DURHAM, N.C. - It is the dream of many athletes to one day represent their country in one of the world's greatest sporting events, but for a number of current and former Blue Devils, that dream came true in August. Duke was well-represented during the 2012 London Olympics, with 12 current students or alumni winning three medals and competing in diving, soccer, basketball, and track. If Duke were a country, it would have finished tied for 57th in the medal count, edging out countries such as Egypt, Belgium and Greece.
Duke diver Abby Johnston, a native of Upper Arlington, Ohio, was the first Blue Devil to earn a medal at the 2012 games. Johnston helped the United States capture its first Olympic medal in a synchronized diving event by winning the silver medal in the women's synchronized 3-meter competition. Johnston was paired with Kelci Bryant of Chatham, Ill., during the Games, and the duo did not disappoint. Johnston and Bryant ended the competition with a final score of 321.90, finishing second behind Zi He and Minxia Wu of China with a total of 346.20. In addition to being the first American duo to medal in a synchronized diving event, Johnston and Bryant's silver also ended a 12-year medal drought for the United States in all diving events.
Just days later, junior Nick McCrory, a native of Chapel Hill, N.C., brought home the bronze medal in the men's synchronized 10-meter platform event. McCrory partnered with David Boudia to help the United States bring home its second medal in diving after a 12-year medal drought in the event. "We took the competition dive-by-dive, and stayed true to our technique rather than focusing on the end result," McCrory explained in his blog. "Focusing in the moment and not acknowledging any distractions allowed us to succeed." McCrory also competed in the men's individual 10-meter platform event later in the Olympics and finished in ninth place.
Drew Johansen, who is entering his sixth season as Blue Devils' diving coach, served as the head coach of the USA Olympic Diving Team in London. Through his guidance, the United States had one of its best showings in Olympic history by winning one gold, one silver and two bronze medals.
On the soccer field, Duke Alumna Rebecca Smith competed with her native New Zealand in the women's soccer tournament. Smith served as captain for the New Zealand team, and played every minute for her squad. New Zealand ended the group stage with a 1-0-2 record, earning them a quarterfinal matchup against the United States. The United States won that game 2-0 and advanced to play Canada in the semifinals.
On the basketball court, Duke had six members representing their countries as Luol Deng, Martynas Pocius, the coaching staff of Mike Krzyzewski, Chris Collins, Steve Wojciechowski, and Team USA Video Coordinator Kevin Cullen competed for Great Britain, Lithuania, and the United States respectively. Duke Alumnus Luol Deng helped lead host country Great Britain to its first win in Olympic play since 1948 with a 90-58 win over China; however, it was the only win of the tournament for Great Britain. Deng has battled a wrist issue over the past few months but has worked through it to average 15.8 points per game on 31.4% shooting. Deng served as captain for the British team.
Pocius competed against his former coach when his native Lithuania battled the United States in the preliminary round. Pocius, who played for the Blue Devils and Coach K from 2005 to 2008, ended the game with 14 points, six assists, and seven rebounds; however, the United States won the game 99-94. Lithuania finished 2-3 in the preliminary round, but was eliminated from medal contention when they lost to Russia 83-74 in the quarterfinals.
Krzyzewski, Collins, and Wojciechowski led the United States men's basketball team to a 5-0 record in the preliminary round before taking on Australia in the quarterfinals. Krzyzewski, who led his team to a gold medal in Beijing in 2008, is the first U.S. coach of multiple Olympic teams since Henry Iba in 1972. The United States beat Australia 119-86, and continued to the semifinal to beat a strong Argentine team 109-83. Just days before the final, Krzyzewski announced that the final game against Spain would be the last game that he would serve as head coach for the Olympic team. In the game, the United States outlasted Spain 107-100 in a 2008 Olympic final rematch, claiming yet another gold medal for basketball and Krzyzewski and his coaching staff. The United States has won 14 gold medals in the Olympics including winning five of the last six dating back to the "Dream Team" in Barcelona in 1992.
In track and field, Shannon Rowbury and Jillian Schwartz competed in the 1,500 meter and pole vaulting respectively. Rowbury, a 2007 graduate of Duke, ran a time of 4:06.03 in the preliminary round to finish seventh in her heat and qualify for the semifinals. In the semifinal, Rowbury ran a time of 4:05.47 to finish in fifth place in her heat and send her to the finals where she finished in sixth place with a time of 4:11.26, .13 seconds behind the first place finisher. Rowbury's performance was the highest finish for an American woman in the event. Schwartz, a 2001 graduate, cleared 14-5.25 in the preliminary round while representing Israel, but was unable to advance to the finals.
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