Monday, August 13, 2012

I Am So Sad. Winter Olympics, Please Come Quickly!

The Main Blurb

Blahblah Closing Ceremony blahblah basketball game blahblah DID YOU SEE THAT VOLLEYBALL GOLD MEDAL MATCH? I really hope you didn’t just tune in for the basketball game and then delete the rest of the recording. Because that was a brilliant gold medal volleyball match played by the Russians.

To get you up to speed, the Russian men’s team was playing Brazil in the match. Brazil, whose women’s team had already won gold the day before, quickly went up two sets to none. As a matter of fact, Brazil had Gold Medal Match Point twice! But the Russians wouldn’t quit. Their coach changed up all of their positions, and the Brazilians weren’t prepared for that.

Russia made it a late set, but won the third set. Now they were down two sets to one. Brazil just had to win the fourth set and they’d be champions. Did they do it? No! They lost the fourth set! Giant player Dmitriy Muserskiy – who could be the younger brother of Noah Emmerich – was crushing the ball, and the one-named Brazilians (one of which – Murilo – is a cross between Alan Tudyk and Josh Hutcherson) couldn’t handle it.

The fifth set is a shorter set – they only play to 15. And even then, the Brazilians were crushed. They couldn’t do anything. The Russians – who had already come back from match point in round-robin play against the Americans to win – knew how to play the match, and they conquered. I was really in awe of that match – it was probably the best volleyball I saw all Olympics!

Mini Blurbs
I did watch the entire US-Spain basketball game, and at the end I really didn’t know who was going to win it! I fully believe that the US may not win the gold medal next time around.

I also watched the entire marathon. I was disappointed that Mebrahtom Keflezighi, who had been a silver medalist in 2004 for the US, placed in a distant fourth place. The other two Americans dropped out. Don’t they condition themselves to run in those conditions? They’re marathoners, aren’t they? I could have ran the marathon and dropped out after a few miles!

I got to see some team rhythmic gymnastics, and there were some high flying equipment going around! One of the teams laid out the three ribbons, put them through a hoop, and the gymnast kicked the hoop into the air, causing the three ribbons to fly up…into the hands of the three gymnasts who knew exactly where the ends were going to land! Unbelievable!

Instead of Where’s Kobe? The past couple of days it’s been Where’s Becks? On Friday David Beckham was spotted watching BMX, and on Saturday he was at the Olympic Stadium for the men’s 5000m and at the Aquatics Centre for diving. And in other celebrity news, Arnold Schwarzenegger was at the gold medal baskeball game today. Why? Beats me!

Small side note: I purchased the Opening Ceremony music on iTunes, and the entire second disc is the music that was played when the athletes marched into the stadium that night. It’s 1 hour and 20 minutes of awesome remixed music. I could see myself walking into the Olympic Stadium with that kind of music. Usually I am turned off to that kind of music (“club” music), but I like this mix. I think you should check it out! If I ever need to pull an all-nighter (kind of what I’m doing right now trying to finish this blog!), I will put on that disc to keep me awake. And it will make me think of the Olympics, which is always great.

I did enjoy the Closing Ceremonies this evening. There was lots of variety, and I liked all the British music they chose. The Brazilian contingency was a little odd, but it always is a little jarring to have a bright culture like that thrust upon you after two weeks of Brit culture. I remember feeling that way during the Closing Ceremony in Beijing. When the Brits did their little thing, it was a culture-180 in a very short amount of time.

Did you know Prince Harry’s formal title is HRH Prince Henry of Wales? Because I sure didn’t! It was cool to see him as the leading royal figure in the Closing Ceremony. But I’ve always been a Prince Harry kind of gal, so...

And how about Boris Johnson? The London mayor was caught by the camera really boogieing to The Spice Girls during the Closing Ceremony. He’s quite a character, that one. (To be fair, who wasn't boogieing to The Spice Girls? The girl group of my grade school years!)

So the Olympic Anthem was sung once again, and the Olympic flag was taken down. That always chokes me up. But then they had to play “The John Dunbar Theme” from Dances with Wolves as the flame was extinguished. And I was a royal mess, because that single trumpet melody gets to me anyway, and in these special circumstances I was a goner. Ugh, it’s always so sad to see that flame go out. Britain chose to use a phoenix and ballerinas and precede the actual dousing of the torch with large fanfare. Personally, my favorite extinguishing of the flame was in 2010, when all they did was have Neil Young sing “Long May You Run” with his guitar and his harmonica and the flame just went out. Very simple, and very effective. Though this was effective, too. I was crying, so whatever they did worked.

Of course, then NBC had to ruin my tear-fest and barely had Bob Costas wrap things up before launching into one of their terrible new shows, “Animal Practice.” I wasn’t expecting that, so I never got to see The Who perform (one of my favorite bands) and see the actual ending of the Olympics. And way long ago I remember NBC doing some really great closing montages to the song “Titans Spirit” from Remember the Titans. But nothing here! They blew it AGAIN – I remember complaining in 2010 when they did the same thing. Don’t they ever learn?

I really hope that NBC can brush up its coverage and show a more worldly coverage next time around. They are so American-driven most of the time that we miss out on so much. If you can, watch BBC or Canadian television for your Olympics. I wish that I could.

Summer Blurb: The End

And just like that, two weeks have ended. The hype is done – now we celebrate the athletes that actually came out and won their events.

Can you believe we just spent two whole weeks talking completely about sports? I pretty much ignored every other news story going on and maintained my blissful ignorance. Sports is really the glue that keeps us all together. It brings in nations from every corner of the world, and for a brief moment we can set aside our political and cultural differences and just play sports together.  Sports! Occasionally revered way too much, but sometimes just the right thing to set us all back in our place.

As a matter of fact, the Olympics have really soured me on a few things here in the States. Take football, for example. Every year the football hype train comes earlier and earlier. I can’t find any magazines that talk about the Olympics, but I can find fifteen fantasy football magazines. Not just football magazines – FANTASY football magazines! Preseason games that get ratings equal to that of normal games. Media covering football camp like it’s the Super Bowl. (I’m talking about you, ESPN.) Every busted thumb gets fifteen minutes in Sportscenter. Can’t we wait for the real season to start before we all start freaking out? It’s probably the Olympics-buzz in me, but I am really sick of it.

So as I turn from gleeful Olympics lover to pessimist American sports hater, I guess that means I need to step back and take a break for a little bit. I need to get my bearings again, so I can return to normal American sports and not feel so lethargic about them. But I can strive to keep the good Olympics buzz going, because the Winter Olympics are only 18 months away!!

The Winter Blurb: Countdown to Sochi 2014

Can you believe it? In a year-and-a-half, we can return to this Blurb page and get our daily fix of the Olympics again! NBC already was talking about it today, and for once I was excited that they were! Think about it: figure skating, hockey, skiing, curling, and twelve – yes, twelve! – new events! Snowboarding and extreme skiing are adding new events, which can only be a good thing! Plus, SCOTT HAMILTON!!! Because let’s face it: Rowdy Gaines and Tim Daggett are just Scott Hamilton wannabes.

Put it on your calendar, folks: The Blurb will reconvene on Friday, February 7, 2014 to celebrate the opening of the Winter Olympics! Only 542 days, 19 hours, 41 minutes, and 44 seconds!!!

Thank you so much for reading the past couple of weeks. I have gotten so much traffic from my Olympics posts, and hopefully I can keep posting weekly so you can come back for a different perspective on sports... and other stuff!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

A Diving Final that Deserved its Primetime Spot

The Main Blurb
Diving is Chinese. The Chinese are diving. When you watch diving, you hear about the latest Chinese phenom. And more than likely, that Chinese phenom takes the gold medal. There are eight diving events. In Beijing, the Chinese delegation won seven of those golds. The only non-Chinese gold was won by Australian Matt Mitcham in the men’s 10m platform, the Olympics’ final diving event.

This Olympics was slightly different. The Chinese dominated in the golds again, but before the 10m platform, another non-Chinese Olympian took gold. Ilya Zakharov of Russia won the men’s 3m springboard with a huge amount of difficult dives.

And – finally! – in the diving Olympics, the divers to watch in the 10m platform were not Chinese. Well, there was one Chinese diver in contention – Qin Bo. But the other two divers in the spotlight – Great Britain’s Tom Daley and USA’s David Boudia – were able to step up and make this final the most exciting final in diving that I’d seen.

As I mentioned yesterday, diving was usually the opening hour of NBC’s primetime coverage. I don’t really know why; it usually had the same result: we’d watch the Americans do decent dives, miss the final or place low in the rankings, and see a Chinese person take the gold. I felt that there were so many other events that they could have shown in that first hour instead of diving. Do that many people in America care that much about diving? Is it like the gymnastics of water events that I just don’t know about?

I was glad to see that tonight’s diving event actually was interesting. Entering the final round of dives, the top three divers (who I’ve already mentioned) were only separated by less than two tenths of a point. Scoring in diving almost seems as confusing as scoring in the decathlon, but I trusted the judges tonight that they knew how to do it.

Tom Daley came first. Tom Daley, Team GB’s sweetheart. He was in the lead entering the sixth round. But because his dive had a lesser degree of difficulty, his score would total less than Qin’s or Boudia’s dive totals.

Boudia came next. He was favored to be the States’ greatest bet for a medal in diving (before the Americans took silver in women’s synchro springboard and bronze in men’s synchro springboard), and the fact that he was diving so well this evening was just Boudia living up to the expectations. His final dive was superb.

Qin Bo was last, with a lot to live up to. He needed to have the perfect dive in order to win the gold. Unfortunately for him, his dive came up just short. He passed Daley but couldn’t beat Boudia, who took the first diving gold for the States since 2000 and the first in the men’s platform since 1988! The top three divers were separated by three tenths of a point. Incredible.

I’m really hoping that American diving can improve just as much as in all the diving events and challenge the Chinese in every event. We did pretty well this time around (especially tonight), and hopefully we can carry the success onward to 2016.

Speaking of improvements…

The Blurb’s Presentations of American Athletes that Need to Step Up Next Time Around (TBPAANSUNTA, for short)
-          All men’s team events. This includes water polo, volleyball, beach volleyball, and why don’t we throw in handball and field hockey, too. Hopefully the basketball team will deliver tomorrow.

-          Men’s gymnastics, which could technically be included as a team event. But they do compete individually too. I’m especially looking for improvements in the rings and parallel bars (which no American male qualified in their event finals) and the POMMEL HORSE. Never have I seen such shoddy pommeling before!

-          Women’s volleyball. Now, I know that they got a medal, but it was another silver after letting a one-set lead slip away tonight against Brazil. It’s going to be even tougher next time, because the Olympics are in Brazil.

-          Boxing. One gold medal? Really?

-          Men’s 400 meter running. I’ve explained this one already.

-          All distance running – especially the ladies. (They’ve got the sprinting thing down.)

-          Chevy Malibu commercials (not athletes, but “That’s hippy talk!” is really getting on my nerves)

-          Lesser-Known-In-America events, like table tennis and badminton. And I really think we can train them really well here!

-          Throwing field events, like javelin and hammer throw and discus and shot put.

-          Synchronized Swimming and Rhythmic Gymnastics…maybe we’ll just concede those.

-          BMX! For a country that hosts the X Games and seems to have lots of teenagers on tiny bikes, we should really make a better appearance at this than what we did.

Mini Blurbs
Where was Kobe Bryant today? Well, first he was being interviewed by Ryan Seacrest – apparently there were others besides me that realized how many events he had attended as a spectator. And he gave a great interview about it. He was curious about how other athletes prepare for their events, and he was honored to be present at so many American victories, because he knew they were all a team together as Team USA and they were all bringing their best forward to honor their country. (Well said, sir. Please tell that to Mark Cuban.) Then he was watching the US ladies beat France in basketball. (They made it close at the half, but pulled away to win by 36.)

Alyson Felix is incredible. One DAY after winning gold in the women’s 4x100m relay, she ran in the 4x400m relay and helped them win gold! Outstanding!

I watched mountain cycling today and assumed it was new to the Olympics, because I hadn’t heard of it before. But apparently it’s been contested since 1996! Biking on stones? Too much for me.

This was the first night I really noticed the Olympic mascot out on the track. Apparently he’s been pretty visible, but I saw him cheering on the 5000m runners near the long jump pit.

Czech Republic Gold Medal Watch: Another one today! David Svoboda took gold in the modern pentathlon, which consists of fencing, swimming, showjumping, running, and shooting. (It’s celebrating its 100th anniversary in the Olympic games, created by the founder of the modern Olympics, Pierre de Coubertin.)

Today’s roundup is a little wonky, since I was catching up on a few events from yesterday as well: synchronized swimming, rhythmic gymnastics, wrestling, canoe, kayak, running events, javelin, high jump, hammer throw, BMX, mountain cycling, diving, volleyball, basketball, open water swimming.

Tomorrow is the last day of the Olympics. I have to admit that I am exhausted, and I only have one person to blame: me, for making myself watch so many sports in so little time. But it's been awesome, and I thank you in advance for making this Blurb series so successful! 

Saturday, August 11, 2012

WARNING: Obligatory "Girls Rule" Article Ahead

The Main Blurb
It’s Ladies’ Night!

I got to watch the women’s 4x100m relay live this afternoon, and then again tonight. Wow – what a race! After watching the baton drop from their hands back in Beijing, it was refreshing to see their handoffs so crisp and clean.

One of my fears coming into these Olympics was that China was going to take the medals count again, like they did back in 2008. Technically we haven’t led a medals count and the gold medal count at the end of two weeks since 2004 in Athens. Germany won total medals in 2006, China won the most gold medals in 2008, and Canada and Germany finished ahead of the US in golds in 2010. It looks like by the end of the night Sunday we will be in the lead again. Most of it, actually, is thanks to the ladies. Out of 41 gold medals, 27 of them have been won by women.

In team events, the women have done far better than the men. Soccer won gold, water polo won gold, and volleyball plays tomorrow for gold. Water polo and volleyball didn’t make it to the medal round, and soccer didn’t even qualify for the Olympics this year!

In gymnastics, the men only won one gold for the United States: Danell Lleyva’s bronze medal in the all-around competition. Put that up against the gymnastics women, who won 5: team gold, Gabby Douglas all-around gold, Aly Raisman floor exercise gold, Raisman bronze, and McKayla Maroney silver. They also managed to hoodwink the media into forgetting that the University of Michigan men’s basketball team of the late 1980s-early 1990s was called “The Fab Five” years before these gymnasts. But they were much more willing to take on the nickname “Fierce Five” instead. At least it wasn’t “Fantastic Five.” Then I would have a problem.

Then there are the lesser known ladies that won. Shooter Kim Rhode won gold once again, medaling in her fifth straight Olympics. On the other end, 17 year-old Claressa Shields took gold in boxing. Jenn Shur won a title in pole vault – no American man cleared the first height in their pole vaulting final.

Plus, Alyson Felix and the ladies’ relay team just proved that it is possible to beat a Jamaican sprint team. Which American man can say the same? (As of right now, before the men’s 4x100m relay tomorrow.)

Don’t forget the swimmers – Missy Franklin, Dana Vollmer, Rebecca Soni, Allison Schmitt, and Katie Ledecky all won golds for the US.

I hope that the men are able to take this “subpar” showing as a way to spur them on for Sochi and Rio’s competitions. And I hope that the ladies are able to ride the wave to many more medals to come.

Mini Blurbs
Sochi alert! Winter Olympics Blurb favorite Evan Lysacek made an appearance at “The Today Show” this morning to announce that he will in fact be competing against Evgeni Plushenko in men’s figure skating in 2014. The fangirl in me shouts “Whee!” while the journalist in me goes, “You’re going to be creamed.”

Sign the Olympics are winding down: documentaries at the beginning of primetime coverage; Jimmy Fallon doing "thank-you notes" at the end of primetime coverage. 

We got a wrestling gold! Jordan Burroughs took the gold in the 74kg weight class, and even though he played for Nebraska in college, I’ll forgive him for that.

Has there been a more disappointing Olympic sport than BMX cycling for the Americans? It’s one of those “ignorant American” sports, I suppose, when we think we’re the best at it, and then we watch it and realize that there are soooo many other countries that are better than us. Our best doesn’t even make it onto the medal stand.

I was talking to a friend today about the Olympics coverage, and she said we were missing the evening coverage, and I told her, “Don’t worry; they open up with something relatively boring – like diving.” Sure enough, we turn on the TV and diving is on!

We used to be so dominant in the 400m runs. Now the Bahamas is beating us. Between injuries and the other countries getting better at that distance, I am no longer confident in the middle distance runners. Let’s get back on track! (Get it?)

NBC Daytime Olympic coverage ended today with a closing montage of great moments. I couldn’t believe they were wrapping it up already! We still have two more days! Don’t cut this celebration short, NBC!

Czech Republic Gold Medal Watch: None today.

Today’s roundup: I had the fitness center all to myself today, so I put one TV on NBC, one TV on MSNBC, and one TV on NBC Sports Network. Those three alone allowed me to watch basketball, wrestling, rhythmic gymnastics, and soccer. You can add synchronized swimming, hammer throw, pole vault, running events, and handball to that total.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

A+B-the square root of pi(x+1504) = gold medal!

The Main Blurb
What is up with the decathlon? People say it’s the event that finds the world’s best athlete. To me, it’s the athlete that is adequate at the most events – maybe the “most well-rounded” athlete. If you put up the decathletes against the premier athletes in each of those ten events, they would be blown out of the water. But since decathletes can do all of them pretty well – and in two days! – they are very much appreciated.

This isn’t a railing on why the media hypes the decathlon – I really think the decathlon doesn’t get enough coverage during the Olympics. There are just a few details about it that confuse me.

The points system kind of reminds me of Around the Horn, a show on ESPN where four sports writers talk about sports. The crazy thing is, the host (Tony Reali, look him up) gives the writers points. It usually is supposed to be for a good point the writer made, but sometimes the points are given and taken away for no real reason. Actually, the motto of the show used to be “Where everything is made up and the points don’t matter!”

So it seems to be with the decathlon. Win the 100m sprint? One thousand points for you! Only throw the shot put 40 feet when everyone else is over 50? Only three hundred ninety-six points for you! You could crawl the mile and finish dead last, but you’ll win by four hundred points! Eat the wrong kind of energy bar and we’ll deduct two thousand points!

Okay, enough joking around. Believe it or not, the points system are determined by a mathematical formula! Here they are:

Points = INT(A(BP)C) is for track events.

Points = INT(A(PB)C) is for field events.

There’s a few more details about the points system, but too much math makes my brain hurt. I’ll trust that those keeping decathlon score know what they’re doing, and that these athletes are really good at all those things.

As for the term “world’s greatest athlete,” King Gustav V of Sweden told Jim Thorpe “You, sir, are the world’s greatest athlete,” way back in 1912. I do believe that quote (Jim Thorpe was an incredible athlete), but I don’t think it carries over to each decathlete, especially since the points system allows decathletes to play it safe in certain events. But I will concede that these guys are really, really, reallyreally talented and amazing at an insane amount of events.

…But I still think my discus technique is better than gold medalist Ashton Eaton’s.

Mini Blurbs
Get this: Manteo Mitchell ran the heat of the 4x400m relay on a broken leg. He ran. On a broken leg. For 400 meters. He could have pulled up, like the Jamaican relay runner did in the same heat, and the quest for gold would be over. But he kept going. He ran the leg in 46 seconds! And he kept the Americans in the relay final! Thank you, Manteo Mitchell, for avoiding the pain and helping your teammates with your persistence. That was truly gutsy.

I was working in my classroom today, and I had my laptop and two classroom computers on, all with Olympic coverage. At one moment I had women’s water polo gold medal match on one screen, women’s soccer gold medal match on another, and track evening activities on a third. It was pure bliss.

Within five minutes, the US soccer ladies won gold, the US water polo ladies won gold, and Ashton Eaton won gold in the decathlon. Wow! And I got to see all of them!

Women’s volleyball continued to dominate as it swept a difficult South Korean team in the semifinals. This was the second time in the Olympics they had to play South Korea – I was glad they were able to escape. Next up: Brazil in the gold medal match. Brazil was the team that beat them in 2008 in the gold medal match.

BMX cycling is NUTS. Eight cyclists on a track at the same time? NUTS. One quarterfinal showed a crash that involved every cyclist on the track! All eight of them wiped out!

It was pointed out to me today that Europe will be shut out of the medals in soccer this year! The USA, Japan, and Canada took medals in the women’s round, and the four finalists in the men’s round are Brazil, Mexico, South Korea, and Japan.

Turns out that boxing may have a glimmer of hope after all…for the women! Clarissa Shields (from Flint, Michigan!) who is only 17 years old, took gold today. She was the only American to get on the top of the podium in boxing.

Track and field had a couple more double-medals today. Ashton Eaton and Trey Hardee in the decathlon went 1-2, and Christian Taylor and Will Claye went 1-2 in triple jump – the strangest, awesomest field event ever! You literally have to hop, skip, and jump to the dirt. Gold is only a hop, skip, and a jump away!

Tomorrow is nothing but finals and relay heats at Olympic Stadium. Qualifying is over – now it’s time for medals!

I watched some rhythmic gymnastics today. I poo-poohed it yesterday, but that’s before I watched it. I can totally agree that it’s an Olympic sport – maybe a little more than synchronized swimming. Trying to keep track of the ball or hoop or whatever they’re using is an event in and of itself. One girl bounced the hoop off her stomach and sent it in a perfect arc in the air. How long did she practice that? Two hours of bouncing a hoop off your stomach? Another girl threw a ball into the air and she caught it…with her thighs…behind her! Good grief!!

I keep forgetting to add this, but you should look at the athlete pictures on the NBCOlympics website, and then go to the site and see the athlete pictures there. The pictures on the site are hilarious! It’s like someone caught them walking down the hall, pulled out a picture, and snapped it without telling them to smile. I think these might be the credential pictures (where they’re told not to smile), but even the picture quality makes me think Instagram or cell phone. If you’re up for a good laugh, make sure to check out swimmer’s pictures.

Czech Republic Gold Medal Watch: We got another one!! Barbora Spotakova won gold in women’s javelin throw.

Tonight’s roundup: volleyball, taekwondo, wrestling, soccer, water polo, decathlon, javelin throw, triple jump, running events, boxing, flatwater canoe, flatwater kayak, BMX cycling, diving, rhythmic gymnastics, open water swimming, synchronized swimming!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Track and Field Madness!

The Main Blurb
Track is awesome. I wish I could be at the Olympic Stadium this week to watch it. I am enjoying the evening feed online, because it is bouncing everywhere! Take tonight: I was able to watch it in my classroom in its entirety – from 11am till it was done. I saw decathlon high jump, decathlon 400m, men’s 110m hurdle semifinals and finals, women’s 200m, women’s 400m hurdles, men’s 200m semifinals, women’s long jump, men’s javelin throw, and the men’s 800m semifinal! Boom! We’re on the track! Boom! We’re watching long jump! Boom! We’re back on the track for the first semifinal! Boom! We’re watching javelin! Boom! There’s another semifinal on the track! Boom! There’s that Chariots of Fire music signaling another medal ceremony! Boom! There’s that really cute mini remote-controlled Mini Cooper fetching the field items like hammer throw and shots!

You really miss out on that when watching the NBC TV coverage. They make you watch one event at a time, take frequent breaks, and doesn’t allow the track meet to flow. Then they put qualifying rounds of field events on late night and only show a few participants that factor in the medals!

The announcers are also great. I don’t know who they are, but they are able to let the event unfold and don’t try to be impressive. They just give us the events and keep us in the loop.

It helped that tonight the Americans really took care of the medals. Two in women’s long jump, two in men’s 110m hurdles, two in 200m, and one in women’s 100m hurdles! And if that isn’t enough, Ashton Eaton and Trey Hardee had a fabulous first day of decathlon events and are currently 1-2.

Be sure to watch tomorrow (preferably live, if possible) as the decathlon finishes up. Tonight and tomorrow are the largest days on the track – because of the five additional decathlon events, plus qualifying, semifinals, finals, and even the first round of relay events! It makes it really hard to fit in other important events as they’re aired – like the women’s water polo and women’s soccer gold medal matches tomorrow. But I’ll make do. I just realized my two classroom computers can air the Olympics online coverage, so now I have THREE computers with which to watch events!  It can’t get any better.

Mini Blurbs
New Event Alert! Qualifying in the BMX cycling was today. Individual time trials – the real fun starts tomorrow with eight bikers on the track. It’s snowboard cross with wheels. Awesome.

New Event Alert! Rhythmic gymnastics start on Thursday! …wait – you don’t care? Okay.

I am so proud of Alyson Felix for finally getting her individual gold medal. I just wish she could have had more flashy socks. If you watch her in the Olympic Trials, her socks were bright green. Someone get her some stars and stripes! Erik Kynard, get on that for her relays!

I was pulling for Kessy/Ross to win gold today, but it wasn’t meant to be. I just hope they can improve even more and crush the competition in Rio.

Man, those American male teams were disappointing. Men’s volleyball was swept in the quarterfinals, and men’s water polo was beat as well. At least men’s basketball is dominating – and I finally got to watch the game! I do believe what everyone’s been saying: it’s a woman’s Olympics. But it’s the men (track, gymnastics, and swimming especially) that are being the better sports. You can be dominant and be nice, ladies! (But the basketball guys need to shape up. Low blows? Really? Are we in grade school again?)

Kobe Bryant scored six three-pointers in the second half of the USA's win over Australia in basektball and finished with 20 points. He definitely made his presence known today!

Czech Republic Gold Medal Watch: Zuzana Hejnova got…bronze in the 400 hurdles. But I kind of called it that she would medal.

Today’s roundup - Because I had two computer screens going today, I was really reveling in the Games: taekwondo, sailing, water polo, volleyball, long jump, javelin, decathlon, running events, BMX cycling (both men’s and women’s), basketball, beach volleyball, equestrian jumping, diving! Woot!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

More Events are Finishing! How Sad!

The Main Blurb
Dear Dawn Harper:

Once again, you went under the radar. And once again, you showed that you are for real.

In 2008, Lolo Jones was the premier star of the women’s 100m hurdles. She was cruising through the rounds, she was the poster girl in the event, and she got all the attention from the media and NBC. So naturally, the people here in the US were pulling for Lolo. You were barely mentioned in any of the heats, semis, or even the final! I don’t remember you actually being mentioned until they scrolled down the field for the introductions.

Everyone was watching Lolo Jones. Everyone watched as she stumbled on the ninth hurdle. And although I was sad that she stumbled, I was thrilled to see another American come and take her place as the gold medalist. And I laughed as you walked around in unbelief, screaming that you had won the gold.

So this year, I was pretty surprised when, once again, Lolo Jones was getting all the attention! She got the NBC profiles, she got the documentary, she got the endorsements. And as I watched those, I went, “Where’s Dawn Harper’s endorsement deal? She’s the one with the gold!” You got a small profile during the opening heats, but people were still talking about Lolo.

I pray that today’s race will help put you in a little more of a spotlight. You came out slowly, but then you erupted and made it a close race against Sally Pearson. You made it so that Pearson didn’t know that she won because they had to check the photo finish. You didn’t stumble out the gate, you didn’t trip on a hurdle; you actually PR-ed! And because of that hard work and being sure of your own talent, you got a silver!

I am glad that you did so well again! I hope that you’ll get a little more attention this time around – you deserve it!

Mini Blurbs
Thank you everybody for reading the blog! I have reached 1000 pageviews! I'll try to keep up the postings after the Olympics conclude so that you can keep reading!
It seems like when the women have event finals, the medalists are those that messed up the least amount of times. Stumbles, falters, or landing on your butt. When the men have competed in individual events this week, it has been full of fantastic routines. Monday’s vault routine was extraordinary. Today the high bar was absolutely breathtaking! For those two events especially, the man who raised the bar  won the gold – not because others messed up, but because they stood out from the great routines. Another reason I enjoy men’s gymnastics more than the women’s.

Another note on the high bar: there is lots of swinging around the bar, doing handstands, and a couple of releases. Then the Netherlands’ Epke Zonderland came up to the bar. WOW! He did at least three releases in a row – each more crazy than the next! I hope that male gymnasts everywhere take note of all the releases he did. It’s more than just doing the craziest releases – it’s the amount, too! Keep it up, Epke – make those guys earn the medals!

One more hype-bashing: who got the hype coming into the Games? Jordyn Wieber and Gabby Douglas. Who came out with the most medals in gymnastics? Aly Raisman. She earned ‘em all! (And probably should have gotten one more!)

How sad to see Liu Xiang of China pull out of another Olympic hurdle event. In 2008 his Achilles killed his chances of winning the 110m hurdles in his home country. And today his leg pain once again caused him to underjump the first hurdle and force him to hop to the finish. That was a pretty admirable thing for him to do – and for the rest of the hurdlers to help him out. That heat this morning was incredible (look it up if you can), because four hurdlers didn’t finish! That’s half the heat! Three didn’t even make it past the first hurdle!

Erik Kynard, American high jumper, must be a fan of Robert Griffin III. Did you see his socks? Awesome! (Another Olympian who digs the crazy socks? Yohan Blake of Jamaica!)

I’ve seen three Americans in the “weights” part of the field events: a female discus athlete, a male hammer throw athlete, and a female shot putter. None of them grunted when they released their object. And you know what? None of them medaled. Meanwhile, Reese Hoffa screams when he puts the shot, and he got on the medal stand with a bronze. Sensing a pattern, guys? C’mon, release your pent-up anger with an otherworldly yell!

I’ve never seen a discus event when each throw in the fifth rounds was longer and longer and longer! Well, not three times, because the Iranian stepped over the circle. But it would have been! It was a pretty incredible final. How much of that did you see? None? Oh, thanks NBC.

I was irritated that the Algerian won the 1500m final. He dropped out of the 800 preliminary, was kicked out of the Olympics, returned with a “doctor’s note” saying that it was due to injury, and was allowed to win. How about some consistency, Olympic officials? If you’re going to kick out badminton players for not trying, kick out this guy, for being a sore sport and giving him the doctor’s note loophole which clearly wasn’t truthful. This has been the only gold medal where I verbally boooooooooooooed the result. And I say it again: “BOOOOOOOOO!”

Jen Kessy and April Ross beat the mighty mighty Brazilian #1 beach volleyball team to get to the gold medal match against fellow Americans Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings. How can these Olympians compete so well in the driving rain? I can barely walk in the driving rain, let alone bump, set, and spike!

By the way, Kessy and Ross, the next Olympics are in Brazil. You now have a giant bullseye on your back for the next Olympics. But now we’ll get gold and silver (it makes up for the men, so thanks).

Kobe Bryant wasn’t anywhere that I saw. Did you see him today? Maybe he was back at the Olympic Stadium.

Czech Republic Gold Medal Watch: no medals today either! Let’s try getting something in the 400m hurdles tomorrow, okay?

Today’s roundup: balance beam, high bar, floor exercise, water polo, running events, discus, high jump, volleyball, beach volleyball, diving, synchronized swimming, soccer.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Steeplechase: A History

The Main Blurb
All right, time for another history lesson. What the heck is the steeplechase?

The steeplechase is an obstacle-course event in the Olympic games. How cool is that? How many of you have ever done an obstacle course before? I always love doing obstacle courses. It makes me think of Double Dare, too.

In the Olympics, the steeplechase is 3,000 meters long. It has 28 normal jumps and seven water jumps. Unfortunately, that’s it. No rings of fire or slides full of chocolate pudding. But there’s a reason for that.

The steeplechase originated in the British Isles, when runners would race from one town to the next. When you come into a town, what is the first thing you see? Likely, it’s a church steeple. So they would race from steeple to steeple. Back then, there were no highways or even paved roads for the runners to race on, so the runners would have to jump over obstacles like stone walls and small streams.

The modern steeplechase was formed in the University of Oxford way back in 1860. They’ve been running the race in the Olympics ever since 1900. The official distance of 3,000 meters was instituted back in 1920.

Nothing has been said about official dances after winning the steeplechase, but Ezekiel Kemboi just set the standard in steeplechase celebrations last night.

Mini Blurbs
Michelle Beadle must have been reading my Blurbs, because she made Kobe Bryant’s Olympic appearances the subject of her social media discussion this afternoon on daytime. They even had a map of places he’s been. They include: the basketball arena (duh), the Velodrome, Wimbledon, the Earl’s Court, Olympic Stadium (which is where he was last night – I should have known), Olympic Village, and the Aquatic Centre. Today his basketball game ended late, so I doubt he went anywhere.

By the way, I can’t believe Michelle Beadle left her cushy ESPN job doing “Sports Nation” to appear for, like two minutes every other day to talk about social media. Someone give her more facetime! She is kooky and sports-knowledgeable, which makes her likeable by both women and men. She deserves better. (NBC could give her Seacrest’s job, who has been appearing less and less as the days have gone by. That can only be a good thing.)

In 2008, The US men swept two track events: the 400-meter hurdles and the 400-meter dash. Angelo Taylor, Kerron Clement, and Bershawn Jackson took the hurdles medals, while LaShawn Merritt, Jeremy Wariner, and David Neville took the medals in the regular event. This year? One measley medal by Michael Tinsley (silver) in the hurdles. We didn’t even have an American in the 400 final! What in the world?! How embarrassing.

Has anyone seen the commercial by Bounty with little kids doing Olympic events in their living room? That boy who is doing pommel horse on his living room ottoman is better than all our male Olympic gymnasts in that event. Sign him up for Rio!

The rowing seems to be over, but taking its place is canoeing and kayaking down the Thames, which I think is cooler than rowing. Kayaking is just like recreational kayaking, but canoeing is done on one knee! It’s pretty fabulous.

I watched the Canada-USA soccer match in a unique way. I have DirecTV, but I don't have a package that gets NBC Sports Network. Since my computer was taken with track events, I put it on the Sports Mix channel on my television, which shows a few channels that I don't get, like MLB Network and NBC Sports. I put the audio on the soccer match and watched the first six goals on the tiniest of screens. (Unfortunately, I didn't get to watch any of the extra time due to a meeting.)

But I wasn't about to go to that meeting without watching the end of the women's pole vault! Jen Shur took the gold for the Americans, when Russian Yelena Isinbayeva - back-to-back gold medalist from Athens and Beijing - missed at 15 feet, 9 inches, and Yarisley Silva of Cuba had more misses than Shur. Shur missed her three final jumps, which isn't a great way to win a gold. But heck - it's a gold medal!

Watching synchronized swimming for too long can make me dizzy, what with all the leg movements and spinning. But I watched a couple of routines, including the American’s free routine done to a medley of Olympic songs. Of course I’m going to like that, especially since they brought back the 2002 Winter Games theme done by John Williams that NBC never uses. Another cool thing about the synchro is the camera – they use two cameras – one at water level, and one under the water, and put the two views together to show a seamless shot of what’s going on above and below water. I know you may hate synchronized swimming, but watch one routine just to see that “twin camera” angle.

This whole gymnastics in the early morning, track in the midafternoon is throwing me off. At least it’s done tomorrow and I can have a normal schedule again.

Two medal-less countries got medals today. Cyprus got a bronze medal in sailing, while Grenada got a GOLD medal in the 400 meters! That's the way to get your first-ever medal for your country. 

There were two "elder statesmen" that competed in gymnastics the past couple of days. 39-year-old Jordan Jovtchev of Bulgaria competed in rings today, while 37-year-old Oksana Chisovitina competed in vault yesterday. Neither medaled, but kudos for keeping the youth in their place.

Do you think any athletes are sick of Chariots of Fire yet?

Today’s roundup: high jump, hammer throw, trap shooting, field hockey, synchronized swimming, running of all kinds, vault, uneven bars, basketball, canoeing, kayaking, wrestling, soccer, pole vault, shot put, equestrian jumping, and diving! I believe I only have two events that I have not seen: archery and sailing. I think I’ll have to catch a recap of the archery, since I think it’s already done. But there will be sailing tomorrow! If you can think of another event I’ve missed so far, let me know. 

Czech Republic Gold Medal Watch: zero medals today.  Denisa Rolosova and Zuzana Hejnova are in the 400m hurdle final tomorrow - may they win gold! (Well, silver - I want Lashinda Demus to win gold.)

Sunday, August 5, 2012

The Hardest Part of Writing this Blog is Thinking of a TITLE!

The Main Blurb
Did anyone else think “Breakfast at Wimbledon” this morning? I woke up just as it was starting – albeit I had woken up that early to watch gymnastics event finals on the computer. But it was still fun to watch Wimbledon for the second time in a month, with a different result.

I have watched Andy Murray in quite a few tennis matches, and they normally had the same routine: come out strong, fail in the end. All of Britain turns to the local Brit tennis player in June and July, praying that he will save them from their drought of winless men’s singles for many years. But they never come through. Even Murray, who was in the Wimbledon final just a few weeks ago, failed to take the championship away from Roger Federer.

But this time it was Murray besting a flustered Federer on Centre Court in front of his home crowd. Home court advantage had never been so much of a, well, advantage! With the raucous crowd – a little bit more raucous than a usual Wimbledon match – Murray couldn’t be beat.

Usually when you watch tennis, you are waiting for someone to break the other’s serve. Well today, Murray broke Federer’s serve five times – four times in a row in one moment of the match. On the other hand, Murray faced break point seven times, and each time didn’t allow the point to happen.

The tennis is always fun to watch in the Olympics, because the best pro players often come out to participate for their countries. This week has been no different. Between Murray and Serena Williams and the Bryan brothers, there was quality tennis being played. I kinda wish there was more of it.

Mini Blurbs
You wanna hear today’s roundup? *Deep intake of breath* tennis, equestrian team jumping, women’s basketball, women’s triple jump, running of all kinds, women’s vault, men’s floor exercise, beach volleyball, badminton, fencing, women’s marathon, men’s field hockey, wrestling, boxing, women’s handball, women’s discus, women’s pole vault, and track cycling! WHEW! What a day!

I did indeed wake up at 7am to catch Jake Dalton and McKayla Maroney in their individual event finals. Dalton was adequate, but not able to match other gymnasts on the floor. Maroney, on the other hand, was proclaimed by the Internet announcer as “the best vaulter in the world.” Well, even the best vaulters can fall on their butts at the worst of times, and that’s exactly what happened to Maroney. All the Romanian gymnast had to do was land on her feet twice, and that’s exactly what she did. Sorry, McKayla.

The men’s steeplechase was today, with Kenyan Ezekiel Kemboi winning gold, and Frenchman Mahiedine Mekhissi-Benabbad winning silver. Those two must know each other, because they exchanged jersey tops, and Kemboi jumped into Mekhissi-Benabbad’s arms at the end in celebration. It’s probably the most interesting celebration I’ve seen yet.

In wrestling, you can challenge a point and ask for a video review. Well, to announce this, they throw a challenge brick. Yes – a brick. Only in wrestling would you throw a brick to challenge.

The next team event you watch, take a look at the referee/umpire’s uniform. I’ve seen quite a few interesting outfits on these guys today. In wrestling they wear a suit. In handball they wear shorts and a shirt. In water polo it looks like the refs are going to go sailing afterwards. And my favorite: field hockey. I swear it’s the first time skinny pants have been allowed as a uniform.

Don’t just watch NBC tomorrow, either. MSNBC has had some great matches – lots of non-American events, for those who are sick of the all-American NBC coverage.  And if you are watching on another channel – say CBC or CTV or BBC – it’s not called “track and field.” It’s called “athletics.”

Tonight in Where in the World is Kobe Bryant? Well, I didn't see him anywhere. Probably uploading the swimming video he took last night on his leopard-print phone. Tomorrow he plays more basketball.

And in our Czech Republic Gold Medal Watch, the Czech team did not get a gold today. Their women's doubles team took silver, losing to the Williams sisters. But they do have a runner who had a very good heat today in the women's 400m hurdles. We'll see how she does in the end.

It really makes a difference to watch the online coverage. You usually get a more rounded understanding of the events, because they show all the competitors. But sometimes the Internet has its problems. After the introductions of the women’s 400m runners, the streamers decided to break for an ad! I ended up missing the start and about 100m of the race. And then in the men’s 100m, the screen decided to reload right in the middle of the race. It’s TEN SECONDS. Can’t you wait ten seconds to freeze up and misbehave? I wish the Internet would work better.

I’m probably waking up early tomorrow for more gymnastics finals. Are you? Good night everybody!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Swimming into the Sunset

The Main Blurb
Since today was the final day of swimming, I’m going to bid a fond adieu to the USA Swim Team. Remember earlier in this week? I was frustrated that we didn’t seem to be doing anything and making much progress in the medal standings.

I can gladly say that they finished kind of how Michael Phelps did: they finished very strong. New stars like Katie Ledecky, Allison Schmitt, Matt Grevers, and Nathan Adrian came through in the clutch, promising that World Championships and Olympics to come would be in good hands.

Ryan Lochte came into this Games with a lot of expectations. He started with gold, but then kind of petered out at the end. Casual observers may remember Lochte more for his mother’s “one-night stand” blunder or his statement that he peed in the Olympic pool during events than his 400IM gold.

Phelps, on the other hand, missed the medal stand in his first final last Saturday, but didn’t miss the podium after that. He finally got some silver medals (4x100 relay, 200 butterfly) and four more golds (200IM, 100 butterfly, 4x200 relay, 4x100 medley). I am more impressed with his week than Lochte’s. As a fan of Phelps since 2004, I guess that’s understandable.

But I need to give mad props to the ladies of the swim team. Missy Franklin, Ledecky, Dana Vollmer, Rebecca Soni, and Allison Schmitt all went away with individual golds in their specialties. Others – Natalie Coughlin, Elizabeth Beisel, and Jessica Hardy – helped gain more medals for the ladies. Then the 4x100 medley team came out, and it looked like Murders’ Row: Franklin, Soni, Vollmer, and Schmitt. There was no question that they would come away with gold – with a world record, no less! It was more of a sure-thing than the men’s medley relay!

It is time to say goodbye to a few names that I have grown familiar with as I have watched swimming in the past eight years – some from the States, and some from rival countries: Michael Phelps, Brendan Hansen, Kosuke Kitajima, Laslo Czeh (who probably deserves a lot of gold medals for just dealing with Phelps for eight years), and my favorite swimmer to hate, Milorad Cavic. Farewell, guys. You made it fun to watch swimming!

Mini Blurbs
DID YOU KNOW? The song that NBC opens their Olympic coverage with - you know, "Bum! BUM! Ba-bum bum bum bum! Bum bumbumbum, bumbum bum bu-da-dum bum bum!" was written in by Frenchman Leo Arnaud way back in 1958. ABC used it when they had the Olympics coverage starting in 1968, and then NBC took it. It's actually called "Bugler's Dream."

Watching Sun Yang’s bio about him and his Australian coach Denis Cotterell, I could see that being a quirky sports movie. Beach bum Cotterell and stiff upper lip Sun? I’d probably go see that.  (And did you see the underwater camera? His legs never move – I’ve never seen freestyle swimming like that!)

I wonder if Morgan Freeman was as happy that Michael Phelps kept getting medals. Can you imagine his cell phone going off after every win? “Hey Morgan – you have to dub that Visa commercial again. Michael got another gold.”

Where in the Olympics was Kobe Bryant? Well, he almost lost to Lithuania in basketball pool play, but then he appeared at the pool to help send Michael Phelps off with his giant silver trophy. 

Ever heard of Keirin? It’s part of track cycling. Six racers start together, but are forced to follow a guy on a motorcycle for a bunch of laps before they are allowed to go full speed. That would be like having the Zamboni lead the short track speed skaters for half of the race. Which also helps me make my claim that track cycling is the speed skating of the Summer Games.

I LOVE the overhead camera for the track races. Such a different point of view!

Yesterday and today in the morning featured preliminary heats for the 100-meter dash. No, not the first heat, the preliminary heat before the first heat. Pretty much countries that don’t have a strong sprint team and don’t have a runner who has accomplished the A- or B-standards for the Olympics can enter in the preliminary heat. The top three runners get to be in the heats later in the day. There were women from Middle Eastern countries and men from the smallest Pacific islands competing, and I almost think that those heats were more interesting to watch than the heats and semifinals!

I think the trampoline gymnast from the US had a cooler-looking singlet than the regular gymnasts. By the way, apparently trampoline gymnastics are the most competitive in China and…Canada? A Canadian took gold in the women’s trampoline event today. Yesterday it was a Chinese man named Dong Dong! I am not even kidding here.

I think I may know the answer already, but it’s nice to put it out there: In the 400 medley relay they start with the backstrokers because the handoff is a lot easier that way. So why doesn’t the individual medley start with the backstroke? Because most IM-ers wouldn’t know how to start off the blocks and in the water? That’s my guess.

Jessica Ennis has abs of steel.

I got to watch Serena Williams absolutely annihilate Maria Sharapova this morning. I’ve never seen a woman so giddy about winning a gold medal!

The 10,000 meters was incredibly exciting this afternoon – I hope you were able to watch it. American Galen Rupp and his training teammate, Mo Farah of Great Britain, went 2-1 in that event. The field was so bunched for most of the race, I was thinking there would be a trip-up and fourteen runners would fall over. But they’re better than that.

BOOM! As soon as I put out a Czech Republic Gold Medal Watch, they go out and win one! Miroslava Knapkova won women’s single sculls in rowing today. Congrats! Let’s win some more golds!

Today’s roundup: diving, tennis, trampoline gymnastics, volleyball, track, beach volleyball, rowing, long jump, heptathlon, water polo, soccer (I watched South Korea beat Great Britain in a shootout!), boxing, swimming of all kinds, and running of all kinds.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Grunting in Shot Put: It Works!

The Main Blurb
Four years ago…
Four years ago…
Four years ago…

If you watch any Olympic events, you’re sure to hear that phrase in every event. The previous Olympics were four years ago, and everything that takes place in London are based on what took place in Beijing…four years ago.

Have you thought of your life four years ago? I had just graduated from college and actually spent the Olympics in St. Paul, Minnesota training for my new job teaching in China. I was getting educated in Chinese culture, then coming back to my cousin’s house at night and seeing the culture on television. The swimming was actually broadcast live in the States – the finals were actually scheduled in the morning China time, so that it could be in primetime back home. I watched pretty much every single Phelps swim as it happened.

I had a little room in the basement with a fold-out couch and a tiny television. My cousins are first-cousins-once-removed, so they were my parents’ age and didn’t stay up too late. So that tiny television was crucial in my Olympic viewing experience. It wasn’t HD, but it got the job done.

One month later, I landed in Beijing, the same time the Paralympic games were taking place. But one day after I landed, I hopped on another plane and flew far, far away from Beijing. I spent four months in Dawukou, and came back to the States at Christmas. Then I worked at a preschool in Michigan for six months. Then I moved to Wisconsin and taught for three years, moving from an apartment to a house. And now I reside in Colorado, where now I sit and watch so many familiar faces on my much bigger HD television. Which prompted me to think, Where was I at this time four years ago?

Where were you four years ago? How has your life changed since then? I have moved five different times in four years. I’m hoping that when I’m watching the Olympics in Rio I will still call Colorado my home. Who knows? Maybe I’ll be able to be in Rio for the 2016 Games! I should start my fund right now. How about it, people? The Blurb From Rio? (Sounds like a B-movie in the horror genre.)

Mini Blurbs
Michael Phelps wins by twenty-three hundredths of a second…and it’s his longest margin of victory in the 100 butterfly in three Olympics. When he starts off slow in this event, I just sit back and wait for him to turn it on after the turn.

And how about Katie Ledecky?? She’s 15 years old – two years younger than Missy Franklin – and cruises to win the 800 meter freestyle race. Unbelievable.

I was really hoping for an American sweep of the swimming golds tonight. I was close – Franklin, Phelps, and Ledecky all pulled through, but Cullen Jones just missed out for gold, settling for silver in the 50 free. I guess you can’t win ‘em all.

And in this installment of “Where in London is Kobe Bryant?”, we find Kobe cheering on Swiss tennis player Roger Federer in his four-hour marathon of a match. Earlier we saw Kobe at Horse Grounds Parade watching beach volleyball, and then on another day at the indoor volleyball court. I’m thinking he’s determined to watch all the sports with nets. Look for him to bounce in the Event Center between badminton and table tennis over the next few days, with the possibility of soccer, handball, and water polo. And I guess he’s playing some basketball in his spare time. (On a serious note, it’s fun to see Kobe really participating in the Olympic experience, not just being in London to do his sport and be done. I also noticed LeBron James and Kevin Durant watching swimming today. Props, guys.)

NBC, did you really have to cut away from Katie Ledecky’s race? It’s 800 meters, not 10,000! Did Dan and Rowdy really say nothing interesting for two minutes, so you decided you needed to air the four thousandth promotion for “Guys With Kids”?

Oh, there's the Olympic flame...

I want to be an official in swimming or track who rings the bell. Especially in swimming, where each lane official gets a bell and has to ring it as loudly as possible so that the swimmers can hear it. I’d be awesome at that job.

Track! Track! Track track track! Qualifying rounds today in men’s 400m hurdles, women’s 400m, women’s 100m, and long jump. Ethiopian and Kenyan women raced for gold in the 10,000 meters, and large men threw tiny but heavy balls an insane length. Translation: a beautiful day at the track. Can’t wait for some finals!

Interesting question: are people allowed to bring food and drink to the events? Whenever you cut to a crowd in the States, someone is stuffing their face with a hot dog, nachos, or fries. But cut to a crowd at the Olympics, and food is nonexistent. Do they ban food and drink? Why am I so concerned about this?!

I really like the bold red uniforms for the track and field athletes. Finally, no light blue creeping in to the three main colors. The red looks really sharp, don't you think?

It's fascinating watching shot put in the Olympics, because they use two different approaches that I used in high school. I used the glide technique in shot put (and I was decent), and I used the spin technique in discus (and I wasn't good). The shots go so far! I coached track this year, and I hope my team was watching the shot put event. They grunt! The shot goes far! It really works!

Today’s roundup is big: tennis, table tennis, rowing, beach volleyball, volleyball, shot put, various running events, swimming of various kinds, diving, track cycling, heptathlon, water polo...trampoline gymnastics!!

I have decided to start a Czech Republic Gold Medal Watch. They have two silver medals, but no bronze and no gold. I want them to win a gold medal! Go Czech!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

DVR is a Busy Person's Best Friend

So today was my first full day of non-Olympics stuff. I had a meeting in the morning. I had to eat a quick lunch at noon, but couldn't watch any live swimming because I had more meetings in the afternoon. Then in the evening I attended a barbeque and didn't get back till 9. So I really had to put the kibosh on Internet viewing all day since I didn't want to find out what had happened.

So here's the first pro-NBC column you'll see this week: I was glad that all the events were tape-delayed. They didn't spoil anything for me when the evening program started, I got to watch everything I wanted to watch (including just one set of men's volleyball - what was up with that?!), and I didn't have anything spoiled. Now I could have done that had NBC aired them live on TV and I had DVRed it. But for what I'm dealing with right now and the tape-delay, I'll be okay with that.

I did end up watching everything I would have normally watched had I had a work-at-home day, but at a faster pace. The water polo match between Great Britain and the US took me all of two minutes because I fast-forwarded through and kept track of the score. It was such a blowout anyway there wasn't a need to worry.

My roundup today: track cycling (something new!), doubles and singles in whitewater, rowing of all lengths, volleyball, beach volleyball, gymnastics, swimming, and water polo. Track cycling was a lot of fun - though I was shocked that one of the races was merely a quick two-lap sprint - barely enough time to get to top speed, if it was me out there! I would love to be in that Velodrome though.

Congrats to Gabby Douglas for winning all-around gold in women's gymnastics! She kept her performances solid, and her difficulty level (and her vault) propelled her away from Victoria Komova (and her three-step landing in the vault) of Russia. Good work.

Tyler Clary also took gold in the 200 backstroke, which was so cool to watch. In that last 50 meters he just dominated Ryan Lochte. It's always nice to see a fresh face appear out of nowhere. In the last 5 Olympics, five different Americans have won the 200 back gold!

As of right now, we are ahead of China in the medal count and tied in the gold medal count. C'mon, America, keep it up!!!

And I am soooooooo excited for tomorrow. After seven days of swimming, TRACK AND FIELD finally starts! Swimming is great and all, but track and field always holds a special place in my heart, since that was something I actually competed in when I was in high school. I pray the bad weather holds off and we can get a few days straight of perfect weather.

Okay, I gotta get to bed. Enjoy the track, folks!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Yo, Adrian!

The Main Blurb
While Rebecca Soni was racing the semifinal of the 200 breaststroke tonight, commentator Dan Hicks mentioned that the world record at that time was held by Canadian swimmer Annamay Pierse, who broke that record during “the suit era.”

Here is my brief explanation about what “the suit era” entails:

Right before the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, Speedo released a new polyurethane-based swimsuit for its competitors called the LZR Racer. It was a skin-tight suit – so tight that it took swimmers more time than usual to shimmy the suit all the way up (it was seamless). The polyurethane was “designed to help buoyancy and support certain muscles,” which allowed swimmers to swim faster longer. ( for those who are curious)

Swimmers took to this like bees to honey, and instead of wearing the normal swimwear for competitors, they ordered suits that went down to the ankles and up to their necks and even on their sleeves! And that was just the men! (Full body suits were first introduced in the 2000 Olympics.)

These suits improved performance, just like advertised. The problem was, it was almost too good. And as swimmers turned to Speedo for their swimwear, competitors like Jaked and Arena produced their own polyurethane-based swimsuits. And as more swimsuits went on the market, more records fell. As a matter of fact, in the suit era over 200 world records were broken!

The world record breaking had gotten out of control by the time no-name swimmers in Rome (who were subsequently never heard from again) were breaking world records in the world championships in 2009. As a matter of fact, the suits became part of a rivalry between Serbia’s Milorad Cavic and Michael Phelps. Cavic was wearing the X-Glide, a “next generation” all-polyurethane suit made by Arena. Phelps stuck with his old reliable LZR Racer from Speedo, not willing to part with his longtime sponsor. Cavic had said earlier in the week that people would say Cavic beat Phelps “because of the suit.” He even offered to buy one of the new suits for Phelps to wear in the 100 meter butterfly final.

Well, Phelps ended up winning that final with the old suit, and gave a yell as he tugged his LZR Racer. Clearly it was about more than just “the suit.” (If you haven’t seen that race from 2009, go onto YouTube and watch it. It was fabulous!)

But not all swimmers, coaches, viewers, and judges believed that. After those world championships, FINA banned full-body swimsuits (having banned suits that went on and past the neck and past the shoulders back in March of that year), declaring that male swimmers will have suits from the waist to the knee, and women swimmers from the shoulders to the knee. They also declared that suits must be made of “textiles,” meaning the rubberized polyurethane was now banned.

The ban took effect January 1, 2010, meaning any world records broken after that mark would be remarkable, because the faster suits were not in play. People said that there wouldn’t be a world record broken for ten years after the “suit era.”

Well, in 2011 two world records fell (Sun Yang in the 1500 m freestyle and Ryan Lochte in the 200 IM), and already in London five more have fallen.

So hopefully you’ll more easily understand what Dan and Rowdy are talking about if they ever make reference to “the suit era.”  End of lesson.

Mini Blurbs
The best part of male gymnast Kohei Uchimura? His anime-style hair. I was rooting for him to win soley because of his hair.

The Netherlands has a long history of great names, but I saw one today that is added to my “greatest names” book: swimmer Ranomi Kromowidjojo. Kro-mo-wid-jo-jo. Even with the five-syllable name, she doesn’t beat my Greatest Name of All Time: male swimmer Pieter van den Hoogenband. Just say it out loud. You can’t help but smile.

There were some great finishes today, but nothing beats the one one-hundredth second finish between American Nathan Adrian and Australia’s James Magnussen. Pretty much all of Australia fell into a state of despair with that touch by Adrian.

Congrats to Great Britain for their two gold medals today in rowing and cycling!The rings on Tower Bridge turned gold in honor of the wins.

Watching the American women’s volleyball and water polo matches were pretty thrilling today. The volleyball team beat China in a sweep, but the Chinese made them play six match points before Megan Hodge finally sealed the deal. She was on fire the final two sets. In water polo Spain had the early lead, but the Americans came back and seemingly took over with minutes left and a 9-6 lead. Well, Spain came back and the Americans were forced into a draw, 9-9.

Losing on purpose like the badminton team? Anyone remember “Suck for Luck”? (The thought last NFL season that teams were purposely tanking games so they’d be #1 in the NFL draft and get Andrew Luck.) Things like this happen way more often than we think.

Tonight’s roundup: cycling, gymnastics, swimming, water polo, volleyball, beach volleyball, rowing, diving, baseball. (Baseball? Oh – I did catch some of the Tigers-Red Sox game tonight. There is more going on than just the Olympics, silly.)

Tomorrow I’m just going to stick with Mini Blurbs unless something big happens. I have meetings all day tomorrow and a party in the evening, so my Olympics attention will be a little less than normal. Bear with me!