Archive for the 'Beijing' Category

Back from My Oly-cation

After the madness of the Trials, I took a little break from Fourth Place Medal. To my two readers, I apologize. Some things to catch up on:

Eric Shanteau wins the balls of steel award-no pun intended. Well, kinda intended. He is putting off cancer surgery to compete in the Olympics. Godspeed to you, Eric.

Breaux Greer, a javelin thrower who was injured during the trials, is going to Beijing.

USA Track & Field decided to place him on the team announced Monday, citing a rule that allows for “the selection of an injured athlete who competed in the Olympic trials but did not final … as long as another athlete is not displaced from the team.”

So, Tyson Gay still can’t run the 200m, unless one of the U.S. runners drop out.

Chicago 2016, the group working to bring the Olympics to my city, had a snazzy little party to raise money for the effort. It netted twelve million. By the way, if Chicago gets the Olympics, I may explode in happiness, and that’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make.

The Chinese will not be serving dog meat at the Olympics.

Usain Bolt has now run the fastest 200m of the year, after breaking the world record at the 100m.

– Via the New York Times, people much smarter than me have made medal predictions for Beijing. The verdict is that the U.S. will win the most overall, but China will win the most gold.

I think that’s everything for now. Phew.

A Frightening Look into China’s Olympic Training

I have heard whispers of China’s heavy handed training tactics – death threats for losers, taking away homes of bronze medalists, etc. – but until now, they were nothing more than rumors. The New York Times confirmed these stories today.

Juliet Macur brings us the story of Yang Wenjun, a gold medal winning canoer, who has been prohibited from retiring. He has an unspecified liver condition, and is exhausted by the training. Simply put, his heart isn’t in it. However, his lack of education and any other skills, in addition to the threats that he would lose his home and retirement benefits, prevent him from retiring.

“I do not want to work as an athlete, but as an athlete here I have no freedom to choose my future,” Yang said, speaking through the team’s official interpreter. “As a child, I didn’t learn anything but sport, and now what do I do? I can’t do anything else. I have my own dreams, but it is very difficult. I don’t have the foundation to make them come true.”

In sport schools sponsored by the Chinese government, with the exception of diving, academic studies take a backseat to the sport. Backseat might be an overstatement, because the sports are often the only thing that children learn. Say what you want about the American education system, and sports’ part in that system, but student-athletes have the opportunity to take advantage of an education. Not giving children any chance at an education because they are athletes is unforgivable.

After the Beijing games, China will have a legacy of being one of the more interesting hosts to the Olympic games in some time. It’s a shame that the Olympics will also leave them with the legacy of uneducated, world class athletes.

Cuba Hurdler Breaks World Record; Sets Up Communist Catfight

I’m sitting at O’Hare Airport, waiting to head out to Las Vegas for the Judo and Wrestling Trials. Before I board, I had to point out some an exciting development in the 110 m hurdles. Cuba’s Dayton Robles won the 110 at the Golden Spike Invitational in 12.87, besting China’s Liu Xiang by one one thousandth of a second. This sets up one hell of a race in Beijing. Both athletes will have the hopes of their respective nations on their shoulders. They will also be charged with proving who has the better Communism. China may have more than a billion people, an official cheer, and a healthy trade relationship with the United States, but Cuba has some damn good cigars. Hmmm. So close. I will wait until the 110 hurdles in Beijing to decide which one truly would make Lenin smile.

Why Does China Want to Ruin My Summer?

Time Magazine asks a salient, yet frightening question: What if China does not allow the games to be broadcast? From the article:

Differences over a wide range of issues — from limits on live coverage in Tiananmen Square to allegations that freight shipments of TV broadcasting equipment are being held up in Chinese ports — surfaced in a contentious meeting late last month between Beijing organizers and high-ranking International Olympic Committee officials and TV executives — including those from NBC.

Seriously? I cannot even fathom an untelevised Olympics, and would probably cry if I didn’t get to hear Bob Costas pontificate nightly, but that is not the bigger issue. I have to ask – what is making China so afraid that they don’t want anything, not even the games, caught on camera? They claim that their citizens are happy, and no one will protest, and that only the sun will shine on Beijing, so wouldn’t they want to broadcast that wonder and delight to the world? Their desire to control every aspect of coverage will only backfire. I just hope that it doesn’t end up depriving the world of the goosebump-inducing moments that we have come to expect with every Olympiad.

Are we allowed to say Rah, Rah, Sis-boom-bah?

The fine folks who brought us Tiananmen Square and bans on visiting Tibet are now schooling the rest of the world in the art of the perfect cheer.

Practice with me: Clap, Clap, thumbs up, clap, clap, High V! That’s tough. Luckily, I will be cheering for the United States, so I won’t be doing this cheer. I am a pretty competitive person, though. I think we need to outcheer the Chinese. A friend of mine said that we need to incorporate a booty slap. What else would be included in the perfect American cheer?

Opening Ceremonies Theatre: Seoul, 1988

The Olympic Ceremonies are always interesting to watch, at the very least. At its best, as in the clip above, the ceremonies can be a representation of the host country’s culture and traditions. The Seoul Opening Ceremonies look downright quaint compared to the ceremonies of Athens and Torino. They are during the day, without any elaborate sets, lighting or special effects. However, the sight of the Olympic rings being formed by skydivers (at 3:40) is awe-inspiring. Looking forward to Beijing, I am expecting nothing less than a ridiculous spectacle, though not anything Spielberg-esque.

Best and Worst of the Olympic Movement: June 4

Best: Aimee Berg has the story on how the U.S. women’s field hockey team qualified for the Olympics, the first time in 20 years. They rebuilt the program with plain old hard work and fundamentals.

Worst: People with “mental diseases” cannot go to Beijing during the Olympics. What does this mean? If you pop a xanax, or take an ambien on the flight over, are you banned? What qualifies as a mental disease? Does this mean that a child with Down’s Syndrome can’t go to the games?

I Would Do Anything for the Olympics

But I won’t do that.

(Story from Sports by Brooks)

Getting to Know the Olympians: Softball Pitchers

If you’ve flipped on ESPN at all this past weekend, you’ve seen the Women’s College World Series. Texas A&M and Arizona State are battling for the championship as I type this. Ridiculously fast pitches, faster baserunners, home runs – you’ve seen it all on the college diamond. If you’ve enjoyed the WCWS at all, you will love Team USA. To give you an idea how good Team USA is, they beat Arizona, the seven seed for the WCWS, 16-0.

Go ahead. Make jokes.

This team doesn’t just dominate collegians; they dominate the world. USA softball has won every gold medal awarded in the Olympics. One of the reasons why the USA is so damn good is the dominant pitching. Get to know these gals – after the jump.

Continue reading ‘Getting to Know the Olympians: Softball Pitchers’

Paul Hamm has Surgery

Remember Paul Hamm?

The adorable scamp from Wisconsin who improbably won the men’s all-around in Athens, and then maybe didn’t, but actually did keep the gold medal, broke his hand at the Visa Championships on May 22. Surgery to repair the hand was successful, and he is optimistic that he will be able to compete in Beijing.