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.