Leland Stein III

Posts Tagged ‘London’

USA Women dominate 2012 London Olympics

In sports column on January 14, 2013 at 12:19 am

MBy Leland Stein III

LONDON – Triumph and tragedy. Stars were born, and legends were toppled. But in the end the superstars were indeed super.

The 2012 London Olympic Games, lived up to the hype and even more. What makes the Olympic Games so intriguing and captivating is that it happens only once every four years.

Just think an Olympic athlete has to peak at every four years. There is no room for mistakes and/or I‘ll get it done next year attitude if an athlete has a bad day – simply put there is no tomorrow. In the sports genre . . . the Games are the ultimate do it now or never opportunity for many.

Gold Medal winning USA 4x400-meter relay (l to r , Allyson Felix, Deedee Trotter, Sanya Richards-Ross, and Francena McCorory.

Gold Medal winning USA 4×400-meter relay (l to r , Allyson Felix, Deedee Trotter, Sanya Richards-Ross, and Francena McCorory.

Sure there are always a few superstar men and women that have the gift of ability, tenacity, courage, commitment and single mindedness that are all necessary to just compete in the Games let along win more than one title.

Well, superstar swimmer Michael Phelps become the most decorated Olympian of all time with 22 medals. Phelps also holds the all-time records for Olympic gold medals (18, double that of the next highest record holders). In the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, Phelps won four golds and two silver medals.

Maybe even greater was the effort of Jamaican phenomenon sprinter Usain Bolt. He made himself a true legend of sport with his unprecedented second gold triple triple – winning the 100-, 200- and 4×100-meter relay.

The 25-year-old Bolt in the face of stronger competitors than in Beijing, unleashed that intrinsic determination and drive that only a superior athlete processes.

London famous Tower Bridge. - Jon Gaede photo

London famous Tower Bridge. – Jon Gaede photo

USA gymnast Gabby Douglas, 17, became the first African-American to win the all-around Olympic gymnastics title in London. She later was chosen The Associated Press female athlete of the year. Her autobiography, “Grace, Gold and Glory,” became No. 4 on the New York Times’ young adult list. She, along with here gold medal teammates recently completed a 40-city gymnastics tour, in which she got to meet President Barack Obama.

Another women’s star that rocked the sports world was Serena Williams. She won Wimbledon, the U.S. Open and the London Games two years after her career was nearly derailed by health problems. She and her sister Venus won their third Olympic doubles title and she also won her first single’s gold medal.

Also high on my memory list is how the American women rocked the Olympic Games. Douglas and her gymnastics squad won the team gold medal. Swimmers Missy Franklin and Allison Schmitt were multiple golden. There were track and field stars Allyson Felix and Sanya Richards-Ross that chewed up the track.

Gabby Douglas. Leland Stein III photo

Gabby Douglas. Leland Stein III photo

One of my favorite athletes had to have been the 800-meter runner from Kenya, David Rudisha, who set a world record in winning the gold medal. I have never seen anyone with a more beautiful stride and running gait.

Also with the Games being in London, being in the stadium to witness Great Britain’s Mo Farah win the 10,000- and 5000-meters in thrilling style, as well as watching British darling Jessica Enis win the heptathlon . . . at both events if there had been a roof on the stadium it would have come off as 80,000 people roared both to victory while waving the Union Jack.

The Olympics are a celebration of humanity and people, where for close to a month all of this earth’s brothers and sisters come together in a friendly spirit of competition that challenges not only their opponent, but themselves and us to keep the spirit of peaceful integrated humanity alive.

Leland Stein can be reached at lelstein3@aol.com or Twitter at LelandSteinIII

 

USA Boxing down and struggling

In sports column on September 5, 2012 at 5:15 pm

 

Clarissa Shields and Michigan Chronicle, sports editor, Leland Stein III in London at the USA House after her gold medal victory.

Ali, Frazier, Foreman, De la Hoya, Patterson and now Shields all have succeeded at Olympic Games.

By Leland Stein III

LONDON – US men’s Olympic boxers have won a record 108 medals. But since David Reid took gold at Atlanta in 1996, only one US man — Andre Ward, in 2004 — has taken the Olympic title.

The list of pugilist that has taken the sweet science by storm over the years after achieving Olympic glory is simply legendary.

Any list will have to start with Floyd Patterson (1952), Cassius Clay (now Muhammad Ali) in 1960, Joe Frazier (1964), George Foreman (1968), Sugar Ray Leonard (1976), Leon Spinks (1976), Michael Spinks (1976), Pernell Whitaker (1984), Mark Breland (1984), Evander Holyfield (1984), Riddick Bowe (1988), Roy Jones Jr. (1988) Oscar de la Hoya (1992), and David Reid (1996).

There are others that found noteworthy success as professional fighters like Ray Seales (1972), John Tate (1976), Howard Davis (1976), Leo Randolph (1976), Steve McCrory (1984), Frank Tate (1984), Meldrick Taylor (1984), Tyrell Biggs (1984), Henry Tillman (1984), Michael Carbajal (1988), Ray Mercer (1988), Andrew Maynard (1988), Chris Byrd (1992), and Antonio Tarver 1996).

All of the above mentioned Olympians medaled at their Olympic Games and went on to successful professional careers.

Fast forward into the 2000 and anyone can see something has happened to USA Boxing. In fact, the 2012 Olympic Games is the first in history where the US men did not medal in any of the weight classes.

It took the US women to hold the boxing torch. In the first Games where women were allowed to participate in boxing, out of the three weight classes US women won two medals. Marlen Esparza won a bronze medal as a flyweight and Claressa Shields won the USA’s only boxing gold medal.

Shields’ historic gold was the first US gold since Ward. Olympic boxing gold has been hard to obtain for the US. That makes 17-year-old Shield’s remarkable win over two world champion women on her way to gold even that more impressive.

How does USA boxing get back on track? Are the mix martial arts diluting the talent pool? Surly the allure of college and professional football has taken away the Ali’s, Frazier’s and Foreman’s in US Boxing.

Another problem is that the USA Boxing names trainers, but the trainers that have worked with the fighters cannot be in their corners at the Games. Who knows the fighters better than the men and women that train them? No one!! And as the sweet science continues to grow internationally the fighters are getting better and better.

For example, I was watching a young lady from Ireland (Katie Taylor) fight for lightweight gold and in her corner was her father, who has trained her since she started boxing. The Irish Olympic officials told me, “Why would we put anyone else in her corner?”

I looked at the Americans and they have people in their fighter’s corner that simply do not know the fighters they are charged to cajole.

The US Olympic Committee is also disappointed by boxing’s medal-less men’s team. USOC CEO Scott Blackmun offered no specifics, but it’s clear the governing body expected more from US fighters, who left the Olympics empty handed for the first time in team history.

‘‘We’re going to sit down and take a hard look at why we are where we are, and make some changes,’’ Blackmun said. ‘‘I don’t want to say anything beyond that.’’

The US men’s team, the most successful in Olympic history, lost nine of its last 10 bouts in London. USA Boxing has been criticized for a sharp decline in recent years, along with the fact that the coaching staff was not in place until just about a month before the games opened.

‘‘We’re disappointed in boxing,’’ Blackmun said. ‘‘We want to do better, particularly in men’s boxing. By saying disappointed in boxing, I don’t mean in the people. I mean, we’re disappointed that we didn’t do better in boxing, because I know that we can do better and we have to focus on how we do that.’’

Leland Stein can be reached at lelstein3@aol.com or at Twitter @lelandsteinIII

Obama, Ali helps London Olympics welcome the world

In sports column on August 28, 2012 at 1:46 am

Leland stein III speaking at Michigan Sports Hall of Fame.

By Leland Stein III

LONDON — It was a no-win situation for London’s 2012 Olympic Games Opening Ceremony, simply because there was no way they could quite outdo what the world’s largest country (China) did during the 2008 Games in Beijing.

I sat in the Olympic Birdcage Stadium in Beijing in complete amazement and wonderment at the Chinese’s’ innovative aerial and mystical presentation, sitting in the London Olympic Stadium I was not sure what to expect.

I asked myself, “How could London match Beijing 2008? They could not.

But, as I sat in the Olympic Stadium with over 80,000 rabid fans and over one billion television viewers world-wide, the London Opening Ceremony surprised me with its fun presentation. It was enjoyable and took us through its rich cinema, comedy, and music history and, a surprising salute to the digital age – although the industrial salute age was a bit boring.

Smartly, the British did not try to outdo Beijing. They produced a uniquely British production that was who they are and what they have been about.

Tower Bridge and the Olympic flame. Jon Gaede photo

Sure the visual musical presentation of every Opening Ceremony reflects the city hosting this mega sports festival; however, the appearance of the competing nations is my favorite part of the Opening Ceremony. Each team’s selection of the flag bearer, the wearing of their native garb, and the different size of each nation’s teams from very large to very small . . . I dig it because it is about the athletes.

Then there was our beautiful First-Lady (Michelle Obama) in the Stadium as our representative welcoming in the USA athletes. Then, there was also former Olympic Gold medalist Muhammad Ali on the field to touch and bless the Olympic flag before it was hung high . . . oh yeah!!!

London is a city in the United Kingdom that has over 7,500,000 million people and it has given us Shakespeare, James Bond, Mary Poppins and Harry Potter, the Tower Bridge, the Thames River, BBC News, English and the beginnings of Democracy. As well as, Wimbley Stadium and the Wimbledon Tennis Center, and, The Beatles, Eric Clapton, Amy Winehouse, Rolling Stones and the Spice Girls. London is recognized as the crossroads of world trade and world culture.

Being that defined as a world power gives London a hustle and bustle greater than New York, a rail system and bus system unparallel in America, a diverse population mostly all live in the same areas, and, a mixture of the old history and the new today.

Still in all its glory London has many of the same problems urban America has – the poverty, classism, congestion and old infrastructure.

In fact, talking to a few Londoners they told me that there had been a Rodney King-type riot. In August 2011, a police officer shot and killed a black man during an attempt to arrest him. From there several London boroughs, districts of cities and towns across England suffered widespread rioting, looting and arson where thousands took to the streets. Places like Tottenham, Hackney, Brixton, Chingford, Peckham, Enfield, Croydon, Ealing and East Ham all experienced rampant looting and arson attacks of unprecedented levels.

In spite of it misgivings, London’s greatest strength remains the diversity of its people. Londoners come from all corners of the world. Reports note that London is witnessing an expansion of cultural and artistic life not seen for decades.

Getting back to the Opening Ceremony, seeing all the world’s nations come together in a celebration of peace through athletic competition always brings me back to the words of the late Rodney King: “Why can’t we all get along?”

Seeing Iran and Israel and North and South Korea all on the same field together proves that it is possible for us to all get along. At least for a few weeks the Olympic moto “Citius, Altius, Fortius” – which translate to “faster, higher, stronger,” will be in the forefront of the international discourse.

Leland Stein can be reached at lelstein3@aol.com or at Twitter @lelandsteinIII

Olympic pioneer, activist Dr. LeRoy Walker

In sports column on August 28, 2012 at 1:07 am

By Leland Stein III

I remember having a one-on-one interview with NFL legend Jim Brown in his Hollywood Hills home. He invited me to his house and gave me unexpected access to him and his life.

I asked him why, he said: “We have to tell and document our own history.”

That interjection from Brown has stuck with me my entire writing career, and, with the recent passing of Dr. LeRoy Tashreau Walker, 93, it only reaffirmed the objective of the Black press to me.

People all know about Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson, so why isn’t Dr. Walker’s name mentioned in the same category? As the London 2012 Games continue to unfold, I continually hear in the Olympic circles the legend of this exceptional man.

Walker, who was born in a poor area of Atlanta in 1918, was taken to Harlem at the age of nine by his brother, Joe, after his father, a railroad fireman, died. According to historical writings, he worked in Joe’s barbeque restaurants and window cleaning business to earn money during the Great Depression.

Leland Stein III

Being the youngest of 13 children he was the one sent away because they could not feed that many mouths. When he got sent to Harlem at about 9 years old, he became the only one in his family to go to college.

In his long life, he overcame poverty and discrimination to earn honors as an athlete and coach, but he also was an academic. He was the first African-American to earn a doctorate in biomechanics, and he went on to become chancellor of N.C. Central University from 1983 to 1986.

Amid all of his other accomplishments, all his firsts, all the ground he broke and trails he blazed, it was the connections Walker made, for himself and for others, that really define his legacy.

As the first black coach of an U.S. Olympic track team, the first black president of the U.S. Olympic Committee and the track coach who would one day become university chancellor, Walker became an international figure knowing everyone, and everyone knew him. He could move in any crowd, the kind of person who knew Jesse Owens as well as George Steinbrenner. His funeral, at Duke Chapel drew a crowd from all corners of the world.

When Dr. Walker became present of the U.S. Olympic Committee he quickly noticed that the powers that be were all white males. So in his educated manner he did not attack the USOC; instead, he put together a business plan to a grant foundation and they gave him money.

Walker took that money and cajoled the USOC to match the contribution. He created the Project GOLD Initiative that selected 100 men and women throughout America to come to the USOC headquarters in Colorado Springs to create a talent pool of people for possible selection on the USOC Committee or a National governing body (i.e. USA Basketball, Gymnastics, Swimming or Track and Field).

For some reason I was chosen from the nation-wide search for the Project GOLD Initiative. There I got to meet and know people from all over the country. However, the one the stood out to me was Dr. Walker.

He took advantage of his status as the USOC President and pushed all for inclusion, and, fortunately out of thousands of Americans I was included in the process.

From Dr. Walkers’ outreach I eventually was appointed to an US Olympic Committee.

The Olympics are a one of a kind international event. It embodies all that is good with humanity, competition, dedication, nationalism, and human excellent in a given genre.

Sure the terrorist in our world recognize that the Olympic Games is the biggest collective of humanity it our world, so there have been Olympic moments where politics turned to violence.

No matter, since Dr Walker selected me as a worthy candidate for an USCO appointment in 1996, I have covered every Olympic Games since, and, what an eye opener to the world it has been for me. That is exactly what Dr. Walker told me about what he wanted Project GOLD to accomplish.

Walker became a member of more than a dozen halls of fame, but his most impressive legacy maybe not in what he accomplished, but in what he inspired and enabled others to achieve.

Walker was an inspiration for me and is the main reason I will be headed to London for the 2012 Games as one of only four members of the USA Black Press.

Leland Stein can be reached at lelstein3@aol.com or at Twitter @lelandsteinIII