Wednesday, August 4, 2021

A Fantastic Effort For Julia Ratcliffe

TigerBlog has watched more than just the Princetonians in the Olympic Games.

He has, for instance, continued to be amazed by the equestrian events, particularly the dressage. He's referred to it in the past as "horse dancing," and he's not 100 percent sure that he'd consider it sport as much as art. 

Still, it's difficult not to get caught up in just how amazing it is to see the rider and the horse in such amazing sync. It is, definitely. art.

Oh, and speaking of the equestrian events, did you see that Jessica Springsteen competed for the U.S. team in the jumping? The last name is familiar, right? And yes, that's The Boss' daughter (can you name the Springsteen song where he sings about the boss' daughter?)

Jessica Springsteen's first Olympic event was the individual event yesterday. The top 30 advanced to the final, and she finished tied for 31st. She'll be back in team jumping later this week.

TB also liked the introduction into these Games of the mixed relay events, in swimming and in triathlon. He especially enjoyed the mixed triathlon, a four-person event with two men and two women who all do a swim, bike ride and run, all of which are way shorter than an Ironman. It was really entertaining. 

TB watched the men's 10,000 meters the other night. That was an incredible race, won by Ethiopia's Selemon Barega, by 0.41 seconds over Joshua Cheptegei of Uganda. The bronze went to another Ugandan, Jacob Kiplimo, who was another 0.25 seconds back. Still, having three runners finish a 10,000-meter race with .66 seconds of each other was astounding.

There have been races where runners seem like they have a medal wrapped up, only to be caught just before the finish. What are these athletes thinking as they approach the tape? What must go through your head when you're that close to a medal?

This came up in the women's 800. Great Britain's Jemma Reekie looked all the world like she would win bronze, but she was caught just at the wire by American Raevyn Rogers, who would take third by nine-hundredths of a second. That's a rough one to lose. The gold was won by the USA's Athing Mu, followed by Great Britain's Hodkinson, a 19-year-old who smashed a 26-year old British record to win silver.

When it comes to British record-holders, TB is much more interested in the woman in the 3,000-meter steeplechase, Lizzie Bird. The Princeton graduate, Class of 2017, runs this evening Tokyo time (8:00 Wednesday night) or this morning in New Jersey (7 am). In England that's noon. 

Bird qualified for the final, which will have 16 runners, which is itself an incredible accomplishment. She follows Donn Cabral, who reached the final in the last two Olympic men's steeplechase events, and she was one of two Princetonians to run the steeplechase at these Games, along with men's runner Ed Trippas.

Speaking of incredible performances in Tokyo, Julia Ratcliffe finished ninth in the women's hammer throw yesterday. Interestingly, the eight-place finisher was American DeAnna Price, who finished one spot ahead of Ratcliffe in another event, the 2015 NCAA finals, where Price was No. 1 and Ratcliffe was No. 2. Ratcliffe was the 2014 NCAA champion.

Like Bird, Ratcliffe is also her nation's record-holder in her event, in her case for New Zealand. Ratcliffe's performance in Tokyo was extraordinary. Reaching the final in any Olympic event is something to be wildly celebrated. Doing so in your first Olympic appearance for a nation that has not had great success in the event is an even bigger deal.

TB remembers when Peter Farrell, then Princeton's women's track and field coach, first mentioned Ratcliffe, shortly before she arrived at Princeton. Farrell said she'd be an NCAA champion and an Olympian, and now he's been right about both. TB had never heard him speak that way about any recruit of his. To that, in fact, you can add Olympic finalist. 

So this morning it's Lizzie Bird's turn at the Olympic finals. These are very exciting times for Princeton.

Oh, and the Springsteen song? It was 4th of July, Asbury Park (one of TB's absolute favorites), where in the second chorus he sings:

Oh, Sandy, the aurora is rising behind us
This pier lights our carnival life on the water
Running, laughing 'neath the boardwalk
Ah, with the boss' daughter

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Preseason All-American

Today is Tuesday, which means it's the day that Julia Ratcliffe throws in the final of the women's hammer at the Olympic Games.

It also means that you're one day away from Lizzie Bird in the 3,000-meter steeplechase final. As TigerBlog wrote yesterday, it's extraordinary to see these two women, teammates in the Class of 2017, excelling at such an elite level.

Ashleigh Johnson is still competing at the Olympics as well. She is chasing her second-straight gold medal in women's water polo, and if she gets it, she'll join Caroline Lind as the only two Princeton women who have achieved that feat. 

Seguing away from the Olympics for just a minute - or more accurately for a few hundred words - yesterday saw the announcement of the Stats Perform Preseason All-American football team. Stats Perform has had several names, but it's mission has never changed - it's an outlet devoted to covering the Football Championship Subdivision, of which Princeton is a member.

TigerBlog has a vote in the Stats Perform weekly Top 25. In his time as a voter (which means the 2019 season), he has only ever voted for one team in the No. 1 spot, and that has been North Dakota State. This time around, it's much more wide open after the COVID fall and then spring season.

He does know he will be voting for Sacred Heart somewhere in the poll, and not just because his son went there. The Pioneers, who had an outstanding spring season, are led by first-team All-American running back Julius Chestnut, who put up huge numbers in not a huge number of games this past spring.

As TB watched Chestnut play for Sacred Heart this past spring, he got the feeling that it's going to be harder and harder for schools on the FCS level to keep stars like Chestnut, with the ability for FBS teams now to swoop in now via the transfer portal. 

Actually, that's just one way in which the college athletic landscape, especially in football, is heading into uncharted waters. The fallout from it all will be fascinating to watch.

TB wrote last week about how the Ivy League is the most stable league in all of college sports. This is just another example of that.  

Speaking of the All-American teams, Princeton's own Jeremiah Tyler was named to the Stats Perform preseason third team. That's about right for Tyler for the preseason. The postseason? Well, he's certainly gotten better each year he's been at Princeton, and he was really good to start with, so that tells you something.

Tyler was a second-team All-Ivy selection on the unbeaten 2018 team. In 2019 he was a unanimous first-team All-Ivy pick and one of two finalists for the Bushnell Cup as the Ivy League Defensive Player of the Year. He's certainly a favorite for both of those honors again.

He's also a favorite of anyone who follows Princeton. He has to be. He plays with such ridiculous joy and such obvious ferocity. He's a pleasure to watch play the linebacker position.

Off the field, TB has never seen Tyler where he is not smiling. Widely. Ear to ear. He has a big personality, and he is clearly a leader on the team.

Princeton obviously did not play in the 2020 season, which was the first time since 1871 that there was no Tiger football season. The 2021 season is just a few weeks away now, and you can accurately say that the opening kickoff is next month. 

Tyler is not the only really good player the Tigers will have this season. There are holes to fill from graduation two years ago, and of course there is no quarterback who has started a game on the roster. 

Still, this Princeton team figures to be like the Princeton teams Bob Surace has put out there in recent years. It figures to be an Ivy League championship contender. As Gary Walters would say, there is reason for "cautious optimism" this August.

Of course, it is just that. August. Early August for that matter. 

Jeremiah Tyler is a deserving preseason All-American. He knows as well as anyone that such an honor will mean little when the games start. Then it will be time to prove it all over again.

Monday, August 2, 2021

On To The Finals

Someone who has been working for olympics.com certainly did his or her homework. 

If you look at the profile of Julia Ratcliffe, it mentions this nugget:

She began athletics as a hurdler in New Zealand. At age 12 her father bought her a hammer and began to coach her.

And to whom does the site give attribution? None other than TigerBlog himself. It was in a blog he wrote about Ratcliffe back in March, when Ratcliffe finally broke through and beat the Olympic qualifying standard in one of her last opportunities to do so. That standard - 72.30 meters - had haunted her for five years after she narrowly missed it prior to the 2016 Rio Games.

From that early introduction as a hurdler, Ratcliffe finally became an Olympian - in the hammer throw. And she made the most of the chance.

Ratcliffe has had many other impressive achievements in the sport before she ever reached the biggest stage. She had an all-time career at Princeton, winning the NCAA title in 2014 and finishing as runner-up the following year (to current USA Olympian DeAnna Price).

Perhaps most impressively Ratcliffe has the 134 best hammer throws in Ivy League history. That gets more insane every time TB writes it.

She made her Olympic debut over the weekend in the first round of the hammer, representing her native New Zealand. To advance, she needed to either throw 73.50 meters or be among the best 12 in the qualifying round to advance to the final.

Her first throw of three was her best, traveling 73.20 meters. It was just short of an automatic qualification, but it did leave her fourth in the first group. If fewer than eight from Group 2 threw it better than 73.20, then Ratcliffe would be on to the final Tuesday.

As it turned out, only two in the second group beat her. As a result, Ratcliffe is headed to the final round, which will be contested tomorrow at 8:35 pm in Tokyo, or 7:35 am in Princeton. TB is pretty sure that's also 10:35 pm in Hamilton, New Zealand, Ratcliffe's hometown.

Lizzie Bird's hometown is St. Albans Herts, in England, about 20 miles outside of London. It'll be Wednesday night at 8 in Tokyo, or noon in St. Albans Herts, when Bird also competes in the Olympic final in her event.

It was an extraordinary half hour or so for Princeton women's track and field Saturday in Tokyo. You can actually say it was an extraordinary half hour for Princeton women's track and field athletes who graduated in 2017.

First it was Ratcliffe who made her bid for the final in the hammer. Even before the second hammer group was finished, Bird - Ratcliffe's teammate and classmate - ran in the third and final heat of the 3,000-meter steeplechase.

To reach the final, she needed to either be in the top three in her heat or have one of the next six fastest times of all the runners in the three heats. And speaking of heat, they were running in heat that was just short of three digits. That is not ideal running weather.

Despite that, Bird had an amazing performance, running 9:24.34 and finishing fifth in her heat. Her time sent TB immediately to the other two heats, and a quick check of those times revealed that Bird was also headed to the Olympic final.

For Princeton, that's three straight Olympic Games in which an alum has reached the steeplechase final, after Donn Cabral did so in 2012 and 2016. Rising senior Ed Trippas ran for Australia in the men's steeplechase earlier in these Tokyo Games. Want to get to the Olympics in the steeplechase? Come to Princeton.

Bird was a two-time Ivy League Heps steeplechase champion at Princeton, as well as a Heps cross country champion. She has grown into one of the very best steeplechasers in the world.

Now the two former teammates will be in the Olympic finals, one day apart in Tokyo, going for medals for two different countries but united together as always as Princeton teammates and classmates.

As TB said, it was an extraordinary few minutes for Princeton women's track and field. 

Actually, make that an extraordinary few minutes for Princeton in general.

Friday, July 30, 2021

Princeton Proud

TigerBlog had one overriding emotion as he watched Ed Trippas run the steeplechase at the Olympic Games yesterday.

Pride.

How can you not be proud to be at a place that can produce that level of athlete while at the same time not compromising on its academic integrity? How could you not feel pride in a place that enables its athletes to achieve at the highest level possible. 

That Trippas did not advance to the steeplechase final hardly mattered. He gave, in Pete Carril's words, "a good account of himself." He also very much gave the appearance of being someone who is not yet through on the international stage, let alone on the Princeton stage.

Trippas is Australian. He finished 11th in his heat, which had 15 runners in it. 

His time was 8:29.90, which was 10 seconds off the pace he ran to qualify for the Olympics in the first place. TB knows enough to know that comparing times is a difficult thing to do, since all races tend to pace themselves differently.

Still, his time of 8:29.90 would have been good enough to earn him third place at the NCAA championships this past May, when the winning time was 8:28.20. Trippas, who begins his Princeton cross country season in a few weeks, will be very much in the running, as it were, for that steeplechase title next spring.

Will he be back in the Olympics in three years? Is there any reason to think otherwise? 

And again, as TB said to begin with, it was just such a great feeling to watch him compete on that level. It's the same feeling that every Princeton fan has to have been feeling all week as the 18 Princeton athletes in Tokyo have been doing their thing.

It's been extraordinary to watch them, just as it is in every Olympic Games.

Trippas did not win a medal this time. Tom George, a member of the Class of 2018, did win a medal, a bronze in the men's heavyweight 8 rowing final with Great Britain.

As you probably know, Princeton was represented by three alums in that six-boat race, and the three alums competed with three different countries. 

George, rowing in the third seat, and the British boat finished with a time of 5:25.73. The UK squad was in second at the 500, 1,000 and 1,500 meter marks before finishing third.

The other two Princetonians in the race were Nick Mead, Class of 2017, who rowed with the American boat that finished fourth, one full second behind the Brits. Tim Masters, Class of 2015, and the Australians finished sixth.

George became the second Princeton men's rowing alum to win a bronze medal in two days, following Fred Vystavel, who came in third in the Danish pairs boat. Vystavel was in the Class of 2016.

So far George and Vystavel are the two Princetonians to have won medals. There are still others competing, and it's very, very likely that Ashleigh Johnson will win a medal with the U.S. women's water polo team, even after the loss to Hungary in group play. 

Johnson and the Americans played the Russian Olympic Committee team overnight. The women's quarterfinals begin Monday.

Princeton also has three other athletes who compete today. Sondre Guttormsen, who will be a sophomore this year, goes in the first round of the men's pole vault, beginning at 8:40 pm Eastern. Guttormsen is on the Norwegian team. Nathan Crumpton runs for American Somoa in the 100 meters later tonight as well.

Elize Stone fences for the U.S. team in the women's team saber competition. That begins at 9 pm tonight, whicih is 10 am Saturday in Tokyo. 

It's great to see the Princeton athletes who win medals. There have now been 61 medals won by Princeton athletes all-time at the Olympics.

More than that, though, it's about what TB started with today. It's about an institution that is about excellence from top to bottom, in everything it does. It's about an extraordinary group of young people who have worked so hard to pursue their Olympic dreams and now they are living them out, having done all of this while competing academically with the same sort of success. 

If that doesn't make you Princeton Proud, then what will?

Thursday, July 29, 2021

Extraordinary Races

TigerBlog starts by sending his heartiest congratulations to Fred Vystavel, Class of 2016, on winning bronze in the men's lightweight rowing pairs at the Olympic Games.

There are few achievements in sports that can match winning an Olympic medal. TB has long believed that there has to be greater joy in winning bronze than gold or silver, since you've come so close to not medaling at all after all of the hard work that got you there. Coming in fourth has to really sting.

Vystavel and his partner Joachim Sutton (a graduate of the University of California) finished a solid third in the race, five seconds behind the winners from Croatia, more than three seconds behind the runners-up from Romania but also .55 seconds ahead of the fourth-place boat from Canada.

Vystavel's bronze gives Princeton 60 all-time Olympic medals. It also ensures that Princeton has won at least one medal at every Summer Olympic Games going back to 1960 other than the 1996 Games and the 1980 Games (which the U.S. boycotted).

As TB said, it's something extraordinary, and all of Princeton salutes Fred Vystavel.

Speaking of Olympic rowing, TigerBlog has finally learned the difference between "rowing" and "sculling."

It's actually pretty simple. In sculling, each person in the boat has two oars. In rowing (sometimes called "sweep rowing"), each person in the boat has one oar.

Claire Collins was on the United States four in rowing. Hannah Scott was on the Great Britain four in sculling. Both Princetonians helped their boats to finish first in the "B" final, or seventh place overall.

The next question for TB was whether or not a good rower is automatically a good sculler and vice versa, or are they completely separate disciplines. He found a story from 2017 on a website called rowperfect entitled "Sculling Makes Sweep Rowers Faster."

Regardless of that specific answer, it appears that Princeton also makes rowers faster. At least these Olympic Games say so.

The final Olympic rowing race will be contested this evening Princeton time and Friday morning Tokyo time (9:25 tonight Princeton time, 10:25 am tomorrow Tokyo time). It's the men's heavyweight 8, and it could be as fascinating an Olympic event as Princeton Athletics has ever seen.

Why's that?

There are six boats that have reached the final. Of those six, there are three different boats who have a Princeton alum among the eight rowers. 

That is simply extraordinary.

Tom George, Class of 2018, rows for Great Britain. Tim Masters, Class of 2015, rows for Australia. Nick Mead, Class of 2017, rows for the United States. 

The other three boats in the race are from Germany, the Netherlands and New Zealand. 

Princeton rowing has alums who have won medals in the same event for different countries on one occasion. That was back at the 2012 Games in London, where Caroline Lind won her second gold medal with the U.S. women's 8 and Canadians Andreanne Morin and Lauren Wilkinson won silver in the same race.

There have been several times when Princetonians won medals as teammates. Most recently, Susie Scanlan and Maya Lawrence won bronze in women's team epee fencing at the same Olympics where Wilkinson and Morin won their silvers.

Going back, it's happened three other times, all in hockey, though not all on ice. Gerald Hallock and Robert Livingston won silver in ice hockey in 1932 in Lake Placid. Did they have any clue what was going to happen there 48 years later, when the Games returned to the small town in upstate New York?

Four years later, in the German town of Garmisch Partenkirchen in 1936, Frederick Kammer and Malcolm McAlpin won bronze in ice hockey. At the infamous Summer Games in Berlin a few months later, Paul Fentress and Elwood Godfrey won bronze in the other hockey, men's field hockey.

And now there's a chance for some more Princeton history. Three rowers, three countries - all Princeton alums, all rowing for Olympic medals. 

That's a can't-miss event.

Also today in Tokyo, Ed Trippas runs in the semifinal round of the men's 3,000-meter steeplechase. That race is set for 8 pm Princeton time, so again, that's actually Friday morning at 9 am in Tokyo. 

Trippas, of course, is a rising Princeton senior who will be running cross country in a few weeks for the Tigers. First, though, there's the matter of the steeplechase at the Olympics, where Trippas hopes to make it three-straight times a Princeton runner has reached the steeplechase final, after Donn Cabral did so in 2012 and 2016. 

Trippas is Australian. Another Princeton alum, Lizzie Bird, will run the women's steeplechase for England Saturday.

And once again, you can follow all of Princeton's Olympians HERE

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Long Live The Ivy League

If Gevvie Stone has rowed her last Olympic race, then she went out in a way befitting one of the most accomplished Princeton athletes of all time.

Stone and her partner Kristi Wagner finished fifth in the double sculls A final in Tokyo yesterday, or technically today, as the race was on Wednesday midday local time. Stone and Wagner were fifth in the race at every split.

It's been quite a run for Stone, who had hoped to compete in the 2008 Games, made it for the first time in 2012 and won the B final in singles, came back in 2016 and won silver in singles and then made it all the way for a third Olympic Games this year. 

She did all this while also somehow attending medical school and completing her residency. It's a remarkable story (and one that you'll be able to read in the TigerBlog's upcoming book on women's athletics). 

If Stone has three more years of world class rowing in her, she can match the achievement of Princeton's only four-time Olympian, Anne Marden, who won silvers in rowing in 1984 and 1988 after making the team for the first time in 1980, when the U.S. would boycott the Games in Moscow, and then again for the final time in 1992 in Barcelona, where she'd finish fourth.

Stone wasn't the only Princetonian to row yesterday in Tokyo. Among the others, Hannah Scott (Great Britain) and Claire Collins (United States) rowed on boats that won their B finals to finish seventh overall and Fred Vystavel rowed for Denmark in the semifinal of the lightweight men's double sculls. 

Of course, there is more going on in the world of sports than just the Olympic Games. There is, for instance, the current upheaval in the world of college athletics. 

If you've taken some time away from the Olympics, you know that Texas and Oklahoma have applied to leave the Big 12 and instead enter the SEC. The reason for this, of course, is money.

Right now, there's a Power 5 in college athletics. The Big 12 minus Texas and Oklahoma figures to be in major trouble, which would lead to a Power 4, with the rest of the Big 12 schools in search of the best possible landing spot.

There is also the possibility that the Big Ten would absorb much of the Pac 12, forming another super league. It's crazy times in the world of college realignment.

When TB was a kid, there was a great league called the Southwest Conference. There probably was nobody back then who could have imagined that the league would fall apart, but that's exactly what happened. The league was formed in 1914 and made it all the way to 1996 before it disintegrated, largely because Texas, Texas A&M, Baylor and Texas Tech moved to the Big 12, which used to be the Big Eight. 

Since then, nothing in college athletics has really been all that shocking. The Big Ten, which had always been a Midwestern league, added schools from Maryland, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. The ACC added Syracuse, Boston College, Pitt and Louisville. It got to the point where it was really hard to remember who was where.

And every time this happens, TB only has one thought: "Long Live The Ivy League."

The Ivy League is the only league that has remained unchanged since the day it was formed. There were eight schools then, back in 1956, and those same eight schools are still there today. Come back in another 100 years, and those eight schools will still make up the Ivy League.

When TB saw the news about Texas and Oklahoma, he immediately felt badly for all of the people who work at the Big 12 whose jobs suddenly were in danger, through no fault of their own. Besides that, the biggest downside of all of the movement is that way it all destroys traditional rivalries.

And that's one of the things that makes the Ivy League so special. Its rivalries, which go back in some cases nearly 100 years before the league was formalized, are not going anywhere.

It makes TB glad to be a part of a league like that. 

The Ivy League is like no other league in so many ways, and pretty much all of them are for the good.

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Happy Hamsa

And there's a winner.

Not a medalist. Still, this is a winner. You want to see sheer, complete, Olympic joy? Then you have a winner with Princeton's Mohamed Hamsa:


That's Hamsa, a rising Princeton junior who is competing at the Olympic Games for the second time. Hamsa won two individual foil matches to reach the quarterfinals, and the photo came after he won his Round of 16 match over Andrea Cassara of Italy. 

That is a tremendous, tremendous picture. 

Hamsa might not have won a medal in the individual foil, but he certainly had an impressive run.

What else can TB tell you today about the Summer Games? Well, there's this. You know who would be very helpful to have around during the Olympics?

Former Princeton men's lacrosse player Sam Bonafede. And why is that, other than he's one of the nicer people ever to wear a Tiger uniform?

Well, the answer is that Bonafede can identify the flag of every country on Earth. And so when the Olympic results are listed with the competitors name and the flag of the country, Bonafede could simply tell you which one it is without having to look it up.

For instance, he'd be able to tell you the flag with the solid red stripe over the solid white stripe over the solid blue stripe is the Netherlands. He could tell you the flag with the solid red over solid white over solid red is Austria.

And that would have been very helpful to know when it came to the women's cycling road race.

Did you see this story, the one about the women's cyclist who thought she won the gold medal and started to celebrate?

It turns out that she was actually second, not first. She said she felt "gutted" to find out she hadn't won. TigerBlog will get back to that.

The rider's name is Annemiek van Vleuten, from the Netherlands. TB had to look up the flag, because Bonafede – who by the way is a recent honors graduate of the University of Chicago law school – wasn't around to simply point to it and say "the Netherlands."

The winner was Anna Kiesenhofer, from Austria (again, same flag issue). She was one of five riders who broke away early and then never stopped breaking away, so much so that nobody in the field even noticed that she wasn't around anymore. 

The race was 87 miles long, and Kiesenhofer won by 75 seconds. That left van Vleuten in second, as opposed to first, even though she thought she'd caught all of the riders who had left the pack.

The person you really feel for is Lotte Kopecky of Belgium, who finished fourth, as opposed to third, if she thought van Vleuten had won. If that wasn't bad enough, Kopecky finished that 87 mile race a mere a mere tenth of a second behind bronze medalist Elisa Longo Borghini. 

Kiesenhofer, by the way, can relate to numbers big and small, as she has a doctoral degree in mathematics (after earning her master's at Cambridge). Her dissertation was entitled: Integrable systems on b-symplectic manifolds. TB has no idea what that means.

It wasn't as busy a day at the Olympics for the Princeton contingent there as it has been so far. 

Ashleigh Johnson and the women's water polo team from the U.S. made it two straight wins with a 12-7 victory over China. That game was played when it was still Monday in Princeton. 

There was also the women's epee fencing team event and a U.S. team that includes Princeton grads Kat Holmes and Anna van Brummen. As you recall, van Brummen defeated Holmes in the NCAA epee final in 2017 after both had been teammates on the 2013 NCAA team championship team.

The Americans fell to the Republic of Korea in the quarterfinal round. 

Today is a very busy day for Princeton's Olympic rowers, with six of them on the water. Fred Vystavel, Class of 2016, rows in the A semifinal for Denmark's pairs. 

And then there is Gevvie Stone, a 2016 silver medalist in single sculls who goes for a medal in the double sculls final. Stone's race is at 8:18 pm Eastern time tonight, so Wednesday morning in Tokyo.

And once again, you can follow all of Princeton's Olympians HERE.

Monday, July 26, 2021

Tokyo Time

TigerBlog finally figured out the answer to this burning question: What time is it in Tokyo?

It turns out that Tokyo is 13 hours ahead of Princeton, so an event that is happening at noon in Tokyo is taking place at 11 the night before in Princeton. Then throw in that the Olympics website has everything in 24-hour military time, and who can tell what is happening when?

It's been an interesting start to the Games. The drama has certainly built for two prohibitive favorites from the United States - the women's soccer team and the men's basketball team, both of whom lost their openers in somewhat shocking fashion. 

It also took the U.S. until Day 2 to win its first medal. TB read that the last time there was a Summer Olympics in which the United States did not win a medal on Day 1 was in 1972 in Munich. 

Meanwhile, another prohibitive favorite is the U.S. women's water polo team, which is led by Princeton alum Ashleigh Johnson. The first time TB flipped on the Olympic coverage, he saw Johnson in goal as the U.S. rolled past the host Japanese in its first game. 

The Americans  played their second game against China at 2 pm Monday, Tokyo time, which means that it started at 1 am Monday Eastern time and therefore is already over. The Americans won 12-7.

It's already been a busy Olympic Games for the 18 Princetonians who are competing there. Of that group, all but five – all of whom are entered in track and field – have already been in action.

In addition to Johnson, Princeton has also had its athletes compete in fencing and rowing. 

As far as the rowers go, Kathleen Noble competed in single sculls for Uganda, where she grew up, and in doing so she became the first rower ever to represent that country at the Olympics. That alone is a tremendous feat. She has given a good account of herself as well, improving with each race through the repechage and now rowing in the E final.

Two other women rowers, Hannah Scott (Great Britain) and Claire Collins (US) will row in the B finals after making their way through the repechage as well.

Princeton will be represented as well by four men's rowers, all of whom will row Wednesday local time (meaning tomorrow night Princeton time). Fred Vystavel, who is rowing for Denmark, goes in the lightweight pairs A/B semifinal.

Gevvie Stone has rowed twice in the double sculls and has one more race to go, this time in the A final Wednesday, which really means tomorrow evening in this country. Stone is one of the more extraordinary people TigerBlog has ever interviewed, by the way.

She's an emergency medicine doctor. She's an NCAA champion. She's a three-time Olympian now. She's also an Olympic medalist, having won silver in 2016 in the single sculls.

How many people out there can say that they've gone to medical school, won an NCAA title and been a three-time Olympian, along with an Olympic medal? The list isn't quite that long, TB would guess.

Stone's partner in the doubles sculling is Kristi Wagner. A little bit of research revealed two things about Wagner. 

First, she enjoys bicycling, especially if "the destination includes ice cream or donuts." Second, she's a Yale grad. That's quite a boat, with Princeton and Yale against the world. 

Stone and Wagner reached the final by finishing third in their semifinal, beating fourth-place France by 1.5 seconds and finishing behind three seconds behind the Netherlands and two seconds behind Canada. The three qualifiers from the other semifinal are Lithuania, New Zealand and Romania.

Do the qualifying times matter when the final starts? Are they an indication of anything that will have an impact on this race? TB doesn't know. 

He just knows that he'll be rooting hard for the Americans, even if there is a Yalie in the boat.  

As always, you can follow everything about Princeton's Tokyo athletes at the special goprincetontigers.com section on the Olympics, which you can access HERE.

Friday, July 23, 2021

#TigersInTokyo

 You know who is the happiest person TigerBlog knows right now?

That would be Joe, the official brother-in-law of TigerBlog. And why is he so happy? Because the Olympics are starting (and, presumably, because he's married to TB's brother).

TigerBlog isn't sure he knows anyone who likes the Olympics more than his brother-in-law does. He's all set to watch endless amounts of Olympic coverage, both on the American networks and on the Canadian network, since he lives in Seattle and can get CBC.

TigerBlog is into the Olympics too.

The Opening Ceremonies for the 2021 Olympics from Tokyo are tonight, a little more than a year after they were supposed to begin. These Games will be different than any that have come before them due to the Coronavirus pandemic - for starters, these are the first-ever Olympics to be held in an odd-numbered year. 

There will also be no spectators permitted, and there will be rules for the athletes and coaches in terms of arrivals and departures from the Olympic Village. Even the presentation of medals has been affected, as the traditional placing of medals over the athlete's heads has been replaced by a contact-free method.

It's not going to have the same feel that it's always had. But it's still the Olympics, which are the largest sporting event in the world. And for athletes who have trained their whole lives for this opportunity, they might miss out on the frills but they're still laser-focused on the opportunity.

His second-favorite part is watching all of the events that aren't on in primetime and seeing athletes who are mostly anonymous compete in sports you rarely get to see. His favorite part is watching the Princetonians.

There are 18 of them who are competing in Tokyo (not 19, as TB originally wrote after miscounting). They will be representing nine different countries - the U.S., Great Britain, Denmark, Norway, American Samoa, Uganda, Egypt, Australia and New Zealand - and they will all be taking a piece of their Princeton experiences with them.

They range from a member of the Class of 2007 (rower Gevvie Stone) to three current Princeton students (steeplechaser Ed Trippas, fencer Mohamed Hamza, pole vaulter Sondre Gottormsen). 

Of the 18, four have competed previously in the Olympics and two have won medals. Ashleigh Johnson, of course, won gold with the U.S. women's water polo team in 2016 and is favored to do so again, which would match Caroline Lind for the most golds by a Princeton woman. Stone won silver in 2016 in single sculls, and she is back this time in the pairs event.

The other two returning Olympians are Hamza and Kat Holmes, both of whom fenced in 2016.

There will be no shortage of Olympic coverage from Princeton Athletics. If you haven't already seen it, go to the "Tigers In Tokyo" page off the main website. You can access it HERE.

There is a lot of information there. It has the complete list of the athletes (and the four coaches) who are in Tokyo. It has schedules of when they compete. It has bio information.

It will constantly be updated as well during the Games themselves. You can also find information on social media and, obviously, here with TB.

In fact, the first Tigers have already competed, as Stone and Hannah Scott rowed their first round matches yesterday. Kathleen Noble, who will row today, will be the first rower ever to represent Uganda. In addition, Holmes has her first individual epee match tonight. 

Maybe the best picture TB has ever seen of a Princeton athlete is the one of Gevvie Stone from 2016, with her medal around her neck and the American flag held over her outstretched arms. The look on her face is one of sheer joy, incredible joy, the kind of joy that very, very few athletes will ever experience. 

It was captured perfectly in that photo. Will there be another such picture of another Princeton athlete this time around? TB certainly hopes so. 

In the meantime, it's time for the Olympics, which means once again time to root for the Tigers who will be there. 

Let the Games begin.

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Olympic Fencing

TigerBlog's main rooting interest in the upcoming Summer Olympics is in the 19 Princeton athletes who will be competing there.

This, of course, includes fencing. It's a sport in which Princeton has been quite successful through the years on the Olympic stage, and it's a sport in which Princeton will be well-represented again when the Tokyo Games begin in a few days.

Princeton fencing and the Olympics go back to Henry Breckinridge, Class of 1907. Breckinridge won bronze in team foil in the 1920 Games in Antwerp, Belgium. In fact, it was Breckinridge who won the deciding bout in the third-place match against Great Britain.

In addition to being an Olympic medalist in fencing, Breckinridge had quite the interesting life. Beginning in 1913 at the age of 27, he was the Assistant Secretary of War under Woodrow Wilson, another Princeton alum, until he left to actually fight in World War I as a battalion commander. Among the battles he fought was the Meuse-Argonne, where nearly 27,000 Americans died.

He went to Harvard Law School after Princeton, and he spent much of his life in law, including for the Lindbergh family during the ransom negotiations after the baby was kidnapped. He ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate from New York in 1934 and entered Democratic Presidential primaries in 1936, with little success.

The next Princeton fencer to win a medal was Tracy Jaeckel, who won bronze in team epee in 1932 in Los Angeles. Jaeckel, from the Class of 1928, was an IFA national champion at Princeton. After graduation, he went into the family furrier business before opening a haberdashery in the Virgin Islands. He was also the president of the Virgin Islands Fencing Association.

A haberdashery, by the way, is a fancy way of saying a men's clothing store. There are probably way worse places to run a business, fence and live than in the Virgin Islands.

There have been quite a few Princeton Olympic fencers – 12, to be exact – and there have been four medal winners, all in team events. The most recent two were teammates in the Olympics but never teammates at Princeton.

Maya Lawrence was in the Class of 2002. Susie Scanlan was in the Class of 2014. They were teammates together at the 2012 London Games, where they upset Russia, the gold medal favorite, in the bronze medal epee match.

Scanlan came back to Princeton after winning an Olympic medal and was a member of the 2013 NCAA women's fencing championship team. 

TigerBlog spoke to both of them for the women's history book that he's written (it's at the publisher now), and their stories were among the most fascinating. Scanlan spoke about what it was like to compete at Princeton after winning an Olympic medal. Lawrence spoke about her introduction to the sport and how her mother got into it after she did.

TB stumbled on a story in the New York Post earlier this week about a brother/sister fencing duo. Khalil Thompson is on the U.S. men's team as an individual and in a team competition, and his sister (Kamali) is an alternate on the U.S. sabre team (she's also an orthopedic surgery resident).

There are two interesting parts of this story. First, the Thompson's are from Teaneck, N.J., which is also Lawrence's hometown. In fact, her mother became the fencing coach at Teaneck High School and coached the Thompsons.

Second, one of the four Princetonians who will be fencing in Tokyo is about to start medical school, Kat Holmes, is likely headed down the orthopedic path as well. 

Holmes is making her second Olympic appearance. Her former Princeton teammates, Anna van Brummen and Eliza Stone (both of whom were NCAA individual champions at Princeton), are making their first, as is Egyptian men's fencer Mohamed Hamza.

For Hamza, these are his second Olympic Games, as he fenced in 2016. He's trying to do what Scanlan did, which is to win an Olympic medal and then return to compete for Princeton, which he will do this winter as a junior.