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Irish Olympic Update

The United States took a slight edge Thursday morning in its back-and-forth battle with China at the top of the London Olympics medal count leaderboard. No athlete with Notre Dame ties has contributed to those 35 medals yet, but there are still plenty of opportunities left for the Irish during the final 10 days of the games.

Former Notre Dame fencer Mariel Zagunis lost in the bronze medal match earlier this week.

With one week of Olympic competition in the rear view mirror, we review how Notre Dame’s nine ties have fared so far and what lies ahead in the near future.

Current Irish junior Natalie Achnowa is the first non-American who has ever played for the women’s basketball team at Notre Dame. She’s representing the Irish and her country Canada well so far this summer. Achonwa scored 14 points and a game-high eight rebounds during Canada’s loss to France Wednesday morning.

The loss dropped Canada to 1-2 in the round robin pool with its one win coming against the host country, Great Britain. Achonwa and her teammates still have preliminary games against Brazil (Friday) and Australia (Sunday) before the elimination rounds begin.

Most of the early action for Notre Dame this Olympics has been on the fencing piste. Two-time defending gold medalist Mariel Zagunis failed to reach the podium in London, losing to Ukranian Olga Kharlan in the bronze medal sabre match.

Rising senior Courtney Hurley fell in the Round of 32 in the epee individual competition. France’s Laura Flessel-Colovic pulled away from Hurley late in the match for a 15-12 victory. Hurley will duel again on Saturday as part of the team competition.

Incoming freshman Lee Kiefer helped bring the U.S. foil team to the quarterfinals of the group event before falling to South Korea. The team finished sixth overall in the competition. Kiefer reached the quarterfinals as an individual as well. She lost 15-10 to Arianna Errigo, the eventual silver medalist from Italy.

One of the best Notre Dame performances in the Olympics so far came from 2004 graduate Melissa Tancredi, who scored both goals in Canada’s 2-2 tie with Sweden in the women’s soccer round robin Tuesday. Tancredi pulled her team out of a 2-0 hole with a goal late in the first half and the game-tying shot in the 84th minute.

The tie gave Canada (1-1-1) just enough points to sneak into the quarterfinal elimination round. They will play Great Britain Friday at 2:30 p.m. eastern time. Candace Chapman, Tancredi’s teammate and 2005 Notre Dame graduate, hopes she will be ready to play then after missing the Sweden match with a calf injury.

The United States’ Shannon Boxx (ND ’99) has also been on the injured reserve in these Olympics. Boxx, a two-time gold medalist, missed the last two American games with a hamstring problem. The U.S. finished 3-0 in pool play without her and takes on New Zealand at 9:30 a.m. eastern time Friday.

Track & Field
American distance runner Molly Huddle is still in London gearing up for the first round of the 5,000-meter race, which will be held on Aug. 7. If she advances, the finals are three days later on the 10th. Huddle was an All-American at that distance during her senior year at Notre Dame in 2007.

Selim Nurudeen, a 2005 Notre Dame graduate, is also waiting for his turn to run for Nigeria in the 110-meter hurdles race. His first heat will be aired on NBC tape delay Aug. 7 at 10 a.m. If he advances, the competition wraps the following afternoon.

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