Long Beach State alums earn three medals at Olympics
August 16, 2012
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Three former 49er volleyball stars earned Olympic medals in London, including Misty May-Treanor, Tayyiba Haneef-Park and Danielle Scott-Arruda.
May-Treanor earned her third career gold medal in beach volleyball and Haneef-Park and Scott-Arruda each won their second career silver medals with the United States women’s indoor volleyball team.
May-Treanor and her partner, Kerri Walsh Jennings, completed one of the most successful Olympic careers of all time by defeating fellow Americans Jennifer Kessy and April Ross in the gold medal match. Walsh Jennings has plans to gear up for the 2016 games in Rio De Janeiro, but May-Treanor is retiring from the sport altogether. With three Olympic gold medals, three world championships, two NCAA player-of-the-year awards and an NCAA championship, May-Treanor is among the greatest and most decorated volleyball players in history.
Also finding success at the Olympics were three-time Olympian Tayyiba Haneef-Park and five-time Olympian Danielle Scott-Arruda of the women’s indoor volleyball team. Team USA won a silver medal after falling to Brazil in four sets.
“It’s definitely not the finish we wanted,” Haneef-Park said. “It was kind of hard leaving London knowing we didn’t get the gold, but coming back here and seeing all of the support [the community] has given us – it makes this medal so much more worth it.”
Haneef-Park and Scott-Arruda hardly had their spots reserved on the Olympic team when they started to make their push for London two years ago. Both were mothers to newborn children, and their chances of going to London were slim at best. But going back to the fundamentals taught to them by LBSU women’s volleyball head coach Brian Gimmillaro allowed them to beat the odds and compete in another Olympic games.
“I probably didn’t touch a volleyball for the first four months I came to Long Beach State – it was all technical,” Haneef-Park said. “It was these last two years when we kind of got back into that same mode where we were just on the side court perfecting our skill. I know a lot of people would have quit at that point, but I knew I could do it, because I had been in that situation before.”
“I’ve been through a lot of situations, and this Olympic team was definitely the most challenging to make,” Scott-Arruda said. “But it was really rewarding in the end to play with this group of girls and women, rather, and to accomplish the things that we have.”
Haneef-Park is giving up volleyball to spend time with her family, ending a career that has earned her two silver medals and a runner-up finish at the NCAA championships with LBSU.
Scott-Arruda, on the other hand, is leaving the door open and may attempt to come back for an incredible sixth Olympic games in 2016. With five games under her belt, she already holds the United States volleyball record for Olympic appearances. She is one of eleven Americans to appear in five Olympic games.
On the men’s side, the fifth-ranked Americans fell to Italy in the quarterfinals, a disappointing finish for a team that expected to contend for a medal. Head coach Alan Knipe, assistant coach Andy Read, middle blocker David Lee, outside hitter Paul Lotman and outside hitter David McKenzie all have connections to LBSU, either as student-athletes or coaches.
Kenneth Medwood was the only other LBSU alumus to compete, as he represented Belize in the men’s 400m hurdles. Medwood, who was honored as his country’s flag bearer in the Opening Ceremonies, advanced to the semifinals of his race before being eliminated.
Also representing The Beach was Heather Moody, an assistant coach for the United States women’s water polo team. Moody watched as the team won gold, improving upon a silver medal from Beijing.
Unfortunately for Moody, coaches are not awarded medals from the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
In terms of medal count, LBSU’s alumi did not perform any better or worse than in other recent Olympics. But for the city of Long Beach, the medal haul was historic.
Athletes from Long Beach won a total of 15 medals – seven gold, six silver and two bronze.
That total would set Long Beach at 17th in medal standings if the city was a country of its own. Its seven golds would rank tenth.
The statistics get even more impressive when considering per-capita medal rates.
Long Beach, which has 462,257 residents according to the 2010 U.S. Census date, would finish at the top of the world standings in gold medals per-capita. With around 14 gold medals per million people, the city would finish well ahead of the first-place Grenada, which won one gold medal for its population of 9 million.
The next summer games are four years away – plenty of time for current 49ers to make a push at the Olympics.
Among the hopefuls may be Ben Woodruff, a javelin thrower who graduated from The Beach in the spring and competed at this year’s Olympic trials in Oregon. Also competing for a spot may be Matt Maldonado, a 1500m distance runner who still has one year left at LBSU.
LBSU will lose a medal favorite in May-Treanor, but the future is bright for the 49ers. 2011-12 was a historic year for all LBSU sports, and that can only be good for a school with a strong Olympic tradition.