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Source link : https://news-sports.org/2024/07/07/rugby/usa-rugby-legend-perry-baker-takes-last-shot-at-medal/

Having previously decided that the upcoming Paris Olympics will be his last, Spruce Creek grad Perry Baker is determined to make them his best — and to put the United States’ rugby sevens team on the medal stand.

Baker, 37, is expected to be an Olympian for the third time, though USA Rugby has not officially announced its men’s sevens roster to date. The former Fairmont (W. Va.) State wide receiver is the all-time leading try scorer in U.S. history, and was the first athlete to earn consecutive World Rugby Sevens Player of the Year awards.

Baker said in March that his “body feels great,” and that he still possesses the movement and technical abilities to compete at the highest level. However, he wants to devote more time to his wife and three sons while allowing Team USA’s younger generation to build chemistry in time for the 2028 Summer Games in Los Angeles.

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“I have three boys, one just turned 20 years old, another is 13 and the other is still a baby boy, so I just feel like I need to be more involved in their lives and my wife’s life,” Baker told NBC Sports’ Leo Santos.

“For the past 10 years and before my wife and I started a family, I have always been traveling to play rugby, and I loved every single minute of it, but now as a father of three boys, my time needs to be put more on them than myself.”

In 2021, Baker underwent surgery for a broken fibula but returned within five months to compete in Tokyo. Team USA finished sixth overall, an improvement on three spots compared to the 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro.

The United States’ rugby sevens team, one of 12 global qualifiers, was placed into Group C for pool play along with Fiji, Uruguay and host France. Competition begins July 24, with all games taking place at the famous Stade de France.

“Our goal is to still win a medal, and we know we have the players to do so,” Baker said.

Two more Volusia-Flagler natives competed in the Olympic trials for a pair of premier events at the Summer Games: Micayla Cronk (swimming) and Aidan O’Gorman (track and field).

Cronk, a seven-time FHSAA state champion at Flagler Palm Coast, reached the semifinal round of the Women’s 200-meter freestyle. During the qualifying stages, she tied for 13th (1 minute, 59.55 seconds) with Abby Carlson and eventual 50-meter champion Simone Manuel, who became the first Black female swimmer to win Olympic gold back in 2016.

Katie Ledecky went on to win the 200, the first of her four victories in Indianapolis, while Claire Weinstein and Erin Gemmell also earned their places on the 48-person Team USA.

Cronk also swam the 100 free (55.75) and the 50 free (26.08) but did not advance beyond the qualifying heats. She will return to the University of Florida for her senior year, where she won a national championship this past season in the 800 free relay.

“It was definitely different than the last time I was swimming there (in 2021). This time, I had basically the whole UF team with me. It was more comparable to an SEC-type of meet, and it relieved a bit of pressure on me,” Cronk said. “And my experience from the last time really helped me control my races and control my emotions. I didn’t really perform the way I wanted to, I had a hiccup in training, but overall I’m really happy with the experience.”

O’Gorman, a 23-year-old, New Smyrna Beach native, competed in the first final of the U.S. Olympic track and field trials on June 21, the Men’s 10,000 meters. He ran near the front of the pack in the early stages of the 25-lap race, but finished in 20th place in a time of 29:55.42. Grant Fisher (27:49.47), Woody Kincaid (27:50.74) and Nico Young (27:52.40) secured the three spots in Paris.

“It was really cool and special, definitely a dream come true,” O’Gorman said. “It was such a blessing that I even got there. It was always on the schedule, but I didn’t know if it was going to happen or not. I definitely learned a lot. I just wanted to put myself in the position I wanted to finish in.

“I just went out too hot and kind of blew up. I need to run my own race. When you have a field that good, I just need to make sure not to go too hard. I definitely should have had more of a plan.”

O’Gorman recently relocated to Santa Fe, New Mexico, to train at altitude and further improve his fitness. He enjoyed a decorated collegiate career at North Florida in which he was named an NCAA All-American honorable mention at the conclusion of the 2023 season.

Notable Volusia-Flagler athletes who have previously competed at the Summer Olympics include:

Vince Carter

Maybe it wasn’t the “Dream Team,” but the U.S. men’s basketball squad at the 2000 Sydney Games featured its fair share of Hall of Fame talent, including Mainland High legend Carter.

Carter posted a team-high 14.8 points per game as the Americans rolled to an 8-0 record and a 12th gold medal in 14 Olympic tournaments. He also delivered a memorable, thunderous dunk over France’s 7-foot-2 center Frédéric Weis in the preliminary round.

“I’m on another planet at that moment,” Carter told ESPN in a 2015 oral history of the dunk. “And I’m not even sure who everyone else was or where they were. When I look back on it, I always laugh to myself because I was relieved I didn’t embarrass myself.”

Phil Dalhausser

Born in Switzerland, Dalhausser decided to give volleyball a try during his senior year at Mainland. More than two decades later, he is regarded as one of the most successful American players in history.

Dalhausser represented Team USA in beach volleyball at four Olympic Games, pairing twice with Todd Rogers and twice more with Nick Lucena. In 2008, Dalhausser and Rogers rallied after losing their first game to Latvia to reel off six straight victories, capped by a three-setter against Brazil to bring home the gold. Dalhausser had nine blocks in the championship match, with five coming in the decisive third set.

Dalhausser reached the quarterfinals in 2016 with Lucena, and he retired from international competition following a ninth-place finish in 2021. Last year, the 6-foot-9 “Thin Beast” was inducted into the International Volleyball Hall of Fame.

Bridgette Gordon

Hailing from DeLand, Gordon won a pair of NCAA women’s basketball championships under legendary coach Pat Summitt at Tennessee. In the middle of her illustrious Lady Volunteers career, Gordon boarded a plane for Seoul and the 1988 Summer Olympics.

Gordon averaged 8.8 points across five tournament games, including a 20-point performance against Yugoslavia, as the U.S. went undefeated en route to the gold medal. It was her lone Olympic appearance, though Gordon played professionally in Europe and, later, the WNBA for more than a decade.

Ryan Lochte

A seven-time state champion at Spruce Creek, Lochte captured gold in each of his four appearances. He is tied with Natalie Coughlin, Dara Torres and Jenny Thompson as the second-most decorated swimmer in Olympic history in terms of total medals (12), trailing only Michael Phelps.

Lochte won six golds, three silvers and three bronzes. He set a world record time of 1:53.94 in the 200-meter backstroke in Beijing (2008), triumphed in the 400 medley in London (2012) and the 4×200 freestyle relay in 2004, ’08, ’12 and ’16, though the latter event is far more remembered for controversy outside of the pool.

Walter McCoy

McCoy, a longtime coach at Seabreeze, qualified for two Olympic Games but competed just once. The U.S. boycotted the 1980 Summer Games in Moscow in protest of the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan, though McCoy received a Congressional Gold Medal that year.

He achieved Olympic gold four years later in Los Angeles as part of the United States’ 4×400 relay team. McCoy’s personal-best time in the event is 44.76 seconds.

Tim McRae

Recently recognized for his coaching accomplishments at New Smyrna Beach High School, McRae reached the Olympics twice in weightlifting. The five-time national champion finished eighth among lightweights in Barcelona in 1992, and 14th four years later in front of friends and family in Atlanta.

“Oh man. They were different,” McRae said of his experiences last month. “With Barcelona, it was my first Olympics. It was about being in Spain. I had never really been anywhere overseas. I just wanted to do the best I could. What made Atlanta special to me was my parents. It was the first time ever that my parents got a chance to see me lift. Both of them were working parents; my mom did housekeeping, and my dad cooked at Halifax Health for 45 years or so. Not only did my parents come, I had my grandma, my uncles, cousins. They didn’t really know how good I was.”

Sam Vazquez

Vazquez, an FHSAA Class 3A track and field champion at Flagler Palm Coast and three-time all-conference cross country runner at Embry-Riddle, is the lone athlete on this list to compete for a nation other than the United States.

He instead represented Puerto Rico at the 2012 Summer Games in London, racing in the Men’s 1,500. He ran in the third qualifying heat and crossed the line in 3:49.19. Algeria’s Taoufik Makhloufi proceeded to win gold with a time of 3:34.08.

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Publish date : 2024-07-07 05:02:26

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Author : News-Sports

Publish date : 2024-07-07 09:02:26

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