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Week 1 Olympic Notes: Serena, Young & Westbrook’s’ fencers

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By Leland Stein III

WIMBLEDON - The Olympic quote of the first week was Serena Williams after she won her opening-round match against former Serbian world number one Jelena Jankovic. Coming off her thrilling win at Wimbledon recently and her subsequent run of 11 straight victories, Serena toasted Jankovic 6-3 6-1. Following her win Serena looked up in her box and gave the USA First Lady Michelle Obama, who was sitting with Serena’s sister (Venus) a thumbs-up. She told the press: “They asked me did I mind if she sat in the family box,” said Williams. “I was like, ‘Of course not. Please, it would be my honor’. I love Michelle, so it was good. I gave her a thumbs-up just to acknowledge that I knew she was here. Obviously it was impossible not to see her but it was cool.” Serena has never won a gold medal in singles, but she and her sister Venus have two gold medals in doubles (2000 in Sydney and 2008 in Beijing).

SO LONG: Up and coming tennis star Donald Young, 23, lost in his opening-round match to Italy's Andreas Seppi, 6-4, 6-4 at Wimbledon. The Chicago born tennis player came into the Olympics with a career-high ATP ranking of World No. 38. He reached the fourth round of the 2011 US Open, which marked his first appearance in the fourth round of a major. There was high hope for him in London, but he could not overcome Seppi and his run here is over so soon. The lefty tennis player has been compared the tennis legend John McEnroe, but he has yet to get over the hump. This venue was a great stage for him.

FENCERS: Also gone is former Olympian Peter Westbrook Foundation fencer Nzingha Prescod, 19, from Brooklyn, N.Y. as she lost to Aida Mohamed of Hungary 15-10 in the opening-round. The Columbia student made a late charge but couldn’t get it done. The first-time Olympian said she was undone by nerves to a degree: “I feel like I could’ve been under better control in the beginning. I rushed too much with my feet.” It did not help that Prescod faced a 36-year-old veteran in her Olympic debut. “She’s not the ideal opponent,” Prescod said. “She’s been around a really, really long time and has so much experience.” Fellow fencer Daryl Homer, 22, finished in sixth-place after the individual round. He said: “Me being the youngest person on the team, I think I have a big future ahead of me, but it was a tough loss for me, both for our federation, for myself, for my team, for our coach. I think in a few days we’ll pick our heads up for the team event.” Homer started at age 10 within the walls of the New York Fencer’s Club under the guidance of six-time Olympian Peter Westbrook - just like Prescod - before learning the saber with the famed handler Yury Gelman. Homer, who ranked number one in the United States, said he worked hard to become first in the sport after an unimpressive childhood with the foils.

The Stanley Cup Belongs to the Kings!

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By Jon D. Gaede

BVN Staff

LOS ANGELES - Southern California, where surf culture was born, can now say they are the kings of the ice. After 45 years of waiting, the Stanley Cup belongs to Los Angeles. No more ‘endless summers‘ of wondering which players to trade away for real ones. No more explaining that LA just isn’t a hockey town. No more longing for the days of Wayne Gretsky, ‘The Great One” who raised all expectations and put the Kings deep into the finals in the 90’s. You don’t have to package or sell hockey to the 250,000 who lined the streets of downtown Loa Angeles to celebrate their cup!

They join their rivals, the Ducks of Orange County (won Cup in 2006) as the second team from Southern California to take NHL’s Stanley Cup in six years. The parade down Figueroa seemed to be as large as Laker parades of the past and certainly just as loud. Official Kings gear flew off the shelves and kiosks as fans couldn’t wait to adorn themselves with the colors of a winner, their Kings! No less than eight double decker busses carried players, family members and staff through the streets of Los Angeles and back to the Staples Center for a more intimate celebration with 18,000 of their closest fans.

Once inside Staples Center, AEG President Tim Leiweke put the celebration in perspective as he credited new coach Darryl Sutter for transforming an underachieving squad into the aggressive one that disposed of favored Vancouver in short order. Sutter’s squad reflected his understated mannerr, short on praise and delayed gratification. He has a special way to extract more and more out of his players. And that’s what they gave him. Behind the mask of keeper Jonathan Quick, the kings ran the table on Vancouver and St. Louis. They were well on the way to sweeping New Jersey until they fought back to 3-2. The Kings lost their first road playoff game at New Jersey, then returned home to win the Cup on home ice. The Kings Jonathan Quick bested opposing keeper Martin Broadeur with one incredible save after another was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoff MVP. Coach Sutter, AEG’s Tim Leiweke, Captain Dustin Brown and Quick, each expressed the desire to ‘do it again’. The Staples Center crowd roared each time. The mixture of tough veterans and dynamic youth may likely be in LA’s favor.

For the summer, the Cup will make it’s traditional journey. Each player will share personal time with it. Very unique to hockey, Lord Stanley’s Cup will be shared on airplanes, boats, trains and in the small towns of Canada and the U.S. By tradition, the Kings may engrave 45 names onto the Cup, where they will remain for 45 years. A very special tradition indeed.

With 2012 Olympics near, PBS recalls Owens’ run through America’s segregation policies

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By Leland Stein III

With the 2012 London Olympic Games on the horizon, it seems appropriate to revisit one of the great legends of the Olympic Games. Doing my usual channel surfing, I came up on a PBS documentary an “American Experience: Jesse Owens.”

Most sports aficionados, and history buffs, know of the legend of Owens; however, his compete and dehumanizing degradation delivered by America’s intense racial separation kind of got lost in the real picture of this oxymoron of a man.

Even today, over 70 years later, many Americans take pride in recalling how Owens undermined Adolf Hitler’s theory of Aryan racial superiority by winning four gold medals (100-, 200- , 4x100 meter relay, and, long jump) at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. “Jesse Owens,” directed by Laurens Grant and written by the frequent PBS collaborator Stanley Nelson (“Freedom Riders”), is an level and striking production that suffers from its shortness: about 52 minutes. There’s not much time to get below the surface, and Owens’s troubled post-Olympic life gets particularly abrupt treatment.

The triumph of this “American Experience” documentary on Owens, who died in 1980, is that it enshrined his Hitler greatness without ignoring the depressing extent to which Owens’ own country also treated him as second class.

As an Olympian in that time, he was under the authority of U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) chief Avery Brundage (an acknowledged racist), who admired Hitler and infamously replaced two Jewish sprinters on the 4-by-100 relay team because it could have further embarrassed Hitler if they won. After embarrassing Hitler in his own stadium in 1936, Brundage stripped Owens of his amateur standing, effectively depriving him of the chance to make a living from his skill. For years after the Olympics, this superb athlete was relegated to a sideshow — until finally, in 1955, President Eisenhower made him a national “goodwill ambassador” promoting the high ideals of America. However, before Eisenhower’s benevolent spirit, Owens had to race against horses and other degrading action to support his family.

Just like Joe Louis, who knocked out German champion Maximillian Adolph Otto Siegfried Schmeling, and in spite of his color became an American hero; however, like Owens it did not carryover to life in America. Louis was attacked by the IRS and it destroyed his life. Owens faired no better. But the irony of both their lives in segregated America was that they did not outwardly complain. Maybe it was the times, where many thought it was better to go along to get along. The fact of the matter is that it was life threatening to oppose the status quo. In fact, Owens in the 1968 Olympics of the African-American’s discontent with how they were being treated at home, spilled over into one of the most famous protest in USOC history, the Tommy Smith and John Carlos black gloved raise fist during the American national anthem. No matter how badly treated Owens was by the establishment, his nemesis Brundage, help recruit him to talk to the African-American athletes while at the 1968 Mexico City Olympic Games. The threat of protest was in the air and the USOC wanted Owens to help defuse it. In fact, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar brought the discontent to the forefront, by refusing to join the USOC Basketball team. With American cities smoldering in discontent and hungering for change and equal rights, the athletes ignored Owens’ cajoling, all but George Foreman, who won the heavyweight Olympic title and pranced around the ring with two American flags. He was scorned by the Black community on his return home.

Foreman told me in an interview that he was a young country boy that had no understanding of the complexity of life and the anger of his fellow African-American Olympians. He said he was just happy to be there and out of his situation at home in Houston. Carlos and Smith became the poster boys of standing up to the injustice that was permeating American society, while Foreman and Owens took on the appearance of Uncle Toms. For me Owens is an almost preternaturally graceful and heroic figure, asserting his will despite isolation and scorn even greater than Jackie Robinson had to face. But he also represents the power of segregation at that time, when a man of his caliber was so beat down he was afraid to challenge inequality face-to-face. Leland Stein can be reached at lelstein3@aol.com and Twitter at LelandSteinIII

Track & Field Elite Compete at State

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By Jon D. Gaede
BVN Staff

In CIF Track & Field’s second season, some local athletes separated themselves from the ordinary.

In a sport that requires relentless dedication and top conditioning, the reward, as in life itself, can be the pinnacle of personal achievement and satisfaction.

Among those special athletes are Margaux and Walter Jones of Redlands High School. The brother and sister act has not gone unnoticed in the southland.

Margaux bested a CIF long jump record that stood since 1976 at 19’2”. She qualified for the long jump final at Clovis and had the gold medal until the last round. Jones, just a sophomore, was able to capture third in the state with a leap of 19’4”. Of the season, Jones posted the best leap in the state with a leap of 19’7” at the Mt. SAC Relays in April.

Walter Jones, a junior at RHS, is an all around athlete. Walter competed in the 200m, long jump and triple jump at the CIF Masters meet. He qualified for both jumping events at state. In that double, Jone’s leap of 47’2” was good enough for sixth in the triple jump. In the long jump, Jones jumped 23’9” for a 9th place finish at Clovis.

San Gorgonio’s Ryan Hunter-Simms, who will attend the University of Oregon in the fall, had posted an impressive 188 foot discus throw this year. He finished in the top ten at Clovis. Hinter-Simms took fifth in the shot put with a mark of 60’10”.

Jordie Mumford, the hurdle specialist from Rancho Cucamonga high school, took third in the 300-hurdles in 42.23. She also picked up a fifth in the 100-hurdles in 14.01

In the shot put, Tanya Sapa of Riverside La Sierra posted a toss of 42’11” and Destiny Parker of Summit, a toss of 41’10”. Both top ten marks.

Notable pole vaulter Peter Chapman of Murrieta Valley H.S., the only vaulter in his league, coached by his father, won the state championship with a vault of 16’4”.

 

NBA Star Bob Boozer Gone

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By Earl Heath

One of the most fun, hard working big men in NBA history has left us. Bob Boozer was a two time All-American at Kansas State where he was one of the greatest players in school history. Boozer passed away due to a brain aneurysm last weekend. He was visiting friends in his hometown of Omaha, Nebraska when he became ill. He was 75.

“He always said that he got everything you could have ever gotten from playing basketball,” said his wife Ella. The two had been married for 46 years.

Boozer was part of the 1960 gold medal winning Olympic team. His teammates included former Laker great Jerry West, Oscar Robertson, Adrian Smith and Jerry Lucas. They all were enshrined into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2010. I caught up with Boozer before his death at the Mohegan Sun where the dinner took place. He was joking and laughing with many of his teammates. During the run for the gold the team won eight games by an average of 42 points.

Ten players on that team went on to play in the NBA. Boozer was the number one pick in the 1959 draft. He went on to average 14 points, 8 rebounds a game for six different pro teams including the Los Angeles Lakers in 1965-1966 season

He won the NBA championship in 1971 with the Milwaukee Bucks. His teamates included two former UCLA Bruins Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (Lew Alcindor and Lucious Allen.

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