Aug. 10, 2008
by Jeff Smith
[ONE // phelps watch - two down, five to spitz]
If you could not stay up to watch Michael Phelps and the 4x100-meter freestyle relay team late Sunday night, get in front of a television or the internet as fast as you can on Monday. Get ready to wave your Stars and Stripes! In what was truly an unbelievable relay rally, the Americans took gold over the favored French in the event by shattering the world record time by four seconds. Phelps, a volunteer assistant swimming coach at Michigan, swam the first leg of the relay and set an American record in doing so. But it was probably the efforts of anchor Jason Lezak who should be credited for winning Phelps his second gold medal of the Beijing Games and keeping him on track to break the Olympics' ultimate record. Lezak finished off the relay in 3:04.24 to top the French by eight-hundredths of a second. The previous world record was 3:12.23.
Phelps earned his first gold medal of the 2008 Games by breaking his own world record in the 400-meter individual medley with a time of 4:03.84 on Saturday.
The world's top swimmer is looking to match and better the record of seven gold medals in one Olympics, which was set by Indiana's Mark Spitz in 1972.
What many people have yet to realize about Phelps is that despite having never competed for Michigan (due to his professional status), he is a student at the school. In fact, he takes his role as a volunteer assistant very seriously, as seen here in this Big Ten Network feature.
[TWO // grevers and vanderkaay impress in the pool]
A pair of former Big Ten swimmers - Michigan's Peter Vanderkaay and Northwestern's Matt Grevers - turned in impressive performances in the Beijing pool this past weekend. Competing in the fourth heat of the 100-meter backstroke, Grevers advanced to the semifinal round with an Olympic record time of 53.41. He then broke the 53-second mark for the first time in his career in the semifinals with a second-place time of 52.99. In addition to his individual race, Grevers paired with teammates Nathan Adrian, Cullen Jones and Ben Wildman-Tobriner in the 400-meter freestyle relay. Their mark of 3:12.23 was a world record and advanced the team to the event finals.
Vanderkaay started off by taking second in his 400-meter freestyle heat with a time of 3:44.22. The Wolverine was just 0.19 seconds behind goal-medal favorite Grant Hackett of Australia. Late Sunday evening, Vanderkaay topped Phelps in the 200-meter freestyle heat with a winning time of 1:45.76.
[THREE // nine is fine for redd and williams in hoops debut]
In Team USA's opening win over China, Big Ten men's basketball was represented well by former Illinois star Deron Williams and Ohio State's Michael Redd. The conference duo scored nine points each in the Americans' 101-70 victory. Williams recorded four rebounds, while Redd added three boards and one assist.
Asked how the U.S. squad was treated by the China's home crowd, Williams responded with appreciation: "They cheered for us as loud as they did for their country. The fans here have been great to us since we arrived and they are very special to us."
Team USA is back on the court on Tuesday, competing against Angola at 8 p.m. local time.
[FOUR // buckeyes' smith scores in women's basketball opener]
In Olympic women's basketball competition, former Ohio State standout Katie Smith contributed nicely in Team USA's 97-57 opening win over the Czech Republic on Saturday. A healthy Smith, who won gold in Sydney despite nagging injuries that kept her out of most of the 2004 Games, netted seven points on 2-of-9 shooting. She added two rebounds and two steals over 13 minutes of play in the 2008 opener.
Smith was asked by usabasketball.com about her thoughts on participating in the Olympics' Opening Ceremonies. Although she said it was disappointing that the athletes didn't get to see the entire event, she did note how special it was to receive a pep talk from President George W. Bush.
"We had what was obviously a special deal for the U.S. delegation," she said. "All of our fellow USA teammates got to meet President Bush in the fencing hall and have our picture taken with him. We obviously mingled with one another. It was a lot of fun to be a part of that and get his well wishes for the Olympics."
[FIVE // big ten represents in men's gymnastics]
Saturday marked an impressive outing for former Big Ten gymnasts as Illinois' Justin Spring, Ohio State's Raj Bhavsar and Penn State's Kevin Tan turned in high marks to help lead USA to the Olympic finals. Spring recorded the team's highest score (15.800) on parallel bars, while also placing third on the squad in vault (15.900) and high bar (15.375) and fourth on floor (14.400) and still rings (14.175). Bhavsar scored the team's highest mark on vault (16.175) and was second-best on rings (15.325) and parallel bars (15.625). Tan, the team captain, led the team on rings (15.725). The team finished sixth in the preliminaries and the finals take place on Tuesday.
[SIX // gophers carry usa volleyball on court and in sand]
A pair of Minnesota volleyball players made USA proud this weekend as one Golden Gopher got it done on the court, while the other led the U.S. in the sand. Lindsey Berg served the final six points in the third game of the Americans' 3-1 victory over Japan. The U.S. captured the first match of group play by scores of 25-20, 20-25, 25-19, 25-21. Nicole Branagh, who pairs with Elaine Youngs in beach volleyball, captured a win over the Netherlands, 21-19, 27-25, in her first preliminary match.
[SEVEN // hoosiers to play for the honor of former big ten commish]
To non-Olympic conference news now, the Indiana men's basketball team learned this past Tuesday it will battle Notre Dame in the first round of the 2008 EA Sports Maui Invitational. Long considered one of the nation's premier tournaments, the Hoosiers will take to the Lahaina Civic Center court on Maui at 5:30 p.m. ET on November 24. Indiana won the Wayne Duke Championship Trophy in 2002 and will be making its fifth appearance in the event. If the name of that coveted EA Sports Maui Invitational trophy sounds familiar, it should. The trophy is named after the former Big Ten Commissioner, who long served as the tournament's chairman as well. Duke currently serves as the Tournament Chairman Emeritus. For more information on the event, click here!
[EIGHT // illini hoops madness hits football field for world record]
This past week the University of Illinois announced a creative promotion with hopes of luring a world record crowd to watch both Fighting Illini basketball teams practice? Practice? We're talking about practice? Absolutely, and these Illini fans might just come together to accomplish the task at hand. Illinois will officially host "The World's Biggest Basketball Practice" immediately after the conclusion of the October 11 home football game against Minnesota. Memorial Stadium will be transformed into basketball court following the game as the school will look to create a new attendance standard for any women's basketball event and mark the all-time attendance high for a men's basketball practice. Those types of records are not uncommon to the Big Ten. Remember the 2003 season when Michigan State played Kentucky in the BasketBowl at Ford Field in Detroit - a game that attracted a world record 78,129 fans? More information on Illinois' event can be found here.
[NINE // purdue one of a few]
There are some things that are not understood and perhaps not even realized until they are all laid out in front of you. This past Thursday on purduesports.com, a press release noted that the Boilermakers were one of only two schools (Texas) to participate in a bowl game and the NCAA championship tournaments in men's and women's basketball, women's volleyball, women's soccer and softball during the 2007-08 season . A closer look at the breakdown can be found by clicking here.
[TEN // recent big ten student-athlete graduates to head coaching gig]
Congratulations to former Michigan State golfer Casey Lubahn as the Spartan assistant coach was named head men's gold coach at Miami (Ohio) on Tuesday. Lubahn was a three-year assistant at MSU and was a 2007-08 finalist for the GCAA Jan Strickland Award, which is given annually to the NCAA Division I Assistant Coach of the Year. During his time in East Lansing, he helped guide MSU to three Big Ten titles and was even interim head coach for three months prior to the hiring of Sam Puryear last fall. A three-time letterwinner during his playing days, Lubahn graduated from Michigan State in 2004 and finished his career with the fifth-lowest career stroke average in program history. Best of luck to Casey!
[ELEVEN // career-ending injury sidelines gopher grappler]
Finally this past week, we learned of disappointing news out of Minneapolis. It was reported by the Minnesota Daily's Blake Dahmen that Golden Gopher wrestler Brandon Sitch was forced to end his career early due to a spinal disorder. Stich was set to start in the Gophers' rotation in the upcoming year at 174 pounds, having compiled a 16-5 record over his first two seasons. Doctors diagnosed him with spinal stenosis, a disorder causes the spinal cord to compress and can lead to nerve pinching, persistent pain and decreased physical activity, according to the Dahmen's story. We wish the best of luck to Stich, as he is expected to remain with the team and continue his education.