This made the 4x200 relay look like a rout. The deciding margin? 0.06 seconds. You can’t blink an eye in that amount of time. Take out a stopwatch and try and start it and then stop it as quickly as you can. You probably won’t be able to do it in 0.06 seconds. That’s just the tiniest sliver of time.

So by a margin inperceptable to the human eye, Peter van den Hoogenband won the gold medal in swimming’s most glamorous event. Thorpe and Phelps are the stars here, and deservedly so, but it’s nice to see someone else crowd the spotlight.

posted by Poseur 8/19/2004 04:41:00 PM

Equestrian is confusing

Yesterday provided a rollercoaster ride for the top-placed eventing Olympians and their team trainers as the medal board switched twice within the space of an hour at the Markopoulo Equestrian Centre.

But now, it seems, the fiasco is far from over, with the announcement that the second, third - and fourth - placed teams will be taking the case further, and exploring every avenue up as far as the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). This means that further changes in the medal positions cannot be ruled out.

There is still a huge amount of confusion surrounding precisely what happened during the team jumping final yesterday afternoon, when the ground jury noticed that the lynch pin of the Gold-medal winning German team, Betting Hoy, had crossed the start line more than once.

Olympic controversies in gymnastics are de rigeur. It’s the figure skating of the Summer Games. But equestrian? In one event, the Germans have gone from winning the gold, to fourth, back top to winning the gold, and are no subject to falling to fourth again. It’s just too confusing to contemplate.

The most interested parties are the French, who stand to win a gold medal, and the Americans, which can go from nothing to the bronze. So we’ve got a medal on the line here.

The deal is this: a German rider crossed the starting line twice, but the clock didn’t start until her second pass. Crossing the line twice is a 12 point penalty, enough to knock the team back into fourth. Everyone involved concedes she committed the infraction, but the Germans argue that it is too late to assess a penalty.

I’m inclined to agree. I think that ultimately, the rules are in the French team’s favor, but it seems like it’s a cheap way to win a medal. It feels like they are pulling out the rulebook to find some obscure bit of arcane that no one actually listens to. Like palming the ball in basketball, which hasn’t been called in two decades. So, I’d like for this second appeal to fail. Just let the Germans keep the gold.

posted by Poseur 8/19/2004 04:40:00 PM

Koreans feel screwed

``It is quite possible the judges scored, consciously or not, in favor of Hamm,’’ Kim Sung-ho, manager of men’s technical committee at the Korea Gymnastic Association, told The Korea Times.

``It goes in two ways. They might have scored him in a sympathetic way after a star like Hamm tumbled in the vault event, and it cannot be overlooked that the United States is powerful in FIG (International Gymnastic Federation).’’

Kim also noted that the practice of favoring gymnasts from certain countries has a long history, citing Lee Joo-hyung’s case at the previous Olympics where two suspiciously low scores from the judges cost him a pair of gold.

Hamm’s routine in the vault was a 9.9-maximum performance and 0.7 point should be deducted for his crossing the zone and crouching, Kim explained.

``In usual circumstances, one wouldn’t get a score more than 9.0, but it happened that way,’’ Kim said.

It’s always interesting to check out the other guy’s point of view. In the States, Hamm’s comeback victory is a remarkable story of overcoming fabulous odds. In South Korea, it’s one of their guys getting screwed by Goliath. In a way, both might be correct.

First, Hamm’s comeback was unbelievable and a testament to not only his physical skill, but his mental toughness. Hamm was out of it, and he posted two straight scores above 9.8. With everything on the line, he was absolutely awesome. It would have been pretty easy for him to pack it in after falling on the vault. But he didn’t, and he won a gold medal.

OK, that’s all well and good, but South Korea’s got a point here. I don’t know much about gymnastics, but a 9.1 for a guy who ended up in press row on his vault seemed rather generous. And needing a 9.825 on his last rotation, Hamm scored a 9.837. Does anyone else find that score just kinda fishy?

So I don’t blame South Korea for a second for feeling ripped off. And, to continue my “Ugly American” theme, it shows we’re not the only country who whines a bit when they lose. Winning the silver is great, but when you think you’re gonna win gold, it can make you sick.
I don’t think Hamm’s at fault and it’s unfair to disparage him. He was awesome and gave us one of the great moments of the Games. But I also think the Olympic judges are, shall we say, not the most ethical people in the world. Hey, sometimes the crappy calls go your way. I don’t see anybody giving the 1972 American basketball team a gold medal.

posted by Poseur 8/19/2004 04:38:00 PM


Tyler Hamilton wins gold

Tyler Hamilton was disappointed with his Tour de France, but a gold medal will make him feel a lot better. He won the time trial in 57:37, beating Ekimov by 17 seconds.

I'm surprised that Jan Ullrich didn't win. I'm even more stunned that he wasn't close--over 90 seconds back.

And let's give a big pat on the back to Bobby Julich. He resurrected his career with a solid Tour, and he finished third in the Olympics. Way to go.

Federer, Roddick, Williams out

The best tennis players in the world are leaving Athens and heading to New York for more important things.
posted by uberschuck 8/18/2004 12:18:00 PM

Don't mess with Rumania

The Rumanains were just better. And without the Cold War overtones, you could sit back in your chair and just enjoy their skill and dominance. The Americans were good, but there was never a moment last night when I thought they deserved a gold medal. Because the Rumanians pretty much defined dominance.

I'm supposed to be disappointed, but I'm not. The US won a silver, no small prize, and the better team won. I even enjoyed watching it, suprising even myself.

posted by Poseur 8/18/2004 11:51:00 AM

Where it all started

American Kristin Heaston launched the shot 16.41 metres to become the first woman to compete at Olympia in the first athletics meeting in the tree-lined grove since the ancient Games were abolished in A.D. 393.

Beneath a flawless blue sky with the air scented by pine leaves and the noise of cicadas in the background, the modern Olympics returned to their spiritual home with the men's and women's shot put qualifying competition on Wednesday.

Simply put: wow. I mean, how cool is that? I sometimes get goosebumps thinking about Yankee Stadium: hey, Babe Ruth played on this exact filed. And that's just a blink of the eye compared to the centuries of time represented here.

It's almost too much to comprehend. The shot-putters are the luckiest athletes in the world. It sounds hokey, but the Olympic ideal really comes alive at moments like these. Just amazing.

posted by Poseur 8/18/2004 11:46:00 AM

What about the distance guys?

Hackett said the Olympic program was unfair to endurance swimmers who were given only one event to showcase their talents, while the sprinters and middle-distance swimmers could pick and choose as many as they liked.

American teenager Michael Phelps has been the leading light in the pool in Athens after entering eight events and already has five medals after just four days, but the 1,500m is on the last day of the swimming competition.

"It's a bit unfair," Hackett said. "The sprinters have the 50 and the 100 and the middle-distance guys have the 200 and the 400.

"We only have the 1,500 but we should have the 800 as well."

The guy's got a point. Why does Phelps get eight races to showcase his skills while the distance specialist gets one? Winning a boatload of medals requires there to be a boatload of events for you. Would Hackett compete for as many if he had more chances? Maybe so.

That said, did you see the 4x200? What a terrific race! I wish I had some analysis or something, but I don't. Just complete awe of the best event of the Games so far. It was just an outstanding event, and even though he lost, there is no doubt in my mind that Thorpe is the greatest swimmer on earth. Yes, even over Phelps.

His performance was just awesome.

posted by Poseur 8/18/2004 11:40:00 AM


The Aussie View

In the end his triumph was emphatic – half a second, and almost a body length in front of van den Hoogenband with Phelps third.

This was a victory drilled from the hard stone of sporting courage – a commodity abundantly bestowed on Thorpe – and when he turned to salute the crowd there was a sense of a fate being sealed – as if the finish had never been in doubt. And it never had been.

And this time, the celebration was joyous and exuberant. This time there were no tears of relief, only wide smiles from Thorpe – and his mood swept the stands. A conqueror had arrived in Athens to claim his destiny and the city had garlands and gold to offer. What a conquest it was, and how majestic the hero.

We sometimes lose sight of the rooting interests of the rest of the world. We viewed the 200m in the prism of Michael Phelps, while the Australians viewed it in the context of Ian Thorpe. Thorpe was supposed to win this thing.

So Phelps has now won two bronzes and one gold, and if you listen carefully, you can hear the media turning against him. they built him up as the next Mark Spitz, and he has the temerity to fail to win every race? How dare he!

Eight medals are still possible, and he's gotten through his toughest two races. Phelps has to be a favorite to pull an almost unthinkable feat.. eight medals! But instead of standing in awe of how good he is, we feel the need to criticize him. We have to be disappointed that he lost a race to, let us not forget, two swimmers favored to beat him. It was an unreasonable goal, and it speaks volumes that Phelps embraced this ridiculous task.

And it's not like he's a loser. He has three medals, one of them gold. He still can win five more. If he wins six golds and two bronzes, in an era of much stiffer competition, I would have no problem rating him as the greatest Olympic swimmer ever. But that's still a ways off. Let's see how he actually does.

posted by Poseur 8/17/2004 11:39:00 AM


TV Coverage

Instead of the annual bitching about the TV coverage, I’m actually going to say nice things about NBC. So far, they’ve done a very good job with these Games. They’ve kept the Afterschool Specials to a minimum, instead focusing on the inherent drama of the events themselves. They are cheering for the Americans, but so is the audience, and they haven’t painted the rest of the competitors as evil. And they’ve been unafraid to show the US doing poorly. They haven’t gone graphic crazy, instead using them to actually enhance our appreciation of the events. Most notably the lane assignments in swimming, but they comparisons of synchronized diving were pretty cool, and helped me score the event at home.

There’s also lots of coverage of actual sports. So far, I’ve watched volleyball (indoor and beach), rowing, softball, weightlifting, fencing, table tennis, badminton, boxing, gymnastics, handball, field hockey, diving, boxing, judo, softball, tennis, basketball, equestrian, and swimming. I might be forgetting something, but the point is, there’s been a lot on. And I couch potatoed the whole weekend away. It was great. Even the tape-delayed major events on the network weren’t bad. I just studiously ignore the internet and let myself be surprised at night. With a day job, it’ll be even easier to stay in a media blackout.

And it hasn’t just been Let’s Watch the Americans Finish 30th. Sure, they gave some screen time to some screechy American in men’s saber, but I still got to watch the full finals which were highly entertaining and came down to the final point. I got to watch Iran-Costa Rica’s soccer match in its entirety (ok, I flipped back and forth because there were three channels with Olympic coverage at the time). The only complaint I have is the boxing overload on MSNBC and the lack of options during the men’s basketball game (the only other thing on was equestrian prelim dressage which is perhaps the most boring thing I’ve ever watched). Oh, and be sure to catch soccer highlights on Telemundo, particularly if, like me, you don’t speak Spanish.

But since I have to complain about something, let’s take aim at ESPN. Their coverage hasn’t been absolutely terrible so far. On the night Michael Phelps won his first gold medal, SportsCenter led off with preseason football. PRESEASON! Last night, they analyzed the US basketball loss for what seemed like 10 minutes, completely ignoring interesting stories in every other sport. Olympic record posted by the American 8-man sculls? No mention. The swimming got a little play, but even gymnastics, a ratings bonanza for the networks (even though I honestly don’t care that much), got almost zero coverage.

Hey, I know NBC zealously guards the rights. But this is the biggest sports story in the world right now. You can’t give us some analysis? Not having a contract to worry about, ESPN should be free to be critical of the Olympic teams. But instead, they choose to ignore it and try and talk down the orgy of sports going on. You can’t turn on ESPN Radio without hearing somebody saying they don’t care about the Olympics. Gee, maybe that’s because you don’t get to cover it.

This is a sports fan’s paradise. All-day sports coverage of the best athletes in their sports competing on the biggest stage. This is as good as fandom can get. There’s almost too much to even keep track of. Quick, who did the US play in the first game of water polo? Who won? Who else is in their group? And that’s just one sport! This is great!

Oh, the answers are: Croatia. The US, 7-6. Russia, Hungary, Croatia, Kazahkstan, and Serbia-Montenegro.

posted by Poseur 8/16/2004 04:10:00 PM

Iran vs. Israel

Olympic judo officials say they need more evidence before any action can be
taken against Iran for an apparent political boycott of a bout with an Israeli.
Having failed to reach a conclusion immediately after Sunday's withdrawal in
Athens, the International Judo Federation's (IJF) executive committee was to
meet again on Monday on the case of Iranian world champion Arash Miresmaeili.

He was to have fought Israel's Ehud Vaks in the first round of the under-66
kg class on Sunday but was overweight at the weigh-in. Miresmaeili was quoted as
saying he had avoided fighting out of sympathy with the Palestinian people.

A spokeswoman for Iran's Olympic Committee said he had been told to pull out
in line with national policy towards Israel.

Ahh, yes. Good old fashioned hatred! Iran’s hiding behind the weigh-in which not only makes them hate-filled bigots, but also cowards. I mean, at least come forward about your hatred towards the Israelis. But skipping the match due to the weigh-in is just insulting everyone’s intelligence.

The real loser is Miresmaeili, who will miss out on the Olympic dream because he is too busy carrying on a blood feud.

posted by Poseur 8/16/2004 04:08:00 PM

Ugly Americans

"The whole stadium saw what happened at the start," Peirsol said. "Two-tenths of
a second is what that was. It's Brendan's gold medal. There's nothing we can do
about it. It breaks your heart, man. He knew what he was doing. It's

It should be noted that Kitajima held the world record in this event before Hansen bested it at the U.S. Olympic trials last month, and, coming from Japan, he happens to be too gracious and humble to lend credence to the controversy.

OK, Peirsol was a big whiner here. Shut your hole. But have the American athletes really been boorish assholes? I’ve seen a lot of handshakes and general goodwill in the pool this year. Sure, these guys are rivals and want to beat one another, but no one has really stood out as a complete jerk when I’ve been watching.

Was the South African team out of line for making muscle poses after winning the 4x100? I don’t really think so. That were just excited and doing a little bit of celebrating. Too bad they weren’t Americans, we could whine about how they were boorish Yanks. There was some good old-fashioned trash talking at the end of the Italy-US volleyball game, but it was Italy getting the warning from the referees. If you go on looking for jackasses, you’ll find them, but from what we’ve seen so far, the Americans haven’t been unsporting jag-offs.

posted by Poseur 8/16/2004 04:05:00 PM

USA Basketball loses, please shut up

All of this against Puerto Rico, a small island country that is not, technically speaking, a country. The Americans have gone from being gold-medal locks to
being a team that gets routed by a commonwealth. What's next, losing to Delaware?

Except it's hard to write the U.S. off because of all that talent. The construction of the roster is all wrong and the men don't seem to know how to play together as a team, but they've got the best players. Sound familiar?

We've all heard about how outside shooting and team defense are the keys in
international play, and the U.S. team is uniquely suited to stink at both, as it
did Sunday, leading NBC commentator Doug Collins, the star of the 1972 U.S.
team, to whine incessantly in a manner that would have been funny if it hadn't
been so tiresome.

Nothing markets better than winning. So instead of taking a whole bunch of “marketable” stars, actually a faceless team with a better chance of winning would sell more jerseys. And since that’s what really matters, USA Basketball’s got to be annoyed. Who cares about gold medals when there’s gold coin to be made?

That said, I could give two craps about Olympic basketball. Same for baseball, tennis, and soccer. The whole point of the Olympics is to see the best in the world at their sport gathered together on one stage. The best of the world aren’t here in those sports. Except maybe tennis, but this is just another tourney. Winning a medal is nowhere near as prestigious as winning Wimbledon. Why watch Olympic basketball when I’ve got the NBA?

If I didn’t watch the Dream Team, I’m certainly not going to watch this collection of second-teamers. And every moment I pay attention to the basketball team is time I could spend watching main event sports like swimming and diving or off-the-beaten-path sports like judo and rowing. And two words: women’s weightlifting. Did anyone else SEE that?!

posted by Poseur 8/16/2004 04:02:00 PM

Thorpe on Phelps

Everyone would love to believe there is a rivalry between us, but honestly, there's not. We get on well and as we don't swim in the same events, apart from the 200m..."

And Thorpe - exclusively a freestyler in Athens - added he is not jealous of Phelps' all-round ability, which saw him listed as competing in eight events at the outset of the Games and has seen the American establish himself as the sport's new superstar.

This is the time of year where we all pretend we know anything about sports like swimming and track. What’s great about these sports is that within a day or two, you get immersed in all of the rivalries and begin to develop your own rooting interests (I’ll always remember watching biathalon and cross-country skiing last Olympics and developing a real hatred for the Italian team). So, it doesn’t take long to pick up on things, if you’re a decent sports fan.

So, here’s my completely uneducated take: Phelps is real good and everyone knows it. But since the freestylers seem to be their own breed anyway, it doesn’t bother guys like Thorpe or Hoogenband because they still get their opportunity to shine. Besides, both those guys a pretty secure in their place in the annals of swimming.

The guys who resent Phelps are the elder US swimmers. Did you see the ridiculous whining of Gary Hall? After getting bumped for Phelps, he not only blamed the loss on Phelps, but also refused to even attend the finals to cheer on his team. Hey, it was Crocker who not only finished last in his leg, but posted the slowest time of any swimmer of any leg, not Phelps. And whatever happened to win as a team, lose as a team? Hell, whatever happened to winning a bronze? The field was loaded, and we’re supposed to feel bad that the US medaled?

Yeah, it’s on tape delay, but tune in tonight and watch Phelps against Thorpe. It should be one of the highlights of these Games.

posted by Poseur 8/16/2004 03:59:00 PM

Olympic notebook, day 3

Did you see Udomporn Tolsak? She’s the screaming Thai woman who lifted over 200 pounds over her head. She only weighs 120, but she lifted nearly twice her weight. Man, she looked like she could kick my ass all over the place, so I won’t make any jokes about her name.

Did you see the US men’s basketball team choke? Bluntly stated, the refs were for Puerto Rico. But that’s no excuse—these guys should win despite that bullspit. This game illustrated a lot of problems with the NBA. The league has devolved into playground ball. Everyone on this team can dunk, but no one can shoot from outside the paint. Also, they don’t play with urgency. If you’ve seen an entire NBA game in the last 5 years you’ll notice the first 3 quarters don’t matter. They just play to stay within 10 points and to stay out of foul trouble. But in a 40 minute game they don’t have that luxury, nor can they carry, walk, and flop for fouls the way they’re used to in the NBA. I’m not just blaming the primadonna players, but the whole league, for allowing the game to slip away from its proper form. So, we throw a bunch of stars into jerseys and expect them to be a team, but it just doesn’t work that fast. And who picked this team anyway? Every championship team has role players, like a rebounding machine, and a 3 point stud. This isn’t a team; it’s like a basketball camp for NBA stars. Oh well, they’ll probably beat Greece by 40.

Tennis started today. Andy Roddick won. I don’t care. The US Open is in 2 weeks; I’ll care about that. Unless Roddick is playing Federer, I don’t care to watch Olympic tennis. Just tell me who wins the medals. Well, Martina Navratalova is making her Olympic debut at age 47. That’s pretty cool.

Michael Phelps won’t win 8 gold medals. I bet NBC reports are working on Phelps’ suicide stories right now since they no longer have the Mark Spitz storyline. I’m relieved for him. Now he doesn’t have to live with the thought of the 8 gold hype in his mind. Fewer distractions. And let’s remember, he’s only 19. In the 2008 Olympics we might see him at his best.

Why didn’t Phelps get the gold? South Africa set a new world record in the 4x100 m relay. They were awesome; they just motored past everyone with ease. There’s no shame in losing to the fastest of all time.

Iraq did it again. The soccer team beat Costa Rica 2-0. They’re going to the second round. Holy cow. Being there without the threat of getting tortured by Uday Hussein was enough of a reward, but this is amazing.

Water polo, baby! It’s never on TV outside of the Olympics. The USA and Croatia played an awesome game. The Croats scored twice in the last 90 seconds to tie the game, but the US scored as time expired to steal the win. Outstanding!

posted by uberschuck 8/16/2004 02:32:00 AM


Saturday at the Olympics

I was up at 3 AM, and I flipped on the TV to see rowing. I'd never watch rowing, or anything else called the men's coxless pairs, but when it's the Olympics, I suddenly care. We sports geeks often complain about sports TV coverage, but here's a case of some good news. The good folks at NBC think we have no interest in anything but basketball, gymnastics, track, and swimming, so they put all that crap on NBC, but the other stations need something to show in the middle of the night. It just so happens to be live, and it just so happens to be sports I rarely see. Yahoo! The Olympics are back.

Not all the selections are great. The target shooting is only interesting because it's the first medal awarded. But 5 minutes is my limit on that. A line of women clad in stiff leather suits so that they don't move much. They have a minute to shoot at a target that's so small we can't see it. They show a close up, but we still can't see the mark, so they digitally throw in a dot. Boring.

Change the channel to the other affiliate. Fencing is pretty cool. When I was a kid, and really wanted to see sword fighting, they never showed this stuff on TV. Did you catch the American fellow who kept screaming at the top of his lungs everytime he scored a point? Never mind the fact that he was losing 12-6, he yelled as though he had been smacked with a real sword.

Change the channel to boxing. I loathe Olympic boxing. There was a time when it was real. First of all, lose the head gear. It's a fight, remember? There's still the problem of the stupid points system. It doesn't even resemble a fight. The only purpose in watching is to pull against the Cubans, that way Fidel won't be happy. Change the channel.

The US women's soccer team was lethargic against Brazil, but still managed a 2-0 win. Mia Hamm is singing her swan song, but Abby Wambach looks to be ready to take over from here.

Michael Phelps won a gold medal today in the 400m IM swim, yet I feel sorry for him. The media is heaping the expectation of 8 gold medals on him. Look, he's a great athlete, and I'd like to see him win again and again, but there's something wrong with hyping a young man to win 8 golds. As though winning 5 would be a failure?

Well, it's the middle of the night again, which means rowing is on. Gotta go. "Coxless women's pairs" would be a good title for a porn flick.

posted by uberschuck 8/15/2004 01:03:00 AM

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