Saturday, August 16, 2008

Day Eight: You mean they're still swimming?

Well let me say it's much better to tape the athletics and wake up in the morning and zip through all the adverts and montages.

Well the Women's 10,000m was a great distance race. The big shock for me was the poor performance of the Ethiopians (well 2 of them). Generally they like to run as a team, but last night only one was up to the task - the great Tiranesh Dibaba, Her cousin Derartu Talu won the 10k in Barcelona and Sydney; and now Dibaba has an Olympic Gold to go with her 2 world championships.

She sat on the Ethiopian runner from Turkey, Elvan Abeylegesse(Ethiopian and Kenyan often crop up running for other countries) in much the same way as she did last year in the world championships. And then much the same way Dibaba kicked with 400m to go and won running away.

Perhaps the run of the night was the American Shalane Flanagan, who broke her own American record to win the bronze - and just goes to show you you don't need to come from East Africa to be a top distance runner - here's hoping it's an indicator of things to come for Craig Mottram.

The swimming finals this morning:
  • Women's 200m Backstroke: Kirsty Coventry has 3 silvers from these games, but she is the defending champion, so I'll pick her to take Gold.
  • Men's 100m Butterfly: If the WR holder Ian Crocker was at his best he might be able to stop Phelps winning, but his heat swim looked pretty rough. They'll swim next to each other, so I'm betting Phelps will make it #7.
  • Women's 800m free: Would love to see Kylie Palmer grab an individual medal to go with her relay gold.
  • Men's 50m Freestyle: Anybody's. Sullivan seems to be struggling a tad sine the 100m freestyle - perhaps the ex-girlfriend's 3 Golds are weighing on his mind.

Some great results this morning.Jared Talent in the 20km walk won bronze and Luke Adams came 6th. Now walking is a very odd sport, but it certainly deserved more coverage than 7 gave it. All we got to see was them walking into the stadium - i.e. the last 100m of 20km... excuse me if I found it hard to get too excited (the only reason I knew about Talent was because I happened to be listening to the ABC).

But the big news of the morning was Michael Phelps winning his 7th Gold in the 100m Butterfly. Now the adage in sport is that it's better to be lucky than good, but Phelps has the unique aspect which the greats seem to possess - he is both good and lucky. He mistimed his final stroke in to the wall, and yet somehow - mostly because the Slovakian had also slightly mistimed his final stroke, Phelps was able to get to the wall 1 hundredths of a second faster.

In years to come, people will forget just how close Phelps was to winning 6 golds instead of 8. Lezak in the men's 4x100m swam better than he ever has and ever will to get the Americans to the gold; and 1 hundredth of a second in the butterfly? Such a margin comes down as much to luck as skill.

Coming into the Games it was reasoned that Phelps would need everything to go for him to win 8 Gold. Well everything has.
Good work by Youcef Abdi in qualifying for the final of the men's 3000m Steeplechase. Last year at the world championships while in a good position in his heat with a lap to go he was tripped (or fell - the steeple is bit rough and tumble); he picked himself up and ran out the lap. He has had a habit of falling or losing his shoe in races (he nearly fell in his heat), so here's hoping he runs a strong final and breaks his Australian record.
Well yesterday I praised Tamsyn Lewis, today I scratch my head in wonder. Why she would bother running the 400m is beyond me. She is not world class, she's barely commonwealth class in the 400m; and yet tonight she is running an 800m semi final, which will require her to be one of the 2 fastest non-automatic qualifiers (I'm assuming she won't finish in the first 2). This will require her breaking her PB; and yet for some reason she thinks the best way to prepare for this is to run a 400m? Stupid.I'll take it all back if she gets through tonight, but I doubt I'll need to.
At the moment the Aussie men are playing the beach volleyball and getting a bit of a touch up by the Dutch. Have to admit I'm not focusing too much on the match as the Crows are playing Essendon on foxtel. Near the end of the third quarter the Crows are giving the bombers lesson.

Young Crows Patrick Dangerfield kicked a goal with his first kick in the AFL. It's an understatement to say he's been under a some pressure from the Adelaide media and supporters because he was drafted instead of Brad Ebert. But he looks good. (though now that I've given him a wrap he's kicked a point from a set shot).

And if Dangerfield's nickname isn't Rodney I'll be very disappointed.
The big event tonight will be the men's 100m. Usain Bolt has so far jogged through the rounds. In the second round he jogged 100m in 9.92secs. The 100m often involves a bit of psychology as the favourites try to use the least amount of effort while still winning each heat. And of the three main challengers - Bolt, Asafa Powell and Tyson Gay - Bolt looked to be using the least energy.

He is 6ft 5 - massive for a sprinter (Carl Lewis was 6ft 2; Maurice Greene 5ft 9; Asafa Powell 6ft 3) - and is really a 200m man (which is an odd thing to say about the 100m world record holder). I thought Powell was the fastest jogger; but Bolt has taken it to a new level - and in sprinting, the fastest jogger usually is the fastest sprinter.
7:06pm: Channel 7 are doing great stuff with the rowing finals. After showing live the win by in the pairs of Drew Ginn and Duncan Free, now we watch the double sculls... 200m to go we have boat length lead. C'mon!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Yes!!!!You beauty!!! 2 from 2!!! Scott Brennan and David Crawshay make it 7 Gold for Australia - take that Michael Phelps, anything you can do, a nation of 20 million people can do just as well!

Great start for the night ahead
Men's fours just started... can we go 3 for 3?
Oh bugger. Watching rowing is damn frustrating, it goes so slow; you want them to just do some quicker strokes. The British just kept coming at the Aussies and got them with 200m to go and went past. Still 2 gold, 1 silver isn't a bad day's work.
Only 5 hours till the men's 100m final. The 100m is a tough event to write about. It's hard to describe an event which takes a shorter time to complete than it does for me to type "the men's 100m is a tough event to write about". As a middle distance runner from my youth I am always going to be biased towards the 1500m and 5000m runners, but you can't deny that every kid when they first muck around running in the school year tries to run fast. Those who can't run fast try to run far, and those who can't run fast or can't run far take up swimming.

Sprinters are the kings of the track because like the test pilots in Tom Wolfe's The Right Stuff (great book, read it) the sprinters are those who have left everyone else behind. When you look at the 8 men in the final, you need to realise all those who have been left behind: those kids who always won the 100m at sports day when you were at school but who couldn't win the inter-school sprint; the kids who won the inter-school 100m, but then got run out of the state under 15 championships; the kids who could win their under 15 state championships, but then couldn't cut it at the national titles; the kids who won the under age national championships but who were found wanting when they hit the seniors; the men who are able to beat all the other men at their local inter-club events, but not quite everyone; the guys who can beat everyone, but not everyone in their country; the men who can beat everyone in their country, but when they goes overseas they find they are running forever in the B races; the men who can beat everyone in their country, who can win at international events, but who have a got injured 2 months out of the Olympics; and everyone who didn't even beat that kid back in high school (which means you and me). All of us have been left behind.

Those who remain stand at the top of the pyramid, from which they look down on us poor souls who just didn't quite have it genetically, mentally, or physically and then tonight they will line up and discover just which one of them is the pinnacle of that pyramid.

And that's why the 100m is the only event in the world that lasts less than 10 seconds, but which will have people staying up all hours of the night to watch.
8:30pm: The Men's Points cycling race is on at the moment (I'm not even going to check if it is actually live - that just leads to disappointment); it is total madness - riders going a a lap up, then going for sprints; realising that who is actually in the front may not be in front. It's great watching. Aussie Cameron Myers is doing well - but who knows in a couple laps it all can change.
8:56pm: It did change. Myers 4th. Have to say the only bad thing about the event is it's over too quick. On Tuesday the Madison is run, which is like the points race, only involving teams of pairs - which means even more madness and confusion. Bring it on.
9:31pm: Tamsyn Lewis runs an absolute shocker - geez she almost looked like she had run to 400m more than the rest of the field...

A terrible post-race interview - Lewis was in distress and really Pat Welsh really should have let her go - no need to rub in the fact that she obviously isn't good enough and also had made a bad choice to run the 400m this morning. But even that choice aside, if Lewis had run her PB of 1:59.21 she still would've come 4th in that heat, and would need no one else to better her time in the next 2 semis (would love to let you know if this has happened, but Channel 7 has decided to show a repeat of a rowing race that everyone saw only 2 hours ago.... checking the website, to qualify she would've needed to better her PB by a full second.
10:11pm: Semis of the 100m; let's see who jogs and who has to run...Well Bolt absolutely strolled through the first semi in 9.85secs. Scarily fast.

(Just noticed from the website, they seem to be running about 10 minutes behind schedule) .. Medal ceremony for the 20k walk.. gotta admit I like the Russian anthem, kinda makes you feel like invading on a small neighbouring country. Apparently the super slow-mo showed that quite a few of the walkers were running, and yet only 2 got DQ'd.

2nd semi final of the 100m to start now... Gay hasn't been all that flash (hamstring may be suspect), Powell looks ok, just doesn't look as good as he used to (mostly because Bolt just does what Powell used to do, only better)...

Well Powell wins the semi, but he had to run. And Tyson Gay, current world champion and runner of the fastest time ever in any conditions (9.68secs wind assisted) suddenly finds that he has been (dare we say it).... left behind. A hamstring problem? Too bad, at this level if you want to be the mightiest of the mighty nothing can go wrong. The fastest man in the world needs to be an indestructible force - some men are left behind because their bodies won't allow them to run fast enough, some because their body normally lets them run fast enough but on this day it decides to betray its owner. In the first case you're left behind 20 years ago in the playground at school, in the second you're left behind in the semi finals of the Olympic Games.

10:42pm: Channel 7 have a choice to make - Show the men's long jump qualifying that is happening right now? Show the javelin in the women's heptathlon, which is happening right now? Show a 5 minute montage of Michael Phelps? I don't need to tell you what choice they made.

They come back from an ad break with this bizarre montage of Olympic highlights and all the shows Channel 7 wants to promote. I have to say this "Packed to the Rafters" keeps making me think they're doing a reality show (or is that an "observational documentary) of Pat Rafter and his family. Still if I see the promo one more time instead of a live athletics event I think I shall boycott it in protest (yeah, I won't protest the Beijing Games because of human rights abuses, but I'll protest against a TV station's over-use of montages!).

One hour to go; my picks - Bolt, Powell, Thompson. WR? No.

Women's marathon tomorrow - I see Benita Johnson is listed to start (wondered why she wasn't in the 10,000m). Paula Radcliffe is the greatest women's marathon runner of all-time, but she is very susceptible at major championships. She has been injured, so it is doubtful she will win, but it would be great to see her do it. Otherwise it as absolute raffle (as all marathons are).

The men's 10,000m is the last event tomorrow night: give the gold to Kenise Bekele right now. A quick look at his bio reveals this a guy not used to losing the over the 25 laps. Gebreselassie is running purely because the smog was too great for him to contemplate the marathon; which is a pity, because he could have won that; he won't win this.

Just had it pointed out to me that we've got 2 sailing Gold medals coming Australia's way. Sailing is never going to be a great spectator sport (ok the America's Cup had it's moments, but that was 25 years ago), but the Olympics is the pinnacle for most of these sailing classes, so great stuff. That will put Australia on 9 Golds (yeah try and match that Michael Phelps).
12:17am: Fifteen minutes till the final of the 100m; so does Channel 7 build up the excitement by having a cross to the guys in the stadium to talk about what we can expect; perhaps show replays of the heats to see who has looked the best? Nope, instead they show the USA playing Spain in basketball. Oh well, at least it is live, and I guess some people might be staying up to watch it.

Quick tennis aside; Federer is looking like becomming an Olympic champion he is in the doubles final, and the Swiss are up 2 sets to love; 5 all in the third.

12:31pm: Oh my God.

Wow! 9.68sec slowing down!!!!!! He started jogging in the 100m Final!!!!! Amazing.

Just incredible. Thompson 2nd, Dix 3rd. But really it was Bolt then no one.

Now that is a highlight. (Big tip he'll break Johnson's 19.32 WR in the 200m).

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

looks like we'll add another 2 gold from the sailing. If only we hadn't sat on our laurels after conquering lake bonney and set our sights a bit higher
was that goal of the year kicked by Nick Gill today?