Life of a Sportsaholic

This blog is intended to be insight into my life as an irrational, stats-driven, obsessive sports fan in Boston. I am a fan of all types of sports with an emphasis on Boston teams and am a proud UConn alum.

Category: Olympics

Inspiring Stories Linked to US Pool Dominance in Rio

Erich Schlegel/USA TODAY Sports

Erich Schlegel/USA TODAY Sports

Now a few days removed from the end of swimming events at the Rio Olympics, it’s a good time to reflect. The US finished with 33 swimming medals, matching their previous record for one Olympics (2012 London) and continued to prove that swimming is a US dominated sport (the next highest medal total was Australia with 10). It all starts with the now 28-time medalist Michael Phelps, who has been grabbing headlines for more than a decade, but the other, lesser talked about stories are just as impressive and important. Here are two of my favorite stories from the swimming portion of the Rio Olympics.

Anthony Ervin

Maybe the greatest story coming out of the pool in Rio is thanks to 50-meter specialist Anthony Ervin. In 2000, at age 16, Ervin won gold in the 50-meter at the Sydney Olympics. That was the beginning of a steep decline for him as he battled Tourette’s and drug addiction, forcing him to drop out of college (University of California at Berkeley) and “retire” from swimming at 22-years old. He was homeless on a number of occasions and was close to death more than once, including a suicide attempt. In 2011, he re-enrolled in college and began to get his life on track. He competed in the 2012 London games, taking 5th in the 50-meter.

In Rio, Ervin won a gold medal with the 4×100-meter freestyle relay team and won gold in the 50-meter. He became the oldest male swimmer to win an individual medal in more than a century at age 35 and won gold in the same event 16-years apart, an unbelievable feat that ties a record. If Ervin isn’t the comeback story of the entire Olympic games, I don’t know what is.

He wrote a book detailing his life that has gotten some acclaim, Chasing Water. His story is an inspiring one and because of that, his book jumped onto my fall reading list.

Madeline “Maya” DiRado

The story of Maya DiRado is fascinating. She began swimming at age 6 and has been going ever since, until now. She appeared in her first and last Olympic games in Rio, winning 2 gold medals, 1 silver, and 1 bronze in her 4 events. For most, a 23-year old debuting at the Olympics with 4 medals would be the beginning of something looking ahead 4 years, but for DiRado, this was the end. She has a high-powered career with McKinsey and Co., a management consulting firm, waiting for her in Atlanta and has ended her swimming career to pursue a consulting career.

Maya has always been a very intelligent person, going to high school at 13 and getting a perfect score on the math SAT at age 15. She entered Stanford at age 17 and graduated, putting her education as a priority alongside swimming, not pushing it aside until after her career was over like many athletes do. She spent the last 2 years training for Rio, knowing it was her one Olympic shot and boy did she make the most of it with her 4 medals. It’s an inspiring story and I have the utmost respect for the difficult decision she made to walk away from the sport. It’s just too bad we won’t see her compete in Tokyo in 4 years.

Hope Solo is an Embarrassment to the USA

Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports

Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports

Since the opening ceremonies 10 days ago, I have been watching an unhealthy amount of the Olympics in Rio. Day and night there is action in individual and team sports from trampoline to basketball and everything in between. There have been countless incredible and inspiring performances and over the next few weeks I am going to try to write about some of them, but today I need to vent about one particular US athlete: Hope Solo.

Solo has been a controversial figure during her more than a decade in net for the US Women’s National Team (USWNT). She has had incredible success and is considered to be one of the best US goalies of all time. She has won 2 Olympic gold medals and a World Cup gold medal in her career and holds the US record for clean sheets. All of the accomplishments are great, but she has time and time again proven herself to be an embarrassment to USA athletics.

The most recent in her history of saying stupid things to the media came after a PK loss to Sweden in the Olympic semi-finals on Friday. She said Sweden played like “a bunch of cowards” and then “the best team did not win today. I strongly and firmly believe that.” She got beat and her reaction is to bash the opposition, not take any blame. Could she be any more of a sore loser?

This is just the latest in a long line of unsportsmanlike conduct from Solo. In 2008, Solo was benched in place of Briana Scurry for the World Cup semi-final match against Brazil. After the team lost 4-0, her post game comments, “It was the wrong decision, and I think anybody that knows anything about the game knows that. There’s no doubt in my mind I would have made those saves.” That situation got so bad, her teammates would not allow her to even attend the 3rd place match. A real team player.

All her talking is one thing, but what put me over the top is her blatant lying about a domestic violence situation in 2015. The police were called to her sister-in-law’s house where she claimed she was a victim of domestic violence at the hands of her 17-year old nephew. After interviews with all involved, it appeared Solo was lying and was actually the drunk aggressor. She claimed in an interview that she was a victim and not a criminal, trying to bring attention on the fact that she was the smaller female, so how can she be the aggressor against a 6’8″, 270lb male.

Solo’s half sister Teresa Obert, who was present at the time of the domestic incident, described what she saw:

“She grabbed him by the head and she kept slamming him into the cement over and over again. So I came from behind her, and I pulled her over and, you know, to get her off my son. And then, once she got off, she started punching me in the face over and over again.”

The story itself has more twists and turns than I care to write about and I’mt not an investigative reporter with inside knowledge, but the entire thing pushed me over the edge. Playing the victim to get public support is insulting to everyone, especially all of those who have been victims of domestic violence. Talk about setting a bad example.

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The few examples above are just that, a few examples. Solo has continually been focused on herself with a complete disregard for others. With any loud athlete, when they are winning, talk can get overlooked and pushed aside. Winning or losing, I’m done. I love the US and support nearly all US athletes in the Olympics and other international tournaments, but consider me out on Solo.

She is a terrible representation of a US Olympic athlete. At age 35, she is nearing the end of her playing tenure with the USWNT and I, for one, will be happy if she never takes the field again wearing the red, white, and blue. She doesn’t deserve to wear the colors and represent the USA.