Meghan Musnicki, poetic pride of Naples, is veteran leader of dominant U.S. women’s eight

Meghan Musnicki
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When Meghan Musnicki returned home to Naples, N.Y., after winning 2012 Olympic rowing women’s eight gold, she was feted with a congratulatory banner, a parade and a poem.

“I rode in the back of a convertible, and my nana got put in a Camaro and was driven down the center of Main Street,” Musnicki said.

The town’s poet laureate, Hank Ranney, read to Musnicki in front of a good chunk of the 2,500 natives of Naples in western New York.

Here’s what he said:

Meghan Musnicki, now that’s a name to remember.
A 2012 Olympic team member.
That’s a time in her life she’ll never forget
and neither will we. On this you can bet.

Yes, you and your team set out on a quest,
and you got the Gold Medal, proving you were the best.
Your friends and family are so proud of you
and we’re honored to share this moment with you.

You competed so all of the world could see,
representing your country…our land of the free.
So cherish those moments. They’re yours to behold.
We’re proud of you girl. You got the GOLD!!

 

Naples may have to prepare another ceremony next year.

Musnicki, 32, was the lone member of the 2012 Olympic eight crew who made the team for this past summer’s World Championships. In fact, she’s made five straight World Championships teams in the event dating to 2010.

Musnicki is part of one of the most dominant teams in U.S. Olympic history. The women’s eight has won 10 straight global titles — the last two Olympics and every World Championship starting with 2006.

“A lot of the younger athletes, I’ll recommend that they go talk to Meghan,” U.S. women’s coach Tom Terhaar said.

That’s because Musnicki was cut three times from the U.S. rowing team before her Olympic debut, the last failure in 2009.

“It was made totally clear to her that if she doesn’t improve, she’s not going to make it,” Terhaar said.

So Musnicki poured every last drop into her training and came back that fall for a 6000m erg test, a rowing machine drill that takes a little more than 20 minutes for elite women. The work Musnicki had put in since that third cut would show in her final time.

“I wanted to make sure that I had given it everything I could possibly give it. So if, in fact, it didn’t happen, I could walk away from it saying I gave it everything I can,” Musnicki said. “It’s hugely a team sport, but in order to get yourself onto the team, you have to be able to ask from yourself more than you’ve ever asked.”

The result? Musnicki chopped 30 seconds off her previous personal best.

“That was the moment where I was like, OK, this kid did do the work,” Terhaar said.

Musnicki hasn’t missed a team since, living and training in Princeton, N.J. She was part of the eight crew that repeated as Olympic champion in London and could be the only returning Olympian on the 2016 team, should she keep her streak going next year.

Mary Whipple, the 2004, 2008 and 2012 Olympic coxswain now retired, said Musnicki told her during the second week of the London Games that her eyes were set on Rio 2016.

“There’s nothing going to hold her back, barring injury,” Whipple said.

Musnicki grew up competing in other team sports in Naples (where she is one of two notable past residents on the town’s Wikipedia page) and was a basketball player as a freshman at St. Lawrence University in upstate New York when a coach suggested she row.

Musnicki, a lover of Naples’ staple grape pies and Christian Louboutin designer shoes, evolved to help earn two Division III national titles at Ithaca College, where she transferred to be closer to her mom in Naples following her father’s death due to a heart attack when she was a freshman at St. Lawrence.

Like her hometown, Ithaca College brought Musnicki back and had her wear that Olympic gold medal in front of a large crowd.

Musnicki draped the medal over a black robe during a 17-minute commencement address to 1,398 graduates on May 18, celebrating 10 years since her graduation.

“What on earth could I, a 32-year-old from Naples, New York, who has spent the last seven years living in what can only be described as a bubble of non-reality while training for the Olympics, possibly tell you about what life has in store for you?” she said while standing at a podium, outside, at the school’s football field.

Musnicki delivered a speech highlighting four points.

  1. Set a goal, make a plan, but be willing to change it (Musnicki originally wanted to become a nurse practitioner)
  2. Fail, a lot
  3. Exercise (the gratitude muscle)
  4. Stay in the moment

Musnicki then led the graduates in a drill — complete silence for 30 seconds, the same period of time that in 2009 proved to Terhaar she belonged on the team.

“Didn’t that seem like a lifetime?” she told the graduates after the half-minute was up.

MORE RIO 2016: Daily events to watch at the Olympics

U.S. women win record 27th consecutive FIBA World Cup game

USA Basketball
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SYDNEY — There’s been a long legacy of success for the U.S. women’s basketball team at the World Cup.

The names change over time, but the results don’t seem to.

Kelsey Plum scored 20 points, Chelsea Gray added 16 and the United States routed Bosnia and Herzegovina 121-59 on Tuesday to break the team record for consecutive wins at the World Cup.

The victory was the 27th in a row in World Cup play for the Americans, who haven’t lost since the 2006 semifinals against Russia. The U.S. won 26 in a row from 1994-2006 leading up to that game. The Soviet Union holds the World Cup record with 56 straight wins from 1959-86.

“It’s kind of amazing,” said Breanna Stewart, who has been part of the last three World Cup teams. “Obviously, been here for some of it, but you understand the legends before that who really kind of started the streak. It goes to show that no matter who is playing on USA Basketball, we’re always trying to chase excellence.

“This streak doesn’t mean much right now because we’re going into the quarterfinals and focusing on winning a gold medal, but it’s something to kind of hang your hat on later.”

What started with Sue Bird, Diana Taurasi and Sylvia Fowles has now been passed on to Stewart and A’ja Wilson. A legacy of excellence that doesn’t appear it will end anytime soon.

“The players change and, you know, there was a lot of concern about who’s next,” U.S. coach Cheryl Reeve said. “It was a concern when Dawn Staley and Lisa Leslie were playing and who was going to be next. Then it was Sue and (Taurasi) and then other great players, too. Now with this group they are saying, hey, we’re pretty good, too.”

MORE: FIBA World Cup Schedule, Results

After going unbeaten in pool play again, the U.S. hasn’t lost a game prior to the semifinals since 1983.

“We know the responsibility when you put on this jersey. There’s a lot more than yourself,” Plum said. “Everyone puts pride to the side. We have a common goal. We have some amazing players on this team.”

The Americans (5-0) won their pool games by an average of 46.2 points and never trailed in any of them. Now they will wait to see who they draw in the quarterfinals.

The U.S. was coming off a record rout of South Korea in which the team broke the World Cup record for points with 145. While the Americans didn’t match that number, they put the game out of reach in the first 10 minutes, going up 33-15.

The lead ballooned to 63-31 at halftime. Bosnia and Herzegovina put together a small run to start the third quarter, but the U.S. scored the final 19 points of the period.

Once again they used a dominant inside performance, outscoring Bosnia and Herzegovina 84-28 in the paint led by Wilson, Stewart and Brionna Jones.

“It’s a huge part of our identity,” Reeve said. “Ninety-whatever we had yesterday and 84 today, we just know what we’re good at and we have players that are really understanding their opportunities for that.”

The U.S. was missing Jewell Loyd, whom the team said was resting. Kahleah Copper started in her place and finished with 11 points.

Nikolina Elez scored 19 points to lead the Bosniaks (0-5), who were playing in their first World Cup.

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2022 FIBA Women’s World Cup schedule, results

FIBA Women's World Cup
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The U.S. goes for its fourth consecutive title at the FIBA World Cup in Sydney — and eighth global gold in a row overall when including the Olympics.

A’ja Wilson, a two-time WNBA MVP, and Breanna Stewart, the Tokyo Olympic MVP, headline a U.S. roster that, for the first time since 2000, includes neither Sue Bird (retired) nor Diana Taurasi (injured).

The new-look team includes nobody over the age of 30 for the first time since 1994, before the U.S. began its dynasty at the 1996 Atlanta Games. The Americans have won 52 consecutive games between worlds and the Olympics dating to the 2006 Worlds bronze-medal game.

The field also includes host Australia, the U.S.’ former primary rival, and Olympic silver medalist Japan.

Nigeria, which played the U.S. the closest of any foe in Tokyo (losing by nine points), isn’t present after its federation withdrew the team over governance issues. Spain, ranked second in the world, failed to qualify.

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2022 FIBA Women’s World Cup Schedule

Date Time (ET) Game Round
Wed., Sept. 21 8:30 p.m. Puerto Rico 82, Bosnia and Herzegovina 58 Group A
9:30 p.m. USA 87, Belgium 72 Group A
11 p.m. Canada 67, Serbia 60 Group B
Thurs., Sept. 22 12 a.m. Japan 89, Mali 56 Group B
3:30 a.m. China 107, South Korea 44 Group A
6:30 a.m. France 70, Australia 57 Group B
8:30 p.m. USA 106, Puerto Rico 42 Group A
10 p.m. Serbia 69, Japan 64 Group B
11 p.m. Belgium 84, South Korea 61 Group A
Fri., Sept. 23 12:30 a.m. China 98, Bosnia and Herzegovina 51 Group A
4 a.m. Canada 59, France 45 Group B
6:30 a.m. Australia 118, Mali 58 Group B
Sat., Sept. 24 12:30 a.m. USA 77, China 63 Group A
4 a.m. South Korea 99, Bosnia and Herzegovina 66 Group A
6:30 a.m. Belgium 68, Puerto Rico 65 Group A
Sun., Sept. 25 12:30 a.m. France 74, Mali 59 Group B
4 a.m. Australia 69, Serbia 54 Group B
6:30 a.m. Canada 70, Japan 56 Group B
9:30 p.m. Belgium 85, Bosnia and Herzegovina 55 Group A
11:30 p.m. Serbia 81, Mali 68 Group B
Mon., Sept. 26 12 a.m. USA 145, South Korea 69 Group A
2 a.m. France 67, Japan 53 Group B
3:30 a.m. China 95, Puerto Rico 60 Group A
6:30 a.m. Australia 75, Canada 72 Group B
9:30 p.m. Puerto Rico 92, South Korea 73 Group A
11:30 p.m. China 81, Belgium 55 Group A
Tues., Sept. 27 12 a.m. USA 121, Bosnia and Herzegovina 59 Group A
2 a.m. Canada 88, Mali 65 Group B
3:30 a.m. Serbia 68, France 62 Group B
6:30 a.m. Australia vs. Japan Group B
Wed., Sept. 28 10 p.m. Quarterfinal
Thurs., Sept. 29 12:30 a.m. Quarterfinal
4 a.m. Quarterfinal
6:30 a.m. Quarterfinal
Fri., Sept. 30 3 .m. Semifinal
5:30 a.m. Semifinal
11 p.m. Third-Place Game
Sat., Oct. 1 2 a.m. Final