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.)