Sunday, August 24, 2008

Day Sixteen: Or Time to do a final lap.

Great run in the marathon this morning. Twenty-one year old Kenyan, Samuel Wansiru in a great front running performance becomes the first Kenya to win the marathon, and in doing so absolutely smashes the Olympic Record. One can only wonder what would have happened if Gebrselassie had decided to run the marathon instead of the10,000m, but I doubt he would have beaten Wansiru. Look to him to go for Grebr's WR in the big city marathons (Boston, Chicago, Berlin, New York and London) or possibly the Fukuoka marathon in Japan (where he lives) in December.
The Opals last night were never really in the hunt. And of course the Americans decided to act magnanimously in victory. Lisa Leslie wore the three gold medals she had won at the last three Olympics around her neck on the podium, in a completely Olympic spirited up yours to the Opals. (and they wonder why the rest of the world hates them...). I wonder if she wore the hair piece that Jackson ripped from her head in Sydney?
Matthew Mitcham's win in the diving was a pure 'stepping up when he needed to' effort. But am I the only one who thinks he looks like Ian Thorpe's younger brother?
Ok, cue the Andrea Bocelli music; it's time for the Grog's Gamut Montage and to hand out some Olympic Awards:

The Let's Miss the Whole Point Award: The media covering the women's gymnastics. Amid all the ongoing hubbub about whether or not the Chinese gymnasts are 14 years old instead of 16, not one media commentator has pointed out that Nadia Comaneci was 14 when she wowed the world in Montreal in 1976, and we don't seem to look back on her with any feelings of concern; and also that if you have a sport where there is an inherent advantage to be 14 instead of 16, the problem isn't with the rules being disobeyed, it's with the sport.

If the gymnastics world wants to get rid of such controversies it need only do 2 things: (1) replace the asymmetrical bars with the high bar, and (2) replace the beam with either the pommel horse or the rings. Over night we would be rid of children (or women with child-like bodies) doing gymnastics, with them replaced by women with bodies similar to swimmers - and where being an adult would be advantage.

The How are the House Repayments Going Award: To whoever was the guy who suggested betting everything on Leisel Jones to win the 200m breaststroke, who locked in Australia to win the women's 4x100m freestyle relay; who said Australia was no chance for gold in the women's 4x200m freestyle relay; the person who said put your superannuation on Sanya Richards to win the women's 400m; and the dope who blathered on and on about Blanka Vlasic only to see her come second.

Yep 'twas I.

The That's Why We keep Watching Sport Award: Geez, there's a lot, but I'm going with Sally McLellan for her celebration and post race interview with Pat Welsh. Anytime someone asks a commentator who is at the track "Did you see me?" and says "You've got to be kidding me! Is this real?" is obviously in a bit of shock, and is a hell of a lot more entertaining than those who say "wow, this is so surreal".

The My Veins Have Ice not Blood Flowing Through Them Award: A tie between Steve Hooker and diver Matthew Mitcham.

With one dive remaining, Mitcham needed a dive of 100 points just to keep second place (his best dive in the final up to that point had scored 91.80 points); a dive of less than 82 points (which he had done twice in his previous five dives) would have had him finishing outside the medals; to win the gold he needed to score a dive of more than 107.3 points (5 points better than any dive done by anyone in the final).

And so he lets rip a Back 2-1/2 Somersault 2-1/2 Twist-Pike that scores 112.10 points, and he becomes the first non Chinese diver to win Gold. (All done in less time than it took to read that last sentence). Brilliant.

With the bar at 5.80m, Hooker misses twice, and gets over on his last vault. With the bar at 5.85m, Hooker misses twice and gets over on his last vault. With the bar at 5.90m, Hooker misses twice and gets over on his last vault. After winning gold he raises the bar to the Olympics Record setting height of 5.96m - he misses twice and gets over on his last vault.

If he had missed at 5.80m, he would have finished 6th. Such is the margin of error between also ran and champion at the Olympics.

The So All I have to Do is Restore People's Faith in my Sport and Do it While Running Faster Than Anyone in History Award: Usain Bolt. He did it, and not only that, he had fun doing it.

The All I can Remember is He Won Eight Golds Award: Michael Phelps. Seriously now, list off his Gold medals, can you name them all? Even better, can you remember any of the actual swims he did? All I can remember is the last 5 metres of the 100m Butterfly, and that's because I thought he lost.

On the other hand, I don't think I'll ever be able to forget the sight of Usain Bolt celebrating with 40m still to go in the 100m final.

The Ironic Montage Award: The one which showed the men's 20km walk. It talked about friendship between combatants (ignoring the fact most of the field thinks the winner is a drug-cheat who should be banned from the sport for life); it slowed down vision of people walking (because presumably they were not going slow enough); and by having the montage run over 2 minutes long, it meant that the montage went longer than the amount of time Channel 7 devoted to showing the actual race.

The When Did We Start Caring About Fencing Award: Velentina Vezzali of Italy won the Individual Foil, making it three in a row for her. She got pretty excited; she's Italian; it's fencing. So what better way to show it than in slow motion backed by some Italian Opera. And because it was early on in the week, why not show it again, and again, and again. And each time cross back to Johanna Griggs or Matt White so they could shake their head and say, "wow, how amazing is that?", and conveniently ignore that Channel 7 hadn't shown any of the event, except in montage. It was a harbinger of things to come.

The I am Now About to Lie Award: Matt White, at 11:32pm last Friday night, looked down the camera and told the Australian public that Steve Hooker had yet to do any jumps. In reality his first jump had occurred about 30 minutes earlier, and since then had missed twice at 5.80m.

The I Wonder If I've Updated My CV Award: To whoever was the producer of the Games. Yeah they won the rating, and so Kerry Stokes is saying he's happy. But they're the Olympics, they always win the ratings (helps when all they have to beat is a fourth-time repeat of Bert Newton doing 20 to 1); but not only did they miss Hooker winning the Gold live; the very next night they missed Mitcham winning the diving.

The best things about it? They missed out on Hooker because they were showing a delay of Mitcham doing the qualifying section of the 10m diving competition.

The Living up to All Expectations Award: Tamsyn Lewis came into the Games declaring she was no chance to win a medal. She didn't. And as usual she got run out after a poor run in a time much slower than she has run all season. (You could've written that sentence after every Commonwealth Games, Olympics or World Championships over the past 7 years.)

The Nathan Deakes Who Award: Australia was meant to be suffering due to the loss of medals Nathan Deakes was supposed to win before he got injured. Up steps Jared Tallent to win bronze in the 20km, and then silver in the 50km. OK, I think race-walking is a bit dumb, but still great effort (and even better result).

The Doing Everything She Can to Be on the Cover of Who Weekly Award: Stephanie Rice. The word around the Athlete's village was that once the swimming finished an eruption occurred. The hottest amount of lava getting exploded around seems to have been coming from Rice's room (or so the media would like us to believe). After breaking up with Eamon Sullivan a week before the Games, afterwards she was rumoured to be back with him, then getting it on with Michael Phelps, and now seen to have been "getting cudly" with Katie Hoff (straight from the mouth of rival network Channel 9 - not that they'd want to damage the reputation of Channel 7's latest $700,000 recruit). Wow, one would almost think she's a 20 year old having fun.

The Maybe We'll Leave This off the CV Award: The PR firm (if any) hired by the organisers. Let's see: fake opening ceremony [check]; protesters being arrested [check], media being arrested for seeing protesters arrested [check]; no one turning up to events [check]; no one being able to watch events [check]; controversy involving fake passports of host country [check]; humorless media spokesperson [check].

Hmmm to be honest, the whole Games could have been held anywhere for all we actually saw of China. There was, for eg, no live set at Tiananmen Square, or views of any local 'colour' - mostly it was studio sets. The cycling road race showed the Great Wall quite well, but it all looked cold and desolate. I doubt many would be rushing to buy tickets to visit China after seeing these Games.

The Gee Thanks for Making Life Easy For Us: Seb Coe, and all the organisers of London 2012. All they have to do is not suppress a vocal minority in a bloody pogram, and they'll be streets ahead of Beijing. After these Games, so long as no one in the Opening Ceremony lip-syncs people will be calling them the greatest ever.
Well that's it for me. I don't think I'll bother with the Closing Ceremony; after all Australia Idol has started and after watching the lot of cat strangling performers they had on tonight, I am in the mood to give any singing and dancing event a wide berth.

Oh and my Top Five moments of the Games:
  • Usain Bolt 100m - Unforgettable.
  • Sally McLellan - Ecstatic with silver, but by the time of the medal ceremony was already planning to win gold next time.
  • Youcef Abdi - Runs two PBs in his races and comes 6th in the 3km steeple - Craig Mottram and all other Australian runners take note - that's how you do it.
  • Steve Hooker - Just an incredible performance - should inspire every budding Australian athlete to know that we can win Gold in athletics.
  • Kenisia Bekele 5,000 and 10,000m double. He won the 10k by sitting and kicking, in the 5k he took the lead with a mile to go and ran away from the field. The greatest.

Obviously there were others - the women's 4x200m freestyle relay was great, but I missed it, so it won't live with me - but for me the Olympics happen in the main stadium; the rest are just events to disassociate the Olympics from the Athletics World Championships; and you know what, everyone agrees with me. Take away any other sport (including swimming) and the Games would survive. Take away athletics and the whole thing dies.

On that note; Goodbye, and see you in London.

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