Thursday, January 31, 2008

USA Volleyball hires Danalee Corso for beach division

By The Associated Press

USA Volleyball moved to bolster its beach division on Wednesday by hiring former pro Danalee Corso as technical coordinator and master coach.

Corso will serve as the junior national team coach while
organizing youth and junior beach volleyball performance camps and
helping select train junior athletes for international
tournaments. She will also provide technical assistance to the elite athletes
representing the United States in international competition.

Corso will also develop a certification and training program for
beach volleyball coaches.

“Danalee’s addition to the USAV family illustrates our
commitment to grow the beach game by creating new programming and
enhancing support,” said Ali Wood, the USAV director of beach
programs. “In addition to her strong volleyball experience,
Danalee has a successful entrepreneurial background that will
stimulate program development.

The owner, with her husband Brian, of the Aloha Ball Beach
Volleyball School, Corso has been coaching beach volleyball since
1993. She has worked with teams that have competed both on the AVP
Tour and represented the United States internationally.

Corso played volleyball at Loyola Marymount before heading to
the beach on the American and international beach volleyball tours.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Beijing Olympics going Kosher

AP Sports Writer

BEIJING — Beijing and the Olympics are going Kosher.

The capital’s only Kosher restaurant opened 10 months ago,
drawing the small Jewish expatriate community, tourists, curious
Chinese and even a few Muslims. Business has been so good at Dini’s
Kosher Restaurant, that part-owner Lewis Sperber is talking about
setting up a second branch closer to the Olympic venues in northern

Like many restaurateurs and bar owners, Sperber is hoping to
benefit with as many as 550,000 foreigners expected to descend on
Beijing for the Aug. 8-24 Games.

“What we’ve thought about is preparing sandwiches and other
items at a venue closer than we are now to the Olympic sites,”
Sperber said. “If people leave the Olympics and want a Kosher
meal, we could have a place for them.”

Eating Kosher — food that meets Jewish dietary laws — is hardly
a raging fad. However, there is a real boom is the number of
Chinese factories being certified to export Kosher products. This
is driven partially by recent food safety scares in China involving
contaminated seafood, pet food and toothpaste.

Kosher certifications in China conducted by the Orthodox Union —
the best-known certification body — have doubled to 307 in the last
two years. The total number of Kosher certifications is about
2,000, exporters working to reach the world Kosher market.

“I think business will be very overwhelming during the
Olympics,” said Minette Ramia, who manages Dini’s, a modern,
pastel-colored eatery located on Super Bar Street, an aptly named
alleyway lined with restaurants and bars just down the street from
the Israeli embassy.

“From the hygiene side, whether someone is Kosher or not,
Jewish or not, people will want food from here because it is
considered cleaner and more hygienic being that we’re in China,”
Ramia said. “A Muslim woman came in recently because she can’t eat
meat anywhere else.”

The staff and cooks at Dini’s are nearly all Chinese. Waiters
bring new Chinese customers a handout to explain Kosher, which is
called “Jie Shi” in Chinese — “clean food.”

“When Chinese come, I don’t think they know what to order,”
said Zhao Haixia, the assistant manager. “Normally they just rely
on us to tell them what’s good.”

The menu features both northern European (Ashkenazi) and
Mediterranean (Sephardic) food traditions. Mainstays like matzo
ball soup, chopped liver and Gefilte fish are seldom chosen by
Chinese, who more often go for Kosher beef dumplings (Jiaozi) or
sizzling beef — Kosher style.

Gefilte fish is a hard sell.

“In China eating cold fish doesn’t sound so good,” Zhao said.

Like Beijing’s noxious air, China’s food safety is one the most
sensitive issues surrounding the Olympics, carrying the potential
to ruin China’s $40 billion preparations to use the Games to show
off a modern nation removed from its agrarian roots.

One food poisoning case, like one positive doping test —
particularly by a Chinese athlete — could grab headlines for weeks
and ruin the public relations effort by the communist government.

Following a string of food scandals last year, Beijing
organizers launched an aggressive campaign to showcase a new way of
monitoring aimed at tracing products from the field to the table.

The government also unveiled the Olympic Food Safety Command
Center to deal with food emergencies.

“Precautions must be taken to avert any trace of terrorist
attack on our food supply chain,” said Zhang Zhikuan, head of the
Beijing Industry and Commerce Bureau.

Concern centers on the safety standards of meat, and stimulants
used to boost yields. Some fear drugs used in animal feed could
trigger positive doping test among athletes.

At least one of the new monitoring systems — coding on packaging
to trace the source of production — has long been required for
Kosher certification.

“The fact that there is another set of eyes coming through the
plants on a regular basis — such as the Kosher auditing or Kosher
supervisors — means that the companies, the factories are more
careful about hygiene and sanitation,” said Rabbi Mordechai
Grunberg, who examines Chinese factories for the Orthodox Union.

China’s Kosher exports are composed almost exclusively of food
additives, spices, vegetables and candies.

“It’s like any other product coming out of China,” Rabbi
Grunberg said. “Outsourcing has gotten easier, quality has gotten
higher and the price is cheaper.”

Rabbi Shimon Freundlich, who also inspects for the Orthodox
Union and owns a part interest in Dini’s, said American-based food
companies are asking him to conduct non-Kosher inspections of their
operations in China. He called them “100 percent” related to
recent food scandals in China.

“They don’t necessarily want it for Kosher purposes,” he
said. “They just want to make sure they can guarantee that the standard
promised by the company is what’s being produced.”

The Jewish population in mainland China is only a few thousand
and exclusively expatriates — 1,500 in Beijing, 1,000 in Shanghai
and 500 in Guangzhou. Several thousand more are scattered in small
cities with 4,000 in Hong Kong. Historians suggest a small Chinese
Jewish community existed centuries ago in the central city of

Grunberg is optimistic a domestic Kosher market will develop in
China, fueled partly by hygiene issues.

“I think there will be a big market here, and a big market
could mean just a fraction of a percent of 1.3 billion. With only
that you’ll have a bigger market than we have for Kosher in the
United States.”

Both Kosher and Halal — food prepared following Islamic
religious rules — will be available at the Olympic Athletes
Village, a requirement of the International Olympic Committee. The
Philadelphia-based company Aramark is running the catering
operation and will serve 17,000 athletes and officials at dining
rooms capable of feeding 6,000 at once on a 24-hour schedule.

The Olympic Kosher kitchen is being lined up by Rabbi
Freundlich, the rabbi of Beijing’s Jewish community.

“I would be the overall supervisor of the kitchen and have a
number of colleagues helping me maintain the Kosher standard
throughout the Olympics,” he said. “We’d expect to serve 300-400
meals a day, more than twice what I’m told was served in Athens.”

Sourcing of most Halal and Kosher products in China is easy —
except for meat. No factory has been certified to export Kosher
meats from China. Many factories are certified to produce Halal,
though exporting Halal meat from China is difficult with some
Islamic countries suspicious of Chinese certification.

China is estimated to have a Muslim population of 1-2 percent of
its 1.3 billion people, most living in the west of China.

“Normally it’s easy to export Halal non-meat products from
China, but meat products certified in China are more difficult,”
said Ray Chueng, a Shanghai businessman who helps factories get
Halal or Kosher certification.

“I think even Chinese Muslims are not so careful with Halal
things,” Chueng added. “They know what you can eat and can’t eat,
but they are not very careful if things are labeled Halal.”

Penny Xiang, deputy director of the Game Services Department for
the 2008 Olympics, said 36 food suppliers have been picked for the
Games, “all under very close supervision.” She declined to offer
extra details. In general, Beijing organizers are careful talking
about food suppliers, citing security reasons.

“I think the government’s food security committee has
formulated a special standard for the Olympic Games compared with
national standard and World Health Organization standard,” she
said. Asked how the new standard compared, she replied: “It’s
probably higher.”

She said daily food consumption at the Athletes Village would
reach 220,000 pounds with daily rubbish weighing 110,000 pounds.

“Sometimes it’s the easiest and simplest things that makes the
most complex job,” Xiang said. “People think preparing food is so
natural, so easy. It comes to you every day and you are so used to
it, so you don’t think there is any complexity behind it.”

“Eating is easy, but serving the right food to people is

Xiang said many of China’s “most influential politicians going
right to the top,” wanted the Olympics to showcase only Chinese
cuisine in the Athletes Village. Several proposed preparing 2,000
Peking roast ducks — the capital’s specialty — for athletes before
the Aug. 8 opening ceremony.

Presumably some would have been Kosher ducks.

“It was ruled out,” Xiang said. “We’d need to serve all of
this just before the biggest moment for commotion and
confusion. Just imagine how that would have been."

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Gay, Hoff, Galli and women's gymnastics team win USOC yearly honors

Sprinter Tyson Gay (Lexington, Ky.), swimmer Katie Hoff (Abingdon, Md.), wheelchair track and field athlete Jessica Galli (Hillsborough, N.J.), and the U.S. Women’s World Championships Gymnastics Team have been selected as the 2007 U.S. Olympic Committee SportsMan, SportsWoman, Paralympian and Team of the Year, respectively.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Marion Jones appears on Oprah Winfrey’s show, talks about prison

CHICAGO (AP) — Marion Jones said Wednesday seeing the pain her
family and friends endured after she admitted using
performance-enhancing drugs outweighed the impact of returning her
Olympic medals.

The former Olympic track gold medalist appeared on “The Oprah
Winfrey Show,” her first television interview since being
sentenced last week to six months in prison for lying to
investigators about steroid use and a check-fraud scam.

“I want people to understand that, you know, everybody makes
mistakes. ... I truly think that a person’s character is determined
by their admission of their mistakes and then beyond that, what do
I do about it?” Jones said via satellite from Austin, Texas, where
she lives. “How can I change the lives of people? How can I use my
story to change the life of a young person?”

Once the most celebrated female athlete in the world, Jones won
three gold and two bronze medals at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

After long denying she ever had used performance-enhancing
drugs, Jones admitted last October she lied to federal
investigators in November 2003, acknowledging she took the designer
steroid “the clear” from September 2000 to July 2001. “The
clear” has been linked to the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative,
the lab at the center of the steroids scandal in professional

Winfrey pressed Jones on the repeated, impassioned denials she
made over the years. “You knew at that time, you knew were lying,
right?” Winfrey said.

“I made a mistake. I made the choice, at that time, to protect
myself, to protect my family,” Jones said. “And now I’ve paid the
consequences dearly.”

Jones said she hasn’t told her 4-year-old son yet that she’s
going to prison. She also has a younger son. She has until March 11
to surrender.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Gymnasts Shawn Johnson, Paul Hamm headline American Cup at N.Y.

NEW YORK (AP) — Defending world champion Shawn Johnson and
defending Olympic champion Paul Hamm will be featured at the
American Cup, one of the top gymnastics meets in the leadup to the
Beijing Olympics.

World beam champion Nastia Liukin, Shayla Worley and Jonathan
Horton, a fourth-place finisher in last year’s all-around at
worlds, are the other Americans slated to compete at Madison Square
Garden on March 1.

It will mark the first international event for Hamm, who is
coming back after a three-year retirement from competition
following his gold-medal performance in Athens in 2004. Hamm, who
competed on floor and pommel horse at nationals last August, is
scheduled for his first full competition next month at Winter
Cup. It’s a ranking meet leading up to nationals in May.

Johnson established herself as the favorite for Beijing with her
victory at worlds last year, becoming the fourth U.S. woman to win
the world championship in the all-around. Liukin is expected to
challenge Johnson, and their meeting at American Cup will be the
first of several between the teammates this year.

Fabian Hambuechen of Germany, who wowed the home crowd by
winning the all-around silver medal at worlds last year, is
expected to perform, along with last year’s bronze medalist,
Hisashi Mizutori of Japan. The rest of the international field has
not been announced.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

U.S. Men Sweep Puerto Rico to Win Pool at Olympic Volleyball Qualifier

News Services

Determined not to let history repeat itself, the U.S. Men’s national volleyball team defeated Puerto Rico in straight sets (25-21, 25-23, 25-22) late Tuesday to win its pool and advance to the semifinals of the NORCECA Men’s Continental Olympic Qualification Championship at Hector Sola Bezares Coliseum in Caguas, Puerto Rico.

Team USA (3-0) rested on Wednesday while Puerto Rico (2-1) played Mexico (1-2) and Cuba (2-1) played Dominican Republic (1-2) in the quarterfinals.

On Thursday, the U.S. Men and Canada will play the winners of each of the quarterfinals in the semifinals.

The tournament winner will qualify for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. The United States came close to qualifying for Beijing at the 2007 FIVB World Cup. However, Puerto Rico upset Team USA and the United States went on to finish fourth.

On Tuesday, Puerto Rico put up another fight, taking the lead in all three sets. But the U.S. Men were determined to win and found a way to come back every time they needed to. Clay Stanley (Honolulu, Hawaii) led the U.S. scorers with 14 points on 10 kills and a match-high four blocks. Ryan Millar (Palmdale, Calif.) added 12 points 11 kills and one block.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Gold medal-winning skater, Hamill, being treated for breast cancer

BALTIMORE — Olympic gold medalist Dorothy Hamill is
undergoing treatment for breast cancer.

Hamill said in a statement Friday that she is being treated at
the Kimmel Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins. The prognosis is
favorable, but the 51-year-old Hamill said she will miss some of
the “Broadway on Ice” tour while she is having treatment.

Olympic gold medalist Brian Boitano, one of Hamill’s good
friends, will fill in for her, beginning Saturday night in
Sarasota, Fla. Hamill said she hopes to rejoin the tour in Fort
Lauderdale, Fla., where it has shows Jan. 16-17.

Then 19, Hamill became America’s sweetheart and a fashion icon
when she won the gold medal at the 1976 Olympics. Her bright smile
and bubbly personality made her a marketing dream — she was once
listed as the “Most Trusted Sports Figure in America” by Ladies
Home Journal — and her trademark wedge haircut sent girls across
the country flocking to the hairdresser.

Hamill is one of seven U.S. women to win the Olympic gold
medal. She also was a three-time U.S. champion and won the world title in
1976, and she has been inducted into both the U.S. and World Figure
Skating halls of fame.

Hamill turned professional after winning the 1976 world
championships. She joined the Ice Capades in 1977, and headlined
that tour for eight years.

Hamill isn’t the first Olympic champion to have cancer. Peggy
Fleming, the 1968 Olympic gold medalist who went to Colorado College, also had breast
cancer. She was diagnosed in 1998, but is cancer free and is an
advocate for research and awareness. Scott Hamilton, the 1984 men’s
champion, was treated for testicular cancer in 1997.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

China addresses food safety, beggars

By the Associated Press

BEIJING — China, which has been plagued by food safety
problems, will set up a center to monitor food standards at the
Summer Olympics, state media reported Thursday.

The Olympic Food Safety Command Center will tackle the task
during the Aug. 8-24 Games and deal with any food-related
emergencies, Xinhua News Agency quoted Zhang Zhikuan, head of the
Beijing Industry and Commerce Bureau, as saying.

Xinhua said food supplied for the Olympics will be checked
against specific technical standards.

“Precautions must be taken to avert any trace of terrorist
attacks on our food supply chain,” Xinhua quoted Zhang as saying.

Problems in China’s food supply are common, due to lax standards
and improper use of chemicals, preservatives or drugs.

Such concerns were heightened last year after some Chinese food
exports, such as seafood, were found to be contaminated with
dangerous chemicals.

BEIJING — Beijing has launched a campaign to remove beggars
and unlicensed sellers from Tiananmen Square and a major street
running through the center of the city in the run-up to the Olympic
Games, state media reported Thursday.

Beggars and unlicensed peddlers will be fined and have their
goods confiscated, Xinhua News Agency said.

The crackdown also will focus on Chang’an Avenue, the city’s
major east-west artery that cuts across the top of the square.

Tiananmen is a major tourist attraction and visitors are
constantly accosted by beggars and people selling maps or fake
goods such as watches.

Xinhua quoted Yu Hongyuan, deputy director with the Beijing city
police, as saying the around-the-clock patrols were aimed at
uprooting illegal activities and building a “harmonious, civilized
and sound” environment for the Olympic Games.

Police already have started using sniffer dogs to detect
fireworks and other explosive substances on Beijing’s subway
stations ahead of the Olympics, which start Aug. 8.