Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Sports Talk: Let the Games Begin! Go Team USA!

As a correspondent sports writer for The Casey County News, I write an weekly editorial column for the publication. Published July 25, 2012.
It’s finally here!
The 2012 Olympic Opening Cermonies kick off Friday. Haven’t had time to keep up with the hype and qualifying? Here are some highlights on who we are pulling for on team U.S.A.

Men’s Swimming: Michael Phelps, Ryan Locht and Anthony Ervin
Phelps only needs three medals to pass the most decorated Olympian of all-time, Larisa Latynina, who claimed 18 medals through her career. Phelps sits at 16 after six golds and two silvers in 2004 and eight golds in 2008.
Meanwhile, Locht, who helped push Phelps to his stardom, is now posing as a challenge. The two will face off in both the 200- and 400-meter individual medley races to prove who is the better swimmer.
Ervin, a 2000 gold-medal swimmer, took leave of the sport for years before his 2011 return and has found his way back to the games. He will again compete in the 50-meter freestyle for Team USA, in pursuit of another gold in the event.

Men’s Track & Field: Justin Gatlin, Ashton Eaton, Galen Rupp, Tyson Gay
Gatlin returns to the Olympic stage after being banned from the 2008 due to a steroid scandal. Gatlin won the 100-meter at the U.S. trials earlier this summer. 
Eaton broke the 11-year old world decathlon record at the trials and is expected to win the event in London.
Rupp could possibly be the first American to win a medal in an event longer than 800-meters since 1968. He will compete in both the 5,000- and 10,000-meter runs.
And of course you must watch Kentuckian and world-renown runner Gay. I always like to brag about the fact I naively watched the speedster tear up the track at KHSAA state track meets back in my early running career.

Women’s Track & Field: Allyson Felix, Lolo Jones, Sanya Richards-Ross
Speed-demon Felix will compete in both the 100- and 200-meter with hopes of her first Olympic gold after taking home consecutive silver medals in the 200 in the last two games.
Although Jones is not the favored 100-meter hurdlers, she has captured the attention of many and you never know what the attention could translate to on race day.
It is quite rare, but three other athletes, including Michael Johnson, have proven that it is possible to take gold in both the 200- and 400-meter sprints. Richards-Ross will aim to be the fourth person to do so.

Women’s Beach Volleyball: Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh-Jennings
With over ten years of partnership on the sand, May and Walsh once went on a 101-game win streak along with capturing 18 tournament wins. However, since the duo picked up gold in both Athens and Beijing, they have experienced some defeat and now have China and Brazil nipping at their heals. Nonetheless, they are 2012 favorites and will set an Olympic record if they capture their third consecutive gold.

Women’s Gymnastics – Gabby Douglas and Jordan Wieber
The United States women’s gymnastic team has not won gold since Atlanta in 1996 and this team of youngsters are the favorites. There are hopes for several gold medals including Douglas the “flying squirrel” on the uneven bars and Wieber on the balance beam.

Men’s Basketball:
Do I even need to mention names to listen for? I bet most of you can name the entire team line-up anyway. Despite injuries to Dwayne Wade, Derrick Rose and Dwight Howard, I do not think anyone has lost any hope for Lebron, and Kobe to lead the team to anything but gold in London.

Women’s Soccer:
Too many experiences of winning the World Cup, only to turn around and take silver in the Olympics does not set well with our country’s competitive spirit in general, but especially with this team of ladies. Hoping to avenge their loss to Japan in the 2011 World Cup, Hope Solo and Heather O’Reilly lead their team to the battle field.

Other names/events to pay attention to:
  • Judo:  Kayla Harrison; potential to be U.S.’s first Olympic champion in judo history. 
  • Men’s Gymnastics: Danell Leyva and John Orozco; they are leading the charge in bringing new light to the mens’ side of the gymnastic house. 
  • Wrestling: Jordan Burroughs; Reigning world champion, he is one of America’s best hopes for a wrestling medal. 
  • Weightlifting: Holley Mangold; More likely to be a 2016 medal contender, she is quickly improving and could surprise many in London. 
  • Women’s Swimming: Missy Franklin; She has the opportunity to be the first American female athlete to capture seven medals at one Olympiad. 
  • Diving: David Boudia, Troy Dumais, Kristian Ispen; Team U.S.A. has not medaled in diving since 2000. Any or all of these three could bring a return to America’s placing in this discipline.

Other First Place Favorites:
  • Taekwondo: Steven Lopez
  • Archery: Brady Ellison.
  • Men’s Beach Volleyball Todd Rogers/Phil Dalhausser
  • Women’s Road Cycling: Individual Time - Kristin Armstrong
  • Women’s Basketball Team
First time Olympic title hopefuls:  
  • Men’s and Women’s water polo 
  • Women’s volleyball
 Needless to say, it is likely the most exciting event and news to keep up with is still TBD. That’s part of the Olympic fun—the unexpected stories. The good news is with live-streaming of all events online for the first time, you should not have to miss a thing.
Now let’s just hope the stereotypical rainy England weather doesn’t ruin the fun.
Go U.S.A!

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