Q IS FOR QUARTERFINALS: FORMER RAM’S MEDAL CHASE IS ALIVE

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Quanitra Hollingsworth averaged 10.6 points and 6.0 rebounds, while shooting .452 from the field, in five Group A contests for Turkey.

Is Quanitra Hollingsworth the savior of Turkish women’s basketball?

Hollingsworth, a 2009 VCU graduate, scored 10 of her team-high 14 points in the second half to lead Turkey to a 70-65 win over Croatia Sunday in Olympic women’s basketball action in London. The win served as Turkey’s final tune-up before the quarterfinal round.

Aided by Hollingsworth’s steady post presence, the Turks finished 4-1 in Group A and will meet Russia (2-3) Tuesday at 3 p.m. in the quarters. That game will be broadcast on the NBC Olympic Basketball Channel. The winner meets either France (5-0) or the Czech Republic (2-3) in Thursday’s semifinals.

Prior to the London Games, Turkey had never qualified for the Olympics in women’s basketball. Now, the Turks – and Hollingsworth – are just two wins away from a medal.

Hollingsworth, a Chesapeake, Va. native and recently naturalized Turkish citizen, averaged 10.6 points and 6.0 rebounds in group play despite foul trouble.

The 6-foot-5 Hollingsworth is the second former VCU student-athlete to reach the quarterfinal round at these London Games. Hayley Moorwood, who played women’s soccer for the Rams in 2005, advanced to the quarters with her native New Zealand last week. New Zealand lost 2-0 to the United States to end Moorwood’s medal hopes.

Yann Bonato is the only former Ram known to have medaled in the Olympics. Bonato, who played men’s basketball at VCU during the 1990-91 season, earned a silver medal with France at the 2000 Sydney Games.

OLYMPICS UPDATE; ONE RAM UP, ONE DOWN

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Quanitra Hollingsworth, a 2009 VCU graduate, has averaged 9.0 points and 2.5 rebounds in two games – both victories – for Turkey at the Olympics.

Quanitra Hollingsworth’s Olympic experience is off to a great start, while Hayley Moorwood’s time in London has been met with heartbreak.

Hollingsworth, who is suiting up for the Turkish women’s basketball team in London, scored eight points and grabbed one rebound while battling foul trouble in a 61-57 win over the Czech Republic Monday morning.

The victory was a significant one. The Czechs were ranked No. 4 in FIBA’s World Rankings and the victory improved Turkey to 2-0 in Group A action. Turkey defeated Angola in its Olympic opener Saturday. The Turks may have punched their ticket to the quarterfinals with Monday’s win. At the last two Olympic Games, two victories was enough to earn a spot in the elimination round. Canada in 2000 was the last team with a 2-3 record in group play to fail to advance to the quarters.

So, although Hollingsworth has more fouls (9) than rebounds (5) so far, Turkey is in great shape. If she can stay out of foul trouble, the Turks can really make some noise.

Next up for Hollingsworth and Turkey is a contest the United States – the heavy gold medal favorites – Wednesday at 5:15 p.m. (EST). That game will be broadcast on NBC Sports Network (formerly Versus), as well as the NBC Olympic Basketball Channel.

Women’s Basketball: Group Standings

For Moorwood, the Olympics have not gone as well. In women’s soccer competition, Moorwood and New Zealand suffered their second 1-0 loss at these games Saturday, this time to Brazil. New Zealand battled favored Brazil for most of Saturday’s contest, only to fall on a goal scored in the 86th minute.

New Zealand is now 0-2 and likely out of contention for a quarterfinal spot. Moorwood and New Zealand will meet Cameroon Tuesday at 12:45 (EST) in what will likely be their final match in London.

Women’s Soccer: Group Standings

ROBERTS SAHAYDAK’S DARING OLYMPIC DREAM

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Tiffany Roberts Sahaydak says watching the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles inspired her own Olympic dreams.

Tiffany Roberts Sahaydak isn’t afraid to go out on a limb. By the time she was six years old, she had already proudly declared that she wanted to be an Olympian.

It was the summer of 1984 in Northern California, and just about six hours down the pike were Los Angeles and the Olympics. At her family’s home in San Ramon, Roberts Sahaydak became captivated by the athletes on her television. Something about the world’s greatest athletes competing in the world’s most prestigious competition sparked her desire.

“It just lit a little fire or something,” said Roberts Sahaydak, co-head coach of the VCU Women’s Soccer team. “From that Olympics on, that was always my go-to thing. When someone would ask, ‘what do you want to be when you grow up?’[It was always] ‘oh, I’m going to be an Olympian.”

Roberts Sahaydak says she was wowed by American gymnast Mary Lou Retton’s perfect 10 and the star power of track and field’s Jackie Joyner-Kersee. The Roberts family even traveled to the Bay Area to take in a men’s soccer game, feeding little Tiffany’s growing interest. Tiffany was a gymnast. Tiffany ran track. She also played soccer.

In grade school, when asked to draw a picture of what she would grow up to be, Roberts Sahaydak would dream of Olympic glory. One particular school project displayed an oversized gold medal, as well as three little Tiffanys, each competing in a different sport, track, gymnastics and soccer.

“I just wanted to be the best at something, and I wanted to have that gold medal,” she said.

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A BRIEF HISTORY OF VCU OLYMPIANS

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Half a dozen VCU alumni have appeared in the Olympics over the years, including two this summer in London. Some of these student-athletes will be familiar to you, others may not, but all have been a part of history. Let’s meet them.

SAEED BASWEIDAN – YEMEN (1996 Summer Olympics – Atlanta)
Saeed Basweidan was just 19 when he ran the 800-meters for Yemen at the 1996 Atlanta Games. He was clocked at 1:49.35 and finished sixth in his heat. He did not advance to the finals.

A native of Mokala, Yemen, Basweidan transferred to VCU in 1997 from Florida Community College after winning three National Junior College Championships in the 800. He enjoyed a solid, if not spectacular middle distance career at VCU from 1997-99, qualifying for the NCAA Outdoor Championships in 1998, as well as the NCAA Indoor Championships in 1999. He was also a member of VCU’s NCAA-qualifying distance medley relay team in 1998. He still holds school records in the indoor 800 (1:49.33) and as a member of the distance medley and 4×800-meter relays.

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FOLLOWING VCU AT THE SUMMER OLYMPICS

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There will be two former Rams competing in the Summer Olympics in London: Quanitra Hollingsworth (’09), who will be suiting up for Turkey’s women’s basketball team, and Hayley Moorwood, who played women’s soccer for the Rams in 2005 and will be wearing the colors of her native New Zealand for the second time. She also competed for New Zealand in Beijing in 2008.

Opening ceremonies will be held on Friday, July 27, while the first competitions will take place on Wednesday, July 25. Unless they are going to play those games in a time machine, I believe that means they are actually before the opening ceremonies.

Here are the game times and TV listings for both Hollingsworth and Moorwood.

QUANITRA HOLLINGSWORTH (WOMEN’S BASKETBALL – TURKEY)
Group A (FIBA Ranking):
Angola (27), China (7), Croatia (31), Czech Republic (4), Turkey (21), USA (1)
Group B (FIBA Ranking): Australia (2 tie), Brazil (6), Canada (11), France (8), Great Britain (49), Russia (2 tie)

**Top four from each group advance to quarterfinals**

Saturday, July 28
Turkey vs. Angola, 9:30 a.m. EST (NBC Basketball)

Quanitra Hollingsworth starred for VCU from 2005-09

Monday, July 30
Turkey vs. Czech Republic, 6:15 a.m. EST (NBC Basketball)

Wednesday, Aug. 1
Turkey vs. United States, 5:15 p.m. EST (NBC Sports; NBC Basketball)

Friday, Aug. 3
Turkey vs. China, 11:45 a.m. EST (NBC Basketball)

Sunday, Aug. 5
Turkey vs. Croatia, 3 p.m. EST (NBC Basketball)

Aug. 7-11
Elimination Rounds (NBC; NBC Sports; NBC Basketball)

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HAYLEY MOORWOOD (WOMEN’S SOCCER – NEW ZEALAND)
Group E (FIFA Ranking):
Great Britain (9), New Zealand (23), Cameroon (50), Brazil (5)
Group F (FIFA Ranking): Japan (3), Canada (7), Sweden (4), South Africa (61)
Group G (FIFA Ranking): United States (1), France (6), Columbia (28), North Korea (8)

Hayley Moorwood is set to become the first Ram to appear in two Olympic Games (2008, 2012).

Wednesday, July 25
New Zealand vs. Great Britain, 11 a.m. EST (MSNBC)

Saturday, July 28
New Zealand vs. Brazil, 9:30 a.m. EST (NBC Sports; NBC Soccer)

Tuesday, July 31
New Zealand vs. Cameroon, 2:45 p.m. EST (Tape delay, 7:45 p.m., NBC Soccer)

Aug. 3-9
Elimination Rounds (NBC Sports; NBC Soccer)

CHANNEL LOCATIONS

NBC Sports
Comcast 226; Dish 159; DirecTV 603; Fios 590 (HD)/90 (SD)

NBC Basketball
Fios 594; Comcast in Richmond Area 847

NBC Soccer
Fios 596; Comcast in Richmond Area 843

MSNBC
DirecTV 356, Dish 209, Fios 103 (SD)/603 (HD)

CATCHING UP WITH VCU’S OLYMPIANS: EVGENY KISURIN

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Evgeny Kisurin averaged 6.0 points and 5.7 rebounds for VCU during the 1992-93 season. He would become an Olympian with Russian in 2000.

To many VCU fans, Evgeny Kisurin’s time at the university was merely a one-year tease before he disappeared out of their collective conscience. Few may even know how close he came to being a part of Olympic history.

Kisurin, more commonly known to Ram fans as Eugene Kissourine, played basketball for VCU during the 1992-93 season and went on to become a member of Russia’s 2000 Sydney Olympic squad, a team that flirted with a stunning upset.

Eight years removed from the “Dream Team” in Barcelona, the talent gap between the Americans and the rest of the world was closing. In the quarterfinals, Russia pounced on a USA team that included Vince Carter, Alonzo Mourning and Gary Payton. In a physical, contentious matchup, the Russians stormed to a 10-point lead and led by five at the half. It was the Americans’ smallest lead at intermission since 1988.

It was a clear wake-up call for the U.S., which rallied in the second half to win 85-75. The United States went on to win gold, while the Russians eventually lost to Canada – and former VCU guard Sherman Hamilton – in consolation play and finished eighth.

It’s been 12 years, but that loss to the Americans still tugs at Kisurin a bit.

“Team USA came back and beat us, but not without a fight,” the 43-year-old Kisurin said recently.

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