Wow! Those were quite the Olympics. The past two nights I've just kind of stared at my blank TV wondering where all the volleyball highlights were. Thankfully, American's who thought they couldn't get enough of Misty May-Treanor will get to see her chasse on the new season of Dancing With the Stars!
Since Sunday's Closing Ceremonies, a few questions have been on my mind (other than what the point of interviewing Michael Phelps in London was. Did anyone get anything out of that other than to confirm that there is in fact a British equivalent to Ryan Seacrest? Lucky them...). Looking forward to London in 2012...
1) How can London top Beijing's Opening Ceremonies? Aside from raising King Arthur from the dead and having him pull Excalibur out of a stone before using it to light the torch, I'm not sure we're going to see an Opening Ceremony like that again. If London's bit during the Closing Ceremonies was any indication, they're going to rely on a theme of "China's show may have been exotic, incredibly choreographed and awesomely inventive, but we have celebrities you recognize." Although Beijing did have Jackie Chan singing on Sunday!
2) What will the featured events be for the Brits? After 2004, China made a concentrated effort to focus on gymnastics, diving, table tennis and badminton...and it paid off in a huge gold medal haul. But the UK cleaned up in track cycling, they're definitely going to want to do well in soccer, and I'm sure they'll be a factor in rowing. If you go to the London venue page, they are hyping the velodrome and its 6,000 seats. Great news for cycling fans.
3) Will there be any new events? BMX and open water swimming had pretty exciting debuts. I've heard rumblings that golf and squash are on the list. Anybody know of anything else? I imagine darts would be a great sport to debut in London.
4) Speaking of open water swimming, I wonder where it will be held. The Thames? Maybe 10K out from the city in the English Channel and just have the athletes swim in? OK, probably not.
5) Will the pool be as fast as Beijing's? A majority of swimming races at these past games saw world records set. A majority of those had more than one person or relay team surpass the existing w.r. Sure the LZR suits helped, but there was no doubt that Beijing built a fast pool. I imagine London will look to do something similar.
6) Can the U.S. track team get back on track? Granted, on paper they did pretty well. But to track aficionados (and NBC studio hosts) we could have done a little bit better. How will USA Track & Field respond? Maybe Jerry Colangelo is available...
7) And finally, going beyond 2012, does Russia deserve to host the 2014 Winter Games? They blatantly broke the Olympic truce on the night of the Opening Ceremonies by invading Georgia. Sochi, the site of the 2014 Olympics, lies just several miles from the Georgian border. Yet IOC president Jacques Rogge felt content to save his criticisms during these past Games for Usain Bolt's post-race "antics." Please. What will it take between Georgia and Russia to affect the 2014 Winter Olympics? Let's hope something is worked out and aren't raising eyebrows in a few years as we can watch Vancouver hand over the flag to Sochi.
But until the next Games, I'll be rooting hard for Chicago's 2016 bid and keeping my eye on that Taylor Phinney kid. I hear he's got potential.
The 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing China are now over but the inspirational performances witnessed this year will continue to live on in Olympic history. Hopes and dreams were realized by some while others watched their dreams slip through their fingertips by one one-hundredth of a second. Its this very union of triumph and tragedy on the world stage that evokes powerful emotions in each of us.
Kleenex® Tissue created a 40-minute film that documents the finest moments in United States Olympic history. Host Paul Hochman sits with a number of U.S. athletes, families and fans on the Kleenex® blue sofa, armed with a box of Kleenex® tissues to share emotional and inspirational Olympic moments.
The Olympics are over, long live the Olympics. Now that the Beijing (Peking for those who get confused easily) Games are over I have to say that I have two Olympic moments. The first was the USA's come-from-behind win in the men's 4x100 freestyle relay. Forget that it kept Michael Phelps drive for eight golds alive, the win typified what relays are all about, a team putting it all together and being greater than the sum of its parts. My second Olympic moment was Usain Bolt's WR in the 200m. Yeah, the boy also won the 100m in WR time, but in the 200, we got to see him run all the way to the line and actually lean at the tape. If I was a male sprinter, I would get myself a very good agent and start picking my races well. Bolt is going to be the Federer/Woods/Lance of the next generation of sprinters with everybody else racing for second place.
I thought Sanya Richard's catching the Russians to win the women's 4x400 was also exciting and coupled with the men's victory in the same event restored a bit of US pride after the debacles in the 4x100. Did you catch Jeremy Wariner's relay split at 43.2? That is how you silence the critics. Too bad he came up short in the open 400.
What happened to Bernard Legat? The double 2007 World Champion (that's just last year) got skunked and looked bad doing it. If the USA can't even draft a ringer to do well in the distance events what are we to do? USA Track and Field won only one medal from the 800m on up and that was a bronze by Shalane Flanagan in the women's 10000m. Yikes, it's tough being a USA distance runner these days regardless of your country of origin.
I still think they should toss out race walking. Either that or add a new event, the 400m run while carrying a piano on your back. Time for this sport to go, let's face it, they are all running and just hoping not to get caught before the finish line.
Oh yeah, for the ladies, I think the men in the beach volleyball event should play with their shirts off. If the women have to play in bikinis it seems only fair.
Judged sports have to go as well. Yeah, I know gymnastics and diving are graceful and all that so let's have an exhibition for those sports and forget about the medals. It's not supposed to be about the medals anyway.
And, along those lines, I think they should stop playing the national anthem of the country who wins. It is about sport, let's try to keep the nationalistic aspect out of it. Distance runner Kenny Moore once opined that everyone should compete in white t-shirts and black shorts.
Last summer at the World Cup of Softball III in Oklahoma City the buzz in the press box wasn’t the dominating (ho-hum) performance of Team USA—it was a phantom injury that kept Japan’s best pitcher, Yukiko Ueno, out of the tournament.
The word was Ueno wasn’t truly hurt; she had played just a week prior. Instead, it was speculated, Team Japan didn’t want to give the Americans a chance to face Ueno—a talented hurler who had handed Team USA their first loss in Olympic competition since Sept. 21, 2000 at Sydney—before Beijing.
13 months later it might have been the decisive factor in helping Japan to an improbable upset of Team USA.
Last night Ueno snapped Team USA’s 22-game Olympic winning streak en route to a 3-1 victory and first gold medal. Ueno pitched seven innings, one day after she pitched 21 to get the Japanese into the gold-medal game.
What makes the defeat especially bitter is that it is the sport's final appearance in the Olympics for at least eight years.
Having covered this team for the last three years it’s hard to put into words the disappointment this team must have felt. One needs only to see the sight of players such as Crystl Bustos and Tairia Flowers leave their cleats at home plate—a symbolic gesture demonstrating their decision to retire from international competition.
So where does Team USA go from here? And will this help or hurt the game of softball?
Fox (shudder) and CBS are also listed as potential networks that will vie with NBC for the U.S. right for the Games. According to the article, the International Olympic Committee will start entertaining bids within the next six to eight months.
While NBC's all-encompassing coverage of these Olympics has recorded high ratings, it hasn't been without complaint. From the overabundance of beach volleyball to the "Live" logo appearing on West Coast screens that are seeing tape-delayed events, NBC's handling of the Beijing Olympics hasn't pleased everybody.
Writes the +Hollywood Reporter:
"We would never put an event on tape delay," John Skipper, executive vp content at ESPN, said. "When we put 'live' on the screen, we mean 'live right now.' We don't mean live three hours ago."
He said that if NBC was having technical trouble taking the "live" bug off its tape, ESPN would lend its technical expertise "to help them remove (it)."+
ESPN has the multi-channel platform, in addition to a huge online presence with the proven ability to showcase video that would be necessary to show as much as possible live. Should Chicago succeed in its bid for the 2016 Games, it's an easy assumption that they would be an enormous money-maker for whichever network ends up with the rights, which will probably exceed $1 billion.
And who knows, maybe ESPN could coax Brett Favre out of retirement (I'm assuming he'll be retired by then) to play team handball. That would really boost ratings...
on a random cable sports station a couple of years ago, while furiously flipping, as
said, "to see not what's on, but what else is on."
I was captivated by the pair, Rogers a no-nonsense warrior and Dalhausser a 6-foot-9 athletic freak. I remember thinking "This is the perfect team. Who in the world can beat these guys?"
Now I know. Nobody.
Rogers and Dalhausser won gold in men's beach volleyball at the Beijing Games, dispatching a similarly sized Brazil duo 23-21, 17-21, 15-4.
I loved watching these two play. Rogers, 34, is the brains of the operation who still is on top of his game (they call him The Professor). Dalhausser, 28, is the pupil but full of tremendous ability to go with an imposing frame. In the decisive third set, he owned the match with five blocks that killed the Brazilians' chances.
It was also interesting to watch the relationship between Rogers and Dalhausser, which was clearly mentor-protege (as opposed to gold-winning women
, who were more equals). I wondered if Rogers and Dalhausser even liked each other, especially after Rogers' obvious disgust during a pool-play loss to Latvia.
Of course, after Dalhausser stuffed Brazil's last gasp, securing the gold, he ran over to Rogers and tackled him to the sand, the two of them screaming in joy.
Any possible animosity was nowhere to be found this time. A gold medal has that power.
made a beautiful save in the 72nd minute of the gold-medal game against Brazil, one of about 10 stops she made during the crucial match.
She said she would almost a year ago after not playing against Brazil in the World Cup. Now we believe her.
Solo and the rest of the defense led the United States to a 1-0 victory over Brazil and a gold medal in the Beijing Games. The lone goal was scored in extra time, when
poked one through in the 96th minute.
Solo and the defense then held on.
This is a big victory for the Americans, who probably weren't favored to win. Though they played well against Brazil in friendly matches leading up to Beijing, Brazil still had bragging rights until now.
"We've seen Brazil three times since that last match, but it wasn't the same," Solo said. "On the world stage is when teams really come to play so it sat with us a little bit but we were confident in our team defending, so I knew it going to be a different game altogether."
In some ways, the Olympics have been disappointing for the Americans (
aside). Softball lost a gold it was a huge favorite to win. Track and field has had several setbacks. Women's gymnastics lost the team competition to China.
Women's soccer provided a little relief in the post-swimming Olympics for the USA. It took us 100-plus minutes of action to figure it out, though U.S. defender
knew long before that.
"We just look in each others' eyes and we believe and we know that we can do it," Chalupny said. "It's just a feeling that we have and nobody can break that bond. It's awesome."
One of the lowest and highest moments in the 2008 Olympics, for me, happened in the Women's 100m hurdles final. Lolo Jones was out in front and on her way to a gold medal when she struck the ninth of ten hurdles and finished out of the medals. That was the lowest point of the night, the highest point is what came next. Lolo, who admitted to NBC TV that when she took the lead she saw the gold medal around her neck, offered no excuses. She didn't use that awful line "I guess it wasn't meant to be" that we hear so often from athletes coming up short you start to wonder if they can handle defeat. No, Lolo accepted defeat with honor an class, something we can all aspire to. Hopefully Lolo will be back in 2012 and I will be rooting extra hard for her to take the gold.
I am not going to say 'I told you so', but I predicted that Usain Bolt would break Michael Johnson's 200m world record and he did just that. It was great to see him run hard all the way to the tape. Frankly, I don't understand all the hoopla over Bolt's apparent grandstanding in the 100m. He was the class, no, the super-class, of the field. All the criticism sounded like sour grapes from a bunch of people who realize that the 100m is going to be a pretty boring race for the next 8 years or so. Why don't people embrace Bolt's dominance like the do Tiger Woods? What's the difference between Tiger's fist pump and Bolt's chest thump? Give the kid a break. He is the biggest thing on the track and field scene in years and hopefully he can propel the sport out of the spectre of doping where it currently resides.
My apologies to the tiny nation of Togo. I inadvertenly reported that the nation of Tonga won the bronze in the whitewater kayaking. Sorry about that.
OK. One last question. Are you a Merritt or Wariner fan? Who's gonna win the men's 400?
It is all about the numbers. Just ask any athlete in Beijing. Whether it is the final score in a tennis match, the winning time in a triathlon or the perfect 10 on the balance beam the smallest units of measurement separate athletes from the joy of victory and the agony of defeat.
There are numbers in the world of international athletic competition, however, that few of us know about. These numbers reflect the financial costs associated with representing our nation abroad on the international field of play. America for Gold (AFG), which launched eight days before the start of the Beijing games, has set out to provide financial support to U.S. athletes. Along with its launch, AFG began "$8 per month starting 08-08-08."
AFG is committed to supporting athletes by taking the financial numbers game out of the equation and allowing athletes to focus on physically preparing to represent our nation in international competition.
"We are going to apply the same determined focus and energy you will see on the field of play this summer to helping athletes succeed," said Montford.
To support AFG, one-time or monthly contributions are accepted. Donations can be made online, by phone at (877) 477-4488 or by U.S. mail. To learn more about America for Gold or to make a donation, please visit www.AmericaForGold.org .
The good news: Team USA has dominated every one of their opponents during the Beijing Olympics. The bad news: Team USA has dominated every one of their opponents during the Beijing Olympics.
There was a time when the competitive balance of fastpitch softball on the international level was fairly even. During the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, the distance between the pitching mound and home plate was a paltry 40 feet; leading to close—if high-scoring games--that gave any international team a chance to win.
"Granted the games went too long but at least they were competitive and everybody had a chance to beat us,” said Hall of Fame softballer Michele Smith . “Australia had a chance to beat us and did. Japan had a chance to beat us and did beat us. China did the same thing. That's exciting."
Some fear the now standard 43 feet between mound and plate in international play, which was introduced to cut down on scoring, has produced a competitive advantage for a dominant USA Softball pitching staff that is almost impossible to hit.
And losing the Olympics might be the price we pay for success.
We're Number One
Everyone has a theory about what happened. Why a sport that seemed to be ascending in the world of international competition was suddenly removed from the Olympic rotation after the 2008 games in Beijing.
Some, such as Smith, think softball got lumped in with the national pastime unintentionally. "I think they expected to make that decision for baseball and not for softball. It was a comedy of events for softball to get voted out." Others think it's nothing more than an Anti-American bias. (Check any softball message board for affirmation to this fact.)
Others, like shortstop Natasha Watley of the U.S. National team, think the international fan base just isn't there. "Softball is a great spectator sport. We have great fans here in the U.S. But I think that's where we're hurting. It's not a world-wide sport."
But everyone agrees that it's imperative to get softball back in the Olympics. Not just so players like Cat Osterman and Jennie Finch have places to throw their devastating riseballs but for countries who depend on international Olympic funding to support their teams and promote softball in their respective countries.
"I worry about the Australian teams--Italy, Great Britain, and Greece," Smith points out. "Any of the teams that were really starting to make some progress in the European countries where we have to get stronger--it's essentially going to kill them over there."
Beijing or Bust
Osterman echoes the sentiments of many current and former USA softball players when she stresses the significance of this year’s games in China. "This is one of our last go-arounds. We're ready to put everything we have into it."
But it may be the performance of the Chinese National Team that determines softball's chances for inclusion in the 2016 games. Of all the rising teams in international play, nobody has improved faster or spent more money leading up to the games than China.
So if you see some members of the USA Softball fraternity privately waving a Chinese flag during the Olympic Games you'll know it's not just case of conflicted loyalties -- but self-preservation.
Kyle Bennett Bennet was the first American to secure a spot on the Olympic BMX team. He has two second place finishes at the X Games and he won the 2007 world championship in Vancouver after recovering from ACL surgery and only having three and a half months to prepare. He is often referred to as “butter” because of his smooth riding style.
Jill Kintner Kintner started her career in BMX at only 8 years old then jumped between successful runs in both BMX and mountain biking. She finally shifted her full attention to BMX when she decided to push for the Olympics.
In a journey that came down to the final race, Kintner out-biked friend, roommate and teammate Arielle Martin for the sole spot on the women’s U.S. BMX team. Martin returned home to Utah after loosing to Kintner only to return to the Chula Vista training center four days later on a decision to help Kintner get ready for the games.
The U.S. Olympic Committee and USA Cycling built a replica of the Beijing course in Chula Vista, California at the Olympic Training center where the U.S. athletes have been riding for the last several months. (AP Photo/Greg Baker)
Seeding starts on Wednesday August 20 with both men’s and women’s semifinals and finals taking place on Thursday August 21 in Beijing. Event coverage will be on NBC from 6 to 9 pm on Wednesday the 20th East Coast Time.
The United States' women's soccer team is going for gold medal at the Beijing Olympics, and will play Brazil at 9 a.m. on Thursday.
Brazil has become a nemesis for the Americans. Two of the most explosive incidents involving the U.S. in recent years have occured against the Brazilians:
. Ahh yes, it after the World Cup match against Brazil where Solo publicly blasted fellow goalkeeper
after not starting over her, saying "There's no doubt in my mind I would have made those saves. And the fact of the matter is it's not 2004 anymore. Its 2007, and I think you have to live in the present. And you can't live by big names. You can't live in the past. It doesn't matter what somebody did in an Olympic gold medal game in the Olympics three years ago. Now is what matters, and thats what I think."
Yikes. Her teammates were ticked off about the comments and Solo was sent home, though she's now back on the team. Solo wanted Brazil, and now she's got 'em.
Just last month
, the Americans' Olympic hopes were damaged by the loss of star forward
in a so-called friendly match against Brazil in San Diego. Wambach was handled aggressively the entire match by the Brazilian defense until a collision left her with a broken leg. Truly, this is an opportunity for the U.S. to cry, "Win Won For Wambach!" (I know I misspelled it, but c'mon. Alliteration is beautiful.)
Of course, the U.S. is doing just fine without Wambach, though they haven't played perfect soccer in China. A lot could come together on Thursday--Solo's vindication and the Americans revenge for last year's World Cup, mainly.
Or, Brazil could win. That would be a real punch in the gut.
After passing back-to-back tests against the elite teams of Europe, the U.S. mens basketball team probably could have beaten overmatched Germany wearing lederhosen to close the preliminary round of the Olympic tournament 5-0. Dwight Howard scored 22 points and LeBron James had 18, 16 in the first half, Monday as the United States completed an undefeated march through pool play.
The Americans were scoring so easily, they practically got in each other's way. Chris Paul led a 3-on-1 break and threw an alley-oop that could have gone to either James or Dwyane Wade. James jumped higher and got it to lay it in, then stepped outside to hit his second 3 for a 23-5 bulge. Up 19 after one, the U.S. scored the first eight points of the second to make it 39-12. The lead was 28 after James drilled 3-pointers on consecutive U.S. possessions, and ballooned to 30 for the first time when Dwight Howard scored four straight to make it 49-19 with 3 minutes left in the half.
The U.S. isn't ready to crown themselves the next big thing, a la Phelps. At the moment, the Americans are thinking about their quarterfinal game against Australia, the last team to push the U.S. Also, Spain plays Croatia at 2:30 a.m. Lithuania plays China at 4:45 a.m., and Argentina plays Greece at 10:15 a.m. The U.S. knows Australia is a physical team that lost by just 11 when the two countries played an exhibition game in Shanghai on Aug. 5. They kept it close despite not having their lone NBA player, Milwaukee Bucks center Andrew Bogut, available for the contest.
When the quarterfinals tip off tomorrow, everybody is 0-0. Should the Americans lose, they won't even end up with a medal as happened to Spain in 2004, after they went unbeaten in pool play. Watch TEAM USA lift their basketball game to an entirely different competitive level against the Aussie's.
But the United States' golden girl at the 2008 Olympics was
, a Russian immigrant and daughter of former gold medalist
. Nastia won four medals, including the hat-trick in individual events (gold, silver, bronze).
Of course, the silver came about under bizarre circumstances, when she finished in a tie in the uneven bars with a Chinese girl. Not accepting a tie, a misguided IOC rule dissected the individual judge's scores and determined Liukin the runner-up.
Hmmm, breaking a tie with scores within a tie? That sounds completely wacky, whether Nastia benefited or not.
The 2008 women won't leave the legacy that the Magnificent Seven left at the 1996 Atlanta Games. But let's face it: Nastia was the best gymnast above suspicion in Beijing, and the United States was the best team above suspicion.
Only one gold was won by the U.S. women, Nastia's all-around title. But it was a good showing nonetheless.
As much as Michael Phelps 8 gold medals puts him in the running for the greatest Olympian ever, all the hype probably hurt him when it comes to the overall Olympic moment. On my meter, Usain Bolt jogging to a new world record in the 100m was simply indescribable. Some really big names were saying that if Bolt hadn't started celebrating in the final 20m he would have run 9.5x and I believe them. I can't even get out of bed in 9.69 and this guy is waving his arms and thumping his chest. Oh baby! Frankly, I think Michael Johnson's 19.32 200m record is in jeopardy unless Bolt, who will be about 30m in front of his nearest challenger as he nears the finish line in the 200m final starts playing the air guitar and humming Bob Marley tunes.
OK. We had to give citizenship to a Kenyan to get an Olympic contender in the men's 1500m. But, not just some Kenyan, a guy who won silver in 2004 and is the reigning World Champion. C'mon man, the USA was drafting a ringer! Then the ringer fails to make the finals in the 1500m. What happened? Is citizenship revokable? Hopefully, Lagat will redeem himself in the 5000m, but frankly he looked flat and that graceful stride and potent kick were nowhere to be seen.
I said this once an I will say it again. They should just toss out judged sports from the Olympics. We know Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt are the best because they were first across the line. Forget the doping, the judging is the biggest blight on the Olympics. It just sucks big time to see all the bad calls.