Villa & The U.S. Women’s Water Polo Team Finally Strike (Olympic) Gold

London Olympics 2012

The fourth time’s the charm for Brenda Villa, who finally has that coveted Olympic gold medal…

Competing in the final game of her career, the 32-year-old Mexican American water polo star helped lead the American women’s water polo team to an 8-5 win over Spain at the 2012 Olympic Games to claim its first gold medal.

Brenda Villa

”I am speechless. It still hasn’t sunk in,” said Villa, the team captain. ”I can’t describe it. It’s the end of a journey, and I got my fairy-tale ending.”

Villa scored one goal in the victory over Spain at the London Games, capping off a career that already includes two silver medals and one bronze.

The U.S. started the game off slow, scoring one goal late in the first quarter off a Maggie Steffens shot, tying the game at one apiece.

Steffens helped put the Americans ahead for good after scoring two goals and an assist in the second quarter.

US Women's Water Polo Team

The U.S. went into halftime with a 5-2 lead; and coming out of the break they didn’t relent.

Just over a minute into the third, Steffens scored once again and Villa followed up with her lone goal of the game.

Up 8-2 in the fourth quarter with a little over five minutes remaining, Spain tried to mount a comeback, scoring three unanswered goals.

But it was too little, too late and as the clock expired the American players and coaches jumped into the pool to celebrate the team’s historic victory.

Brenda Villa

On its journey to the gold medal the U.S. squad went undefeated. A tie with Spain in the preliminary round was its only blemish.

It’s the country’s first Olympic water polo title since 1904, when they won the men’s event.

Unda Claims a Wrestling Bronze at the London Games

London Olympics 2012

“If you don’t succeed, try, try again” must be Maider Unda’s motto at the 2012 Olympic Games

The 35-year-old Spanish freestyle wrestler claimed her first bronze medal in her second Olympic attempt at the London Games.

Maider Unda

Following a disappointing loss to her Olympic nemesis — Bulgaria’s Stanka Zlateva — in the semifinals, Unda beat Vasilisa Marzalyuk of Belarus 3-0 in the bronze medal match in the women’s freestyle wrestling 72kg category on Thursday to claim her place on the medal podium.

Maider Unda

Unda faced a similar situation back at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing — with a different outcome.

She lost to Zlateva in the quarterfinals, but won her repechage match against Canada’s Ohenewa Akuffo to compete for the bronze. But in that instance, Unda lost to Poland’s Agnieszka Wieszczek to leave Beijing without a medal.

González Claims Taekwondo Gold at the London Games

London Olympics 2012

Joel González Bonilla is Spain’s golden boy of taekwondo…

The 22-year-old Spanish martial artist beat South Korea’s Lee Dae-Hoon at the 2012 Olympic Games on Wednesday to claim the gold medal in the men’s under-58kg taekwondo final. It’s his first-ever Olympic title.

Joel González

González, the reigning world champion, beat Lee—a world champion who’d moved down from the non-Olympic under-63kg category to compete at the London Games—in an action-packed final.

Even though Lee was on the attack more often in the match, González managed to block most of Lee’s kicks while productively counterattacking with head shots.

Joel González

González struck first in the opening round, connecting with a three-point head kick to open up a 5-2 lead. The kick wasn’t originally scored but the Spaniard questioned the referee’s decision and was awarded the score after a video review.

“I thought it was clear that I touched him so I asked my coach to challenge it. It was then clear, they gave it to me and of course it was important to gain that advantage,” said “It goes without saying that it was very important and the three points meant I had a big advantage.” he said.

Joel González

Lee closed the gap with two unanswered points until a flurry of late kicks in the second round saw González extend his lead to 8-4.

In the final round, a brutal axe-kick that connected with the Korean’s mouth and sent him crashing to the canvas proved to be the final nail in the Lee’s coffin.

Lee’s camp made a hopeful challenge, claiming a three-point head kick for him, but that was rejected and his lingering hopes of victory died.

González did get a scare by Sweden’s Uno Sanli (7-6) and Australia’s Safwan Khalil (5-3) in his first two rounds but easily overcame Colombia’s Oscar Munoz 13-4 in the semifinals.

Yagüe Claims a Silver in Women’s Taekwondo at the London Games

London Olympics 2012

She couldn’t take down the defending champion, but Brigitte Yagüe Enrique can still call herself an Olympic medalist after a strong showing at the London Games

Brigitte Yagüe Enrique

The 31-year-old Spanish taekwondo practitioner had to settle for a silver at the 2012 Olympic Games, after losing to China’s Wu Jingyu on Wednesday in the flyweight (49-kilogram) division in women’s taekwondo.

The top-ranked Wu, who won the gold at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, defeated Yagüe 8-1 in a fast-paced final that saw Wu almost always attacking and using her flexibility to nail Yagüe with repeated close-range kicks.

Brigitte Yagüe Enrique

Yagüe, like the rest of the competitors who had to face Wu this week, never really had a chance in the match. In top form, Wu won two previous matches so decisively they were ended early after she racked up leads considered too big to close.

“She’s become much stronger since Beijing,” said Yagüe. “It was difficult to try to predict where she might be kicking us.”

Brigitte Yagüe Enrique

But Yagüe still has plenty of reason to smile… After all, she’s earned her first Olympic medal after a disappointing performance at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, where she lost in the first round 5-9 to Yaowapa Boorapolchai of Thailand. She missed the 2008 Olympic Games due to an injury.

The bronze medals went to Thailand’s Chanatip Sonkham and Croatia’s Lucija Zaninovic.

Esparza Clinches a Boxing Bronze at the London Games

London Olympics 2012

The 2012 Olympic Games have come to an end on a bittersweet note for Marlen Esparza

The 23-year-old first generation Mexican American boxer—the first American woman to earn an Olympic berth in boxing—lost to reigning world champion Ren Cancan of China in the flyweight semifinal of the inaugural women’s boxing competition at the London Games.

Marlen Esparza

Esparza, guaranteed at least a bronze medal heading into the bout, trailed throughout the four rounds by margins of 3-2, 7-4, and 8-6 as Cancan won a cautiously fought encounter in a rematch of their boutat this year’s world championships, which the Chinese star won.

The first round was devoid of substantial action as both boxers sized each other up and measured their striking distance. As the clash progressed Esparza, who was constantly bouncing on the balls of her feet, tentatively waited on her foe to make a mistake and leave an opening to attack.

Marlen Esparza

When neither switching from the orthodox to southpaw stance nor counterpunching tactics worked for Esparza, she finally pressed forward in the fourth and final frame, scoring with a late flurry that she hoped would tip the close fight in her favor.

Unfortunately Esparaza, who has garnered national attention for her advertisements for CoverGirl and McDonald’s, would fall just short but will still make the medal stand.

Marlen Esparza

“I thought I was going to win … I thought I was going to win,” Esparza said through tears Wednesday after the 10-8 loss to Ren. “I thought I was going to win, so this is very difficult.”

Esparza and fellow semifinalist Mary Kom of India have automatically been awarded bronze, as there is no third-place bout under Olympic rules.

So despite the heartbreaking loss, Esparza has cemented her place in American sports history as the first to clinch an Olympic medal. And, she’s still an inspiration to millions of girls around the country.

Esperza, known for her speed and smarts in the ring, graduated in the top 2% of her class and was student body president in high school.

 

 

Muñoz Claims a Bronze in Men’s Taekwondo at the London Games

London Olympics 2012

The first time’s a charm for teen taekwondo sensation Oscar Muñoz Oviedo at the 2012 Olympic Games

Following a tough loss to eventual champion Joel González of Spain, the 19-year-old Colombian fighter—competing in his first Olympics—beat Thailand’s Pen-Ek Karaket on Wednesday to take home the bronze medal in the men’s under-58kg taekwondo final at the London Games.

Oscar Munoz Oviedo

Muñoz and Karaket closed out the first round tied at zero, but the Colombiano closed the second round by a score of 3-1.

And Muñoz came away with the victory after he successfully challenged a last second three-point kick. The judges penalized the Thai fighter for an illegal blow in the third round, which helped seal Muñoz 6-4 win.

“It was a very difficult fight; at the end I was able to solve it,” said Muñoz, insisting that he never lost confidence that “everything was going to come out fine.”

 

Muñoz’s medal sets Colombia’s medal count at the 2012 Olympic Games at five, two silver and three bronze. That improves on the country’s all-time record for most medals in a single Games that was already set after Caterine Ibarguen medal-winning performance in  the triple jump on Sunday.

“Thanks to God I have been able to obtain this victory, a medal I have wanted for Colombia so long,” said Muñoz after the fight.

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos congratulated his country’s latest Olympic victor on Twitter. “What pride for Valledupar!” said the president.

Araujo Claims Bronze in Women’s Boxing at the London Games

London Olympics 2012

The gold medal wasn’t meant to be at the 2012 Olympic Games… But Adriana Araujo is setting her sights on the future and the next stage of her career.

The 30-year-old Brazilian fighter had to settle for a bronze medal after losing to Russia’s Sofya Ochigava on Wednesday in the women’s lightweight boxing semifinal at the London Games.

Adriana Araujo

Araujo started the bout on a strong note by attacking the current world No. 2. The first round ended with the boxers tied.

But Ochigava took the lead in the second round and went on to win, 17-11.

Adriana Araujo

In the end, the Russian boxer—who will go on to face reigning world champ Katie Taylor of Ireland in the final—was quicker on her feet and a more effective puncher than Araujo.

“Bronze is not what I wanted, but I’m leaving happy,” said Araujo after the fight. “The next Olympic games will be in my country,” she added, referring to Rio de Janeiro’s role as host of the 2016 Olympic Games, “but I won’t be there because I’m going professional.”

Araujo joins Marlen Esparza of the United States as only Latina fighters to win a medal in the debut of women’s boxing as an Olympic sport in London.

Felisberta & França Survive China to Claim Bronze at the London Games

London Olympics 2012

Talk about a bronzetastic comeback…

Juliana Felisberta and Larissa França staged an electrifying comeback at the 2012 Olympic Games to claim the bronze in women’s beach volleyball on Wednesday after being thisclose to defeat.

Juliana Felisberta & Larissa França

The 29-year-old Felisberta and 30-year-old França—Brazil’s great hope for the gold on the imported sands at Horse Guards Parade prior to the start of the London Games—managed to turn the beach around to beat China’s Xue Chen and Zhang Xi after being within two points of losing the match and ending their Olympic run off the medal stand completely.

The Chinese duo looked unstoppable at the beginning of the match, winning the first set 21-11 and taking an early lead in the second set. But Felisberta and França, the reigning world champions, managed to dig their way back into the match.

Juliana Felisberta & Larissa França

Xue and Zhang led 19-17 but the Brazilian duo didn’t panic. Instead, they clawed their way back and eventually clinched the second set 21-19.

Felisberta and França held onto a narrow lead in the third set, with the Chinese team mounting powerful attacks until the end. The Brazilian pair finally nailed the set and the match 15-12.

Juliana Felisberta & Larissa França

Felisberta and França had arrived in London as the favorites, but their golden dreams were dashed on Tuesday when they were upset in the semifinals by Americans Jennifer Kessy and April Ross.

Cal’s Silver at the London Games Makes Him Spain’s All-Time Olympic Medal Leader

London Olympics 2012

David Cal Figueroa put the paddle to the medal at the 2012 Olympic Games to secure his place in the annals of Spanish sports history.

David Cal

The 29-year-old Spanish sprint canoer had to settle for a silver medal in the men’s 1000-meter canoe (C1) single sprint at the London Games, after losing the oh-so-exhilarating race by less than a second to Germany’s Sebastian Brendel.

The race on Dorney Lake was thrilling to the very end, with Brendel catching up to his Spanish rival after Cal raced out to an early lead.

David Cal

Brendel’s winning time of 3 minutes, 47.176 seconds was a mere 0.877 ticks ahead of Cal’s.

With his latest medal-earning performance, the three-time Olympian—the silver medalist at the 2008 Olympic Games and gold medal winner at 2004 Olympic Games in Athens—becomes the Spanish athlete with the most Olympic medals of all time, with a total of five medals.

David Cal

Mark Oldershaw of Canada took the bronze, finishing 1.326 seconds behind the winning pace. Meanwhile, Hungary’s Attila Vajda, the reigning Olympic champion and the early odds-on favorite in London, failed to medal.

Manzano Ends a 48-Year American Medal Drought at the London Games

London Olympics 2012

The 2012 Olympic Games have proven to be a snap for Leo Manzano

The 27-year-old Mexican American came out of nowhere in the homestretch on the track at Olympic Stadium to claim the silver medal in the men’s 1,500-meter final at the 2012 Olympic Games.

Leo Manzano

Manzano’s medal-winning run on Tuesday night snapped a 48-year United States medal drought in the event. Legendary track star Jim Ryun was the last American to make the medal podium in the event, winning a silver medal at the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City.

Manzano finished in 3:34.79, placing him second behind Algeria’s Taoufik Makhloufi, who completed the race in 3:34.08. Morocco’s Abdelaati Iguider took home the bronze.

Leo Manzano

Manzano’s performance, on the heels of Galen Rupp’s silver in the 10,000 meters, indicates that U.S. could be in the midst of a distance running resurgence.

“You think about Rupp, you think about Matt Centrowitz [who placed fourth in Manzano’s race] and myself,” said the Mexican-born runner, who moved with his family to Texas when he was 4 years old. “We’ve really brought distance running around the corner. I definitely hope it’s a turning point.”

Leo Manzano

“Leo the Lion,” as he’s known in running circles, ran with the heart a lion in the last 200 meters of the race to earn his spot on the medal podium.

“I felt like I was 10th or 11th,” he said. “I knew I was in the back. I just kept praying, saying, ‘Heavenly Father, help me. Push me. Give me the strength to keep going.’ My kick has always been there. Ever since I was maybe 12 years old, I’ve had this major gift from God. I guess sometimes it’s just been kind of overlooked.”

Leo Manzano

It may be easy to overlook Manzano, who stands at 5-5, 125 pounds, but his memorable surge at the end of the race won’t be forgotten anytime soon.

He cried on the track when it was over, as he thought about the two countries he cherishes.

“The U.S. is my home, and I wouldn’t change it for anything,” he said. “But my roots are still in Mexico. I love both countries. They both have a piece of my heart.”