Tracking the Trials: June 14, 2012
Rosters for several U.S. Olympic sports are determined by results from competitions known as trials. They usually are as nerve-wracking for the participants as being on trial. Qualifying for the team can be as joyous as getting acquitted. Meet some athletes for whom their trials was more trial and less error as they earned an expenses-paid trip to London this summer.
Archery: Its extended 10-month trials are not concluded, but among the bow-and-arrow athletes already onboard is Khatuna Lorig. A native of Georgia (the European country, not the peachy southern state), Lorig was last seen carrying the flag at the closing ceremony of her third Games in Beijing. More recently, she was behind-the-scenes at the filming of “Hunger Games,” instructing actress Jennifer Lawrence how to shoot. See you at the 2016 Trials, Jennifer?
Canoe/kayak: For Carrie Johnson, the stiffest competition comes not from opponents but internally. She suffers from Crohn’s disease, a chronic disorder that causes fatigue, weight decline and pain. While periodic absences from the water have curtailed her conditioning, it also has increased Johnson’s already ravenous appetite for winning medals. She is headed for her third Olympics, in the 500-meter flatwater sprint.
Sailing: Anna Tunnicliffe is headed home, sort of, for the Games. Born in Doncaster, England, she moved with her family to the U.S., cut back on other passions (ballet, dance, playing the cello) and ultimately crewed her three-woman team to an Olympics berth. Nothing is a breeze in a boat race, but Tunnicliffe must be expecting a medal. After winning at the Trials, she declared it “the hardest regatta to do in the world.”
Shooting: Emil Milev does not share his sport with the pre-teen students in P.E. classes that he teaches. Parents would disapprove. Milev, moonlighting as a competitive shooter, landed his fourth Olympics gig, in the men’s 25m rapid fire pistol. This will be his Games debut for the U.S. While pocketing a silver medal in Atlanta in 1996, Milev became enamored of America and moved his family over in 2003. Citizenship — and a shot at making a new team — came in 2009.
Table tennis: The qualifying foursome are all Olympic newbies, only one of them aged enough to legally gain admittance to R-rated movies. The oldtimer of the bunch is Timothy Wang, 20. The other three are Golden State teens — Ariel Hsing (16), Erica Wu (15) and Lily Zhang (15). The Beach Boys, who famously sang, “I wish they all could be California girls,” got their wish.
Taekwondo: Still a family affair at these Games, but the first family of this sport has shrunk. Siblings Steven and Diana Lopez, both previous two-time Olympians, earned return trips. Brother Mark did not, losing narrowly to Terrence Jackson. Mark will serve as a training partner for Steven in London under the auspices of the team coach — a Lopez, of course, big brother Jean. The family operates a taekwondo academy in Houston.
Weightlifting: Nick Mangold, a four-time Pro Bowl center for the New York Jets, is a force in their weight room. But he bows to kid sister Holley as the family’s expert lifter. Mangold (5-foot-9, 374 pounds) qualified in the 75-plus kg (heavyweight) class. She can probably teach Nick a thing or two about blocking, too, having played on her high school football team.
Wrestling: The big news, literally, from these trials is who did not advance. The legendary Rulon Gardner, in fact, did not even compete, unable to shed enough pounds to meet weight restrictions, and aborted his comeback. Gardner dropped 200 pounds as a contestant on “The Biggest Loser.” Qualifiers include Ellis Coleman, whose unique “flying squirrel” maneuver, in which he leaps on top of a foe, has drawn nearly 5 million views on YouTube.