Speculation increases on who will light flame


Staff Writer

There’s plenty of speculation and anticipation about who will light the Olympic flame on July 25 at the London Games Opening Ceremony.

Popular soccer player David Beckham, who plays for the Los Angeles Galaxy after a great career in Europe, dismisses the notion that he should do it.

“Lighting the torch in the stadium is something that should be done by an Olympian, an Olympian that has done incredible things for our country and has won gold medals,” he told The Associated Press.

So who should do it?

Rowing legend Sir Steven Redgrave, a five-time Olympic gold medalist (1984, ’88, ’92, ’96 and 2000) would be a smart choice. Or perhaps a British individual who’s accomplished greatness or commanded respect away from sports.

Beloved by millions in the United Kingdom, Redgrave remains a one-of-a-kind legend.

After the Olympic torch’s recent visit to Henley-on-Thames, in South Oxfordshire, England, 55 km west of London, Redgrave’s online diary highlighted the experience. He noted that 700 children from local primary schools were in attendance for the festivities.

“There were three official Olympic torches in attendance, including my own so we set about kissing torches to start the relay and each of the children completed a 150-meter lap of the circuit,” he wrote.

If Redgrave is chosen, he would follow Chinese gymnast Li Ning, a six-time Olympic medalist, who lit the cauldron in Beijing four years ago.

Fun and games: It helps to remember that even though competition may be a job for professional athletes, there ought to be enjoyment, too.

“Usain (Bolt) showed that you can relax and do funny stuff before the race and it pays off,” Jamaican sprinter Yohan Blake was quoted as saying in a recent Sports Illustrated article.

“Not thinking about pressure has been paying off.”

Blake outsprinted his famous compatriot to win the 200 meters at the Jamaican Olympic Trials, finishing the race in 19.80 seconds. Bolt ran it in 19.83. Bolt’s training partner also proved his medal credentials with a blistering 9.75-second effort in the 100 at the Kingston meet, while Bolt was clocked in 9.86.

Sure, Blake recognizes the concept of enjoyment, but he admits he’s a hard-nosed competitor and takes his training seriously.

Or as he told SI, “When other people are sleeping, I’m working.”

Lesser-known Olympians: Ibaraki Prefecture native Narumi Kurosu and Shino Yamanaka, who was born in Kochi Prefecture, will compete in the modern pentathlon at the 2012 Summer Games. The pair will become Japan’s first female modern pentathletes in the Olympics, participating in pistol shooting, fencing, 200-meter freestyle swimming, show jumping and a 3-km run.

A press release issued by the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Bid Committee noted that Kurosu pursued her Olympic dream by jogging 3 km to school on a daily basis. What’s more, she decided to brush her teeth left-handed to hone her fencing skills.

The Great East Japan Earthquake last March caused major damage to Kurosu’s training facilities, and modern pentathlon does not have widespread support or an abundance of training options here.

Fortunately, for the 20-year-old Kurosu, experienced South Korean coach Jung Chil Park reached out to her, offering to train her and doing so as a volunteer.

“By going to South Korea, I was able to train together with top athletes and grow mentally and I’ve been producing better results ever since,” Kurosu stated in the press release. “I really look forward to competing in London. . .”

Mother knows best: Backstroker Ryosuke Irie, who hails from Osaka, credits his mother Kumiko’s never-give-up attitude for playing a major role in his success. Irie was not a fast swimmer and struggled as a second-grader. But he eventually reached his potential as natural skills and hard work paid off.

“I am what I am today because you didn’t ask my coach to let me quit,” Irie told his mother, according to a recent Asahi Shimbun feature profile.

Irie won the 100- and 200-meter backstroke titles at nationals in April. His time of 52.91 in the 100 on April 2 is the fourth-fastest time in the world this year. In the 200, he’s ranked No. 1 in the world, clocking 1 minute, 54.02 seconds in a January meet in Australia.