Landon Donovan and the Olympics

Landon Donovan
0 Comments

Landon Donovan became an Olympian before the first of his three World Cups, first of his 57 senior international goals and first of his 156 U.S. Men’s National Team caps.

Donovan, then 18 and blond-haired, was the youngest member of the 2000 U.S. Olympic men’s soccer team that finished fourth at the Sydney Games. Olympic men’s soccer is for players age 23 and younger, with three over-age exceptions.

He flew to Australia with a pedigree, having won the Golden Ball as MVP of the 1999 FIFA Under-17 World Championship, where the U.S. was also fourth.

Donovan did not play in the first two U.S. Olympic matches, draws with the Czech Republic and Cameroon, which led fans, including Donovan’s father, to criticize coach Clive Charles.

“We need to get him some experience without the press saying, ‘Why isn’t he playing?'” Charles told The New York Times. “My job is to find the best time to play him.”

Donovan was dubbed the “18-year-old wonder” by the New York Daily News.

“Donovan sat Wednesday, for 90 minutes plus injury time, because Charles didn’t think he was ready for the pressure,” the newspaper reported after the Czech Republic match.

Donovan debuted in the third match, coming off the bench and scoring on a give-and-go with future World Cup teammate Josh Wolff in a 3-1 win over Kuwait in the group-stage finale.

View the goal here, along with the great Andres Cantor‘s signature call. Cantor yelled “Goallllllllllllll!” for 14 seconds, and then again for 10 seconds, as Donovan leaped over signage and sprinted toward the stands.

“We all expected to get through our group,” Donovan reportedly said after the win. “U.S. Soccer’s not at a point anymore where they’re saying, ‘Let’s try to get a win here and pull off a win there.'”

It was the beginning of Donovan growing into the spotlight. He was under contract with Bayer Leverkusen in the German Bundesliga at the time, one year before debuting in MLS. From the Philadelphia Inquirer:

Landon Donovan was on stage at a news conference in the bowels of the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Tuesday after the U.S, team had defeated Kuwait to advance to the single-elimination portion of the Olympic men’s soccer tournament.

His teammates were on the other side of a barrier, hooting and whistling. Ben Olsen mimicked applying lipstick.

A lot of American soccer fans, desperate for a real hero in their sport, can’t wait to anoint this 18-year-old who plays professionally in Germany as the one.

His teammates treat him a little differently.

“Superstar?” Olsen said when asked about Donovan. “Oh, yeah. We’re going to give it to ‘Superstar’ until he’s 21. He’s got a couple more years of this.”

Donovan also converted his penalty kick in a shootout win over Japan in the quarterfinals. If the U.S. had won either of its last two matches, Donovan would be an Olympic medalist. But it fell to Spain (with a 20-year-old Xavi) in the semifinals and Chile in the bronze-medal match.

The U.S.’ only Olympic men’s soccer medals came at the St. Louis 1904 Games, when all participants won medals as only three club teams from Canada and the U.S. competed.

Tim Howard was also on the 2000 U.S. Olympic team but did not see a minute of game action as a backup to 2002 U.S. World Cup star Brad Friedel.

Donovan earned his first USMNT cap and scored his first senior international goal in the same match less than a month after they Sydney Games, embarking on what many are hailing as the greatest U.S. men’s soccer career of all time ahead of his farewell match Friday night against Ecuador in Hartford, Conn.

The U.S. failed to qualify for Olympic men’s soccer in 2004 and 2012, and Donovan was not one of the over-age players on the Beijing 2008 team that was eliminated in the group stage.

Photos: Sochi Olympic Park ready for Formula One race (photos)

Japanese pair edges Americans for historic Grand Prix Final figure skating title

Riku Miura, Ryuichi Kihara
Getty
0 Comments

Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara won the biggest title ever for a Japanese figure skating pair, taking the Grand Prix Final and consolidating their status as the world’s top active team.

Miura and Kihara, last season’s world silver medalists, barely outscored world champions Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier in Turin, Italy, in both Thursday’s short program and Friday’s free skate to win the six-pair event that is a preview of March’s worlds.

The Japanese totaled 214.58 points, distancing the Americans by a mere 1.3 points after Frazier erred on both of their side-by-side jumping passes in the free skate. Italians Sara Conti and Niccolo Macii took bronze.

“We had a very late start to our season than initially planned, so as we have been performing at each event, I see us getting stronger, improving things,” said Frazier, who with Knierim had their best short program and free skate scores of the autumn.

Knierim and Frazier didn’t decide to continue competing together this season until July.

“I feel a little personally disappointed tonight just for myself for my jumps,” Frazier continued. “I was a little all over the place and, normally, I can execute better, so I feel a little bad, but I’m very proud of us overall. We’ve done a great job of improving each competition and looking forward to the second half of the season where we can start tapping into our best skating.”

GRAND PRIX FINAL: Results | Broadcast Schedule

Miura and Kihara, who partnered in June 2019 and train in Ontario, both waited with trepidation for their final score to be posted, worried that each’s separate mistake on jumps might cost them the title. When they learned they won, both burst into tears.

“This was the first time in eight years that I made a mistake with a Salchow, so I thought we might not get a good score, and it would be my fault,” Kihara said.

Miura and Kihara entered the competition ranked No. 1 in the world by best scores this season ahead of Knierim and Frazier, who in March became the first U.S. pair to win a world title since 1979.

Last season, Miura and Kihara became the second Japanese pair to make a Grand Prix podium and to earn a world championships medal. Their ascension helped Japan win its first Olympic figure skating team event medal in February (a bronze that could be upgraded to gold pending the Kamila Valiyeva case).

In Grand Prix Final history, Japan had won 11 gold medals and 40 total medals, all in singles, before this breakthrough.

Knierim and Frazier, already the first U.S. pair to compete in the Grand Prix Final since 2015, became the first U.S. pair to win a Grand Prix Final medal. The Final has been held annually since 1996, though it was canceled the last two seasons due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Miura and Kihara and Knierim and Frazier ascended to the top of the sport while the top five teams from the Olympics from Russia and China have not competed internationally since the Winter Games.

All Russian skaters are ineligible for international competition due to the war in Ukraine. China’s pairs, including Olympic champions Sui Wenjing and Han Cong, didn’t enter last March’s worlds and did not compete in the fall Grand Prix Series.

Later Friday, world champion Kaori Sakamoto of Japan led the women’s short program with 75.86 points, 1.28 ahead of countrywoman Mai Mihara. American Isabeau Levito, the 15-year-old world junior champion, was fifth of six skaters in her Grand Prix Final debut.

Canadians Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier topped the rhythm dance with 85.93 points, edging Americans Madison Chock and Evan Bates by .44. Both couples are bidding for the biggest international title of their careers. None of the Olympic medalists competed internationally this fall.

The Grand Prix Final ends Saturday with the men’s and women’s free skates and free dance, all live on Peacock.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

A Winter Olympic medal still being decided, 10 months later

Fanny Smith, Daniela Maier
It's still unknown whether Fanny Smith (green) or Daniela Maier (blue) is the Olympic ski cross bronze medalist. (Getty)
0 Comments

There is a second Winter Olympic medal result still in question, 10 months after the Games.

While the figure skating team event results are still unknown due to the Kamila Valiyeva case, the bronze medal in women’s ski cross is also in dispute.

Originally, Swiss Fanny Smith crossed the finish line in third place in the four-woman final at the Winter Games in February. Upon review by the International Ski Federation (FIS) jury, she was minutes later demoted to fourth place after making contact with German Daniela Maier near the end of the course. Maier, who originally was fourth, was upgraded to bronze.

“I tried to be OK with the fourth place. I was very disappointed, I have to say, [then] the jury was like this,” Maier said then. “I am really sorry for Fanny that it’s like this right now. … The jury decided like this, so accept it and be happy with the medal.”

Smith and the Swiss ski federation appealed. FIS reinstated Smith as the bronze medalist nine days after the race and six days after the Closing Ceremony. A FIS appeals commission met four times and reviewed video and written documentation for several hours before deciding that “the close proximity of the racers at that moment resulted in action that was neither intentional or avoidable.”

But that wasn’t the end. The case ended up reportedly going to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), whose rulings are usually accepted as final. The CAS process is ongoing, European media reported this week.

CAS has not responded to a request for comment. A FIS contact said Friday, “There is currently no update to provide in regards to the bronze medal in ski cross. Should there be any update, we will inform you.”

Smith said there should be news soon regarding the case, according to Blick.

Maier still has the bronze medal at her home and enjoys looking at it, according to German media, which also reported that the German ski federation expects Maier to win the case and keep the medal. Smith and Maier spoke extensively about it in recent training sessions and cleared things up. Maier said the best outcome would be bronze medals for both of them, according to the report.

For now, FIS lists Smith as the bronze medalist. The IOC lists Maier as the bronze medalist.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!