Olympic sports writing: 2004-2015

Selected features and interviews, plus coverage from several Olympics:

Features

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)

Woly Award: Double-distance hurdler rules NCAAs

Stanford’s Kori Carter set an NCAA record in the women’s 400-meter hurdles (video) with a time of 53.21, also the fastest in the world this year. By a large margin. The second-best time of the year was set six days earlier on the same track in Eugene, Ore., by the Czech Republic’s Zuzana Hejnova — 53.70.

That alone would put Carter in consideration for the Woly Award, given to the top U.S. Olympic sports athlete of the week.

But Carter had competition from Clemson’s Brianna Rollins, who also set a meet record and world leader in the 100 hurdles at 12.39.

What set Carter apart? Check out who finished second in the 100 hurdles. That’s right — Kori Carter.

That’s 18 points of Stanford’s 33 points in the NCAA meet, and it’s enough to give Carter the Woly Award for the week.

Meet Carter at FloTrack, where she talks a bit about her 400-meter performance and the audacity of running both events.

Other top performances from the NCAA meet:

Women’s 100: English Gardner, Oregon, 10.96, third fastest runner in 2013.

Men’s 400: Bryshon Nellum, USC, 44.73, fourth in 2013.

Women’s 400: Ashley Spencer, Illinois, 50.28, fifth in 2013.

Then at the Golden Gala in Rome, the latest Diamond League stop:

Men’s 100 hurdles: Justin Gatlin (9.94) beat Usain Bolt (9.95). Yes, THAT Usain Bolt.

Men’s 400 hurdles: Johnny Dutch (48.31) held off Puerto Rico’s Javier Culson (48.36) and now owns the top two times of 2013.

Women’s long jump: Another good duel between Brittney Reese (6.99) and Janay Deloach Soukup (6.97).

Also in track and field, last week’s Woly winner, Mary Cain, … stop me if you’re heard this before … broke a U.S. high school track and field record, this time in the 5,000 meters. Time is 15:45.46. That’s three high school outdoor records this spring.

And the other nominees this week:

WATER POLO: Betsey Armstrong made eight important saves as the U.S. women clinched bronze at the World League Super Final.

TENNIS: Serena Williams and the Bryan brothers won French Open titles. Not enough room here to talk about their career accomplishments.

The rest of the Oly week is at TeamUSA.org as always.

Sports to watch this week:

– Archery, World Cup
– Beach volleyball, Grand Slam
– Volleyball, World League, Tulsa
– Water polo, men’s World League Super Final
– Track and field, Diamond League ExxonMobil Bislett Games, Oslo
– Mountain bike, World Cup
– Judo, Grand Prix Miami

Myriad links: The Onion on water polo, dreary Americans, new Olympic sports

A few late-night links that I haven’t had a chance to work into full-fledged posts today:

1. The Onion brought the funny on water polo and other sports (if you consider baseball a sport) in one of their video segments.

2. At Fox Sports, Jen Floyd Engel ponders the difference between American “thou shalt not cheer in the pressbox” journalists and those from elsewhere, who cheer, hug, get kisses from athletes, etc.

Having spent my last Olympics sharing press tables with a corps of Russian journalists that was mostly grumpy old men (the exception was the lone woman, who looked a bit like Tori Amos and might have smiled once), I can tell you it’s not universal. But yes, many other countries are a bit more … expressive. Most of the time, it’s harmless. In soccer pressboxes, though, we’ve all seen a few really annoying situations.

3. Following up on the fun discussion we’re having on golf in the Olympics (the driving range/miniature golf biathlon has potential), I’ve seen some musing on the next wave of sports competing to make the Olympic programme. Around the Rings tells us the IOC is warning sports federations not to spend a lot on their campaigns, because that would be unfair to those who don’t have much to spend. (Imagine American TV advertising if the Republicans and Democrats had to limit themselves to what the Green Party can afford.)

Via Andrew Sullivan’s blog (Andrew’s on vacation), The Atlantic takes a look at all of the contenders. The most sensible inclusion would be karate. It has immense global popularity, and no one needs to build a new venue — just rotate it into the same arena or convention center that’s hosting judo, taekwondo or weightlifting. But no one said these decisions made sense.

2012 medal projection update: Ball sports

See the original post for projections from 16 months ago; read on for the latest (which may not have changed much):

BASKETBALL

The only major international event played since the last World Championships were the men’s and women’s European tournaments. The top four men: Spain, France, Russia, Macedonia. Women: Russia, Turkey, France, Czech Republic.

FIBA also compiles rankings that reflect all the various zonal tournaments. Top men: USA, Spain, Argentina, Greece, Lithuania, big gap. Top women: USA (by a mile), Australia/Russia (tie), giant gap, Czech Republic, Spain.

Men: The USA and Spain are clearly the front-runners. After that, the picks are more difficult. France has Tony Parker, Boris Diaw and two other NBA-affiliated players, though Joakim Noah is out injured. Great Britain has two players who passed briefly through Duke — Luol Deng and Eric Boateng. But you can’t always judge by the number of NBA or former college players. Lithuania has a lot of Euroleague experience (as well as some players U.S. coach Mike Krzyzewski will know from ACC play), and Russia is built around several players from perennial power CSKA Moscow.

France (ranked 12th) may be underrated, especially when you consider that France qualified for the Olympics ahead of fourth-ranked Greece. Then Nigeria knocked out Greece in the last-chance Olympic tournament, qualifying along with Russia and Lithuania.

Brazil (#13) is certainly underrated. They finished second at the Americas qualifying tournament behind host Argentina (the USA did not participate), and they usually give the USA a tough game. Argentina beat Brazil in the neutral setting of the 2010 Worlds. But on paper, Brazil’s roster is stronger, and the history is solid.

So we’re not changing. USA, Spain, Brazil

Women: A U.S. loss would be a shocker. Australia has three straight silver medals, and the Opals return roughly half of their 2008 squad, including world-class star Lauren Jackson, though several WNBA players have moved on.

Russia was far from unbeatable in the European qualifying tournament last year, barely getting past Slovakia in the opener and losing a group-stage game to Lithuania. Belarus beat them in the next round, and Britain got within three points. They woke up and stomped everyone in the knockout stages, and no one else has given any reason to doubt the rankings, the original projection or the 2008 finish. USA, Australia, Russia

Read on …

Continue reading 2012 medal projection update: Ball sports

2012 ball sports: Yay, team! Except you folks with bats

Let’s see … I’ve done projections for archery, athletics, badminton … let’s call up the spreadsheet and see what’s next:

Baseball!

Oh … right.

Baseball and softball are gone from the Olympic program because, as we all know, it’s easier to turn an 18-hole golf course into an Olympic venue than it is to put a fence around a small part of an Olympic green and have baseball and softball games. Or something like that.

That still leaves us with a few team sports: Basketball, field hockey, soccer, handball, volleyball (beach and indoor) and water polo. (We’ll save synchronized swimming for later.)

Continue reading 2012 ball sports: Yay, team! Except you folks with bats

Monday Myriad: Want U.S. world titles? We’ve got ’em

Even with an extra day, the weekend was overstuffed:

Soccer: No disrespect to Uruguay and the Netherlands, but isn’t the Germany-Spain matchup as good as it gets? The most explosive team in the Cup against a team that has spent the last three and a half years as the Harlem Globetrotters of world soccer?

Closer to home, MLS had terrific goals in the Seattle-Los Angeles matchup, and Conor Casey is playing like he’s still auditioning for the national team. Or like he thinks he’s Marta.

Tennis: Serena and Nadal winning Wimbledon isn’t the surprise. The surprise is that Roger Federer has fallen all the way to No. 3.

Track and field: David Oliver set an American record in the 110 hurdles at the Prefontaine Classic, which also saw Walter Dix outrun Tyson Gay down the stretch in the 200. Field events were less kind to Americans — Dwight Phillips finished second in the long jump and pulled up with some sort of strain, and Jenn Suhr no-heighted in the pole vault.

Softball: Not all of the games were easy, but the USA trounced Japan 7-0 in five innings in the World Championship final.

Water polo: Soccer isn’t the only sport settled with a penalty shootout. The U.S. women tied Australia 7-7 in the World League final and won the shootout. Brenda Villa was named top player; Betsey Armstrong was top goalkeeper.

Gymnastics: Bronze for U.S. men at Japan Cup, featuring mostly A-teamers.

Cycling: The Tour de France is underway, which means it’s time for one of the funniest annual reading activities — the Tour de Schmalz. If you prefer drama to comedy, read the Wall Street Journal‘s harrowing story on Floyd Landis’ doping allegations.

Poker: The Main Event is underway, even as two other events are still going … and going … and going …

The Tournament of Champions is over, at least, with Huck Seed outlasting Howard Lederer.

Volleyball: The U.S. men got two wins in Egypt, leaving themselves in contention to make the World League’s six-team final tournament. All they have to do is beat pool-leading Russia twice July 9-10 in Wichita.

Beach volleyball: Phil Dalhausser and Todd Rogers remained unbeatable, winning the FIVB event in Norway. Yes, Norway. What? They have beaches.

MMA: All hail Brock Lesnar.

Chess: Yes, they exhumed Bobby Fischer.

And a couple of random reads of interest …

Cricket: Did you know about Staten Island’s cricket history?

Soccer: One of the best reads about South Africa since the Cup started — meet Santos, “The People’s Team.” (Not in the Communist sense.)