Merrill Moses attempts to save a shot during preliminary round action in Beijing.
Merrill Moses, Water Polo
The goalkeeper for the U.S. men’s water polo team is hoping some of the changes the team has made leading up to the London 2012 Olympic Games will pay off in gold this summer.
With 100 days to go to London, Moses was in New York City as part of the celebration for the Summer Games. He was even walking around Times Square with a water polo ball in his hand and enjoying chatting with members of the media. One television reporter had him chuckling when he was asked to speak in a British accent. It didn’t go all that well for the Southern Californian.
But when he talks about his sport, he is all business.
He and his teammates (11 of whom were on the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team that earned a silver medal in Beijing) decided to train together for seven months.
“We decided to stay at home,” Moses said. “Usually we play professionally, but we decided to forego professional contracts so we could have a chance to win the Olympic gold medal. Last time we were together for three months. This time, it’s seven.
“It’s a big sacrifice, but we don’t want to look back and say, ‘Would’a, could’a, should’a.’ You want to say you did everything you could to win a gold medal.”
Moses said he plans on taking in much of the Olympic fanfare in London, saying he will stay in the Olympic Village and attend the Opening Ceremony.
“When you see the torch lit, it lights up a fire inside of you,” he said. “It’s go time.”
The water polo players have not seen the Olympic venue yet (only in pictures) and even their coaches could not get much of a view during a visit to London because it wasn’t completed. But Moses doesn’t mind.
“A pool’s a pool,” he said. “There’s only one thing we need to do there. Win a gold. It doesn’t matter what the pool looks like.”
Julie Zetlin, Rhythmic Gymnastics
Unlike many of the athletes who attended the Times Square festivities, Julie Zetlin already knows she qualified for the London Games, pending nomination by the U.S. Olympic Committee.
Still, it was a long process for Zetlin, the 2010 U.S. champion and 2011 Pan-American gold medalist to endure. She learned her Olympic qualification was official early in the morning in late February.
Actually, her father found out the news first. USA Gymnastics president Steve Penny sent Zetlin’s father a text saying, “Your daughter is an Olympian!”
“My dad came into my room at 7 a.m. and told me, ‘It’s official!’ I’m not a morning person but I immediately jumped out of bed.”
She also had to go to see her knee doctor that afternoon.
“He kept saying, ‘I want to go! I want to go!’” said Zetlin, 21. “I mean he should. He did my first knee surgery when I was 15 years old. It was cool. We had a little celebration in the doctor’s office.”
Zetlin had made a decision a while ago to get a tattoo of the Olympic rings if she made the team. She plans to go through with those plans, but after London.
A reporter suggested she ask her trusty knee doctor to help with that job.
“I don’t think my knee doctor would want that job,” she said.
In addition to her knee doctor, her foot doctor also plans to make the trip to London. She also expects her family, including grandparents, will go.
“I have a whole posse and crew coming over,” Zetlin said.
Rau’shee Warren, Boxing
Rau’shee Warren was excited about celebrating the 100-day countdown to London in Times Square. Even though he has been through the Olympic process twice before, he was even more in the spirit this time. Even his hair was painted red.
And he was excited to be in the heart of New York City for other reasons, too.
He was hoping to get a chance to do some shopping. The first American boxer to qualify for three Olympic Games has a large tennis shoe collection. He estimates he has more than 300 pairs of shoes. At the Olympic event, he sported a pair of blue and neon green Nikes.
“I have such small feet, so I usually buy two or three pair at a time,” said Warren, who has size 4 shoes. “And I have to buy for my kids, too. I’m hoping to find time to shop today. New York City might have more of a selection than Cincinnati does.”
The 2007 world champion and 2011 world bronze medalist in the flyweight division hails from Cincinnati.
He said he expects to turn pro after the Olympic Games, saying, “It’s about time.” But he wants to make one last effort to win a gold medal. “If you have a dream, chase it,” he said. “I’ve got that dream. I want that gold medal and I’m pushing it to the max.”
Allyson Felix, Track and Field
Allyson Felix made a run at the double (the 200-meter and 400-meter events) at the 2011 IAAF World Championships in Athletics in Daegu, South Korea. Although she didn’t win those events, she is still considering entering both events this summer in London. Before that, she has to compete at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials Trials in June 21-July 1 in Eugene, Ore.
“It’s still up for debate,” Felix said. “I’ll let my coach make that decision.”
The two-time Olympic silver medalist in the 200 (2004, 2008), Felix certainly would like to win her signature race.
In addition to possibly adding the 400 to her Olympic program this summer, Felix has decided to make other changes. She stayed in the Olympic Village the previous two trips to the Games but won’t do it again in London.
She said her training is on track.
“I’m feeling good,” Felix said. “But I think about this countdown and it makes me nervous. You think 100 days, oh my God, it’s almost here.”
Jeffrey and Steven Gluckstein, Trampoline
New Yorkers are pretty accustomed to seeing everything. But it’s not every day you see someone flying high in the air from a trampoline in the middle of Times Square.
But Steven Gluckstein actually has bounced on a trampoline in Times Square twice now.
“I did it for an interview on ‘Good Morning America’ and thought, ‘That was cool. I’ll never jump in Times Square again,’” he said. “Three years later, here I am.”
Gluckstein was joined by his younger brother, Jeffrey, who also has a good shot at competing in London.
“The 100-day countdown doesn’t make things more real to me, but it makes it more tangible,” Steven Gluckstein said.
Gluckstein actually competed in taekwondo from the time he was 4 until he was 10 and even earned a black belt. But then his local taekwondo school closed. So he talked with his parents about other athletic options.
“My mom is 5-foot-2 and my dad is 5-foot-8 so they told me I could be a jockey, a cheerleader or a gymnast,” Steven Gluckstein said.
He chose gymnastics, and as luck would have it, the gym had a talented trampoline coach in Tatiana Kovaleva, a Russian world champion in 1996. He switched to trampoline and has not looked back. Jeffrey took to the sport as well.
Tim Morehouse, Fencing
The 2008 Olympic silver medalist fencer will make his third trip to the Olympic Games this summer in London. And he has a busy schedule in the 100 days leading up to those Games.
On April 24, he is launching his book, “American Fencer: Modern Lessons from an Ancient Sport,” and he is producing a fencing event called Fencing Masters: Kick-Off to London, which will feature Olympic athletes and will be held June 26 in the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York City.
The sabre fencer has done sport demonstrations on the White House lawn with President Barack Obama and on 100 Days fenced in Times Square. What’s next? A fencing exhibition with the Queen of England?
“The Queen actually has an official duelist,” Morehouse said. “So if someone challenges the Queen’s honor, he is there.”
Morehouse is not about to take that challenge.
“No, I’m not going to fence the Queen,” he said.
A Look Back at 1948
This summer, the city of London will be the first city to host the Olympic Games three times. It was the Olympic host city in 1908 and again in 1948.
John Naber, a four-time Olympic gold medalist swimmer, introduced four members of the 1948 U.S. Olympic Team during the festivities in Times Square. The 1948 Olympians are Sammy Lee (diving), Alice Coachman (track and field), Mal Whitfield (track and field) and Ray Lumpp (basketball).
Naber rattled off a few stats to the crowd in Times Square to show the difference between the 1948 Olympic Games and the Games that will take place this summer.
In 1948, there were 4,104 athletes representing 59 nations in 17 sports. In 2002, there will be 10,500 athletes from 204 nations in 26 sports. And, of course, the Paralympic Games did not exist in 1948. The 2012 Paralympic Games, which begin Aug. 9, will feature 20 sports in London.
One other significant difference is that the U.S. athletes took a boat to London in 1948. They boarded the S.S. America and traveled seven days at sea. Many of the athletes trained on the ship. Today, athletes will fly across the Atlantic.
One of the most moving moments of the 100-day countdown celebration in Times Square was when 2012 U.S. Olympic hopefuls presented American flags to the 1948 Olympians. Brittany Viola, who hopes to make the U.S. Olympic diving team, presented a flag to two-time Olympic gold medalist diver Sammy Lee; U.S. high jumper Chaunte Lowe gave a flag to Alice Coachman, the first African-American to win an Olympic gold medal; Jesse Williams, an American high jumper, gave a flag to Olympic track and field champion and Tuskegee Airman Mal Whitfield and U.S. women’s basketball player Maya Moore gave a flag to 1948 Olympic basketball gold medalist Ray Lumpp.
Lumpp even showed the crowd his gold medal, which was in a frame.
“This was first time meeting Alice Coachman,” Lowe said. “I got a chance to speak to her daughter and it means so much to me. Alice Coachman paved the way for us. Not only as a woman, but as an African-American woman, and then to find out she did what she did in London.
“Yeah,” Lowe added with a smile, “that puts a lot of pressure on me.”
Lowe also got a chance to interact with another high jump great in Dick Fosbury, the 1968 Olympic gold medalist and the creator of the “Fosbury Flop” method of crossing the bar.
“I know I keep saying that today is cool, but that was really cool,” Lowe said.
What would be even more cool is if Lowe won a gold medal in London. She set a personal best at 6-feet-8, ¾ inches.