Aug. 2, 2012
LONDON - California alumna Erin Cafaro and the U.S. women's eight notched an impressive second-straight Olympic gold on Thursday, bringing the Golden Bear medal count to nine. The American women's eight - which also won gold in Beijing - has not lost a competitive race since 2006 and edged Canada to take home the 2012 gold. Also representing the Blue & Gold on Thursday were Bears in men's basketball, men's and women's swimming, men's water polo along with Julie Nichols in the women's lightweight double sculls.
Max Zhang played in his third Olympic game with the Chinese National Team in an 81-61 loss to Australia Thursday morning inside the Olympic Basketball Stadium in London.
The 7-3 center from Shanghai, who was a member of the Cal men's basketball team for the 2009-10 and 2010-11 seasons, played just under nine minutes in Thursday's game. He converted his lone field goal attempt to finish with two points in his limited time on the floor.
China, who dropped a 97-81 decision to Spain in its Olympic opener and a 73-54 contest to Russia on Tuesday, owns a 0-3 record in Group B play so far in the Olympics with its next game scheduled for Saturday (Aug. 4) against Brazil at 8:45 a.m. (PT).
Canada's Will Dean finished fifth in the men's four semifinals (6:08.90). Like Nichols, Dean failed to qualify for the gold-medal race. He will compete in the event's B final on Saturday.
Looking ahead to Friday's action, Scott Frandsen of Canada will strive to win a gold medal in the final of the men's coxless pair. Frandsen is the last Cal rower with an opportunity to bring home a third medal back to Berkeley.
Erin Cafaro and the women's eight won their second straight Olympic gold medal Thursday morning, clocking in at 6:10.59. Cafaro is one of six rowers who won gold in the eight in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. The Americans held off second-place Canada, which clocked in at 6:12.06. In what is being called a rowing dynasty, the U.S. women's eight boat has not lost a competitive race since 2006. Besides the 2008 Games, the only other gold medal the U.S. women have won in the eight came in the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. Cafaro is the second Cal rower to win a medal in London after Kara Kohler and the U.S. women's quad sculls won the bronze medal on Wednesday.
Staying with the women, Julie Nichols and her partner, Kristin Hedstrom, failed to qualify for the final of the women's lightweight double sculls. The pair, which is coached by Cal women's rowing head coach Dave O'Neill, finished fourth in the semifinals with a time of 7:12.61. Nichols and Hedstrom will race in Saturday's "B" final.
A day after Cal's Nathan Adrian won the Olympic gold in the 100 free, two other members of the Golden Bear family have put themselves in position to medal. Sprinter Anthony Ervin (2000-03), the 2000 Olympic gold medalist in the 50-meter freestyle, swam well in the preliminary rounds of the 50 free. Ervin clocked a 21.62 in the semifinals and has the second fastest time (behind USA's Cullen Jones and Brazil's Cesar Cielo's time of 21.54) entering Friday's final.
Ervin is one of the most intriguing stories of the London Olympics. Retiring in 2003 after winning two golds (50 free and 400 medley relay) and a silver (400 free relay) at the 2000 Sydney Games, he returned to competitive swimming and placed second to Cullen Jones in the 50 free at 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials.
In Thursday's preliminary rounds of the 100 fly, Serbia's Milorad Cavic (2003-06) swam 51.66 in the semifinals and enters Friday's final with the field's fourth-best mark. Cavic, who was edged out of the 2008 Olympic gold in the 100 fly in Beijing by USA standout Michael Phelps, placed second to Phelps in the morning heat, 51.72 to 51.90.
In another morning heat of the 100 fly, Switzerland's Dominik Meichtry (2005-08) placed first in Heat Two with a time of 53.40, but did not advance to the semifinals.
Jessica Hardy finished eighth in the final of the 100-meter freestyle at the Aquatics Centre. The former Bear clocked a time of 54.02. She also posted the eighth-fastest times in yesterday's semifinals (53.86) and prelims (54.09).
On Thursday's morning, alumna Lauren Boyle (New Zealand) swam a time of 8:25.91 in the 800-free semifinals to advance to Friday's final. Her time ranked fifth-fastest in the semifinals. Current Bear Stephanie Au (Hong Kong) clocked a time of 2:18.47 in the 200-backstroke prelims but did not advance to the semis.
Men's Water Polo
John Mann (2003-06) scored a goal in his second consecutive Olympic match, helping Team USA to a 13-7 victory over host Great Britain on Thursday at the Aquatic Centre. Mann scored his goal with 55 seconds left in the first period to give the Americans a 5-0 advantage. He went on to play over 16 minutes in the contest as Team USA improved its record to 3-0 with earlier victories over Montenegro (8-7) and Romania (10-8). Mann had scored a goal against Romania on Tuesday.
The Golden Bears' other men's water polo player at the Olympics, sophomore Aleksa Saponjic, played 2:39 minutes in Serbia's 11-11 tie with Montenegro on Thursday. Saponjic was one for one on sprints and recorded an assist to teammate Andrija Prlainovic with 32 seconds left in the first period to give Serbia a 3-1 lead. With the eventual 11-11 tie, Serbia's record went to 2-0-1 in Group B with earlier wins over Hungary (14-10) and Britain (21-7).
In what could be a key Olympic contest, the two Bears will face each other on Saturday, Aug. 4 when Mann's USA squad plays Saponjic's Serbian team in another preliminary match of Group B.
Mann helped the Golden Bears to the 2006 NCAA title and was the recipient of the Peter J. Cutino Award as the nation's top collegiate player, while Saponjic was a 2011 honorable mention All-American as a freshman for Cal.