Tuesday, August 17, 2004

OLYMPICS WRAPUP POST DAY #7: The capsules are here.

Archery: I'm not sure what happened in archery today, but I liked this story about Bhutan trying to make their mark in this sport.

Fencing, Women's: So NBC loves the Sada Jacobsen thing--Yale student, great USA fencing hope--so they (on Bravo) show both her losing to eventual silver medalist Tan Xue and her bronze medal win in their entireties. They promise to Mariel Zagunis--another American--vs Tan on the big primetime broadcast. True to their word, they show--friggin' clips of her beating Tan. AND her entire medal ceremony.

Tan Xue had some weird psychological thing where she would celebrate every time her opponent's light came on, whether or not the judges had awarded her the point. I have no idea how well this worked throughout the tournament, but she looked just dumb when the judgement was against her.

Fencing is one of those Olympic sports where you don't become an expert in it after watching for five minutes. Those are some tiny, tiny distinctions that separate one point from another.

Gymnastics, Women's: The Romanian team refused to show any emotion whatsoever until they won and then the sweet patriotic tears did flow. We took silver and well we should--we were obviously just not good enough, making the little mistakes but never the big ones. Unlike Team China, whose horrible botching of the uneven bars was shown in excrutiating detail by NBC. One little girl went face-first into the mat. Not good. Russia took bronze--Svetlana Khorkina is the last great gymnastics diva.

This has to be the most likable American gymnastics team that I can remember. For once, they all look like normal people. Mohini Bhardwaj is such a great story, except for the receiving-funding-from-Pan-Anderson part.

Actually, except for Khorkina, none of the gymnasts looked like weird little pixies the way they used to. Interesting.

Field Hockey, Men's: Some was on television and I watched Korea beat Great Britain. Observation #1: Great Britain has a unified olympic team, but in soccer they compete as Wales, England, Scotland. Observation #2: Great Britain intentionally ran the clock down to zero because the game isn't over until Korea cleared the ball from the shooting area (or whatever) on the penalty shot. So there's quite a bit of game that can be played in a timeless limbo in field hockey. Or not.

Shooting, Men's: They call the competition "double trap" which utterly disguises the fact that it involves men shooting at clay pigeons with big honking shotguns. The guy from the UAE won gold for the first time for that country, and on the one hand I love to root against any overwealthy Arab aristocrat, but damn if he didn't look cool with that gun. The guy from India won silver and that's the first silver for any Indian since they won their independence? Jeez. For the jillionth time: there is no reason for India to be as crappy as they are in international sport except for a failure of will within India. One billion people and you can only get one guy shooting at targets well? Get on the freaking ball.

Beach Volleyball, Women's: Yes, NBC had to cut gold medal fencing, won by an American, into highlights to bring us the lion's share of May and Walsh beating two leathery Dutch ladies. I have no words.

Water Polo, Men's: We beat Kazakhstan! U-S-A!

Soccer, Women's: US 1, Australia 1. I watched it in fast forward, so I don't have a lot to say. We're in the medal round. I do not expect us to be golden.

Basketball, Men's: And speaking of lowered expectations....we had a lot of trouble with Greece, a team with no NBA players, so we don't even have that excuse like we did when Carlos Arroyo cut us to pieces. The only way we can get very far with this team is with intensity, because we forgot to pack a three-point shooter. At this point, I am actually really wishing they'd put--God help me--Derek Fisher on this team, because they'd have one guy who knew his role.

Swimming, Men's: I love how the American swimmers, Phelps in particular, keep thinking they have to take their laurel crowns off during the national anthem.

Tennis: Federer out. Roddick still in, and I like hearing him say he was more nervous about the Olympics than in other competitions--even though he's playing in half-empty arenas--because he's playing for his country. And I like hearing Roddick's staying in the athlete's village with everybody else. Unlike, say, Allen Iverson, who's probably staying in a five-bedroom zeppelin high above Athens. If you get my drift.

Baseball: Where's my baseball, NBC?

Judo: Tonight Bravo gave us forty minutes of sailing and two judo finals clipped all to heck. I'ma thinking their coverage of all the grappling/martial arts sports is going to be similarly stinky. A Greek guy won gold in his weight class. The Bravo judo color commentator is completely insufferable, by the way, going on and on about how all the judo events have all been sold out, and how (I paraphrase) "I don't know what the Greek national sport was before, but it's JUDO NOW!"--puhleez. I wish we had more judo on too, but you're not doing the sport any favors by overselling its popularity.

Badminton, Men's: Two Korean guys beat two Chinese guys. It was good. I really hope Bill Clement is there in Athens and talking over a feed, because they never show him at the broadcast table or what have you. I would be crushed if he wasn't actually there.

Table Tennis: All the Americans got knocked out and we have the first week of the Olympics' cult heroine: Ai Fukuhara. She's 15. The cretinous NBC commentariat referred to her as the Mia Hamm of Japan, which I do not believe for a microsecond. But where most Asian table tennis players do that cry that sounds like "GO!" when they make a point, she squeaks it out, like a cat, and tries to look all serious but she's too pixie-cute. She is your American Japan fetishist's wet dream, to put it another way. She has this really great delivery, too, tossing the ball straight up before service. Olympic table tennis--it's fannnnntastic.

I have to go now--live shotput from Olympia beckons. It's all so meaningful.

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