07/16/16 9:00am
07/16/2016 9:00 AM

In three weeks the world’s greatest athletes will take center stage at the XXXI Olympiad in Rio de Janeiro, a grand spectacle that will seize our nation’s attention and captivate us with unforgettable moments. From the swimming pool to gymnastics mats, a new group of American athletes will become heroes. READ

08/13/12 8:00am
08/13/2012 8:00 AM

AP Photo/Francois Mori | Shelter Island’s Amanda Clark competed in her second Olympics this past week, doing her hometown proud with a ninth place finish in the Women’s 470 sailing competition.

Why do we love the Olympics so much?

I found myself involved in several conversations on this topic the past couple weeks.

Is it our love of country? Our obsession with sports? Maybe it’s just a great inexpensive way to fill our nights in the dead of summer, when most of our usual programming is on hiatus.

No matter what the reason, Americans were watching the Olympics more than ever before this year, even if many viewers complained that the tape delay in a new social media world ruined much of the surprise.

I watched the Olympics just about every day this year for all those reasons and one more: the personal connection.

When I first broke into this business as a sportswriter nearly a decade ago, a young sprinter in the Southern California town where I worked was all the rage.

Just a senior in high school, some folks were saying she could be the best in the world one day. This weekend, she proved she is.

I turned on my television just in time Saturday night to see a now 26-year-old Allyson Felix win her third gold medal of the 2012 games after failing to capture that precious medal in her previous two Olympic bids.

I got goosebumps as I heard commentator Lewis Johnson announce to the world that Allyson ran her leg of the mile relay in 48.1 seconds.

It wasn’t the only time my skin tingled this Olympics.

Jamel Herring was still in middle school when I graduated high school in 1997, but it still gave me great pleasure to watch a fellow Longwood High grad slug it out in his first Olympic boxing match July 31. Even in a 19-9 defeat to Daniyar Yeleussinov of Kazakhstan in his only match, the Coram native did his hometown proud.

The same can also be said for Shelter Island’s Amanda Clark. She proved once again that you don’t need to wear a medal around your neck for your friends and neighbors to celebrate your Olympic achievements. After finishing 12th in Beijing four years ago, Clark improved her standing in what will be her final Olympics, when she finished ninth in the Women’s 470 sailing competition.

There’s no doubt she’ll receive the hero’s welcome she deserves when she returns to the Island. Of all the young sailors to take an opti out on local waters, she’s the one who went as far as the sport allows, sailing the world and representing her country.

She proved to us once again that anything is possible, so long as you set your sights on getting it done.

Maybe that’s what makes the Olympics so special: The feeling that one of us can do all that.

Here’s to hoping we can carry on with the Olympic spirit long after these London games have passed.

Every one of us is longing to accomplish something. Now seems like as good a time as any to say goodbye to the tape delay.

Grant Parpan is the executive editor for Times/Review Newsgroup, publishers of The Suffolk Times.

08/10/12 10:00am
08/10/2012 10:00 AM

COURTESY PHOTO | Shelter Island sailor Amanda Clark, background, finished ninth overall in the Women’s 470 competition at the 2012 London Olympics.

After eight days and 11 races through the waters on the south coast of England, the 2012 Olympic competition for Shelter Island’s Amanda Clark and teammate Sarah Lihan came to an end Friday.

A two-time Olympian, Clark finished ninth overall sailing in the Women’s 470 race alongside Lihan. The two did not finish on the podium, but Clark did top her finish from Beijing in 2008 when she was 12th.

In the final race Friday, Clark and Lihan finished last, giving them 20 points for a net total of 98. The top 10 teams competed in Friday’s medal race — the 11th of the competition — where points where doubled. So a 10th place finish equaled 20 points. The standings for each team at the end of a race was equal to the number of points it received. The highest total was dropped and the team with the fewest points tallied together at the end was the winner. A total of 20 team competed in the 470 race.

That honor went to the New Zealand duo of Jo Aleh and Olivia Powrie. They finished with a net total of 35 points and clinched the gold medal with a first-place finish in Friday’s medal race. It was the third race they won of the 11. They were second in three races.

Great Britain won the silver medal and Netherlands won the bronze.

It marked the end of a long journey for Clark and Lihan of Team Go Sail, who qualified for the Olympics on the final day of the 2011 World Championships in Perth.

Prior to this year’s competition, Clark announced that this would be her last Olympic competition. She said she hoped to continue to work with the U.S. Olympic Sailing Team in some capacity to share her knowledge and experience.

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08/08/12 10:58am
08/08/2012 10:58 AM

COURTESY PHOTO | Shelter Island’ sailor Amanda Clark, background, has qualified for the medal race in the Women’s 470 at the London Olympics Friday.

When the final 10 boats remaining set sail in the Women’s 470 medal race, Shelter Island’s Amanda Clark will skipper the United States of America’s boat.

She will not, however, be competing for a medal.

Clark and crew Sarah Lihan of Team Go Sail qualified for the medal race after placing ninth of 20 boats in the event’s 10 qualifying races. Entering the medal race with 78 points, they can finish no better than in fifth place following Friday’s medal race.

In Olympic sailing, points are awarded based on how you finish. Finish first, you’re awarded one point. Come in second, you score two points, all the way down to 20 points for finishing last. Each team’s worse race is thrown out before the medal round. The team with the lowest point total at the end of the medal race, when points double, is the winner.

So even if Team Go Sail wins the medal race, they can finish with no fewer than 80 event points. Fifth-place Brazil, which enters the medal race with 61 points, is the top team Clark and Lihan can still catch.

New Zealand and Great Britain will enter the medal race tied for the top spot with 33 points, a positioning that has both countries guaranteed to win a medal. The Netherlands and France will be battling it out for the bronze, with Brazil also in the mix but needing things to really break its way.

After finishing 17th in Race 9 on Wednesday they needed to finish no worse than 17th again in the final prelim to assure a position in the medal race. They did just that when they finished Race 10 in ninth place.

Even though she can’t make the podium, Ms. Clark is assured of improving her standing from the 2008 Beijing Olympics where she placed 12th with former crew, Sarah Chin.

Just getting to the medal race was difficult and unsure for Team Go Sail. Even heading into the Race 10 of the preliminaries they still had to hold off tenth-place Spain and 11-place China to earn one of the final two spots in the medal race.

And they had to do so by battling what has proven to be their toughest enemy this Olympics — low winds.

Team Go Sail has spent a lot of practice time learning to succeed in heavy winds and rough surf that are more typical in the Weymouth-Portsmouth areas of England. But the races that have consistently defied their strategy with winds remaining very low.

“For [Clark and Lihan] it wasn’t conditions that suit their powerful sailing,” said U.S. Olympic Sailing Team spokeswoman Dana Paxton.

Prior to this year’s competition, Ms. Clark announced that this would be her last Olympic competition. She said she hoped to continue to work with the U.S. Olympic Sailing Team in some capacity to share her knowledge and experience.

The inability to medal might be a disappointment for Ms. Clark, who had said that was her goal this year, but residents back on Shelter Island have continued to express delight in the simple fact that their hometown hero made the U.S. Olympic Sailing Team.

“No matter where they place, we are so proud of Amanda and Sarah,” resident Jeanne Woods told the Reporter this week. “They put Shelter Island on the map,” Ms. Woods said.

Friday’s medal race is scheduled for 8 a.m. EST and a link to watch it live online will appear on sireporter.com that morning.

08/07/12 11:42am
08/07/2012 11:42 AM

COURTESY PHOTO | Amanda Clark, background, and her crew Sarah Lihan are in seventh place heading into the final two preliminary races Wednesday.

They’re moving on up.

Shelter Island Olympian Amanda Clark and her Team Go Sail partner, Sarah Lihan, posted a pair of top 10 finishes in the Women’s 470 Tuesday to move up to seventh place overall with 73 points in the event. The top 10 sailing teams following the final two preliminary races tomorrow will qualify for the medal race Friday.

After all 10 races are finished, the worst score is thrown out, giving each team a final net points total. Because Team Go Sail finished in last place in Race 6, they will definitely see 20 points dropped from their final score. Currently, that would place them in a tie with fifth place Brazil (67 total points) and sixth place Germany (72 total points), with 53 net points apiece.

Points in the medal race count double, with the lowest combined score from all the races taking gold.

On Tuesday, Team Go Sail placed third in Race 8 and ninth in Race 9. That moved them up from eight place overall.

Races are slated Wednesday at 7 a.m. and 8:15 a.m. and can be viewed at www.nbcolympics.com. Results will be posted on the Reporter website at www.sireporter.com as soon as they are available.

Women’s 470 Standings

Rk Points
TOT Net
1 NZL 31 21
2 GBR 31 25
3 NED 46 28
4 FRA 64 47
5 BRA 67 53
6 GER 72 53
7 USA 73 53
8 ITA 75 57
9 AUS 84 63
10 JPN 89 70
11 ESP 89 73
12 ISR 98 77
13 POL 98 78
14 ARG 100 81
15 CRO 103 83
16 DEN 99 83
17 CHN 104 85
18 SWE 111 92
19 SLO 113 96
20 AUT 135 115
08/03/12 10:10am
08/03/2012 10:10 AM

FACEBOOK PHOTO | Amanda Clark (right) and Sarah Lihan in Olympic waters Friday.

Shelter Islander Amanda Clark and her racing partner Sarah Lihan are in a fourth-place tie following their first two Olympic Women’s 470 sailing races this morning off the coast of Weymouth, England.

The U.S. sailors are tied with the Netherlands, one point behind Israel and New Zealand, who are tied for second place. Host nation Great Britain leads the way.

Team Go Sail was 3 minutes, 20 seconds behind first-place the Netherlands, which was followed by New Zealand and Israel in the first race.

Team Go Sail then placed third in the second race.

They were 1 minute, 6 seconds behind the first-place team from Great Britain. A German team was in second place.

The women are slated to sail twice a day today, Saturday, Sunday, Tuesday and Wednesday. Then the top 10 teams will compete in the medal race next Friday morning.

You can watch the races at www.nbcolympics.com

Visit the Shelter Island website at sireporter.com for results throughout the week.

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07/27/12 7:00am
07/27/2012 7:00 AM

The most important thing to remember when preparing for a fantasy Olympics draft is never to let patriotism get in the way.

OK, let’s back up a second. I know what you’re thinking. A fantasy what? Olympics?

With as much time as men (and women) spend in fantasy football, baseball, basketball and hockey leagues, is it really necessary to make up a fantasy Olympics league?

The answer is yes. It is.

Allow me to explain.

I got the idea before the 2010 Vancouver Games. I’m sure I wasn’t the first person ever to organize fantasy Olympics, but it’s not like you can just log on to cbssports.com and join a league. This required grunt work. Old school style. The league needed to be built by hand, from the bottom.

First task was to figure out what the rosters would look like. The good thing about the Winter Games is there are far fewer sports and events than in the Summer Games. So it was easy to craft a roster that in some way encompassed each sport. The scoring system was simple: five points for a gold, three for a silver, one for a bronze. In team sports, points were doubled, the logic there being that individuals can medal in multiple events, whereas a team like hockey can only potentially grab one medal.

So I got together with seven friends in February 2010 and we sat around drafting athletes like the Linger Brothers (luge), Kim Yu-Na (figure skating) and Petter Northug (cross-country skier). We had no idea who 99 percent of the athletes were we drafted. But it didn’t matter.

We never laughed more or had more fun doing a fantasy draft. And the Olympics were never more intriguing. We found ourselves glued to our TVs and computer screens following all the action. The England men’s curling team gave me more agita than the Mets have in years. I hung on to every move in Yu-Na’s gold-medal figure-skating routine like an anxious, proud parent.

I ended up winning the league when the Canadian men’s hockey team won the gold medal to cap off the games. Our league nearly came down to the gold medal hockey game determining our champion. But I had just enough points so that a silver medal for Canada would still clinch the victory, so I was able to allow myself to root for the U.S.

As the Winter Olympics ended, the countdown toward the Summer Games began.

Monday night, armed with Sports Illustrateds, newspapers and iPads, we gathered for our first-ever fantasy Summer Olympics draft.

We picked 12-person rosters consisting of two swimmers, two track athletes, two gymnasts, a canoer/kayaker, a beach volleyball team, a water polo team, a basketball team and a flex, which could be someone in any other sport.

The draft order was determined by picking names out of a hat. In many ways, this was the most crucial part of the draft. The top two picks were slam-dunks: swimming sensations Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte, both of whom are practically guaranteed a bevy of medals.

Unfortunately for me, I got stuck with the fourth pick. So I grabbed U.S. gymnast Jordyn Wieber, a favorite to win gold in the all-around as well as a team gold. It was a risky pick for the first round. I could have gone with a sure bet like the U.S. men’s or women’s basketball team. But I liked the idea of an individual first.

For the second round I stuck with the Americans and drafted Rebecca Soni, a swimmer who’s favored in both the 100- and 200-meter breaststroke. A three-time Olympic medalist, Soni is poised for a breakout Olympics.

And now back to my original point. Don’t let patriotism cloud your vision. If you want to draft all Americans, feel free. But don’t expect to emerge victorious.

As the draft evolved, I ended up taking only two more Americans: gymnast Gabby Douglas and track star Sanya Richards-Ross (who’s married to former New York Giant Aaron Ross).

I eventually made a move toward the Down Under, picking up both the Australian women’s water polo and basketball teams (there’s a sentence I never thought I’d write). Both could end up facing the U.S. for gold. For my tennis player I went with the hometown hero, Andy Murray.

My fourth overall pick went to the Brazilian beach volleyball team of Larissa Franca and Juliana Silva. And if you wanted to leave this column now to Google image search their names, I wouldn’t blame you.

The tricky part of these drafts is pronouncing many of the names.

“We’ll take Liu Xiang,” my friend Pat hesitantly said at one point, unsure if anyone had already taken the 110-meter hurdler.

“No, I took Sun Yang,” Sean quickly replied.

Later in the draft Pat and his brother Ken selected Chinese gymnast Yang Wei.

“He’s 5-foot-3, 120 pounds and pure heart,” Pat told us.

All true. The only problem they later realized, Wei retired in 2009. Whoops.

Late in the final rounds, Ken tried picking a gymnast who had already been taken in the first round.

“Is this guy available — Ley-Bron James?” Grant said, mocking them.

That’s like trying to select Drew Brees at the end of a football draft, Grant added.

My final pick was for my flex position — meaning I could take just about anyone.

I settled on Im Dong-hyun, South Korean archer extraordinaire. With a name like that, how can you go wrong?

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12/17/11 10:09am
12/17/2011 10:09 AM

COURTESY SAILINGPIX.DX | Sarah Lihan (left) and Amanda Clark competing this week in Australia.

“We did it!” was the triumphant message from Shelter Island’s Amanda Clark on Facebook early Saturday morning Eastern Standard Time after she and her crew Sarah Lihan won a berth on the 2012 US Olympic sailing team in Perth, Australia on Saturday.

It will be the second Olympic medal quest for Clark, 29, who started sailing lessons at age 5 at the Shelter Island Yacht Club. She competed in Beijing in 2008 and has been ranked on the U.S. sailing team since 1998 . She has represented the nation in 16 world championship events.

Clark-Lihan finished a week of sailing in 12th place in the women’s 470 category among 48 international competitors at the ISAF Sailing World Championships, a close three places ahead of her American competition for the Olympic team, Erin Maxwell and Isabelle Kinsolving Farrar.

After a day off on Friday, Clark-Lihan beat Maxwell-Kinsolving Farrar in both races Saturday, finishing 7th to Maxwell-Kinsolving Farrar’s 16th in race nine of the week-long competition and 14th in race 10 to Maxwell-Kinsolving Farrar’s 17th.

Going in to Saturday’s final two races of the regatta, the teams were in a literal dead heat. Having placed 8th to Clark-Linhan’s 11th in June’s first round of the Olympic trials in Weymouth, England, Maxwell-Kinsolving Farrrar were ranked number-one in the world and had a three-point lead when competition began for the 470-class on Monday.

It was a seesaw battle through the week, with Clark-Lihan doing well on Monday and Tuesday, including a third-place finish, but stumbling on Wednesday, losing two races — one with a 33rd-place finish — on Wednesday. That put them in 16th place, two spots behind Maxwell-Kinsolving Farrar.

But they resumed their winning ways on Thursday, finishing 13th and 5th in races seven and eight to Maxwell-Kinsolving Farrar’s 16th and 20th. That dropped Maxwell-Kinsolving Farrar from 14th to 16th place in the standings on Wednesday.

“We executed our day as planned,” Ms. Clark commented on her Team GOSAIL Facebook page on Thursday, “and now have a small lead in the standings going into the last two scheduled races. Looking forward to an exciting day of racing tomorrow!”

The winner of the US Olympic spot in the women’s 470 category was the team with the lowest combined overall placement in Perth and the previous Olympic trials in Weymouth, where the 2012 Olympic races will be sailed. Clark-Lihan finished in 11th place there, three places behind Maxwell-Kinsolving Farrar.

The women’s 470 regatta in Perth was won by a Spanish boat followed by teams from Israel, Great Britain, New Zealand and Japan.

Clark-Lihan in 12th place were the top finishers of three American 470 teams, with Maxwell-Kinsolving Farrar close behind at 15th and Cara Vavolotis and Lara Dallman Weiss in last place of the 48 boats.