Thursday, July 1, 2021

Two More Steeplechase Olympians

TigerBlog has been very into the Euro 2020 soccer tournament, which is close, but not quite, to the level of the World Cup. 

There have been some extraordinary games. The two best were Monday, in the first round of the knockout stage. 

First there was Spain-Croatia. If you don't recall, Croatia was the runner-up at the last World Cup in 2018. In the game, Spain led 3-1 before Croatia scored two late goals to tie it, including one three minutes into stoppage time, before Spain scored twice in extra time to win 5-3.

The very next game was Switzerland-France. The game was 1-1 when Switzerland missed a penalty kick. Within three minutes, it was 3-1 France, and the defending World Cup champs seemed to be cruising. Then Switzerland scored in the 81st minute and then tied it in the first minute of stoppage time before winning on penalty kicks.

They were great games. The England-Germany game wasn't quite as dramatic, but the English scored twice in the second half to defeat Germany in a knockout stage of a major tournament for the first time since winning the World Cup in 1966.

And while the subject is international soccer, TB will again give you his three possible rule changes that he thinks would greatly improve the game: 1) you can't be offsides if the ball is played below a certain point on the field, possibly about 10 yards outside the box; 2) keep the time on the scoreboard and have the ref stop time just like it's done in American college soccer; 3) make the box a bit smaller, which reduces the area where the goalkeeper can use his or her hands. Feel free to implement them immediately.

In addition to the Euro tournament, which is taking two days off prior to the quarterfinals, there's also the Wimbledon tennis tournament. TB recently saw Novak Djokovic rally from two sets down to defeat Stefanos Tsitsipas in the French Open final. Also on Monday, TB saw Tsitsipas go out in the first round of Wimbledon to American Frances Tiafoe, and it looked like Tsitsipas mentally was not over the loss at the French. He'll be back in a big way, TB is pretty sure.

As for Tiafoe, TB watched him win his second round match yesterday. That match was played on Court 5, and TB saw it with a one-camera feed and no announcers on ESPN+. It was a different way to watch it. 

The England-Germany game was played at Wembley Stadium, which is 11 miles away from Wimbledon. It was a big day in English sports.

Lizzie Bird also has made a huge impact on the British sports scene as well. The Princeton alum, from the Class of 2017, qualified for the Great Britain Olympic Team in the 3,000-meter steeplechase.

Bird, the 2015 Ivy Heps cross country champ and two-time Heps steeplechase champ, had bettered the Olympic qualifying standard of 9:30.00 in May, when she ran a 9:26.73 in a race in Portland. She then won the steeplechase at the British championships last Friday, which put her onto the team for Tokyo.

The steeplechase is TB's favorite event in track and field. It's grueling, with 28 hurdles and seven water jumps in a 3,000-meter race. Princeton has been very good at producing steeplechasers, such as two-time Olympian Donn Cabral and near-Olympian Ashley Higginson.

The steeplechase tradition also continues with Ed Trippas, who will run the event for Australia. Trippas waited until the last possible minute to get the qualifying standard, doing so on the final day for qualifying. The standard on the men's side is 8:22, and Trippas ran an astonishing 8:19.60 at a race in Spain.

Trippas will be the captain of the Princeton cross country team this fall. He was the 2019 Heps steeplechase winner. His 8:19.60 would have won the 2021 NCAA title by nearly 10 seconds, and it also would have been good for seventh at the 2016 Olympic Games (not that one race is interchangeable with another).

There haven't been a lot of Princeton undergrads who have competed as Olympians and then come back compete for the Tigers. Off the top of his head, TB thinks of four: Bill Bradley and Ashleigh Johnson, who won gold medals (in basketball and water polo), Andreanne Morin in rowing and Susie Scanlan (fencing bronze medal). 

There are probably more, but the list isn't huge. It's quite an accomplishment by Trippas.

1 comment:

D '82 said...

England also beat Germany in the knock-out stage of a major tournament in 1945.