Olympic-Sized Super Bowl Rivalries
|Olympic medalist Michael Phelps #12 takes part in the coin toss before the start of the Baltimore Ravens and Cincinnati Bengals game at M&T Bank Stadium on September 10, 2012 in Baltimore, Maryland.|
American Olympic and Paralympic athletes spend their lives bleeding red, white and blue.
This Sunday, however, will be different.
After all, it’s Super Bowl Sunday, and it’s one time during the year that U.S. athletes will be splitting their allegiances. This Sunday, some of America’s top athletes will be all red and gold in the spirit of the San Francisco 49ers, while others will don purple and black in honor of the Baltimore Ravens.
Some athletes plan to watch the game in the comfort of their living room. Some will be tuned in at the U.S. Olympic Training Centers around the country. Others will gather at parties and still others, such as Baltimore native, longtime Ravens fan and most decorated Olympian Michael Phelps, plan to be at the center of it all, watching the game in the Mercedez-Benz Superdome in New Orleans.
Perhaps the most dedicated Olympic champion/Ravens fan is Angel McCoughtry, who will be awake in the wee hours of the morning in Istanbul, Turkey, cheering on her Baltimore team. McCoughtry, who hails from Baltimore and is a graduate of the city’s St. Frances Academy, won an Olympic gold medal this past summer in London as a member of the U.S. women’s basketball team and is in her third season playing professionally for Fenerbahce in Istanbul.
When asked of her prediction, McCoughtry emailed this reply: “Of course, my hometown Baltimore Ravens!” Her score? A 21-14 Ravens victory.
Although it seems obvious that Carmelo Anthony, a two-time Olympic basketball gold medalist with Team USA, would be cheering for his hometown Baltimore Ravens, a New York Knicks team official confirmed his allegiance to the Ravens. The Knicks have home games Saturday and Monday, so the NBA forward will have Sunday night open to tune in to football, and yes, the Knicks said, he is predicting a Ravens victory.
Meanwhile, across the country on the West Coast will be four-time water polo Olympian Heather Petri, who was part of the gold-medal squad in London. She hails from Oakland, Calif., and will be cheering for the 49ers. She will not be in New Orleans Sunday but will be watching with a San Francisco 49er. She plans to watch the game in the home of Ellen Estes Lee (Petri’s Olympic teammate in 2000 and 2004). Lee’s husband is Austin Lee, a Stanford graduate who played for the 49ers. The Lees recently moved into a new home and Petri is looking forward to watching the game there.
“He is one of my favorite people to watch football with,” Petri wrote in an email. “They will be showcasing their new basement which is a sports watching dream!”
Teri McKeever, who guided the U.S. women’s swimming team in London, is a longtime San Francisco 49ers fan. She said she planned to sit on her couch in California along with her husband, Jerry Romani, a 40-year 49ers season-ticket holder, for the game. Her prediction? A 28-13 San Francisco victory.
U.S. Olympic synchronized swimmer Mariya Koroleva, who represented Team USA in London with partner Mary Killman, will be cheering on the 49ers from Stanford, Calif. A Stanford graduate (where 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh coached before taking on the pros in San Francisco), Koroleva said she will “definitely be sporting my Niners gear.” In addition, Koroleva wanted to give a “big shout out” to her Stanford classmate and 49ers safety Michael Thomas as well as San Francisco running back Jewel Hampton, who trained at St. Vincent.
Another 49ers fan with Olympic ties is Mary Whipple, a three-time Olympic medalist with the women’s eight rowing team. Born in Sacramento, Calif., Whipple was raised on 49ers football and cheered for Joe Montana and Jerry Rice and later Steve Young. She went to college at the University of Washington and was supporting the Seattle Seahawks until they were ousted from the playoffs. Now, she is all in for the 49ers.
Also on the 49ers side is Tony Azevedo, a three-time Olympian who captained the U.S. men’s water polo team in London. Born in Rio de Janeiro, Azevedo later went to Stanford and became a fan of the 49ers. He is predicting a 20-17 overtime victory for San Francisco.
On the Baltimore side of the equation are several star swimmers: Allison Schmitt, Jessica Long, Bradley Snyder and Becca Meyers, all of whom won multiple medals in London.
Schmitt, who was raised in Michigan and trained in Baltimore with Phelps leading up to the London 2012 Olympic Games where she won five medals (three gold), is rooting for Baltimore this Sunday. She is now at the University of Georgia but hasn’t given up her connection to Baltimore. She is going with the Ravens by a score of 28-24.
Long, a swimmer who won eight medals in her third trip to the Paralympic Games in London, was born in a Russian orphanage and was adopted by a family in Baltimore. She has been a Ravens fan for a long time, and the last time the team went to the Super Bowl, she said she sported all purple that day and put purple color spray in her hair. She now lives in Colorado Springs at the U.S. Olympic Training Center and said she will be wearing her Baltimore Ravens jersey — one given to her by the team — this Sunday.
Snyder, who claimed two gold medals and a silver in the swimming competition at the London 2012 Paralympic Games, spent much of his life in Florida but trained in Baltimore leading up to London. He also captained the swim team at the U.S. Naval Academy down the road from Baltimore in Annapolis, Md. Snyder, who continues to live, work and train in the Charm City, predicts the Ravens will win by a touchdown and said, “Should be a great game, but you have to believe Ray Lewis is going to go out on top!”
Meanwhile, Meyers, a high school senior at Baltimore’s Notre Dame Preparatory School, also believes the Ravens will win (Her score: 28-21).
Katie O’Donnell, a field hockey forward who represented Team USA in London, was born and raised in Pennsylvania but came to Maryland for college and became the most decorated player in Maryland field hockey history. She is now a student assistant coach with the Terrapins. She has become a Baltimore Ravens fan. Like most fans in Baltimore, she is cheering for Ray Lewis, the Ravens linebacker who plans on retiring after 17 NFL seasons. She also is rooting for wide receiver Torrey Smith, who starred at Maryland before being drafted by the Ravens.
“I plan on watching the Super Bowl out somewhere in Baltimore to get the full hometown effect,” O’Donnell wrote in an email. “I hope Ray Lewis finishes on a high and Torrey Smith has the game of his life since he is part of the Terps family.”
Once the game is over and a champion is determined, you can bet there will be some happy (and some unhappy) Olympians and Paralympians on Monday. But one thing is certain: They might be on opposite sides Super Bowl Sunday, but postgame, they will all be back on the same team.
Amy Rosewater is a freelance contributor for TeamUSA.org. This story was not subject to the approval of any National Governing Bodies.