Olympics: 2012 Summer Olympics

Sarah GroffLintao Zhang/Getty ImagesU.S. Olympian Sarah Groff talks about her new perspective on racing and her focus for the season.

The months since the London Olympics have been an endurance event in and of themselves for triathlete Sarah Groff, the 2011 world championships series bronze medalist who just missed placing in the top three at the Summer Games.

She struggled for equilibrium after finishing an achingly close fourth and decided to make some changes for this season, and beyond, to try to put herself in podium contention for Rio 2016. Groff, a 31-year-old native of Cooperstown, N.Y. and graduate of Middlebury (Vt.) College, is currently training with an international group under the aegis of Canadian coach Joel Filliol.

She opened 2013 by entering a race she had always yearned to do -- the punishing Escape From Alcatraz triathlon, rescheduled this year from June back to March to accommodate the upcoming America's Cup sailing competition. Fighting through a self-inflicted head injury and the aftereffects of food poisoning, Groff was overtaken by eventual winner Heather Jackson in the late going and finished second.

Groff is based outside Hanover, N.H., with her boyfriend, distance runner Ben True, but spoke to ESPN.com by telephone this week from Clermont, Fla., where she is getting in some warm-weather training. These are excerpts from that conversation:

Question from Bonnie D. Ford: How did you go about processing that fourth-place finish at the Olympics and structuring the rest of your season?

Answer from Groff: What I didn't expect -- other athletes always talk about how amazing the experience of going to the Olympics is, the whole village experience and the cool swag and meeting all the other athletes, but they don't really warn you about what happens after the Games. There's this tremendous buildup where for years we're focused on one thing, and then I finished fourth, which adds a whole other level to it. It's probably pretty common; I got pretty severely depressed for a while. I went through the motions, did a couple more races. I would say I'm just starting to gain momentum back. But, for whatever reason, athletes just don't talk about it.

I did [turn to] a fellow triathlete, Greg Bennett, who was on the Australian Olympic team in 2004, and his wife Laura was on the U.S. team in 2008, and they both finished fourth. So if anybody's going to know what it's like after that, it's going to be them. Greg told me pretty much right after the race, "Listen, Sarah, even now to this day, I'll be lying in bed, replaying the race, thinking about what I could have done differently."

He's absolutely right. It's going to stay with me for a while. It's both the best achievement of my life and also one of those moments where you can't help but wonder what could have been if you'd approached things differently, and I think it has the potential to make me a better athlete. There's so much that can go wrong at the Games, and I've just been trying to turn it around and think about everything I did right to finish fourth, because obviously it's a great result.

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Bobby Lea looking ahead to Rio 2016

December, 19, 2012
 Bobby LeaBryn Lennon/Getty Images

Two-time track cycling Olympian Bobby Lea of Topton, Pa., recommitted to a third bid in his mind before he even got home from the London Games, where he finished 12th in the demanding two-day, six-event omnium. The 29-year-old trains with Philadelphia-based coach Brian Walton, a 1996 Olympic track cycling silver medalist for Canada. Lea looked ahead in a recent chat with ESPN.com:

Question from Ford: What was the biggest contrast between your experiences in London and Beijing [in 2008]?

Answer from Lea: The single biggest thing was just knowing what I was in for. I knew the details would be different, but the bigger picture was the same, and I was much more prepared to handle it. In the run-up to the actual event, it was much more calm and quiet and easier to focus on the task at hand than it was for Beijing. As far as the performance was concerned, I really wanted to get inside that top 10. But when I take a step back and look at the event as it unfolded, five of the six events were the best I'd ever done, so it was hard to argue with that. Two-tenths of a second in one event [the kilo, or 1-kilometer time trial] would have made the difference.

That's bike racing, that's track racing. I went to London thinking if I turned in a performance I was satisfied with, I could walk away from track racing in the Olympics and say it's been a good run and made up for a performance I wasn't really happy with in Beijing [Editor's note: He finished 16th in the Madison]. But by the time I touched down in Newark, I was already thinking about Rio [in 2016]. I wasn't anticipating that, but that's kind of how it unfolded. The placing was nothing to write home about, but the finer details showed a pretty significant jump in performance from where I was in the two years leading up to the Olympics. My takeaway from that is if I can do that in three months, if I can take the next four years and really dial in my support structure and work even harder, then I can go to Rio and actually be a contender instead of someone just shooting for a top 10.

Q: If you were king and had control over the Olympic program, what would you create?

A: I've made my peace with the omnium. I certainly struggle to deal with all the different elements, learning how to prepare and how to handle myself in the midst of the event. But if the omnium remains unchanged in Rio and that's the event, I know what I'm dealing with and I know how to work for it. I'm not too fussed about what the event's going to be. If I can make it four more years and I can set up that support structure, then I'm ready to take a run for Rio. Part of the question I've been dealing with since I got home is, what does that mean? It's easy to answer that question if you're part of a big national federation that has an endless budget, but as basically a privateer trying to put together a program, it's an entirely different question. I've got a year or two to sort that out.

Q: How does this affect your road racing aspirations? That was at the top of your future agenda when we last talked.

A: At this point, I'm still treating the rest of my career like an open book and it's day to day, month to month, year to year. I've got a job riding with SmartStop-Mountain Khakis next year on the road, so between that and a couple of winter sixes (six-day races) with my Madison partner [Jackie Simes], we'll see what happens. We're hoping to get a start in Rotterdam in January. It's been a long time since there were Americans racing on the six-day circuit. That would be a really neat thing to do that doesn't conflict with road racing.

My team for next year is really supportive of my extracurricular activities on the track. It's a good place for me to race the road and have a lot of fun and get back into domestic road racing and [Simes] is going to be joining me on that team. Where it goes, who knows, but I'm not writing anything off. 2010 was my last full season on the road. I'm ready to jump back in, I miss it.

Q: Do you feel like you're in a situation where you can compete clean at the Continental level in this country?

A: Absolutely. It's not something I would be doing if I thought I was trying to swim upstream.

Jessica and Maggie SteffensAP Photo/Alastair GrantMaggie Steffens, right, and sister Jessica helped lead the U.S. women's water polo team to its first Olympic gold this past summer.

With every sunrise and sunset, with the change of another season, the moments from the greatest two weeks in Maggie Steffens' young athletic life drift further and further away. Four months after carrying the U.S. women's water polo team to its first gold medal, the 19-year-old is adjusting to life as a college freshman and Olympic champion.

There are days like the one not too long ago, when Steffens shared her gold medal with a mother who immediately wanted to take a picture biting the hardware.

"I was like, 'Uh, no,'" Steffens said. "I brushed it off as no big deal, but inside I was cringing. I mean, really? This isn't some chocolate bar."

And on the day she moved into her Stanford dorm this fall, there were the whispers. She heard them. "There goes the Olympic girl."

"I told them, 'Nope. My name is Maggie,'" she said. "I'm the same Maggie I was before all of this."

[+] EnlargeMaggie Steffens
Michael Regan/Getty ImagesMaggie Steffens will play for Stanford's water polo team this year.

She may be the same person, but the way strangers view her is infinitely different. Four years ago in Beijing, the feisty 15-year-old watched from the stands as her older sister, Jessica, and other members of the U.S. team lost in the gold-medal match for the second time in three Olympics. She insisted it wouldn't happen again.

Then in London this past summer, as the youngest member of the U.S. team, Maggie scored an unfathomable 21 goals on 27 shots -- including a 5-for-5 showing in the 8-5 gold-medal victory over Spain -- to win the Olympic crown and make "The Star-Spangled Banner" the song of choice at the tournament's conclusion.

When her world stopped spinning, when Steffens finally returned home to California and had a second to hop in her bed, close her eyes, take a deep breath and try to absorb what had just happened, the memories that most prominently flooded the 19-year-old's head weren't the images everyone would have expected.

Sure, she thought about the goals she scored and the plays she made. Of course she reflected on the moment her gold medal was hung around her neck and the night her and Jessica paraded around the pool deck with the American flag draped behind them. The gut-wrenching semifinal win over Australia is there, too, a night when the Aussies forced overtime with one second left. But the memories that make her smile most are the ones no one knows about.

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Team USA, Durant's Olympic feats

August, 13, 2012
LONDON -- Who's up for one last installment of Team USA by the numbers?

• By winning Sunday's gold-medal game against Spain, Team USA has automatically qualified for the 2014 World Cup of Basketball in Spain, formerly known as FIBA's quadrennial world championship.

The Americans will take a 50-game winning streak into that competition, dating to a semifinal loss to Greece at the 2006 world championship in Japan. Coach Mike Krzyzewski leaves the bench with an overall record of 62-1 and a 17-game winning streak in the Olympics.

• Kevin Durant's 156 points trumped Argentina's Manu Ginobili for the highest total of the tournament ... by a single point. Australia's Patty Mills of the San Antonio Spurs had the Olympics' highest scoring average at 21.2 points per game, followed by Durant's 19.5 ppg.

Durant is the fifth player in U.S. history to score 30-plus points in an Olympic game, but the first to do so in the final.

• Durant's 34 3-pointers doubled the U.S. record of 17, set by Reggie Miller in 1996 and matched by Kobe Bryant in 2008. In London, Carmelo Anthony (23) and Bryant (17) combined with Durant to approach the team record of 77 in 2008 in Beijing.

• For those of you who simply can't bear to go on without one last Dream Team comparison, here are the statistical basics of what the teams achieved:

Watch: Sunday's Olympic wrap-up

August, 12, 2012

ESPN's T.J. Quinn and Julie Foudy on Team USA's win over Spain, the men's marathon and their overall impressions of the 2012 Olympic Games:

Some at-the-buzzer instant analysis from press row in London of Team USA's 107-100 win over Spain in Sunday's Olympic gold-medal game:

How it happened: Warning signs were there for the United States from Spain's very first possession, when Juan Carlos Navarro, someone Team USA has struggled to contain in the past, absorbed a foul from Kobe Bryant after draining a 3-pointer to start the afternoon with a four-point play.

A tone was quickly established.

Plagued by plantar fasciitis throughout the tournament, Navarro wound up scoring 19 of his 21 points by halftime, benefiting most from some classic Spanish offensive execution that had the underdogs within a point at intermission at 59-58. Making a high percentage of shots, finding holes in the U.S. defense with its ball and player movement and keeping turnovers down so the NBA All-Stars couldn't run, Spain seemed to have found a formula to shock the world.

And not even Marc Gasol's astonishing four fouls in the first quarter and a half would slow the Spaniards down. With Pau Gasol absolutely taking over in the third, looking every bit like the "beast" he proclaimed himself to be before the tournament started with 15 of 24 points, Spain stayed right there with its heavily favored foes well into the fourth.

Eventually, though, Team USA just had too much Kevin Durant, along with just enough from a foul-plagued LeBron James (including a big dunk and an equally huge 3 late) and some big fourth-quarter contributions from Chris Paul and Kobe Bryant, to grab the gold.

It was even closer than it was in Beijing in 2008, when Spain lost by just 11 points in the final, but the United States ultimately snagged its 14th Olympic gold medal in men's basketball.

How close? It's the second-closest Olympic final ever, second only to the USSR's infamous one-point defeat of the United States in the highly controversial gold-medal game in 1972.

What it means: If he really can't be talked into staying on as Team USA head coach, as it appears, Mike Krzyzewski will be leaving international coaching with a record of 62-1 ... and a tidy 50-game winning streak.

Since a semifinal loss to Greece at the 2006 Worlds in Japan, Team USA has indeed reeled off 50 consecutive W's in full senior national-team games, with 17 of those coming in the Olympics since a semifinal loss to Argentina in Athens in 2004 before the Krzyzewski Era began.

Player of the game: Durant had to be good to bump Pau Gasol (24 points, eight rebounds and seven assists) out of this spot.

And he was sensational.

Scoring a game-high 30 points even without his 3-ball going down as early and often as usual, Durant carried the Americans' offense like he did at the 2010 FIBA World Championship in Turkey, combining with Paul in the fourth quarter to help the Americans weather the long stretch of crunch time it had to survive without James.

Play of the game: Two biggies from Paul, actually, helped saved Team USA in this one.

With James forced to the bench after picking up his fourth foul with 7:23 to go and Spain switching to a box-and-one to try to corral Durant, Paul produced a 3-pointer and a slick drive for a layup in succession, beating Sergio Rodriguez badly on the baseline on the latter scorer with a clever head fake at a time when the Americans were struggling for offense.

Paul delivered another driving layup late to beat the shot clock and Kobe Bryant finished with 17 points in support of Durant and James to help the Americans finally seal it and spark a flurry of joyous (and relieved) hugs in the final minute.

By the numbers: Team USA averaged 106 points per game in its eight victories, winning by an average margin of 32.1 points per game.

It was the third gold-medal meeting between the United States and Spain ... and the Spanish keep getting closer. The Yanks won by 11 points (118-107) in 2008 in Beijing and by 31 (96-65) in 1984 in Los Angeles.

No American had ever drained more than 17 3-pointers in an Olympic run before London 2012. But in these Olympics, Durant finished with 34 3s in eight games, with Carmelo Anthony (23) not far behind. So much for the fears that even USAB officials had during training camp in early July that this team might not have enough shooting on the roster.
LONDON -- The trademark bright yellow silk flower tucked into Alysia Montano’s hair was at odds with the tears welling in her eyes as she stood, hands on hips, describing her disappointment.

Montano said allowing herself to be boxed around the last curve of the women’s 800-meter final Saturday evening probably cost her a shot at a medal. Instead, she finished fifth in 1:57.93, more than a half-second off her personal best. Russia's Mariya Savinova won gold in 1:56.19.
[+] EnlargeMontano
Streeter Lecka/Getty ImagesAlysia Montano stands dejected after finishing in fifth place in the 800-meter final on Saturday.

“It’s been such a long road to get here,’’ said Montano, a four-time national champion in the event who competed for the University of California at Berkeley. “It feels like it took forever and now it’s here and gone.’’

The 26-year-old said she thinks she has a lot of growing to do as a runner and intends to get to work on that right away: “There’s no giving up. That’s not part of my DNA.

“Racing in the U.S., our women aren’t as aggressive. I love the opportunity to be able to race and get gritty with the best 800-meter runners in the world, but I still see myself making little errors, and in the last 200, I got stuck.

“I have some things to tie up. Fortunately, I’m going to have the time to do that.’’

Montano said she feels as if she has “been knocking on the American record (1:56.40) door for a while.’’ A foot injury forced her to withdraw after the first round of the 800 at the 2008 Olympic trials, but she came back to become national champion in the event in 2010 and 2011 and finished fourth at the world championships in the 800 last year.

Watch: U.S.-Spain men's hoops preview

August, 11, 2012

ESPN's George Smith previews Sunday's men's basketball gold-medal game between the United States and Spain:

Watch: Recapping tonight's relay wins

August, 11, 2012

ESPN's T.J. Quinn breaks down Jamaica's world-record win in the men's 4x100 relay and the American women's 4x400 relay gold:

Watch: Ashton Eaton on gold-medal win

August, 11, 2012

After winning the gold medal in decathlon, Ashton Eaton chats with ESPN.com's Jim Caple at the P&G House:


Watch: Olympic track and field recap

August, 10, 2012

ESPN.com's Bonnie D. Ford and ESPN's T.J. Quinn discuss the women's 4x100 relay victory, the men's 4x400 relay silver and Morgan Uceny's fall in the 1,500-meter race:

LONDON -- The Olympic basketball competition has always been about one game, for the U.S. anyway: Spain. Lithuania is always a tough out. Russia has come on to have a very good team that nearly pulled off an upset Friday in the semifinals. But there’s one international game in the world right now that’s worth paying top dollar to see: Spain versus the United States.

The mission for each was to get through the semifinals with as little drama as possible to set up the gold-medal match (Sunday, 10 a.m. ET), and while Spain had plenty of drama in coming back to beat Russia, eventually the U.S. kept chucking its way out of trouble every time Argentina got close. You may think of the U.S. as being the most prolific 3-point shooting team in the world; in fact, some nights the Americans over many Olympic competitions have looked downright unfamiliar with it. But not Friday.

It was like a University of Kentucky game at Rupp Arena, what with the U.S. taking 42 3-pointers, more than half the team’s 81 shots, and hitting 18 of them in what turned into a 26-point rout. Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony, Kobe Bryant and Chris Paul kept firing and between made 3s, long rebounds turning into second-chance baskets and defensive rebounds turning into fast-break points Argentina couldn’t keep up. Even with Manu Ginobili and Luis Scola scoring pretty much the way they do every night in the NBA, Argentina just couldn’t fend off a team with too many great players.

Scola, after scoring 15 points but inexplicably grabbing only one rebound in 30 minutes, said, “I thought we could win the game … but they’re just a better team.”

Asked specifically why this team is better than others Argentina has played (and beaten) in U.S. competition, Scola said, “This team is more prepared to play in a different environment … with different rules, against a different style of play, with different referees.”

In other words, Scola was saying that while the U.S. team has often won international competitions, this version looks like the other international teams playing in this tournament, not a bunch of NBA players relying on talent to get them through a very different basketball experience.

And that brings us to Sunday’s gold-medal game. Spain is the team that has played like it’s under the greatest amount of pressure. Spain is the two-time reigning European champ. Spain is the No. 2 team in the FIBA World Rankings. Spain was the silver medalist in 2008 in Beijing. Silver here in London is acceptable; but losing to anybody other than the U.S. is not.

But now that they can presumably play freely Sunday, maybe Pau and Marc Gasol, Serge Ibaka and Rudy Fernandez, Juan Carlos Navarro and Jose Calderon can do something special, which most of the basketball world would find unthinkable. Asked what’s different about this team from the one the U.S. beat by 11 in the gold-medal game in Beijing, Bryant said, “Marc Gasol. His confidence has improved so much. His skill level has improved so much from when we last played them. That’s a major difference.”

Indeed, Marc Gasol and Ibaka were young pups then, but have been through NBA playoff wars now, and big international tournaments. The Spaniards, when they have the Gasols and Ibaka on the floor, have the second most talented front line in the world. But Ibaka was a non-factor against Russia Friday afternoon, putting up just two points and two rebounds in six minutes. Spain’s coach, Sergio Scariolo, is always stingy with minutes for Ibaka -- a pattern he might want to change Sunday if his team is going to have enough talent on the floor to get after the U.S. After all, Russia outscored Spain in the paint 24-18 Friday, which Ibaka can change all by himself.

The thing is, after listening to the U.S. players after they beat Argentina, you get the feeling that they are taking the Spaniards very, very seriously, as if the gold-medal game is a Game 7 in the NBA and they’re facing very capable, very formidable opponents … which indeed is the case. When a team featuring LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant takes anybody that seriously, even a Spain team that might feel like it is playing with proverbial house money, any result other than a U.S. victory would be nothing short of a stunner.
Some at-the-buzzer instant analysis of Team USA's 109-83 rout of Argentina in the Olympic semifinals from press row in London:

How it happened: In the teams' third meeting in the space of 17 days, Argentina was within seven points at the break thanks to a Manu Ginobili corner 3-pointer just before the halftime buzzer. The United States' lead was down to as little as four points early in the third quarter.

Of greater concern for Team USA: Argentina had the pace where it was hoping to keep it, with the tournament's heavy favorite on track to be held under triple digits after ringing up a whopping 126 points when the teams met Monday night in the Group A finale.

Yet it took only one decent surge late in the third quarter, with LeBron James at the heart of it as usual and supplemented this time by Kevin Durant, for the United States to hike its lead to 17 by the start of the fourth quarter.

The fourth quarter that followed was an avalanche, sending Team USA to Sunday's title game in far easier fashion than anticipated and consigning Argentina's Golden Generation to a bronze-medal game against Russia in perhaps the final major international tournament for the quartet of Manu Ginobili, Luis Scola, Carlos Delfino and Andres Nocioni.

What it means: The route to reunite these teams was on the circuitous side, but we've indeed got the gold-medal game we all expected back when the United States arrived on British soil in mid-July.

Spain certainly took the long way to get there, losing games to Russia and Brazil in pool play and falling behind by 13 points early in Friday's first semifinal against the Russians despite Andrei Kirilenko's struggles trying to play with an injured quad. But now it's on: Team USA against the Spaniards on Sunday afternoon in a rematch of the 2008 game for the gold in Beijing that the Americans didn't seize control of until the last few minutes of the fourth quarter.

Team USA is 8-1 against Spain since the introduction of the NBA players into FIBA events in 1992. And in both of Spain's trips to the Olympic final -- in 1984 and again in '08 -- it came away with silver after losing to the Americans both times.

Player of the game: Stop us if you've heard this one before.

LeBron James, anyone?

Kobe Bryant had 13 points in the first half, Carmelo Anthony uncorked one of his trademark Team USA scoring sprees with four 3s in the fourth quarter to finish with 18, while drained four 3s of his own in the third to finish with a team-high 19 for the Yanks.

But James' all-around play (18 points, seven rebounds and seven assists) and penchant for the big play at key times landed him here yet again.

"LeBron is just doing everything," Team USA coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "Dirty work, clean work, leadership work. He kind of turned it up a notch in the second half and we all followed him."

Play of the game: Here's what Coach K is talking about ...

Using a screen on the left side of the floor from Kevin Love, LeBron rumbled right around the corner and into the paint faster than poor Delfino could react, bursting into the hole to rise up and hammer down a thunderous one-handed flush with 3:46 to go in the third.

When Durant soon followed with a couple of 3-pointers and James deftly guided home the rebound of Durant's errant 3 for a tip-in bucket, Team USA was on the way to a lead that would reach 25 less than two minutes into the fourth quarter.

And the rout was on.

By the numbers: In the 49th consecutive victory for the United States in international play, James' 18 points took him within two points of Michael Jordan for second place all-time among U.S. Olympians.

Watch: The latest from London

August, 10, 2012

ESPN.com's Prim Siripipat and Bonnie D. Ford with the latest from the London Games:

Watch: How Bolt, Eaton each won gold

August, 9, 2012

ESPN's George Smith looks at Usain Bolt's victory in the 200 meters and Ashton Eaton's gold-medal win in the decathlon: