Saturday, June 23, 2018

Celebrating Olympic Day

Happy Olympic Day, everyone! Seventy years ago Olympic Day was started to commemorate the birth of the modern Olympic Games on June 23, 1894.

Now you might say to yourself, "Self, why would we celebrate June 23, 1894? I thought the first modern Olympics were in 1896!"

You would be right. But in June of 1894, Baron Pierre de Coubertin gathered a group together to discuss the possibility of renewing the Olympic dream, and on June 23 it was resolved to formally revive the Olympic Games two years later!

Ever since 1948, the idea of Olympic Day was celebrated, but only recently (thanks largely to social media) has the movement been largely known. I honestly didn't know about it until a few years ago!

Olympic Day not only promotes sport, but the three Olympic pillars: "move," "learn," and "discover." (We kind of talked about that last week as we expanded our culture a bit!)

I took on a challenge by my buddies at Olympic Fever to try something new in honor of Olympic Day. Luckily, it wasn't hard to find something, since I live close to a nice river that's perfect for kayaking!

Kayak has been an Olympic sport since 1936, and involves a shallow shell that sits just below the water's edge. In a vacation town like the one near me, there are lots of chances for people to enjoy recreational sports, and a couple of places that offer kayak rentals.

I managed to find a Groupon for a two-hour excursion not too far from my house, so I went out last Saturday - an especially hot day in the area. I wore light clothing and shoes, and it felt a little odd going for an excursion without hiking boots or athletic shoes! I made sure to lather up with sunscreen, since shade was going to be in short supply.

I needed to sign in and provide my information, and the kids (yes, kids - they were basically teenagers) set up my kayak on the floating platform and provided me with a life vest. I had been nervous about actually getting into the kayak, but this certainly made it a lot easier!

Once I had my bearings, they gave me a map, advised me on a good route that would take about two hours, and pushed me into the water! From there I was on my own.

I had a pack with me, and I made sure to put everything into plastic baggies; my phone got the double plastic baggie treatment! I wanted to take pictures, but I really didn't want to lose my phone. I also made sure to bring a bottle of water.

The key to kayaking is making sure your paddle properly gets in the water. At first I was only doing shallow strokes, and I wasn't going very far at all. Then I started to look at my paddle as it was going in the water and noticing how nice it felt when I dipped it in a bit deeper. I twisted at the waist in order to get my whole body in the workout.

I liked the route that they provided, because it made me paddle upsteam first. I was also competing with fellow kayakers (just a couple on this day), speedboats, and and pontoons on the river! It's a pretty wide river, so I never feared for my life, but there were a couple of times where I had to cross the river and really made sure to look both ways! Once I started paddling, I found it was easier to keep the momentum going.

There was one section of the river that branched off, and I paddled over there and fell in love. There were large summer homes on one side, and deep forest on the other. There were cottonwood trees all around shedding their fibrous seeds, and between the cotton, the sunlight, and the trees, it was like I was paddling in a dream. I couldn't even try to take a picture of it.

In this little branch there weren't any other vehicles on the river so it was incredibly relaxing. There weren't any vehicles...but there were geese and gosling families! I counted three families of geese swimming along with me.

I joined the main branch of the river again and crossed under a couple of bridges. At this point I started keeping an eye on the time; I wanted to make sure I had plenty of time to get back to the shore before my two hours were up. Eventually I got to the golf course and decided to turn around.

Little did I realize that now I was swimming downstream, so if I was paddling with the same amount of effort as before, I'd be going down the river much faster! I made it back near the shore with about 30 minutes to spare, but then decided to turn around and enjoy that little branch of the river one more time. (It was worth it.)

The overall experience was amazing, and I'm looking forward to trying it again soon! I don't have a vehicle that would hold a large kayak, but I have friends that purchased inflatable kayaks that they say work quite well. I might have to try it out!

I can't imagine performing kayak as an Olympic sport. The amount of energy needed to get down the river and do it as fast as possible? That's got to take incredible strength!

If you were to try out an Olympic sport, what would you choose? How can you use Olympic Day to promote moving, learning, or discovering? Don't let Olympic Day pass you by!

Tokyo 2020 Prep

Nothing to report this week.

Olympic Channel Video of the Week

In honor of the World Cup taking place, I chose this video about the technology used to determine goals in soccer matches:

Mini Blurbs

  • This week's BlurbWatch:
    • Track and Field
    • Soccer
    • Baseball
  • This weekend is the US Track and Field Championships out of Iowa! I'm posting this one a little earlier so you should try to catch them a bit. Saturday's coverage is on NBCSN and Sunday coverage is on NBC.
  • I purchased the NBC Sports Gold Track and Field Pass, and I love the fact that it's commercial free. (It better be, for how much I paid.)
  • When they put the distance graphics on the screen, they put up the meters first, and the feet/inches in smaller font. I appreciate that they acknowledge that internationally the only measurement that matters is the metric measurement!
  • One of the best competitions from Thursday and Friday include a great matchup in the women's triple jump between Keturah Orji and Tori Franklin. Orji broke the 14-year-old American record, and then Franklin beat it, and then Orji beat it again to win the whole thing!
  • I glued myself to the field feed and loved it. I never enjoyed televised coverage of field events because they don't get the airtime they deserve. But on the app, I can watch every single competitor. It makes the flow of the competition much smoother, and I can follow the storylines! Because of this, I got to see all the men's hammer throw - what an eclectic bunch of dudes! I would never have seen that otherwise!

Weekly Cauldron Check

Is the cauldron lit????


I'm Claire Nat and you're reading Light The CauldronFollow me on Twitter and Facebook @CauldronLight and read my past Olympic articles! You can start with my daily recap of the PyeongChang Winter Olympics HERE!

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Culture Beyond Sports

I was able to attend a concert on Friday night with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, where they performed Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. It truly was an incredible experience. Sometimes we get too accustomed to our speakers and earbuds to appreciate how amazing music performed live can be.

A few weeks ago when I restarted "Light the Cauldron" I mentioned that I might take some steps away from Olympic sports now and then, and this is one of those weeks. In order for us to appreciate the athletes that compete in Olympic events, we need to appreciate their cultures and histories.

One of the ways that I've worked on that appreciation is listening to different kinds of music. Although I am a musician, I never really got into classical music until college when I went to the Minnesota Symphony for the first time. There I was able to listen to Ravel's "Bolero" and was completely blown away. The piece is repetitive if you don't feel the underlying tension throughout the piece, but it is incredibly evident when performed live. It was one of the only times I've experienced when the orchestra was finished and everyone was immediately on their feet in appreciative applause.

I've been able to get around and see a variety of orchestras perform a variety of pieces from all over the world. Some of the pieces I've heard - like "Bolero" - I've seen used in Olympic programs. Others do a great job encapsulating the ideals of the nation where it was composed. And one of my favorite pieces of all time - Igor Stravinsky's "Firebird Suite" - was used when the cauldron was lit in 2014 in Sochi, and that brought even more emotion to that moment than ever before!

Music is a great gift, but sometimes people only appreciate a small slice of the plethora of music that's in the world. (Sound familiar, Olympic fans?) Once we open our ears to all that music, the more our world is opened up before us!

Tokyo 2020 Prep

Just found out that an important conference that I usually attend was postponed from 2020 to 2021. This is great news, because that's one less piece on the giant platter of things I'm doing that summer!

Olympic Channel Video of the Week

I might sound like a broken record with these Design Focus videos, but I adore them so much! This week they covered the wonderful world of pictogram designs:

Mini Blurbs

  • This week's BlurbWatch is small - and will stay small for the next few weeks because I'm working on something professionally for a few weeks!
    • Swimming
    • Gymnastics
    • Climbing
    • Baseball
    • Track and Field
  • Yup, you saw climbing there in the BlurbWatch. In 2020 sport climbing will be in the Olympics, so I tuned in to an event taking place in Vail, Colorado. When you hear "climbing," you might think tall walls. But this type of climbing I watched was boulder climbing, and is designed to have the athlete figure out the best holds to get from one height to another, ending up about 15-20 feet up in the air. Athletes are timed, and if they fall once, they have multiple chances to try again until the timer goes off. 
  • Another gymnastics World Challenge Cup event took place in Portugal this weekend. This was an apparatus final, and unlike the past couple of meets, the men's and women's events took place at the same time, with one or two athletes competing for the men, and then one or two competing for the women. They weren't on the same apparatus; in one instance the men were on the floor and the women were on the vault. 
  • I'm still not impressed by the athletes that are competing here. I think more and more that coaches are sending athletes to just get some international experience before the major tournaments. 
  • The IAAF didn't have a Diamond League meet this week, but they did have a World Challenge in Ostrava, Czech Republic. The World Challenge is the second tier of the track tour, but athletes in the Diamond League can compete. 
  • Cuban Juan Miguel Echevarria has suddenly burst onto the scene in the long jump. He followed his amazing nearly-jump-out-of-the-pit moment from Oslo by winning in Ostrava. Keep an eye on this kid!
  • I loved that the bibs for the athletes read "OSTRAVA!!!" with the exclamation points!
  • Mare Nostrum is apparently a swim meet that takes place in multiple locations in a short amount of time. Last weekend they were in France, but in the middle of the week they were in Spain, and this weekend they were in Monaco! "Mare Nostrum" was the Roman name for the Mediterranean Sea, and all the stops take place around the Mediterranean. 

Weekly Cauldron Check

Is the cauldron lit????


I'm Claire Nat and you're reading Light The CauldronFollow me on Twitter and Facebook @CauldronLight and read my past Olympic articles! You can start with my daily recap of the PyeongChang Winter Olympics HERE!

Sunday, June 10, 2018

The Modern MODERN Pentathlon

The track and field world has an event that combines many of the Olympic events into one. The men have the decathlon (10 events) and the women have the pentathlon (7 events, but I'm predicting in my lifetime this will evolve into a decathlon as well). They often say that these two events decide the world's greatest athlete.

There is actually another competition that combines events, but these events are not simply under a single sport. This event is called the modern pentathlon. It is called that because it is five events that showed the skills of a modern cavalry soldier. This is copied from the traditional pentathlon, which showed the skills of a Greek soldier in ancient times.

The five events are fencing (épée), swimming (200m), equestrian show jumping (15 jumps) and a combination (biathlon, if you will?) of pistol shooting and cross-country running (3200m).

The Main Man himself, Baron de Coubertin, introduced the event in 1912 and it's been in the Olympics ever since, despite losing popularity and, for that matter, relevance. Cavalry soldiers are now extinct in modern fighting forces.

I understand the significance, but I think in our world today we can steer away from the top aspects of a soldier and move to the top aspects of an athlete. The Olympics could definitely retain the pentathlon, but rename it the classic pentathlon instead, and introduce a new modern pentathlon!

The biggest question is what five events would be chosen? I'm not going to stick to one particular sport, but try to spread it out among five popular sports in the Olympic Games in varying ranges. Let's see...

  • 5000 meter run - either on the track or on a road course
  • whitewater kayaking
  • badminton
  • karate
  • 100 meter swimming 
The events needed to be single athlete events, and consisted of a sprint, a distance event, a timed technique event, a tournament with the body, and a tournament with an implement. 

You could easily substitute kayaking with rowing if you wanted to make the water less treacherous. Karate could be substituted by taekwondo or judo depending on how much throwing you'd allow. If you wanted just one tournament-style event, weightlifting could be added. 

This will probably never happen, but it's fun to surmise how the Olympics could add events that would be attractive for athletes and fun for fans to follow! And I guess that means I'm saying that equestrian show jumping might not be as exciting as kayaking these days. Sorry, horses. 

Wait! What if there was a team modern pentathlon? Five different team sports combined by points to have an overall team winner? How awesome would that be?! Basketball, volleyball, handball, rugby, and soccer! BOOM! Done!

What would you put in your modern pentathlon? Would you prefer to make a team modern pentathlon instead? Comment below or post a tweet - make sure to mention @CauldronLight! I'm curious to see what you'd prefer in your modern pentathlon!

Tokyo 2020 Prep

Adding to the main article, I am excited that there are so many Olympic events to choose from because it means that the crowds will be dispersed all over the place! So globally this is a question mark, but personally this is awesome!

Olympic Channel Video of the Week

I loved this video about Czech discus thrower Olga Fikotova, who fell in love while competing at the Melbourne Olympics in 1956 and had to overcome some obstacles in order to have both love and sport. That's all I'll say - go watch the video!

Mini Blurbs
  • This week's BlurbWatch:
    • archery
    • diving
    • track and field
    • gymnastics
    • rowing
    • swimming
    • tennis
  • I got to watch more archery from Turkey, where there was a tight gold medal match in women's individual compound between Turkey's Yesim Bostan and Paige Pearce Gore from the USA. The event was actually in Turkey, so Gore was definitely the underdog. The match was incredibly close, and not clinched by Bostan until the final round. 
  • I also finally watched the South Koreans lose a gold medal match to the French in mixed doubles. 
  • Something people don't think about when watching archery: the wind is a huge factor. This is not indoors! The Turkey competition was on the beach, so the wind is always moving one way or the other. 
  • The gymnastics competition was carryover from last week's World Challenge Cup in Slovenia, where there weren't any Chinese or Americans in the final rounds. It meant that other gymnasts got a chance to shine. 
  • Both Indonesia and Vietnam had gymnasts who were strong in their events - countries that aren't normally at the forefront of gymnastics. Vietnam had two gymnasts take gold in individual events: Thanh Tung Le won on the vault, and Phuong Thanh Dinh won on parallel bars. Rifda Irfanaluthfi of Indonesia was in the final of two women's events. 
  • The Oslo Diamond League was held on Thursday, and because Norway is...north, the sun didn't set until much later in the day, resulting in a day meet when the athletes would usually be competing under the lights!
  • The stadium is an 8-lane oval, expanded after the original stadium was only six lanes, but the crowd is right up against the eighth lane. And there were crowds! This was the second Diamond League event - after Eugene, OR - that had a full house. 
  • The 3000m steeplechase was interesting because one of the hurdles was actually off. One side was set for the correct women's height, and the other side was accidentally set for the men's height! The ladies had to jump the water jump with this awkward hurdle, and I'm sure it threw a few of them off. 
  • Not only did I watch professional track and field, I also got to watch the NCAA Championships that happened this week from Oregon. There are some impressive freshmen that are winning national titles - especially Rio Olympics alum Sydney McLaughlin, who won the 400m hurdles title! 
  • I especially enjoyed the team aspect of the championships. Unlike most professional competitions, top finishers earn points for their university - a carryover from high school athletics. It especially means that even if an athlete isn't a national champion, they'll still be striving to finish as best they can to earn as many points for their school. Georgia took the men's titles, but the Georgia women were upset as USC chased down the Purdue anchor and won at the finish line to get the ten points they needed to win the national team title! Wouldn't it be kind of awesome if they had a team competition in the Olympics? (And this from the woman who just complained about the amount of Summer Olympic events!)
  • I watched live diving from Wuhan, China, and I enjoyed that the coverage showed a computer-generated preview of what the divers would perform before they actually did it. At least I knew what to expect!
  • Cynthia Potter's expertise in diving makes me feel stupid, because whenever I deem something a good or bad dive, she always says the opposite - and the judges show that she's right and I'm wrong!
  • The TYR Pro Swim Series is back in Santa Clara, CA in an outdoor pool. I watched as the shadows crossed from lane 7 all the way up to lane 1 throughout the 1 1/2 hours of coverage. 
  • My boy Chase Kalisz won the 400m IM, but instead of competing in the 100m butterfly he actually did the 200m breaststroke, where he finished in sixth. This would be an example of "diversifying the eventlist," as Swimming World magazine would say. 
  • Regan Smith won the 200m backstroke, and she's only sixteen years old! Don't confuse her with Ragan Smith, the 17-year-old and 2017 US Champion in gymnastics! Wouldn't it be fun if both of them made the 2020 Olympics? 
  • I also caught part of the Mare Nostrum swim meet in France, and there were some familiar, non-American faces like Hungary's Kantinka Hosszu and Great Britain's Adam Peaty (who both won events on Saturday). There were a few Americans over there, too, like Missy Franklin, competing after an absence. 
  • I don't voluntarily watch tennis if it's not Wimbledon, but I'd managed to catch up on my DVR and was looking for something to watch on Saturday morning and discovered the women's final at the French Open! Sloane Stephens of the USA dominated the first set and the first two games of the second, but then Romania's Simona Halep woke up and completely took over to win the last two sets. 
  • Neither athlete is much for half-shots just over the net. They both are all about power shots, so it can get rather tiring! 
  • Halep was actually the #1 ranked women's tennis player without ever winning a major title, but that distinction is no more.
  • In honor of Olympic Day on June 20 I am going to try out an Olympic sport that I've never tried before. I just got the Groupon for it...but I'm not going to tell you what it is yet!

Weekly Cauldron Check

Is the cauldron lit????


I'm Claire Nat and you're reading Light The CauldronFollow me on Twitter and Facebook @CauldronLight and read my past Olympic articles! You can start with my daily recap of the PyeongChang Winter Olympics HERE!

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Is This Thing On? Podcasting the Olympics

This week was special in a couple of ways for me, because 1) I ended my ninth year of teaching, and 2) I got to be a guest on an Olympic podcast!

You've heard of the podcast if you're a longtime follower of my blog. It's called Olympic Fever, and it started back in September and has a weekly format where the hosts, Alison Brown and Jill Jaracz, discuss Olympic topics. The best part of their podcast is their interviews with many people associated with the Olympics - from the journalism angle to actual athletes - including current gold medalists like Kikkan Randall!

I was on the show as a new contributor, introducing a new segment called the Olympic Fever Book Club. I introduced the first book in the series, which so happens to be the first book I discussed here a few weeks ago: The Boys in the Boat!

Over the summer listeners (and readers of this blog) are invited to read the book and discuss it on Olympic Fever's social media, which includes Twitter and Facebook. Jill, Alison, and I will drop by to throw in some discussion points. And finally, in the podcast for the first week of August, I'll return to the podcast to wrap it up!

We're hoping to keep this going over the years because there are a lot of amazing Olympic books that are out there and it's my job to pick out the best!

If you have any suggestions, feel free to leave a comment below or contact me!

To listen to the podcast, you can search Olympic Fever on most podcast feeds or listen on their website. I hope you are able to do so and hear one of my top podcasts to listen to each week!

Tokyo 2020 Prep

Culture shock is a big thing when someone goes to a new country for a long period of time, and I've experienced my fair share of it when I've traveled to Asia and Europe. I have wondered how I am going to acclimate to a lengthy Japan stay, when I realized something.

I love anime - I have watched a lot of it in my adult life. Even though they might not intend it, Japanese ideals and customs do bleed through. I noticed that especially in My Hero Academia (which is fantastic) because it's supposed to take place in modern day Japan. A lot of the customs in the high school and the normal routines of daily life are taken from Japanese customs and routines. I mean, they throw in a heroes and villains as well, but you get the idea.

This won't completely throw off the culture shock, but if I accept the real-life Japanese culture like I accept the anime culture, then that is just a small step to enjoying my stay even more!

Olympic Channel Video of the Week

Here's something new! I love the videos that the Olympic Channel posts onto YouTube, and I feel like I should share some of the great ones. Here is my pick for this week, about the Olympic logos for each games:

Mini Blurbs

I guess I don't have to call these "mini blurbs" if my blog is no longer called "Blurb Musings", but I think I'm going to keep it for the sake of tradition!

  • This week's BlurbWatch:
    • archery
    • track and field 
    • diving
    • gymnastics
    • badminton
    • rowing
  • I finally caught up on the US Diving Championships from Dallas that happened a few weeks ago! Well, I got to watch the men's 10m platform event, where there were only 5 guys and no David Boudia. There weren't any Olympians in the field, but all the attention was on David Dinsmore, who narrowly lost out on a chance to compete in Rio in 2016. 
  • I feel like my diving knowledge is very limited, but I understand that no splash = good dive. We'll just say that my knowledge in diving is just a bit better than my knowledge in aerials. 
  • It came down to Dinsmore vs. Brandon Loschiavo, and even then it was the final dive that guaranteed Dinsmore the win. 
  • I think I would like diving more if the rounds were categorized. First round is a front jump. Second round is a handstand. Third round is a running jump. What you do after that is up to you. Just throwing things out there. 
  • The Diamond League competed on Thursday in Rome this week, and because I was still teaching I totally flaked on picking my fantasy league! I did take careful notes for next Thursday's competition from Oslo, though. 
  • Rome actually starts the "European circuit" for Diamond League, which is fun because most of them are in Olympic stadiums!
  • Ronnie Baker is not helping NBC as he won the men's 100m sprint two weekends in a row, beating Christian Coleman both times. You could tell last weekend in Eugene that the commentators were thinking Coleman was the next big thing in US sprinting, but Baker is showing that it's going to be a healthy competition!
  • Sam Kendricks did a how-to video on the Diamond League YouTube page, which was fantastic. And then he went out and won the Diamond League pole vault competition!
  • I feel sorry for the flower presenters at these track events. They have to track down the winner of the competition and give them flowers while the athlete is full of adrenaline and has no desire to accept flowers! It's probably why they don't give out the medals immediately after competitions anymore. 
  • In the archery World Cup competition in Turkey, the Italian team actually had a Paralympian, Alberto Simonelli, competing in the competition! When it comes to regular competitions, I guess the sporting association has leaner rules than the IOC rules. Though I have seen Paralympians compete in the Olympics, so maybe he has a chance to do that in 2020!
  • The Americans do have a pretty strong archery team, led by Brady Ellison (silver and bronze medalist in previous Olympics). Keep an eye out for them! They took second in the World Cup event out of Turkey, being narrowly defeated in the final by the dominant South Korean squad. 
  • Some of the gymnasts I saw compete in the Challenge Cup out of Slovenia have a long way to go before being ready for an Olympic year. 
  • This competition did have a kiss-and-cry area for athletes, mirroring its sister sport, rhythmic gymnastics. 

Weekly Cauldron Check

Is the cauldron lit????


I'm Claire Nat and you're reading Light The CauldronFollow me on Twitter and Facebook @CauldronLight and read my past Olympic articles! You can start with my daily recap of the PyeongChang Winter Olympics HERE!