Archive Page 2

Olympic News and Notes, July 3, 2008

– Sports Illustrated  has a primer on equestrian sports. I’ve always liked equestrian events, and find them infinitely more interesting horse racing.

The Charlotte Observer profiled Cullen Jones, a 50m freestyler who is trying to ease into the 100m freestyle.

– Yao Ming, who seems like one of the coolest athletes on the planet, is holding a raffle to benefit the victims of the Sichuan earthquake. The prize? Be Yao’s guest at the games. You can purchase the tickets here.

– The trials keep rolling on. Bernard Lagat, one of the best stories of the Olympics, qualified at 5,000 meters. Lagat, who is Kenyan-born, is a naturalized American citizen and is very proud to represent his new home. Michael Phelps continues to kick ass.

– The Chinese are so hell bent on showing that their drug testing works that they have barred a few of their own athletes. Luo Meng, a wrestler, is the latest to get banned. Meng was using a diuretic which would help a wrestler cut weight.

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Opening Ceremonies Theater: On a boat or on a train!

Technically, this is not part of the Opening Ceremonies, but it’s too wonderfully cheesy not to share. NBC aired a video introduction just before the Opening Ceremonies began backed by the song “America” by Neil Diamond. Do I need to say anything more?

Swimming Trials: Another Day, Another Record Broken

– The 200 free semis set up another duel between Ryan Lochte and Michael Phelps for tomorrow night’s finals. Phelps was three one hundredths of a second behind Lochte in qualifying times.

– Christine Magnuson and Elaine Breton are headed to Beijing in 100 m butterfly. One of the best parts of watching swimming is seeing the athletes turn around to look at the results on the board. Swimmers are so focused on hitting that wall, and their vision is limited already, so they often have no idea how they fared. The look on Elaine Breton’s face when she found out that she was headed to Beijing was priceless.

– I don’t know who is doing the music selections for the trials, but they are doing a fine job. They need to talk to the folks at USA Judo and USA Wrestling to teach them what is good music for an event like this.

– There will be a swim-off for the final position in the women’s 100 breaststroke. Is a swim-off nearly as exciting as a dance off? Do they have to yell “BREASTSTROKE? BREASTSTROKE! GO!” right before they jump in the pool?

– Unfortunately, backstroker Adam Mania did not qualify for the finals at 100m. I know little about Adam Mania, just that he is a backstroker and his name would have been a lot of fun throughout the games.

– Katie Hoff qualified for the 400m freestyle to add to her world record from last night, and she will be joined by Katie Ziegler.

– Two records fell in preliminary heats. First, Hayley McGregory broke Natalie Coughlin’s 100m backstroke record. Coughlin then jumped in the pool, and took the record back.

Picture of the Day: Go-Go Gadget Arms!

Michael Phelps competes in the 400m individual medley on Sunday. Phelps broke the world record, and still has five events to go. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

Notes from Swimming and Track Trials: June 29, 2008

Some thoughts from this weekend’s events:

– How often do you see drama in the women’s 10K run? Shalene Flanagan and Kara Goucher were neck and neck until the final straightaway when Flanagan broke away. Amy Begley, the third place finisher, had to step up her run a notch to make sure that her time qualified. When Begley found out that she was going to Beijing, she jumped up and down like a little girl – see why I tell you to watch the trials?

– Congratulations to my classmate at Mizzou, Christian Cantwell. His past two Olympic trials were disappointing to say the least – fouls, lots of fouls – and he qualified for the team with a throw over 71 feet. He is joined on the team by Reese Hoffa and Adam Nelson.

– Tyson Gay is one of my favorite track athletes going into Beijing. His record breaking 100m was wind aided, so it won’t go in the record books, but he sent a clear message that he will be a force in Beijing. Gay also showed his respect for history by wearing a uniform reminiscent of Jesse Owen’s uniform from the 1936 “Go F### Yourself, Hitler” Olympics in Munich.

– Michael Phelps is an amazing athlete, and driven as can be. He broke the 400m individual medley WR with friend Ryan Lochte nipping at his heels, and there is no sign that Phelps is going to let up.

– In contrast to Phelps’s cool confidence, Katie Hoff looked shocked when she found out that she broke the world record at the 400m IM.

Dara Torres is profiled in the New York Times, and her training regimen, and the cast of characters she works with, is nothing short of amazing.

– I enjoy Rowdy Gaines calling swimming for the same reasons why I love Ron Santo calling Cubs games. He has the enthusiasm of an uncle cheering on his nephew, but who will also call out his nephew for screwing up.

Try the Trials: Swimming and Track

The final trials for the U.S. Olympic team start this weekend. Swimming begins Sunday and will run through next Sunday in Omaha, Neb. (Side note – the hospitality business is Omaha must be booming. The College World Series just ended Wednesday, and now they are heading right into the Olympic trials.) Track and field runs today through Sunday in Eugene, Ore., where Team Nike USA will be assembled.

Track and Field

With Marion Jones making license plates and Justin Gatlin suing everyone but the CIA to get into the Olympics, USA T&F will have to work hard to shed the doping scandals of the past few years. Luckily, they have Allyson Felix (cue choirs of angels.) This four time world champion and Sunday school teacher is already a heavy favorite to win the 200m. Tyson Gay, running the 100m and the 200m, is the world champion in both events. Gay isn’t just looking for gold here, he wants to break the world records. In field events, Adam Nelson, a silver medalist in Sydney and Athens in the shotput, will compete against Christian Cantwell, a graduate of the best school on Earth, ever, for the spot. Jen Stuczynski has a shot at breaking the pole vault world record. (Sorry, boys, Allison Stokke will not be there.) Track and field trials will air on NBC and USA starting at midnight tonight, or tomorrow morning on USA.

Swimming

One of the things that I love about swimming is that the sport knows no age. Unlike gymnastics, where women are over the hill when they can buy themselves a Bud Light, swimmers can excel when they are 18 or 38. Remember Michael Phelps? As if you could forget him and his six gold medals. Over the seven days of trials, he will only have one day off. Now, a mature 22 year old, Phelps will try to repeat his herculean feat of 2004. As impressive as Phelps is, my heartstrings are much more tugged by Dara Torres, who made her Olympic debut in 1984. She has four gold and four bronze medals, and at age 41, is trying to make the Olympic team once again as a freestyler. Swimming television coverage starts Sunday at 8 ET on NBC, and will continue on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday on USA at 8 ET.

Diego Hypolito – Brazilian Gymnast Coached by Wizard Cat

If you read Deadspin’s MLB Closer, you know that Wizard Cat is a fan of good defensive baseball plays. It turns out that he has a Brazilian cousin who coaches gymnast Diego Hypolito, a floor exercise dynamo out of Sao Paolo. Known as Assistente de Gato, he helped Hypolito come up with this World Championship floor routine in 2006:

Reuters reports that, in contrast to the state of the art facilities in the U.S., Hypolito trains in a gym overrun cats and children. Not much money is allocated to gymnastics, and Hypolito has no interest in becoming a celebrity. He just wants to win, despite the many obstacles that have gotten in his way. His knee was scoped, and he caught a case of dengue fever that had hit Brazil. His recovery is complete, and he will contend for gold in Beijing.

Hypolito’s floor exercises are fluid and powerful. Assistente de Gato attributes this to Hypolito’s wide ranging training and hard work, as well as de Gato’s training.