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Published: Sunday, 8/3/2008

5 Olympic competitors have Toledo ties

BY ZACH SILKA
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Fireworks light up the National Stadium at a rehearsal for Friday s upcoming opening ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics.
Fireworks light up the National Stadium at a rehearsal for Friday s upcoming opening ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics.
BULLIT MARQUEZ / AP Enlarge

For five Olympians with ties to northwest Ohio, the training and preparations are just about finished.

Countless athletes from across the world have spent the last year attempting to qualify for the Olympics.

When the Summer Games officially open in Beijing on Friday, these five will stand above the rest.

Olympic dreams have finally come to fruition for Anna Tunnicliffe, Scott Parsons, Petra Teveli, Blaine Neal and Mike Hessman.

Tunnicliffe, a former Perrysburg resident, will be compete in sailing in the Laser Radial one-person dinghy class in Qingdao, China.

She qualified for the Games way back in October, 2007, when she defeated 21 other racers in the U.S. Sailing Olympic Selection Trials in Newport, R.I.

In a recent e-mail to The Blade, Tunnicliffe said the U.S. sailing team arrived in Qingdao on July 27 and has been training there ever since.

After moving to Perrysburg with her family from Doncaster, England when she was 12 years old, Tunnicliffe joined the junior program at the North Cape Yacht Club in La Salle, Mich.

North Cape will always hold a special place in Tunnicliffe's heart because it was there that she envisioned her Olympic dreams.

"When I was 13, I decided that one day I wanted to go to the Olympics," Tunnicliffe told The Blade in December.

When Parsons arrives in Beijing, it will mark his second consecutive trip to the Olympics.

The Sylvania native and St. John's Jesuit graduate considered retiring from kayaking for about a year following the 2004 Olympics.

Parsons, who lives in Bethesda, Md., finished sixth in 2004 and qualified for this year's Games in part because of a bronze medal finish at the world cup in Augsburg, Germany.

With the kayak competition slated for Aug. 11-14, Parsons said he doesn't have any expectations heading into likely the last significant race of his career.

"I just want a result I'm happy with," Parsons said in an interview last month. "A medal would be great for sure, but I don't want to place too much importance on that."

When Teveli runs the marathon in Beijing on Aug. 17, she'll not only be representing her native Hungary but she'll also become the first University of Toledo product to run in the Games.

Teveli ran at UT from 2001-03 and cites her experience as a memorable time.

"It was a very useful period of time for my running in many senses, mentally and physically as well," Teveli said in an e-mail interview from Budapest last month.

"Thanks to my coach, Kevin Hadsell, and his positive attitude to everything, I managed to learn to deal with things either with successes or failures and also find and look at the good side of everything."

Although they have been unable to stick in the big leagues this season, Mike Hessman and Blaine Neal received a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity because of their minor league status - spots on the U.S. Olympic baseball team.

"Hearing about the Olympic team certainly was exciting," Neal told The Blade last month. "•'Hess' and I both talked about how cool it would be to be on the team, and finding out I was on the team was the ultimate thrill."

The pair have already left the Mud Hens with the Americans first game on Aug. 13 against Korea and won't return until Aug. 25.

"It's just something about representing your country and wearing that flag across your chest," Hessman said. "It's just something to be proud of."

Contact Zach Silka at:

zsilka@theblade.com.



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