Harris County-Houston Sports Authority: Houston’s Olympic Day

Houston's Olympic Day will take place on June 23. Courtesy Harris County-Houston Sports Authority

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Nia Abdallah had always loved to watch Marion Jones run and admits she was an unabashed fan.

So imagine Abdallah’s surprise when she was struggling to finish a bit of work at the track one day during the 2004 Olympic Games and happened on Jones stretching. Jones looked up knew what Abdallah was thinking—she was tired and ready to pack it in.

Jones told her to keep going.

That was the moment Abdallah realized the power of Jones’  words; the power of what just a passing comment from an Olympian can do for a younger athlete.

Abdallah, who graduated from Aldine Carver, kept running that day and went on to win the silver medal in Taekwando at those Games, making her the first woman to win an Olympic medal in that event.  

Today the 34-year-old smiles as she remembers that day and how it led to another.

Fast forward to the 2012 Olympic Trials when Paige McPherson beat Abdallah out for a spot on the team. McPherson had been a timid kid a few years before, wanting Abdallah’s autograph and just wanting to be around her. McPherson went on to win the bronze in London.

“It’s cool to see,’’ Abdallah said. “It’s nice to see it come full circle.’’

That’s the thing about Olympians. They share, they pass it on. It’s not just about showing off your medal in a seminar; not just telling a young kid what to do. Instead, Olympians like Abdallah reach out and touch those kids and inspire them, like Jones did for her and she did for McPherson.

About a dozen former Olympians got together Thursday night, in part, to kick off awareness for Olympic Day June 23.

The event is an international day when Olympians from 160 countries celebrate by holding events around the world to celebrate the birth of the modern Games and introduce kids to Olympic sports.

Houston’s Olympic chapter will host its event at Moody Community Center that day from 8 a.m.-2 p.m. and more than 20 Olympians will be there to demonstrate their sports to more than 300 children.

“With Olympians, it’s not just about the sport, but about the passion,’’ said former sprinter and University of Houston track coach Leroy Burrell, who won gold in the 4X100-meter relay at 1992 Games. “Olympians get one moment every four years to shine.’’

Burrell is married to former sprinter Michelle Finn Burrell, who won gold in the women’s 4X100 in 1992, too. Their son Cameron, a UH sprinter, is a budding Olympian.

That passion is what those Olympians impart to the kids on Olympic Day. Abdallah, who is a coach and motivational speaker, has participated in every Houston Olympic Day and is amazed at the incredible power of a group of Olympians talking about their sports.

Houston’s list of participants in the June 23 event include Abdallah, the Burrells, Houston Olympians and Para Olympians chapter president Jackie Washington, Olympic bobsledders Seun Adigun and Sam McGuffie, Zina Garrison (tennis) and Jonathan Horton (gymnastics).

Adigun, who competed at UH, is the first athlete to compete in both the Summer and Winter Olympic Games. The Nigerian-American competed for Nigeria in the 2012 Summer Games in the 100-meter hurdles, then formed the Bobsled and Skeleton Foundation of Nigeria and competed in the bobsled in the 2018 Games in Pyeongchang in February.

If you are interested in participating or helping sponsor Houston’s Olympic Day, contact Meredith Pardue at mpardue@houstonsports.org.


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Now my job: Texans feast on Lions

Photo by Getty Images.

Thanksgiving is full of tradition. There's the typical family gathering, large meal, and of course, football. Sometimes, new traditions are added and old ones are retired. I think the Texans did both in their impressive 41-25 win over the Lions in Detroit. Old traditions were carried on (Lions losing on Thanksgiving), some were put to rest (Texans not being able to get turnovers), and new ones were started (multiple passing touchdowns by Deshaun Watson in six straight games).

The fact that this defense got three turnovers in the game was unbelievable! They got all three in the first quarter within the span of eight plays. JJ Watt's pick-six was insane. He went for a batted ball, ended up catching it, and ran it in. They forced Jonathan Williams to fumble on the Lions' very next play from scrimmage and recovered it. On the Lions' next possession, the Texans recovered yet another fumble after the challenge was reversed. Great call by the coaching staff to challenge and win. The defense looked good. Tyrell Adams stood out because he was in on those two fumbles, made 17 total tackles with 14 of them being solo tackles. They also brought pressure that seemed to make Matthew Stafford very inaccurate and resulted in four sacks. I give defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver credit for knowing he needs to blitz to get pressure, but the run defense has to improve.

The offense kept the tempo up in this game as well. The spread and hurry-up were used to keep the Lions already staggered defense off balance. Knowing the Lions were without a couple defensive backs, I thought it would be the perfect marriage of their defense and the Texans' offense. A buddy asked before the game about the line (Texans -3.5) and the over/under (52.5). I told him bet the Texans and the over because neither team can play defense and both have good quarterbacks. Offensive coordinator Tim Kelly put together another good game plan and Watson executed it flawlessly. One route combo I saw later on in the game I particularly enjoyed. Two receivers were tight to the left side. Cooks ran a hook/curl and settled in the middle of the zone while Fuller ran a vertical route. Duke Johnson ran a swing route to that same side. It left Cooks wide open as the attention went to Johnson in the flat, Fuller deep, and the action to the other play side. Route combos are important because it gives the quarterback different reads as he goes through his progressions and lets him pick apart the defense based on what he sees. Combine that with Watson's play and the way Kelly has changed his play calling now that he's liberated from he who shall not be named, we're seeing a beautiful thing.

As good as things were, there's still room for improvement. The defense gives up way too many easy yards, both run and pass. They can't get pressure bringing only four and will often give up big plays if the blitz is picked up. Plus the run defense is still an issue as evidenced by the Lions' first possession of the second half. The Lions ran the ball 10 plays straight for a total of 58 yards on that drive. Utterly ridiculous! Watson was good (17/25 318 yards and four touchdowns), but he missed two more touchdowns with passes slightly off, and continues to hold onto the ball too long at times. The difference between these two issues I've presented here is the fact that Watson has so played well, his "issues" are minor and very correctable, while the defense is terrible and there's no easy fix in sight. But let Romeo Crennel and Anthony Weaver tell it, they're getting the most out of these guys and they're playing disciplined.

The thought that this team may actually creep into the playoff picture may take shape better after next week if they can beat the Colts. I doubt it, but it is getting interesting. Let's see what else happens around them because they need help getting there.

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