06 Aug 2012

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.

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04 Aug 2012

U.S. triathlete Groff finishes with high yet “bittersweet” final placing in Olympic women’s triathlon

By Andrew Mishler  |  BSU at the Games

After enduring miles of swimming, biking and running, U.S. triathlete Sarah Groff pushed her body as far as it could.

It was enough to secure one of the highest finishes in Saturday’s Olympic women’s triathlon. But it also secured the most bittersweet finish of the race.

Groff came in fourth with a time of 2:00:00, finishing behind eventual bronze medalist Lisa Norden of Australia by 10 seconds in the final standings.

“My goal going into this race was just to be there with 1,000 meters to go. I was,” Groff said in a news release. “You know, I’ve got to be proud of that. Fourth is the ‘worst’ position to be in but, at the end of the day, I’m an Olympian. I get to showcase this awesome sport to millions of people. I’m really proud to be on this team. Obviously it would have been better to come home with a medal, but I’m proud of the process and proud of our team.”

Groff’s fourth-place finish tied for the second highest U.S. women’s mark in Olympic triathlon history. The highest place for U.S. competitors came in 2004 when Susan Williams took home the bronze medal.

The gold medal winner wasn’t decided as the tape broke, as both Switzerland’s Nicola Spiring and Sweden’s Lisa Norden finished with a time of 1:59:48.

Several agonizing minutes went by as the judges deliberated on whose torso broke the plane first. When the announcement came, Spiring was declared the gold medal winner.

Groff’s U.S. teammates finished with mixed results. Laura Bennett came in 17th with a time of 2:02:17, while Gwen Jorgensen finished 38th with a time of 2:06:34.

Jorgensen’s low finish was partly due to a flat tire on her bike during the third lap of the cycling.

“I had a flat, so I had to stop and change it,” Jorgensen said. “I wasn’t in the front pack, anyway. I got a little flustered. It never happened to me before. You’ve got to be prepared for everything.”

Bennett stayed with the front of the pack throughout most of the swimming and cycling portions, but couldn’t keep up with the leaders during the 10-kilometer run.

“The girls I was with, I’ve never really ridden with. It was definitely unexpected,” Bennett said. “I didn’t feel fantastic all day. You try and keep in touch with it all and figure out what you have, and that was all I had today.”

With the women’s competition over, the focus now switches to the men’s triathlon on Tuesday at 9 a.m. in Hyde Park. Hunter Kemper and Manuel Huerta will represent the U.S. in the race. Kemper has competed in every Olympic triathlon since the inaugural race in the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

Like so many inside Hyde Park on Saturday, Kemper not only played the role of a fan of his home country, but also of triathlon as a sport, taking to Twitter to express it after the race.

“WOW!!! That was the greatest finish I have ever seen!” Kemper tweeted. “UNBELIEVABLE!!! #triathlon has arrived on a world stage! BRILLIANT!”

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.

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04 Aug 2012

Hurdlers deal with conflicting mindsets

By Conor Hockett  |  BSU at the Games

At the Beijing Olympics, hurdler Dawn Harper was the self-proclaimed baby of the U.S. team at 24 years old. She was in her first Olympic Games and wasn’t followed by the flash of a camera or crazed Americans hoping for an autograph as she hung out with family and flew under the radar.

Then she ran the race.

In just 12.54 seconds, Harper managed to turn every head and lens her direction as she won a gold medal in the 100m hurdles.

Now 28 and at her second Olympic Games in London, Harper isn’t fooling anybody. The pressure of being a marked woman is finally catching up to her.

“It didn’t quite hit me until two days ago the real pressure that there was [on me],” Harper said. “Because you have to make the team, then, all the sudden, can you do it again? Now that it (the pressure) has hit me, I just try to think about things like, stay in your lane. Stay focused. I tell myself repeatedly, you’ve done the 100 hurdles a million times. The only thing that’s going to change is just how I see it.”

The women’s final is Tuesday, and Harper isn’t letting anyone into her mental zone. When a reporter questioned Harper about Sally Pearson, the Australian 2011 World Champion, she was quick to say everything is in her control.

“I know that my training is there and I know that I’m ready,” Harper said. “I refuse to go to this race and just not execute. That’s the only time I would be really disappointed in myself—if I let it (the moment) get to me.”

For fellow teammate and hurdler Jason Richardson, the moment is very similar to Harper’s in 2008.

Despite winning the 2011 World Outdoor gold medal, Richardson doesn’t have the pressure to perform draped over him like a wet blanket. He is calm and well spoken—relaxed enough to rattle of most of his iPod’s playlist at Tuesday’s press conference.

Richardson finished second in the Olympic Trials behind teammate Aries Merritt in the 110m hurdles. Merritt is the reigning US Indoor Champion and World Indoor Champion in the 60m hurdles. That means most of the tough questions and expectations fall off Richardson’s shoulders.

It is a role Richardson relishes. His 2011 world title was won under similar circumstances and, like Harper back in 2008, Richardson doesn’t see any reason why the Olympic crown can’t go to someone who’s face isn’t plastered on a billboard.

“For myself, I acknowledge and am completely in tune with reality that you have (in the race) a current world record holder, a former world record holder and another American (Merritt) who is about to tag 12.9 because he’s running so much,” Richardson said. “I’m again, much like last year, just the guy who’s going to come in here and try and pull off another upset. I definitely like it (the underdog role). It’s comfy, it’s familiar and it’s just another thing that will add to some great twitter content once the race is over.”

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.

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04 Aug 2012

Women’s triathlon medal hopes ride on three athletes in field of 56

By Andrew Mishler  |  BSU at the Games

As 26-year old Gwen Jorgensen awakes tomorrow to compete in her first Olympic triathlon, the situation shouldn’t feel too unfamiliar to her. She’s been here before.

Once Jorgensen takes her mark to race for the gold medal, it will have been 363 days since she took second place in the World Championship Series Triathlon, also positioned in London. Her finish qualified her for the triathlon she is hours away from competing in.

Prior success in the same city hasn’t let the youngest United States triathlon athlete become overconfident about her chances in the Olympic Games. With 55 other world-class athletes around Jorgensen ready to swim, bike and run toward a first-place finish, she knows the stage and stakes aren’t the same as before.

“Every race is completely different,” Jorgensen said last week in a news release. “You have different people out there. I know that this race is going to be hard, and it’s going to go from the beginning, and I just have to be prepared to hurt a lot.”

Long before she qualified last year to compete in the Olympic event, Jorgensen was trained to one day be an Olympic athlete.  She said her coach pushed her into thinking she would one day have a chance at competing at this level.

But even a year to digest the fact she was officially an Olympian wasn’t enough time for Jorgensen.

“When I got recruited into triathlon, they told me the Olympics were in the picture and that I could definitely do it,” she said. “My coach always believed in me. I don’t think I fully believed that 2012 was realistic. After I qualified, I was like, ‘What? Really?’ It didn’t really sink in. I think it actually sunk in once I got to the Olympic Village. I was like, ‘Wow. I’m really here.’”

Fellow U.S. competitors Laura Bennett and Sarah Groff join Jorgensen in the 51.5-kilometer race. The U.S. reached the quota of three possible competition athletes based on qualifying triathlons prior to the Olympic Games.

The event starts at 9 a.m. at Hyde Park. Each athlete swims 1,500 meters of Serpentine Lake, bikes 40 kilometers through the London streets and runs 10 kilometers around Hyde Park to the finish line.

“When it comes down to it, it’s just going to be about who is ready on August 4,” she said. “It’s going to be a tough race no matter what, and we’re all prepared for that.”

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.

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04 Aug 2012

Team USA field hockey suffers 1-0 loss against Australia

By Tyler Poslosky  |  BSU at the Games

On the heels of one of its most historic triumphs ever, Team USA field hockey stumbled to a 1-0 loss against Australia Thursday morning at River Bank Arena.

After consistently pressuring Argentina’s defense two days earlier, the U.S. only amassed half of Australia’s 14 total shots on goal.

“We are very disappointed with the outcome,” head coach Lee Bodimeade said. “This match was one we targeted as getting three points and today we came up empty. We had chances but unfortunately did not capitalize.”

Australia opened the game with two penalty corners, but Anna Flanagan whiffed on both. In the 33rd minute she came through, though, scoring the game-winning goal on another penalty corner.

Constantly being pressured to win each and every match can be overwhelming, and the U.S.’s play wasn’t up to speed against an aggressive Australian squad.

“I think obviously every game is important in a tournament like this where you have to be top two to make it through to the semifinals,” Rachel Dawson said. “I think there’s pressure on every game, so the pressure before this game wasn’t more than for the other games. We just came out a bit flat.”

The U.S. had multiple chances to knot the game or perhaps take the lead. Katie O’Donnell created consistent offensive pressure inside the circle but couldn’t fire the ball past Australia’s goalkeeper, Toni Cronk, who recorded her first shutout of the tournament.

“Australia got three points off us today, and when every game is a must-win and you let points slip away, it hurts you in the end,” captain Lauren Crandell said. “We have two more games left, so we’re definitely looking to get three points out of the New Zealand and South Africa games. We’ve got to refocus and get back to how we know how to play.”

The U.S. will look to rebound against New Zealand on Saturday. The match will be broadcast live on the NBC Sports Network at 2 p.m. ET. With six points to its record, New Zealand is in second place in Pool B, while the U.S. is in fifth with three points.

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.

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03 Aug 2012

Diaz loses to familiar foe

By Conor Hockett  |  BSU at the Games

Joseph Diaz Jr. couldn’t get inside Cuba’s Lazaro Alvarez Estrada’s reach to cause significant damage in the round of 16 match at bantamweight (56 kg) Wednesday.

Alvarez, the No. 1 seeded boxer from Cuba, took all three rounds and won 21-15 to reach the quarterfinals.

“Unfortunately I didn’t get the W, but I gave everyone the show they wanted to see,” Diaz said. “I’m glad I gave everyone a really good show. Everyone was chering and that’s what I came here to do.”

The first round was close as Diaz staggered Alvarez momentarily with a  1-2 combination, but the Cuban’s aggressive, punch-heavy style gave him a 7-6 advantage.

Diaz tried to up the tempo in rounds two and three, but Alvarez used a stiff jab to keep him out of range. Alvarez took the final two rounds 7-4 and 7-5 in a fight that was much closer than the score suggests.

“I thought the scoring should have been closer, but the judges didn’t see that unfortunately,” Diaz said. “Lazaro (is) a really great fighter. I’m not going to give him a downgrade or anything; he’s a really great fighter. He’s a good boxer, a great puncher, and it just wasn’t my day for the judges”

At the 2011 World Championships, Alvarez beat Diaz 19-10 in the quarterfinals on his way to the world title.

U.S. boxing has four men left in medal contention: Rau’Shee Warren at 52 kg, Jose Ramirez at 60 kg, Errol Spence Jr. at 69 kg and Terrell Gausha at 75 kg.

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.

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01 Aug 2012

Team USA Field Hockey shocks Argentina 1-0

By Tyler Poslosky  |  BSU at the Games

Turn back the calendar to last fall, the biggest triumph in U.S. field-hockey history.

The U.S. shocked defending world champion Argentina 4-2 in the finals of the XVI Pan American Games.

Some thought it was luck. It wasn’t supposed end up that way. The U.S. was ranked No. 13 in the world at the time.

But on Tuesday night under the lights of Riverbank Arena, the U.S. proved what happened nine months earlier was no fluke.

In its second match of the Olympic Games, the U.S. and Argentina squared off once more. After a disappointing 2-1 defeat against Germany, the U.S. had to come out firing on all cylinders.

They did just that, prevailing for the second consecutive time against Argentina, 1-0.

“We were in a position where we had to get a result today, to get back on track in the tournament,” head coach Lee Bodimeade said. “We were fortunate to play against Argentina, a team that drives us to our best performances.”

The U.S. set the pace of the game from the first whistle. The U.S. offense created constant havoc in the offensive zone, and Argentina couldn’t match its opponent’s energy and aggressiveness.

With seven minutes left in the first half, Michelle Vittese zipped a pass to Shannon Taylor, who redirected the ball into the back of the cage, putting the U.S. in front 1-0.

Lead intact, Katelyn Falgowski and Melissa Gonzalez held Argentine Luciana Aymar, arguably the best player in the world, at bay throughout the match.

“We had a really good game plan going out there,” Falgowski said. “It is challenging and intimidating to go up against the best in the world, but it is fun to try and step up to do. My task was to try and disrupt Luciana in the midfield as much as possible.”

U.S. goalkeeper Amy Swensen was stellar in the cage by keeping Argentina off the scoreboard.

Said Bodimeade: “We knew we had to go out and do what we did in [the Pan American Games]. It was really a terrific effort.”

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.

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01 Aug 2012

Cyclist hopes to follow in mom’s footsteps and medal at Games

By Michael Kerkhoff  |  BSU at the Games

Taylor Phinney’s life revolves around cycling. As a member of Team USA, he is following in the footsteps of his parents. Both were Olympic cyclists, with his mom winning a medal.

Phinney, from Boulder, Colo., nearly matched his mom on Saturday in the road race with a fourth-place finish, but his better event—the time trials—starts tomorrow.

“Some would call fourth place the worst (place) to arrive at the Olympics, but I won’t focus on that,” Phinney said after the road race Saturday.

Today, Phinney will take off by himself on the 44 km time trials event. Phinney likes his chances.

“The TT course is a little bit bumpy, as in the roads are bumpy, but that is fine,” he said. “I myself am a fan of cobbles, and they aren’t quite as bumpy as cobbles.”

Phinney was proud of his finish in the road race and thankful for the team helping him get there. At the Beijing Olympics he finished seventh in the track individual pursuit. But with switching disciplines from track to road, he has multiple chances to medal. And with a little help from the injured Fabian Cancellara, defending time trial gold medalist, Phinney’s chances are looking up.

Phinney is hoping to follow fellow American Levi Leipheimer, who took the bronze medal in Beijing. With the crowd cheering, will Phinney power through?

“The crowds were so loud,” Phinney said. “It kind of hit me that this is the Olympics and I’m going for a medal right now.”

Michael Kerkhoff is a senior sport administration major at Ball State University covering sports for BSU at the Games. Follow Michael and the BSU team at @bsuatthegames and www.facebook.com/bsuatthegames.

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31 Jul 2012

Field hockey looking for first podium finish since 1984

By Tyler Poslosky  |  BSU at the Games

Four years removed from its eighth-place finish in the Beijing Games, Team USA Field Hockey is set on making history in London with a podium finish.

After shocking Argentina 4-2 in the final of the XVI Pan American Games en route to claiming its first-ever gold medal in the tournament, the U.S. looks to transfer that momentum into the London Games.

The unpredictable triumph over the former No. 1 team in the world, Argentina, boosted the U.S.’s confidence heading into London, and head coach Lee Bodimeade believes his team has learned from the past.

“We’ve just targeted every game as being one game in a row,” Bodimeade said. “You play well enough to beat the world’s No. 1 [team], then that’s the level of performance that you need to bring to every game at the Olympics.”

With nine of his 16 players making their Olympic debuts, team chemistry hasn’t been a concern for Bodimeade thus far.

“The team has been together for 12 months of preparation,” Bodimeade said. “We’ve added three players due to injuries just prior to the Pan American Games—Kayla Bashore-Smedley, Amy Swensen and Keli Smith Puzo. And there’s 450 international caps collectively [between them].”

As the No. 10 team in the world, the U.S. drew a challenging crowd of teams in Pool B. Undoubtedly the tougher of the two groups with four of the U.S.’s five opponents ranked in the top seven, Bodimeade is optimistic about his team’s chances of medaling.

“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 have a feeling that we were [just] happy to go to the Olympics rather than be successful.

“The positives that come out of it are now we have that Olympic experience. Most of our [team] is doubling up for their second [Olympic Games], and we want to go into London knowing that our goal is finish in the top four and to challenge for the medals.”

Listen to an audio recording on this story. 

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

 

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30 Jul 2012

Queen’s campaign over in London

By Mat Mikesell  |  BSU at the Games

Going into the latter part of her second heat in the women’s K1, kayaker Caroline Queen seemed to be putting in another decent qualifying time.

But after she nearly missed gate 21, the rapids had caused her to crash out of the competition as she finished with a time of 136.23. Queen had a few time penalties leading up to the gate and going back against the rapids to return cost her time. It also cost her a spot in the semifinals.

Had she not had to backtrack and return to the gate – which would have cost her a 50-second penalty had she missed it – Queen believes she would have been able to advance to the semifinals.

“”It was going pretty well, I had some penalties,” Queen said. “But I think that the boat was moving well, so I think I would have been able to survive those penalties. But I think I came a little too high out of the second to last [upstream gate], the line was off, I was late in [gate] 20. I was trying to get back on line and didn’t quite do it as effectively as I ought to have.”

The 20 year old was making her first ever appearance in the Olympic Games after impressive performances to qualify for London. After her first heat, Queen was in 13th but was eventually beaten by other kayakers with later runs.

She finished the afternoon in 17th, missing out on the top 15 and a chance to compete in the semifinals on Thursday.

Though Queen could have easily decided to move on from the gate instead of paddling back to it, she said it came down to having heart.

“For me, sport is a lot about heart and that was a heart moment,” she said.

Her London 2012 campaign may be finished, but Queen expects to be back at the Olympic Games in Rio in 2016. She’ll be a more experienced kayaker by that time and has learned from her time in London.

“Olympics are an experience that’s different than anything else,” Olympic coach Silvan Poberaj said. “And it can be very helpful if she takes the right conclusions out of this kind of competition and makes a plan for how to go from here and not make the same mistakes and to improve.”

Mat Mikesell is a senior journalism major at Ball State University covering badminton, canoeing and sailing for BSU at the Games. Follow Mat and the BSU team at@MatMikesell@bsuatthegames and www.facebook.com/bsuatthegames.

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