Ray Leonard and Adam Levine. Production begins next month. Haney said it would likely be an eight-part series…Ironically, golf makes its debut at the Olympics at Rio 2016. Maybe Phelps will be back, only in a different sport…Now that Missy Franklin has been able to take a breath, the 17-year-old is considering her college and pro options in swimming. “We’ll definitely have to sit down and talk about it,” Franklin said. “I think that my experience here has done two very different things for my decision. I think it’s made my decision a lot more difficult because I’ve been able to see the benefits and everything and how people get these sponsorships; what it’s like for them and how much fun they are having and seeing those and kind of wanting that, wanting to be a part of it and having it be so hard to turn it down.” Franklin will be a senior at Regis Jesuit High School when she returns to Aurora, Colo.

Sharon Robb can be reached at sha11cats@aol.com

 http://www.swim4soflo.com

OLYMPIC NOTEBOOK, Issue 2: South Florida Stepping Stone For SOFLO’s Atkinson, Polyakov, Semeco To London Olympics

OLYMPIC NOTEBOOK, Issue 2: South Florida Stepping Stone For SOFLO’s Atkinson, Polyakov, Semeco To London Olympics


WRITTEN BY SHARON ROBB

July 24, 2012

South Florida is a hidden jewel for athletes of all ages and ability levels, but particularly for those competing at the London Olympics that begin on Friday.

A record 67 athletes and nine coaches with South Florida ties have qualified to compete over 17 days on the world’s greatest stage for amateur sports.

South Florida Aquatic Club will be well-represented by three-time Olympians Alia Atkinson of Jamaica, Arlene Semeco of Venezuela and Vlad Polyakov of Kazakhstan and coaches Bruno Darzi and Chris Anderson.

The large local contingent that calls South Florida home has helped to solidify its reputation as a training playground for future Olympic hopefuls.

Glistening 50-meter Olympic pools at Coral Springs Aquatic Complex, training home for Semeco and Polyakov and Academic Village Pool in Pembroke Pines, where Atkinson grew up, are two venues producing age group, national and international-quality swimmers.

From the pristine show rings at Palm Beach International Equestrian Center in Wellington and beach volleyball courts on Fort Lauderdale Beach to the Brian Piccolo Park Velodrome in Cooper City, South Florida has become the ideal training ground for athletes from the U.S. and around the world, particularly South and Central America and the Caribbean, all working feverishly for their moment of glory.

Why are we home to so many Olympians?

Coaches and athletes agree it’s a combination of great weather and ability to train year-round at sea level; facilities, coaching, history and sheer numbers of athletes to train and compete against for a shot at Olympic stardom every four years.

“This is paradise for an athlete,” said Polyakov, who started training at Coral Springs at age 15 while attending St. Thomas Aquinas. “The atmosphere is perfect. This is where you want to be if you want to train.”

“We have everything we need here,” Semeco said. “Good coaching, good athletes to train with and world-class venue, it doesn’t get any better than this.”

Coral Springs sent a record eight swimmers to the 2008 Beijing Olympics during six-time Olympic coach Michael Lohberg’s legendary coaching tenure. Lohberg passed away in April 2011 but the tradition remains.

Coral Springs Swim Club head coach Bruno Darzi, mentored by Lohberg as both a swimmer and coach, will coach Semeco and Polyakov in London.

Andrea Di Nino, another Lohberg protégé, will be in London as a national team coach for the Russian Swimming Federation. The 39-year-old Italian founder and head coach of the ADN Swim Project spent three years with the Coral Springs Swim Team, learning from Lohberg and his swimmers.

The popularity of swimming has grown in South Florida in the last four decades. Many say that swimming from the 1970s on was the catalyst for other sports in South Florida. 1976 Olympic women’s coach Jack Nelson of the now-defunct Fort Lauderdale Swim Team started bringing in post-college graduates from the U.S. and foreign countries to the Fort Lauderdale Aquatic Complex.

Nelson trained 40 Olympians from various countries in more than 50 years as a coach.

“It was word of mouth mostly,” said the Hall of Famer, recently honored at Fort Lauderdale Aquatic Complex. “They came from everywhere.”

SOFLO CEO and coach Chris Anderson, who will coach Jamaica’s one-swimmer team in Atkinson, remembers training as a swimmer in Fort Lauderdale when he was a 12-year-old age group swimmer for Bernal’s Gators.

“A lot has to do with the atmosphere that draws the athletes,” said Anderson, Florida Gold Coast General Chairman. “This is the ideal training area. We have 50-meter pools within 20 minutes of each other. We have some very good coaches in a small area that have wonderful training environments.”

Added Atkinson, “Some of our countries are so small that we don’t have enough training or competition so the majority come to South Florida for sure because of the pools, coaches and swimmers and because it’s close to these countries.”

The $5 million dollar Mission Bay Aquatic Training Center in west Boca Raton gained attention when it opened in 1985. Millionaire developer James Brady hired Olympic coaches Mark Schubert and Ron O’Brien.

The idea of an all-inclusive training site for swimmers and divers, including Greg Louganis, caught on and became a hotbed for producing national champions and Olympians for the U.S. and various countries. Before the privately-funded epicenter went bankrupt and closed in 1991, it raised the bar for the sport in the Florida Gold Coast.

“You always have champions inspiring potential champions,” Schubert said. “It opens their horizons.”

South Florida’s Olympic influence may now extend beyond the pool, but there is no denying that South Florida is a swimming haven for all ages, from beginners, age group and high school swimmers, to collegians and past, present and future Olympians.

Florida Gold Coast coaches including Darzi and Anderson and their coaching staffs are hoping the excitement surrounding swimming including teenager Missy Franklin, Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte and Cullen Jones will attract more young kids into the sport.

There always seems to be an increase in age group swimmers after the Olympics. The sport is well-publicized like mainstream sports football, basketball and baseball and it comes across as a very clean, competitive sport.

“The Olympics is like the Super Bowl or World Series for swimming,” said University of Miami All-American swimmer Kirk Peppas, now head aquatics director and coach at Metro Aquatics Club of Miami.

“I had an aunt tell my mother, ‘Priscilla, drop your son off at the pool for an hour. They come back home and they are dead tired. They don’t want to do anything after swim practice. That’s how I got involved and I enjoyed it.”

Coaches emphasize that swimming isn’t just about winning medals or earning a college scholarship. Swimming is a healthy sport for kids. It helps discipline them, it’s a team sport and great social environment. It introduces them to time management, balancing school, practice and family life. “You will notice swimmers are the ones with the best grades in school,” said one coach.

According to the U.S. Olympic Committee, the odds of a child becoming an Olympic athlete are 1 in 28,500. Not bad odds, especially if the Olympic hopeful grows up and trains in South Florida.

2012 South Florida Olympic Athletes

BASKETBALL/MEN’S

LeBron James, U.S., Miami Heat.

BASKETBALL/WOMEN’S

Sylvia Fowles, Miami-born, went to Miami Edison, transferred to Gulliver Prep, second straight Olympic appearance.

BEACH VOLLEYBALL

Steve Grotowski, Great Britain, Boynton Beach resident, graduated from Oakland Park Northeast.

DIVING

Kelci Bryant, former University of Miami

Reuben Ross, Canada, University of Miami alum, synchro diving.

Brittany Viola, University of Miami alum, platform

Randy Ableman, UM coach

Greg Louganis, former UM, Mission Bay, Fort Lauderdale Diving, now is USA Diving athlete mentor

EQUESTRIAN

Tina Konyot, Palm City, dressage

McLain Ward, Wellington, show jumping.

GYMNASTICS

Danell Leyva, Miami, U.S.

Jessica Gil Ortiz, Miami, Colombia

JUDO

Jhonny Prada, U.S., Coral Springs, member of coaching staff, head coach and founder of Ki-Itsu-Sai Judo Club in Coral Springs.

ROWING

Robin Prendes, U.S., Miami, lightweight men’s four.

SAILING

Brian Faith, Miami, keel boat

Sarah Lihan, Fort Lauderdale, St. Thomas Aquinas alum.

Mark Mendelblatt, Miami, keel boat

Anna Tunnicliffe, U.S., Plantation.

WOMEN’S SOCCER

Ifeoma Dleke, Great Britain, FIU alum

Melissa Ortiz, Colombia, Cardinal Newman, Lynn University alum.

SWIMMING

Yousef Alaskari, Kuwait, Davie Nadadores, American Heritage.

Rafael Alfaro, El Salvador, Davie Nadadores       

Bradley Ally, Barbados, St. Thomas Aquinas and University of Florida alum.

Alia Atkinson, Jamaica, Flanagan alum, South Florida Aquatic Club, will be third Olympic appearance.

Chris Anderson, Jamaica, South Florida Aquatic Club, Jamaica coach.

Pamela Benitez, El Salvador, Davie Nadadores, alum

Lani Cabrera, Barbados, Davie Nadadores

Carolina Colorado, Colombia, Davie Nadadores

Hollie Bonewit-Cron, Nova Southeastern head swimming coach, Grenada coach.

Bruno Darzi, SOFLO/Coral Springs Swim Club head coach, will be coaching Vlad Polyakov and Arlene Semeco.

Joao de Lucca, Brazil, Davie Nadadores, alum

Andrea Di Nino, Russia, national team coach for Russia, former Coral Springs Swim Club coach.

Sofyan El Gidi, Libya, Davie Nadadores

Esteban Enderica, Ecuador, Davie Nadadores

Ivan Enderica, Ecuador, open water, Davie Nadadores alum

Johanna Eyglo Gustafsdottir, Florida International University freshman, competes for Iceland, Sun Belt Women’s Swimmer of the Year.

Mauricio Fiol, Peru, Davie Nadadores

Jemal Le Grand, Aruba, Davie Nadadores

Felipe Lima, Brazil, Davie Nadadores, breaststroker

Raul Martinez, Puerto Rico, Davie Nadadores

Chinyere Pigot, Doral Academy, Suriname, country’s flagbearer for opening ceremonies

Diguan Pigot, Doral Academy, Suriname.

Vlad Polyakov, Kazakhstan, St. Thomas Aquinas alum, SOFLO, Coral Springs, third trip to the Olympics.

Alex Pussieldi, Kuwait coach, Davie Nadadores

Arlene Semeco, Venezuela, SOFLO, Coral Springs, third trip to the Olympics.

Esau Simpson, Grenada, Nova Southeastern.

Daniele Tirabassi, Venezuela, Davie Nadadores.

Dalias Torrez, Nicaragua, Davie Nadadores alum

Karen Torrez, Bolivia, Davie Nadadores

Daniela Vandenberg, Aruba, Davie Nadadores

Karen Vilorio, Honduras, Davie Nadadores alum

Branden Whitehurst, Miami, Virgin Islands

TAE KWON DO

Terrence Jennings, Miami

Paige McPherson, Miami.

TENNIS

Andy Roddick, Boca Raton, Boca Prep International School alum.

Serena and Venus Williams, Palm Beach Gardens

TRACK AND FIELD

Murielle Ahoure, University of Miami, Ivory Coast

Eric Alejandro, Flanagan, Puerto Rico

T’erea Brown, U.S., University of Miami

Amy Deem, U.S. women’s head track coach

Debbie Ferguson, Bahamas, UM alum

Ronald Forbes, Florida International, Cayman Islands

Michael Frater, Boyd Anderson alum, Jamaica, men’s team captain.

Tabarie Henry, Hallandale, Virgin Islands, country’s flagbearer for opening ceremonies.

Moise Joseph, Haiti, Miami Central alum.

Tony McQuay, U.S., Riviera Beach Suncoast, Florida alum

Kirsten Nieuwendam, St. Thomas Aquinas, Surinam

Sanya Richards, U.S., St. Thomas Aquinas and Texas alum, born in Jamaica, grew up in Pembroke Pines.

Lauryn Williams, U.S., University of Miami alum.

TRIATHLON

Laura Reback Bennett, U.S., Cardinal Newman alum, grew up in North Palm Beach.

Manny Huerta, Miami, ran cross country at Florida Atlantic University.

VOLLEYBALL:

Foluke Akinradewo, U.S., Plantation, St. Thomas Aquinas alum.

Ciara Michel, Great Britain, Miami hometown, University of Miami and Miami Palmer Trinity Prep alum.

Savannah Leaf, Great Britain, University of Miami.

Olympic Torch Carrier:

Jillian Roberts, 19, Miami. She founded the Just Shoe It, which has collected more than 8,600 pairs of donated shoes. The organization’s partner, One World Running, cleans the shows and ships them to more than three dozen countries worldwide. She is one of 10 teenagers from the U.S. chosen by Coca-Cola to carry the Olympic Flame in Oxford, England. They were chosen for helping make a difference in the world.

Sharon Robb can be reached at sha11cats@aol.com

 http://www.swim4soflo.com

Twenty SOFLO Swimmers Will Compete This Weekend At Davie’s Jaked International Invitational Meet

Twenty SOFLO Swimmers Will Compete This Weekend At Davie’s Jaked International Invitational Meet


January 11, 2012

WRITTEN BY SHARON ROBB

South Florida Aquatic Club will be among a field of 223 swimmers, eighteen teams, seven countries and three states at this weekend’s Jaked International Invitational Long Course Meters meet at Nova Southeastern University Aquatic Complex in Davie.

Davie Nadadores are hosting the first 2012 FINA-sanctioned London Olympic qualifying meet on the East Coast.

The competition begins Friday at 6 p.m. with the women’s 800-meter freestyle and men’s 1500-meter freestyle.

The meet concludes on Saturday with the remaining events split into two sessions at 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. All events are timed finals. There is no team scoring.

The meet will give swimmers an opportunity to not only race Florida Gold Coast swimmers but new faces from U.S. and international teams.

Some swimmers are looking for Olympic cuts to represent their countries while others are looking for racing experience against more experienced swimmers.

Jamaica, Cayman Islands, Aruba and Honduras are among countries entered. SOFLO, Pine Crest, St. Andrew’s Swimming, Miami Swimming and host Davie Nadadores are among the top FGC teams entered. St. Andrew’s is coming off its Junior National team title performance.

SOFLO’s top-seeded swimmers are two-time Jamaican Olympian Alia Atkinson and Jessie Alcaide. Atkinson, 23, is seeded first in the 100-meter breaststroke in 1:08.86 and 100-meter butterfly in 1:02.40. Alcaide, 27, is seeded first in the 50-meter freestyle in 26.71 and second in the 100-meter butterfly in 1:04.11.

Atkinson and Alcaide will be joined by SOFLO girl teammates Luana Cabral, 20; Leonie Davies, 15; Maria Lopez, 16; Marcella Marinheiro, 17; Melissa Marinheiro, 14; Jessica Rodriguez, 13; and Haley Wright, 15.

SOFLO 2011 Athlete of the Year Julien Pinon, 13, heads SOFLO’s boys 11-swimmer contingent. He will be joined by Xavier Brown, 17; Roger Capote, 16; Jordan Colon, 14; Matthew Gonzalez, 17; Alfredo Mesa, 13; Alexander Monti, 13; Marc Rojas, 17; Cristian Rossi, 13; Gustavo Valery, 13; and Jacob Walters, 16.

Rojas is the highest seed among SOFLO boys, third in the 200-meter breaststroke in 2:27.75.

Meet title sponsor Jaked will award the top male and female performance with a Jaked racing suit. All meet record breakers will receive a Jaked product.

IF YOU GO

What: Jaked International Invitational Long Course Meters Meet

When: Friday-Saturday

Schedule: Friday–Session 1, 6 p.m.; Saturday—Session 2, 9 a.m.; Session 3, 4 p.m.

Where: Nova Southeastern University Aquatic Complex, 36th St. and 75th Ave., off University Drive, Davie.

Admission: $3 per session, $2 heat sheets.

Sharon Robb can be reached at sha11cats@aol.com

 http://www.swim4soflo.com