Olympic sports writing: 2004-2015

Selected features and interviews, plus coverage from several Olympics:


Sochi 2014

London 2012 (all Bleacher Report unless noted)

Vancouver 2010: Nordic sports and biathlon (all USA TODAY)

Beijing 2008: Everything, especially soccer (all USA TODAY)

Torino 2006 (USA TODAY)

Athlete interviews (all USA TODAY)

I’m back – what’d I miss?

My hand is out of a splint after three weeks, though my typing speed is still diminished by a bit of tape on my two still-aching fingers. I may need to put my goalkeeping career on hold for a while.

I’m also relatively not sick. I have no idea how I’ve had waves of sinus and throat problems through the most mild summer of my lifetime, but a doctor has assured me she’ll figure it out. I got back from vacation to find Northern Virginia had become a sauna to start September, and after leading a couple of youth soccer practices in Venusian conditions last night and walking a couple of miles this morning, I actually feel better. Go figure.

Enough complaining. I’m back, and it’s time to give a quick update on the blog, my writing priorities over the next few months, and what happened in the sports world while I was healing.

The blog: Expect more links and fewer 1,000-word pieces. I want to keep sharing Olympic sports news, but I’m going to do that more efficiently. No more Monday Myriad (in part because my youth soccer practices are on Mondays), so this will be the last “roundup” post for a while. My analysis will more commonly be on …

The podcast: Hoping to do another one this week, depending on my guest’s schedule.

Medal projections: By next year, I hope Olympic sports news will be in the context of my medal projections. I’ll be working on that, along with …

Enduring Spirit epilogue: The tentative plan is to re-release the book (electronically only) with the epilogue added. I’ll also release the epilogue separately at a low, low price, so if you already bought the book, you won’t be shelling out another six bucks. I’m going to do a few postseason interviews, so don’t expect this right away.

Single-Digit Soccer: This project keeps gathering momentum. I’m planning to speak and gather input at the NSCAA convention in January, and I hope to finish it by next summer.

Other than that, I’ll still be writing at OZY, a site you should check out even if you never read anything I write. And you may still see an MMA book I finished a while back.

So what happened while I was out? In no particular order:

Badminton World Championships: South Korea wins men’s doubles, China won three other events, and the women’s singles went to … Spain? First time for everything, and this is a terrific photo:

Judo World Championships: Olympic champion Kayla Harrison was the only U.S. medalist, taking bronze.

Rowing World Championships: Britain won 10 medals, New Zealand won nine, Australia and Germany eight each, and the USA won seven. The World Championships include a lot of non-Olympic events, so don’t use this for medal projections. These championships included some para-rowing events, which accounted for one U.S. medal. The sole U.S. gold went to, as always, the mighty women’s eight.

World Equestrian Games: The sole U.S. medals so far are in the non-Olympic discipline of reining. Britain, Germany and the Netherlands are cleaning up. Olympic quota spots (earned by the country, not the athlete) are available in dressage, eventing and show jumping.

Also, Ollie Williams (the man behind Frontier Sports) looks at the Olympic prospects of horseball. Yes, horseball. They compare it to a mix of rugby and basketball, but I think it’s a mix of polo and quidditch.

Triathlon, World Series grand final: Gwen Jorgensen didn’t need a great finish to clinch the world championship. She did it anyway. Too early to declare her athlete of the year?

Swimming, Pan-Pacific Games: Phelps, Ledecky and company have it easy compared to Haley Anderson, who won open-water gold after a jellyfish sting, a race postponement and a race relocation. 

Track and field, Diamond League finals: Half of the events wrapped for the season at the Weltklasse Zurich over the weekend; the rest finish up Friday in Brussels. Check the Monday Morning Run for a recap that includes fellow Dukie Shannon Rowbury diving along with U.S. teammate Jenny Simpson as the latter took the women’s 1,500 title in style.

Today’s Frontier Sports wrap has a couple of track and field links (along with helpful links on badminton and much more), including “the often-told, never-dull tale of how (Brianne Theisen-Eaton) almost impaled (Ashton Eaton) with a javelin.”

Overall Diamond League winners include Simpson, Michael Tinsley (USA, 400 hurdles), Christian Taylor (USA, triple jump, took title away from teammate Will Claye at final), Lashawn Merritt (USA, 400 meters, Kirani James wasn’t at the final), Reese Hoffa (USA, shot put), Veronica Campbell-Brown (Jamaica, 100), Dawn Harper-Nelson (USA, 100 hurdles — Americans won every Diamond League race), Tiana Bartoletta (USA, long jump) and Valerie Evans (New Zealand, shot put, swept).

Women’s soccer, NWSL final: I got back from vacation to see this, and I’m glad I did. It was a compelling final, and while Seattle would’ve been a worthy champion in every sense, Kansas City deserved it. The Lauren Holiday-to-Amy Rodriguez combo is as potent as anything you’ll see in soccer.

Kansas City now holds the top-division U.S./Canada titles in men’s soccer (Sporting KC, MLS), women’s soccer (FCKC), and men’s indoor soccer (Missouri Comets, coached by FCKC’s Vlatko Andonovski). The latter won the last MISL title before most of that league leapt to the MASL.

The league also announced it would play a full schedule next summer with a break for the World Cup, which means international players will miss a considerable number of games. The big worry: The season will spill into September, bad news for those counting on international loans or fall coaching jobs to supplement the league’s small paychecks. But the league didn’t have a lot of good options, and now they’re poised to ride a World Cup wave if one materializes again.

Basketball World Cup: Senegal over Croatia is the big upset so far, while France, Brazil and Serbia have created a logjam for second behind Spain in Group A. The USA is cruising through an easy group.

Men’s volleyball World Championships: Many people are watching.

The USA won a thrilling five-setter and lost an epic to Iran in early group play.

Modern pentathlon World Championships: Underway with relays.

MMA: The UFC 177 pay-per-view card had already been hit by a rash of injuries. Then one of the UFC’s most heralded recent signings, Olympic wrestling gold medalist Henry Cejudo, had a “medical issue” while trying to make weight. Then former bantamweight champion Renan Barao, set for a rematch against new champ T.J. Dillashaw, also couldn’t make weight. Joe Soto got the Seth Petruzelli-style bump from the undercard to the main event. Unlike Petruzelli against Kimbo Slice, Soto couldn’t take advantage of the opportunity.

So the most noteworthy things about the card, apart from Cejudo and Barao’s weight-cutting issues, were:

1. Bethe Correia taking out another of Ronda Rousey’s buddies, veteran Shayna Baszler. Now Rousey wants a piece of Correia, who’ll be happy to oblige.

2. Dana White launching an unholy rip of the media. Some days, I miss covering this sport — this would’ve been fun.

Overseas in ONE FC — I’m absolutely biased toward Kamal Shalorus, who works in our wonderful local dojo and is as nice as he could be. Glad to see him get a title shot, but Shinya Aoki was always going to be a tough matchup, and Aoki indeed kept the belt.

Chess: World champ Magnus Carlsen and top U.S. player Hikaru Nakamura are at the Sinquefield Cup, but Italy’s Fabiano Caruana has left them in the dust, beating Carlsen, Nakamura and the other three to go a perfect 5-for-5 halfway through the double round-robin.

And we’re a month away from Millionaire Chess. Ignore the monetary losses and enjoy.

Cycling: Vuelta a Espana in brief — Nairo Quintana fell, Alberto Contador took the lead.

Video games: A terrific glitch in Madden ’15 — a 14-inch-tall linebacker:

Coming up: Bloody Elbow is looking at the upcoming wrestling World Championships.

Glad to be back!

Monday Myriad: Waffle Cup … and greetings, Season!

Has soccer made it in America? We debate this topic every four years, and I’m officially declaring the conversation dead.

Why? These two tweets:

(HT: D.C. Sports Bog)

The week in myriad sports includes a reminder that the best U.S. athlete of the year might be a triathlete, along with a reminder to turn off auto-correct when writing beach volleyball stories.


Gwen Jorgensen is in her fifth year as a triathlete, and she has already won six World Series races, three in a row. If you don’t build up a massive lead after the bike phase, just wave as she goes by.

Meanwhile, Jorgensen’s teammate put a wry smile on less happy news:



World Cup game? Nope. USA Track and Field Championships in Sacramento.



Devon Allen is a promising wide receiver who redshirted his freshman year at Oregon. He’s also the NCAA champion in the 110-meter hurdles. And the U.S. champion.

Jenny Simpson held off Mary Cain to win the women’s 1,500.

The women’s 5,000 had a fun back-and-forth finish between Molly Huddle and Shannon Rowbury.

And yes, it was a near replay of the women’s 10,000, with Kim Conley rallying past Jordan Hasay.

The Monday Morning Run has the rest of the action.



Karri Walsh Jennings and April Ross went on to win the FIVB Grand Slam in Stavanger, Norway.


Can U.S. beach volleyball men get some respect? Say, for example, Season Rosenthal?

Yes, that’s actually Sean Rosenthal, but no, the wires didn’t catch the error.

Anyway, Sean and Phil (Pill? Philosopher?) Dalhausser won the men’s bracket in Stavanger.


No contest. (Maybe in the literal sense.)

Woly Award: Gwen Jorgensen, triathlon

Gwen Jorgensen didn’t take up triathlon until 2010. She took to it rather quickly, qualifying for the 2012 Olympics. She was unlucky there, suffering a flat tire on the bike stage.

This year, she became the first U.S. woman to win a World Triathlon Series event in April. Then she did again. And again, over the weekend in Stockholm, where she blasted her way through the 10k running phase to win by 49 seconds.

That’s three wins and the No. 1 overall ranking headed into the series finale. And she’ll take this week’s Woly Award, given to the best U.S. performance in Olympic sports.

The playlist includes Jorgensen’s win, Lashawn Merritt and David Oliver (but not Francena McCorory, for whom I couldn’t find video) winning in their penultimate Diamond League races, a bit of archery and rugby, and a surprising amount of winter sports. Yes, it’s beginning to look a lot like Sochi. New Zealand welcomed a lot of skiers and snowboarders last week, including such snowboard dignitaries as Kelly Clark and Gretchen Bleiler.

[iframe src=”//www.youtube.com/embed/videoseries?list=PLWAQzaiNbismdPMRGBc1z_eTZIjaM1aYE”  width=”560″ height=”315″]

Other items you’ll find in the Team USA roundup: a medal for the U.S. slalom kayakers, AVP beach volleyball, U.S. short-track speedskating qualifiers, and a fifth-place mixed-relay finish in modern pentathlon.

World Championships this week: Rowing, judo, mountain bike, rhythmic gymnastics, more modern pentathlon. Also half of the Diamond League track and field finals. Yes, half. I don’t make the rules. I’ll have a preview of sorts later in the week.

2012 medal projection update: Modern pentathlon and triathlon

Holding a world championship in an Olympic year always seems a little redundant. And we really don’t know if we can peg someone a favorite for being in peak form in the Big Show a couple of months before the Really Big Show.

That’s the case in modern pentathlon, but in addition to the 2012 Worlds, we also have world rankings to consider, as well as the 2011 Worlds, which were moved from Cairo to Moscow last year.

Triathlon just keeps going and going, with athletes picking up ranking points. They tell us not only who has the most points but who only needed a couple of races to get them. The federation is also kind enough to give us updated start lists.

Check the previous picks for both sports. And away we go …

Continue reading 2012 medal projection update: Modern pentathlon and triathlon

2012 pentathlon/triathlon: Modern times

Modern pentathlon and triathlon have a few things in common — running, swimming and the inevitability of being lumped together when people like me are doing sport-by-sport breakdowns.

Aside from that, they aren’t too similar. Triathlon has become the trendy way for people to show how fit they are. If you know anyone who has said, “Hey, I’m raising money for charity by doing a pentathlon,” please let me know.

At the Olympics, modern pentathlon is held in a couple of venues through the day, and they can’t really be choosy. In London, for some reason, they’ll have the fencing in the handball venue. Then it’s across the Olympic Park to the main Aquatics Centre for the swim, then over to the equestrian venue at Greenwich Park for the remaining events. (That wasn’t an option in Beijing, where the equestrian venue was in Hong Kong.)

Beijing triathlon venueThe triathlon, meanwhile, is held in a scenic venue like the one in this picture. Beautiful, isn’t it? One of my favorite days in China.

London organizers are opting to hold the triathlon in Hyde Park. Pretty cool.

Triathlon also is much simpler. Swim 1,500 meters. Bike 40k. Run 10k. Cross finish line. Collect medal.

Modern pentathlon has a more complex scoring system, but as they do in Nordic combined (and really should do in the decathlon), they convert points to seconds and start people in the final race in the order in which they currently stand. Build a big lead in the first three events, then try to run alone.

Continue reading 2012 pentathlon/triathlon: Modern times