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.
In case you were wondering, I made it back from France in one piece, but as the Olympics are full-on and I am a self-confessed Olympic junkie, look for me to be blogging on the 2008 Beijing Olympics site of Active.com and not in my usual location as an active expert. That doesn't mean I can't send out kudos to Kristin Armstrong for her gold medal ride in the Women's time trial and also to Levi Leipheimer who road a gutsy race to bring home the bronze in the men's TT. Honorable mention to Christine Thorburn who was only four seconds out of the bronze medal in the women's TT, but she had to settle for 5th. Chapeau.
Anyway, check out my Olympic blogs and chime in on your Olympic and non-Olympic moments.
Pollution, heat, humidity and a difficult course all conspire to make both the men's and women's Olympic road races potential death marches of the highest order. Add to that the fact that every country is sending their best athletes to Beijing(well, duh, it is the Olympics!) and 'epic' is the only word that comes to mind to describe the events which will unfold this weekend.
On paper, the Olympic Road Race course looks pretty darn tough. The men will climb over 11,000 feet and the women will climb over 4000 feet meaning that it is highly unlikely that a sprinter will be wearing the gold medal in either event. And the teams seem to agree with only a few of the them bringing anyone with fast twitch muscle fibers.
Actually, the course is split up into two distinct parts. The first section, which both the men and women will ride, is about 55 miles of mostly flat riding, designed by the Chinese to showcase some of their national treasures such as the Great Wall. The second part of the course is a 15-mile loop which contains about 1500' of climbing most if it coming in a 6-mile, 1250-foot climb. Following the ascent is quick down and up and then a long, gradual 8-mile descent back to the finish line. The men will complete seven laps for a total of 150 miles; the women will do two laps on the circuit for a total of 75 miles.
The US Men's team is headed by now 5-time Olympian George Hincapie who is joined by Levi Leipheimer, Christian Vande Velde, Dave Zabriskie and Jason McCartney. George, Levi and Christian will be the designated leaders with Zabriskie and McCartney riding in a supporting role. The US Women's team includes two-time Olympians Kristin Armstrong and Dr. Christine Thorburn who will be joined by first-timer Amber Neben.
Both squads are definitely medal-capable especially if they ride as a team. It is difficult to put personal ambitions aside especially since the difficulty of the course will clearly make this a race of attrition. But, teamwork will be key especially if the heat and humidity are oppressive and the designated leaders need a lot of water to stay fresh.
In the men's race, Spain looks to be the biggest threat. They are sending a hugely-talented squad which includes Alejandro Valverde who just won the Classic San Sebastian, Tour winner Carlos Sastre, Giro winner Alberto Contador, Tour green jersey winner Oscar Friere and Sammy Sanchez. Italy always seems to ride well in big races and they can't be counted out especially with defending Olympic Champion Paolo Bettini and one-day specialist extraordinaire Davide Rebellin. The tiny country of Luxembourg looks very good with the Schleck brothers and Kim Kirchen all who rode well in the mountains of the recent Tour.
In the women's race, Germany is always powerful with defending Olympic Champion Judith Arndt and Ina Teutenberg. Holland with Marianne Vos brings a strong team as well as the Swiss and Great Britian.
The men's race is Saturday, August 9th the women's race is the next day on the 10th. Look for both competitions to be action-packed once the races hit the finishing circuits. The pollution coupled with the heat and humidity will make it prohibitive to attack before that.
The Tour de France is history, but one potential cure for PTD is the upcoming Beijng Olympics. Well, that is debatable if you have to watch the games on American network TV. My guess is that for every hour of TV time there is about 15 minutes of actual competition the rest being taken up by "Up Close and Personal" segments on the athletes, personal commentary segments by TV presonalities who have never been an athlete and have no real connection to the competition side of the Olympics (where did they find Jimmy Roberts?) and inane drivel by talking head anchors who feel the need to explain everything to the viewers in agonizing detail. Yeah, let's face it, watching the Olympics on US TV sucks!
Lucky for us American's we have veteran cycling commentators Paul Sherwen and Craig Hummer to call the road and time trial events. Let's just hope the big wigs at NBC decide we Americans want to watch cycling if Lance isn't in the picture. Also, good news is that the US Men's and Women's teams are very "medal capable" with riders like Kristin Armstrong and Christine Thorburn good chances for hardware in the Women's time trial and Dave Zabriskie and Levi Leipheimer ditto in the men's TT. With only three women and five men for each nation on the road race team it is really hard for a team to control a race which means that the races are usually wide open and it usually results in strategies and tactics being thrown out the window and whomever is the strongest in the closing laps has the best chance to win.
Amber Neben will join Armstrong and Thorburn for the Women's Road Race while George Hincapie, Christian Vandevelde and Jason McCartney round out the men's road team. All in all, both squads are oozing talent and defintely have the chance to suprass the three medal tally (gold,silver and bronze) of the American team in Athens.
So, either follow the Games on the Internet or get a lobotomy so you can tolerate NBC's coverage, but however you do it, do watch the Olympics. They only come once every four years and the competition will be intense.