Sunday, August 21, 2016

The Olympic Blurb 2016: Day 16

We're going to start with the mini blurbs this time...

  • Today's roundup:
    • men's marathon
    • men's mountain biking
    • women's rhythmic gymnastics
    • women's boxing
    • men's basketball
    • men's wrestling
    • men's volleyball
  • There was a time, long long ago, when I was convinced that the only two things that took place at the Olympics on the last day were the men's basketball gold medal game and the Closing Ceremony. The reason was because NBC really only aired those two things on the last day. Now I know that there are still plenty of events happening in the morning of the last day, and I got to sample a little bit of all of them!
  • After being so careful last week with not getting spoiled with the result of the women's marathon, I was going to watch something else when the men's marathon result flashed on the screen! Shoot!
  • However, I still decided to watch the marathon because I love watching the marathon. I did notice a lot more security on the course because of the incidents that took place last week. 
  • I got to watch Claressa Shields' gold medal boxing match this afternoon, and she is an incredible boxer. She was ducking under punches and fighting hard even with her opponent's longer arms. I watched lots of boxing matches these past two weeks, and Shields was the best boxer out there. (And I wasn't the only one thinking that - the analyst on the live stream said the same thing!) And now she has two gold medals to prove it!
  • The mountain biking event was fun to watch, but the biggest enjoyment I had was the Spanish cyclists' amazing mustaches. 
  • In wrestling, coaches can challenge points. In Rio, the coaches were using dolls of the Olympic mascot Vinicius to challenge, like NFL coaches use red challenge flags. 
  • Speaking of weird things in wrestling...I just laughed through the ending of a match between Mongolian Mandakhnaran Ganzorig and Uzbekistan’s Ikhtiyor Navruzov. I was tuning in online just to see a match featuring and American, Kyle Snyder, and all of a sudden I see two shirtless guys in front of the judges and a bunch of other guys running around on the mat. I wondered, "What the heck did I miss?!" So I rewound and watched the whole ending. I can't even explain it. Just read about it or watch it and laugh with me. It's just...I can't even.
  • The Closing Ceremony was very nice, especially when I found that NBC WAS streaming the ceremony live online! The Olympic Hymn still brought me to tears, as did the extinguishing of the cauldron and Thomas Bach declaring the Games over. But I did love everything about the Tokyo welcome! It shows they are going to be very forward-looking and less traditional. It got me excited! (Who's coming with me?!)

And finally, the Rio Games are complete. There were some points during these two weeks where I was so inundated with sports that I honestly thought, "I hope these are done soon!" And almost immediately, I would tell myself, "Shut up! You have two weeks of madness, but afterwards there is absolutely nothing!"

It is two weeks of an insane amount of sports. No human would ever be able to watch it all without giving themselves a few months of non-stop viewing. 

However, that craziness gives away to so many amazing moments. We are reminded of amazing American athletes like Phelps, Ledecky, Raisman, Shields, Clement, Harrison and Eaton. We are also introduced to more amazing athletes like Biles, Centrowitz, Jorgensen, Muhammed, Fields, Maroulis, and Thrasher. (Remember her? She won the first gold of the games!)

We also get to see the amazing athletes that the world has - athletes like Bolt, Farrah, Neymar, Murray, Silva, Adams, Semenya, Wu, Lesun, and Trott. Although it was wonderful to see the US win so many medals, it also is great to see other countries excel in so many events. I am glad the US isn't dominating all the events, because then the Olympics wouldn't be fun. Certain countries just have those events where they excel, and that's a great thing! It means they can be challenged. 

We got to see some countries with their first medal ever! Fiji's first medal became gold in men's rugby sevens. Medals were also given for the first time countries like Singapore, Vietnam, Kosovo, and Puerto Rico. The talent pool is spreading out all over the world. 

After all these memories have been made and so many sports have been viewed, that emotional buildup was all released tonight in the Closing Ceremony. The Olympic theme was sung again, the flame was extinguished, and that beautiful, emotional montage of Olympic memories was played to Trevor Rabin's "Titan Spirit" from Remember the Titans, which is pretty much the most appropriate song. For me, those emotions are released in tears - it's so sad to see the Olympics go away.

It's tough for this overflow of sports to suddenly vanish. Come Monday morning I'll be waking up ready to turn on the NBC Olympic stream, and realize there's nothing on, unless they are going to live stream the destruction of the Aquatics Center or the cleanup of garbage in Olympic Park. 

Do I wish that the Olympics would go on? That maybe it would be a more stretched out, month-long event? Honestly, I don't. The Olympics are special because they only last seventeen days, and so many sports are crammed in. The four-year rotation also creates a good buildup that wouldn't exist if the Olympics took place every year. The fact that I am still sad when the Olympics are done is a good thing - it means I am excited for the next Games to come, and not sick of it.

When I was in church this morning, someone asked me what I was going to do now that the Olympics were finishing up. My answer? "Teach!" School starts up for me on Tuesday, and I am so happy that these Olympics finished up before my school year. However, I am still bringing the Olympics into my teaching a little bit this year, and even more next year, when the PyeongChang Winter Olympics take place during school. 

For now, I will shed happy tears and relive these Rio Olympics as much as possible. The Olympic Blurb 2016 is ending, but I'll still be writing once or twice a week about random things. I need to keep my writing fingers going in between Olympic Games, after all, and I hope you continue to read what I have to say.

So thanks so much for following along. The Olympic Blurb 2018 will start in 535 days - I can't wait!

Saturday, August 20, 2016

The Olympic Blurb 2016: Day 15

There are a lot of athletes getting interviewed now that their events are wrapped up and done. Near the beginning of the Olympic Games many athletes are closed up, focusing on their event. But now there's a lot of shots of the athletes parading around, relaxing and/or showing off their medals.

If an athlete is getting interviewed, there is one question that is definitely getting asked to almost everyone, even those athletes who insist they are retiring after these Rio Games:

"So are you coming back for Tokyo?"

The next Olympic Games are taking place in Japan from July 24 through August 9, 2020. For many young athletes, going to the next Olympic Games is a no-brainer. However, for athletes nearing the end of their professional careers, keeping up the training for another four years can be hard to process, especially since most of them have experienced a grueling time of it the past four years.

And then there are athletes like Usain Bolt and Michael Phelps, who keep insisting that they're done even though so many are insisting they stay. I believe Phelps, but I'm not sure about Bolt. I know he's had a lot of injuries outside of the Olympics, but so many people know him and love him, and he drinks up the spotlight.

Those athletes are the ones that dread that Tokyo 2020 question.

But go ahead and ask me.

That's right.

Go ahead!

Hey, are you going to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics?

You better believe I am going to do everything in my power to be in Tokyo for the Olympics!

London was a pipe dream, since I was in the middle of a move. Rio de Janeiro was never enticing enough for me to attend - not because of the Olympics, but because South America has never been on my list of places to visit.

But Tokyo? That city has always been on my travel list. I have flown through Narita to get to Beijing and then back to Minneapolis, but I have never been outside of the airport.

In 2020, though, I am all about it. I want to go everywhere and do everything. I want to go to Tokyo Disneyland and Disney SEA, the latter of which is rumored to be the best theme park in the world. I want to visit all the sites and landmarks like Tokyo Tower and Chidorigafuchi and the Shibuya Pedestrian Scramble and Akihabara!

Mostly, though, I want to see as many Olympic events as possible. I already follow @Tokyo2020 on Twitter, and they have been posting designs and pictures of their event arenas. Many of the buildings are already in existence, and some are pretty far along in construction! See some of the pictures below:











If the IOC ever needed a host city to be completely prepared and ready after the unpreparedness of Rio, I'd say they have chosen wisely with Tokyo.

I've been trying to watch as many events as possible in Rio and decide which ones would be fun to see in person. Here's my list:

  • Track and Field is number one. I've decided that going during the decathlon would be the best idea, since decathlete events last longer than the morning session and start earlier than the evening session. I would also love to go during either men's or women's shot put.
  • Swimming would be great to see, too. While the crowds in the track and field stadium have been less than spectacular, the swimming crowds were dynamic, and I want to be a part of that.
  • Gymnastics would be fun, but it might be a hard ticket to get. 
  • I would love to attend the whitewater kayaking area, or the canoe/kayak stadium. The area for those events are a bit smaller than rowing, but are easy to follow.
  • I think getting a beach volleyball ticket might be impossible, but I like indoor volleyball more, anyway! 
  • Believe it or not, equestrian jumping is also on my list. Dressage is too boring for a spectator sport, but jumping is very exciting. 
  • Track Cycling in the velodrome might be fun, though I'd have to go during the pursuit events.
  • Today I also decided that the modern pentathlon stadium would be enjoyable. I watched the final events of running/shooting, and it was all contained in the stadium.
  • The Opening Ceremony might be fun to witness, but I'm not sure if I'd be able to follow everything without a lot of close-ups. However, the lighting of the flame would definitely still bring me to tears, and I would be able to see it in PERSON.
I am excited to start saving my pennies for this trip. I have a lot of plans in my head, especially because the Rio Games are going on right now. Things might not fall into place, but I always say that if I say to people that I'm going to do something, then I'm even more likely to actually get out there and do it!

Let's see those mini blurbs!
  • Today's round-up:
    • men's canoe
    • kayak
    • women's triathlon
    • women's mountain biking
    • women's golf
    • men's diving
    • women's handball
    • women's rhythmic gymnastics
    • women's volleyball
    • boxing
    • women's taekwondo
    • men's soccer
    • track and field
  • Considering that Brazil has never won Olympic gold in soccer before, I don't mind too much that Neymar secured them gold in the men's tournament with a shoot-out final kick win. Brazil hasn't had too much of a hometown medal bump, so this one is good for them. 
  • You think there are droughts between gold medals? How about 108 years?! Matt Centrowitz finally gave the US another gold medal in the men's 1500m - the first since Mel Sheppard in 1908. He ran in front almost the whole race. Maybe middle- and long-distance US runners are finally figuring out they need to stay in front to medal? 
  • Like I said above, I really loved watching the Modern Pentathlon today. I caught three of the five disciplines: fencing, running, and shooting. (There's also swimming 200m and a horse jumping events.) I also found a nice explanation on NBCOlympics.com's Twitter feed:
  • Usually when we hear of Kenyan athletes at the Olympics, we think of tall, skinny, powerful distance runners. Well, not Julius Yego. He is a large javelin thrower, and his first throw tonight resulted in him splayed on the ground. But he stayed behind the line, and he had the first place throw for a time! (He then got injured in the fourth round, so maybe his method wasn't quite the best.)
  • I can't believe the US finally got its first triathlon gold medal EVER today thanks to Gwen Jorgenson. There are so many US triathletes! How in the world did it take so long? (And NBC's commentator for the triathlon ended up being Tom Hammond, who could have been found earlier in the Games doing play-by-play for gymnastics.)
  • By the end of this week there were so many disqualifications on the track! What is up with that? (Paul Chelimo of the US was disqualified after the men's 5000m but then was reinstated later. Those officials are picky!)
  • The US ran those final relays like beasts. It was great to see them close out the track and field events on top. We didn't take them all, but we took enough!
The Olympic Blurb for 2016 wraps up tomorrow. Don't miss it!

Friday, August 19, 2016

The Olympic Blurb 2016: Day 14

Relays are hard.

The faster they are, the harder relays are.

The closer together the athletes are, the harder relays are.

The moment you attempt to place a stick in another person's hand among a group of people also trying to place a stick in another person's hand while all of you happen to be traveling at a high rate of speed...

...is hard!

Tonight was Relay Night on the track. There were semifinals in the 4x400m heats for both the men's and women's teams, and there were the finals in the 4x100m relay for both the men's and women's teams.

Relay has become a crutch for many teams hoping to get a medal on the track. Sometimes the problems start at the blocks, like it did for the Dominican Republic yesterday in the 4x100m heats. Sometimes it happens in the exchanges.

Okay, it almost always happens in the exchanges. About 95% of the time it's the exchanges.

Yesterday the US 4x100m women's team had an exchange problem with the Brazilian team next to it. Should they have been allowed to re-run the race on their own? Well, let's answer the question with another question: had a re-run ever been done before? No? Well, then maybe not. However, the US women's team didn't let it happen again, getting out to the lead in an outside track and not giving it up, even with Jamaica breathing down their necks.

However, a lot of men's teams had all sorts of trouble. In both of the relay events tonight, the team from Trinidad and Tobago were disqualified. In the 4x400 the teams from Great Britain and India were also disqualified and unable to compete tomorrow in the final.

Similar issues occurred in the 4x100m final. Including the aforementioned T&T team, the relay from the United States was disqualified and didn't win the bronze for which it was celebrating!

Why does this continue to be such a problem, not just for the US but for many teams?

It's all speed.

Speed can create all sorts of issues, and when trying to coordinate something while traveling at a high rate of speed, the issues only escalate. People have never run this fast before, and they're trying to figure out how to deal with the speed while still having proper exchanges.

But let's be honest with ourselves, America: the Jamaicans never seem to have issues when it comes to the relays.

Just saying.

Mini blurb time...

  • Today's roundup:
    • men's racewalking
    • BMX cycling
    • men's volleyball
    • women's synchronized swimming
    • women's rhythmic gymnastics
    • badminton
    • equestrian jumping
    • women's water polo
    • women's field hockey
    • men's handball
    • women's soccer
  • If you haven't looked at NBCOlympics.com yet, or are only watching the live events, know that they have live feeds of both Copacabana Beach and the Olympic Flame all day. Now they also have a channel airing all of the US's gold medal wins in Rio. 
  • People were calling Italy's win over the US in men's volleyball an "upset" but I was just upset that the US men had all sorts of chances to take sets but didn't capitalize on them. They gave that win away.
  • On the flipside, the US women's water polo team refused to give anything away, winning their second straight gold medal pretty easily.
  • Just an FYI if you didn't watch it: if field hockey goes into a shootout, it's not like soccer. Each team gets five chances, but when the offensive player goes up against the goalie, she has 8 full seconds to try to score, and she can rebound and take a second shot if time allows. I had fun watching the Great Britain-Netherlands shootout in their gold medal match.
  • Marathons don't have a lot of rules. Step 1: run. There is no Step 2. However, in racewalking there are a ton of rules to make sure you aren't running
  • Some people were not fans of the relay introduction camera mugging that the teams (both men's and women's) did before the 4x100m relays. I personally loved them. But the US in both relays decided to be all stoic and non-fun-loving. If Jamaica can be goofy and still win gold, it's possible to have fun and win.
  • Last Olympics I only saw the super-short BMX final race, and was shocked at its brevity. However, this time I watched a lot more. There's a time trial to figure out placement, three runs in the semifinals (so if you crash in one race you still have a chance to advance) and then a final run. 
  • Equestrian jumping makes the horses jump a lot higher than the event jumping earlier in the week! Those horses have legs!
  • Just your reminder that synchronized swimming is exhausting and really, really difficult. There is so much strength, agility, and timing required, plus, you know, that whole swimming thing, too.
  • Before each field event, there is a samba band that comes out on the field, and the finalists are introduced. I've seen some event participants dance along (I think it was men's triple jump), but they put all the hammer throwers around the circle with the band playing outside the pit, and those hammer throwers were not going to do any dancing of any kind. (I bring it up again: to be the best, does that mean you can't have any fun?)
They're starting to do the end-of-Olympics montages and I'm already starting to cry through them. If Sunday comes and they release one to the music of Remember the Titans I'm gonna be a goner. I'll explain more on Sunday. Until tomorrow!

Thursday, August 18, 2016

The Olympic Blurb 2016: Day 13

I know that a few days ago I was complaining that the media was reporting low crowds at many of the venues. I said that it was normal for the first few days, especially for preliminary rounds, and that it would pick up later on. Well, I have to say that I am stumped by the lack of crowds at the track and field venue. I don't know why they decided to put track and field in a stadium that is far removed from the rest of the Olympic events, in a questionable area, and still charge such a large amount of money for tickets.

Tuesday's crowd for the evening events, which featured three finals, was abysmal. Yesterday, after Usain Bolt ran, the crowds departed and didn't even stay for the last race, the women's 100m hurdles. And even fewer people stuck around for the 3000m steeplechase medal ceremony. Today, the women's 4x100m relay ran their time trial right at 7pm and barely anyone was there, even though the men's decathlon had been going on for a while before that!

I feel so bad! Plus, I know about 40,000 people in Eugene, Oregon, would gladly fly down to Rio and pack the stadium if they could, and I would gladly join them.

Track and field athletes are used to low crowds. Normal Diamond League meets or smaller events rarely get a large audience. But after the huge draws in Beijing and London, this is depressing.
While track and field isn't as big in non-Olympic years in the United States, it is huge here during the Olympic Games. Even without Usain Bolt, enough citizens of the US have participated in track and field to show it support for many years. 

Rio fans only know one name when it comes to the track and field athletes: Usain Bolt. Because of this, they flock to the stadium when he's participating, and don't if he's not there. For the other athletes, that is a shame. They work just as hard as Bolt in training and performance, yet they aren't getting recognized. 

So get with it, Rio. There are two more nights of track and field left. Fill up that arena and cheer everyone on!!

It's time to meander to the mini blurbs...
  • Today's roundup:
    • women's volleyball
    • track and field
    • women's diving
    • men's kayak
    • men's canoe
    • bmx cycling (from yesterday, but I was catching up)
  • After my blurb about the CBC's coverage of the Olympics, I got this tweet...
  • I was away from the Olympics doing personal things for most of the day, and when I caught up at night, I was surprised at the weirdness! First Ryan Lochte's story was revealed to be a lie covering up stupidity, the women's 4x100m relay team got disqualified from the qualification, then wouldn't be reinstated until they ran a re-run by themselves on the track, and Robby Andrews, in his panic at finishing in the top five during the semis of the 1500m, ran on the infield to pass someone. 
  • Did you know Helen Maroulis won America's first women's wrestling gold today? And she looked like a beast doing it! No patting the hair for her. (And I realized that all wrestlers french braid their hair because of that problem - people tend to grab the hair!)
  • Anyone else notice the advertising written on an Irish flag in the track and field stadium this morning? Apparently it was advertising for a pub! So that begs the question: when I've seen writing written on other flags in different languages, is that also just advertising? 
  • That 4x100m relay was crazy to watch, and I made myself watch both the NBCSN and NBC feeds, featuring different announcers. Out of the five people on the two stations, only Sanya Richards-Ross correctly pointed out that Allyson Felix had been bumped. The others suggested she dropped the baton, threw the baton, and got hurt before handing off the baton. Good eye, Richards-Ross. 
  • It's amazing how early javelin throwers have to release the javelin because momentum is shifting them forward, and if they released it too late they would go right over the line.
  • I got to watch almost all the decathlete events live over the last few days. They have been together for two entire days of competition, ending the morning sessions later than everyone else and starting the evening sessions earlier than everyone else. This goes for the heptathletes, too; it's no wonder they end their final event and just spend ten minutes hugging all their competitors. What a bond!
  • Someone mentioned that decathlete Kevin Mayer of France looked like an Adonis, and every time after that I just looked at him and said "Adonis" instead of "Kevin."
  • The US volleyball team was neck-and-neck in the final set of their match versus Serbia, and when they had the serve near the end, they committed a fault instead. Serbia got the point and won the match with their next serve. That's not a good way to lose.
  • I love shot put. I have to mention this again because the men's action was just as amazing as the women's a few days ago. I love watching some of them put the same way that I did when I was in high school!
  • Events I HAVE to watch over the next two days or else I'll have missed it: BMX cross, rhythmic gymnastics, and synchronized swimming.
Are you getting sleep? Not only am I watching Olympics from 8am-12am, I am also trying to train my body for my normal school sleep schedule, which starts next week. I'm tired! But catch some zzzs, and I'll see you tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

The Olympic Blurb 2016: Day 12

Today I decided to go and visit my parents for the night. They live outside of Ann Arbor, in the outskirts of the "metro Detroit" area. I lived there for my childhood, and always was very comfortable with the mix of Canadian and US stuff. Canadian coins were no big deal; almost every store around accepted them. Tim Horton's has a chain in my hometown. And people love hockey around here almost as much as Canadians. (Note: I did say "almost.")

Another great import from Canada is the Canadian Broadcasting Network, or CBC. It isn't very often that we would sit around and watch the CBC, but when we did, there were two things on: Hockey Night in Canada or the Olympics.

If NBC has its own Olympic coverage, why in the world would we tune in to coverage by a Canadian station, which is covering Canadian athletes?

Well, I got to watch the CBC coverage tonight, and I'll list some reasons:

  • In comparison to NBC's location in the International Broadcast Center (IBC), Canada's IBC space looks more like a broom closet. Did NBC steal square footage from CBC or something? However, I like how CBC arranged everything in their area, making it cozy and inviting. Better yet, they have a corner office that overlooks the busy Olympic Park.
  • After 11 days of the same ten commercials, it's refreshing to watch something different in between Olympics coverage. Trident has some pretty cute cartoons that we never get to see.
  • CBC provides some shots of the Olympic Park and arenas that NBC does not. I finally got to see the entrance to the basketball arena thanks to the CBC camera, while NBC likes to show shots of scenery instead. 
  • When distances are shown in the OBS (look at yesterday's blurb for an explanation), they are given in meters. However, NBC will convert them to feet and inches, which is confusing when looking at the distances listed at places like the long jump pit or the javelin grass. But for CBC, they keep it metric all the way.
  • Although Ron MacLean is no longer doing the evening coverage (he was always a calming, welcome sight), Scott Russell does a very nice job.
  • In the evening edition of the track and field, CBC didn't just broadcast the track events and shoot over to the field events for brief updates. Instead, they used the OBS feed and had much more coverage of field events. I got to enjoy a lot more of the women's long jump than if I'd been watching the NBC coverage.
It is always cool to see how different countries cover international events like the Olympics or World Championships. CBC seems a little more down-home compared to the stiffness of NBC, and that's why I enjoy its coverage much more, and always have.

Let's move on to the mini blurbs...
  • Today's roundup:
    • taekwondo
    • track and field
    • kayak
    • canoe
    • women's diving
    • women's water polo
    • men's basketball
    • women's wrestling
    • women's beach volleyball
  • Has there been anything more interesting than this Ryan Lochte saga? I would summarize it here, but even the summary would take forever. Go read about it and get hooked on the drama. Let's hope it doesn't end up resulting in another "ugly Americans" stigma.
  • I don't know if anyone is watching the events early enough, but I got to watch the C1 200m sprint this morning, and it was thrilling! It's a canoe event that's only 200m long, in comparison to the 2000m rowing events that dominated the first week. The heats are only about 40-50 seconds long, but it is incredibly exciting. Try to catch some of it these next few days!
  • The decathalon and heptathalon are incredible. They both deserve the same attention as a gymnast performing in the all-around competition. To be a good at so many events is amazing, and that sheer talent is a sight to behold. 
  • I have seen a lot of Olympic athletes who fall during their competition, yet still get up and finish. It's happened in gymnastics and it's happened in track and field. The main purpose isn't to try to win (that only applies to Mo Farrah in the 10,000m), but to say that you finished an Olympic event. They don't see falling as failure; they see finishing as success. What a positive way to end their Olympic Games!
  • Evan Jaeger had a great 3000m steeplechase race. Instead of staying in the pack and trying to catch up in the end (which most US middle- and long-distance runners try to do), Jaeger went right out with the two Kenyan leaders and even took the lead after a bit. As a result of his gumption, he took the silver, the highest medal in the race since 1952 and the first medal in steeplechase period since 1984!
  • I had to investigate to see why most competitions between two individuals assign one to red and one to blue. You see it in boxing and taekwondo, mainly.  It looks like it was a tradition in Japan to give the visitor the red while the home team got the blue. Red was also sometimes seen as the champion's color, while blue went to the challenger. They're also opposing colors on the spectrum and easy to differentiate, which is helpful when scoring. 
  • Although Hassan Mead clipped someone's leg and fell in the last lap of the 5000m semifinal this morning, he appealed and is racing in the final. This means there will be three Americans competing, after all.
  • Keep close watch to daytime coverage, because synchronized swimming and rhythmic gymnastics are due up over the next few days. If that's your jam, then you gotta watch.
  • Finally, how heartwarming to see the three American hurdlers tonight finish the race, then huddle together to see if they had all medaled, which they did! It's a luxury indeed to get a sweep, but it happened tonight. 
Guten nacht! Until next time!

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

The Olympic Blurb 2016: Day 11

I have mentioned before that I feel like NBC is behind the times in its television broadcasting. While their use of the OBS (Olympic Broadcasting Services) is wonderful and provides great live streaming, they are not doing the greatest job of keeping things secret before actually airing something.

Their problem? Social media.

Now that everyone can get instant access to scores and highlights from other news services and even the athletes themselves, people don't want to sit and watched pre-taped things anymore.

However, social media has also been a great boon for these Olympics, and I'll share with you a few of my favorites.

Twitter

Two years ago I would have given some backhanded compliment to Twitter. But now I am seeing its appeal. While staying short and sweet, it allows people to communicate thousands of miles away from each other. It also is very easy to follow athletes, journalists, and official marketing for the Olympics.

One of my favorite Olympic Twitter accounts are the Rio 2016 account, which gives updates on team events and announces winners for big events as well as the lesser-known. They keep it pretty positive, so if anything negative is happening in Rio, they tend to ignore it.

Another favorite is journalist Bill Mallon (@bambam1729) who is a wealth of Olympic knowledge. If someone breaks a record or does something of importance, Mallon is quick to announce it. He also communicates with people who have questions about things. He's kind of a nicer version of Lucasfilm's Pablo Hidalgo. (Well, if you had to field Star Wars questions all day, you'd be cranky, too.)

While I may not have many followers, I can still get my voice out there using hashtags, like #Rio2016 and #Olympics. If people look up these hashtags they can see millions of people reporting on the games, good and bad.

Athletes are fun to follow, too. While some stay quiet (like Michael Phelps) others keep on tweeting right through their events. Aly Raisman (@Aly_Raisman) has been posting fun Olympic stuff since she showed up in Rio, from the funny to the sweet. I loved when she wanted to knock a table over in the Olympic Village cafeteria just to meet Usain Bolt.

Twitter also gives lesser-known Olympic athletes their time to shine. When Michelle Carter won the first US women's shot put gold, I retweeted everything I saw about her, to show how important she is to the sport, and that track and field is more than the people running around the track.

I also love the Tokyo 2020 (@tokyo2020) account, which started all the way back in 2014! While events are happening in Rio, the account says that they're taking place, but also uses that space to show off designs and pictures of their facilities for the Olympics. Sometimes it feels like they are just showing off, considering Rio faced a lot of trouble finishing venues for these Olympics, and it looks like that won't be a problem in four years.

Snapchat

I didn't think that Snapchat would be any more than just viewing photos and videos from my family, but the tool has become a great way for people to catch highlights of events in Rio.

If you go over to the Stories tab, there is a special section that breaks down some of the Olympic events of which Snapchat has gathered photos and videos. You can place yourself in the stands with someone who was actually there, taking video of a major event like a swim or race. Sometimes you can get beautiful views of sunsets or Copacabana Beach. It has made me feel like I was there, and I enjoy the updates.

Leslie Jones (lesdogggg) has become a Snapchat sensation when she started becoming America's Superfan. Her coverage of her visit to Rio was a lot of fun, albeit a bit foulmouthed. But her enthusiasm (and her "Slay all day!" chant) was catchy and made me want to follow in her footsteps. (But with nicer language.)

Finally, the Rio 2016 Snapchat has featured two dudes, both who speak English but one who is also fluent in Portugese, walking around Rio de Janeiro and seeing tourist sites, National Houses, and sporting events.


A very important feature that NBC and other broadcasters must realize is that these social media sites and others are important to utilize. More stuff needs to be transmitted live, even when the Games are half a world away, and social media can help out with that. (And please start airing the Opening and Closing Ceremonies live with the rest of the world, please?!)

Let's move on to mini blurbs...

  • Today's roundup:
    • track and field
    • men's open water swimming
    • men's diving
    • men's weightlifting
    • men's field hockey (yes, that does exist)
    • sailing
    • gymnastics
    • men's volleyball
    • men's boxing
    • women's beach volleyball
  • During qualification for the women's 5000 meters, New Zealand's Nikki Hamblin and the US' Abbey D'Agostino both got tripped up and fell in the middle of the race. Instead of just giving up or moving on without acknowledgement, the two women checked to see if each other was okay, and even though D'Agostino was injured, she insisted that they finish the race. They both did, and after submitting a protest, both were allowed to compete in the final. However, I was most encouraged to see their encouragement to each other, even though they weren't teammates. 
  • In women's discus, I can understand and even appreciate yells and grunts as the discus is released. I did it myself when I was in track and field, and I encourage my kids to do it when I coach. But does screaming really have the same effect? Several of the women were screaming in such a high pitch that it wouldn't have assisted them from the diaphragm at all, like a grunt would. Just curious if it really does work. 
  • I noticed on the track that Nike sponsors several countries in these Olympics. How do I know? Not because of the Nike swoosh, but because their uniform designs are the same! The US's is the same as Canada's is the same as Estonia's is the same as Ethiopia's is the same as Kenya's. Worst of all, the color schemes of the US and Estonia are almost exactly the same! Couldn't the US look for something a bit more unique? I noticed the nice designs on the uniform of Puerto Rico, and the Ecuador uniform was simple but bright. 
  • Speaking of Ecuador, Angela Tenorio ran in the 200m semifinal tonight with a lovely headwrap. She didn't advance, but I don't think it was because of the headwrap. 
  • I will be sad that gymnastics is done. It seemed like the US men were always out of it and the US women were in the thick of it. However, today Danell Leyva secured two silver medals in parallel and high bars, so that was added to Alex Naddour's bronze a few nights ago. I think I was most happy with the Ukraine's Oleg Verniaiev finally getting a gold medal in parallel bars, which makes up for the gold he lost in the all-around.
  • Open water swimming is nuts. That is all.
  • The diving pool looked a lot better tonight as I watched men's 3m springboard. 
  • I got to watch the men's triple jump final in its entirety today, which was great. That's a good event to watch from beginning to end. I didn't stream the solo coverage of men's high jump today, but the OBS stream of the entire track and field evening gave good coverage of it so I felt like I didn't miss much.
  • Finally, the OBS announcer for track and field didn't mince words when he said how slowly the women's 1500m run was going. I was all smiles for each one of his negative comments. A few of my favorites included:
    • "pedestrian"
    • "slightly faster than a walk"
    • "a snail's pace" 
    • and my favorite... "farcical" pace.
Hope that put a smile on your face. Enjoy your day and I'll catch you later!

Monday, August 15, 2016

The Olympic Blurb 2016: Day 10

If I were to say, "Sing a few bars of the Olympic song," everyone might have a different song to sing. They might think that it's just one song, and they're singing different parts. In actuality, there are several Olympic themes, and the ones you're thinking of are probably most commonly used in the United States.

Let's get historical, shall we?

The first piece heard is "Bugler's Dream" by Leo Arnaud. However, the part you're thinking of actually is not the first song heard before an Olympics broadcast! The first part is actually right at the start of broadcast, when (this year) the collage of Olympic athletes is shown and the NBC logo is shown.

The second piece is the fanfare from "Bugler's Dream." It starts with the timpani and brings in the brass in a very bombastic fashion. The song is from the album Charge! written in 1958, and ABC actually used it in its Olympics broadcasting only ten years later, in the 1968 Winter Olympics.

If I ever were to hear this piece in person, it would be very hard for me not to sing along. It also makes me think of landscapes, because NBC usually coincides the fanfare with shots of the host country's beautiful countryside or cityscape.

Here is the original "Bugler's Dream" song. It's a bit lighter on instrumentation, but you can hear both pieces I mentioned above near the beginning:



Usually the version heard is combined with Williams' 1984 Olympic fanfare, composed for the Los Angeles Olympics and conducted by Williams himself with the Boston Pops Orchestra. The "Theme" part of "Olympic Fanfare and Theme" is probably the most recognizable as an Olympic theme to the American population. NBC uses it to to go into commercials and back into coverage.

However, the "Fanfare" portion is not the "Bugler's Dream"! The songs were combined for a re-release of the song to celebrate the 100-year anniversary of the Modern Olympics in 1996, and that is the version that is still widely spread around today.

Over the years, lighter parts of this song are used when introducing a story piece or an interview in NBC's broadcast studio.

It's not often that a piece is over 30 years old, not associated with a movie soundtrack, and still widely recognized by much of the population! Listen to the original 1984 version here:


Now here is the 1996 re-released version, combining "Bugler's Dream" with the "Olympic Theme":



Williams did pen another piece for the 1996 Atlanta Games, and NBC still uses it, most commonly with their daytime coverage. The piece is called "Summon the Heroes," and was also performed in the Opening Ceremonies by Williams.

Honestly, I used to think that "Olympic Fanfare and Theme" and "Summon the Heroes" were the same piece. It took a bit of research and recognition later in my childhood to understand the differences. The 1996 theme was widely used during my very first Olympic experience, so I have a big connection to that piece.

Listen to it here:


There was a final Williams song composed for an Olympics, but it isn't used much anymore. It's a real shame, because it's very beautiful. It was composed for the 2002 Winter Olympics. Since those were in Salt Lake City, Williams used the Mormon Tabernacle Choir in the piece, singing the words of the Olympic motto: "Citius, Altius, Fortius." (Swifter, Higher, Stronger)

I was really hoping NBC might use this piece during all of its Winter Olympics, but in Torino, Vancouver, and Sochi, it was not. Alas.

Regardless, I love it to death. Here it is:


Apparently, the song associated with the Olympics outside of the US happens to be "Chariots of Fire."

But what is the actual Olympic song? It's called the Olympic Hymn, and it was composed by Greek Spyridon Samaris with lyrics by fellow Greek Kostis Palamas. It was performed at the first Modern Olympic games in 1896 and declared the Olympic Anthem in 1958. It is performed at the Opening and Closing Ceremonies, and has been done in several different languages.

Most of the time, like two Fridays ago, the Hymn is performed by children. Other times, it is by an adult choir, and still other times, an opera singer who really belts it out. Any way it's done, it still makes me cry. Here it is:



Hopefully you have learned a little something about the music of the Olympics! Now let's move to the mini blurbs...

  • Today's roundup:
    • men's standing kayak
    • gymnastics
    • track and field
    • men's wrestling
    • boxing
    • track cycling
    • men's volleyball
  • How ridiculous that both a male and female athlete fell across the finish line in track and field today, and because they did it, they did better than if they'd just ran across the line. As a matter of fact, the Bahamas' Shaunae Miller won the women's 400m because of her dive, narrowly beating Allyson Felix. There's never gonna be a rule saying you need to be on your feet when you cross, but there should be.
  • A rain delay during a track meet? Millions of current and former high school track and field athletes know the feeling. 
  • I see France's Pascal Martinot-Lagarde, and I just think of America's Favorite Fighting Frenchman, especially because his hair was pulled back in a very similar 'do to Lafayette in Hamilton. (Look him up.)
  • Not widely reported in some circles but reported by NBC Nightly News, an Olympic camera fell outside the basketball arena, causing injuries, and a fire caused delays over by the field hockey venue. 
  • If you're interested, the origins behind the steeplechase go back to Irish horses and riders that would ride from one church steeple in town to another town's church steeple, jumping over water and low walls. Oxford made it a cross-country sport, and then it was made into a track event later, still using water and barrier obstacles. 
  • It seems like the gymnasts who compete in the event finals usually are the ones who try the ridiculous routines and just hope they land it. Consistency is key. Which makes it even more mind boggling that Laurie Hernandez didn't get gold today. She had a very consistent routine!
  • In my grade-school-volleyball-athlete mind, if a ball is served over but still hits the net, that should NOT count! It should be a fault! The fact that the rule has changed in the last few years in professional volleyball is hard to comprehend. For 30 years I have always known that net serves don't count!
  • Out of all the field events to single out, I picked a poor night to do so. I watched men's pole vaulting, and between the rain delay and the faulty barrier, it took forever! Looking forward to seeing more stuff like women's discus and men's triple jump. Those at least have a definitive start and finish.
All right! Until next time!

Sunday, August 14, 2016

The Olympic Blurb 2016: Day 9

Today was an interesting day. Outside fun stuff meant I watched fewer events, and because I wanted to not hear about important results via Twitter, I kept myself off social media all day while I watched online replays of events like gymnastics.

But it wasn't just outside fun that affected my Olympic viewing. I wanted to watch the women's marathon on DVR before I found out the final results.

Gymnastics is important? Yes. Swimming? Absolutely. Track and field? A must.

Marathon??

Why in the world would I get so excited about the marathon??

My enjoyment of the marathon races in the Olympics did not come from my past year of running, which I need to preface before anything else. I have enjoyed the watching of the marathon since 2004, when I was able to watch a recording of the men's marathon in Athens while I was unpacking my dorm room in college. Italian Stefano Baldini won the gold, and eventual bronze medal winner Vanderlei de Lima of Brazil was attacked by a fan.

Marathon was the perfect event to watch while I unloaded all my stuff. For the most part, lead changes and surges take place at a slow pace, allowing one to work while listening with half an ear. The sights of the Olympic marathons are also spectacular - I am always reminded of the not-smog-filled race in Beijing when they passed all the major historical sights.

This 26.2 mile race is not dominated by the US. For the majority of marathons, they are won by African countries like Kenya and Ethiopia. If anyone else challenges, it makes the race very exciting indeed, even if they don't end up winning.

Sunday's race was fun to watch. It wasn't dominated by one athlete the entire time. About one-third of the way through, there was a pack of 12 women who had surged to the front. They were together for pretty much the middle third of the race, while the course had them doing several big repeated circles. In that pack were three Americans: Shalane Flanagan, Desi Linden, and Amy Cragg. These women had done their homework on running the perfect marathon, and it showed, even though they didn't end up medaling. In the end, Kenyan Jemima Sumgong won the gold medal.

It was just a race where the cameras showed women running, drinking water, falling behind, and surging ahead, and yet I really loved watching it! It was great watching marathons in the past, but now that I've done a little running (which isn't saying much; these ladies run at the pace of my usual 2-second full-blown sprint!) I understand the pacing they do and the things that they drink or do to keep them energized and moving. This can also be an example why I don't love cycling as much as marathons; I don't have that cycling background.

If you didn't catch the women's marathon on Sunday, make sure to DVR the men's marathon next Sunday morning. If they're like the women, they will start and finish inside the famous stadium where Carnivale is held, and run by the beach and in view of Sugarloaf Mountain. African runners may be a majority of the lead pack, but the race winners probably won't be exclusive to that continent.

Give it a shot! And make sure to DVR it; NBC likes to chop it up full of commercials and other sports highlights and interviews.

Let's jog over to the mini blurbs...

  • Today's round-up:
    • men's track cycling
    • men's golf
    • women's marathon
    • gymnastics
    • track and field
    • women's diving
    • tennis
  • Out of all the events I've watched, there are some in the sport of track cycling that just have me saying, "What the heck is the goal of this race?!"
  • Strange how most of the men's tennis tournament is the best 2/3, but the gold medal math is the best 3/5. That del Potro/Murray match was four hours long because of that! I'm not saying it was dull, but it sure was long!
  • Speaking of tennis, the fans in the tennis arenas clearly weren't year-round fans of tennis. They didn't quite have the etiquette of normal tennis fans. They were constantly being told to be quiet, and I saw two Argentinian fans be escorted out near the end of today's match for being too disruptive.
  • More disruptions during events: I saw two different people run across the marathon course while the lead runners were closing in on the finish. They didn't impede the runners and were caught soon after, but how did they get so close in the first place?
  • More disruptions outside of events: How crazy is that Ryan Lochte report of him being robbed? 
  • I believe that no US athlete won gold in the track and field stadium today. After eight days of swimming dominance, it's time to come back down to earth.
  • Mixed doubles tennis had an odd way to win: if both sides win a set, then they immediately do a tie breaker instead of a third set. First team to 10 points wins. 
You have homework today: if you watch NBC in the daytime or primetime, listen carefully to the music that starts the broadcast, and the music that goes into and out of commercial breaks. 

Good luck!

Saturday, August 13, 2016

The Olympic Blurb 2016: Day 8

Dear Mr. Phelps,

Hi there.

We've never met, but I am a big fan.

I just watched you swim your last Olympic race tonight. It was the men's 4x100m medley. You swam the butterfly after taking over for Ryan Murphy and Cody Miller. Nathan Adrian finished the race for you. You got a gold!

It seems like whenever I watch you, I see you get a gold medal. I'm not complaining or anything; it just has me conditioned to assume you always win golds. Yesterday when you won silver, I was almost relieved! He is human!

It has been a joy to watch you race these past 16 years. Well, I only remember you for the past 12, but it was a joyride all the way. In Athens there were rumors you were good enough to break Mark Spitz' record of gold medals in one Olympic Games. You didn't, but by the end of the swimming week people were already asking you about Beijing.

Beijing was incredible. They made the semi and final races in the morning in Beijing so everyone in North America could watch live in primetime. Do you know how unorthodox that is? And with all of that rigmarole, you still won eight gold medals! How the heck did you live up to those insane expectations?!

I wasn't expecting too much in London, but you still managed to snag five gold medals while not being in the best shape physically and mentally. But even when you insisted you were done with Olympics, I shouted at you (well, at my TV screen), "No you're not. See you in Rio."

I was right, and I wasn't surprised. You came back in great shape and with a new mindset. Honestly, this Olympics has been a thrill to watch, and you're one of the reasons for that. You're happy, joking around, having fun with interviews, serious about your races, and embracing everything and everyone.

You've had your downfalls, as we all have. Yours were in the spotlight, and you managed to find that strength to get you out of your darkest times. Things might still be tough in the future, but remember where you've been and what you've done, and you'll find your way.

It's been great following you all these years - we've gone through ups and downs at nearly the same times (we're the same age, FYI). A lot of my passion for the Olympics has come from watching you; you're a great ambassador for sports and swimming.

Your races were all over the place. You won handily, you won by hundredths of a second, you finished in a tie, you lost, you got silver and bronze, you won with teammates, you won by yourself. Fans ran the gamut of emotions just watching you do your job!

Blessings on your future work, whatever it may be. I look forward to seeing you in the stands at future Olympics, watching everyone freak out around you because "It's Michael Phelps!"

Take care.


Mini blurbs...

  • Today's roundup:
    • track and field
    • men's tennis
    • beach volleyball
    • men's badminton
    • swimming
    • rowing
    • men's trampoline gymnastics
    • skeet shooting
  • Why in the world to officials require runners to wear those number stickers on their legs or pants? I know they mark the lane of the athlete, but it always falls off during the race and seems like a big bother to the runners. Can't we think of a more technological way to make sure the runners go to the right lanes?
  • The field events have been nothing less than thrilling. The women's shot put, men's discus, and men's long jump medals all were decided by final round attempts. I found the men's long jump tonight to be especially exciting, and am so glad I didn't have to wait till the 1-minute review of the event at 11:55pm on NBC. The live stream was much better for that! #trackandFIELD
  • Many of the field events on the live stream have the current gold/silver/bronze placeholders identified by colored strips on the field. I love love love love love that! It really makes it easy to follow. We certainly have come a long way from that hockey puck streak 20+ years ago.
  • I got to watch the end of the Del Potro/Nadal men's tennis semifinal today, and that was really exciting, too! I wasn't rooting for one athlete or the other; it was the thrill of the game that made it fun to watch. It was back and forth the whole final set!
  • Most people disagree with my favorite name of the Olympics, and claim that China's Dong Dong has the best name. I respect their opinion, but disagree.
It's late and I gotta get to bed. I'll be back in the swing of things for tomorrow's blurb. Make sure to watch the airing of the women's marathon Sunday morning!

Friday, August 12, 2016

The Olympic Blurb 2016: Day 7

It is a bummer when swimming ends. After a week straight of pool excitement, days like today seem empty because there's not as much going on. Throw in a lack of finals in artistic gymnastics and diving, and you might interpret tonight as pretty boring, right?

Never you fear; track and field is here!

Yes, it is true that today was pretty quiet even in track and field, but that doesn't mean it was short on finals. In the morning the women ran the 10,000 meters and what transpired was an insane final where the winner, Almaz Ayana of Ethiopia, lapped several athletes at least twice en route to a world record run. That race was crazy, because the field very quickly spread out around the track and the gaps between runners was great.

In the evening, women's shot put took center stage, and Michelle Carter of the US team came out with her final put and dominated, getting an American record. New Zealand's Valerie Adams - the reigning 2-time Olympic champion - had to beat her on her last throw, and couldn't do it. Carter beat Adams and beat her dad, Michael Carter, who only has a silver medal in the event.

Meanwhile, the women's heptathlon began, with four of the seven events going today. Jessica Ennis-Hill, the 2012 winner, is leading, even though her teammate, Katharina Johnson-Thompson, set records in the high jump portion, tying with Belgium's Nafissatou Thiam at an insane height of 1.98 meters.

In addition to all that, there were heats and preliminary rounds for the men's 800m, the men's 400m, the women's 100m, and the women's 1600m. My round-up might look small today, but if you really think about it, when I put down "track and field," I am really talking about 8-10 events!

I also have a connection to track and field because I competed in shot put and discus in high school, and had a ball doing it. After years of dealing with a bit of athletic mediocrity, I found that shot put was an event at which I was actually good. 

I hope to watch a lot more field events on the streams, because they don't get nearly enough visibility in the television broadcast, so hopefully I can point out some of the great field events here in the Olympic Blurb!

Here's the mini-blurbs...

  • The round-up for today:
    • men's golf
    • track and field
    • men's fencing
    • men's boxing
    • women's trampoline
    • tennis
    • women's soccer
    • men's archery
    • swimming
  • It is amazing how passionate those fencers can get. They've been training moves for months and years, and they come out in the Olympics, do those moves, and then do a lot of screaming! I almost think they exert more energy screaming than fighting.
  • I heard that the US women's soccer team was in a shootout against Sweden, and I thought, "They couldn't possibly lose this one, could they?" Well it was possible, and they did lose. There aren't many people I dislike on any team, but Hope Solo is one of them. She didn't come out in a very good light, and it was her fault.
  • While artistic gymnastics gets all the love, trampoline gymnastics took the stage today and it's a pretty fun event. Men's trampoline gymnastics is Saturday starting at 1:00; I would check it out around 2:00 after they have done the compulsory round. See what these people can do way up in the air!
  • If I had to choose whether to have Maya Dirado or Michael Phelps come away with a gold tonight, I would choose Dirado. Sorry, Phelps, but after days of Hungarian Katinka Hosszu beating her in all of her elements, it was so refreshing to see Dirado beat her in the last individual event.
  • I had some family come in for the weekend, and all of them talked Olympics non-stop. They were a bit frustrated that other people weren't all-in concerning the Olympics, and that frustrates me, too. However, it was wonderful to be able to sit and talk with them about it all, and not have to explain anything or anyone - we all knew what was going on! 

Enjoy your Saturday, and see you tomorrow!

Thursday, August 11, 2016

The Olympic Blurb 2016: Day 6

A couple of weeks ago, before the Olympics began, I was watching a track and field event on ESPN. It was a team event in the TrackTown Summer Series; all the athletes that day were sorted into four teams, representing four US cities: Philadelphia, New York, San Francisco, and Portland. The higher an athlete placed, the more points their team got.

I enjoyed watching this because it was pretty lighthearted and there wasn't much at stake. But my favorite part of this came at the end. The final event was the 4x400m relay...but it was mixed 4x400m. The top two 400m men and women on each team made up the relay squad. The fastest men went first, followed by the second-fastest woman, then the second-fastest man, and the fastest woman took the anchor.

I loved it! It reminded me how awesome those mixed events are. We used to do that in grade school - they were called mixed shuttle relays because we just ran back and forth instead of around a track. Floor hockey was also mixed, and those were my favorite tournaments to attend and in which to compete. And where I used to teach in Colorado, all the sports (soccer, basketball, track and field) were mixed because the schools around there just weren't that big. I found that to be truly awesome.

So why isn't there more of that in the Olympics? A week ago it was announced that five new sports were coming to the Tokyo Olympics in 2020, so they're certainly not looking to maintain or even reduce events. Why not add more mixed gender sports?

Equestrian was one of the first - in the 1960s - to be mixed in the Olympics. As I mentioned yesterday, there is a mixed sailing event. Tennis has had mixed doubles for a while - which happens to be my favorite tennis event to watch. Badminton is the same. (There are more in the Winter Olympics.)

There are so many other opportunities for men and women to compete together. Track and field relays are the first that come to mind. Those would be mind blowing! Synchronized diving would be a good challenge - maybe the Chinese need a good challenge in that sport. Track cycling's pursuit could be a mixed team. There's already been a request put forth to make golf a team event - make it mixed teams! And I would be very curious to watch men and women fence against each other. And SWIMMING! What about a 4x800 team of four men and four women doing each individual stroke? (It might be hard to do backstroke twice, but they can figure it out.)

There has been a large push for equality and political correctness in this Olympics - I can think of no less than three different occasions these past seven days where someone has been called out for his comments about female athletes. ("His" is plural here. Just trying to make a point.) When we equal the playing field, we equal the abilities of all the athletes involved. We can give credit to everyone involved for giving her and his best, and maybe show these old announcers out there how incredible everyone is at their sport!

Rant done. Mini blurbs begin...

  • Today's roundup:
    • rowing
    • men's golf
    • equestrian dressage
    • women's water polo
    • fencing
    • table tennis
    • women's shooting - rifle
    • women's judo
    • women's gymnastics
    • swimming
    • women's archery
    • canoe
    • track cycling
    • men's rugby
    • men's boxing
    • women's badminton
  • I gotta laugh at these green pools. "Our natural water may be polluted and irreparable, but our pools are state of the art!" Not.
  • I fell in love with track cycling back in London, where the locals flooded into the velodrome for something at which their countrymen excelled. I was thrilled to stumble upon it today! Time trials are great and all, but nothing beats the pursuit events. You need to catch this over the next few days. If you need convincing, sometimes they change the camera angle to the little camera that's perched on the bike
  • I would love to be able to watch rowing in person, but since the rowers are coming from 2 kilometers away, it would be kind of hard to judge who is in first by the angle of the stadium seats to the rowers. 
  • Speaking of rowing, the 2-man team from Norway, who won bronze, brought up two kids to the medal ceremony! I'd never seen that before, and it's probably not IOC-approved. 
  • I'm still frustrated that no one seems to be talking about the lack of flower bouquets for the medal winners. I think the little Rio logo statues are cute and perfect for the mantle, but is no one seriously talking about this?! Flowers have always been there!
  • When the gymnastics coverage started today and pretty much crowned Simone Biles before she'd even taken her first vault, I immediately started rooting for Aly Raisman to win. She got silver, and she did phenomenal. Mad props to Aly - that final floor routine was dynamite!
  • If you watched the gymnastics streaming the past few days, you did not get the normal Al Trautwig-Tim Dagget-Nastia Liukin pairing. Instead, a trio was doing audio in New Jersey using the worldwide feed coming out of Rio, and I really liked them! Jim Watson does the play-by-play, with analysts Jonathan Horton and Courtney Kupets Carter, both from the Beijing Olympics. They reminded me of Johnny Weir and Tara Lipinski from the skating daytime streams back in 2014 - just having fun and not taking it so seriously. 
  • Kayla Harrison repeated as judo gold medalist, showing that she is indeed a beast and we should all bow down to her. 
  • While the gold medal (and bronze medal, for that matter) match was pretty much a bore, it was amazing to see Fiji secure its first Olympic medal of any kind with their gold in men's rugby. For them, this was a long and fulfilling journey.
  • That gold medal match was full of Old British Empire countries: the current Great Britain played Fiji, while the five referees were from South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand. 
  • After the rifle shooting event finished and Germany's Barbara Engleder took the gold, she pretty much reacted like I would react: down on the knees, pumping the fist, and screaming at the top of her lungs. 
  • After all the talk of the two Aussie sisters racing in the 100m freestyle in swimming, it was schadenfreude that neither of them medaled. However, Simone Manuel's comeback in the last 30 meters was incredible, and I'm so glad she got gold! Her reaction was priceless.
  • Michael Phelps' 200m IM was amazing to behold, but I was more impressed by his 100m butterfly semifinal, which was almost immediately after his very emotional medal ceremony for the 200m IM! I really hope he doesn't have an afternoon preliminary race tomorrow - that man needs some rest!
  • I love the 50m freestyle. It is such mayhem in 20 short seconds. I wish they would do what they do in the World Championships, where they have 50m races for all the techniques! Can you imagine a 50m butterfly? Water would be everywhere! They would need "Splash Zone" seating!
  • To finish this blurb, here is the best name of the Olympics: Icelandic swimmer Hrafnhildur Lúthersdóttir. 
Now I'm going to go watch that Rogue One trailer again. Until tomorrow!

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

The Olympic Blurb 2016: Day 5

There was a pretty splendid gymnastics competition today, and I hope you didn't miss it.

Yes, it didn't feature anyone from the United States. Yes, it probably wasn't on television very much. But what transpired was a very hearty competition between incredibly talented athletes. They did everything right, and in the end it was almost a toss-up as to who would win.

I got the chance to watch the entire competition online, and they made sure to show all six events for Japan's Kohei Uchimura and the Ukraine's Oleg Verniaiev, who were both in the same group as two of the top six qualifiers from Saturday. And they put on quite a show!

At first, everyone was wondering how amazing "King Kohei" would be throughout the competition, and if anyone could get close to his scores. By the middle, everyone was marveling at Verniaiev and wondering if Uchimura would actually get gold!

In the end, it was both athlete's performance on the high bar, their final event, that pushed the results. Uchimura went first, and put on a high bar clinic. Most importantly, he stuck the landing, and the arena erupted in cheers. He had a 15.8 in the end, and Verniaiev would need to score a 14.9 in order to win gold.

Verniaiev ended up faltering a couple of times and did a hop on his dismount, but for a starting score that was so high, it was odd that his score was just a 14.8, meaning that Uchimura would get gold after trailing for a bit.

I didn't mind if either gymnast won. I was thrilled to see top-notch gymnastics being performed by not only these two men, but also by the other men of the top ten. All of them stepped up and showed why men's gymnastics is where all the strong men are.

Event finals start on Sunday for the men. Do yourselves a favor and watch some, or DVR it if NBC ends up making it part of the late-night broadcast. While all-around medals are great at showing a gymnast's versatility, event finals show the man on his very best apparatus at his very best in ability. It will be a sight to behold!

Let's hop over to the mini blurbs...

  • Today's roundup:
    • men's cycling 
    • fencing
    • women's volleyball
    • beach volleyball
    • men's boxing
    • water polo
    • men's rugby
    • men's shooting (pistol)
    • men's shooting (trap)
    • equestrian dressage
    • mixed nacra sailing
    • men's gymnastics
    • men's diving
    • swimming
    • women's field hockey
    • kayak
  • I had gymnastics on one screen and diving on the other, since both take place at the same time. Diving never takes too long, since there are eight competitors (or teams in synchro) and six dives for each. This event was fabulous! It was not won by the Chinese team, instead going to the team from Great Britain after a disastrous Chinese dive in the third round. Meanwhile, the Americans were consistently good in all the rounds and ended their competition with an incredible final dive. They took silver - well earned.
  • For the first time, I spotted shower shoes on the diving cool down/warm up area! Both the Russians and the Brazilians were sporting them. I guess I'd never noticed that before.
  • Rugby seems like a very international sport, which is why it's perfect for the Olympics and puzzling why it didn't return sooner. There was a team from every inhabited continent, and Fiji was the #1 ranked team. I love the international appeal. Unfortunately the Americans lost and are out. 
  • While I didn't watch much of it, I was amazed by the sailing event today, the mixed Nacra 17. The Nacra 17 is actually the model of sailboat used by every team. It is multi-hulled, meaning more than one person is handling it. The event today was mixed, meaning one female and one male per boat. Another event with mixed gender competition! Let's add more please!
  • At one time today I was watching five different events at the same time and getting my classroom ready. I was on fire!
  • I, for one, enjoyed the variety of countries that won swimming medals tonight. Kazakhstan, Spain, and Australia got to hear their national anthems in the swimming arena. 
  • I had a busy day, so I actually was using my treadmill at 10pm, and stayed on it until the women's 4x200m relay had finished up. If I had to do my treadmill workout, I have to say the easiest way to do it was while watching Olympic swimming!
See you tomorrow!

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

The Olympic Blurb 2016: Day 4

I had a recommendation from my brother to watch rugby, so I made it a point today to catch some. And I suddenly realized something as I watched:

I might prefer rugby over football!

Now this is very abrupt, considering I have about three hours of rugby viewing over thousands of hours of football viewing, but let's just put professional football up against rugby. If you only look at it that way, then it's a little easier to understand.

Before the comparisons begin, yes, both of these events cause life-changing health issues. When people collide with each other it's bound to damage the body in multiple ways. People are aware of this, and hopefully the athletes are aware of this and are playing in ways that would prevent a lot of issues for them in the future.

Football requires a lot of equipment, including helmets and pads. Rugby requires pretty much nothing - maybe a helmet.

Football is a series of 2-8 second plays that start and stop so that the refs can properly place the ball. Rugby just keeps going and going, with only small stops for penalties or fouls.

Professional football games can be 2 1/2 to 4 hours long. Rugby sevens - the version seen at the Olympics - only has two seven-minute halves. (Normal rugby is 80 minutes long - which is still way shorter than a football game! It does have a continuous clock like soccer, but still.)

Football is a series of running, passing, and kicking. Rugby has no forward passing - it must be lateral passing. You can run with the ball, but if you're tackled you have to give it up. (This creates a ruck for who gets control of the ball.)

There are very specific rules for tackling in both sports.

The total number of points achieved for an individual score in both sports is 7, but in rugby the "try" is 5 points at the beginning and then the kick afterwards is an additional 2, but the placement of the kick depends on where you score. In football it's usually in the same location, unless there's a penalty.

I think I like rugby a lot is because of its continuous play. There are no network-placed commercial breaks - everyone has to wait for their ads to air at halftime or the end. It's quick and powerful.

At these Olympics there is an active NFL player on the men's US team, Nate Ebner. He is on the New England Patriots, but got permission from the team to attend the Olympics! Better yet, he scored one of the trys! If this means more NFL players will be trying out rugby, I approve.

Here's some mini blurbs...

  • Today's roundup:
    • equestrian eventing
    • women's rowing
    • women's diving
    • women's gymnastics
    • men's judo
    • men's rugby
    • women's table tennis
    • men's handball
    • men's boxing
    • women's tennis
    • men's volleyball
    • men's beach volleyball
    • men's kayak
  • As expected, equestrian eventing was awesome. It's a combination of speed and jumps in a smaller space, so it's easier to view. New Zealand really blew it as a team - they had gold in the bag, and then their last horse and rider got too many penalties by missing the jumps! They actually penalized themselves outside of the podium. Australia also messed up, but they managed to stay on for bronze, causing the French to win!
    There was also an individual eventing competition in the afternoon, which combines the first three scores with another eventing score. There was no contest; the man from Germany - Michael Jung - hadn't gotten points added since dressage - he was amazing!
    Better yet - Phillip Dutton of the US won bronze!
  • If you've been watching rowing and are curious, "repechage" is the last chance for people who didn't already qualify to continue competing. They have to compete in one additional competition in order to move on.
  • I got the chance to watch Travis Stevens compete for the gold medal in judo! It was the first time that the notification for a gold medal match was relevant for me. Unfortunately, even though he tried everything, the Russian did one move that won it. But Stevens got silver.
  • Every time I watched Serena Williams play these past few days, she never looked like she was on top of her game. I wasn't surprised to see her lose today. 
  • I loved that there was so much talk about Chad le Clos and Michael Phelps, and in the end, Phelps had the gold and le Clos had nothing. 
  • I have NOT been impressed by our US teams in these games. Whenever I watch their round robin play, they do not do well. I watched the US men's volleyball team lose again today, after watching the US men's polo team lose before. It always seems like the women do better at the team sports.
  • Was it me, or did the gymnastics competition today seem too anticlimactic? We all knew who was going to win, and when the US women came out with nerves of steel, there wasn't any drama because we knew they were going to crush it! At least they, once again, lived up to expectations. (I'm looking at you, US men's gymnastics.)
  • Phelps was a beast tonight, and was exhausted by the end of the 4x200m relay. For being his last Olympics (probably) he is going out in style. (And if you're wondering why I haven't been gushing about my favorite Olympian, as they say in Hamilton: just you wait.
  • The one table tennis match I watched today featured a Japanese player who threw up the ball so high it left the view of the screen! It was like she was serving a volleyball in the air. And yet it landed right where she wanted it. I have no idea how they do it.
  • Just an FYI: I did not watch any of the NBC Primetime coverage tonight. Why? Well, I watched diving and gymnastics live, and I watched swimming on the live stream. I didn't miss a thing, and I didn't have 800 commercials or special interest stories to bog me down. It was fabulous. #boycottNBCprimtetime
Whenever I get kind of exhausted from all the coverage, I just remember that in two weeks I'm going to be begging for the Olympics to come back. (I did have to take an hour break to play Super Mario World this evening. It was necessary.)

Even more fun to come tomorrow! 

The Olympic Blurb 2016: Day 3

This morning I had to meet with a family and do some work at school. So I got up early and headed over. Once my meeting was over, I scanned the online streaming for choices to play on my SMART Board while I worked.

I'm not too interested in round robin team matches, so those were out. So I decided on cross country equestrian. It's probably not the number one choice of most people, but it piqued my interest for sure.

Turns out it was pretty great! Unlike dressage, which I had watched before and gotten bored really easily, cross country is a speeding/jumping event. The winding course is 2 3/4 to 4 miles long and filled with obstacles like hills, logs, or ponds. In Rio, there are 33 obstacles total, and my favorite is the Bamboo Keyhole, which is a wall of vines (bamboo, I'm guessing) with a hole cut in the middle.

The first competitor I watched did the course so flawlessly that I wasn't too concerned about competitors failing. But as I watched more and more horses, I realized that this was really, really hard!

The lowest score wins in this event, and every time something goes wrong, you get points added on. The announcers were talking about "twenty penalties" and once I even heard "hundreds of penalty points"! When I looked it up, I saw that error by the jockey is much more harsh than error by the horse. If a horse doesn't do what it's supposed to, it's called a "refusal." If they refuse to do an obstacle or cross tracks into something else, they get penalty points, and if they do it three or four times, they're eliminated.

When the jockey messes up, it is just elimination. Period.

There are so many rules and requirements that it's hard to comprehend that this actually works, but it does. When riders get the horses correctly into position, they do beautifully. In Olympic events, that means that the jockeys have to be quick on timing and be ready to maneuver into the next position with little to no breaks in between.

Even more important, if you manage to get through the course fast enough, you move on to the third and final round, and can also compete as a team with other riders from your country. You can still compete as an individual if you don't have enough to field a team. But if you're eliminated, you're out.

I saw a couple riders fall of their horse, and I did see one horse go down, but he walked it off, thankfully.

Teams from Oceania are dominating this year; Australia and New Zealand are leading in the team event, with France right behind. I'll try to catch the final tomorrow and let you know what happens!

Time for mini blurbs!

  • Monday roundup:
    • equestrian cross-country
    • men's gymnastics
    • rowing
    • swimming
    • women's volleyball
    • kayak
    • beach volleyball
    • judo
    • archery
    • women's tennis
    • men's weightlifting
    • men's diving
  • It was incredibly frustrating to watch men's gymnastics. I had said on Saturday that other countries would have to fall a lot to get the US men to the podium, and I was totally right. Unfortunately, it was the US men that fell. Alex Naddour and Sam Mikulak both messed up their floor exercise routines, Naddour messed up the event he was picked to dominate in pommel horse, and Danell Leyva just barely missed the high bar on his final release. They finished in fifth, after being second in qualification. It was almost a mirror image of 2012 in London, and I'm bummed. Proud of the team, but bummed.
    Meanwhile, the rest of the field did everything really, really well. The Russians were spot on and clinched silver, while Japan came back from two poor Olympic team events and took gold this time. 
  • It was fun to watch - I viewed the entire three hour stream!
  • It's usually Monday of the first Olympic week where I hear a news report about the empty seats, and Miguel Almaguer didn't disappoint me today. Yes! Preliminary events won't be as full! There are a bajillion events going on - you can count on empty seats to be all over the place. It's when the finals of premier events have empty seats that we can start to worry. 
  • In my random Olympic moments I can think of stupid things. For example, as I watched men's beach volleyball, I thought, "Which secondary color in US Olympic uniforms do I despise the most: grey or light blue?" The answer? Grey is so dull. Stop using it.
  • Women's volleyball was fun to watch, especially when they were down 2 games to 1, and were really close to losing in game 4, but won three straight to take the match against the Netherlands. 
  • Kayaking is so much fun! I think it's the hardest sport to do in the Olympics. The gates are suspended and you have to get your head around them without touching them! Green gates are normal entry, and red gates you have to go in backwards. Plus you're racing for time. 
  • Got word from my little brother that his wife, who wasn't a big Olympics fan before, has now grown to love it and enjoys the main events, like swimming and gymnastics, as well as the lesser-knowns like judo and kayaking. I couldn't be prouder!
Have a great day, and I'll see you tomorrow!