Happy Birthday to World Champion boxer, Marlen Esparza!
Olympic platform champion David Boudia believes not one but two medals are possible at the World Diving Championships that begin this weekend in Kazan, Russia.
Boudia, who in 2012 became the first American to win an individual Olympic diving medal since 2000, hopes to earn a third straight Worlds platform medal on the final day of competition Aug. 2.
But one week before that, this Sunday, Boudia believes he and rising Purdue sophomore Steele Johnson can contend for gold in the synchro platform. So much so that Boudia, the only U.S. medalist at either 2011 or 2013 Worlds, said his chances of individual gold and synchro gold are “pretty even.”
In 2012, Boudia took Olympic synchro bronze with Nick McCrory, who has since retired. Boudia and Johnson first teamed last year and finished second and third in their two international competitions.
Boudia and Johnson may benefit Sunday from the reported Chinese roster for Kazan, since its men’s synchro platform team includes neither of China’s individual platform superstars — Qiu Bo and Yang Jian.
Nor is it the Chinese pair that beat Boudia and Johnson by 1.98 points at a FINA World Series event in Windsor, Ontario, on May 22. Nor is it the pair that beat Boudia and Johnson by 80.34 points at the 2014 FINA World Cup in Shanghai.
Individually, Boudia used a silver-medal performance at the 2011 Worlds as fuel for an upset victory at the London Olympics, over the past World champions Qiu and Brit Tom Daley.
“It definitely is a little different now than it was leading into London, and leading up to London, because there’s two powerful Chinese divers,” Boudia said recently, as Yang is new to the scene. “It’s not going to be easy.”
In 2013, Boudia trounced Qiu in the Worlds semifinals (534.40 to 457.55) but was no match in the final (a 581.00 to 517.40 margin in Qiu’s favor).
The American has finished no higher than third in six World Series individual platform competitions since. Qiu, Yang and Daley shared the six World Series titles this year.
Boudia remains confident and said he’s on “middle ground” with the Chinese in degree of difficulty.
“I can see holes in their training, I can see holes in their competition where I know it’s anybody’s game,” he said. “I can be real and say that I’m not going to win, but that’s not how it is. I know that there’s possibilities, that there’s holes for mistakes, and it can happen to anybody.”
UniversalSports.com will stream all finals live for subscribers.
Finals Schedule (ET)
Saturday, July 25 — Mixed synchro platform (8-9:30 a.m.)
Saturday, July 25 — Women’s synchro springboard (12:30-1:30 p.m.)
Sunday, July 26 — Men’s synchro platform (12:30-1:45 p.m.)
Monday, July 27 — Men’s 1m springboard (8-10:15 a.m.)
Monday, July 27 — Women’s synchro platform (12:30-1:30 p.m.)
Tuesday, July 28 — Women’s 1m springboard (8-9 a.m.)
Tuesday, July 28 — Men’s synchro springboard (12:30-1:45 p.m.)
Wednesday, July 29 — Team event (12:30-1:45 p.m.)
Thursday, July 30 — Women’s platform (12:30-1:45 p.m.)
Friday, July 31 — Men’s 3m springboard (12:30-1:45 p.m.)
Saturday, Aug. 1 — Women’s 3m springboard (12:30-1:30 p.m.)
Sunday, Aug. 2 — Mixed synchro springboard (8-9:30 a.m.)
Sunday, Aug. 2 — Men’s 10m platform (12:30-1:45 p.m.)
(TORONTO, CANADA) – 2012 Olympic champion Claressa Shields (Flint, Mich.) and Olympic bronze medalist Marlen Esparza (Houston, Texas) both made triumphant Pan American Games debuts on Monday afternoon at the Oshawa Sports Centre in Toronto, Canada. The Olympic duo clinched medals in their first Pan American Games with wins in Monday’s quarterfinal competition.
Esparza competed in the first women’s bout of the 2015 Pan American Games in a flyweight contest with Nicaragua’s Claudia Parrales Guevara. The reigning world champion showcased a dazzling display of boxing prowess in her Pan Am debut, landing a wide array of punches and evading Guevara’s shots. She grew her lead with every round and took the victory by wide, unanimous decision to advance to the semifinals. Esparza will face Puerto Rico’s Monica Gonzalez Rivera for a berth in the gold medal bout on Tuesday night.
“I think it was a good fight and I got to get used to backstage and the canvas,” Esparza said of her Pan Am debut. “She keeps her hands really tight so I was really just trying to go to the body and when I saw her coming in, that’s when I’d go up top. I was really trying to do more movement so I don’t just rush in. I’m working on that and that’s where the bodywork comes in.”
The Pan American Games are often looked at as the “mini” Olympics: held the year before the Summer Games, they offer athletes a chance to gain international experience and member nations the opportunity to claim Olympic quota spots.
However, there’s nothing small about these Games, which involve more than 6,000 athletes from 41 countries who will be competing in 48 different sports (including non-Olympic sports, such as waterski and roller-figure skating).
Here’s a quick cheat sheet of some athletes who should stand out from the crowd:
U.S. women’s boxing team
In the inaugural women’s Olympic boxing competition at the 2012 London Games, the United States won two of the nine medals offered. Middleweight gold medalist Claressa Shields will lead the charge in Toronto, supported by flyweight bronze medalist Marlen Esparza. Both women also won world championships in their respective weight classes in 2014.
Esparza, the team’s most visible member in 2012 who had endorsement deals with Cover Girl and Nike and a magazine profile in Vogue, was supposed to win gold in London. But she lost to China’s Ren Cancan to finish third. After briefly considering retirement, Esparza rededicated herself to the sport and is targeting gold in Rio. An April defeat against Ren shows that Esparza is right on track, and Pan Ams are just another chance to prove herself.