|Rylie Rampone waits as mother Christie Rampone, captain of the US World Cup squad, is interviewed in Times Square. (Brendan Mcdermid/Reuters)|
Wrestling with takedown
If there’s a golden lining to the United States women’s soccer team’s silver medal at the World Cup it’s that whenever the Americans have lost at the global tournament - in 1995, 2003, and 2007 - they’ve won the Olympic title the following year.
That said, the shootout loss to Japan, the miracle victory over Brazil in the quarterfinals, and the loss to Sweden in the prelims made it clear that the two-time defending champions could struggle even to make the podium at next summer’s Games in London, for which they still have to qualify next winter in Vancouver.
Usually that wouldn’t be a problem, but after losing to Mexico for the first time ever in Cup qualifying last year the Americans can’t take anything for granted. They’d never lost to Japan until Sunday’s final and they’d never lost a Cup match in which they’d had the lead.
But the rest of the planet has been catching up to the Yanks for years - first the Norwegians, then the Germans, then the Brazilians, and now the Japanese, who’ve never medaled at Olympus but will go in as the favorites.
“I’m happy for them and they do deserve it,’’ said goalkeeper Hope Solo, whose teammates universally were gracious in defeat.
Painful as it was for the US, Japan’s triumph was wonderful for the women’s game and the unprecedented depth and quality of the Cup field should make for a fascinating five-ringed tournament in London.
As a victory bonus Tsunekazu Takeda, president of Japan’s Olympic Committee, collected a bet from USOC counterpart Larry Probst - a cowboy hat and boots and a case of Budweiser.
Quality job No. 1 While Olympic insiders feel it’s unlikely the International Olympic Committee would choose an Asian host for the 2020 Summer Games after awarding the 2018 winter version to Pyeongchang, Jacques Rogge says that the customary geographical rotation won’t doom Tokyo’s candidacy. “There is no rule,’’ the IOC president said. “We go for quality. We do not go for continent.’’ Indeed, the IOC has had no problem going to Europe back-to-back, having done it for both 1992 Games (Albertville and Barcelona) and then again for 1994 (Lillehammer), again for 2004 (Athens) and 2006 (Turin), and yet again for 2012 (London) and 2014 (Sochi). Tokyo, which last hosted in 1964, will be up against Madrid and Rome. While 2018 losers Munich and Annecy ponder whether they’ll bid again for 2022, the list of interested parties is growing - Switzerland, Quebec, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and Reno-Tahoe, which is close to 1960 host Squaw Valley and would be the first US bidder since Salt Lake City . . . Newest members of the IOC are Spain’s Jose Perurena Lopez, the international canoe federation president, Argentina’s Gerardo Werthein, who heads his country’s Olympic committee, and New Zealand’s Barbara Kendall, who won three windsurfing medals at five Games. Stepping down at year’s end after reaching the mandatory retirement age of 80 will be Australia’s Phil Coles, Japan’s Chiharu Igaya and Shun-ichiro Okano, Sweden’s Arne Ljungqvist, Ivory Coast’s Lassana Palenfo, and Croatia’s Antun Vrdoljak.
Times not of essence If you base the form chart on the year’s best times, the US swim team wouldn’t figure to top the table at the Shanghai world championships next week. But since the squad was selected off last year’s national championships and Pan Pacific meet, the athletes didn’t have to peak for a summer selection event so they should be impeccably tapered. All but two individual medalists from the last global meet in 2009 are back, led by champions Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte, Rebecca Soni, and Ariana Kukors. Phelps, who’s the world leader in the 100-meter butterfly and the 200-meter individual medley, also will be competing in the 200 fly and 200 freestyle and could see action on all three relays. Back, too, is Natalie Coughlin in her first global meet since she won six medals in Beijing, as well as four-time Olympian Amanda Beard and three-timer Jason Lezak. Racing in the 200 back, where she won bronze last time, as well as in the 400 IM is Elizabeth Beisel, the 18-year-old native of Saunderstown, R.I., who now swims for Florida . . . Will the planet’s top sprinter be allowed to compete in the world meet? That’s what the Court of Arbitration for Sport will decide this week when it considers the case of Brazil’s Cesar Cielo, the Olympic champion who tested positive in May for a banned diuretic that he claimed came from a tainted dietary supplement. Cielo, who’s the defending titlist in both the 50 and 100 free, was let off with a warning by his own federation but the global body has appealed.
Synchronized watch The Chinese divers, who won seven of 10 golds and 14 of 30 medals at the last world championships, are ripping it again in their home pool this week, winning the first four events. Nothing yet for the Yanks, who won four silvers in 2009, but they’ll have a good chance in today’s synchronized 3-meter with Troy Dumais and Kristian Ipsen, who medaled in the event last time . . . The US women’s water polo team is going for a record third straight world title this week. The biggest obstacle will be the Dutch, who beat the Americans for the Olympic crown in Beijing and tied them in their preliminary opener in Shanghai. The US males, who also were second at Olympus and have 10 of those players back, will be trying to make history simply by making the podium after losing their opener to Germany. That’ll be a tall order, though. Serbia is heavily favored to win its third title in the last four tournaments and Spain and Croatia are podium perennials.
Hopes are high Concord sculler Kristin Hedstrom and partner Julie Nichols made history recently by becoming the first US entry to win an overall points trophy after reaching the podium at all three World Cup events in the lightweight double sculls. If they can do it at next month’s world regatta in Slovenia, it’ll be the first American medal in the event since Nichols and Renee Hykel won silver in 2005 . . . Flyweight Rau’shee Warren will be trying to make a record third Olympic boxing team at next month’s trials in Mobile, Ala. He’ll be joined by Beijing featherweight veteran Raynell Williams, who has moved up to lightweight, and by Michael Hunter, who has moved down to heavyweight after winning the 2008 superheavy trials but failing to qualify for the Games. Also in the mix are four New Englanders - bantamweight Tramaine Williams (New Haven), lightweight Toka Kahn Clary (Providence), light welterweight Thomas Duquette (Boston), and light heavyweight Sean Bettencourt (Stoughton).
Shooting for it While the South Korean men continued their dominance with a fourth straight individual and sixth straight team title at the world archery championships in Turin, there was a startling shakeup on the women’s side as Denisse Van Lamoen, the 36th seed, won Chile’s first crown and the Italians halted the Koreans’ run of four team victories. The only US medal in the Olympic events was Brady Ellison’s bronze . . . Extraordinary achievement by Katie Uhlaender, the two-time skeleton Olympian who finished third in the 63-kilogram class at last week’s US weightlifting championships. That’s a rare-enough sports combination, but it’s even more impressive since Uhlaender, daughter of late major league ballplayer Ted Uhlaender, has undergone surgery eight times in the last two years since shattering her left kneecap in a snowmobiling accident . . . Who’ll light the flame at London’s opening ceremonies next year? The English bookmaking firm of William Hill has Sir Steven Redgrave, the rower who won gold at five consecutive Games, as a 6-4 favorite, followed by Sir Chris Hoy, the four-time cycling champion at 8-1, and Dame Kelly Holmes and Lord Sebastian Coe, both two-time track gold medalists, each at 10-1. Coe, who heads the 2012 organizing committee, says he isn’t a candidate and that his pick would be Daley Thompson, the two-time Olympic decathlon champion. Soccer star David Beckham, probably the world’s most famous British athlete, is a longshot. “My gut instinct is it needs to be an Olympian,’’ said Coe.
John Powers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org; material from Olympic committees, international and domestic sports federations, personal interviews, and wire services was used in this report.