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

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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Astros lose to Braves, 6-2. Composite Getty Image.

Reynaldo López struck out seven over six scoreless innings, Orlando Arcia homered and the Atlanta Braves won their third straight, 6-2 over the Houston Astros on Tuesday night.

López (2-0) allowed four hits and walked one in his third straight sterling outing to start the season.

“It’s like I’ve always said, for me, the important thing is to focus,” López said through an interpreter. “To have the focus during the outings and then, to be able to locate those pitches.”

He has given up one run in 18 innings for an ERA of 0.50.

“He threw the ball really well against a really good hitting club,” Atlanta manager Brian Snitker said. “Another solid one.”

Arcia hit a solo home run to left in the second and a sacrifice fly in the seventh.

Luis Guillorme and backup catcher Chadwick Tromp each hit a two-run double in the ninth to put the Braves ahead 6-0.

“Tromp has done a good job ever since we’ve been bringing him in these situations and filling in,” Snitker said. “I’ve got all the confidence in the world in him back there. ... He’s an aggressive hitter. He’s knocked in some big runs for us in the limited time that he’s played.”

Kyle Tucker homered for the Astros leading off the ninth against Aaron Bummer, and Mauricio Dubón had a two-out RBI single to cut the lead to four. After Bummer walked Chas McCormick to put two on, Raisel Iglesias induced a groundout by Victor Caratini to end it and secure his fourth save.

“They pitched well, and our guys are grinding out at-bats,” Houston manager Joe Espada said. “Even in the ninth inning there, we’re grinding, fighting until the end.”

Hunter Brown (0-3) yielded two runs on five hits with three strikeouts and three walks in six innings. Brown allowed nine runs in two-thirds of an inning in his previous start, last Thursday against Kansas City.

Brown said he executed better Tuesday than he had in his previous two starts.

“He mixed all his pitches well,” Espada said. “The breaking ball was effective. He threw some cutters in on the hands to some of those lefties. He mixed his pitches really well. That was a really strong performance.”


Braves: 2B Ozzie Albies was placed on the 10-day injured list with a broken right big toe. IF David Fletcher had his contract selected from Triple-A Gwinnett to take Albies’ place on the roster.

Astros: RHP Justin Verlander (right shoulder inflammation) threw a side session Tuesday, but Houston will wait until Wednesday to see how Verlander feels before deciding whether he will make his first start this weekend against the Nationals, Espada said. ... RHP Luis Garcia (right elbow surgery) threw around 20-25 pitches off the bullpen mound, and RHP José Urquidy (right forearm strain) also threw off the mound, Espada said. ... LHP Framber Valdez (left elbow soreness) played catch off flat ground.


Atlanta LHP Max Fried (1-0, 8.74 ERA) starts Wednesday in the series finale opposite RHP J.P. France (0-2, 8.22).

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