CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – Kathy Delaney-Smith, head coach of Harvard women's basketball, will spend the next 10 days traveling to London to watch rising sophomore Temi Fagbenle compete in the 2012 Olympic Games. Delaney-Smith will be keeping a blog for GoCrimson.com as she experiences the Olympics with her son, Jared, for the first time as the coach of an Olympian.
Fagbenle, a London native playing for Great Britain, is only the second Olympian in Ivy League women's basketball history and just the fifth basketball Olympian in the Ancient Eight's storied history. Follow @TemiFagbenle or @HarvardCrimson on Twitter for updates on Great Britain's games throughout the tournament.
Fans can also read the Ivy League's blog, Ivies In London, for news and updates on all the Ivy League student-athletes and coaches participating in the Games.
August 8 – Closing Remarks
After a fun night out in Soho with Temi’s parents, which yes, did include some dancing (when in London!), we started the day by watching the start of the men's triathlon in Hyde Park. We then headed out to Olympic Park to watch Team USA women’s basketball play Canada in the quarterfinals. Although the game wasn’t close as the U.S. seems to be in a league of their own, it was still exciting to watch some of the best players in the world.
We met with Temi afterwards and headed out to the Nigeria House to meet more of her family and friends, what an experience! We were treated to fantastic Nigerian cuisine, and the entourage of friends of Temi and her family was never-ending. It seems every walk of life was represented, including renowned artists, performers, athletes and designers. The energy was high and it was obvious how proud they are of her.
We were then off to the USA House once again hoping to meet up with Angela Ruggiero ’04, a former Harvard women’s hockey Olympian and present OIC member. Although we didn't end up seeing her, the USA house was packed with our most esteemed medalists, including the U.S. women’s gymnastics team.
We connected with Jackie MacMullan on several occasions throughout the day about her plans to write an article for ESPN on Olympic athletes that maintain great attitudes despite not achieving their ultimate goal of a medal, in which she included Temi. It's easy to see why Jackie is one of the foremost sports journalists in the country - it is a great read. Who would have guessed that when I coached her over 30 years ago in high school that she would one day write an article about one of my Harvard players on Great Britain’s Olympic team.
Jared and I are headed out to the airport now. Thank God he was here to help me out, he was invaluable. I am leaving with a remarkable respect for all those who put together the 2012 Olympics. The city and the thousands of British volunteers were such gracious hosts, and I'm definitely coming back. I love London! Thank you Temi.
August 6 – Making Strides
After going out to Wimbledon on Saturday and watching several tennis matches, including Andy Murray in mixed doubles in front of a boisterous home crowd, the highlight of the weekend was still watching Temi's final game against Brazil on Sunday night. Although Great Britain was not victorious, the home crowd still ceases to amaze me. Great Britain women's basketball has made great strides on the international stage and will be a force to be reckoned with in future Olympics. There is no question Temi will be a part of that.
After the game, we met up with Temi's coaches from Blair Academy, Quint and Sue, and members of Temi's family. Here are a few pictures. They were ladened with posters, pictures and signs for Temi throughout the game. I felt pathetic with my sole, miniature Great Britain flag. It was amazing to see that Temi is a celebrity amongst her family, the local police force and the thousands of fans in attendance.
Tonight we have plans with the family and Temi to go to an African restaurant and experience London nightlife. Cannot wait and should probably take a nap first.
August 4 – Buzzer Beater
We met Boston Globe sports reporter and ESPN personality Jackie MacMullan in the Olympic Park two hours before the game. I coached Jackie at Westwood High School and have remained close with her to this day. It was the first day of the track and field events and the amazing park was filled to capacity. I can't believe the size of the park and how efficiently it's run.
Jackie got taken off of the women's basketball coverage last minute and switched to swimming, bummer, so we only got to spend a few hours with her. Still, as always, she's a blast and has the best sports stories. I could listen to her for days.
Great Britain lost a close overtime game to France with two unbelievable buzzer beaters, one to force overtime and one to win the game. The crowd was off the charts and everyone was on their feet. That loss knocked Temi out of the quarter finals but I'm still overwhelmed with pride when I see her, at such a young age, being such an important part of her Great Britain team. She didn't have much time to be disappointed after the game - she spent hours signing autographs. She will play her final game of the Olympics Sunday at 5:15 p.m. against Brazil.
We stayed for the Team USA game, they are incredibly talented and it's a who's who in women's basketball. It's especially fun to watch because I coached many of them on my world championship tours with USA Basketball.
I am still trying to connect with Tim Murphy, the Ulen-Brooks Endowed Coach for Harvard Men's Swimming and Diving, but don't have his schedule yet.
August 3 - Golden
I Finally met up with Jared, Liz and Johnny. We went out to Eton Dorney Rowing Centre at Dorney Lake to watch the Team USA Women's Eight win a gold medal with two of Liz's alumnae in the boat, Caryn Davies '05 and Esther Lofgren '08-'09. The weather was unbelievable and the experience incredible. I had a lot of rowing questions but since Liz and Johnny were with prestigious former Olympians, we were left to fend for our ourselves, questions unanswered.
After the races we went to the Team USA House in the Olympic Village as Liz's guests. Who knew she was so important. We saw several Olympians and former Olympians including speed skater Apolo Ohno. As a big dancing with the stars fan, I had to use self-restraint to not ask him for a dance. We had excellent food, delicious drinks, and watched plenty of Olympic matches. All while Liz signed hundreds of autographs.
Today Jared is showing me his stomping grounds in Islington from his semester abroad years ago. Then it's off to Great Britain's game to see Temi play France tonight at the Olympic Park, followed up by Team USA taking on the Czech Republic.
August 1 - Touching Down
London is beautiful. I got up very early (time change!) and took a nice long walk in Hyde Park. It turned out to be a bad decision because I spent the rest of the day walking all over London and in Olympic Park collecting tickets before Temi's game. London is doing it right and I am so impressed with how smooth everything is. I love the tube and didn't even get lost.
Unfortunately Great Britain lost a very exciting, close game to Russia, but I felt Temi was very strong. She is a force on the defensive end and had some real strong offensive moves as well (6 points, 5 rebounds, 3 blocks). It was very impressive given her age and experience! She is definitely the youngest player by several years that I have seen on any team.
I wasn't able to connect with Liz and Cory yet. Temi's game was sold out so they couldn 't get tickets. Jared comes tomorrow so I did the game solo and got to appreciate an incredible home crowd. What an experience for Temi, playing in front of her home crowd. They had several chances to win today but some great shots just didn't fall. I am really looking forward to Friday's game vs France and I promise pictures.
July 30 – The Journey Begins
I am racing around getting ready for one of the most exciting opportunities of my professional life. I am going to the 2012 Olympics to watch one of my Harvard players!
This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to see one of my players compete at the highest level, and then to have the opportunity to coach her at Harvard for the next three years! I would never have believed this was possible, yet there is so much to do before I go.
First, I need to change to an international phone plan. This is not so simple and if I didn't do it correctly this will either cost a lot of money or will be my last blog entry. Then I need to exchange money. Math was never my strong suit so this is a challenge as well. The passport is easy. I have one day to do all this plus unpack from recruiting, repack for London, and do laundry in between.
I am leaving tomorrow morning from Boston and meeting up with my son, Jared, who is leaving from New York City. He spent a semester abroad in London during college so not only will he be fun to travel with, he will also be invaluable riding the tube! Once we arrive there will be a strong Harvard contention. We are meeting up with Liz O'Leary, head coach of Radcliffe heavyweight crew, Cory Bosworth, her assistant, and Liz's son, Johnnie. We plan on watching crew Wednesday morning and cheering Temi on Wednesday night against Russia in her third game.
I will have to buy Great Britain gear when I get over there. I hope London is ready for us!!!