Hungarian-American Success-stories at the London 2012 Olympics

We congratulate all the sportsmen and sportswomen who represent their respective countries at the Olympics. We are proud to observe several Hungarian and Hungarian-American successes. The men’s 200-meter individual medley included three of the greatest individual medley swimmers in the world, each of whom won medals in the event at the 2008 Olympic Games. Two of those swimmers, Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte are American while László Cseh is Hungarian. The three of them shared the podium. Congratulation!

In London, the men’s 200-meter individual medley will include three of the greatest individual medley swimmers in the world, each of whom won medals in the event at the 2008 Olympic Games. Two of those swimmers, American Michael Phelps and Hungarian Laszlo Cseh, didn’t swim quite as well as expected in the longer 400-meter individual medley. Neither won medals, and Cseh didn’t event make the final. Both will likely come out fast and look for redemption in the shorter style.

Phelps will be the No. 1 seed as the preliminary heats begin. The 27-year-old has swam the fastest time in the world this year at 1:54.84, which he achieved at the U.S. Swimming Olympic Team Trials. Phelps is the two-time defending Olympic champion in the event, and he finished second in the event at the 2011 World Championships behind American teammate Ryan Lochte.

Lochte heads into the event as the No. 2 seed with a time of 1:54.93, which he also swam at the U.S. Olympic trials. Lochte is the world record holder (1:54.00), the defending World Champion and the bronze medalist from the 2008 Games. He swam well when he won the 400 individual medley on the first night of swimming at the 2012 Olympic Games, but some criticized Lochte’s performance July 29 in the 4×100-meter freestyle relay.

Cseh didn’t swim up to expectations on the opening day of competition, either, when he failed to qualify for the final of the 400 individual medley. The 26-year-old finished ninth. He’ll head into the 200 individual medley with the third-fastest time of 2012 at 1:56.66. Cseh won the silver medal in the event at the 2008 Olympic Games and the bronze medal at the 2011 World Championships. Like Phelps and Lochte, he’s been a constant in the 200 individual medley event for years.

In fact, the combination of Lochte, Phelps and Cseh has owned the medal stand at each world championship meet for nearly seven years. The only exception came in 2009, when Phelps didn’t swim the event at world champs, but Lochte and Cseh still took the top two spots. At the 2005, 2007 and 2011 world champion event, Phelps, Lochte and Cseh won each medal in one combination or another. The same happened at the 2008 Olympic Games.

Will history repeat itself at the 2012 Olympic Games? Will swimming fans once again see Cseh, Lochte and Phelps standing on the medal podium for the 200 individual medley? I wouldn’t be surprised.

The men’s 200 individual medley preliminary and semifinal heats are scheduled to be contested on Aug. 1, while the final is scheduled for Aug. 2.

 

The extraordinary group of women’s eight rowing teamed up to beat the world again, rowing the United States to a second straight Olympic gold medal at Dorney Lake in Windsor in the women’s eight competition. Susan (Zsuzsanna) Francia, the Hungarian-born Penn grad was part of the team. As she put it, “That is an American dynasty, baby. There is a lot of power in that boat.” Congratulation!

LONDON — They were minutes away from burying their oars yesterday when two of them reminded the crew about the human machine they had engineered together on Mercer Lake in West Windsor. “You’re our brain, and we’re your body,” Caroline Lind, the team’s sweep, said to Mary Whipple. “And what a great body!” was the coxswain’s enthusiastic reply. They were already a water monster out of control, devouring every task they’ve ever been given for six years running, and challenges from upstarts who grow more fierce with each season.

But this extraordinary group of Princeton pals teamed up to beat the world again today, rowing the United States to a second straight Olympic gold medal at Dorney Lake in Windsor in the women’s eight competition. And as they held off Canada by a half-boat length — finishing in 6 minutes, 10.59 seconds — Esther Lofgren described having “the best feeling in the world.”

“We were having the best race of our lives,” said Lofgren, who like most of the oarswomen lives in Princeton, where the U.S. national rowing team is based. “Even with conditions a little bumpy out there, we kept pushing through everything.” The team is composed of Lind — an actual Princeton grad, who has a postgraduate degree from Rider University — plus Whipple (Orangevale, Calif.), Lofgren (Newport Beach, Calif.), Caryn Davies (Ithaca), Eleanor Logan (Boothbay Harbor, Maine), Meghan Musnicki (Naples, N.Y.), Taylor Ritzel (Larkspur, Colo.), Susan Francia (Abington, Pa.) and Erin Cafaro (Modesto, Calif.).

Together, they powered their way to a 2.3-second lead halfway through the 2,000-meter race and never lost it. When it was over, Whipple surrendered to coxswain tradition by allowing her diminutive frame (5-3, 106 pounds) to be ceremoniously hurled into Dorney Lake by her teammates, most of whom are in the 6-foot, 175-pound area.

“The last few hundred (meters) was a little rough, but we just sold it and did what we had to do,” said Whipple. “There were a couple of little rough spots here and there … but we got into our rhythm, and it was just a crushing rhythm. It was relentless. It was exactly what we planned to do.” Canada finished in 6:12.06 to take the silver, while the Netherlands won bronze with 6:13.12. The response from the rowing community throughout the U.S. was a combination of relief and pride. Jason Read, the legendary rower from Ringoes who sat in the bow seat when the U.S. men’s eight won the gold at Athens, put it best in an e-mail to The Star-Ledger yesterday:

“It is an epic occasion for any boat at the Olympic or World Championships level to go undefeated for so long,” Read said. “The British men from ’84 to 2004 come to mind. Rowing has so many moving parts, so many variables that can drastically influence results. The probability to do what our Princeton women did under the incomparable (coach) Tom Terhar is vanishingly small. One might even say providential.”

If it was not providence, it was destiny. As Francia, the Hungarian-born Penn grad put it, “That is an American dynasty, baby. There is a lot of power in that boat.” And a lifetime’s worth of accomplishment. Then there was Ritzel, the granddaughter of former Denver Broncos coach Red Miller, who had dedicated these Olympics to the mother she lost to cancer 19 months ago.

“I’m so excited that I could give this to her,” Ritzel said. “Walking the course today I saw the sun kind of peek through the clouds and I know she’s here. I dedicate everything I’ve done to her.” And there was closure of another kind: Whipple, who has coxed the U.S. for 11 of the last 12 years, was in her final race. “I am in awe of my teammates and what they had to endure and what they can handle,” said Whipple, 32. “They are so committed and I am so proud to be their teammate.”

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