Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Orange And Black In Rio, With A Little Green Mixed In

If you saw Abbey D'Agostino win the Ivy League Heps cross country title by 40 seconds on the West Windsor Fields three years ago, then you know what she's capable of when she's at her best.

If you watched the Olympic women's 5,000-meter semifinal yesterday morning, you saw what D'Agostino is capable of when she's at her worst.

Actually, the one where she was at her worst might be the more impressive.

D'Agostino, a Dartmouth grad and seven-time NCAA champion, was near the back of the field with nearly five laps to go in the 5,000 race when New Zealand's Nikki Hamblin tripped. D'Agostino had nowhere to go and fell herself.

Keep in mind, these two women had never met before yesterday. Also keep in mind, the most famous Olympic collision in history, the one between Mary Decker Slaney and Zola Budd, led to some serious acrimony between the two, especially Decker Slaney, whose reputation as an American sweetheart never recovered from the incident.

This was nothing like that one from 32 years ago in Los Angeles.

First D'Agostino helped Hamblin to her feet and demanded that she finish the race. Then D'Agostino, more than four laps from the finish, started to finish the race herself.

And then, clearly injured, she went down again. At first it looked to TigerBlog that she was just trying to squirm off the track before the other runners came all the way around.

But that's not what happened. No. D'Agostino got up and started hobbling around the track. And kept going. Lap after lap. Even after she was passed by the other runners.

Eventually, she got the finish line - last in her heat. And then she left the track, in a wheelchair.

Shortly after came the news that D'Agostino and Hamblin had appealed and were advanced to the final.

There's a really strong possibility that D'Agostino won't be healthy in time for the final. Still, what she did yesterday will be remembered as one of the great moments of these Olympic Games. It was, without question, a beautiful moment, one that even the most cynical observer couldn't help but love.

Shortly after D'Agostino and Hamblin added their wonderful stamp on the Olympics, Princeton assistant cross country coach Robby Andrews cruised into the semifinals of the 1,500-meters. The semifinal will be tomorrow night.

The Olympics are winding down, but there are still some huge moments left for Princeton.

The first one is this morning. If you're reading this before 9:33 am, then you can see Ashleigh Johnson and the U.S. women's water polo team  on the Today Show.

Johnson and the U.S. team take on Hungary at 11:20 in the semifinals. The Americans are unbeaten in this tournament, including an 11-6 win over Hungary this past Saturday. A second win over Hungary would guarantee the Americans of at least a silver medal.

Johnson has been one of the dominant athletes in these Olympics. She didn't allow a goal in three quarters against Brazil in the quarterfinal, and she has thrown a blanket over every team the U.S. has played.

The other Princetonian who competes today is Donn Cabral, who runs in the final of the 3,000-meter steeplechase at 10:50 this morning.

There are 15 competitors in the steeplechase final, and Cabral had the third-best qualifying time of any of them. Of course, each of the three qualifying races had its own pace and personality, so it's hard to compare one to the others. And the other American runners won each of the first two, whereas Cabral came in third in his.

Still, this appears to be a fairly wide-open race. And with the way Cabral can finish, it'll be hard to count him out.

It'll be interesting to see what his plan is.

Four years ago in London, he went out quickly and led for much of the final before finishing eighth. Will he do that again? He was in 10th place with less than two laps left in the preliminary and made a big charge. He was in fifth place with less than 200 meters left at the Olympic Trials and finished third to make the team.

Reaching the final of the steeplechase in consecutive Olympic Games is a rarity for American runners. Henry Marsh was the last to do it, in 1984 and 1988 (and 1976, and he might have in 1980 were it not for the boycott). Cabral and his teammate Evan Jager, who finished sixth in London, have now matched Marsh's accomplishment.

The U.S. has won only five medals in the 3,000-meter steeplechase, dating back to when the event premiered, in 1920. The most recent U.S. Olympic medalist in the event was Brian Diemer - in 1984.

And now all three Americans have a shot.

TigerBlog would love to see Cabral win a medal. How incredible would that be?

Princeton continues to do well in Rio, and Tiger athletes will be there from before the Opening Ceremonies all the way until just before the Closing Ceremonies. If you're a Princeton Athletic fan, you can't complain at all about how many Tigers have been there and how well spaced out their events have been.

If you're a Dartmouth fan? You can be bursting with pride today over what your own alum, Abbey D'Agostino did.

Princeton fans can also be amazed by D'Agostino.

TigerBlog certainly is.

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