Sunday, August 17, 2008

Day Nine: Or How Can We Top That?

I think we can say without too much dispute that yesterday was one of the greatest days in Olympic history - Phelps wins his seventh Gold, and Usain Bolt wins in 9.69secs (the unofficial time was 9.68). Both events will be remembered forever.

Bolt's run was scary. I can only think of two sprinters who have celebrated so early in a race and still broken the world record - Tommie Smith in the 200m at Mexico City and Ben Johnson in Seoul.

Smith was able to break the world record because Mexico City is a high altitude and thus makes it easier for the explosive athletes (which is why at those Games, new world records were set in the 100m, 200m, 400m, 800m, 110m Hurdles, 400m Hurdles, 4x100m, 4x400m, and long jump).

And Johnson was juiced to the eyeballs.

So what to think of Bolt? I have to admit when I use my eyes and common sense his run seems suspicious. But dropping the WR from 9.72 to 9.69 is only a drop of 0.3% - which is pretty much a normal drop. Even if we take the drop from Asafa Powell's previous record of 9.74 it is only 0.5%.

Now Ben Johnson took the WR from Carl Lewis' and Calvin Smith's time of 9.93 to 9.83 and then 9.79 - ie drops of 1% and then 0.4% (or all up a reduction of 1.4%).

Now let us look at Florence Griffith Joyner, who while never having tested positive for steroids certainly has had suspicions raised about her performances. She took the 100m WR from 10.76 to 10.49 - ie a drop of 2.5%. She also dropped the women's 200m WR from 21.74 to 21.34 (or 1.7%).

So statistically his time is not so otherworldly. His winning margin however was. He won by 0.2secs. Justin Gatlin (who has since been done for drugs) won in Athens by 0.01secs. Maurice Greene won in Sydney by 0.12secs. Donovan Bailey won in Atlanta by 0.05secs. Linford Christie won in Barcelona by 0.06secs. Johnson "won" in Seoul by 0.13secs. Lewis won in LA by 0.2secs.

So it's the biggest victory since Lewis in 1984. No one suggests Lewis' victory was tainted, rather it is viewed as one of the greatest runs of all-time. And for now that's what I'm calling Bolt's run last night. Greatest since Johnson? Nope, it was better - the greatest since Lewis.

10:15am: Women's marathon. Paula Radcliffe looks strong, but in the marathon that can change quickly. Benita Johnson is in the front pack and also looking good. Back when the marathon was first run in the Olympics (1984) the women's field was pretty thin - 2 or 3 chances only. Now however the field is as deep as the men's, and were Johnson to win a medal it would be a stunning achievement. The great thing about the marathon is it can happen; rarely does either the men's or women's races go according to form.

10:43am: Moneghetti says not good signs for Benita, she's off the back of the pack.Radcliffe has also just dropped back. I didn't see it but just heard David Culbert say of Radcliffe "when you gotta go you gotta go"; which suggests she err.. needed to powder her nose. (yes the marathon is a tough event - you don't see that happen in the 100m).

11:23am: Radcliffe is off the back - destined to be the fastest women's marathoner, but never to win the gold at the Olympics. Will she stay on for London? She'll be 39, so doubtful.

There's no morning session of the athletics today, so all focus will be on the last day of swimming finals:

  • Women's 50m freestyle - I can't see Libby winning this one, but the 50m is such a lottery. Can Dana Torres win at the age of 41? Amazing if she can. Torres won a silver in the relay at the 1986 world championships. Libby was 1 years old at the time; Cate Campbell wouldn't be born for another 6 years. But I'm tipping the German to do the double.
  • Men's 1500m freestyle - Will probably be watched by more Australians than any other event at these games. Time to see if Hackett will be legendary or "just" great.
  • Women's medley relay - Australia to win in a WR.
  • Men's medley relay - Call me a spoil sport, but I want Australia to win this event just about more than any other event, if only to deny Phelps his eight. I don;t think we will, but I will say they'll both smash the WR (though in swimming at these Games, that's a given).

11:45am: Radcille seems to be suffering leg cramps, but is trying to finish (either way cue hell-fire from the British tabloids).
Can someone tell me when Home and Away became a cross between Lost and The Blue Lagoon? Seriously, these promos for it seem a long way from Summer Bay (mind you, I'm still wondering where the heck are Bobby and Roo).
The marathon looks all over, but will be a big race for the minor medals. But really, we're in countdown mode for the swimming finals now. That said would there be any better feeling than to running into the Olympic stadium in the lead of the marathon? There aren't many events where a stadium full of people cheer only for you, and where you have a lap of honour before you finish.

The winner, Tomescu, ran the last hour alone. She is 38, so perhaps Radcliffe will be around in 4 years. At the 35km mark Benita Johnson was coming 25th (Radcliffe was 69th - when it goes bad in the marathon it goes terrible).
12:02pm: Women's 50m. Bit of a dopey event - how many different events do the swimmers need? ... Steffen does the double! (and Grog repairs his prediction reputation!) Libby misses out on a medal, but Campbell gets the bronze. Torres second. Campbell is all of 16years old. Look for her to be a star in London (no pressure though!)

12:13pm: The 1500m starts... The Canadian Cochrane is taking it out hard...but Hackett stays with him. The thing about Hackett though is he generally reveals how he is feeling early on. Hackett has a much better turn than Cochrane... I remember back in Perkins' day the German Jorg Hoffman won the world championships in Perth in 1991 pretty much by having a better turn.

Cochrane is putting in a big effort in the second 500m, but Hackett comes back. This is going to go right down to the wall.

Who's this Mellouli??? From Tunisia??? What the hell is he doing in front????

Geez he's going away from Hackett. Major boil-over... C'mon!!!!!!!!!

Oh bugger!!!!! What a swim by everyone. Great race. The winner has a bit of a drug record - he was done in 2006 for taking Adderall (a stimulant). He said it was to help him cram for writing a term paper at college. ... He was suspended for 18 months from Nov 2006 (the usual ban is 2 years...). Oh well, sour grapes and all that...

Great response by Hackett in the interview; true champion. (But I'm betting Mellouli's drug record gets a run in the local newspapers!). Now for the relays.
12:44pm: Seebhom is the only "weak" link in our relay. We're defending champions (Jones the only one still here from Athens). Seebhom does well - the American Coughlin nearly hits the lane rope.

Great swim by Jones... C"mon Shipper!!! Great swim by Shipper!! Go Libby. Great swim by Libby - Torres surfed on her wave the whole way, but couldn't get past her. Great swim by all!!! woo hoo!!!!!!!!!!!!!! WR. (Seebhom is only 16 as well, so add her to the can't wait for London list)

From the times - Jones swam 1.37secs faster than the American Soni; the American were faster in every other leg.

1:10pm: The USA win the medley relay and Phelps gets his 8 Gold. Great work by Australia to come second; both USA and Aus break the WR (25 WR have been broken this meet...). Like Jones in the women's relay, Phelps was the difference here. Rickard and Sullivan swam faster than their American opponents.

Oh well swimming over (apart from the open water events). Lauterstein points out that they are younger than three of the Americans, so it seems like they are already thinking of improving and winning next time - great to hear: happy to come second, but eager to improve and come first.
So how did Australia go in the swimming? The women's 4x200 relay was unexpected, but the team would have penciled in Jones to win the 200m breaststroke, Shipper to win the 200m Butterfly, and for Sullivan and Trickett to win at least one gold in the 50 or 100m freestyles. But they won a few minor medals that they wouldn't have counted on - Lauterstein in the 100m Butterfly, Stoeckle in the backstroke etc. So all in all a good meet, but not great.
Just noticed that last night Kylie Wheeler came 11th in the Heptathlon - but she broke her PB and goes 3rd all-time Australian - only Glynnis Nunn and Jane Flemming are above her. Incidentally Jane Flemming's Australian record set at the 1990 Commonwealth Games would've been good enough for Bronze here - she certainly was one to suffer having to compete against Jackie Joyner-Kersee and her ilk.
Here's an interesting site - it shows the medal table weighted according to population, GDP and GDP per capita. At the moment Australia is coming 2nd to NZ on population; we're 25th according to GDP; and 23rd on GDP per capita.
Another interesting site here that points out in the 100m final Bolt took 41 steps to everyone else's 44.
7:51pm: In the rowing , it's been a fairly depressing effort by the Australian crews in the men's and women's eights. And in the cycling, have to say the British are doing something very right, because they're looking like winning everything they try their hand out - Anna Meares looks our best chance, but even she will have to go through a British rider.
8:20pm: Men's gymnastics on now - the floor and high bar. Here's another bit of info about Usain Bolt - he won with his shoe untied.

The more performances I see of the gymnastics, the more I miss Roy and HG. The floor exercises just aren't the same without "battered sav" and "hello boys".

Over on SBS, Rafael Nadal won the first set in the men's singles final (Djokovic beat Blake for the bronze yesterday), Federer and Wawrinka won the Gold in the doubles for Switzerland.
8:48pm: In the team's pursuit cycling the Aussies were on WR pace, but then with about 3 laps to go we caught the Dutch team who got in the way and forced the Aussies to go around them, stuffing up their rhythm. In the end we missed out on the WR by a little under 2 secs; in itself that is bad enough, but as the position in the final is determined by times, that disruption by the Dutch could cost the Australian team a chance at riding off for Gold. And yes, we miss out; Australia versus NZ for bronze. I have no idea why they go straight from the quarter finals to finals - what's wrong with semis?
9:01pm: I see on the ABC web site, that Grant Hackett doesn't worry about Mellouli's doping record: "It's something I am not going to get into, his past is his past, it's not for me to worry about," Hackett said."He was a competitor on the blocks today, in relation to the rules he abided by them, he did a good race and good on him."

Got to give it to Hackett; he is all class.
Great Britain are now ahead of Australia on the medal tally; which means Kate Ellis's bet with the British Sport's Minister is looking shaky.
At the moment the judges are conferring over the score of Russian Anna Pavlova's vault. They have scored her a zero for her second vault (when the commentators were in fact thinking she might take the lead over the Chinese gymnast). There will be more talking and more examination; and yet not one of the commentators will suggest how it just shows what a dodgy sport it is.

Just on the age limit controversy; the argument is over the Chinese gymnasts not actually being over 16; it's worth remembering that Nadia Comaneci was only 14 in Montreal when she scored her perfect 10s.

More waiting around for the score... what a riveting sport.

Great to see a 33 year old take out silver.
9:52pm: Amazingly we get to see Sally McLelland run her 100m Hurdles heat. She looks great, and should make the final and is an outside, outside chance of a medal.

We then go back to the gymnastics (should not we didn't see McLelland's race live). The judging seems very biased towards the Chinese gymnasts (funny that). And so we watch more gymnastics, meanwhile the women's 100m semi-finals are on right now. In fact, they have been run and won in the time it takes us to sit around waiting to find out if the judges have learnt how to carry the 1, divide the score by the gymnast's age and times it by the number of spectators in the room, and then just say ... "oh f*ck it, let's give him a 15 point something - as if anyone thinks we know what we're doing".

Nadal just won gold over on SBS (he won it live as well...)

Channel 7 have just announced "coming up the women's 100m semi-finals".
The Men's 10,000m is the last event on tonight, but I'll be setting the tape going. Channel 7 just suck the joy out of it. The Montage Olympics 2008 has destroyed it for me. At least on this, I know I'm not alone. I love this quote by a Channel 7 exec from the story on the site: "It's about engaging all viewers, not just traditional sports fans - a coverage that reflects all aspects of the Games," the spokesperson said. "Sonia is a star . . . Yum Cha is annihilating the opposition. It peaked at two million viewers on Sunday morning."

Yep, 'Yum Cha' is beating Kerri Ann and Sesame Street so it must be good. And it's good that they have acknowledged that telecasting the greatest sporting event in the world is not about pleasing sport's fans. At least when the World Cup is on, the football comes first; here the sport is just something for the editors wait to happen so they can then quickly make up another montage.
10:15pm: James Tomkins is not happy with the men's eights performance. The problem with rowing is you really can't work out why one crew went slower than another; they all seem to row at the same rate, and if Tomkins doesn't even know what went wrong, then how the hell am I? At least with running you can tell what went wrong (the others ran faster), but with rowing - especially teams - it's just hard to work it out - did they stroke at the same rate, but the others put more force into the stroke? Why couldn't the eight stroke faster - do they all have a bad day at the same time? If one guy isn't up to it can you tell? I don't know; all I know is Australia got badly beat, and a 6 time Olympian doesn't know why.
10:21pm: Back to the track to see the rest of the 100m Hurdle heats (these happened 70 minutes ago).

The men's 10,000m has been mentioned a few times, not once have they mentioned Kenenisa Bekele, and why would they? He is only the defending Olympic Champion, current World Champion, and the World Record holder. No better to mention Gebrselassie who won eight years ago, and who has never beaten Bekele over 10,000m (or at any distance since 2000).

But then it ain't for sport's fans - I must remember this.
10:29pm: Women's 100m semis finally on. My tip for the final - Stewert, Fraser, Williams. (will not be a WR - well duh!)

Bekele to win the 10k, Gebre to miss out on a medal.
There's also the women's 3k steeple, and triple jump. A great night of athletics, but I can;t be bothered - that 5th viewing of the montage of the 20k walk did me in.

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