Indianapolis native leads, motivates Team USA to gold medal

By Andrew Mishler  |  BSU at the Games

Even as her teammates partied inside their hotel and popped champagne bottles in celebration, U.S. women’ s soccer midfielder Lauren Cheney went to bed at 4:30 Friday morning a sober gold medalist.

“I actually don’t drink,” she said. “So no champagne, but a little bit of dancing. I’ve just never had an urge.”

Five hours later when she woke up, a day after her team had won a gold medal over Japan, business was typical for the 24 year old.

An interview here. An appearance there.

If not for the gold medal tucked tightly into the front left pocket of Cheney’s shorts, it would be hard to pick her out as a U.S. Olympian, especially as most teammates walked around Friday with their prizes draped around their necks.

Cheney’s actions and attitude show she isn’t about soaking up the individual spotlight. The Indianapolis native and Ben Davis graduate appreciates more what her team accomplished Thursday than anything else.

““I just think we’re a family,” Cheney said. “We’ve been together for so long and so many years. I spend more time with these girls than I do with my own family, so they know me.”

Her teammates, however, know what kind of role Cheney has played. Without their 24-year-old leader, those gold medals may not have wound up on their necks.

Or in their pockets.

Injury Setback

The final leg of Cheney’s journey to a gold medal came with an unfortunate complication.

In what Cheney says were the first few seconds of the team’s semifinal match against Canada, her right ankle “busted.”

She only had three days to nurse it before the gold medal match. That healing process first required that she could even stand on it.

“It was upsetting when the morning after the game, I was having a hard time walking on it,” Cheney said.

It wasn’t enough time.

Midfielder Shannon Box started in her place against Japan while Cheney sat on the bench until the final minutes, when she was inserted into the match, swollen ankle and all.

Cheney was supposed to play the entire game. Instead, she was on the field for less than 10 minutes, only able to immediately join her mob of teammates in celebration once the final whistle blew.

No matter. Even as each U.S. player was counting every second that ticked off the clock as the match neared its end, they noticed Cheney’s perseverance.

“(Lauren) handled it so professionally and played really well and was a calming reference for us,” forward Abby Wambach said.

Cheney remained upbeat about the situation.

“Of course, you always want to play, you always want to start,” Cheney said. “But I think this team is so close and so open that we can be happy for each other and know that they can get the job done.”

Born Leader

As a UCLA student who’s on a self-proclaimed “14-year plan,” Cheney is one of the youngest players on Team USA.

Still, it didn’t take long for her to win the respect of the veteran 32-year-old Wambach.

“She’s a young player, but I’d say she’s a born leader,” Wambach said. “She’s a self-proclaimed stubborn woman, and very often views her opinions whether people agree with her or not. And that’s why I love Cheney, because people respect what she has to say.”

Cheney didn’t deny her self-proclaimed stubbornness.

“Yeah, I’m stubborn.”

In what way?

“In every way, every aspect,” she said. “I think Abby’s pretty stubborn too, though.”

Forward Alex Morgan is recognized as one of Team USA’s best players, now famous for scoring the winning goal against Canada in the semi-finals.

Even if some of her teammates look up to her for her skills and talent, it’s Cheney that Morgan looks to for guidance and inspiration.

“(Lauren) motivates me as a player,” Morgan said. “She’s always someone who will give me notes, who will motivate me, talk me through anything. I know I can lean on her.

“When there’s any doubt or anything that I need to get through, it’s always her that I look to.”

Back Home

With plans to return to Los Angeles as soon as the Olympic Games end, Cheney doesn’t have much time to go back to her hometown in Indianapolis.

She admitted that she was only back in the city before the Games to do a video feature on her childhood there. But she still keeps the impact Indianapolis had on her life fresh in her heart and mind.

And on some occasions, even on her wrist.

During Team USA’s game against North Korea on July 31, Cheney flashed a custom-made wristband with three initials on it: JS, KC and AY.

The initials stood for her three childhood friends that stayed with her throughout her soccer career – Jessica Stevens, Kate Cunningham and Annie Yi. The 31st was Cunningham’s birthday.

It’s a reminder to Cheney about where she came from and how she got to this level of soccer. Without those three friends, the gold medal situated squarely in her front pocket would be around the neck of someone else.

As she talked about Cunningham, Yi and Stevens and the wristband she wears to remember them, she recalled a tweet she sent recently that defined her career.

“I tweeted, ‘These are the girls that made me fall in love with soccer.’”

Andrew Mishler is a senior telecommunications and journalism news major at Ball State University covering sports for BSU at the Games. Follow Andrew and the BSU team at @andrewmishler@bsuatthegames andwww.facebook.com/bsuatthegames.

Rediscovering his Olympic dream: the Jared Frayer story

By Conor Hockett  |  BSU at the Games

In 2008, Jared Frayer decided to give up the sport of wrestling—his Olympic dream was dead.

After he finished serving as a training partner for the US Olympic wrestling team in Beijing, Frayer was heading back home to teach and coach high school wrestling in Florida.

Helping others get ready for their matches was the closest he’d get to the Olympic Games, and Frayer accepted that.

But it all changed when, just before leaving China, Frayer received a strange job offer for someone who graduated from the University of Oklahoma.

“As crazy as it was, the University of Iowa is what brought me back (into wrestling),” Frayer said. “They offered me a job in Beijing, and I took it. I went half a year (at Iowa) and then asked myself, ‘What am I doing?’ I wrestle these guys every day and I should still compete. That brought me right back into it.”

At the 2012 Olympic Trials in April, nearly four years had passed since Frayer had taken the assistant coaching position at Iowa, a rival for Oklahoma in college wrestling.

Frayer was back in Iowa City, Iowa, but not as a coach. He had just beaten Brent Metcalf in the 66kg weight class in freestyle wrestling to qualify for his first Olympic Games.

“Physically I was there, but mentally I wasn’t ready to make that (the Olympic) step (earlier in my career),” Frayer said. “I don’t know whether it was becoming a father or just growing up a  little bit, but I made that jump mentally and that allowed me the confidence and ability to make the team.”

At 33 years old, Frayer’s journey to London wasn’t ideal. But after his daughter, Khloe, was born with Down syndrome, Frayer used her struggle to inspire himself, his teammates and a teenager from Florida to never give up on their dreams.

A Wrestling Background

With a dad, David, who wrestled in college and coached after, Frayer was born into the sport. Ever since he was a baby, Frayer said he followed his dad to practices and always wanted to get involved.

“In Florida, wrestling isn’t as big,” Frayer said. “When I was young the sport wasn’t where it is now. So I had to do about everything—go all over the country (to wrestle). I was blessed with a father who was able to do that. Summer times were filled with traveling, and you wrestled as many tournaments as you could.”

David coached Frayer at Countryside High School in Florida where he won three state championships before heading to Oklahoma.

Frayer was a two-time All-American at Oklahoma and finished as the 2002 NCAA runner-up at 149 lbs. After graduating, all his efforts turned toward making the Olympic team.

Before qualifying in 2012, Frayer’s career resembled a journeyman—countless clubs and teams throughout the US and even a few stints overseas.

Wrestling in Iran, Frayer said he remembers fans heckling him about his high school record. Training sessions in India and tournaments in Cuba were the norm. He’d seen and done just about everything in the sport of wrestling.

He was always good enough to stick around, but was missing the big breakthrough into the Games.

In 2010, after losing to Metcalf in the World Team Trials, Frayer decided he was done finishing second. He’d made a career of it after finishing runner-up at the 2006 and 2009 US World Team Trials along with not qualifying for the 2004 and 2008 Olympic Games.

The loss was a turning point in his career. He took a year off to have Khloe and that’s when everything changed. He found a new motivation and mental edge through watching his daughter.

“Now that I look back at it, I think it (having Khloe) played a huge part,” Frayer said. “I think being able to take that year to focus on her and focus on the family really allowed me to grow up and mature a little bit. I think it played a major part in me being able to lay it on the line and get the victory (to qualify).”

Six months into the pregnancy, Frayer and his wife, Nicole, found out Khloe would be born with Down syndrome. It was a shock to both of them, but he said they tried to just learn as much as they could about the disease.

“It’ll make a man look inside himself and find out what he’s all about,” Frayer said. “I remember where I was when it was 100 percent. You think you’re the only guy in the world (dealing with it). But you find out it’s a situation people go through and they grow from. You hear more good things about children with Down syndrome than you do anything bad. It’s just an awesome experience.”

It was an experience that, mathematically, he and his wife were destined to go through.

According to the National Institute of Child Health and Development, the odds of having a child with Down syndrome are 1 in 1,250 (.08 percent). Frayer said the blood tests from he and Nicole were higher than normal. Khloe had a seven percent chance of being born with the disease and, if they had a second child, the chances were five percent.

It was a risk Frayer doesn’t regret taking.

“Khloe is just a ball fire,” Frayer said. “I love hearing her in the background when I’m talking to my wife—love Skyping her. She’s nonstop smiling. She struggles, but she has her own way and I think that’s going to be her whole life. She’s so easy to love—just a joy.”

Frayer said Khloe is delayed in her speech and movements, but is now walking. Despite her limitations, he and Nicole decided to have a second child.

“I think everybody takes that (the odds) into consideration after having a firstborn that has Down syndrome,” Frayer said. “It’s out of our hands. My wife and I have a pretty strong spiritual background. The Lord blessed us with Khloe, and if we had another one (child with down syndrome), we were going to love her just the same.”

Blessing in Disguise

Since Khloe was born, however, everything seems to be going Frayer’s way. Nicole gave birth to the couple’s second daughter, Beckett Olivia, two weeks ago. She was due during the Games, but was born during a three-day period between Frayer’s training camp and his trip to London.

“She (Beckett) is just so little and so precious,” Frayer said. “She was (delivered) five weeks earlier than Khloe was. I got less than two days with her, and I just can’t wait to get back to her. It was definitely a blessing. The Lord had us under his watch, and we were able to sneak her in there.”

Khloe is 19 months old now and Beckett is a perfectly healthy baby. Being the spiritual man he is, Frayer said something has been on his side.

Frayer’s good fortune through a life of struggles has inspired teammates to train even harder.

“Our stories are a lot alike,” Sam Hazewinkel said, the US’s 55kg wrestler. “We both wrestled in Florida, both wrestled at OU. It’s an inspiration to me to watch him fight through. Seeing what he goes through and training with him is awesome. When everything is going on and I start thinking things are going hard for me, I just think, how can I complain? This guy is fighting through all of this and has the best attitude in the world.”

Frayer’s road to the Olympic Games may be the hardest and longest on the team, but it doesn’t take away from the respect other wrestlers have for him.

“My first tour with him in ’08, he was telling me about how he felt like the old guy,” Jake Herbert said, the US’s 84kg wrestler. “Here we are four years later and he’s still going at it. He’s knowledgeable, he’s experienced and Jared is an all-around great guy. It (Frayer’s journey) show’s me this isn’t it for me.”

This hope for others comes because Frayer is the oldest guy on the team by five years. Hazewinkel said the guys don’t give him grief because he’s as dangerous as anyone.

“I’m calling it right now—the dude is gonna crush some people,” Hazewinkel said. “Mark my words, he’s getting some hardware. Would not surprise me at all if that guy comes away with gold. Of the whole team, he’s looked the best the last two weeks. I didn’t think I’d say that with Jordan Burroughs on the team, but he’s been amazing. In simulation matches, Frayer was pinning them (opponents), teching them—just making it look easy.”

Frayer said the visible improvement stems from the recent time devoted to his individual wrestling.

“All these years, I’ve been worried about other guy getting the medal when I’m the training partner,” Frayer said. “Now the last two months have been just me. It hasn’t been since I was probably in college that I focused on just me. I’ve made so much gain in the last month and a half. There’s no reason I’m not turning that outcome around (into something).”

Although his teammates think differently, Frayer acknowledges he’s not the favorite to win a medal. Mehdi Sadegh Taghavi Kermani of Iran has won two of the last three World Championships (2009, 2011) and will be his toughest test.

None of that fazes him though.

To win the Olympic Trials, Frayer had to defeat Metcalf, the same person who beat him at the World Trials in 2010, and the same man he coached for a brief time at Iowa.

“I just had the belief I could beat him because I have in the past,” Frayer said. “I had the approach that it was my match and I was going to take it from him.”

A Wish Granted

It’s that kind of attitude which comes out in Frayer’s wrestling. That’s why Blake Chandler, a 19 year old from just outside Tampa, Fla., has been a fan for years.

Chandler is a wrestler himself, but his situation is different. He is limited to grappling with one leg after a vicious bone cancer forced an amputation of his left leg.

Diagnosed with osteosarcoma March 29, 2011, Chandler managed to fight the disease for nearly a year before losing his leg.

As part of the Make A Wish Foundation, Chandler was allowed to visit the US Olympic wrestling camp on August 7 to meet with all the athletes.

But the one wrestler he wanted to meet more than any other was Frayer.

“I’ve been watching him since I was a freshman,” Chandler said. “I watch his moves and he’s just an amazing wrestler. When I was granted the wish to come here, his parents came to see me and gave me T-shirts and presented me with most of the stuff he has as well. His parents have been awesome to me.”

A handful of US coaches also went down to Florida to present Chandler with tickets and gear at his high school. He was flown to London and was allowed to watch practice and get invaluable instruction.

“I’m having a blast,” Chandler said at the practice session. “I feel very privileged just to be standing in the training room with everybody.”

His journey isn’t stopping there. Two weeks after his amputation, Chandler said he was back on the mat. He hopes to wrestle adult leagues in Florida and have fun with it.

“It’s pretty weird going from wrestling two legs to one,” Chandler said. “It’s going to be all technique and I love it. Learning how to shoot and defend my one leg is pretty hard. Defending on one, I have only one leg to worry about. They’re only going to attack my one leg, so it’s a bonus in a lot of different ways.”

It’s easy to see why Chandler is attracted to Frayer. Their personalities are positive and infectious. Despite each other’s limitations at home or on the mat, they’ve overcome every obstacle.

The Olympic obstacle is the last for Frayer. He’s going into his second year as an assistant coach at Oklahoma and said he looks forward to getting back to recruiting. After all his travels and relocations due to wrestling, he is finally at home back in his college town.

“I was there for six years right out of high school,” Frayer said. “There are so many people around the program that I’m so close with. There’s nothing like flying into TIA (Tampa International Airport) and going back home. But, definitely, Norman, Oklahoma, is my second home and a place I feel really comfortable in.”

The underdog role is another thing Frayer finds comfort in. When he competes on Sunday, likely in his last Olympic Games, it’s exactly the situation Frayer will find himself in.

“I’ve done my best wrestling when I wasn’t supposed to win,” Frayer said. “I don’t think there’s a journalist or a wrestling historian that gives me a shot and that’s exciting to me.”

Conor Hockett is a junior journalism major at Ball State University covering sports for BSU at the Games. Follow Conor and the BSU team at @bsuatthegames and www.facebook.com/bsuatthegames.

Syracuse basketball coach doesn’t have an off-season this year

By Pat Boylan and Brandon Pope  |  BSU at the Games

Legendary Syracuse men’s basketball coach Jim Boeheim’s off-season hasn’t been typical. In fact, it hasn’t even been an off-season.

Instead of recruiting and “resting” for the year ahead, Boeheim is hard at work as an assistant coach for USA Basketball at the London Olympic Games.

Late last week we got the chance to go to a Team USA basketball practice and meet up with Boeheim prior to Monday’s final pool play game against Argentina. After a record-breaking, 83-point win over Nigeria, the U.S. struggled vs. heavy-underdog Lithuania, winning just 99-94.

“Sometimes we forget to give credit to the teams we play,” Boeheim said. “They played well. We missed some shots, missed some free throws and didn’t play the kind of defense we have been playing.”

Boehim was refreshingly honest, or at least it seemed. We interviewed nearly all of Team USA – and as expected – answers to a college program weren’t the most in depth. I don’t mean to say they shrugged us off. In fact, I was pleasantly surprised with the responses from most players, and the fact that they took the time.

But Boeheim was different. He gave long, insightful answers. You could tell he’s done this before and knows what the reporters want.

As with any coach, you’re not happy when your team underperforms. There’s no doubt the U.S. did that against Lithuania. But according to Boehim, the close victory could be a blessing in disguise.

“You don’t want to have those games, but you’re going to be in them so you have to know how to win them.”

There’s little doubt Team USA has the best talent of any country. I’ve always had a ton of respect for Coach K and Boeheim. But after just five minutes with the Syracuse coach, I have no doubt in my mind the U.S. has the best coaching staff as well.

Coming off their first test against Lithuania, the USA men’s basketball players were confident heading into their Group A match against Argentina. That confidence paid off, with the Americans topping Manu’s Argentianian squad 126-97.

Team USA knew what they had to do early in order to capitalize. Their bench played a big role in the game.

“We look forward to trying to have an impact in every game,” Andre Iguodola said, a key non-starter for the U.S. “We try to increase the tempo and our energy is always important for us.”

Now the U.S. just needs a similar performance as they head into the semifinals and a rematch with Argentina.

Pat Boylan is a senior telecommunications major and Brandon Pope is a junior telecommunications and journalism major at Ball State University covering sports for BSU at the Games. Follow Pat, Brandon and the BSU team at@patboylanbsu@bpopeizdope@bsuatthegames and www.facebook.com/bsuatthegames.

Quick exit leaves Team USA Field Hockey with higher hopes

By Tyler Poslosky  |  BSU at the Games

Whether summer or winter, most U.S. teams rack up the medals during the Olympic Games.

The U.S. men’s and women’s basketball teams consistently blow out their opponents, while the U.S. softball team was so dominant, the sport was removed altogether.

On the ice, the U.S. men’s and women’s hockey teams almost always find themselves standing on the podium.

Inside Riverbank Arena, the blue-turf field-hockey venue, it’s the other way around.

Team USA went 1-4 in the round-robin stage of the Olympic tournament. But their lone win, a 1-0 triumph over perennial powerhouse Argentina, was proof that the U.S. could match up with the best teams in the world.

The four losses meant that the U.S. will not advance for a chance at a podium finish, which hasn’t happened in more than three decades.

Having been eliminated from medaling by New Zealand on Aug. 4, the U.S. rounded out pool play with a devastating 7-0 loss to South Africa.

“In sport[s], you get what you deserve,” coach Lee Bodimeade said. “We got what we deserved.”

The blowout wasn’t what the U.S. expected. It lost to a team that had been outscored by a combined 14-2 margin in its first four matches. With nothing to play for against South Africa, the U.S. lost its swagger.

“It’s disappointing,” Katie O’Donnell said. “In our games against opponents ranked higher than us, we took it to them and shocked the world. And then to come out and play this kind of hockey is saddening.”

The encouraging factor coming out of this tournament is the youth and experience gained by the U.S.

“We have amazing kids coming up,” said Keli Smith-Puzo, who is retiring after this year’s Games. “The young talent is going to be amazing. I think Rio [2016] is going to be a completely different team.”

Sisters Katie and Julia Reinprecht figure to be part of that team four years from now. Katie, 22, and Julia, 21, appear to have a bright future ahead of them with Team USA Field Hockey.

“Now that I’ve got a taste [of the Olympic Games], it’s something I definitely want to come back and try to do again,” Katie said. “I just can’t describe how awesome it is, playing for your country.”

“It’s the best job you could have,” Julia said. “We’ve never played in front of crowds like this. People you don’t even know are here, supporting [us]. It’s one of the coolest things ever.”

Tyler Poslosky is a senior journalism news major at Ball State University covering sports for BSU at the Games. Follow Tyler and the BSU team at @tylerposlosky@bsuatthegames andwww.facebook.com/bsuatthegames.

From green sports bras to peanut M&M’s–the strange habits of Olympic athletes

By Emily Thompson  |  BSU at the Games

Olympian Anna Tunnicliffe is not like other superstitious sailors. Most wouldn’t let anything the color green near their boat, but Tunnicliffe has green on hers at every major competition.

An old sailing tale claims the color is bad luck on a boat, and Tunnicliffe and her teammates were always careful not to chance it. But before one competition, Tunnicliffe forgot to change out of her green sports bra beforehand. She won and decided it was lucky.

“So I wear that on finals day, but don’t tell [my teammates] that,” Tunnicliffe says.

She laughs.

“I do wash it.”

Tunnicliffe, whose team lost in the quarterfinals of the Elliot 6m sailing race Wednesday, hasn’t been the only 2012 Olympian with a quirky habit. Many of the athletes who have competed  in London have routines, rituals and superstitions, from peanut M&M’s to specific warm-ups. But Sean McCann, United States Olympic Committee (USOC) senior sport psychologist, said it’s important to make clear distinctions between the three.

“I’m a big fan of routines, rituals make me nervous, and superstitions I actively discourage,” McCann says.

Routines

McCann said routines can help keep athletes on track before a big event like the Games.

“Routines are really useful because under pressure at the Olympic Games, it’s so easy to get distracted from the normal business of doing your sport,” he says. “It becomes a way of helping the mind actively flow into the action, as opposed to stopping and thinking and potentially getting in your own way.”

For some, routines come naturally.

“I am a pretty routine type of person by nature and by personality,” said cyclist Dotsie Bausch, whose team won a silver in the team pursuit.. “So I tend to do the same process the night before [a competition], which involves a certain type of music, then I go into a meditation, then I go into prayer time and then a music time. I pack my bag the same, and it helps with calming.”

When setting up a routine, McCann said athletes should start with the moment they’re in action and work backward.

“Virtually every athlete can control the last 10 seconds before they do something,” he said. “That’s a good place to start a routine, to get your mind in the right place, whether it’s using imagery or visualization or a specific cue word that reminds you about technique, for instance.”

Boxer Joseph Diaz Jr., who lost in the men’s bantam round of 16 in the 56kg weight class, said right before a fight, he tries to pump himself up mentally.

“To stay focused, I just think positive thoughts,” he said. “I think about me winning; I think about my family.”

Rituals

Rituals are not as clear-cut as routines. McCann said some rituals are harmless, while others can interfere by making the athlete anxious if he or she can’t complete the ritual. The difference is how much control athletes have over the outcome of their rituals.

“A ritual might be something like, ‘On game day, I need to put on my right sock first, then my left sock,’” the psychologist said. “That sort of thing becomes more magical thinking, in terms of, ‘I need to do something the same way.’”

One of the examples of a popular ritual McCann gives is food.

“I won’t travel without eating Peanut M&M’s on a plane,” Travis Stevens, who lost in the semifinals of the 81kg class in judo, said. “It started from finding it at every airport in the country. It was the one thing that I could always find, so it’s my staple when I travel.”

Diver Brittany Viola, who is competing in the 10m platform diving this week, is very specific about her diet surrounding her sport. She likes to have salmon the night before a big competition.

On the other hand, some athletes prefer not to eat at all the day of a major event.

“I don’t like to feel very full, so I usually don’t eat breakfast on the days that I compete,” diver Nick McCrory said, who won a bronze with partner David Boudia in the 10m platform synchronized diving and has individual competitions this week. “Then I’ll snack on a protein bar and drink water later.”

Rituals can also come in the form of a familiar item.

“I travel with my pillow everywhere because it’s something that’s consistent,” Boudia said. “I sleep in a lot of different beds all around the world, but one thing I can have from my own bed is my pillow.”

Superstitions

Unlike rituals, which can sometimes be harmless, McCann says that superstitions put athletes in the wrong mindset.

“Superstitions are to ward off bad things from happening. Or if something happens, like a black cat crosses your path, then you’re worried that something bad will happen,” he says. “Right away, it engages your brain in thinking about bad stuff that could happen. So I really try and discourage people from having outright superstitions.”

Diver Kristian Ipsen admits to being superstitious.

“I do certain things before a dive, and if a dive goes well, I will keep doing that,” said Isepn, who won a bronze in the 3m synchronized springboard competition. “And if it doesn’t go well, I will switch something up. I won’t wear this one red suit that I wore at one of my college meets because I had a terrible, terrible meet. And for finals, I usually wear a black suit because I dive well in a black suit.”

Gymnast Logan Dooley, who was Olympic alternate who didn’t end up competing, tries not to be too superstitious but says he gets freaked out if he bounces on the trampoline.

“It’s OK if you bounce and you stop, and then you recollect your thoughts and go,” Dooley said. “But if that happens to me, I’m very superstitious about that. I think that it’s always bad luck.”

According to McCann, many athletes’ habits stem from all of the pressure they face.

“It’s not only natural, but it’s probably advantageous, to have a certain level of nervousness and anxiety for competing,” he said. “You do need to be a little on-edge so you’re focused, but that also exposes some of this stuff, and it makes some things that should be a small deal become a bigger deal.”

Because there’s so much stress surrounding the Olympic Games, McCann said he encourages athletes to stick to routines instead of getting caught up in everything that could go wrong.

But regardless of McCann’s advice, Tunnicliffe wore her green sports bra under her sailing uniform at the Games.  Some athletes may even have a lucky rabbit’s foot, a horseshoe or a four-leaf clover.

Behind many athletes’ tough exteriors, they need some sort of comfort, just like the rest of us—even if it doesn’t produce a gold-medal result.

Emily Thompson is a senior magazine journalism major at Ball State University and features reporter for BSU at the Games. Follow Emily and the BSU team at@ekthompson2410@bsuatthegames and www.facebook.com/bsuatthegames.

Wrestler Jake Herbert prepares to win gold

By Charlie Akers  |  BSU at the Games

Wrestler Jake Herbert watches his weight and what he eats like most athletes in his field. He does find some unique things to enjoy the most. He loves to drink juices and said “Naked” was his favorite. Most notably, he doesn’t go straight to the water fountain after working out to rehydrate. Instead, Herbert drinks coconut water because it rehydrates you better.

All this caution and weight watching helped Herbert claim a 149-4 record at Northwestern University, and of his four losses, three were as a freshman and the fourth was in the national championship his sophomore year. It’s a record he hopes to improve on this year at the Olympic Games when the 84kg weight class begins wrestling Saturday.

“I’m 27-years-young, and I’m getting bigger, stronger, and quicker everyday. I feel like I am starting to hit my stride,” Herbert said.

Herbert doesn’t just focus on his food intake when preparing for the wrestling mat either. He lifts three times a week and wrestles seven. Two days he plays handball, which he said can get violent with all the wrestlers trying to play.

When it comes to finding a weak spot in an opponents defense, Herbert said at this level most people don’t have one, but he has a strong spot — his offense.

“I attack, attack, attack until I score or till they break down. They can defend one attack, but they can’t defend 14 or 15. They don’t have the endurance or the mental stamina to do that,” Herbert said.

Herbert looks to stay aggressive in his matches hoping to push hard enough to make his opponents tired or force them into a mistake. He said he has a relentless attack that is hard for people to stop, and while his style hasn’t made him the favorite to win gold, that doesn’t bother him. He has been training hard and wants the gold, which requires toppling Sharif Sharifov from Azerbaijan.

And Herbert doesn’t plan to come home with anything less than the top spot on the podium. If that happens, Herbert may just be able to enjoy one of his food splurges, burgers and donuts.

Charlie Akers is a sophomore telecommunications and journalism major at Ball State University covering sports for BSU at the Games. Follow Charlie and the BSU team at @the8thKing,@bsuatthegames and www.facebook.com/bsuatthegames.

Team Great Britain claims first Olympic basketball win since 1948

By James Jeffrey  |  BSU at the Games

Team Great Britain huddles on the court during their recent game against China.

Team Great Britain achieved a first in nearly 60 years on an Olympic basketball court – it claimed a victory. Team Great Britain beat No. 10 China 90-58 for its first win in the Olympic Games since 1948.

“Finally got that Win. So thankful to be a part of this GB team and so fortunate to have had such great support throughout the games,” Kieron Achara said via Twitter following the game.

Achara led the team with 16 points, six rebounds and three blocks. Nate Reinking —who is retiring from international competition after the Games — scored 12 points and Team GB captain Drew Sullivan scored 11. Both Pops Mensa-Bonsu and Mike Lenzly were out due to injury.

Only two Chinese players managed to hit double figures. Zhi-Zhi finished with 11 points and five rebounds while YI Jianlian, China’s only NBA player, finished with 11 points and 14 rebounds.

China grabbed an early 7-0 lead by making its first three shots, but it was the only lead they would have in the game. Joel Freeland, recently signed by the NBA’s Portland Trailblazers, helped Britain breech the initial gap with a hook shot over Jianlian. This ignited GB who ended the first quarter with a 20-5 run to take a 27-15 into the second quarter.

Britain outscored China every quarter the rest of the game and was never closely threatened due to the defensive efforts by Drew Sullivan and Kieron Achara. Team GB point guard Andrew Lawrence also helped space the floor with strong ball movement to keep them ahead.

Despite being the home nation, GB basketball did not claim automatic qualification for the games like in most Olympic sports. International basketball federation FIBA had to clear the team before it could compete in the event. This included proving they could be competitive at the Olympic level – which they did by winning FIBA group B. FIBA also mandated Team FB have a lasting legacy for basketball.

“I laugh when people say we were given our spot here in the Olympics because it sure didn’t feel like it when we were trying to get up through Division B and qualify for Europe. We really achieved something here,” Team GB head coach Chris Finch told the BBC.

“Our performances here, while they didn’t necessarily come with the results we were hoping for, came with a lot of potential to keep building the programme,” Finch continued. “I think we have a bright future. We’ve got a long way to go, but this is a good step. We answered every challenge that was thrown at us, but we fell a little short on this one. But it was incredibly satisfying professionally and personally.”

Finch and multiple other players retired after the game, including 38-year-old shooting guard Nate Keinking of the British Basketball League’s Sheffield Sharks and former NBA center Robert Archibald.

Despite competing in the 1948 Olympics, Britain’s current program only started in 2006.

“Great day for GB basketball, let’s make it the start, not the end of the journey,” basketball commentator John Amechi said via Twitter.

James Jeffrey is a junior journalism major at the University of Worcester in Worcester, England. He is a part of a team of British students contributing to BSU at the Games. Follow James and the program on Twitter @bsuatthegames and Facebook.com/bsuatthegames.

A second chance at Olympic gold: the Errol Spence Jr. story

By Josh Blessing  and Alex Kartman |  BSU at the Games

His journey began inside a run-down boxing gym in southern Dallas.

Now the No. 1 U.S. welterweight boxer, Errol Spence Jr. finds himself fighting for a medal in the quarterfinals of the 2012 London Olympic Games Tuesday night.

“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience representing your country,” Spence Jr. said. “Making your country at the top, being No. 1 again…that’s a big honor.”

Spence Jr., who opened the Games with a 16-10 victory, advanced to Tuesday’s quarterfinals after his 13-11 loss versus India’s Krishan Vikas in the round of 16 was overturned. The decision came nearly four hours after the match.

“I am obviously thrilled that the competition jury overturned my decision and I can continue chasing the gold medal I came here to win,” Spence Jr. said. “I am going to make the most of this second chance that I’ve been given. I can’t wait to get back in that ring on Tuesday.”

The International Amateur Boxing Association unanimously overturned the decision upon reviewing video of the fight after USA Boxing filed a protest. The AIBA ruled the referee should have awarded Spence Jr. four more points, making the score 15-13.

The decision allows Spence Jr. to continue chasing his gold medal dream just like his idol growing up: former heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis, who won gold at the 1988 Soul Olympics.

“Muhammad Ali was an influence for me and I’m glad, happy and overjoyed that somebody else has gained influence from my boxing,” Lewis said. “I wish him the best and I hope he does well.”

The quarterfinal match versus Russia’s Andrey Zamkovoy is set to start at 5 P.M. EST.

Check out our full photo gallery on Errol Spence, Jr.

Josh Blessing is a junior telecommunications major and Alex Kartman is a graduate student studying digital storytelling at Ball State University. They both cover sports for BSU at the Games. Follow Josh, Alex and the BSU team at @JoshJBlessing@ajkartman@bsuatthegames and www.facebook.com/bsuatthegames.

Team USA field hockey eliminated: New Zealand spoils U.S. dream of podium finish

By Tyler Poslosky  |  BSU at the Games

In the weeks leading up to the 2012 London Games, Team USA field hockey head coach Lee Bodimeade was confident in his team’s ability to come away with a medal.

“We learned a lot of lessons out of Beijing,” Bodimeade said. “We missed an opportunity to really challenge the top teams in the world. I thought we were [just] happy to go to the Olympics rather than be successful.”

Unfortunately, the U.S.’s play in London has been identical to what took place in 2008.

On Saturday night in a must-win game, New Zealand eliminated the U.S. from medaling with a 3-2 victory under the lights of Riverbank Arena.

The loss destroyed what could’ve been the U.S.’s first podium finish in nearly three decades.

“We trained for four years to maximize our achievements at the Olympic Games and we know that [the] result has put us short of our goals,” Bodimeade said. “The scenario today was that one team was headed forward in the tournament and the other team is going to really struggle. It is devastating for us.”

Clarissa Eshui’s goal in the waning minutes of the match put New Zealand ahead 3-2, eliminating the U.S. while keeping the Black Sticks alive for a potential spot in the semi-finals.

“We came into this game knowing we needed to get three points to keep going in the tournament and tonight we fell short and didn’t execute at the key moments,” captain Lauren Crandall said.

Penalty corners proved to be the difference in the match. New Zealand scored its first of three goals just over minute into the match.

The U.S. fought back to knot the game at 1-1 when Paige Selenski got the assist on Katie O’Donnell’s goal.

But the momentum quickly shifted to New Zealand after being awarded a penalty immediately following the U.S.’s goal.

New Zealand capitalized once more. Kayla Sharland’s shot changed directions multiple times before trickling past U.S. goalkeeper Amy Swensen.

The U.S. attempted to challenge the play, but it was denied and the goal was upheld, giving New Zealand a 2-1 lead.

With two minutes remaining in the first half, the U.S. was awarded a penalty corner.

This time, the team came through. Claire Laubach’s shot deflected off the New Zealand goalkeeper and a defender prior to going into the net. The equalizing goal was Laubach’s first of the tournament and gave the U.S. the momentum going into halftime.

New Zealand came out strong in the second half, applying constant pressure on the U.S. defenders and Swensen.

“We were able to defend really well,” Bodimeade said. “When we applied pressure, I thought we may have been able to get a [goal]. But when you are facing a side as good as New Zealand…If you don’t take chances, the game slips away.”

Swensen kept the U.S. in the game with multiple saves in the second half. With the clock working against the Americans, Bodimeade pulled Swensen for an extra player.

The U.S. created a handful of scoring opportunities with the extra player, but couldn’t even the match or force a draw.

New Zealand came away with three points, improving to 3-0-1 in the preliminary rounds.

Team USA will play its final match of the tournament against South Africa Monday at 10:45 a.m.

“The goal now is the same goal that we had when we came into this tournament, which is to win one game at a time,” Crandall said. “I think taking that attitude into South Africa is what we really need to focus on. This is one that hurts, but we still need to come out in the next game and play or best.”

Tyler Poslosky is a senior journalism news major at Ball State University covering sports for BSU at the Games. Follow Tyler and the BSU team at @tylerposlosky@bsuatthegames andwww.facebook.com/bsuatthegames.

YouTube can make Olympians

By Charlie Akers | BSU at the Games

Triple jumper Christian Taylor didn’t learn his Olympic sport in a traditional way. After doing the long jump until he was 15 years old, he decided to find a new sport in a non-traditional way – through YouTube.

“I got on YouTube and talked to my coach about it and he said maybe you should try this out,” Taylor said.

Taylor began studying the YouTube videos because he became bored with the simple running and jumping of the long jump he said. After his coach said yes, he prowled the internet video site and ordered some DVDs to help him master his new sport. He watched the greats of time and made notes of what they were doing to help him become the Olympian he is today.

When Taylor first started watching videos on YouTube one of the athletes he watched was Great Britain triple jumper Phillips Idowu. The two of them are now rivals competing against each other. Phillips has withdrawn from the past few meetings due to injury but is competing in the Olympics.

Before Taylor became an Olympian he created Georgia high school records in long jump, triple jump and the 400m he still holds. At the University of Florida, where he attended for three years, he was a 10-time All American and won eight SEC championships.

Then, Taylor won the 2011 gold medal in the triple jump at the World Outdoor competition.

“Last year, I was the underdog. It took one jump, and I went from the last person into the finals to the winner,” Taylor said. “I’m confident, and hopefully I will be in the finals. I’m going for the gold.”

Even with the young age of all the jumpers, Team USA men’s coach Andrew Valmon has faith in them.

“They are students of the sport. To be a student is to be successful,” Valmon said.

Despite Taylor being the current World Champion he is not taking anything for granted and is working hard for gold. He trained through hot weather, cold weather and rain. According to Taylor he is ready for anything.

“I’m going jump by jump. My main focus is the qualifying rounds,” Taylor said. “I’m trying to be the young cat that brings it back.”

The USA has not had an Olympic medal in triple jump since Kenny Harrison in 1996. Now, seven years after watching his first YouTube clip, Taylor is hoping to win one in his first Olympic appearance.

Charlie Akers is a sophomore telecommunications and journalism major at Ball State University covering sports for BSU at the Games. Follow Charlie and the BSU team at @the8thKing,@bsuatthegames and www.facebook.com/bsuatthegames.