Tag Archives: Olympics

St. Francis Prep teen earns rare college sand volleyball scholarship


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy Bogda family 

When you think of the best places to play beach volleyball, New York may not be the hottest choice on the list.

But that never stopped St. Francis Preparatory School volleyball player Stephanie Bogda from loving the game. Bogda, who plays both indoor and outdoor, was attracted to the sand version after watching some women in Long Beach play when she was 11. She would return occasionally to the beach to watch the players for two years and ask tips about the game, until eventually they asked her to play.

Now Bogda, 17, who has trained and competed for years in sand volleyball, earned a four-year scholarship with Division I University of New Orleans to play sand volleyball, despite the long odds, being from a state where the temperature gets to be near freezing for half of the year. She recently verbally committed to the school.

“We’re extremely proud of her because she had to overcome a lot,” said Bogda’s mother, Patricia. “She has had to sacrifice a lot while her friends were playing. She always had this goal and she would never let anything stop her.”

BOGDA 2

Beach volleyball, which has two players per team rather than six, has been on a wave of growth that stems from the Beijing Olympics, according to many published reports.

The NCAA added Division I sand volleyball to its list of varsity programs in 2011. Now, more than 40 NCAA four-year schools sponsor the sport, according to the American Volleyball Coaches Association.

Bogda continues to play indoor volleyball on travel teams and with St. Francis Prep. But during the summer she partakes in sand volleyball competitions in other states. She also has a rigorous daily training schedule that includes running, two-hour conditioning and personal mentoring from professional sand players, including Brazilian Priscilla Lima.

Besides volleyball, Bogda likes to draw and paint in her free time, so she believes she will major in art in at the University of New Orleans.

But of course she has her eyes set on becoming a professional volleyball player and perhaps playing in a future Olympics.

With a year remaining before college games begin, Bogda plans to work harder than ever to prove when she steps in the sand in New Orleans that she belongs there.

“I’m going to spend a lot of this year on the beach,” Bogda said. “People say ‘oh you’re committed, you can relax now.’ Absolutely not. I need to be ready for college.”

 

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Olympic gold medalist Betsey Armstrong to teach yoga in Flushing studio


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy Yumcha Yoga

KATELYN DI SALVO 

Queens residents can now get into sun salutation poses with an Olympic gold medalist in community yoga classes in Flushing.

Betsey Armstrong, the goalkeeper for the USA Olympic gold medal-winning water polo team at the 2012 London Olympics, is also a yoga instructor. She will teach yoga at Yumcha Yoga studio through the month.

Armstrong will lead gentle Vinyasa classes, which are suitable for people of all levels, on March 8, 15 and 22.

“I love yoga. It really helps to train my flexibility, strength and concentration, which are essential in not just my sport but my daily life,” Armstrong said. “In fact, I hope to persuade many more of my fellow athletes to take it up. Apart from its proven physical benefits, it’s also a terrific stress reliever.” 

Armstrong’s classes are just $5, and Dr. Yen Yen Woo, owner of Yumcha Yoga, hopes many people will be encouraged to join because of the gold medalist’s presence.

“We’re so proud to have a world class athlete like Betsey lead us in practice,” Woo said. “How often does anyone get to work out with a true blue Olympic gold medalist?”

Full pricing details and schedule are posted on www.yumchayoga.com. 

 

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Queens’ Morning Roundup


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

morning roundup

TODAY’S FORECAST

Thursday: Cloudy. Light snow likely this afternoon. Temps nearly steady around 30. Winds NE at 15 to 25 mph. Chance of snow 40%. Thursday night: Periods of snow. Low 16. Winds NNE at 20 to 30 mph. Chance of snow 90%. 5 to 8 inches of snow expected.

EVENT OF THE DAY: Pop Americano!

From the creators of “Comedy Outliers” comes “Pop Americano!” a fun, interactive show where a panel of comedians breakdown current pop culture and political news. Propelled by it’s use of news clips, sound bites and a quick round of pop culture trivia, “Pop Americano” is a show you can’t miss! 10 p.m. at The Creek and the Cave in Long Island City. Click here for more info or to submit an event of your own

Storm bringing near-blizzard conditions to NYC

The year is starting out with a shot of nasty weather that is predicted to bring near-blizzard conditions to the city. Read more: The Queens Courier

NYPD: Queens shooting is city’s first murder of 2014

A man shot to death in Jamaica Wednesday is the first homicide of the year, police said. Read more: The Queens Courier

De Blasio sworn in as 109th mayor of New York City

New York City’s 109th mayor, Bill de Blasio, was sworn in during a ceremony at his Park Slope, Brooklyn home just after midnight Wednesday, followed by a formal inauguration on the steps of City Hall later that day. Read more: The Queens Courier

Freed ailing ex-terror trial lawyer arrives in NYC

A dying former civil rights lawyer convicted in a terrorism case but released early from prison has arrived in New York City. Read more: AP

Three Rangers named to U.S. Olympic squad

The New York Rangers will be well-represented at the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia, at least as far the U.S. Men’s Hockey team is concerned. Read more: ABC New York

 

 

St. John’s University alumna Dagmara Wozniak wins fencing gold and bronze


| editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of St. John's Athletic Communications

BENJAMIN FANG

Dagmara Wozniak, a St. John’s University fencing alumna, won bronze in the women’s individual saber and helped Team USA win gold in the team saber event at the Pan American Games.

The victories marked her third individual medal and seventh consecutive gold for the U.S. women’s saber team at the Pan American Games. This year, it was held in Cartagena, Colombia from June 16-21.

“It was a hard competition, but was a good preparation for the Senior World Championships in August,” Wozniak said. “Hopefully, I can bring home my first Senior Worlds medal.”

Wozniak, currently ranked second in the country and sixth in the world, now has two bronzes and one silver medal. In the 2012 Olympics, she placed eighth in the individual competition.

Daryl Homer, the top-ranked fencer in the U.S. and also St. John’s alum, won bronze in the men’s individual saber. However, Homer withdrew from the team event because of work commitments.

At the end of the Pan American Games, Team U.S.A. topped the medal count with 14 individual medals and six team medals.

 

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Wrestling voted out of Olympics


| editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Hofstra University

BY ANTHONY O’REILLY

The sport of wrestling is now fighting for its life.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) voted the sport, which was part of the inaugural 1896 Olympics held in Athens, Greece, off the 2020 games program.

Richard Zbytniewski, a wrestling coach at MS 72 Count Basie in Jamaica, said he couldn’t understand the decision made by the IOC because wrestling has been a part of the Olympics since the beginning.

“If you’re going to get rid of one of the oldest sports then you’re losing the identity of the Olympics,” he said.

Robert Anspach, head coach of wrestling at Hofstra University, said he was shocked when he learned the news and at first thought it was a joke.

“I didn’t even know it was up for discussion,” he said.

Anspach argued with one of the reasons the IOC gave for voting wrestling off, low ratings.

“If you’re going to put it on at 1 or 2 o’clock in the afternoon of course nobody’s going to be to watch it,” he said.

Anspach said that despite the decreasing ratings, there seems to be a growing support for wrestling, citing growing attendance at Hofstra’s wrestling events.

Zbytniewski said when he was a wrestler in college he’d use the Olympics for motivation.

“The Olympics were inspiring me to do better,” he said, adding that the event does the same for the students he coaches at the middle school.

Anspach said that the Olympics may not be the only goal that all wrestlers look to, but that it is one of the main ones.

“It’s the dream and aspiration of some of these guys,” Anspach said of his wrestlers.

Anspach and Zbytniewski also said that wrestling should stay in the Olympics because it is, in their opinion, the ultimate sport.

“It’s something that you’re born with, it’s instinctual,” Anspach said. “It’s the only sport that’s opened to everybody. There’s a weight class for everyone. You don’t see a short basketball player. But in wrestling there’s a division for everyone.”

“There are sports on that list that I really wouldn’t even consider to be a sport,” Zbytniewski echoed. “They don’t take any skill to do. Wrestling is a highly skilled sport that you need to train hard for in order to get good at.”

Anspach, when asked if there was any official word on what would happen in the wrestling community, said everything is still up in the air.

“People are asking us ‘what’s going to happen?’” he said. “We don’t know. It’s not official yet that it’s going to happen and I really hope they overturn the decision.”

Wrestling still has a fighting chance to be included in the 2020 games, but has to apply for inclusion along with six other sports: baseball/softball, karate, roller sports, sport climbing, squash, wakeboarding and wushu (Chinese martial arts).

Anspach said this could be a lesson for the wrestling community, saying those in charge need to be more active in promoting their sport.

“We need to stop being reactionary and start being more proactive,” he said. “It might be too late to stop this, but now we need to figure out how we prevent this from happening again.”

 

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St. John’s fencers meet Obama


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of St. John’s University

They got to travel and compete in London, and now two St. John’s University fencers can add meeting the president to their stat sheet.

Seniors Daryl Homer and Dagmara Wozniak met President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama and Vice President Joe Biden last week as part of the commander in chief’s meeting with USA’s Olympians a month after they crossed the pond to compete.

“I’m unbelievably grateful to have met President Obama,” Homer said in a release from St. John’s. “This is a memory I will always cherish.”

Homer took a year off from NCAA eligibility to train and practice for the summer games. During that time he trained twice a day, focusing on footwork, sparring and practicing drills, adding up to around 20 hours a week.

He finished sixth in men’s saber at the summer games — the best for an American in that class this year — after he beat Russian second-seeded Alexey Yakimenko in his first round.

Although Wozniak traveled to Beijing with team USA in 2008 as a substitute player, she did not walk with the other athletes or take part in the games. The Polish-born Wozniak finally made her Olympic appearance this year. She finished eighth in the women’s saber competition — reaching the quarterfinals — following her victory over the seventh seed in the round of 16.

Wozniak said meeting the president was something that would stick with her forever.

“It was an amazing day,” Wozniak said. “Meeting the president and being able to take a tour of the White House is something I’ll never forget.”

Wozniak finished her final year of NCAA eligibility this year, according to the release, but will continue at St. John’s to complete her degree.

Both fencers are planning on, and looking forward to, representing the U.S. again in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.

— With additional reporting by Liam La Guerre

Olympian Gabby Douglas throws first pitch at Citi Field


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Mike DiBartolomeo

It’s been a whirlwind journey for two-time Olympic gold medalist Gabby Douglas since she returned stateside after the London games.

She’s met Oprah Winfrey, first lady Michelle Obama, and appeared on a number of talk shows after capturing gold in team and individual all-around competitions — the first American woman to win both in the same Olympic Games.

Douglas’ “victory lap” included a stop to Citi Field, where she threw out the first pitch of the August 23 Mets game against the Colorado Rockies to pitcher Robert Carson as the stadium applauded her appearance.

Douglas, who was born and raised in Virginia Beach before moving to Iowa to train, also posed for pictures with fellow Virginian David Wright — who is from Norfolk.

During the fourth inning, the 16-year-old Douglas told SNY’s Kevin Burkhardt that she never saw herself becoming a celebrity and has been adjusting to becoming an inspiration.

“I never expected that,” she said. “It’s a little bit crazy.”

Earlier in the day, Douglas closed out the Citi Field Kids Program and told kids that if they wanted to accomplish something, it was all about hard work and determination.

“Champions are made through the tough and hard times,” Douglas said. “You have to put your all into what you do and you have to love it too.”

 

Olympian shows courage


| letters@queenscourier.com


I would like to praise gymnast Aly Raisman for winning the gold medal for the women’s floor exercise.

But more importantly, I would like to praise Raisman, who is Jewish-American, for having the courage to speak up for those 11 Israeli Olympians who were executed 40 years ago at the Munich games.

Raisman said she would have supported a moment’s silence in memoriam, but there was none.

It takes a voice that is not afraid to speak out for what is right. Raisman is such a voice.

Frederick R. Bedell Jr.

Glen Oaks Village

 

Two Johnnies fence for Olympic gold


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

red storm fencers

The Red Storm has had a lot to talk about lately.

Its women’s basketball team made its first appearance in the NCAA Sweet Sixteen; the baseball team broke into the NCAA Super Regionals and had five players drafted by the major leagues; and Maurice Harkless is the first Johnny to be drafted by the NBA in about decade.

And if that was not enough, the Red Storm is set to roll into London for the Summer Olympic Games when sabers Daryl Homer and Dagmara Wozniak will go for the gold in fencing.

Although the dream to become an Olympian was the same for Homer and Wozniak, the paths taken to the Games were slightly different.

Homer is a native of the Virgin Islands who grew up in the Bronx. He got the itch for fencing after watching a sword wielding figure in a commercial for the 2000 Olympics, when he was 11. So he did what all kids interested in something new would do.

“I just kind of bugged my mom like ‘hey can I try that it looks really cool,’” Homer said. “What little kid doesn’t want to stab people with swords?”

His mother signed him up in the Peter Westbrook Foundation in Manhattan, which is a non-profit organization that trains inner-city kids in fencing.

There he met current St. John’s University head coach Yury Gelman.

Homer followed Gelman, his first and only coach, all the way to St. John’s.

Gelman didn’t realize Homer could become an Olympian at first, but noted improvement through the years.

“I saw his talent, but I wasn’t sure if he would be able to work hard enough,” Gelman said. “But he did. He changed his behavior at age 16, dramatically.”

That hard work led Homer to dominate at the college level. He won three world medals and back-to-back NCAA men’s saber championships.

Homer redshirted his senior year to get more time to prepare for the Olympics. He trained twice a day, for about 20 hours a week, working on footwork and sparring in the morning. He then traveled to the Manhattan Fencing Center in the afternoon to practice drills.

“I think he’s definitely getting to be a much stronger fencer,” Gelman said. He added that one problem Homer may encounter is being nervous on the top stage, because it will be his first Olympic appearance.

However, he has the advantage of his personal coach at his side, since Gelman will also be the Olympic coach for Team USA.

“Our sport is an extremely psychological sport,” Gelman said. “It would probably mean an advantage for him. He knows me very well and I know him very well. And we know how to work together.”

Ranked number one in the nation and 12th in the world, Homer is confident and poised in advance of his matches on July 29 and August 3. But he is also looking forward to just being at the event.

“Walking in the opening ceremonies is going to be amazing so I just want to enjoy the Olympic experience while I am there,” Homer said.

Wozniak, on the other hand, has already been to the Olympics. Four years ago in Beijing, she was a substitute player, but did not get a chance to participate —or even walk in the opening ceremony.

“I was pretty heated about that,” Wozniak said about not getting to even join the other players at the ceremony.

This time around, because women’s saber is not a team event, each country could only field two sabers and one spot was given to veteran Mariel Zagunis, the top female fencer in the nation and a two-time gold medalist.

Wozniak, a Polish native raised in America, also took a year off to prepare and outranked two other competitors for the second slot, finally earning a chance to compete at the Olympic level.

“I think it’s a pretty amazing feeling,” Wozniak said. “It feels like I worked hard all year, and now I get to show that it was well deserved well earned.”

Wozniak, who defeated Zagunis earlier this year, said although she is an underdog for her event on August 1, she won’t give up without a fight.

“People don’t expect me to win. No one is really putting their money on me,” Wozniak said. “I think that I have a small percentage, but I definitely have a chance and I’m going to fight like hell and hopefully come out on top.”

To follow the Olympians, check twitter: @STJ_Fencing, Dagmara (@WozniakUSA) and Daryl (@DarylHomerUSA)

Citi’s Team USA shows Olympic pride in L.I.C.


| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy of Citi

Olympic pride was on full display in Long Island City last week.

To commemorate the 100-day countdown to this summer’s Olympic Games in London, Citi’s Team USA Flag Tour visited the bank’s site in L.I.C. on April 18. Paralympian Kari Miller, who plays sitting volleyball, and Olympian swimmer Cullen Jones – both members of Team Citi through the bank’s Team USA sponsorship – were in attendance to celebrate and support the athletes that will represent the nation in London.

“Today’s event is a great way to celebrate the 100 day milestone to the London 2012 Olympic Games, and we are thrilled to have two Team Citi athletes here to share the spirit and excitement with our employees,” said Maria Veltre, president of Citi’s L.I.C. site. “Few know more about the journey from ambition and achievement than the athletes who dedicate their lives to representing the U.S. in the Olympic and Paralympic Games. We at Citi could not be more proud to support them every step of the way to London.”

During the event, Miler and Jones addressed a crowd of more than 200 people, sharing their personal stories and discussing Citi’s Every Step of the Way program, which benefits U.S. Olympic and Paralympic hopefuls and athletes of all ages across the country. Through the program, a $500,000 donation by Citi to the U.S. Olympic Committee is being represented by 50 million ThankYou Points – the currency of Citi ThankYou Rewards. Each of the 13 athletes on Team Citi chose a local sports initiative that inspired their journey, and the points will be used to aid the programs.

Jones, who nearly drowned at the age of five, is working with the USA Swimming Foundation’s Make a Splash Initiative and is raising funds to support saving lives through swimming lessons.

“For Citi to sit back and look at me and the work I’ve been doing outside the pool and say ‘good job’ and we understand that you have inspired other people, you are inspired by these kids and want to help these kids, is a remarkable thing. I am so thankful,” said Jones.

Miller, a former member of the U.S. Army, lost both her legs when her car was struck by a drunk driver. She began working with the Olympic Committee’s Paralympic Military and Veteran Program in 2008 and is currently the program ambassador. She is raising money for a program which introduces wounded service members to Paralympic sports.

“The Every Step of the Way program is awesome because you are not just supporting me, you are supporting our veterans; you are supporting their families,” Miller said. “You have an opportunity to help them out.”