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!

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