2016 Rio Olympics

The most underrated performances of the Olympics belong to Ducks

The most underrated performances of the Olympics belong to Ducks

Yes, there was Michael Phelps, Usain Bolt and Simone Biles -- they turned in spectacular performances in Rio. But please let's not forget what a trio of former Oregon Ducks pulled off in the Olympics. We're talking about historically significant stuff from Ashton Eaton, Matthew Centrowitz and Galen Rupp.

Eaton, competing in an event that used to be the centerpiece of the Olympics, won his second gold medal -- only the third man to take gold in the decathlon in back-to-back Olympics. Humble, polite and poised, he doesn't even like that "World's Greatest Athlete" label that usually goes with winning an Olympic decathlon gold medal. I hope he finds a challenging and fulfilling next chapter in his life. Certainly he's got the kind of versatility and poise to succeed in many different pursuits.

Centrowitz won the gold medal in the 1,500 meters, something that hadn't been done by a U.S. runner in more than a century. That's difficult to believe, in that this country has produced some terrific milers. Seriously, Centrowitz did something that Jim Ryun, Wes Santee, Steve Scott, Marty Liquori and so many others couldn't do. The list of great U.S. milers and 1,500-meter runners includes so many Ducks, too. I'll list just some of them, knowing full well I'll think of a few more later: Dyrol Burleson, Jim Grelle, Keith Forman, Roscoe Divine, Wade Bell, Dave Wilborn, Steve Prefontaine, Paul Geis, Rudy Chapa and even Matt Centrowitz Sr.

To do something that hasn't been done by an American since 1908 by is pretty amazing.

Rupp didn't come away with a gold medal. He settled for third in the marathon but considering it was just the second one he's ever run it was an amazing performance. Rupp has seemed to be searching for his best race and perhaps he's found it in the marathon, which is such a punishing discipline. He's successfully run every distance from the mile through 5,000 and 10,000 meters before trying 26 miles. He's got charisma and obvious toughness and someday he's going to bring a gold medal back to Portland.

There were other Ducks in Rio, of course. But this trio was the most special.

 

 

Oregon native Ryan Crouser brings home Olympic gold in Men’s Shot Put

Oregon native Ryan Crouser brings home Olympic gold in Men’s Shot Put

Oregon native, and former Sam Barlow High School standout Ryan Crouser blew past the completion in Rio to bring home gold in the Men’s Shot Put.

On his fifth attempt Crouser launched a throw of 22.52 meters (73 feet, 10 3/4 inches), setting an Olympic record in the process, and setting the high mark in the competition. Just a few throws later, teammate Joe Kovacs jumped into second place with a throw of 21.78m, giving Team USA the special gold-silver finish.

The young Crouser is no stranger to success. In 2011, his senior year at Barlow, Crouser was named Gatorade Oregon Boys Track and Field Athlete of the Year, won 6-A state titles in both the shot put and discus, and set three national records: 72.36m discus throw, 19.48m 16-pound indoor shot put throw, and a standard high school indoor shot put throw of 23.53m (note: 16-pound is standard Olympic weight, while high schools use a 12-pound shot put).

His strong high school resume made him one of the most sought after track and field recruits in the country. Crouser nearly joined his cousin, javelin thrower Sam Crouser, at the University of Oregon, but instead committed to the University of Texas.

Crouser only continued to impress while in The Lone Star State, becoming a four-time NCAA Shot Put Champion, eight-time Big 12 Shot Put Champion, eleven-time USTFCCCA All-American, and was named 2014 USATFCCCA Men’s National Field Event Athlete of the Year.

With all the amateur accolades he had piled up, it felt like an Olympic dream was merely a matter of time. Well, Crouser wasted very little time achieving his Olympic dream.

At the U.S.A Track and Field Trials back in July, Crouser set the benchmark with a throw of 22.11m, winning the competition and punching his ticket to Rio. For the Oregon native, it was a bit of a surreal moment. Earning the right to represent your country is one thing, but doing it in your own backyard, at historic Hayward Field with friends and family in attendance, had that much sweeter.

Crouser said of the trials “it was the biggest competition of my life.” He didn’t wilt under the pressure of that stage, and he most certainly didn’t wilt in Rio. If you asked him now, I’m sure he would say the trials were the “second biggest competition” of his life.

The former Texas Longhorn joins a long list of Crousers who have represented their country in the Olympics. His father, Mitch Carouser, was an alternate discus thrower for the U.S. Olympic Team in 1984, while his uncle, Dean Carouser, was a javelin thrower for the U.S Olympic Team in 1988 and 1992.  And don’t forget cousin Sam. The former Duck made the U.S. Olympic Team along with Ryan, but as a javelin thrower (Sam finished 34th in qualifying, and did not advance to the finals).

Crouser is the first American to win gold in the Men’s Shot Put since Adam Nelson in 2004, and at only 23-years-old, this could just be the beginning of a long Olympic career for Oregon’s favorite shot putter.

Ashton Eaton takes Olympic Decathlon lead

Ashton Eaton takes Olympic Decathlon lead

RIO DE JANEIRO – Ashton Eaton did something on Wednesday that he had not done since his junior year at Oregon in 2009. He trailed after the first event of the decathlon.

Eaton charged back over the course of the final four events of day one to take a 121 point lead heading into Thursday’s final day of the Olympic decathlon. Perhaps just as impressive as he looks to become the first American to repeat in the decathlon in more than half a century is that Eaton is on pace for an Olympic record.

Eaton scored 4,621 points through five events. Kai Kazmirek of Germany was second with 4,500 points, followed by Damian Warner of Canada (4,489), Kevin Mayer of France (4,435) and American Jeremy Taiwo (4,419).

The Olympic record of 8,893 points was set by Roman Sebrle of the Czech Republic in 2004. The last American to win back-to-back decathlon titles was Bob Mathias in 1948 and 1952.

The start of the decathlon was anything but typical for the speedy Eaton.

He ran 10.46 to finish second in the 100 meters behind Warner who had a swift 10.30. That left Eaton in the rare position of being 48 points behind after an event that is one of Eaton’s strongest.

Fortunately, the rest of the day went well for Oregon’s five-time NCAA champion.

He reached 26-0.75 on his second attempt in the long jump to score 1,045 points and take the overall lead.

Eaton followed that with a solid effort in the shot put, 48-4, to maintain his slim lead.

He then had a season best clearance in the high jump of 6-7, just missing on his third attempt at 6-8.25.

Eaton then closed out day one in style by winning the 400 meters in 46.07 that was good for 1,005 points, pushing his lead to the widest margin of the competition.

Another competitor made history for Oregon on Wednesday. Sophomore Deajah Stevens finished seventh in the final of the women’s 200 meters in 22.65. She became the Duck woman to make an Olympic sprint final as an undergrad.

Neither Duck alum was able to advance to the final in the men’s javelin. 

Cyrus Hostetler had a best throw of 261-8, which was 20th overall. Sam Crouser, competing in the Olympics for the first time, was 34th with a best mark of 242-0.

The track and field portion of the 2016 Summer Olympics continues with a school-record 17 current and former Ducks in Rio (11 on Team USA, three for Canada, and one each for Australia, Greece and Guatemala). This is the 20th straight Olympiad in which the University of Oregon has been represented, a streak that dates to the 1932 Games in Los Angeles.

In addition to the 17 current and former Ducks competing in Rio, the head coach of the U.S. Men’s Track and Field team is UO associate athletic director Vin Lananna.

GoDucks.com will provide a daily Olympics version of “What to Watch,” as well as a recap of Ducks in competition through the remainder of the Games.

What to Watch – Thursday, August 18

Ashton Eaton looks to become the first American to win back-to-back Olympic decathlon titles in more than 60 years as the 10-event competition wraps up on Thursday. Meanwhile, Matthew Centrowitz hopes to make his second straight Olympic 1,500 meter final, and a trio of Ducks could help the U.S. make the final of the 4x100 meter relay.

Eaton’s quest for an historic gold medal in the decathlon continues Thursday. Eaton, a five-time NCAA champion for Oregon, is the world record-holder in the decathlon, having scored 9,045 points at the 2015 IAAF World Championships.

Not only could he become the first repeat American decathlon champion in a half a century, he could also threaten the Olympic record of 8,893 points set by Roman Sebrle of the Czech Republic in 2004. The last American to win back-to-back decathlon titles was Bob Mathias in 1948 and 1952.

Eaton was the 2012 Olympic champion in London and has also won the last two IAAF World championships (2013, 2015).

The women’s 4x100 meters heats get underway Thursday with the United States among a half-dozen medal contenders along with Jamaica, Great Britain, China, France and Canada. Three runners with Oregon connections are in the relay pool. Freshman Ariana Washington was the 2016 NCAA champion at both 100 and 200 meters. Alum English Gardner placed seventh in the Olympic 100 meters earlier this week, while Jenna Prandini made the semifinals of the 200 meters.

Former Duck Matthew Centrowitz continues his bid to medal in the 1,500 meters. Centrowitz was fourth in the 1,500 at the 2012 London Olympics and won the IAAF World indoor title at 1,500 meters earlier this year in Portland, Ore.

Among the faster runners in his heat (heat two) are Elijah Manangoi of Kenya, Ryan Gregson of Australia and Ayanleh Souleiman of Djibouti.

The favorite in the 1,500, Kenya’s Asbel Kiprop, runs in heat one. Kiprop won gold at the 2008 Beijing Games, before a shocking 12th place finish in London. Kiprop has also won the last three IAAF World outdoor 1,500 meter titles.

Schedule – Thursday, August 18

All times Pacific

5:30 a.m. Ashton Eaton (USA) Decathlon 110 Meter Hurdles

6:25 a.m. Ashton Eaton (USA) Decathlon Discus

7:20 a.m. English Gardner/Jenna Prandini/Ariana Washington (USA) Women’s 4x100 Meter Relay - Heats

9:25 a.m. Ashton Eaton (USA) Decathlon Pole Vault

2:35 p.m. Ashton Eaton (USA) Decathlon Javelin

4:45 p.m. Matthew Centrowitz (USA) Men’s 1,500 Meters – Semifinals

5:45 p.m. Ashton Eaton (USA) Decathlon 1,500 Meters

U.S. Olympic basketball has some issues with selfishness

U.S. Olympic basketball has some issues with selfishness

The U.S. men's Olympic basketball team is struggling and everybody has an opinion about it.

We've probably heard all the excuses by now and there is some merit to most of them:

  • The rest of the basketball world is catching up.
  • Those other teams have the same group of guys playing together for many years.
  • The U.S. players haven't had enough time together as a unit.

Certainly there is truth in all of those things. But let's face it -- this group is playing nowhere near its potential and is way more talented than any of the teams that have come close to beating it in Rio. Seriously, that French team with Tony Parker on the sidelines comes within three points of the U.S.? That's not right. The Australian team is full of NBA players, plays hard and smart -- but come on, Aron Baynes? Yes, Patty Mills and Matthew Dellevadova are solid guards but not NBA all-stars.

Actually, most of the other teams in the field are experienced, but several of them are on the edge of being old. Yes, we've seen those Aussies together for years -- but many of them are on the downside of their career. Same with the team from France.

At the World Cup two years ago the Americans went 9-0 and nobody came within 20 points of them. Was that a better team than this one? Yes. But this team is still full of NBA all-stars.

The truth is, the best player on this U.S. team is Kevin Durant. Hands down. But he's gotten just 10 shots over the last two games. The U.S. is not moving the ball and thus not shooting well. There's been way too much hero-ball and not enough ball movement. That's obvious. My theory is that there's a degree of selfishness that may pop up when Carmelo Anthony is your team leader -- even though Anthony's play has been a bright spot.

Could you really expect Anthony to be preaching unselfish play to his teammates?

But the team's real problem is on defense. When the U.S. coaching staff added Tom Thibodau I figured he'd take care of that department. He's supposed to be the defensive guru, right? But it hasn't turned out that way. Pick-and-roll defense has been a complete disaster and I'm not seeing a lot of energy being expended at the defensive end.

Yes. it helps when your team has been together a while, but basic NBA defense is the same for just about every team. Pick-and-roll coverage is pretty basic and certainly we know that every NBA player has an idea of what is expected of him based on what type of defense his team plays.

But these players are not meeting those expectations and I don't believe it has a lot to do with how long this bunch has been together.

It appears to me the coaches are not getting through to their players. The effort level is not what it needs to be and that has to change. Oh well, the medal round is about to begin and my guess is that we will soon see an uptick in the interest level of the American players, who may not take the early round all that seriously.

It's time the coaches find a rotation of players who will bring energy and intelligence to the floor and then stick to that rotation. If you don't get it done on defense, you don't play. So far, this thing reminds me of an all-star game with the coaching staff attempting to make sure everybody gets a chance to play and everyone's happy.

All-star games don't mean much to NBA players. And when you think about it, that's the type of defense we're seeing -- the kind you see in an all-star game.

That has to change.

 

After the Olympics, Portland Thorns will have high expectations

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After the Olympics, Portland Thorns will have high expectations

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The Portland Thorns came into last Saturday night’s game against rival Seattle Reign losers of two straight. After 12 consecutive games without a loss, the Thorns unprecedented streak was not only over, but their grip on first place in the NWSL standings was in jeopardy as well. A season of high expectations was becoming precariously close to falling off an Olympic sized chasm.

In what may be seen as one of the biggest games of the year when all is said and done, the Thorns eked out a 1-0 victory in front of 19,000-plus at Providence Park. Behind a shrewd coaching move by Thorns coach Mark Parsons to go with a back line that was five deep, six saves from goalkeeper Michelle Betos, a standout performance from Nadia Nadim and one big save by Katherine Reynolds, the Thorns gained three points to remain at the top of the standings heading into a month long break.

The Thorns have survived their toughest stretch of the season relatively unscathed. When they return to action in late August, there will be no excuses, not that there ever has been with this team, for the Thorns to be heavy favorites to win it all. One thing is clear; with a team this talented and deep, an appearance in the NWSL Championship should be the primary goal.

Last season, the Portland Timbers made a remarkable run to the MSL Cup, winning the first major title in Portland since the Portland Trail Blazers in 1977 Portland Thorns in 2013. The Thorns have the opportunity to deliver another title to the Rose City. It should be the expectation of this town. It should be the expectation of the Thorns. The Timbers are looking less and less likely to repeat as MLS champs, so it may be up to the Thorns to keep this parade routine going into 2016.

Come late August and early September there will be a flurry of games to close out the season. Of the five remaining games left, only two are against a top five opponent with two more against the cellar dwellers of the NWSL. The Thorns, barring any Olympic injury (knock on wood), should be a complete team by then. Having proved earlier in the season that they are the best team in the league when everyone is assembled, the soccer version of The Avengers if ever there was one, the Thorns should march into the playoffs with their sights set on Houston.

Back in the fold will be Tobin Heath (already making her presence felt in the Olympics), Lindsey Horan, and Allie Long. Back will be Christine Sinclair (see Tobin Heath parenthesis), Amandine Henry, Meghan Klingenberg, and Emily Sonnet. They will fortify a squad that was admirably held down by Nadim, Betos, Reynolds and newcomers like Dagny Brynjarsdottir. The Thorns should have nothing short of title aspirations when September arrives.

If the Thorns should require any smaller goals to help achieve their ultimate end game, it should be this: The Thorns have yet to host a playoff game. How great would it be to give the fans something they have been waiting to see and experience since 2013? Over 19,000 fans showed up to a home game when most of the more well know names were absent. The vibe and energy in the stadium was nothing short of a typical, dynamic Thorns game. Can you imagine what a playoff game in Portland would be like? It might just give Timbers fans a moment of appreciation and adoration.

August will be a long month for the Thorns fans. The next game isn’t until August 27 and the next home game is not until September 4. That’s a long wait for fans of a team with visions of confetti and a trophy dancing in their heads. But, good things come to those who wait. So, enjoy the Olympics, Thorns fans. Feel the pride of watching a team bursting with Thorns players compete for our country (and Canada, and France). Take a deep breath and relish the break, because exciting things are on the horizon.

As Olympics draw near, you must read this piece on USA Basketball

As Olympics draw near, you must read this piece on USA Basketball

As another Olympics draws near and if you have any interest in basketball, I want to highly recommend you take a look at this exhaustive piece that NBC has put together -- an oral history of the rebuilding of the USA Basketball system.

You probably won't get through the whole thing in one sitting -- it's a very long read. But I'm going to tell you I think it's worth your time. It took some relatively embarrassing defeats to put this country's national team program back on track and this is the story of how it all went together, including a look at a couple of mismatched teams and coaches that caused serious changes in the way we chose our national teams.

A lot of this is inside stuff and candid commentary, including this about that disastrous, mismatched team that Larry Brown tried to coach:

(Stu) Jackson: Larry Brown was consulted on the team and I can remember in some specific situations, some concerns about certain players were expressed and about their addition to the team. But, I can tell you that those additions to the team would not be made without the understanding that a coach would support the team that he was given.

"To me, it was simple: They picked the wrong coach at the time."

Stephon Marbury

You really need to read this, if for no other reason than to get to the very end in order to find out which player has the chance this year to become the most decorated USA Olympic basketball player of all time.

The Road to Rio: Xfinity's new Olympics coverage platform

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The Road to Rio: Xfinity's new Olympics coverage platform

I witnessed the future of event-based television entertainment.  XFINITY’s new X1 Olympics viewing platform will change the way you watch events such as the 2016 RIO Olympics forever.  Along with its innovative and user friendly Voice Remote, XFINITY has developed the most immersive and all-inclusive platform for watching televised events.

I met with Vice President of Product Management for XFINITY Peter Nush, and he demonstrated all of the various features of X1’s new Olympic viewing technology.  From choosing between multiple feeds in which to watch the numerous events in gymnastics to adding “Favorite” athletes for more in-depth coverage, the new “Road to RIO by XFINITY” will give even the casual viewer something to cheer for.

This new product has been designed to encompass all forms of viewing technologies by utilizing the X1 sports app as well as incorporating all of the multitude of streaming options provided by NBC to give you the opportunity of watching the Olympics from anywhere on any device.  You can also be alerted via text message when an athlete or team is about to compete or an event is about to happen so you will never miss a minute of Olympic glory.

Just one example of this awesome new viewing revolution is the fact that you can simplify your search for a particular athlete or event just by designating them as a “Favorite”.  Once you have done this, you can watch previous highlights, read their bios, and follow every event they participate in during the Games.  As mentioned before, you can set up alerts for when your favorite athlete or country is participating in a certain event.  And, in case you missed the opening of a competition, you have the option of starting that event from the beginning, ensuring that you never miss a second.  For the casual fans who are only interested in the biggest moments, XFINITY customers can access the internet channel “The Gold Zone”, which highlights only events in which gold medals are at stake.

If you are skeptical about the new voice remote’s capabilities, Nush assured me that countless hours of customer feedback as well as many months of research and development have gone into the voice remote’s capabilities.  The voice recognition is exceptional and the ease of use is unparalleled.  If you get stuck wondering just how to ask the remote to perform a task, one can simply ask “What can I say?” and the remote will give you suggestions of phrases and/or questions to aid you in your search.

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XFINITY has chosen the perfect event in which to launch this new technology.  The 2016 RIO Olympics will be the most widely viewed Olympic Games to date because of the numerous television outlets, including Telemundo, The Golf Channel, USA Network, Bravo, and NBC Universal, as well as a myriad of internet streaming options being provided.  However, the Olympics are just the beginning.  Event-based entertainment such as the 2016 presidential elections, March Madness, NASCAR races, the College Football Playoff, and even the Academy Awards will all be covered by XFINITY’s new innovation in the future.  Imagine watching Brad Pitt give an acceptance speech on ABC, then instantly being able to watch the internet streams of him giving quick interviews and congratulatory hugs back stage.  Or, envision being able to watch every aspect of the Duke Blue Devils’ drive for yet another Final Four!

XFINITY has made event-based television viewing as simple as possible, while providing the deepest and most comprehensive information access to even the most rabid fan.  This new X1 product has given me a new excitement about the future of television.  If you haven’t experienced the new voice remote or X1’s advanced viewing options, I highly recommend going to a local XFINITY store and seeing for yourself.  Don’t let the “Road to RIO” pass you by.

Devon Allen's family creates GoFundMe to help get to Rio

Devon Allen's family creates GoFundMe to help get to Rio

Devon Allen won the 110-meter hurdles Saturday in the U.S. Olympic Trials at Hayward Field. Allen will represent University of Oregon and the USA in the 2016 Summer Olympics.

Allen's school-record time of 13.03 is the second-fastest in the world this year.

Allen's parents, Louis and Bernadette, have created a GoFundMe to help with trip expenses to watch their son compete in Rio De Janeiro. 

The fund goal is $15,000; the rasied money would cover airfare, room, ground transportation and some meals for 10 days. Within 18 hours and 59 donations, the fund has raised $3,420. 

To donate or read the note from Devon's parents go to this website: https://www.gofundme.com/2cmqfv3f .

Webcast: Day Four from the U.S. Track and Field Trials

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Webcast: Day Four from the U.S. Track and Field Trials

Check out our web exclusive Track Town Live webcast, where Chris Burkhardt brings you all the latest updates, standings, and predictions from Eugene at the U.S. Track and Field Trials. Our live webdcast will air every day from approximately 1PM - 2PM,  on our YouTube channel. Check out the video below, a replay of our Day Three broadcast. #TrackTown16

REPLAYS:

DAY 3

DAY 2

DAY 1