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olympic notebook

Raisman named team captain

Needham native the elder gymnast

By John Powers
Globe Staff / July 27, 2012
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LONDON — Needham, Mass., native Aly Raisman, the US gymnastics team’s oldest member and the de facto leader of last year’s world champions, will captain the Olympic squad as it seeks to win the gold medal for the first time outside of the States.

“That’s a huge honor for me,” said the 18-year-old Raisman, who’ll be favored to medal in floor exercise and has a strong chance to qualify in the all-around. “I was hoping to be captain, but I wasn’t assuming.”

Raisman, who won three team and individual medals at the last two global meets, was elected by her four teammates, including world titlist Jordyn Wieber, her Olympic roommate. “I just want to be there for them because they’re always there for me when I need support,” Raisman said.

Since the team qualifying competition will be on Sunday, the women won’t march in Friday night’s Opening Ceremonies. “I’d rather miss the Opening Ceremonies and have a better competition,” said Raisman.

McKayla Maroney, who’s favored to win the vault, has been recovering from a jammed toe that she sustained this week on a beam dismount. “It hurts, but I’m ignoring it,” said Maroney, who’d hurt the toe weeks ago and aggravated it in London. “I will do vault, no matter what.”

Alternate Anna Li was held out of training following a fall during her uneven bars routine earlier in the week. Li was taken to a hospital, where tests revealed no injury. It’s doubtful Li would be available to compete if one of the five team members is unable to go.

Japan stuns Spain

Japan produced a major shock on the first day of men’s soccer by beating medal favorite Spain, 1-0, in Glasgow, Scotland, with pace and guile in a match that could have ended in a rout had the finishing been more accurate.

Japan forward Yuki Otsu broke away from his marker during a corner in the 34th minute and the ball landed at his feet for a simple tap-in past goalkeeper David De Gea. Spain was reduced to 10 players a few minutes after the goal.

The loss was a huge blow for Spain’s under-23 team, which wants to win Olympic gold to add to the World Cup and European Championship titles held by the country’s full national team.

Britain, playing in front of a capacity crowd at Old Trafford in its first Olympic competition since 1960, played to a 1-1 draw with Senegal, which got a goal in the 81st minute from Moussa Konate.

In other first-day matches, gold-medal favorite Brazil held off Egypt, 3-2; Jerry Bengtson of the New England Revolution had both goals for Honduras in a 2-2 draw with Morocco; Uruguay beat the United Arab Emirates, 2-1; Belarus edged New Zealand, 1-0; Gabon, making its Olympic debut, played Switzerland to a 1-1 draw; and South Korea and Mexico finished at 0-0.

Zagunis gives thanks

Fencer Mariel Zagunis, chosen by the United States delegation Wednesday to be the flag bearer during the Opening Ceremonies, said the honor has additional meaning to her because this year marks the 40th anniversary of Title IX.

She noted that there are more women than men on the US team for the first time.

“I am where I am today because of the women who paved the way,” said Zagunis, a two-time gold medalist. “They were the ones who got our rights and I was born in the right generation to have these opportunities to be there and available. I just think you have to fight in training and to be the best in your sport, but there was no fighting to have that opportunity.”

Plans are fluid

Will Natalie Coughlin, who won a record six medals in Beijing, get to swim in Saturday’s 4 x 100-meter freestyle final? Depends on how she does in the morning prelims. If she has one of the top two American times, she should be a certain choice. If not, coach Teri McKeever still could pick Coughlin based on her résumé — silver medals in the event at the last two Games as well as a silver at last year’s world meet in Shanghai. Though he didn’t swim the 100 free at the trials, Michael Phelps likely will earn a relay spot based on his 2008 golden leg, his bronze-medal effort at the world meet, and his trials seed time, which was second to Nathan Adrian’s. “We’re going to put up who we feel are the four fastest guys,” said men’s coach Gregg Troy . . . Swimmer Missy Franklin, who trains in Aurora, Colo., said she was shaken by the recent theater shooting there. “I was absolutely horrified,” said the 17-year-old, who grew up in the area. “It’s just so senseless . . . All I can do is swim my heart out and make my state proud and give a little bit of fun to the really tough summer Colorado’s had.”

Among the missing

Romania’s chances of challenging for the gold medal in women’s gymnastics have been hurt by an injury to Larisa Iordache, who developed plantar fasciitis in her left heel two days ago. Romania coach Mariana Bitang said Iordache has a ‘‘50 percent chance’’ of doing all four events in London . . . Swedish team officials said swimmer Therese Alshammar could miss the Olympics because of a pinched nerve in her neck, which would leave the country without one of its biggest medal hopes. Alshammar, a two-time silver medalist, is considered one of the top contenders in the 50- and 100-meter freestyle sprints. She will miss the 4 x 100 freestyle relay because of the injury . . . Ivo Karlovic of Croatia withdrew from the tennis competition because of a foot injury. He’ll be replaced by Philipp Petzschner of Germany . . . A Greek athlete failed a doping test, according to an IAAF official, and the father and coach of world indoor high jump champion Dimitris Chondrokoukis said his son tested positive and withdrew from the Olympics. The IAAF official spoke on condition of anonymity because the case has not yet been made public. Chondrokoukis, 24, won the world indoor title in Istanbul in March . . . Discus thrower Zoltan Kovago of Hungary, considered a medal contender, was banned for two years for a doping offense, forcing him to miss the Games . . . Jack Davis, a former US hurdler who won silver medals in the 1952 and ‘56 Games, died in San Diego. He was 81. Obituary, B9.

Chad Finn of the Globe staff contributed; material from the Associated Press was used in this report. John Powers can be reached at jpowers@globe.com.

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