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East Enders Past and Present Going for Olympic Gold

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amanda

By Claire Walla

You’re standing at the top of a three-tiered podium, wearing a tri-colored tracksuit, holding a bouquet of flowers with one arm and waving to a deafening crowd of ecstatic people with the other. Finally, the moment you’ve been waiting for: you bend at the waist and a thick ribbon attached to a bright, shiny medallion is placed around your neck.

You’ve won the gold!

For most of us, this dream is confined to our inner-thoughts and the screens of our television sets. But for a select group of athletes, the hope of attaining Olympic gold is a dream that’s well within reach.

So, what separates the enthusiasts from the elites? We at The Express looked no further than our own backyard to find out.

“When I was qualifying, I thought about two words: London 2012,” explained sailor Amanda Clark, 29, a Shelter Island native who will be competing in this summer’s London Olympic Games for the second time as part of Team U.S.A.

Clark’s first Olympic appearance was at the 2008 games in Beijing, where she and teammate Sarah Mergenthaler Chin placed 12th overall.

“At that point it had been about eight years of Olympic campaigning,” Clark said. “So just qualifying [for the games] was special in itself.”

This year, after she and Mergenthaler Chin went their separate ways, Clark quickly teamed up with Floridian Sarah Lihan and went on to beat the favored U.S. team, once again finishing first in the U.S. Olympic trials—this time with a tie-breaking win.

As you might expect, Clark said her love of sailing began at a young age. She learned how to sail at 5, joined the junior program at Shelter Island Yacht Club when she was 7, and by age 15 she became the youngest female sailor to qualify for the U.S. Olympic trials.

Ever since she was a “tween,” Clark said, sailing has been her life.

“It has really been intense for quite some time,” Clark said. “I spent long hours on the water as a kid. And now, we might spend less time on the water, but all the planning, traveling, training… it really has been a full-time job.”

This, according to Sag Harbor resident Lester Ware, is a big part of the equation.

“You’ve gotta have a fanatical work ethic,” explained Ware, who is also owns and operates Personal Best Fitness in Bridgehampton. “You gotta be able to just get up in the middle of the night sometimes and go for a run—because you’re worried, What’s that other guy doing?”

Ware knows from personal experience what it’s like to be in the thick of serious training. He won several international titles and, in 1984, he even qualified to be an alternate for the summer games in Los Angeles.

As a high school student in Southampton, Ware said once he got the wrestling bug he did whatever it took to make it to the top. When his father wasn’t able to drive him, Ware took the train or he hitched a ride to Nassau Community College for wrestling practice three times a week.

And when his college wrestling career came to a close, he took two years to train for the Olympic games, working out in the morning and then proceeding to lead three different practices before his day finally came to a close.

“To get to that level, you have to give yourself over to it,” Ware said of his training. “You have to completely surrender to it.”

It’s a concept 16-year-old Wainscott resident Brittni Svanberg knows well.

While she may not indulge in spontaneous nocturnal sprints (yet), Svanberg knows what it’s like to dedicate inordinate amounts of time to sport. The East Hampton High School sophomore and regional ice-skating champ is training to qualify for the U.S. Nationals competition this year, and has her sights set on the 2018 Olympic Games.

Her training includes waking up every Saturday morning at 4 a.m. for the one-hour drive to The Rinx skating rink in Happaugue, where she laces up and practices her triple jumps.

As an athlete whose sport is not accommodated here on the East End—the only local rink, at Buckskill in East Hampton, is only open seasonally—Svanberg said she makes this commute five times a week. And when she has access to the local rink, she doubles up on her practice time.

“It’s definitely hard to balance it with school,” she admitted. Svanberg also has does about six hours of training off-the-ice each week: “jumping, strengthening, stretching, plyometrics… a lot of core training!” she exclaimed. “I’m definitely willing to work for everything, but, yeah, when I started I didn’t know exactly all the commitment it would take.”

She said the road to gold is not easy, but that’s never stopped her. “I really like skating,” she continued. “So, it’s easy to keep going.”

Now that the 2012 Summer Olympic Games are only a few months away, Clark and her partner and completing their last round of training in Spain. At this point—with years of work-outs, fundraising and qualifying races under her belt—Clark said she and Lihan are focusing more on the mental aspects of competition.

This, according to Lester Ware, is exactly what separates athletes from Olympians.

“It’s much more in the mind than it is in the body,” he said. “It’s all about believing, or rather, not believing you have limits—I never had limits.”

Clark said she and her teammate work with a sports psychologist, and frequently run through meditation and visualization routines.

“As in every sport, everybody’s pushing to be the best they can be,” she continued. “For us right now, there are so many teams that are in this to win medals. And we’re actually a team that, if we start to sail closer to our full potential, we’re going to be the team that people look at and say, ‘Ahhh… How did they do that?!’”

Plants, Animals Signify The Winter that Wasn’t

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purple-crocus

By Claire Walla


Is that? It can’t be… a purple crocus? In the middle of winter?!

Yes, it’s barely March, and June, it seems, is already bustin’ out all over.

According to Dee Yardley, Sag Harbor Village Superintendent of Public Works, the lack of snow and ice means the village is already shifting gears.

Rather than bringing out the snow plow, village crews are clipping branches and clearing leaves and debris from village roadways. And as far as he can tell, the weather still looks good at least through next week.

“We’re going to be ahead of schedule big time,” he noted.

The horticultural world is seeing a similar change of pace.

“I’ve been gardening all year long!” said Bridgehampton resident Paige Patterson, an avid gardener and garden consultant at Marder’s Nursery. “My garlic is up, so is my hellebore, and the daffodils are already six inches [tall],” she explained. Patterson went on to say she has two flowering trees in her yard, including a flowering Japanese apricot, which is already in bloom. “I have the most spectacular pink trees!”

Still, she added, “The most impressive thing is that my rose bush has new leaves on it… that’s crazy.”

She said rose bushes typically don’t sprout leaves until well into March, and hers had foliage in February.

According to Patterson, mild weather patterns will lead to a “gorgeous” spring — that is, if a cold snap doesn’t get in the way.

If a freak cold spell hits the East End while plants are starting to bud, Patterson said the blooms will get killed off. While most species of flower will regenerate and work toward re-blooming later in the season, she said the situation is not so sunny for hydrangeas.

The white, soft-serve-ice-cream-shaped Hydrangea Paniculata, will be able to weather the storm, but “Most hydrangeas only have one set of buds,” she explained, like the Nikko Blues that pepper the East End in the summer months.

“They set their flower buds in early August,” Patterson began. “The problem we first had was that [Tropical Storm Irene] defoliated everything. The salt air got on everything and all the leaves browned. So, most of the 2012 buds actually opened in 2011. The ones that didn’t are opening now.”

Because these flowers do not regenerate growth as readily as other flowers, Patterson said any freezing cold weather at this point could potentially kill-off the blue Nikko Hydrangeas for the season.

As for the climate we’ll be privy to in the spring, that much remains to be seen. What Patterson, and others, are already predicting with some degree of certainty, however, concerns another aspect of gardening: pests.

“I think we’re going to have a really bad bug year,” Patterson added. “I’m really stressed about that.”

According to Geoffrey Nimmer of East End Garden Design, the relatively warm weather combined with the lack of moisture we’ve experienced this year combine to create a recipe not only for more bugs, but for fungi.

“Fungi that lives in the ground and affects roses and some flowering trees are usually kept at least somewhat in check by a good hard freeze,” Nimmer wrote in an email. “I think it will be particularly hard on turf, both because of the fungus issue and because there will be more grubs closer to the roots of lawns earlier in the season.”

According to the circle of life, Nimmer continued, grubs mean moles and moles very often bring voles. And neither vermin happen to be good for vegetation.

And unfortunately, as many of us know, certain warm-weather pests are not restricted to the gardening arena.

Former East Hampton Town Natural Resources Director Larry Penny, who lives in Noyac, said this year’s weather conditions could have created a big year for everyone’s favorite summertime arachnid: the tick.

“Just last Wednesday I got an adult female deer tick on me,” Penny said. “That’s the earliest I’ve ever seen them in winter.”

In the vein of springtime annoyances, Sag Harbor resident Lester Ware said he’s already started taking allergy medicine, a spring-time routine he began this year mid-February.

“It’s as early as I’ve ever taken it,” he exclaimed, saying he usually begins taking meds late-March.

According to Dr. Richard Nass — an ear, nose and throat doctor with offices in Amagansett — these early sneezes may not have a direct correlation to pollen count, at least not yet. He said biometric pressure changes that occur when the seasons shift initially cause nose and throat membranes to get agitated.

However, he added, this may just be the beginnings of more successive sneezes.

“In the long term, it’s been a wet season, so the root systems of plants have done very well,” he continued. So, in that sense, “we would expect it to be a bad allergy season.”

For his part, Penny has seen a lot of seasons come and go, and this one, he noted, is very odd indeed.

“This is the most unusual winter I’ve experienced in 76 years,” said Penny, referencing influential paleontologist George Gaylord Simpson who coined a theory he referred to as “sweepstakes,” which deals with random moments in evolution.

As Penny explained it, “Things come and go according to the season, but there’s always the chance that something unusual will happen to change the whole direction of evolution and nature.”

This year, reproductive rates are already up, Penny added, and with such warm weather fostering many throughout the winter, he said many species might grow even more.

“One group that’s going to really go sky high is the turkeys, they’re all over the place.” Penny continued. “And because the numbers are so high to begin with, when they get a little extra food from [more] vegetation and insects they’ll go hog wild.”

He predicted that the East End could be in the midst of a so-called “sweepstakes.”

Although, he said, cold weather would throw a wrench in the spokes. And, you never know, it could very well snow in June.