08 May 2012

Team USA adds Davis and Harden as finalists

Davis-Harden

Anthony Davis (top) and James Harden (bottom) have been added as Team USA finalists. | Courtesy Photo

By Brandon Pope | BSU at the Games

A major shake-up occurred with the Team USA men’s basketball roster this week.

Anthony Davis, who is coming off an NCAA Championship with the University of Kentucky Wildcats, and Oklahoma City Thunder guard James Harden have been added to the list of finalists for the 2012 USA Basketball National Team.

“After a lot of deliberations, after reviewing our roster, we think these two additions strengthen our National Team program immeasurably,” USA Basketball Chairman Jerry Colangelo said.

“James Harden probably is the sixth man of the year in the NBA, and Anthony Davis brings a dimension to our pool we don’t have. He’s young, but it’s exciting to think about the possibilities.”

Anthony Davis has represented USA Basketball before.

As a high school senior, he was selected as a member of USA Basketball’s Junior National Select Team, which competed at the 2011 Nike Hoop Summit.  Davis finished with 16 points, 10 rebounds and two blocked shots to help the U.S. to a 92-80 win over the World Select Team.

“It’s a tremendous honor to be this young and have a chance to represent my country,” Davis said. “This is a great opportunity. I’m excited to be a part of something like this.”

James Harden becomes the third member of the Oklahoma City Thunder named to the finalist’s roster. In just three years in the NBA, he’s already emerged as one of the league’s top players. If Harden makes the final 12, it will be his first time representing the U.S. abroad.

“Being named as a finalist for the USA Basketball National Team is an unbelievable feeling and an opportunity that is truly humbling,” Harden said. “It is an honor to be included with such talented players and I look forward to the chance to represent my country this summer.”

The additions come after news many of the original U.S. National Team finalists will not be able to make the trip to London.

Most recently, Chicago Bulls guard Derrick Rose suffered a torn ACL in the NBA playoffs, ending his season and eliminating him from Olympic contention.

Shortly before, two key big men were also ruled out for the Games.

Orlando magic center Dwight Howard underwent back surgery to repair a herniated disk. Los Angeles Lakers center Andrew Bynum opted to skip the 2012 Olympic Games to undergo the same off-season knee surgery his teammate Kobe Bryant did last summer in Germany.

The National Team’s injury woes began with Portland Trailblazers forward Lamarcus Aldridge’s hip injury in early April. He won’t be ready for international competition either.

Harden and Davis will begin their push to make the final 12 on July 6 at the team’s training camp in Las Vegas. The official 12-man U.S. Olympic roster will be announced shortly after.

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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30 Apr 2012

USA Diving’s Thomas Finchum performs on many stages

By Josh Blessing | BSU at the Games

US Diving's Thomas Finchum

USA Diving's Thomas Finchum | Photo by: Tyler Varnau

VIDEO:  The Thomas Finchum Story

On any given afternoon, you can find Thomas Finchum standing 33 feet above a diving well. He has about two seconds to perform a perfect routine, recalling the hours of practice that have guided him to this point.

The scene happens over and over.  It has to for one of the world’s elite divers.

However, the Olympic diving stage isn’t the only stage for Finchum.  There’s another platform where he performs, but one not everyone sees—yet.

While many people spend their whole lives searching for something to strive above and beyond in, Finchum has managed to exceed in another area along with diving—his music.

“I was always singing in choir,” Finchum said while his band, Northern Nights, set up for a concert just over his shoulder. “It was always so different being in a choir. You never have the chance to stand out.

“You’re always in a big group so it was never intimidating or nerve-racking at all. Doing this, being out front and center—it’s totally different.”

The nonstop lifestyle of training for the London 2012 Olympic Games takes its toll not only physically but also mentally.

The demanding hours to be an elite athlete can be pressing, but Finchum’s dream of becoming a country music star keep him moving forward.

“He’s extremely dedicated,” said Chelsea Kogg, Finchum’s cousin and band manager.  “A lot of people get envious because he’s so good at a lot of things. People overlook everything he gives up to be good at two things in such a huge way.”

The fast-paced lifestyle the Olympian lives is evident in his musical journey too.

During summer 2011, Finchum and friends Brock Bell, Drew Beechler and Nathan Ayer formed Northern Nights. Less than six months later—Dec. 1, 2011—he celebrated his birthday by receiving a unique present.

The band’s debut single, “Baby I’m Gone,” was released on iTunes for the whole world to hear. Northern Nights officially began its music career.

“That was a pretty cool present,” Finchum said. “It was crazy. Our song was up on iTunes. The whole world could pretty much hear it.  It was that point where, well, I can’t really turn back now.”

Finchum knows there is no limit for what Northern Nights can become.  The single downloads and live performances added to his schedule weekly prove it.

“We want to do as much as we can in music,” Finchum said. “It’s a crazy industry. It’s a lot of rejection and a lot of hard times. I’m used to working hard—and I’m used to having big dreams.”

 

 

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

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29 Apr 2012

Seemiller still has table-tennis drive

By Conor Hockett | BSU at the Games

Dan Seemiller knows what it’s like to be America’s best hope to dethrone the Asian dominance in table tennis.

Dan Seemiller, five-time U.S. Men's Singles Champion and former U.S. Men's Team Coach. | Photo courtesy: USA Table Tennis

When he was 18, Seemiller won the U.S. Team Trials and has been catapulted into the spotlight ever since.

Now 57, Seemiller is arguably one of the top three greatest U.S. table-tennis players of all time.

He’s a five-time U.S. Men’s Singles Champion, a 12-time U.S. Men’s Doubles Champion, which included eight straight titles with his brother Rick, and a former No. 19 ranked player in the world back in 1977. He even invented his own grip, named the Seemiller.

“Dan’s impact on the sport has been multi-dimensional,” said Sean O’Neill, a 2007 USA Table Tennis Hall of Fame Inductee. “As a player he set our international standard for over two decades. As the president of the organization he implemented many innovations geared at adding professionalism and player support. He took kids from the basement and helped them become members of the Olympic team.”

Despite playing competitively on-and-off for more than 40 years, there is one thing he’s never accomplished: representing the U.S. team in the Olympic Games.

Table tennis became an Olympic sport in 1988 when Seemiller was 34. He tried out in 1988 but didn’t qualify. In 1992 he won the U.S. qualifier, but players must compete with Canada to represent North America in the Olympic Games. Seemiller said he didn’t play well in the continental qualifier and failed to advance.

After that, Seemiller gave up his dream. He became the U.S. National Team Coach in 1999 and stayed on until 2009. He also coached the U.S. Olympic Team in 2000, 2004 and 2008, but that wasn’t enough.

Seemiller said he didn’t play much during his coaching days and the desire came back.

“That’s why I got out of it—I wanted to start playing again,” Seemiller said. “It’s great coaching, but it’s also great playing again too. Now I can do both.”

Seemiller coaches at the South Bend Table Tennis Center just outside his home in New Carlisle, Ind. For three days in February, however, he took a break to pursue his dream.

The U.S. Olympic Trials took place in Cary, N.C. from Feb. 10-12 to decide the eight spots—four men and four women—who would represent the U.S. in the North American Trials in April.

Seemiller said he won his first two rounds in the qualifying pretty easily, but it would all come down to his next match with Razvan Cretu. It was close, but Seemiller lost four games to three and was eliminated.

“If I could have won that, I would’ve had a really good chance (to qualify),” Seemiller said. “But that was the one I needed to get through. It was do or die and that’s the way it goes. If I would have won that I would’ve been in the final 12. In the final 12, I would’ve played pretty well because most of those are young kids. So it was kind of a lot of experience (I had) against them.”

Seemiller may have missed his chance to become the first American to medal in table tennis at the Olympic Games, but he hasn’t given up hope or the drive to keep trying.

“It’s my job,” Seemiller said. “I coach kids, I run the club here (in South Bend) and I’m always involved in tournaments, so I might as well keep playing.”

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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29 Apr 2012

Trice chases Olympic dreams around the world

By Charlie Akers | BSU at the Games

A two-time NCAA All-American, Central Michigan’s Jarod Trice has dreamed of winning gold at the Olympic Games since an early age.

Jarod Trice

Jarod Trice | Photo courtesy: CMU Athletics Communications

The dream started as a young child when he was just starting to wrestle.

Now he has matured into a 265-pound wrecking ball on the mats. He owns a 79-22 record in college, including a 14-1 mark against foes from the Mid-American Conference.

Throughout his high-school days in Highland Park, Mich., Trice totaled a career record of 163-15. His early success catapulted him to the Junior Olympics—and winning gold there—is where he started the dream of winning the Olympic gold.

“After I won Junior Olympic gold, I wanted to be an Olympian one day,” Trice said.

Trice took another step toward his Olympic dream in April with a fourth-place finish at the U.S. Olympic Trials. The finish fell just short of his goal of making the Olympic team in 2012.  As a result, Trice will return to Central Michigan for his final season of eligibility this fall.

“I felt like I did some of my best wrestling there,” Trice said about the Olympic Trials in Iowa City.  “I am going to keep training, focus on my senior season and be ready for the Olympic Trials in four years.”

The fourth-place finish at the trials only adds to his determination for 2016.  Trice also looks to at least two sources of motivation.

“The people who have influenced me the most have been my mother and my grandmother,” said Trice, whose grandmother passed before his first tournament as a senior in high school. “She keeps me going, man.”

Trice also noted the passing of the man who got him started in sports at a young age and always kept him motivated—James Pollard, Jr.

“I lost James my freshman year in college and he was pretty much the one that kept me into sports,” Trice said.  “He is the one who got me into wrestling. He is the main guy who kept me motivated as I was growing up.”

Knowing those two would be proud of his path, Trice trained all over the world to prepare himself for the Olympic Trials. He started to mainly focus and train specifically for the Olympic Games in April 2011.

“The transition from college to Olympic freestyle is not so big,” Trice said. “It’s pretty much the same thing, but it’s much more on my feet though.”

In 2011-12, Trice took a redshirt year from NCAA competition to train for the Games. He traveled—and trained with the sport’s best—all over the world, including in Russia, Cuba and Vancouver.

“The best have gone and trained in these places, so I wanted to also go there and get better with the best,” Trice said. “I’m just eating it all up. I have to bring my best.”

When he returned to the United States earlier this year to finish training, Trice worked with fellow Olympic qualifier Trevel Dlagnev.

Dlganev, America’s No. 1-ranked heavyweight, won the 120-kilogram weight class at the trials and advanced to the London Games in July.

“Training with those guys has been great,” Trice said. “The 120-kilogram class is probably the most respected weight class because of all the guys. It’s a pretty stacked weight class.”

And one in which Trice is determined to be included for the 2016 Olympic Games.

“I took this whole year off of school for this,” Trice said. “The experience that I’ve had this year has been great.  I’m going to keep competing. I’m going to go for the next three world championships. I’m also going to go for the Olympic Championships in the next four years.”

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.

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28 Apr 2012

USA Canoe/Kayak add 14 Olympic qualifiers

By Mat Mikesell | BSU at the Games

Fourteen paddlers qualified for the U.S. National Whitewater Slalom Team in April, earning a way to the U.S. Olympic Team for the 2012 London Summer Games.

Of the 14 qualifiers, two-time Olympian Scott Parsons and Carolina Queen from Davidson College won two spots on the team after three days of timed races.

The qualifiers move on to compete at the Canoe Slalom World Cup in Cardiff, Wales, June 8-10.

Scott Parsons will compete in the 2012 Olympic Games. Photo courtesy: U.S. Canoe/Kayak.

Parsons had the fastest kayak run with a time of 93.96 seconds, which was good enough for first place on a three-man team.

“The level of competition is extremely high,” Parsons said. “If you come out with a win, it’s pretty incredible. I feel really fortunate on how I performed.”

Queen finished second in the women’s kayak trials.

From the men’s side, Benn Fraker, a 2008 Olympian, also topped the men’s single kayak team.  Casey Eichfeld and Zach Lokken tied for second.

At the Cardiff races, five athletes will be determined for the U.S. Olympic Team in paddling men’s kayak, men’s single canoe, men’s double canoe and women’s kayak.

“We’re definitely in contention for a medal in men’s kayak and men’s canoe,” William Irving, national teams director said. “If our athletes can stay fast and close, anything can happen.”

 

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

Information also provided by US Canoe/Kayak Marketing & Communications, www.usack.org.

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18 Apr 2012

USA Fencing adds to 2012 Olympic roster

Story by Brandon Pope  | BSU at the Games

With just more than 100 days until the 2012 London Games, Olympic berths were decided for USA Fencing in Men’s Foil and Women’s Epee.

Qualifications began in March and concluded Saturday at the Nationals in Virginia Beach, Va. The top three athletes on the USA Fencing National Point Rankings advanced to the London Olympic Games where they will compete in both individual and team events.

In Men’s Foil, Miles Chamley-Watson emerged victorious after starting the day seeded fourth and facing adversity.

USA Fencing’s Mile Chamey-Watson earned a spot in the 2012 Olympic Games. Photo courtesy: U.S. Fencing.

Chamley-Watson advanced to the quarterfinals knowing he would have to finish no less than seventh to qualify.

His Olympic journey seemed in danger after losing to Jerry Chang, 15-9. The loss could have resulted between a fifth- and eighth-place overall finish, but Chamley-Watson was the highest-seeded athlete to lose in the quarterfinals.

As a result, he placed fifth to earn a berth on the Olympic Team.

“Petrified,” Chamley-Watson said about the situation. “The fact that I could leave here today and come away with nothing and not even be going at all? That would be awful.

“You pay so much attention to the numbers all day—where you stand versus everybody else. You like, subconsciously, do. You really try not to, but you keep thinking about it all day.  Somehow I managed to squeak by.”

At the end of the day, Gerek Meinhardt joined Chamley-Watson to clinch his second straight Olympic nomination. He will be the replacement athlete after finishing fourth overall.

Alexander Massialas and Race Imboden finished first and second, respectively, to qualify for their first Olympic Games.

With the team decided, the foursome is focusing on its next goal—winning both individual and team medals in London. Imbolden, the 18 year-old first-place finisher, believes his group will be legitimate contenders in London.

“We’ve got an excellent chance at a medal,” Imboden said.  “I think we’re a young, strong team. Everybody knows that we’re competitors. I just think that, on a day like that, it’s anybody’s day and we’ve just got to make sure it’s our day.”

The Women’s Epee National Team also solidified its roster. Two sisters—Courtney and Kelly Hurley—will be teammates for the 2012 campaign. Courtney claimed the top spot in the final standings, but Kelly squeaked her way into fourth place where she will serve as the team’s replacement athlete.

Maya Lawrence and Susie Scanlan rounded out the top three spots.

“I think we’ve grown a lot as a team the past four years,” Lawrence said. “It started off rocky, but now I think we’re in a good spot. When we’re fencing together, we’ve started figuring out how to communicate with each other, what the other people need.  We give each other confidence when we’re fencing. Hopefully, we can go into London ranked pretty high and try to do something there too.”

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.

Information also provided by US Fencing Marketing & Communications, www.usfencing.org.

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