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Local Athletes Struggle in the Rio Olympics

As the Rio games come closer to ending, local athletes continue to impress around the Olympics in their respective disciplines, including some crushing disappointments by medal favorites, including Jordan Burroughs and Jenn Suhr.

Maria Michta-Coffey of Nesconset, NY and Miranda Melville of Rochester were blown away in the women’s 20km race-walk, an expected result. Neither were considered legitimate contenders for the podium, but they had reached the Olympic qualifying time and were set on competing. The elder Michta-Coffey fared better, placing 22nd, while Melville struggled to a 34th place finish. Chinese women won gold and bronze, while Mexico’s Maria Gonzalez took home the silver.

McLain Ward of Brewster, NY was the presumptive favorite to win gold in individual jumping in equestrian, but struggled in the semifinal, suffering four penalties, which was way too many to keep her in contention for a medal. Kent Farrington was the closest American contender, finishing in fifth place after a jump-off. Nick Skelton of Great Britain won gold, Peder Fredicson of Sweden took the silver, and Canada’s Eric Lamaze won bronze.

Defending Olympic gold medalist Jenn Suhr couldn’t defend her title in the pole vault, citing an illness as the main reason. With world record holder and longtime rival Yelena Isinbayeva of Russia being banned from competition, the field was considered wide open for the London champ. However, earlier in the week, her husband and coach had said she had an undisclosed respiratory illness, which was causing her to cough up blood and throw up. Her symptoms were still evident while she competed, but she still qualified for the final. However, in that final round, the 34-year old couldn’t piece together a run, failing to vault 4.7m. Her personal best is 5.03m. It was a disappointing finish for the vault legend, and may mark the end of a fantastic career. Ekaterini Stefanidi of Greece won the gold, while American teammate Sandi Morris won silver. New Zealand’s Eliza McCartney won the bronze.

On the track, Taylor Ellis-Watson of Philadelphia ran along with Natasha Hastings and Phyllis Francis of New York in the women’s 4X400m relay, where the American women qualified as the top team overall. Francis and Hastings will more than likely join Allyson Felix and Courtney Okolo in the final, but if they medal, Ellis-Watson will still earn a medal.

Alisa Kano and Kristen Shaldybin of New York were part of the American team that finished in 14th and last place in team qualification in rhythmic gymnastics. They were sloppy in their first routine with the ribbon, but rebounded slightly with their final two apparatuses in hoops and clubs. However, their deficit was too vast to overcome, sending them home from the Olympics empty-handed. The squad should still take pride in making the games, as they were the first American team to qualify for the games on merit in the history of the Olympics. The focus will be on continuing to improve the prestige of the program over the next four years.

Lastly, in one of the biggest upsets of the entire Olympics, Jordan Burroughs of Sicklerville, NJ lost both of his wrestling matches, to finish well of the medal, ending his chance to repeat as the gold medal champion. He lost twice in one day, first to world No. 2 Aniuar Geduev of Russia after a blind draw paired the two top wrestlers in the quarterfinals. However, he still could earn a bronze medal in the repechage, but he lost his first match there, ending his bid. He had only lost twice in his previous 133 matches. He was an iconic figure in wrestling for years, so is loss was jarring for USA fans.

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Dan is a Staff Writer here at with a focus on Team USA and the Rio Olympics
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