Posts tagged "Mat Mikesell"

Caroline Queen hopes to apply experiences from London to Rio

By Mat Mikesell  |  BSU at the Games

Whether it was walking with Team USA during the Opening Ceremony or playing Sudoku on the treadmills in the workout room, kayaker Caroline Queen will leave London with memories she will never forget.

Though the Darnestown, Md., native placed 17th in the women’s K1, two spots shy of qualifying for the semifinals, she is taking her experiences from London to Rio de Janeiro in 2016.

“This whole experience has been incredible,” Queen said. “The result wasn’t what I’m capable of.”

Her parents, David and Sharon, as well as her cousin and a number of family friends, joined her in London. Even after watching her compete in athletics throughout her youth, they were still the typical nervous mom and dad during her run to the Olympic Games.

“Watching major competitions is extraordinarily nerve-wracking for parents,” Sharon Queen said. “[Her father and I] hope that Caroline will compete well and fulfill her expectations, but we cannot control what happens.”

Once her daughter finally qualified for the Olympic Games, she was relieved the grueling process spanning more than nine months and three countries was over.

The kayaker came to London having little expectations of what the Olympic Village and the Games would be like but came away with a positive experience. She loved being able to train whenever she wanted, for as long as she wanted. She was also a fan of having fresh seafood and grilled vegetables available to her in the cafeteria.

But since she was eliminated from her competition Monday, she’s had more time for herself and to enjoy London with her family.

“I’ve been to the gym a couple times and did some running,” Queen said. “I went with my family earlier this week and saw ‘Spamalot.’”

Ranked 38th in the world by the International Canoe Federation, the 20-year-old Queen has a chance to improve considerably as one of the younger competitors when she attempts to qualify for the 2016 Olympic Games.

Despite her potential, though, Queen always been an advocate for helping younger younger than her train for the Olympic Games. Now that she’s finally competed in one, she has more advice for them when she returns to the United States.

“It’s an honor and it’s something I’ll always take with me,” Queen said. “It’s something you want to chase for sure. It’s an experience any athlete wants.”

This weekend she heads home to the United States, where she will return to Davidson College in Davidson, N.C., for the fall semester. But in between her studies, she will continue to train.

Her parents said Caroline learned the lesson of grace in London from not getting the result she hoped for while competing. Her mother said she showed great character on the course as well as in her conduct afterward.

If she doesn’t medal in Rio de Janeiro, her mother said she still expects her daughter to compete at her highest level.

“We expect her to enjoy the experience and do her best,” Sharon Queen said. “That is all we ever expect. Life is about living your experiences rather than racking up results.”

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.

How do you get a coffee date with a sports-writing legend? You ask

Wednesday morning, on the eve of the women’s soccer final between the U.S. and Japan, I had an opportunity to have coffee in a London Starbucks with Sports Illustrated’s Grant Wahl.

How did I manage this? The power of Twitter.

I sent a tweet last week saying how cool it would be to get to meet some professional journalists currently in England doing Olympic coverage and included his Twitter handle in it. Less than an hour later, he replied back saying he was getting into London on Aug. 7 and would be happy to meet for coffee. When the alert came on my phone, I had to read it over several times to make certain my phone wasn’t playing a trick on me.

It wasn’t. And after a few tweets back and forth, we had arranged to meet Wednesday morning in Russell Square.

For those who don’t know who Wahl is, I suggest you look him up. He’s perhaps one of the most established senior writers at Sports Illustrated. He’s been a senior soccer writer for SI since 2000 and covers World Cups, the Euro Championships and the Olympic Games. His biography on SI.com says he’s written 31 cover stories for the magazine. And he has more than 230,000 followers on Twitter. Getting the chance to meet and talk sports journalism with him is something I couldn’t pass up.

After getting our coffees, Wahl and I sat at one of the tables and he asked me a few questions about myself. I explained to him what BSU at the Games is and what we’re doing, and he was impressed with what we’ve been able to produce despite not having credentials to events. I also got to tell Wahl what I do for the Ball State Daily News and other events I’ve covered in my short career.

But I was more interested in learning about how he got to SI. He said after his internship at The Miami Herald, he received an offer from SI to be a fact-checker. Having just graduated from college, he said it was too good an offer not to accept. After doing some writing on college basketball and soccer on the side, ESPN offered him a position to be a full-time soccer writer. SI matched the offer, and he’s held the position since then.

The best piece of advice he gave me for trying to land a job after I leave Ball State is to have something on a résumé that makes you stand out. He laughed and said my experience for BSU at the Games will be the thing that makes me stand out on mine.

We talked more on how sports is becoming a big player in social media, especially on Twitter, and his experiences covering some of the major soccer events in the world. The biggest thing he is working on at SI is making sure he is being as efficient as possible because of the costs to send him around the world.

We wrapped up our conversation after about an hour, as he had to get in touch with his bosses and prepare for the women’s soccer final. I left the Starbucks inspired to work my way to Wahl’s level. Being able to cover soccer matches around the world, on its biggest stages, would definitely be a dream job.

Having more than 230,000 followers on Twitter would be pretty cool too.

Mat Mikesell | Sports Reporter

@MatMikesell

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.

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.

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.