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Queens Chronicle

Olympic glory with a touch of Queens

Borough natives and newcomers strive for gold in London games

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Posted: Thursday, July 26, 2012 10:30 am | Updated: 5:14 am, Wed Dec 24, 2014.

There is almost nothing that Queens product Tina Charles hasn’t done on a basketball court.

The 23-year-old Jamaica native is a 2006 graduate of Christ the King High School in Middle Village, where she led the team to state titles in 2005 and 2006 with a combined 57-0 won-lost record.

A press release issued by the school upon her making the women’s Olympic team in April said she was named 2006 national high school player of the year by USA Today, McDonald’s, Parade Magazine, Gatorade and SI.com.

From there it was on to the University of Connecticut where she was an All-American, played on two national championship teams and finished as the school’s all-time leading scorer and rebounder.

The 6-foot-4 center was the number one draft pick and 2010 rookie of the year in the WNBA, and is on a pace to break every league rebounding record.

Now she wants to add an Olympic gold medal to add to her resume, and she has an excellent shot — U.S. women have won six of the last seven gold medals in basketball, including the last four in a row.

Her teammate in London will be 31-year-old Sue Bird, who already has Olympic gold from Athens in 2004 and Beijing in 2008.

Bird, a guard, also attended Christ the King, graduating in 1998 after she also won a state title. She was a first-team Parade magazine high school All-American in 1998 and a second-team selection by USA Today. She was most valuable player of the 1998 New York State championship tournament.

Bird, who grew up on Long Island, attended the University of Connecticut and won two national titles. She has played for the WNBA’s Seattle Storm since graduating from UConn.

Charles’ selection gives Christ the King High School three Olympians in women’s basketball. Chamique Holdsclaw, an Astoria native, was the first, winning gold at the 2000 games held in Sydney, Australia.

St. John’s University will be very well represented at the games in the fencing competitions, as well.

Senior Daryl Homer, a 21-year-old fencer, red-shirted this past year for the Red Storm in order to train for the Olympics in the saber competition.

According to redstormsports.com, the university’s athletics website, the native of the Virgin Islands has compiled a record of 168 victories against 22 losses in NCAA competition. He is a marketing major.

Alumnus Dagmara Wozniak, a native of Poland and four-year Red Storm fencer, went 161-34 in her junior and senior years and was a four-time all-American. She will compete on the women’s saber squad.

Wozniak took a year off to train for the 2008 Olympics, which she attended as an alternate on the U.S. women’s saber team.

Also attending will be their coach, Yury Gelman, who will be on the U.S Olympic coaching staff for the fourth time. He is a member of the United States Fencing Hall of Fame, and has been the coach at St. John’s for 17 years.

Gelman’s team won the national championship in 2001. He has produced more than 100 All-Americans, and has had 17 fencers win national individual titles.

Brittany Viola, who will compete in the women’s 10-meter platform diving competition, was born in Minnesota and lives in Orlando, Fla. But 25-year-old also has direct ties to St. John’s and Queens, as well as a family history of athletic success.

Her father, Frank Viola, was the pitching ace for St. John’s baseball team from 1979 to 1981.

In the Major Leagues he was the most valuable player in the 1987 World Series for the Minnesota Twins and the 1988 American League Cy Young Award winner.

Viola was traded to the Mets in 1989 and was a 20-game winner in 1990, as well as an All-Star in his two full years in Flushing.

Today Brittany’s dad works for the Mets as a minor league pitching coach with the Savannah Sand Gnats of the Class A South Atlantic League.

Alysia Montano, who will compete in the women’s 800-meter race, grew up in California but was born in Queens.

Montano is a four-time national champion in the event, and won the NCAA title in 2007 running for the University of California-Berkley competing under her maiden name of Johnson. She was named Pac-10’s Women’s Track Athlete of the Year in 2008, and won both the indoor and outdoor 800-meter NCAA championship in 2007.

She set a school record in the women’s 800-meter race in 2007 that at the time was the third-fastest in women’s collegiate history.

Kara Groucher’s Olympic biography states that she was 4 years old when her mother moved her and her sisters from Queens to Minnesota after her father was killed by a drunk driver.

She will compete in the women’s marathon.

Goucher competed in the women’s 5,000-meter and 10,000 meter races in Beijing in 2008, but did not qualify for medals. She finished third in the New York City Marathon in 2008, posting the fastest time ever by an American woman, and also took third the following year in the Boston Marathon.

Goucher has been married to 2000 Olympian Adam Goucher. She gave birth to a son in 2010.


Local athletes in London Olympics


Start times, schedules for events featuring athletes from Queens


The following is a schedule of Olympic events featuring athletes with ties to Queens. All starts are London time, which is five hours ahead of New York City. Start times do not guarantee live television coverage.

Tina Charles and Sue Bird, women’s basketball

July 28 — U.S.A. vs. Croatia, 11:45 a.m.

July 30 — U.S.A. vs. Angola, 5:15 p.m.

Aug. 1 — U.S.A. vs. Turkey, 5:15 p.m.

Aug. 3 — U.S.A. vs. Czech Republic, 5:15 p.m.

Aug. 5 — U.S.A. vs.China, 11:45 a.m.

Aug. 7 — Women’s quarterfinals.

Aug. 9 — Women’s semifinals.

Aug. 11 — Women’s bronze medal gameat noon; women’s gold medal gam at 4 p.m.

Kara Goucher, track and field

Aug. 5 — Women’s marathon, 6 a.m.

Daryl Homer, men’s fencing

July 29 — Saber, individual, preliminary rounds begin 5:30 a.m. Bronze medal match, 1:50 p.m. Gold medal match at 2:10 p.m.

Aug. 3 — Men’s saber, team, preliminary rounds begin at 5:30 a.m. Bronze medal match at 1 p.m. Gold medal match at 1:45 p.m.

Alysia Montano, track and field

Aug. 8 — Women’s 800-meter run, round 1, 6:35 a.m.

Aug. 11 — Women’s 800-meter run, finals, 3 p.m.

Brittany Viola, women’s diving

Aug. 8 — Women’s 10-meter platform preliminary round, 2 p.m.

Aug. 9 — Women’s 10-meter platform semifinals, 5 a.m.; finals 2 p.m.

Dagmara Wozniak, women’s fencing

Aug. 1 — Women’s saber preliminary rounds begin 8:10 a.m. Bronze medal match at  2:40 p.m. Gold medal match at 3:30 p.m.    


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