Thursday, January 29, 2009

B.J. Penn and Hawaii athletics

The past year or so has been a hallmark time for Hawaii athletics. Just over a year ago, the University of Hawaii’s football team completed an undefeated regular season, making it to a BCS bowl, where although they did not fare well, still made Hawaii proud given their recruiting budget is literally a small fraction of even below average NCAA Division 1 teams. The isolated state with only 1.2 million residents produced six Olympic medalists who were born and/or raised in Hawaii – Bryan Clay (gold in the decathlon), Natasha Kanani Kai (gold in soccer), Clay Iona Stanley (gold in indoor volleyball), Robyn Mokihana Ah Mow and Lindsey Napela Berg (silver in indoor volleyball), and Brandon Scott Brooks (silver in water polo). And this coming Sunday, two former high school teammates will face off in the Super Bowl, as Steelers left guard Chris Kemoeatu and Cardinals safety Aaron Francisco, strap it up for one of the world’s most grand sporting events.

But what concerns us is the mega-match, three nights from now, when “The Prodigy” Baby Jay (B.J.) Penn will square off with the man who many consider to be the best pure athlete in MMA – Georges “Rush” St-Pierre. What differentiates Penn from the previously mentioned athletes is that they had to leave Hawaii to further their athletic greatness. In all fairness, they didn’t have a choice. The best training facilities, their teams, and potential training partners simply are not in Hawaii. But B.J. Penn and his family made a distinct effort to root their athletic foundation in Hawaii and cement Penn’s iconic status across the modern Hawaiian archipelago.

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