20 Jul 2012

USA Boxing prepares for London Games

The 2012 Olympic Games in London will be the start of a large rebuilding process for the U.S. Olympic boxing program following a one-medal showing at the 2008 Games. Yet with the first three-time U.S. boxing Olympian in history, experienced female boxers competing in the first Olympic Games for the sport and a talented group of newcomers, expectations are high in London.

A total of 12 boxers will represent Team USA – nine men and three women.

Two-time Olympian and 2007 World Champion Rau’shee Warren is the first U.S. boxer ever to make the three-peat on the Olympic stage. Warren is now boxing at the new 114-pound weight division following the elimination of his 112-pound weight class. He possesses a rare blend of experience, speed and skills he hopes will lead him to his first appearance on the Olympic medal stand. Warren added a second world championship bronze medal to his trophy case at the 2011 World Championships.

“We want to represent the United States well,” Warren said. “The team is going to do what we need to do to win and bring some medals back.”

Three-time welterweight national champion Errol Spence, Jr. was one of three U.S. boxers to qualify his Olympic berth with a top-10 finish at the 2011 World Championships in Baku, Azerbaijan. One of the most consistent and experienced male boxers on the U.S. squad other than Warren, Spence will look to utilize what he’s learned over the last four years.

“It’s a privilege to be wearing the American flag,” Spence, Jr. said.  “I am enjoying the moment right now and soaking it all in.”

While bantamweight Joseph Diaz Jr. is the youngest member of USA Boxing, it hasn’t prevented him from qualifying for the 2012 Olympic Games in one of the new weight divisions. Diaz, a two-time national champion, won his bantamweight division at the U.S. Olympic Trials in August 2011, prior to finishing in the top 10 at the 2011 World Championships to punch his ticket for London.

“I am just focused and determined,” Diaz, Jr. said.  “I train every single day for this.”

Boxing is scheduled to begin with first-round matches July 28.

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03 Jul 2012

Daily Video: Errol Spence, Jr. Promo

Here’s a sneak peek at the upcoming BSU at the Games exclusive with USA Boxing’s Errol Spence, Jr.

From the age of 15 boxing in Dallas at the tiny Vivero Boxing Gym, to Maple Avenue Boxing Gym in downtown Dallas to seven national championships – Spence has his sights set on Olympic gold in London. Our story is coming this July!

Follow BSU at the Games on Twitter @bsuatthegames and visit our official site, www.london.bsuatthegames.com.

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01 Jul 2012

Video: Jaycie Phelps still uses gold for new goals

With the world stage for gymnastics nearing in London, BSU at the Games features 1996 Olympic gold medalist Jaycie Phelps and how she continues to use her Olympic experience to drive her new goals.

Emily Barker, Andrew Mishler and Alex Kartman have the story.

Follow BSU at the Games on Twitter @bsuatthegames and like us on Facebook, www.facebook.com/bsuatthegames.

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13 Jun 2012

Team USA Canoe/Kayak releases Olympic roster

By Mat Mikesell  |  BSU at the Games

Five members of Team USA Canoe/Kayak completed the long task of qualifying for the 2012 Olympic Team this past weekend.

Caroline Queen powers through the rapids during the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials in April. Photo courtesy: Melissa Melvin-Rodriguez

Of those who qualified, slalom kayakers Caroline Queen and Scott Parsons both made the Olympic roster.

Queen qualified after finishing 35th with a second run time of 120.96, beating out teammate Ashley Nee for the roster spot. This will be her first trip to the Olympic Games.

“It’s kind of hard to believe at this point,” Queen said in a news release. “The selection process is so long. This morning I woke up and couldn’t believe it was here. And now that it’s done, I can’t believe that that’s all she wrote. But it is. It’s pretty incredible, and I’m really glad that I’m with my family to share the moment, along with my teammates and coaches and staff and everybody.”

Parsons qualified for his third consecutive Olympic Games when he placed 11th in men’s kayak.

“It’s a relief. Honestly, it’s hard to describe,” Parsons said in a news release. “The process has been physically and mentally exhausting. So at the moment, I’m not sure that the excitement is really going to kick in until a little later when I’m a little more rested and really have time to digest the reality of the situation. But I’m very, very excited. I’m really happy.”

Among the others who qualified to represent the U.S. next month are Eric Hurd, Jeff Larimer and Casey Eichfeld, along with sprint kayakers Carrie Johnson and Tim Hornsby.

Men’s Kayak: Scott Parsons

Women’s Kayak: Caroline Queen

Men’s Sprint Kayak: Tim Hornsby

Women’s Sprint Kayak: Carrie Johnson

Men’s Single Canoes: Casey Eichfeld

Men’s Double Canoes: Eric Hurd and Jeff Larimer

Check out Mat’s previous story on Caroline Queen: Queen aims for USA Kayak crown.

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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04 Jun 2012

Olympic medalist announces retirement from competitive gymnastics

By Emily Barker  |  BSU at the Games

Olympic medalist Shawn Johnson, 20, announced her retirement from competitive gymnastics Sunday due to a knee injury from a ski accident in 2010. An athlete with a promising career, Johnson left the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games with four medals, the most won by any Team USA member after Michael Phelps, Nastia Liukin and Natalie Coughlin.

Four-time Olympic medalist Shawn Johnson will retire from gymnastics before the 2012 Summer Olympics.

“I still have the heart, drive and desire to compete and help the USA team at the London Olympics,” Johnson said. “Unfortunately, it has become obvious that my left knee is not able to sustain the demands of gymnastics any longer. All I can do now is gracefully retire and thank everyone who has believed in me and my journey.”

Johnson is retiring days before the Visa Championships, which will be held June 7 through 10 in St. Louis, and the Olympic Trials in San Jose, Calif. on July 1.

“I am announcing this now so that the focus for the next three weeks will be on the incredibly talented gymnasts who are trying to make our 2012 Olympic Team,” Johnson said. “I have had the honor to train and compete with them, and I am excited to join the gymnastics family and fans in cheering them on to victory. I will be there with every ounce of pride and energy to cheer on my girls and Team USA.”

Several strong contenders compete for the five spots on the Olympic team, including 2008 team members Nastia Liukin, Alicia Sacramone and Bridget Sloan, as well as Jordyn Wieber, Aly Raisman, Gabby Douglass and Rebecca Bross.

 

Information provided by the Associated Press.

Emily Barker is a sophomore telecommunications and journalism major at Ball State University covering sports for BSU at the Games. Follow Emily and the BSU team @EmPBarker@bsuatthegames and www.facebook.com/bsuatthegames.

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30 May 2012

Fencing substitute’s work ethic wins him title of team captain

By Conor Hockett  |  BSU at the Games

Eating with a teammate in the Olympic Village dining hall back in 2008, Gerek Meinhardt watched in awe as Dwyane Wade sat down at his table 20 feet away.

Team USA Fencing: Miles Chamley-Watson, Alexander Massialas, Gerek Meinhardt and Race Imboden. Photo courtesy: Greg Massialas

More NBA players from the Olympic team slowly filed in until Chris Paul and Michael Redd took a seat next to Meinhardt.

Growing up in San Francisco, Meinhardt was a huge Golden State Warriors fan. His sister Katie played Division I basketball, and the sport remains one of his biggest passions.

Meinhardt met the Olympic basketball team during opening ceremonies and felt comfortable enough to talk to Redd and Paul. It wasn’t long before the topic of fencing came up.

“They were really nice and personable,” Meinhardt said. “They started joking about how they’ve tried to do the fencing squat before and it was terrible. It was all really funny.”

As the youngest male member on the entire U.S. team at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, Meinhardt had a lot to take in. He turned 18 a month before the Games began and didn’t know what to expect.

“I’m looking forward to going to London because with one (Olympic) Games under my belt, I’m definitely going to appreciate it more,” Meinhardt said. “When I was there in Beijing, it was all kind of overwhelming—kind of a blur. I didn’t have a full grasp of what was going on. I plan on being more in the moment and appreciating things more this time.”

After qualifying for the London 2012 Olympic Games back in April, Meinhardt said he hopes for better results than his 10th place finish in 2008 after what was a grueling journey back to the top of fencing.

Predicting a prodigy

When Meinhardt was 9 years old, his parents, Kurt and Jane, signed him up for fencing lessons with a family friend named Greg Massialas. Massialas was a three-time U.S. Olympian (1980, 1984 and 1988 in foil) starting up his own fencing club.

While Meinhardt didn’t experience the early success of some of Massialas’ other pupils, his coach always knew he had something special.

“The difference was his work ethic,” Massialas said. “Other fencers were happy to fence and have fun doing it. Gerek would really take time to work on specific things. That made a huge difference. His drive, the creativity element in his fencing and his physical characteristics made him what he was. It allowed him to surpass others and make his big surge.”

As Meinhardt began to mature in his teens, he won tournaments and made the big surge predicted by his coach. Massialas saw the potential early in Meinhardt and developed a 10-year plan that they hoped would culminate in an Olympic gold medal in 2012.

Meinhardt continued to win tournaments as he got older, and the two started gearing everything toward the Beijing Olympic Games as the next part of the plan.

Back in 2008, there was no team competition in men’s foil, so only one individual could qualify from the U.S. Meinhardt improved enough under Massialas to become the youngest fencer by five years ever to compete in men’s foil at the Olympic Games.

Meinhardt said he won his first-round match easily before losing to a Chinese fencer named Zhu Jun, who finished fourth in Beijing. Meinhardt said he was disappointed with a 10th-place finish, but the loss was what he needed to improve in the future.

“I learned what it would take to one day get to that elite level,” Meinhardt said. “It (the loss) has really motivated me over the past four years and will continue to motivate me in the future.”

A giant setback

The future looked bright for Meinhardt after the Olympic Games. He balanced winning silver in individual men’s foil at the Pan American Championships in 2009 with two minor knee surgeries since Beijing.

Meinhardt enrolled at Notre Dame and took silver and gold, respectively, in the 2008 and 2009 NCAA Championships individual men’s foil events. He was an information-technology-management major enjoying life, and the meniscus on his right knee was feeling better every day.

In November 2010, Meinhardt emerged as a real international threat when he won the bronze medal at the World Championships. It was the first medal ever for a U.S. fencer in that event.

All the strain from an elite-level athlete’s training and competition, however, finally caught up to Meinhardt. His right meniscus, a disc in the knee used for balance, gave out during training and had to be surgically repaired in January 2011.

Meinhardt never considered quitting, but with 2012 Olympic qualifying starting in March, his recovery would need to start immediately.

Two months of no weight-bearing rehabilitation followed, with physical therapy throughout the week. It was grueling work, but Massialas never thought it would cost Meinhardt a chance to compete.

“Gerek has a really disciplined work ethic,” Massialas said. “He would do all the things he needed to do to get himself going. He’s very passionate about his fencing. I’ve always been confident in Gerek. So long as we had the green light, he would do all the work necessary to get back.”

Meinhardt recovered in time for qualifications, but he wasn’t the same. The meniscus was healed, but his mind was still recovering.

“Even when the doctors cleared me to fence physically, psychologically there is a lot of doubt in your security,” Meinhardt said. “You don’t feel comfortable going all out.”

That’s when Meinhardt’s ranking started to plummet. Matches he’d control most of the way turned into 15-14 losses.

“In the beginning of qualifying, I’d started to feel more confident physically, but I didn’t have that edge,” Meinhardt said. “I wasn’t feeling my fencing. I threw away a lot of opportunities in four out of the first nine international events.”

That tiny shred of doubt cost him dearly. Meinhardt missed qualifying top-three by eight points, a margin Massialas said is equivalent to about .0001 percent in the current system.

“The injury couldn’t have come at a worse time,” Meinhardt said. “I’ve had to fence and fight from behind in a sense this whole season because of the surgery. It takes a lot to get back into form when you can’t walk for a few months. It’s been a long road back.”

A special relationship

Despite all his injuries, one advantage Meinhardt has over the other fencers is his familiarity with the U.S. coach.

After Massialas became the Olympic men’s foil coach back in 2008, he and Meinhardt have continued working together and bonding.

As the coach, Massialas can both watch and benefit from his pupil hopefully fulfilling the 10-year plan Massialas started all those years ago.

“When he was young, he’s a young kid and looks up to you and listens to what’s going on,” Massialas said. “He knew I was always supportive. I’m seeing the transition where he’s becoming a young adult now, so my relationship now is much more male-to-male relationship. That’s very different than years ago when it was adult-to-child. Since his fencing game is more mature as well, it’s more intellectual with the discussion we can have. He must now ingest more of what I’m thinking in his feelings and apply it on the strip.”

Sitting fourth on the team as the first substitute fencer, Meinhardt can enter the match with a much better idea of what Massialas is thinking.

Watching from the sidelines also gives Meinhardt a unique opportunity to help his teammates. Miles Chamley-Watson, the No. 2 ranked U.S. foil fencer and one of Meinhardt’s best friends, said Meinhardt is an extremely positive teammate.

“Gerek is the definition of lead by example,” Chamley-Watson said. “He works hard, is a smart fencer and is always there to give great advice. Even though we had to compete for the third spot and become enemies, we still kept our close bond. This is a quality that is extremely hard to find. He is a captain because everyone respects him for his character and for his fencing credentials. He has accomplished a lot at the age of 21.”

Massialas said naming Meinhardt a captain was a no-brainer based on the respect both he and the rest of the team has for him.

“On our men’s foil team, I think we have an exceptional chance to medal and potentially gold medal,” Massialas said. “He (Meinhardt) will be an integral part of that both in terms of his fencing on the strip and also as men’s foil team captain where he helps focus the energy of the group.”

To hone that focus before the Games, Meinhardt took a leave from absence from Notre Dame this year to go back and train in San Francisco with Massialas. Massialas said the camp has three of the top five U.S. fencers working out there.

Although qualifying was finished in April, Meinhardt is traveling to the Wakayama Grand Prix in Japan; a World Cup in Seoul, Korea; a Grand Prix in St. Petersburg, Russia; the Pan American Championships in Cancun Mexico; and another World Cup in Cuba before the Olympic Games begin in July. These are all team events that affect placement and team ranking going into the Olympic Games. It will also decide which country the U.S. fences in London.

“Quite honestly, if he didn’t have that last injury after the World Championships, it would be a different situation even right now,” Massialas said. “Part of my plan and goal, when we set up what we’re working on, was a gold medal in the 2012 men’s foil individual event. He was right on course for that—maybe even a little ahead. Had it not been for this one injury, everything else in this 10-year plan, each step he was right on plan. If he’s able to stay healthy, he can have a chance to prosper.”

Meinhardt takes the same positive approach as his coach about the injury. While he knows how much they cost him, Meinhardt said his greatest accomplishment to date is recovering from injuries he’s sustained both mentally and physically.

With the international fencing season in full swing, Meinhardt still has high hopes for his progress in 2012. He hopes to compete as a substitute in London but tries to keep his ambitions under control after recent obstacles in his life.

“I take it day-by-day, honestly,” Meinhardt said. “With my history of injuries, I’m not going to try and project it too far into the future. I’m looking forward to finishing the season out and heading to London. Hopefully, I have two more years at Notre Dame where I’ll be getting really great training. At that point, if fencing is still going well for me, I’ll shoot for 2016 in Rio.”

 

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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27 May 2012

Queen aims for USA Kayak crown

By Mat Mikesell | BSU at the Games

Caroline Queen

Caroline Queen | BSU at the Games | Photo Courtesy: Brett Heyl

When she was 16 and already the youngest athlete ever to make the national team, Caroline Queen came just short of qualifying for the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing for slalom kayaking.

She finished third in her class when she needed a win to make the Olympic Games.

Now, at age 20, Queen is a favorite to earn a spot on the Olympic roster heading into the World Championship, a three-day event starting on June 8 in Cardiff, Wales, where she ultimately will learn if she will compete for Team USA.

Should she make the team on June 10, it would be an accomplishment she’s worked for from a very young age.

From an early age
Queen picked up slalom kayaking at Valley Mill Camp in Darnestown, Md., when she was 9 years old. It wasn’t the first sport she was introduced to—t-ball, soccer, tennis and lacrosse all came before she started paddling.

She said because her parents, David and Sharon, were heavily involved in sports is why she picked up on so many.

“My mom was a P.E. teacher, cheered and played softball,” Queen said. “My dad played football, basketball and tennis.”

While at Valley Mill she caught the attention of Martin Nevaril, the coach of the Bethesda Center of Excellence, where he coached club teams and a U.S. national team training center.

Nevaril was standing on the shoreline one afternoon with the national team coach when Queen zipped through the slalom course. The national coach timed Queen thinking she was there for practice and showed Nevaril the stopwatch.

He recruited Queen to compete for the national teams but anticipated she would eventually compete for the Olympic team.

“The hope was to make the junior and senior national teams, then try out for the Olympics,” Queen said. “I think it all happened faster than I anticipated.”

The balancing act
In 2008, Queen was among the top three women’s kayakers and had a chance to make the Beijing Olympic Games. But at the same time she was a sophomore at Bullis High School and had to balance the two obligations.

Though she had to miss about 80 days of school to train, she made an agreement with her parents and the school that allowed her to continue to pursue the Olympic Games.

“I had a deal with my parents and the school that as long as I stayed on the honor roll, I could continue,” Queen said.  “I felt fortunate to earn their trust and just worked really hard to make sure I kept up my end [of the deal].”

But she would suffer a setback a year later when she was hit with a knee injury that forced her to miss the 2009 competitive season. Queen said even though she couldn’t paddle, the injury came as a blessing and a curse.

“It did kind of throw off my momentum as a racer. I had made a great deal of progress and it got kind of lost,” Queen said. “But it also gave me a chance to do other things that summer.”

During that time, Queen spent more time with her friends and family and even got to learn some things about theater—but she calls herself someone who appreciates it more than wants to practice it.

Her hard work in physical therapy paid off, as she was able to play club field hockey for Davidson College, where she currently is a psychology major with a minor in education.

Sights set on London
After earning the title of 2011 National Champion in women’s kayak, her focus turned back to preparing for the U.S. Olympic Team Trials in April.

She came out of the three-day event as the points leader and earned a chance to compete for an Olympic roster spot for the 2012 Summer Games. But Queen knows it isn’t guaranteed she will make the roster.

“The best and most stressful thing about slalom is that anything can happen,” Queen said.

She’s currently training in Cardiff, Wales, the site of the Canoe Slalom World Cup ,which begins June 8.

Her training schedule varies between whitewater and flat-water workouts and cross training, which depends on if she’s doing an official team camp or not.

On days when she isn’t doing official team training, she has the freedom to make her own schedule.

With the final qualifying just over two weeks away, Queen has come a long way from just missing out in 2008. In the four-year span, her perspective of competing for an Olympic roster spot has also changed.

“It doesn’t phase me as much as being a 16-year-old with a legitimate shot at the Olympic spot,” Queen said. “But at the same time I come into this selection as a favorite, not as an underdog.”

When her fate is decided on June 10, Queen said it’s more than about just making the team.

“One of my goals as an athlete is to lead by example. There are a lot of girls in the 14-17 age range who could make the senior team in the next few years. I just want to demonstrate that one can still be a good student and a well-rounded person while training to be a top-notch racer.”

A top-notch racer who could represent her country in London this summer.

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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17 May 2012

Rising women’s basketball star credits Indy legend

By Pat Boylan | BSU at the Games

When it comes to women’s basketball, you would be hard-pressed to find a bigger name than Maya Moore.  Moore was the 2009 John Wooden award winner for best women’s college basketball player and took two national championships at Connecticut.

Moore credits a lot of her individual success to Indiana Fever forward Tamika Catchings.

“Tamika has been a role model of mine growing up,” Moore said.

Catchings will take part in her third Olympic Games this July playing for USA Basketball.  She’s been a face for WNBA for a decade and has been in six WNBA all-star games.

It will be the first Olympic Games, on the other hand, for Maya Moore, who is excited to work with Catchings and the veterans she grew up watching.

“Tamika is a tremendous leader and has helped me out in so many ways on and off the court. She’s really taken me under her wing,” Moore said. “Growing up a lot of people compared my game to Tamika’s, which to me was the ultimate compliment.”

Catchings’ veteran leadership will be key to the United States’ success in London this year. Catchings is the oldest player on this year’s team and is tied for the most Olympic experience.

As Catchings molds Moore and the rest of the team for future generations, they’ll also be looking for a gold medal this year, which would be five in a row for the Americans.

Women’s basketball begins its competition in London on July 28.

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

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14 May 2012

Summer Games: maybe Coach K’s last

By Brandon Pope | BSU at the Games

USA Men’s Basketball Coach Mike Krzyzewski announced Monday that the 2012 Olympic Games in London will “probably” be his last.

Coach Krzyzewski speaks to media at the 2012 Team USA Media Summit in Dallas.

The 65-year-old coach made the announcement at the United States Olympic Committee’s Team USA Media Summit in Dallas, Tex. USA Men’s Basketball Chairman Jerry Colangelo sat by his side as he uttered the news.

“I think this is the last time,” Krzyzewski said. “I hope we can win the gold medal.”

The legendary basketball coach says he still wants to be involved with the USA Basketball program in some capacity, but you won’t be seeing him on the sidelines calling plays.

“I’ll always be a part of the program and want to be a part of the program,” he said. “(Jerry Colangelo) has been the architect of something that our country needed in developing a culture and we’ll see what type of continuity we have.”

Krzyzewski doesn’t believe his departure will have as much of an impact on the National Team as another USA Basketball leader’s will.

“The biggest loss that we would have is whenever Jerry (Colangelo) steps down. His vision for this has been spectacular.”

Colangelo says he’s leaning toward coming back to USA Basketball after the 2012 Games.

Krzyzewski has been a prominent figure in the United States for international basketball throughout his career. Since taking the position in 2005, ‘”Coach K” has comprised an overall record of 36-1 in international competition. He is credited with reestablishing the U.S. National Team to the forefront of international basketball, seizing gold at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.

Brandon Pope is a sophomore telecommunications and journalism major at Ball State University covering fencing, volleyball and basketball for BSU at the Games. Follow Brandon and the BSU team at @bpopeizdope@bsuatthegames and www.facebook.com/bsuatthegames.

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