Olympics personal for two local observers

by Bruce Strand, Sports editor

Two of the most interested local observers of the Olympics were gymnast Jessie DeZiel of Rogers, a member of Team USA at the Pan Am Games last October, and diver Laura Ryan of Elk River, who competed in the same London facility with Team USA at World Games in February.

“I trained with all of them, for two months in Texas,” said DeZiel, meaning the gold-medal-winning USA team, “when I was with the Pan Am team and they were getting ready for the Worlds.”

Jessie DeZiel

DeZiel, 19, who helped Team USA win Pan Am gold then had a great freshman season with Nebraska, watched on the Nebraska campus while attending summer school.

“It was a little weird seeing the Olympics this year,” she said, “because I knew them, and knew all their routines. A lot of people were asking me questions about them, and I knew the answers to all their questions!”

The questions were mostly about the Olympians’ skills, she said, along with, “Do you know her, too?”

DeZiel was rooting for Gabrielle Douglas, who won all-around gold, and McKayla Maroney, who’s the best vaulter in the world but somehow muffed her last attempt at London and settled for silver. DeZiel, asked her favorite thing to watch on Team USA, said, “McKayla’s vault is really cool.”

Laura Ryan

DeZiel admired the way the Americans “fought through it” and won team gold in a more pressurized situation this year. Each team entered three per event and all three count rather than the top three of four as in the past.

Ryan, 20, aiming for the 2012 Olympics ever since she won the state title in 10th grade, competed at FINA World Club in London in synchronized diving with Indiana teammate Amy Cozad in February. They didn’t make the top eight, required for the Olympic trials. So the 2011 Big Ten champion instead competed in USA trials in 10-meter platform in June. She placed 11th.

“It was tough to watch, wishing I could be there,” said Ryan, “but it was exciting to see the USA do so well, too. Definitely a motivator to get back in the pool.”

Ryan, who has transferred to Georgia for her final two years, is competing this weekend at USA Swimming Summer Nationals in Greensboro, N.C., in platform and synchro (with Megan Houston of the U of Texas).

Ryan was rooting for Kelsi Bryant, Gophers diver with whom she trained at the U of M club. Bryant and Abby Johnston of Duke earned silver in 3M synchronized springboard, a relief for the American squad which won no medals four years ago in Beijing.

“It definitely felt different to watch this year than in 2008, when Olympics was just some future goal,” said Ryan. She added with a sigh, “I did the best I could. My time will come.”