Let the games begin: Brooklynites have plenty to watch as Olympics open in London

July 27, 2012 By John Torenli, Sports Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle

Not the least bit interested in keeping up with the Lolo Jones’ and Michael Phelps’ following today’s Opening Ceremonies at the 2012 London Olympics?

Fear not Brooklynites.

There will be plenty of local talent on hand at the once-every-four-years international event to keep your eyes peeled for.

Whether it’s in the pool, on the track, running the hardwood with America’s newest version of the Dream Team, in the squared circle, or even the piste, a.k.a. fencing mat, Brooklyn will be well-represented and in the thick of it all during the 30th edition of the Summer Games.

Here’s a look at some of the more compelling local storylines to follow over the next two weeks:

Kara Lynn Joyce and Lia Neal, Swimming: While Phelps shoots for another seven gold medals in London, a pair of ladies from Brooklyn will also be looking to score a podium spot. Brooklyn’s Kara Lynn Joyce will be swimming in the women’s 50-meter freestyle on Aug. 3, hoping to bolster her medal collection. The 26-year-old has already picked up four silver medals for her participation on the U.S. relay teams in the 2004 Games in Athens and 2008 in Beijing. Neal, only the second African-American woman to make a U.S. Olympic swim team, trained at Manhattan’s Asphalt Green Unified Aquatics Club. The 17-year-old Olympic neophyte will be on the 400-meter freestyle relay team after failing to qualify for Beijing four years ago. She hopes to follow in the footsteps of trailblazing swimmer Maritza Correia, a silver medalist in the 4×100 freestyle relay in 2004. “I definitely knew about Maritza Correia being the first [African-American woman to swim in the Olympics],” Neal said. “I never thought about me being the second one going into the race, but I guess that’s really a cool title to have.”

Justin Gatlin, Track and Field: The Brooklyn-born Gatlin is out for redemption, not to mention a second gold medal in the 100-meter dash. The 30-year-old earned the title of “Fastest Man in the World” when he took home gold in the 100 meters in Athens, but was banned from international compeition for four years in 2006 after failing a doping test at a relay meet in Kansas, costing him a shot to defend his title against Jamaica’s Usain Bolt in Beijing. Gatlin, Bolt and U.S. sprinter Tyson Gay will be dashing for the tape in London in what promises to be one of the more fascinating events at this year’s Summer Games. Gatlin will also be part of Team USA’s 4X100-meter relay squad.

Marcus Browne, Boxing: Though he hails from Staten Island, Browne has plenty of support in our fair borough, namely from former Brooklyn Olympian Sadam Ali, who became the first-ever Arab-American to box for Team USA in Beijing. Ali, who has worked out with and mentored Browne on his path to London, believes his 21-year-old protege has a chance to hear the national anthem in London. “I’m very proud of Marcus Browne,” Ali said. “He’s a great kid and I always knew he had it in him. He did it and now, hopefully, he gets the gold.” Browne, who will be competing in the light-heavyweight division, won the Americas Qualifying Tournament in his weight class in Rio de Janeiro two months ago. “I’m focused and ready for the task at hand, and that’s to get gold,” said Browne. “I’m locking in, I’m going to be a man that’s hard to find. My phone will probably be off [except for Twitter]. I won’t be dead, I’ll just be somewhere training.”

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Deron Williams and Carmelo Anthony, Men’s Basketball: Before Brooklyn Nets All-Star point guard Deron Williams and Brooklyn-born Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony square off at the Barclays Center on Nov. 1 for the much-anticipated season opener, the duo will try to win a gold medal together in London as members of America’s newest version of the Dream Team. The rivals already scored gold together on the 2008 “Redeem Team”, which helped the U.S. rebound from a dismal showing in Athens in 2004. Now, as crosstown rivals, Williams and Anthony are eager to return to the Big Apple this summer with some more Olympic bling. Melo scored a game-high 27 points in Team USA’s exhibition finale against Spain in Barcelona on Tuesday, helping the red, white and blue to a 100-78 victory. “Carmelo was sensational and his play was the difference in the game,” said Team USA coach Mike Krzyzewski, who will lead the Americans into their opener against France on Sunday. “[Winning the gold in Beijing is] my greatest accomplishment as a professional, as a player,” Williams noted. “It just means so much to win a gold medal, to represent your country, to put on that red, white and blue and have that USA across your chest. There’s no feeling like it when you’re standing up there on that podium getting that gold medal and listening to the national anthem. I just want to have a chance to feel that again.”

Race Imboden, a 19-year-old Park Slope native, will be competing for the U.S. men's fencing team in London. Photo courtesy of U.S. FencingNzignha Prescod and Race Imboden, Fencing: Prescod, who fences collegiately at Columbia but is Brooklyn born and bred, will be competing in the women’s team foil and individual foil events in London. The soon-to-be 20-year-old (her birthday is Aug. 14) is entering her first Olympics as Team USA’s second-rated foil fencer. The former Ivy League Rookie of the Year and First Team Ivy Leaguer is an alum of the Peter Westbrook Foundation, a New York City-based fencing program that encourages inner-city students to take up the sport through after-school activities and scholarships. graduates of the foundation include Beijing silver medal winners Keeth and Erin Smart, both of whom hail from Brooklyn as well. “I’ve seen them train and trained with them,” says Prescod, “and didn’t see why there wasn’t any reason why, if I trained as hard as they did, that I couldn’t make it.” Imboden, 19, of Park Slope and a graduate of the prestigious Dwight School in Manhattan, captured individual gold at the Pan American Championships in Cancun last month, and is eager to grab the gold in London. He’ll be wiedling his sabre in the men’s individual and team foil competitions. “Fencing has always been a European thing and the European guys have dominated,” Imboden said in a recent interveiw. “But now the U.S. is starting to be in the mix of guys who are top competitors in the world. Being so young, I want to show people that Americans can mix with these guys, individually and [as] a team.”

Jeremy Bascom, Kyle Johnson and Julius Metekanga of LIU-Brooklyn: You certainly don’t have to wear the red, white and blue to represent Brooklyn at the Olympics. Former LIU-Brooklyn student athletes will prove that in London. Bascom, a 2006 graduate of the Downtown Brooklyn school, qualified for his second Olympiad as a member of the Guyanan team. He will be in the 100-meter competition. Johnson, a four-year letterwinner for the LIU Brooklyn men’s basketball team, will be a part of just the second Great Britain team to ever compete in the Olympic Games. One of the team’s primary options off the bench, Johnson has played with Great Britain since 2011, when he took part in the Eurobasket Championships in Lithuania. Mutekanga will run in the 800-meters for Uganda, beginning with a preliminary round race on Aug. 6. Mutekanga has competed in numerous track & field events around the world over the past two years, and represented Uganda at the IAAF World Track & Field Championships in Daegu, South Korea in 2011. While a member of the Blackbirds, Mutekanga took home back-to-back NEC outdoor titles in the 800-meter run in 2009 and 2010.

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