Maryland hopefuls head to Tokyo
By Cheryl Costello & Kathy Knotts
Olympic dreams start early. So it’s no surprise that even a one-year postponement of those dreams can be heartbreaking. Athletes around the globe felt the pain when the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games were scrapped. The Olympics have never been rescheduled in peacetime. In 1916, 1940 and 1944, the games were canceled because of world wars.
But in less than two weeks, those who thought the dream was lost will get a second chance. Among them, Marylanders are making their way to Japan and hopefully to the medal podiums, too.
As a state, Maryland was the big winner in the Rio Olympics—thanks to gold-medal performances by athletes such as swimmers Michael Phelps, Jack Conger, Chase Kalisz and Katie Ledecky, basketball stars Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony.
Maryland sends 14 athletes to this month’s games in Tokyo, competing in swimming, track and field, basketball, wrestling, rugby, gymnastics and sailing. Most of those big names come from big cities and suburbs outside of D.C. and Baltimore.
But there are three athletes going to Tokyo that come from right here in Chesapeake Country.
Track star Matthew Centrowitz Jr., 31, hails from Arnold in Anne Arundel County. And his neighborhood is proud of that fact. As he returns to his third Olympics, Centrowitz’s neighbors will once again post their yard signs declaring them part of “Centro Nation”.
Centrowitz earned gold in Rio and came in fourth in London. The University of Oregon grad will compete once again in the 1500 meter event. Centrowitz is a big name in the running world, known for his tactical moves and securing the first 1500 gold medal for the United States since the 1908 games. His talent and skills certainly run in the family: dad Matthew Centrowitz Sr. was a two-time Olympian in 1976 and 1980.
Cool Ranch Clemons
Westlake High School is finding itself in the news for all the right reasons. Alumna and star sprinter Christina Clemons of Waldorf has caught the attention of the sports world, for both her speed and her style.
She makes her Olympic debut this year in Tokyo, but no one is all that surprised. “Christina was a sweetheart, she loved to compete and loved to win,” says her former Westlake coach Beth Shook. “I am so proud of her and all she has accomplished. She has worked so hard for so many years.”
Clemons’s latest claim to fame has been the Cool Ranch Doritos earrings she wore to compete in the USA Track & Field trials. During the qualifiers, Clemons wore a pair of dangling earrings that were in the shape of tiny chip bags. She made an impressive show in the 100-meter hurdles, Doritos earrings and all. The world waits to see what she will wear in her Olympic debut.
“When she left for college, she told Coach Murray and myself that she would be in the Olympics someday,” says Shook. “We told her we would be in the front row cheering for her. Since we can’t be in Tokyo, we will have a party here in Maryland to celebrate … Christina is a fierce competitor and she has set her mind to winning a medal; I would expect nothing less from her.”
The 31-year-old graduated from Ohio State University with a degree in criminology. Let’s hope no bad guys ever try to run from her.
Note: What we call track and field is called “Athletics” at the Olympics; something to keep in mind when searching through the schedule. The men’s 1500 event begins Aug. 3. Womens hurdles begin July 31.
Sail Away—to Tokyo
Women’s windsurfing (also known as sailboarding) was added to the Olympics in 1992. Farrah Hall was just 10 years old at the time. Now, the 39-year-old is logging her final hours of training in Spain for the 2021 Olympic games before heading to Tokyo in a few days.
Unlike Clemons or Centrowitz, Hall qualified for her Olympic spot before the pandemic hit so she didn’t have to requalify.
The Broadneck High School alum first developed her skills on the Bay. “I grew up in Cape St. Claire, I was born in Annapolis,” says Hall. “Growing up in [the] Cape, I always liked the water. We have the little beaches in Cape St. Claire so we’re always messing around at the beach.”
She credits a former boyfriend for sparking her love of the water. “My little high school boyfriend had a windsurfer, a really old windsurfer, that he brought over to my house and we went to the beach and started messing with it. We didn’t know what we were doing of course, but after that I was just hooked.”
She’s now 39 years old—and still hooked.
Hall has trained for four Olympics and qualified for two, this year and the 2012 London Olympics. She will compete in the RS:X, an official Olympic windsurfing class.
“It’s an individual competition so each country has one sailor representing them,” she said, “and I’m it for women’s windsurfing.”
The Olympic sailing regatta begins July 25. Sailing events will be held at Enoshima Yacht Harbour in Fujisawa City, Kanagawa Prefecture, southeast of Tokyo. The venue was built for the Tokyo 1964 Olympic Games and has a capacity of 3,600 spectators.
Hall heads to Tokyo with the experience of surfing through wind speeds anywhere from 3–35 knots.
“There’s different techniques for each wind condition,” she explains. “In light wind, it’s very physical because you’re pumping the sails to make your own wind. You’re like standup rowing. In very strong wind there’s a lot of force because the equipment is big and heavy. “
She began windsurfing around age 15 and that passion didn’t blow over when she studied at St. Mary’s College of Maryland.
“Farrah was a boathouse worker. We have student workers that help keep everyone safe here on campus,” says Adam Werblow, head sailing coach at the college and director of the waterfront. “On any given nice day at St. Mary’s College of Maryland we have 20 percent of the student body get out on the water on something.”
Werblow credits Hall and other students with bringing energy back to the windsurfing club. “I think she also got a lot of fun out of passing the sport onto others.”
Students pushed the college to make an investment in windsurfing equipment. Before, the club stored its boards and sails in a little shack on the waterfront. Now they have a storage building stacked with gear—they call it the Surf Shanty. “It’s a lasting legacy here for sure,” says Werblow.
Hall will compete against 26 other female windsurfers in Tokyo. Competition is more than a day on the Bay. “It’s a very physical sport and it really is comparative to an endurance sport,” says Hall. She adds that with three races per day, athletes could be on the water for five hours depending on water conditions.
Hall is not certain yet about her future plans. Maybe she will coach, maybe she will retire. But she does plan to return home to Annapolis after the Olympics. The pandemic means her family can’t travel to watch the games in person. But Hall is happy to come home to the Bay.
“The Bay has affected my whole life. Just growing up there, as a little kid I was enchanted, I was in love with it.”
The Tokyo Olympic Games open July 23. (Even though it’s 2021, they are still named the 2020 Games). The Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games feature a record 33 competitions and 339 events held across 42 competition venues. New this year: sport climbing (aka rock climbing), surfing, skateboarding, karate, and baseball/softball returns. olympics.com