Sunday, December 23, 2018

A Look Back at 2018

What an interesting year it was! There were ups, there were downs, and there were Olympics! We're bringing the year to a close with a look back at some of the biggest stories of each month.

January: Larry Nassar Sentencing

After a fall trial where a lot of horrific details were shared about MSU ex-physician Larry Nassar and his attacks on US gymnasts and MSU athletes, he was sentenced to 175 years in prison.

As a result of the allegations coming to light and the subsequent conviction, USA Gymnastics experienced a huge shift in leadership (three times, actually), filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy, and has been threatened with a revoking of its membership by the USOC.

It will be a while before I can put any trust into USA Gymnastics. But that doesn't mean we can't support the athletes that compete! If anything, we give them even more support now because of everything they've been through.

February: PyeongChang Winter Olympics!

There were so many wonderful memories from these Olympic Games. I saw a record number of hours of competition, got my students obsessed with the athletes and the competitions, and cried when it was over.

From Mikaela to the ShibSibs to Team Shuster to "Here comes Diggins!!!", it was an Olympics to remember. You can read all my recaps of each day HERE.

March: IAAF World Indoor Championships

I didn't even know this was a thing until I saw coverage of it was being offered on NBCSN. Indoor world championships for track and field? But I'm so glad I was able to tune in and watch some of my favorite athletes compete in the wintertime!

Since they took place in Birmingham, England, I was able to watch a lot of the competition live. This year there's no outdoor championships, but this takes its place. It was a great way to preview the outdoor season and figure out who to watch, Christian Coleman, Renaud Lavillenie, Murielle Ahoure, Mariya Lasitskene, and Sandi Morris all had great summer seasons that carried over from their indoor championships.

April: Team USA Basketball Teams Announced for 2018-2020

Eleven gold medalists from the Rio 2016 men's basketball team were invited to a minicamp in Las Vegas in July, and the final 12-man roster should come from the list of names that were released this month. Familiar names include Stephen Curry, LeBron James, Chris Paul, and Russell Westbrook. Gregg Popovich is the head coach for the teams.

For the women, former player and current head coach Dawn Staley will be working with much of the same faces that have helped them do so well in the past. Sue Bird, Diana Taurasi, and Seimone Augustus are all on the roster.

They will compete in the 2019 FIBA World Cup and the 2020 Tokyo Games!

May: Goodbye Historic Hayward Field

At the end of the month, the Prefontaine Classic was held at Historic Hayward Field for the final time before the stands were demolished in the summer and construction commenced on the brand-new stadium that will welcome the USA Track and Field trials in 2020 and the World Track and Field Championships in 2021! (Already updating my calendar!)

June: FIFA World Cup in Russia

Yes, Team USA wasn't there, but it seemed like everyone else's attention was drawn to Russia for the men's World Cup in football. It was a bit hard to watch over here because of the time difference, but those who were interested made sure to make time to watch live!

Croatia and England were the stories of the World Cup, with England losing in the third place game and Croatia losing to France in the final.

July: Visa is Still a Partner

Visa and the IOC extended its partnership through 2032. The sponsorship has provided millions (billions?) of dollars for the Olympic Games since 1986.

August: Curling Night in America is Filmed

If you've tuned into NBCSN this fall, they have been heavily promoting Curling Night in America, which covered the Chaska, MN tournament with women's, men's, and mixed teams from all over the world competing.

Each Friday, a different match was highlighted. They took the idea from Hockey Night in Canada, which has been a CBC staple on Saturday nights for many years. If anything, it's a great way to capitalize on Team Shuster's popularity and increase awareness of the sport!

September: Team USA Softball Earns First Tokyo Berth

After the 12-year gap between softball's appearance in the Summer Olympics, the Team USA softball team qualified in September for the Tokyo 2020 Games. They're actually the first US team to qualify for Tokyo! I'm sure that the grudge between the US and Japan is ramping up; Team USA won the 2016 World Title over Japan, but Japan was the one that beat Team USA in the Beijing Olympics - the last time softball was at the Olympics.

October: Gymnastics World Championships

Simone Biles won six medals in Doha, Qatar, including four golds, a silver, and a bronze after only coming back to train a year earlier. She now has a vault named after her by the world gymnastics governing body, and all of this happened while dealing with a kidney stone!

Not only was Biles winning medals, but Morgan Hurd, Sam Mikulak, and the women's team all won medals in Doha, even with the simmering instability amongst USAG.

November: Calgary Says No to 2026

Over 300,000 votes were cast in Calgary, and 56% of the population voted against hosting the 2026 Winter Olympics, bringing the selections down to two cities: Stockholm, Sweden, and Milan/Cortina, Italy.

Later on, the USOC chose Salt Lake City as its choice to be the American bid for the 2030 Winter Olympics, leading everyone in Denver to go, "Phew!"

December: Nathan Chen is Still Amazing

Even after faltering in PyeongChang, Nathan Chen had a great 2018, winning the World Championship in March, breaking the record for number of quads performed in a free skate, and winning the Grand Prix of Skating in December. Oh, and did I mention he is in his first year of college at Yale? Looking forward to seeing him compete at the US Championships next month!

So what was your highlight of the year? Comment below or tag me on social media to let me know!

Tokyo 2020 Prep

The volunteer application window has now closed! Now I just sit and wait for the next step. Did you sign up?

Olympic Channel Video of the Week

As soon as I saw this, I said, "This is the Video of the Week." Mostly because of the awesome artwork and music!

Weekly Cauldron Check

Is the cauldron lit????


I'm Claire Nat and you're reading Light The CauldronFollow me on Twitter and Facebook @CauldronLight and read my past Olympic articles! You can start with my daily recap of the PyeongChang Winter Olympics HERE!

Sunday, November 25, 2018

The Next Olympic Hopeful: A Live Blog

So remember last week when I said I wasn't going to have a blog this week because of Thanksgiving? Well, I ended up with a free Saturday evening on my way back home from Pennsylvania and remembered that The Next Olympic Hopeful was airing on NBCSN. Then I remembered how crazy busy my December is going to be and that I probably won't be putting out any articles that month, so I should probably put one out now.

And thus, my live blog of The Next Olympic Hopeful began. Enjoy!

If you want to view this as you read, you can catch it online at I'll put down times so you can easily track along with your viewing!
(PART 1 and PART 2)

:00 Aw, Opening Ceremony memories...

:01 I wish I was fit enough to put out an audition for this show. Instead I'm watching it. Bummer.

:02 I totally remember visiting that gym in Colorado Springs! Such a cool place - you all should go there. (It's free!)

:03 I will admit that I hate reality shows - mostly because of the editing that is supposed to create drama where there wasn't any. So remember that as I am blogging through this.

:04 I miss Colorado and those mountains...

:05 It's very clever for them to not be so specific about a sport as they start the audition process. They determine where you excel, and no one comes in with a focused mindset.

:06 Sprints! Nice to see a lot of diversity and gender equality.

:06 LaDarren Landrum - our first profile piece! I get why we are taken from the competition - to get backstories and get a bigger emotional connection - but it still feels like an interruption.

Commercials. I'm not used to commercials, guys. This stinks. This is why I have commercial-free Hulu and Netflix.

:13 Standing vertical test. Surprising to see how much speed and jumping factors into weightlifting. 23 1/2 inches? Wow!

:14 I'm a sucker for fancy shots - that overhead shot of the field was cool.

:14 Blech - endurance tests. It looks like they're four overall groups - men's grey and light grey, and women's red and blue.

:15 Excuse me Avinash Jawahir - endurance running is important for every sport. It's endurance testing.

:17 Kayla Caldwell - gymnast turned pole vaulter turned ??? Rugby maybe? That's my guess. Surprised to see she actually was in the Olympic Trials for pole vaulting in 2016!

:20 Sorry - I love this whole "sports transitioning" thing. I am also someone vehemently against kids playing one sport their whole lives. If you raise a child to be well-rounded in sports, then when things like this competition come up, they're prepared to do anything!

:24 Oh I love these kinds of "find the light" games!

:27 Look at how the fellow competitors cheer when they're not working! I hope the coaches and trainers noticed that. Being a solid teammate with good sportsmanship can be just as important as being a good athlete.

:33 Meals at the OTC? Is Sam Mikulak there? Do they live in the dorms right now?

:34 Have we seen Marissa Howell in action yet?

:35 CUTS. Oh no! The worst part of tryouts!

:36 Weights! I love weights! Interesting to hear them talk about kilograms on the weights - gotta keep it consistent with world weightlifting standards.

:43 Oh - chin-ups with weights? Count me out.

:44 Hey it's Michigan's own Claressa Shields - two-time Olympic gold medalist!

:47 So is this just an hour long? With all the commercials, it doesn't seem like nearly enough time to display these athletes. But I guess it isn't for the television audience. They just bring in the cameras to promote it.

:50 Fabian Griffin is from Victorville, California - where my grandfather did his army training in World War II!

:50 I really need to start doing some serious weightlifting again. I miss it.

:51 Some of them with this lifting technique are keeping their heads down - you can tell they're tired when they start lifting their torso to get the next rep.

:53 Sport-specific selection time. Ugh. That has to be incredibly stressful.

:54 I wish we'd gotten to meet more competitors - did we only meet the ones that they selected and no one else? That's pretty anticlimactic.

:56 Carlin Isles can boost my spirits any day.

:57 Oh good - there is more to this than just one episode! There's two episodes - and now we get to see them zero in on a sport!

And here's my live blog of Part II, which aired on Sunday!

:07 Aw, some get multiple sports? How cool! (I'd totally want to try rugby.)

:10 So did anyone not make the sport-specific lists at all? I'm sure they don't want to emphasize that, but there probably were some.

:16 Kayaking test! Can they balance or not? Power is great, but balance is key.

:19 Wow - Avinash is very talented! All four string instruments?! And dancing?!

:27 Bullying in school can result in several different things, and Sophia Mirabella uses it to motivate her training.

:42 Yes! Bobsled and skeleton! Look at all that muscle.

:44 If you thought we were done with athlete profiles at this stage, you were wrong: Rodriguez Russell has a dad and a brother in bobsled, and the coaches are impressed by his speed and push! I love that he pretended that the Wal-mart carts were bobsleds. I mean, who doesn't?

:46 Hey, it's Josh Williamson, who is now on the US bobsled team and did this whole competition last year!

:47 True words from LaDarren: "You know, in life, you win and you learn. You only lose if you quit."

:51 It's time! At this point I think we know who is getting picked, but for what?

:52 Oh look! They get a special jacket!

:52 Rodriguez Russell for bobsled!

:52 Stephanie Grant gets boxing? Ooh - we didn't know about her. So there are people that didn't get profiled that are winning.

:53 LaDarren gets the rowing?! How wonderful! He looks good in that jacket.

:53 Lindsay Mayo's choice for rugby was one of the biggest no-brainers.

:54 So many choices for weightlifting but Kayla Caldwell gets it over Marissa and Avinash.

:56 I hope to see Sophia, Marissa, and Avinash next time.

:57 These people are proud to participate for Team USA. That chant just brings a smile to my face every time. Different backgrounds, different cultures, different genders, but all united with a common goal.

:59 Epilogue: The eight Olympic hopefuls are all training. Kayla Caldwell participated in a weightlifting competition and placed ninth out of 129. I hope to see her in Tokyo! Meanwhile, Rodriguez Russell is "reassessing his pursuit of the sport." I hope that he figures out what he wants to do, whether it's in the Olympics or not. Do what you love, buddy.

I hope you enjoyed The Next Olympic Hopeful from Team USA! December's posts might be spotty because of my crazy schedule, but I'll try to get something out. I hope everyone has a happy holidays!

Weekly Cauldron Check

Is the cauldron lit????


I'm Claire Nat and you're reading Light The CauldronFollow me on Twitter and Facebook @CauldronLight and read my past Olympic articles! You can start with my daily recap of the PyeongChang Winter Olympics HERE!

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Hosting the Olympics: Facing Facts

This week, the city of Calgary voted against hosting the 2026 Winter Olympics, with about 54% of the voters voting "no" to the referendum.

This means that there are only two cities left in the running for these Olympics: Stockholm, Sweden and Milan, Italy. In the past few months Sapporo, Japan; Sion, Switzerland; and Graz, Austria have all dropped out. Even Milan's host bid is unique: it is actually a dual-city bid with Cortina, spreading out the host duties.

Coincidentally, I was catching up on my Olympic YouTube videos and watched this video, which was recorded during the Olympism In Action forum last month. It's about 40 minutes long, but worth your time:

In short, there were several people directly involved with hosting the Olympics in their respective cities, and one - Chris Dempsey of the No Boston Olympics movement from 2024 - who was involved with making sure the Olympics never came to his city.

The spectacle of hosting an Olympics has now been overshadowed by social media's campaign to make sure the public knows exactly what they're signing up to do. Dempsey repeatedly talked in the forum about "hosting a three-week party" and then being forced to deal with all the set-up and clean-up.

In that book that I lambasted a few months ago, it was clear that the bidding process and the Olympic Games themselves had blown up out of control by the turn of the millennium. The host city organizers wined and dined the IOC to get them to award the Games to them. Then the venues they used were left to waste away once the IOC had waved bye-bye from the rearview mirror.

The IOC and host organizers were under scrutiny in 2002 after the Salt Lake City scandal, and then the venues of Athens 2004 have been famously passed around via social media as they lay abandoned. Dempsey certainly has a point. I won't say he's wrong.

But I will say that there will always be positives and negatives to anything. Yes, the costs will be monumental and there will definitely be growing pains as the city adjusts, but there will also be infrastructure strengthening and legacies to come.

Critics of the Olympics laugh at the idea of "legacy" after the Olympics are done. Agenda 2020 is working hard to ensure it. But is it perfect? Nothing is! Atlanta struggled in 1996, but it has also turned into one of the most sprawling metropolises in America. Sochi (doping scandals aside) has turned into a vacation mecca for Russia, and last summer hosted several World Cup matches with rousing success.

I got to see London's legacy firsthand, as I got an AirBNB in the Olympic Village, rented a bike and rode around Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park (it made me cry - not gonna lie), eat dinner at a very cool gastropub, and sat outside my complex while watching families walk around and kids play football at Victory Park. I don't think London's East Side looked like this fifteen years ago.

Face the facts: the supporters will point to all the positives of hosting an Olympics, and the critics will point to all the negatives of hosting an Olympics. There are always positives and negatives. It is important not to get caught up with one side or the other. Enjoy what comes, deal with the problems, and let the athletes play.

Olympic Channel Video of the Week

I love where these videos have been going lately. In a video this week Terron Beckham, a fitness instructor and YouTuber (and Odell Beckham Jr's cousin, for you Giants fans) traveled to Samoa to witness the weightlifting mecca for himself and discover their secrets. (Spoiler alert: there is no secret. They're just really, really good.)

Tokyo 2020 Prep

Volunteer applications for Tokyo end next month. I checked out my profile, and as of right now there isn't anything going on. Once the new year comes I'm sure that will ramp up.

Mini Blurbs

  • I enjoyed those Olympism in Action forum videos very much. It's nice to see some transparency. If you want to watch more of those presentations here's Day 1's videos and here's Day 2's.
  • My favorite track hurdler (and recent retiree) Dawn Harper-Nelson just announced this week that she's pregnant! After listening to her amazing 2-part interview from Olympic Fever, I learned that she and her husband were looking to start a family relatively soon. It's wonderful that it came together so quickly! (And check out the adorable video!)
  • While the IOC struggles to keep host cities for 2026, the USOC is working to put together a bid for 2030. This week they toured around Denver and Salt Lake City. Either city is fine for me! 
  • I have my Thanksgiving vacation reading material! Managed to snag Rome 1960 from a seller on Amazon - a hardcover book, mind you - for just $4! With shipping it still only cost me $10, and for a hardcover book in great shape, it was worth every penny! Looking forward to starting it!
  • Following up on last week's NBC Sports Gold article, I've decided to hold off for now. Olympic friend Meredith gave me some great information about the figure skating pass that she purchased. If you're curious, check out the comments section!
  • Publishing note: there won't be an Olympic Blurb next Sunday because of the holiday weekend. I hope everyone has a Happy Thanksgiving!

Weekly Cauldron Check

Is the cauldron lit????


I'm Claire Nat and you're reading Light The CauldronFollow me on Twitter and Facebook @CauldronLight and read my past Olympic articles! You can start with my daily recap of the PyeongChang Winter Olympics HERE!