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Aly Raisman claims her Olympic legacy

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Aly Raisman claims her Olympic legacy

From Comcast SportsNet
LONDON (AP) -- Aly Raisman was ready to claim her Olympic legacy. She just needed a little bit of karmic justice to help her do it. The ever-steady, ever-stoic captain of the U.S. women's Olympic gymnastics team made history during the event finals on Tuesday, becoming the first American to win gold on floor exercise. She added a bronze on balance beam to cap off an already impressive two-week run. Not bad for the athlete who's the often overlooked core of the superstar group of U.S. gymnasts known as the "Fierce Five." Five days after a tiebreaker cost her bronze in the all-around, Raisman won a tiebreaker to reach the podium on beam and turned the confidence boost into what she called the best floor routine of her life. "Wow!" she yelled after finishing four flawless tumbling runs over 90 nearly flawless seconds. Then she raced to hug coach Mihai Brestyan. He reminded her to enjoy the moment. "I told her, 'That's the maximum you can get, now just wait for the color,'" Brestyan said. It was gold. A sparkly bookend to the gold she helped the U.S. grab in the team finals last week. The victory gave Raisman three medals for the meet. One more than all-around champion Gabby Douglas. Two more than good friend and world champion Jordyn Wieber. This from a gymnast who has spent most of her career being too reliable for her own good. The 18-year-old lacks the bubbly star quality of Douglas or the driven intensity of Wieber. What she does have, however, is power to spare and a "team-first" mentality that filtered down through the ranks. "It looked like Aly always did the best for the team then when it came to do stuff for Aly Raisman, I don't know, she could not deliver her best," U.S. women's team coordinator Martha Karolyi said. Until the last day of perhaps the last major meet of her career. Raisman -- who lost a tiebreaker to Russia's Aliya Mustafina in the all-around finals that prevented her from joining Douglas on the podium -- appeared headed for a similar fate Tuesday when her beam score of 14.966 flashed on the screen. Brestyan raced over the judges for an inquiry, and after a quick review the bumped Raisman's difficulty score to a 6.3, pushing her into a tie with Romania's Catalina Ponor at 15.066. Raisman earned the medal for executing just a little bit better. Wieber and Douglas struggled following a draining 10 days, though for very different reasons. Wieber came in looking to win a handful of medals but ended up with just one -- the team gold -- after failing to qualify for the all-around finals and finishing seventh on floor. She flew out of bounds early during her first competitive event in a week and didn't come close to reaching the medal stand. Afterward coach John Geddert revealed she was dealing with a painful right leg injury that limited her training. When Wieber flies home to Michigan after the games, she'll do it wearing a walking boot to protect and ready for X-rays that Geddert expects to reveal a stress fracture. While Wieber insists her leg is "fine," Geddert is positive the pain and watered-down practices took its toll. "I know you're at the Olympic games, you've got to deal with what you've got to deal with," Geddert said. "The fact that we couldn't train normally, obviously there were very few performances that were polished and we've got to be polished here." It's a polish Douglas had in abundance in becoming the first African-American to win the Olympic all-around title. The subsequent hoopla left her drained for event finals. She was last on uneven bars on Monday and 24 hours later was a non-factor in the beam final after an uncharacteristic fall. "If it wasn't my time to shine, it wasn't my time to shine," Douglas said. "Overall I think the competition went really well. I wanted to finish off on a good note. Event finals is something a little extra." The U.S. finished with six medals in all, a solid number but four less than the 2008 team captured. Not that it matters, not after the group of teenagers stormed to victory in the team competition to give the Americans their first Olympic title in 16 years. "I feel it was extremely successful," Karolyi said. "It showed the power of this young generation and showed the mental toughness of this whole team. I can't wish for anything more." The men certainly could. The group that made its motto "One Team, One Dream" ended up walking away with just one medal, the bronze earned by Danell Leyva in the all-around. Leyva and teammate Jon Horton put together solid sets in the high bar final on Tuesday, but finished well behind gold medalist Epke Zonderland of The Netherlands, whose jaw-dropping score of 16.533 after a breathtaking display left Horton -- who had to go next -- laughing. "He makes my routine not so cool anymore," Horton said. Expect Horton to work on that. The 26-year-old team captain plans to work toward the 2016 games in Rio de Janeiro. He expects teammates Leyva, Sam Mikulak, John Orozco and Jake Dalton -- all 21 or younger -- to stick around too. There's more uncertainty surrounding one of the most decorated U.S. women's teams of all time. While 15-year-old Kyla Ross and 16-year-olds Douglas and McKayla Maroney could compete for awhile, the future is a bit cloudier for Raisman and Wieber. Wieber begins her senior year of high school in the fall, and Raisman has already graduated. They both plan to stay in training, but projecting four months down the road -- much less four years -- is difficult. Karolyi believes all five team members can continue to compete if they stay healthy but will understand if they don't. They've already reached the top for their sport. Anything else is just gravy.

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What winning the Stanley Cup would actually mean, a fan's perspective

What winning the Stanley Cup would actually mean, a fan's perspective

Just four more wins. It hardly seems possible.

For only the second time ever and for the first time in 20 years, the Capitals will be playing in the Stanley Cup Final. And they could actually win it.

They’re not there yet. The Vegas Golden Knights have cruised through the playoffs thus far and continue to shock the hockey community with their postseason run. Washington’s players need to think about how to beat Vegas, not what happens after.

But while the players cannot and should not look ahead, for fans, it’s hard not to. It’s hard not to dream about that moment when Gary Bettman hands the Stanley Cup over to Alex Ovechkin.

Winning the conference is always a huge achievement that should be celebrated, but this year is different than 1998’s run. Back in 1998, the Caps played against a Detroit Red Wings team that is one of the greatest teams in NHL history. They were the defending champions after sweeping the Philadelphia Flyers the year before. Washington suffered the same fate as the Flyers, losing in just four games.

This year is a battle between two more evenly matched teams. Picking the Caps to win this series is not outlandish or crazy at all. This year, they could actually do it.

So before the puck drops for Game 1 and all dreams are pushed aside for the realities of what may happen, allow a fan a chance to think about what seeing the Washington Capitals actually hoist the Stanley Cup would actually mean.

Breaking news: Washington is not Canada and the Capitals are not an original six team. Hockey is not ingrained in the culture of D.C. the way it is in Canadian cities or in places like Boston and Detroit. Unlike in Vegas where the success of the team in its inaugural season has caught the city by storm, the Capitals won only eight games in their first year. Eight wins doesn’t exactly help a team grow roots in the community.

If you’ve been a fan of the Capitals long enough, chances are you’ve seen some pretty tough times. There have been plenty of playoff disappointments in this team’s history even before the current era. There was also the rebuild that began before the lockout that saw a very bad team play in front of a half empty stadium for several years. And they would not have even gotten to that point without the “Save the Caps” campaign in 1982.

But through it all, that small group of hardcore fans kept coming back. Some may have wavered from time to time, but they came back because being a hockey fan is different than other sports.

It’s hard to be a sports fan in any city with an NFL team and not follow football. Football may not even be your sport, but there is almost on obligation to following it because coverage and interest in football is so prevalent. It’s hard to avoid.

You have to seek out hockey

Hockey at times has been viewed as more of a niche sport than mainstream. Before the age of Alex Ovechkin, if you were from Washington and you were following the Caps, it was because you loved both.

So why did those Caps fans keep coming back after so much heartbreak? Because despite all of the disappointing seasons we always walked away telling ourselves, this will just make it that much sweeter when they do win.

One day, it will all be worth it.

That’s why we watch sports, isn’t it? We watch with the knowledge that sometimes, our hearts will be broken but it’s OK because the good will always outweigh the bad. And the worse the bad times are, the better the good times will feel afterward.

We kept telling ourselves that for a long time, but admittedly some years were tougher to get past than others. It’s hard to keep believing when you’ve seen your rival beat you nine times out of 10 in the playoffs heading into this year’s postseason. It’s hard when a team cannot seem to overcome its playoff history despite having one of the best players of all-time on its roster.

When Ovechkin was drafted, the question we all asked ourselves was not whether he would bring a Cup to Washington, but how many? He brought new fans with him, he brought excitement with him, he brought validation with him…at least initially.

But with every passing year, doubt began to creep into our minds. The upset loss to Montreal in 2010 stung, but Ovechkin was still 24. There was still hope that one day, he would still win the Cup.

Now at 32 years old, many did not know what to expect from the Great 8 this year. When would decline start to show in his game?

Ovechkin is part of why we want the Cup so badly. We want to see the best player in this franchise’s history honored. We want to see the player who transformed hockey in Washington from niche sport to mainstream take his proper place in the sport’s history. No one wants to hear him described as one of the best players to never win a Cup because he should be remembered as one of the best players, period.

But that’s not all of it.

This is about all those times we told ourselves this would all be worth it someday. This is about how we used to cope with the sting of another postseason heartbreak by thinking about what it would feel like when it was finally our year. This is about how we stuck with the team when the stadium was half empty. This is about the blue jersey in our closet with the eagle on the front and the black one hanging next to it with the capitol building on the front. This is about all the 5, 12, 32 and 37 jerseys. This is about replacing Esa Tikkanen as our lasting Stanley Cup memory.

When the Washington Redskins have a rough year, those fans who can remember them think about those three Super Bowl wins. When the Washington Wizards fall short, those fans who can remember it think about the championship in 1978. Even if you’re too young to remember the Super Bowls or NBA championship, those banners still give your team a sense of validation. They have their little piece of history to be proud of.

That’s what this would mean. A Stanley Cup would be not just for the players, it would be for the fans who stuck it out through thick and thin, those fans who despite everything still supported their team. This win would be about the Capitals forever earning their spot in the heart of Washington sports alongside the Redskins and Wizards.

This would be about never having to tell ourselves again that someday all the love we pour into this team will pay off.

A Stanley Cup would mean finally getting to experience a championship and realizing, yeah, it was all worth it.

Let’s go Caps!

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Capital One Bank just made a Caps-themed update to its logo and we're here for it

Capital One Bank just made a Caps-themed update to its logo and we're here for it

Capital One is repping the district in a big way: by changing their logo to incorporate the Capitals' font and name. 

The new Capital One logo appears on the bank's websites and social media ahead of the Caps' Stanley Cup Final games, which begin on Memorial Day Monday in Vegas.

The McLean, Virginia, based bank recently purchased the naming rights to the Capitals' home arena, formerly known as "Verizon Center." And in the first year of its renaming, the Capitals have advanced to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in 20 years. Coincidence? 

We've seen a small, Northern Virginia town change its name to "Capitalsville," and now Capital One Bank is all-in for the Caps.

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