USA Win Over Canada In Football : Andy Murray Beats Roger Federer For Gold : Jenn Suhr Gold in Pole Vault : aforadio.com
Posted in Sports on 07. Aug, 2012
Alex Morgan’s Last-Second Goal Gives U.S. The Win Over A Bitter Canada
They fought for 128 minutes, stoppage time included, and fight isn’t just some word here. The American and Canadian women’s soccer teams clawed and pulled and kicked and battled, ferocious and physical, back and forth, just perfect for a now-heated rivalry with a shot at women’s soccer gold on the line.
Canada led three times. The United States caught up three times. And now it was in the final 30 seconds of stoppage time of the final overtime period, tie game and a ball flying from the foot of American Heather O’Reilly toward the front of the Canadian net.
Up went Alex Morgan, the USA forward, toward a ball she simply decided she had to have, as if life depended on it.
“I just tried to get my head on it,” Morgan would say later.
Which she did, just enough of it anyway, to redirect it over Canadian goalkeeper Erin McLeod and into the back of the net. In the history of American women’s soccer, this was the latest goal ever scored. Just seconds remained after Morgan’s header, but those hardly mattered. The U.S. had a 4-3 semifinal victory and a date Thursday against Japan in the gold-medal match.
“I can’t recall ever feeling this way after scoring a goal,” said Morgan, who after the final whistle blew wound up on the bottom of a pig pile where teammate Abby Wambach expressed her gratitude for the game-saving goal and Morgan wondered if, for the first time ever, she might just start crying on a soccer field.
(Later she would.)
“Moments like this are what make sports so cool,” Wambach said.
Cool isn’t how the Canadians saw it. They’d played their hearts out, attacking the Americans physically, riding a hat trick from a brilliant Christine Sinclair, standing up and trying to show their international powerhouse neighbors to the South that they too could win on the world stage – all right here in Old Trafford, where the legendary Manchester United Club calls home, dubbed years ago the “Theater of Dreams.”
One dream fulfilled. One crushed.
Canada didn’t see Morgan’s goal as some glorious moment. They saw it as the result of crooked refereeing, courtesy of Norway’s Christiana Pedersen, who they believed delivered call after call to the chosen team of the Olympics.
The Americans. The golden girls. The ones the establishment always favors.
“We feel like we didn’t lose,” Sinclair said. “We feel like it was taken from us. It’s a shame in a game like that, which is so important that the ref decided the result before the game started.”
The Canadians will list off a million indignities in building their case for predetermined match fixing, but their chief complaint came in the 80th minute. They held a 3-2 lead. They were 10 minutes from a shocking upset – from achieving what they worked toward all these years, beating the United States.
McLeod, the goalkeeper, dove to the ground to get the ball. It took a couple seconds to get up and then she held the ball for a few more seconds. Out of nowhere came a whistle for delay of game. The goalkeeper can only hold a ball for six seconds.
McLeod was stunned. She didn’t believe she was purposely delaying the game and hadn’t been directly warned by Pedersen. Even American keeper Hope Solo said a warning is commonplace. There had simply been a general warning from a linesman at halftime, McLeod said.
“The referee said I had the ball for 10 seconds,” McLeod said. “She, obviously counted the time when I was on the ground with the ball. Once I got to my feet, I calculated I only had the ball five seconds.”
The Canadians went nuts, seeking an explanation.
“[Pedersen] actually giggled and said nothing,” Sinclair said with anger. “Classy.”
The Americans were awarded an indirect kick inside the Canadian box. They blasted it at the net and it resulted in a somewhat inadvertent handball. The U.S. was awarded a penalty kick.
“Very harsh,” McLeod called that decision.
Wambach stepped up, put it in a corner and the United States had come back for a third time. They had life again. Eventually Morgan would win it, out-leaping an exhausted Canadian defense that had expended everything holding off a more talented opponent. It was a final moment Canada believed never should’ve occurred, although there were no guarantees the U.S. wouldn’t have scored a different way in the final 10 minutes of regulation.
“We feel like we got robbed in this game,” McLeod said. “We outplayed the Americans for the entire game.”
The Americans saw it differently – completely differently – and this is where the war of words got as nasty as the scrums in front of the net. The U.S. players claimed the Canadians resorted to overly physical play because they lack skill and weren’t in the same physical condition.
“I don’t think they were a fit as we were,” Morgan said. “I saw them on the ground more. … [My goal] was the last second of the game, it was about who is the fittest, who is the strongest, and we showed that.”
Wambach brushed off complaints about the ref as a loser’s lament and said it was in line with the relentless talking Canadian coach John Herdman did in the build-up to the game about how the Americans use “illegal tactics” such as setting picks on set plays.
“I feel like you can’t blame something on a referee,” Wambach said.
Oh, and there was even more. Sinclair scored three times, a near one-woman offense show. The final were two headers. She was brilliant. Correct?
“We made her look good,” Solo said. “We didn’t win those air battles.”
On and on it went, no one giving a quarter or a compliment. The postgame media mixed zone was a reflection of how the game was played, a fresh new rivalry for the Americans, backyard variety now.
And for all the knockdowns and drag outs, there was sensational offensive play. In one second-half stretch, five goals were scored in 25 minutes, each team alternating in this frenetic fight, Sinclair and the USA’s Megan Rapinoe taking turns topping each other. A crowd of about 25,000, many locals used to seeing the greatness of Wayne Rooney and David Beckham in this stadium, roared as the play grew in intensity.
“They scored and we scored and you could see the rivalry,” Morgan said. “They wanted it and we wanted it.”
Across two hours of chippy action and deflating moments and everyone screaming at the ref, Morgan kept trying to maintain her poise by going back to a pregame conversation with her coach, Pia Sundhage.
They stood on this historic pitch and looked around and Pia kept repeating the same thing.
“She said, ‘Remember one thing, promise yourself one thing: Remember this moment,’ ” Morgan recalled.
So there was that final ball, that final cross, sailing through the air. This game was a fight. Heated. Angry. High stakes. The Americans were desperate for a 2011 World Cup rematch with Japan. Now here was a pesky Canadian team that wouldn’t go away.
With penalty kicks looming, a golden dream hanging in the balance, there came that one last floating cross.
Alex Morgan wanted it the very most.
“I just wanted to beat Canada so bad.”
Alex Morgan won’t have any trouble remembering a moment that Canada may never be able to forget.
Andy Murray Beats Roger Federer For Olympic Gold Medal; Thrills Hometown With Haunted Past
About 400 miles north of London, a pretty little town with a tragic past celebrated the finest hour of its favorite son on Sunday.
Andy Murray’s magnificent victory over Roger Federer to clinch the Olympic men’s tennis gold medal is the highlight of a career that is so far devoid of a Grand Slam title but is now adorned with something that might mean even more to him.
And while Murray climbed up into the stands to celebrate with his coaching staff and family, the town of Dunblane was – in the best possible way – going absolutely nuts.
“It has been unbelievable,” bartender John Marr, who was working a shift at the popular Village Inn pub, told Yahoo! Sports by phone. “People have been singing and dancing and celebrating like you wouldn’t believe. Everyone is proud of him; it is a magical moment.”
Murray has a dry yet infectious sense of humor and is one of the more popular players on the ATP tour. Yet he harbors the pain of an awful past, one that, while not a secret, is a subject he is loath to discuss. Dunblane was changed forever on the morning of March 13, 1996, when 43-year-old Thomas Hamilton burst into the local primary school with four handguns and opened fire into several classrooms packed with children aged between 5 and 11.
Murray, then 8 years old, and his brother Jamie were both students at the school and hid in the gymnasium with other children as Hamilton went on a rampage. The carnage ended with Hamilton’s suicide, but not before he had claimed the lives of 16 children and a female teacher. The horror shocked the entire nation and is sometimes called “Britain’s Columbine.”
Apart from mentioning in his autobiography that he attended a youth group run by Hamilton, and that his mother Judy had offered the man lifts in her car, Murray rarely discusses the topic. However, it is believed by many that when Murray looks to the skies after the most significant of his victories he is remembering the victims.
“I think deep within him he did want to do something to put Dunblane on the map for the right reasons, not the wrong reasons,” Murray’s grandmother Shelley Erskine said. “Here was a village that was famous for its deaths. Gradually we have become famous for something else.”
Dunblane has waited for Murray to find glory ever since he burst through into tennis’s top ranks as a teenager. Four Grand Slam final defeats, three of them to Federer, were as painful for them as they were for the 25-year-old. The most recent, at Wimbledon 28 days ago, saw the emotion spill out as Murray shed tears while he was interviewed on Centre Court.
Yet on Sunday he was back, returning to the same arena against the same opponent, and rewrote the story.
Federer was a little off, perhaps drained somewhat from his remarkable semifinal against Argentina’s Juan Martin del Potro, who beat Novak Djokovic to clinch the bronze medal on Sunday. The Swiss master had to dig deep to pull out his semifinal victory with a 19-17 third set. Forty-eight hours later, he lacked the usual sap in his legs and sting on his shots.
It may not have made any difference, though. Murray played the match of his life in front of a crowd the likes of which Wimbledon has never seen before. Forget the typically genteel environment in this quaint part of west London. On this afternoon, the revelers resembled a soccer crowd instead of an afternoon tea party.
Murray hit Federer like a sledgehammer, bursting into an early lead and never letting his stranglehold on the match slip. He tore through the opening set, winning it 6-2, with Federer struggling to find an answer to his crushing ground strokes.
When Federer let slip a swath of break points early in the second set, it gave Murray even more confidence. He cruised to a 6-1 victory and moved within touching distance of the gold medal. The third set was closer. Federer was tired, but there was no way a man who had won a Grand Slam on these hallowed lawns on seven different occasions was going to give in without a fight. The critical moment came when Murray broke Federer then served out the contest with impressive composure.
“I played a really good match,” said Murray, who was attempting to go for a second gold less than an hour later when he partnered with Laura Robson in the mixed doubles final. “That is No.1 for me, the biggest win of my life. It is a sweet feeling, incredible.
“This was a lot of fun. It is a lot better winning a final than losing one. I didn’t expect this at the start of the week, though I knew I had a chance to go deep. I felt so fresh, I didn’t feel nervous really. It was worth it. I’ve had a lot of tough losses in my career, but this is the best way to come back from the Wimbledon final.”
Whatever this means for Murray’s career remains to be seen, but this was an afternoon that will never be forgotten. Not by him, nor the jubilant British public – and especially not by the town that rejoices in this glorious victory, 16 years after its darkest hour.
With Boost From Husband, U.S. Pole Vaulter Jenn Suhr Takes Gold In Olympic Upset
Four years later, the Olympic exchange between Jenn Suhr and her coach was completely different.
Tears of joy. Celebratory hugs. There will be no Internet controversy following this one.
On a blustery, treacherous night for pole vaulting, Suhr endured the swirling wind conditions and prevailed over Russian legend Yelena Isinbayeva – an upset of epic proportion, in the estimation of Suhr’s coach and husband, Rick.
“Isinbayeva is the most dominant athlete in any sport, in my opinion,” Rick Suhr said of the two-time Olympic champion. “She’s that good.”
Said Jenn Suhr: “When Yelena is in the field, you know the bar is risen, literally and figuratively.”
Amid conditions Isinbayeva described as “terrible,” she was only good enough for bronze. Cuban upstart Yarisley Silva won silver. And Suhr, who was Jenn Stuczynski while winning a silver medal in Beijing in 2008, enjoyed the golden moment she missed then.
Back then, NBC cameras and microphones captured a seemingly harsh exchange between Rick Suhr and Stuczynski after her runner-up finish to Isinbayeva. Suhr was critical of her vaults and her takeoff speed, among other things. His closing comment wasn’t exactly glowing, either.
“Hey,” he said. “It’s a silver medal. Not bad for someone who’s been jumping for four years.”
That prompted a torrent of criticism of Suhr from viewers who were watching at home. He was bombarded with angry emails, and Stuczynski was urged by complete strangers to fire her coach.
Stuczynski said at the time that the exchange was taken completely out of context. She said she had asked Suhr what she did wrong, and he was merely telling her. She said she wasn’t angry with her coach at all. In fact, she up and married the guy less than 18 months later.
After surviving that firestorm, Rick Suhr sounded like a coach/husband who felt vindicated Monday night.
“I took a big hit in ‘08,” he said. “I took it hard. I took a beating all the way to my personal family and friends. I think today I can say I coach the way I coach and we jump the way we jump, and it turns out pretty good.
“We are completely dependent on each other for our success. … I believe in Jenn completely and Jenn believes in me completely. I think after tonight, a lot more people will believe that.”
From quarreling coach and athlete to hugging husband and wife, it’s been an eventful four years for the Suhr.
It is, at the very least, a unique relationship. Jenn Suhr said they had to learn to leave pole vaulting behind when training hours were over, and to be husband and wife away from the job.
“When pole vaulting is done for the day,” she said, “we leave it there.”
The place they leave it is a facility on their property in western New York – a steel Quonset hut that Jenn Suhr calls, “Rocky’s meat locker.” She described it as a “cold, gray, worn-out” building, with an uphill runway and an uneven box for landing the pole in.
“There’s a lot of blood, sweat and tears I’ve put in there,” Jenn Suhr said. “I wouldn’t trade it. It’s not perfect conditions, but it’s home.”
Training in less-than-perfect conditions turned out to be the perfect preparation for this London competition.
The vaulters got a dose of British Open conditions – winds rising and falling, coming from different directions. That can leave a golfer guessing about which club to use on every swing, and it can leave a pole vaulter guessing which pole to use – and which take-off mark – on every attempt.
“That was the hardest stadium I ever saw,” Rick Suhr said.
The end result was a winning height of 4.8 meters that was nearly a foot lower than Isinbayeva cleared in Beijing. And it came down to who would have the fewest misses. Isinbayeva had an early miss at 4.55 meters that ultimately was the difference.
“It was an absolute strategy battle,” Rick Suhr said. “I got ahead of [Isinbayeva's coach] and I stayed ahead of him.”
Rick Suhr also provided his wife with a key motivational boost Monday before the competition began. He told her five words he has never said prior to a meet:
“You’re going to win this.”
Why say it now?
“I think he felt the momentum I felt coming into this competition,” Jenn said. “I was training so well.”
Rick concurred. He said he nearly cried on the flight to London, thinking that his oft-injured wife’s health had held up and led to improved training and runway speed.
That confidence, combined with Isinbayeva’s own injury-shortened preparation, meant that the opportunity was never better to break through and beat the world’s best for gold. But those heightened expectations, combined with the difficult weather conditions, led to a spike in anxiety Monday night.
“It was kind of like being on a boat,” Rick said. “Whether we hit water or land, I just wanted to be off the boat. There was so much pressure.”
After Isinbayeva went out, it came down to a final jump by Silva to decide the gold medal. When she missed, the victory was Suhr’s.
“I’ve felt so much pressure relieved,” Jenn said. “And so much excitement and joy, all at once.”
And Jenn Suhr got to share that joy afterward with her husband. A very different Olympic moment between the two than America saw four years ago.