Sunday, March 4, 2018

Olympic Blurb: February 26 - March 4 Wrap-Up

I used to think that athletes that competed at the Olympics only competed at the Olympics. It didn't help that way-back-when the Olympics were the only time that these athletes were put on television, and then they proceeded to go on a national tour with their medals and do a bunch of commercials. The next time we saw them, it was the Olympics again!

Thanks to cable and NBC's Olympics deal, we now have several channels that are able to broadcast the rest of the Olympic sports' seasons as well as World Championships that aren't up to NBC's standards. One of them is even called "The Olympic Channel." 

So this week I was able to catch up on my favorite sport of all time, track and field (AKA athletics) as it entered the World Indoor Championships in Birmingham, Alabama England. I had been able to watch a few of the indoor events and knew what to expect: 
  • The track is only 200 meters long instead of 400, and banks in the curves like a NASCAR track. 
  • The sprinters and hurdlers run a 60-meter track in the middle of the oval, and the only thing stopping them from running into the crowd is a plastic barrier. 
  • Some of the field events don't take place because there just isn't the space or time: discus, javelin, hammer throw, 5000 meters, 10,000 meters, and steeplechase. 
  • Because of the elimination of those events, the men's decathlon and women's heptathlon are whittled down to the men's heptathlon and women's pentathlon. 
Many outdoor track and field athletes participate in the indoor season to help them prepare for the much more rigorous outdoor season. It surprises me that more people don't connect with track and field athletes because they are always competing!

A big benefit to the indoor season is that there are no weather issues. England is dealing with snow and frigid conditions they aren't used to, but it only affected the transportation to the event, not the event itself. 

When I finally discovered the indoor track season - it was only a couple of years back - I was thrilled and confused. Thrilled that I could see many of my favorite track and field stars in the wintertime, but confused at the idea of a 200-meter track. I know that a long time ago indoor tracks were made because the larger format couldn't be built and supported indoors, but really? Can't we build a large 400-meter indoor track now? 

It's not the point. The point is to create a more intimate atmosphere with a smaller playing field and a crowd that is basically on top of the action. If anything can draw more fans into a sport, that is it. (Kind of like arena football, I guess.)

People usually aren't known for being "world indoor champion," but I am seeing a lot of outdoor world champions get just as excited for their victories this weekend. The venue (and audience) might be smaller, but the stakes are just as high. 

Mini Blurbs!
  • The BlurbWatch: (trying this out to see if it's a thing that will stick - what do you think?)
    • track and field (indoor)
    • gymnastics
    • swimming
  • The Olympic Channel was showing a lot of PyeongChang coverage this week before returning to live or recorded coverage of this weekend's events. Since I watched a majority of the Winter Games on the OBS feed it was interesting to listen to the NBC commentators when I happened to flip by. 
  • And just like that, the Russian Olympic Committee is reinstated. They had two failed doping tests in PyeongChang, but I guess they made changes because there weren't fifty? Is that how it works now? (This was just for Olympic competition. The main track and field group - IAAF - still hasn't reinstated Russia and they compete as Authorized Neutral Athletes.
  • I watched a bit of gymnastics featuring a completely new set of women gymnasts in the Nastia Liukin Cup (any other gold medalists have a competition named after them not ten years after they've won gold?). To say that USA Gymnastics has had a challenging year would be the understatement of the year - it has been horrible. Frankly, it's deserved since they allowed so much to happen by Larry Nassar to female gymnasts for so many years. Now these new gymnasts are entering a world where many of the gymnasts above them are dealing with the trauma of sexual assault while they are starting out in a new order of things. It has to be difficult. I think this is going to really affect the showing by Team USA gymnasts - both male and female - for the 2020 Olympics. 
  • Not surprisingly, at every single commercial break of the Nastia Liukin Cup, as well as the following day's American Cup, there was a commercial for Safe Sport Gymnastics, which according to its website, "seeks to create a healthy, supportive environment for all participants." They have 30 seconds intended for young athletes to report things that don't feel right, and another 30 seconds for adults to speak up. No sound - just words on a white screen. It almost feels more like punishment for USA Gymnastics rather than being proactive. If they would have been proactive earlier, they wouldn't be in the mess that they're in. 
  • Swimming is in the middle of the TYR Pro Swim Series, with this weekend's meet taking place in Atlanta. Many of the top athletes in Team USA were involved, including Nathan Adrian, Madisyn Cox, Ryan Murphy, and Hali Flickinger. The meet was fun to watch because it took place in the same arena where they swam in the 1996 Summer Olympics - the first Olympics I ever watched!
  • What a benefit for swimmer Chase Kalisz and track sprinter Christian Coleman. Both of them are turning into the most dominant athlete in their sport, and are doing so thanks to the efforts (and retirements) of Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt. 
  • Did you hear there was an entire heat in the men's 400-meter preliminary race that was disqualified? It wasn't like they worked together or anything - they all just committed some sort of lane violation at some part of the race. (That banked track is really tricky!)
  • Jarrion Lawson, the US athlete who competed in the indoor long jump, had some hurdles to conquer before his jump - his South African competitor Luvo Manyonga was practicing his own sprint right behind Lawson during several of Lawson's attempts. He would always pull up early, but I'm sure that was a distraction for Lawson. (He ended up in fourth.) I did notice event officials preventing Manyonga and other athletes from doing that after a few attempts. 
  • In both men's and women's shot put, the winner was declared before he or she did their final throw. As a result, New Zealand's Tomas Walsh and Hungary's Anita Marton threw with no pressure and absolutely obliterated their previous best of the day. It was fun to see!
  • Some of the winter sport athletes are still competing this weekend in their sport's world cup events, but others are enjoying the spoils back home, like men's curling and women's hockey. They're everywhere!
That's it for this week. I can't guarantee all my articles will be this in-depth, but it's a start! I'm also keeping an eye on some events coming close to home in the next few months. If I'm able to make them, I will have trip reports to include, too!

My name is Claire Nat! You can follow me on Twitter @CeePipes for lots of Olympic comments, or follow me on Facebook at facebook.com/blurbmusings. Check out my blog for other articles!

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