Abby Wambach wins FIFA World Player of the Year

U.S. Women’s National Team striker Abby Wambach, a former Florida Gators standout, earned her sport’s biggest honor on Monday when she was named the winner of the 2012 FIFA Ballon d’Or for Women’s World Player of the Year.

The first American to win the award since Mia Hamm in 2002, Wambach did so by posting 27 international goals and leading the United States to its third-straight gold medal in the 2012 London Olympics. Her 152 career international goals rank second all-time to Hamm (158), who she will likely surpass in 2013.

Wambach scored in each of the first five matches of the Olympics and posted the second-best international scoring total of her career over the course of the year.

She edged five-time Ballon d’Or winner Marta (Brazil) and Alex Morgan (United States) for the award. Wambach received 20.67 percent of the vote compared to 13.50 percent for Marta and 10.87 percent for Morgan, according to the Associated Press.

Coaches, team captains and select media voted for the award, which is the first of Wambach’s career. She finished third for the honor just last year.

The Ballon d’Or is the highest honor of Wambach’s 13-year professional career. She is also a five-time winner of U.S. Soccer Athlete of the Year and was named Female Athlete of the Year by the Associated Press in 2011.

Wambach took home the Bronze Boot and Silver Ball following the 2011 Women’s World Cup and was also the recipient of the 2011 ESPY Award for Best Play.

She was a two-time SEC Player of the Year for Florida and led the Gators to their only national title in 1998. Wambach was inducted into the UF Athletic Hall of Fame this past spring and still holds Florida career records in goals (96), assists (50) and points (242).

Photo Credit: Associated Press

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Top 12 for 2012: On the Field Moments of the Year

For as much as the Florida Gators were in the news off the field in 2012 (check out Sunday’s post), the Gator Nation was making plenty of headlines on it as well. From breathtaking moments, game-changing and game-winning plays to winning championships and setting world records, Florida accomplished some unique athletic feats in 2012. Below are OGGOA‘s Top 12 On the Field Moments of the Year.

If there was a theme to Gators athletics in the spring it was Florida teams falling short of their goals. In addition to men’s indoor track & field, women’s outdoor track & field and men’s swimming & diving all just coming up just short of winning major titles, basketball, baseball, gymnastics, lacrosse and softball all gave valiant efforts but faced immense disappointment in the end. It all started with the Gators basketball team, which advanced to the Elite Eight for the second-straight year and once again choked away a late lead and failed to advance to the Final Four. Up 11 points with 8:14 left in the game, Florida was outscored 18-3 down the stretch by Louisville, which held on for the 72-68 victory. The Gators hit just 1-of-12 shots over the final 8:14 while also going 1-for-4 from the charity stripe down the stretch and 0-for-9 from downtown over the final 20 minutes. Gymnastics did just about everything it could during the 2012 NCAA Super Six in late April but came just short of earning the first national title in program history, falling 197.850-197.775 to Alabama and losing by 0.075 points. Next up was softball, which looked primed to return to the championship game of the 2012 Women’s College World Series for the third time in the last four years. Instead, Florida got upended 10-1 by eventual national champion Alabama in the finals of the 2012 SEC Tournament and was eliminated in the Gainesville Regional portion of the 2012 NCAA Tournament due in part to suspensions levied against three key players. It was the first time since 2006 that UF did not at least advance to the Super Regional. A controversial finish led to another tough loss for lacrosse (see No. 9), leaving one sport to provide the ultimate disappointment to Gators fans in 2012.

Perhaps most heartbreaking for Gators fans was seeing a baseball team that was the national title favorite from the very start of the season fall fast and finish the campaign without a single title. Cruising along in the SEC Tournament with a one-run lead and three outs to go in the championship game, Florida baseball collapsed against Vanderbilt, allowing its opponents to score five runs on five hits in the top of the ninth and hold on for the title. Junior closer Austin Maddox imploded after coming on to get the final three outs, giving up a lead-off double to right and eventually allowing Vandy to tie the game after a sacrifice bunt, hit batter and suicide squeeze. It only got worse from there. The Commodores accomplished a double steal, hit an infield single, loaded the bases (intentional walk, double steal, intentional walk) and then pulled off a triple steal to score their third run of the inning. A two-run single put the nail in the coffin as the Gators allowed more stolen bases in a single frame (seven) than had ever been given up in an entire SEC Tournament game in the history of the event. With horrible memories of the SEC Tournament behind them and the NCAA Tournament upcoming, Florida hoped to use the experience to improve as a team. The Gators did advance to the College World Series but were swept right out of it with consecutive losses. Florida fell 7-3 to South Carolina in its first game before allowing an unranked Kent State team to register a 5-4 upset victory in the second game. The Gators coughed up four unearned runs, committed two errors and failed to plate runs despite having numerous opportunities to hit with runners in scoring position. With so much talent on the roster and a track record of success – the team got to the championship series just one year earlier – Florida baseball legitimately blew a great national title chance.

[Read: The Silver Lining – “Failure” is not a dirty word]


For the first time in school history, the Gators swept the Seminoles in football, basketball and baseball (5-0) in a calendar year. Florida State having a historically successful baseball team has stood in the way of Florida’s ability to accomplish this feat in the past, but Gators baseball completed its first regular-season sweep of the Seminoles since 1958 by earning a 9-2 victory in Gainesville, FL, 4-1 victory in Jacksonville, FL and a 6-3 win on the road in Tallahassee, FL. Florida football bounced back from consecutive losses to FSU with a 37-26 beat down in Tallahassee, and UF basketball matched the football team’s intensity with a 72-47 rout on the road.

Continue Reading » Top 12 for 2012: On the Field Moments of the Year

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Gators on SI’s most memorable moments of 2012

Sports Illustrated on Friday released “The 112 of ’12,” a list of its best sports moments, memes and memories of 2012. Four spots on the list have at least some connection to the Florida Gators. clicking here.

OGGOA will be releasing our annual “Top 12 for 2012” lists on Dec. 30 and 31.

Tim Tebow had an uncanny knack for lifting Denver to unexpected late victories over the course of the 2011 season. ‘Tebow Time’ hit its head-scratching crescendo in the playoffs. In his first postseason start, Tebow threw for a career-high 316 yards to lead the Broncos to an implausible 29-23 overtime win over Pittsburgh on Jan. 8 in the AFC wild-card round. After blowing a late 10-point lead, the Broncos won on the first play of OT when Tebow hit Demaryius Thomas for an 80-yard score. It was the shortest overtime game in NFL history (11 seconds).”

“It seemed unlikely the Olympic women’s soccer tournament would replicate the excitement of the 2011 World Cup. But the U.S. women made it a gold-medal run to remember. In the semifinals, aided by a controversial, rarely enforced six-second call on Canada’s goalkeeper, the Americans outlasted the Canadians 4-3 in one of the greatest matches in Olympic history. The U.S. rallied from 2-1 and 3-2 deficits in the second half to force extra time. Then Alex Morgan scored on a header in the waning seconds of added time to send the U.S. to the gold medal match, a 2011 World Cup final rematch with Japan. The U.S. exacted revenge, winning 2-1 for its third straight Olympic gold.”

“Say this for Florida football coach Will Muschamp: He’s not afraid to express his emotions. They don’t call him “Coach Boom” for nothing. His facial expressions — starting with the intense death stare on his first Florida promotional poster — are a sight to behold. From the referees to his own players, it’s never a good idea to be on Muschamp’s bad side. But for the Gators, it’s working. After a disappointing 7-6 record in his first season in Gainesville, Muschamp has completely reshaped the 11-1 Gators in his own image: a tough, defensive-minded group that climbed to No. 3 in the final BCS standings and nearly found its way into the national title game.”

“This fact is indisputable: Will Grier, a junior quarterback for Davidson Day School in North Carolina, had the greatest passing day in high school football history in November when he threw for a ridiculous 837 yards and 10 touchdowns in a 104-80 playoff victory over Harrells Christian Academy. But his numbers won’t be recognized by the National High School Sports Record Book because of a confusing technicality, as Raleigh’s News and Observer explains. The recognized national record is 764 yards by David Koral in 2000. Either way, Grier was a top target of some of the nation’s premier college programs: the four-star 2014 recruit committed to Florida on Dec. 19.”

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11 Gator Bites for Thursday, December 20

From time to time, OGGOA will come across a plethora of news and notes that we wish to share – too much to fit into one of our truncated BITS segments. In these instances, or when stories fall through the cracks, we catch and wrap them all up with Gator Bites.

» The New York Jets finally decided to bench quarterback Mark Sanchez after a five-turnover performance on Monday night. Despite the fact that Tim Tebow had been Sanchez’s back-up all season long, the team decided to promote third-stringer Greg McElroy to starter, leapfrogging Tebow and breaking a promise the team made to him when they traded for him in the offseason. When Denver was shopping Tebow and had equal offers from New York and Jacksonville, the player evaluated the situation to determine which would be his best destination. Sources close to the player told me at the time that Tebow chose the Jets for two reasons. New York told him that they would utilize him in a number of roles right away and that he would also get a legitimate chance to start for the Jets should Sanchez either be injured or benched. While the team did put him in occasionally as Wildcat quarterback and as a punt protector, he was barely used in the offense and never correctly. He was inactive the first time New York replaced Sanchez during a game and has now been jumped over by McElroy for the starting job this week.

» Sports Illustrated’s Peter King summed up the situation well Wednesday on Twitter: “I think what happened w/ Jets is they saw Tebow have some bad practices, then he wasn’t electric on early touches, and they gave up on him.” Putting it another way was ESPN’s Ed Werder, who tweeted: “Jets traded 2 draft choices, paid Broncos part of Tebow’s signing bonus, ignored Bronco performances, never gave him chance” With all of that being true,’s Ian O’Connor went off on the franchise in his latest column. “The Jets used Tebow, and then abused him,” he wrote. “They used him to sell tickets and PSLs and steal a few more headlines from the local big-boy franchise that had just won another Super Bowl title. They abused him Tuesday by declaring that a seventh-round pick who has been inactive for 13 out of 14 games gives the Jets a better chance to do something they fail to do: win.” O’Connor also looked to Tebow’s record, noting that he was 8-4 last season before falling to New England in the playoffs and is 9-7 in 16 career starts, which included three with an interim coach and did not include last year’s victory in Miami when he came in for Kyle Orton. “How is he less qualified to face San Diego than McElroy, who has one moderately successful relief appearance behind him and who has eternal backup written all over him?”

Check out NINE more Gator Bites…after the break!
Continue Reading » 11 Gator Bites for Thursday, December 20

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Ryan Lochte sets new world record in 100M I.M., his second record in as many days

Olympic champion and former Florida Gators swimmer Ryan Lochte set his second world record in as many days on Saturday at the 2012 FINA World Swimming Championships in Istanbul, Turkey.

Lochte, already the owner of the short course world records in the 400 Meter Individual Medley and 200 Meter Individual Medley, set a new world record in the 100 Meter Individual Medley on Saturday by swimming the race in a blazing 50.71 seconds.

He now owns all three short course I.M. world records and has strengthened his hold as the best short-course swimmer alive and perhaps the best in the history of the sport.

Lochte became the first athlete to swim the 200M I.M. in under 1:50 when he set a new world record on Friday with a time of 1:49.63 in the event’s finals.

He now holds five world records. Lochte is also the record holder in the 200M I.M. (long course) and is part of an American team that owns the world record in the 4×200 Meter Freestyle Relay (long course).

This past summer, Lochte brought home two golds, two silvers and a bronze at the 2012 London Olympics. He has corralled five Olympic gold medals and 30 World Championship gold medals (12 long course, 18 short course) and is the odds-on favorite to win gold in the 200M I.M. final on Sunday.

In 2012 alone, Lochte has set two world records and won six gold medals including two in the Olympics and four (so far) in these World Championships.

Photo Credit: USA Swimming

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Ryan Lochte sets new world record in 200M I.M.

Ryan Lochte is one of a number of former Florida Gators swimmers competing at the 2012 FINA World Swimming Championships in Istanbul, Turkey, but as of press time on Friday he is the only one of them to set a brand new world record at the event.

Lochte, already owner of both the long course and short course world record for the 200 Meter Individual Medley, bested his own time in the short course version of the event, swimming the race in a blazing 1:49.63 on Friday.

Previously setting the record two years ago at the same event in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Lochte shaved 0.45 seconds off his time and became the first athlete in the history of the sport to swim the 200M I.M. in under 1:50.

Lochte holds four world records. He also has the men’s record in the 400 Meter Individual Medley (short course) and is part of an American team that holds the world record in the 4×200 Meter Freestyle Relay (long course).

Many in the aquatic world believe Lochte to be the best short-course swimmer in the history of the sport due to his dominance of the individual medley events. His latest world record time will only further those strongly-held opinions.

This past summer, Lochte brought home two golds, two silvers and a bronze at the 2012 London Olympics. He now holds five Olympic gold medals and 30 World Championship gold medals (12 long course, 18 short course).

In 2012 alone, Lochte has won six gold medals including two in the Olympics and four in these World Championships.

Photo Credit: USA Swimming

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FOUR BITS: O’Dome, NFL Draft, Beal, Lochte

1 » University of Florida trustees on Friday approved a $10 million contribution as part of a $50 million renovation for the Stephen C. O’Connell Center. According to The Gainesville Sun’s Nathan Crabbe, who spoke with trustee Steven Scott, it will take 2-3 years to raise the remaining $40 million, so the O’Dome will not be looking much different any time soon. Eventually, the arena will feature an updated entrance; new seating areas including a permanent, non-retractable lower level, club seats and boxes; and additional concession stands and team shops. Florida will also improve the audio-visual elements inside the arena. The school just completed a $900,000 renovation on the structure in the summer of 2011 that included brand new seats in the lower bowl, wider aisles, handrails and more. UF also recently remodeled the gymnastics studio on site at the O’Dome. Read more | Pictures

2 » The 2013 NFL Draft is fast approaching and no Florida Gators player is generating more buzz right now than junior defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd. On the heels of a fantastic junior campaign in which he started every game at his natural position, Floyd is unanimously considered a first-round pick in the draft. In fact, ESPN’s Todd McShay projected him as the No. 29 pick in his first mock draft ($) and Mel Kiper, Jr. lists him as the No. 23 overall player on his Big Board ($); both lists were released Wednesday. “Floyd’s versatility to play inside or kick outside to end makes him a great fit,” McShay wrote. “He can anchor against the run, chases plays all over the field and had a monster 2012 season.”

3 » The No. 3 overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft, guard Bradley Beal came one decision away from never suiting up for the Washington Wizards. According to The Washington Post, the Wizards turned down a trade proposed by the Oklahoma City Thunder over the summer in which the team was looking to trade James Harden for Beal and forward Chris Singleton. Oklahoma City, which had been infatuated with Beal throughout the draft process and was rumored to be looking to trade up into the top three selections in order to pick him, wound up trading Harden to Houston after Washington rebuffed its advances.

4 » Former Gators swimmer and five-time Olympic gold medalist Ryan Lochte won a pair of gold medals on the first day of the FINA World Swimming Championships (short-course) in Istanbul, Turkey on Wednesday. Lochte took the 200 Meter Freestyle in 1:41.92 and was part of the 4×100 Freestyle Relay team that won gold in 3:06.40. The last short-course world championships were held in Dubai, United Arab Emirates in 2010; Lochte won six gold medals including five in individual events. Fellow former Florida swimmers Conor Dwyer and Jemma Lowe also captured individual bronze medals on day one of the event.

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RB Jeff Demps: “I tried to do the best that I could.”

A dual-sport star and the only man or woman in the history of the Florida Gators athletic program to win national championships in two sports (football, track & field), Jeff Demps is one of the most accomplished athletes to come out of the University of Florida and has only added to his resume this past year.

As a football player, Demps played running back and took 367 carries for 2,470 yards (6.73 yards per carry) while registering 23 touchdowns over four seasons. He also had a 99-yard kick return touchdown in his senior season against Georgia. Demps started the 2009 BCS National Championship as a freshman and won both a national title and Southeastern Conference title as part of the football program.

As a track star, he was a five-time All-American who won four individual national championships, five individual SEC championships and was part of a men’s track program that dominated both national and conference meets, winning multiple titles in both indoor and outdoor competitions.

Demps decided to concentrate on track after college and participated in the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team Trials. He fell short of qualifying for the 2012 London Olympics but earned a spot as an injury replacement and brought home a silver medal.

After returning to the United States, he signed a three-year deal with the New England Patriots as an undrafted free agent but missed the entire season with a leg injury. Demps is expected to play his rookie season in 2013.

He has spent the last few months working as an ambassador for the Special Olympics and sat down with OGGOA recently for a wide-ranging interview.

ADAM SILVERSTEIN: Let’s jump back to the beginning and start with your recruitment. I remember a lot of people always thought you would end up at Florida but what was it in the end that made you decide to go to UF over Tennessee?
JEFF DEMPS: “Florida just felt like home. I didn’t really want to go too far from home. Tennessee came down to recruit me, and I liked what they were talking about, but at the end of the day I knew I was always going to end up at Florida.”

AS: You got into the mix right away, scoring in the SEC Championship and starting at running back in the national title game. What was it like being a freshman and getting thrown into the lineup on a team that was having so much success?
JD: “It was fun. I knew coming in that, if I worked hard enough and learned the plays, I would have some kind of role on the offense as a freshman. That’s what I did and I was able to do those things like start in the championship and score in the SEC Championship and things like that.”

AS: Your sophomore season was something special as the Gators were looking to win back-to-back titles. How much pressure would you say the team felt each game to live up to the hype and deliver on winning another championship?
JD: “We had a lot of pressure. We were coming back and expected to win the championship. I’d say everybody wanted to see us hold up to the standard. We knew each team was going to bring their ‘A’ game and play us like we were the most important opponent on their schedule. It was really tough.”

Read the rest of OGGOA’s exclusive interview with Jeff Demps…after the break!
Continue Reading » RB Jeff Demps: “I tried to do the best that I could.”

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