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Thousands cheer opening of 2012 London Games from U.S.S. Midway Phillip Brents | Fri, Aug 03 2012 04:43 PM

They came, they saw and they likely got more than they expected as an estimated 2,500 spectators crowded the flight deck of the U.S.S. Midway floating museum last Friday to partake in a public viewing party celebrating the opening ceremonies of the 2012 London Olympic Games.

The event, which was co-sponsored by the Chula Vista Olympic Training Center, was timed to coincide with NBC-TV’s prime-time broadcast of the opening gala from London.

CV-OTC director Tracy Lamb served as emcee at the event along with KNSD-TV personalities, most notably sportscaster Jim Laslavic. San Diego County Supervisor Greg Cox also welcomed spectators from the stage.

“Let’s get behind Team USA — we have got a great group of athletes over there,” Lamb said while leading cheers of “USA! USA! USA!” to the massive gathering, which was about five times as large as expected by the Midway museum staff.

Cox was mayor of Chula Vista during the initial construction phase of the Chula Vista training center. “We have a lot of stake in this,” he told the crowd.

Stacy Draglia, the first women’s pole vaulter to win a goal medal, carried a symbolic torch to ignite the festivities. The torch eventually made its way to the hands of Olympic BMX riders Arielle Martin, Alise Post, David Herman, Connor Fields and Nic  Long, along with men’s javelin thrower Sean Furey, also a CV-OTC resident-athlete.

The Olympic athletes were on hand because their events do not start until the final week of the XXX Olympiad.

The BMX competition is slated Aug. 8-10. The American group is favored to come back from London decorated with medals.

Long finished third at a test event last August on the actual London track, while Fields won the U.S. Olympic Trials and Herman finished as the year’s top-ranked American man in USA Cycling’s BMX power rankings.

Martin and Post finished first and second, respectively, among American women in the U.S. power rankings. However, Martin suffered a crash Tuesday at the OTC — a day before the team was to depart for London — and has been replaced by Brooke Crain of Visalia.

Crain, 19, finished third at last year’s junior world championships.

Martin is expected to make a full recovery but will miss the Games.

Despite the ill-timed mishap, Long, a native of Lakeside, remains optimistic about the upcoming Olympic competition.

“We raced on the Olympic course last August and I think we’ll be very competitive and have a good chance to bring home medals,” he said. “They’ve made some minor changes to the course since then, which makes it a bit easier.”

He paused before adding with a smile, “Not as fun.”

Long said developing leg speed is perhaps the most important element in generating success on any professional BMX course.

“There’s a lot of pedaling involved, especially on the first straightaway,” he said.

There was a lot of flag-waving — both of the Stars and Stripes and the Union Jack — last Friday.

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