By John Torenli, Sports Editor
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Brooklyn fencers Race Imboden and Nzingha Prescod, both only 19, were hoping to return from London with some serious bling to show off around their necks.
Thus far, the 2012 Olympics have only provided the foil-wielding duo with heartbreak.
But all is not certainly lost for our borough's fencers as Imboden, a Park Slope resident and graduate of the prestigious Dwight School in Manhattan, will get one more shot to score a medal during Sunday's men's team foil event.
Imboden rode the momentum of Tuesday's 15-5 win over Brazilian Guilherme Toldo into his showdown with Italy's Andrea Baldini later that day before falling to the seven-time world medalist, 15-9.
"I had some moments where I got back into my own rhythm," Imboden said after failing to reach the round of eight and settling for a ninth-place finish overall in the men's individual foil. "[Baldini's] an excellent fencer, one of the best in the world and one of my idols that I watched growing up. He did what he always does and he drew me in and I didn't play my game."
Ranked fifth in the world overall entering the Olympics, Imboden now hopes to grab a medal beginning Sunday at 2 p.m. ET. It will also provide the red-headed teen with an opportunity to establish Team USA as a serious contender for Olympics to come.
"Fencing has always been a European thing and the European guys have dominated," Imboden said. "But now the U.S. is starting to be in the mix of guys who are top competitors in the world. Being so young, I want to show people that Americans can mix with these guys, individually and [as] a team."
Prescod, who will turn 20 later this month, was knocked out early in the women's foil competition, dropping a tough decision to 36-year-old Aida Mohamed of Hungary. The Columbia University sophomore took the defeat in stride but still lamented the lost opportunity.
“I feel like I could’ve been under better control in the beginning. I rushed too much with my feet,” Prescod admitted, citing the nerves of her Olympic debut as one of the reasons for her sub-par effort.
“[Mohamed's] not the ideal opponent," added the only African-American woman on Team USA. "She’s been around a really, really long time and has so much experience,”
Prescod's chance to gain a medal in the team event Thursday morning also went by the wayside as the Americans fell to South Korea, 45-31. Prescod did out-touch Jung Gil Ok, 6-4, in the last of her three bouts, but it wasn't enough to overcome a sizable deficit for Team USA, which was forced to vie for fifth place.
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Arguably the most glamorous of Olympic events, the men's 100-meter dash, will feature Brooklyn-born Justin Gatlin, who earned the title "World's Fastest Man" during the 2004 Games at Athens before serving a four-year suspension beginning in 2006 for a positive doping test.
The ban kept Gatlin from competing in Beijing in 2008, but the 30-year-old is back and possibly better than ever as he prepares to take on the likes of defending Olympics champion Usain Bolt of Jamaica, American teammate Tyson Gay and Jamaicans Yohan Blake and Asafa Powell beginning with Saturday's preliminary heats. Even if Gatlin fails to capture the 100, he'll get another shot Sunday as a member of the men's 4x100 meter relay squad.
"I am not focusing on just trying to get a medal, I am going out there trying to win," he said. "If I take that lead, it is going to be hell giving it back."
"I have nothing to lose," insists Gatlin, who is viewed as a long-shot at best to knock off his younger and presumably faster competitors — the same scenario he faced in Greece eight years ago.
Never underestimate the Brooklyn guy.
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The latest version of the Dream Team, featuring Brooklyn-born Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony and Nets point guard Deron Williams, had little to worry about entering Thursday evening's final preliminary round game against Nigeria, except, of course, for its legacy.
Team USA had already earned a berth into the medal rounds via its back-to-back dominating wins over France and Tunisia earlier in the week, but the Americans are being spurred on by an opponent much bigger than whomever they face in London.
Kobe Bryant made waves before the red, white and blue even showed up in London, claiming this year's squad could beat the legendary '92 Dream Team, which cruised through the international competition in Barcelona two decades ago with a squad boasting NBA legends like Larry Bird, Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan.
Bryant's claims have added pressure to a U.S. unit, which is a heavy favorite to win its second straight gold medal. But now, the team will be judged by how easily it gets to the top of the podium compared to the '92 team, which slaughtered virtually everything in its path to set the precedent of greatness for U.S. basketball.
In Tuesday's 110-63 rout of Tunisia, Anthony scored a team high-tying 16 points and Williams added nine points and four assists for the Americans, who overcame a slow start for the second straight game.
Despite the ongoing comparisons to the original Dream Team, coach Mike Krzyzewski is keeping his team focused on the task at hand, and the next game's opponent.
"For us it's a matter of just continuing our preparation; making sure that we don't take anything for granted and we come out and play hard and try to get minutes for everybody so we're developing everybody as we go into the latter stages of pool play," said the four-time NCAA championship coach and reigning gold medal winner.