2012 Olympics wrap-up

London 2012 is in the books and current and former Stanford athletes more than made their presence felt to the tune of 16 medals, 12 of them gold. To put that in perspective, Stanford would have finished 17th in the total medal count (tied with Cal). Its 12 gold medals would have been sixth most, beating out international powers Australia, France, Germany, Japan and Italy.

(Of course, many of those medals came in team sports in which there were multiple Stanford athletes on the same team, and medal counts don't take into account the number of athletes on a team, but it's my article and I make the rules.)

In any case, that medal count is not too shabby for a country, let alone a university. Here's a roundup of each medal won by a Stanford athlete.


AthleteSportMedal
Melissa Seidemann Women's water polo Gold
Maggie Steffens Women's water polo Gold
Annika Dries Women's water polo Gold
Brenda Villa Women's water polo Gold
Jessica Steffens Women's water polo Gold
Kerri Walsh Jennings Women's beach volleyball Gold
Nicole Barnhart Women's soccer Gold
Rachel Buehler Women's soccer Gold
Kelley O'Hara Women's soccer Gold
Elle Logan Women's eight rowing Gold
Bob Bryan Men's doubles tennis Gold
Mike Bryan Men's doubles tennis Gold
Mike BryanMixed doubles tennisBronze
Foluke Akinradewo Women's indoor volleyballSilver
Logan TomWomen's indoor volleyballSilver
Kristian Ipsen 3-meter synchronized divingBronze


Let's get into a little more detail:

I unfortunately didn't get a chance to watch rowing, tennis or synchronized diving, but I was blown away by the performance of the women's water polo team. The women's water polo field had to be one of the deepest pools (pun not intended) of talent in the entire Olympics, with seven of the eight qualifying teams having a legitimate shot at medaling. (Host Great Britain was the squad that didn't really have a prayer, but even they only lost to the Americans by one goal in a test event in May.) The field was so deep that the last Olympic champion (Netherlands) and last world champion (Greece) didn't qualify.

But considering their recent play, you had the feeling that the Americans had the slight edge going into the Olympic tournament. Outside of a disappointing sixth place finish at the 2011 World Championships, Aunt Samantha had won every other major tournament since Adam Krikorian took over in 2009: the last three FINA World League Super Finals, the 2009 FINA World Championship and the 2010 FINA World Cup.

You didn't have to be a water polo savant to figure out who the MVP was. Stanford's Maggie Steffens scored 21 goals in this Olympics before she even participated in an opening sprint for John Tanner. The Danville, Calif. native exploded on to the scene with seven tallies in the London opener against the Hungarians and wrapped things up with five of the United States' eight goals in an 8-5 victory over Spain in the gold medal game. (By the way, I was not expecting Spain to make it that far, even after tying America in the preliminary round.) Simply put, she's tough as hell; those underwater cameras gave you a good idea of that.

Steffens, Melissa Seidemann and Annika Dries, didn't play for Stanford this year to get ready for the Olympics… and the Cardinal still won its second straight national championship in their absence. There are only four schools that really compete for the NCAA women's water polo crown (Stanford, Cal, UCLA, USC), and, to put it mildly something tells me Stanford won't drop off that list anytime soon. [Ed: What's the over/under for Steffens' four years at the Farm? I'd put it at 2.5 national titles. No pressure on the 19 year old or anything, but she's just that good.]

Like the 2011 women's World Cup side, this Olympics' U.S. women's squad saw its biggest story come before the championship round. In the 2011 World Cup, it was the amazing game-tying goal against Brazil in the final seconds of the quarterfinal round; this time, it was Alex Morgan's beauty of a header with seconds remaining in the second extra time period against Canada in the semifinals. Yes, Morgan went to that other school across the Bay, but tell me you weren't cheering when her header made it 4-3, and I'll show you the first plane heading to Pyongyang. (It'll take a couple of flights, rest assured.)

The women then got their revenge against Japan in a very exciting 2-1 gold medal match. I must say, I was very impressed with the Japanese. It felt like they sort of caught lightning in the bottle during the women's World Cup, but a silver medal in London proved that the Japanese are here to stay in women's soccer. (Their men aren't that far behind, either, regularly advancing out of the group stage of the World Cup now.)

My last thought on women's soccer: Put Kelley O'Hara up front! She is one of the most dangerous attackers I have seen in person, having called almost all of her home games at Cagan her senior year, for whatever the hell that is worth. It might have been three years ago, but she was a class above Lauren Cheney when they faced off at Laird Q back in the 2009 season, and I'm pretty sure O'Hara's attacking prowess hasn't just faded away. Free O'Hara. *No joke: After Stanford got jobbed out of the 2009 NCAA title against North Carolina, I made a t-shirt that read "Free Press" (for Christen Press, who was denied two goals to offside calls, one of themabsolutely horrid) on the front and "Free O'Hara" on the back.

As for beach volleyball…Maybe it's because I only watch it every four years (though that is sure to change now that sand volleyball is becoming an NCAA-sponsored sport), but I just expected Walsh Jennings and May-Treanor to romp through the competition. And while the two did face some sticky situations – being taken to two deuce sets against Chen Xue and Xi Zhang of China and losing a set to the Austrian sisters Doris and Stefanie Schwaiger in preliminary play – it always felt like they were in control. This wasn't their first rodeo; actually, it was their last. I'm curious to see who Kerri's next partner is going to be.

I didn't watch much of the women's indoor volleyball squad, but there was one thing that really stuck out to me while watching men's or women's volleyball the past couple of weeks: NBC doesn't understand volleyball. Otherwise, you wouldn't have meaningless stats like kills/attempts/percentage. Apparently, the people in charge of volleyball stats at NBC didn't realize that hitting percentage takes into account attacking errors. Also, 1/8 blocks, 2/10 digs- ARE YOU SERIOUS? Take a quick look at any PDF Stats from any college volleyball program and you will see that blocking percentage and digging percentage are, well, NOT STATS THAT ANYONE CARES ABOUT IN VOLLEYBALL. They mean nothing.

Here's a quick lesson in volleyball stats, NBC/AP/anyone else planning to cover volleyball any time soon: The most important offensive stat to track is kills, not points. In my three years of broadcasting volleyball, I have used the "points" statistic maybe twice. It's not freaking basketball. Second, like I mentioned earlier, hitting percentage = (kills – errors)/total attempts. Another stat to keep track of is kills/blocks/digs/assists per set. Twenty kills sounds like a good match, but 20 kills over three sets (6.67 kills per set) is a lot more impressive than 20 kills over five sets (4 kills per set). You think we're too stupid as a country to understand those statistics? It's not that hard, really; it takes the same level of understanding for points and rebounds per game on the hoop court.

NBC also made way too big of a deal about service errors for men's volleyball games. Service errors happen a lot more frequently in the men's game because serving tough is a more important aspect of the men's game than it is the women's. If you're gonna lob one over every time in men's volleyball, you're just going to have it smashed back in your face. Hence, you get errors from dudes trying to hit that baby at speeds exceeding 70 mph.

Well there's my rant on volleyball stats. Free kills per set, free assists and free Kelley O'Hara. I'm out.


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