Friday, August 20, 2004

OLYMPICS WRAPUP POST DAY #9: Let's do this before it gets too far into Friday Greek time. Capsules.

Badminton: Was the most entertaining thing on NBC on Thursday. First, the women's gold medal match, Mia Audina vs Zhang Ning. Audina came out strong and took the first game but was visibly out of energy by a few points into the second game. Yet in the third game she fended off like three medal points before succumbing. Bill Clement was saying Zhang is number one in the year, but Audina looked like she could've taken her if she wasn't dramatically out of shape.

And then--mixed doubles. Is this the only summer sport with both genders competing against each other? The pairs skating of the summer? Anyway, this--the gold medal match--is easily the funnest thing I've seen at the Olympics thus far, save the handball glimpses. The Chinese team was weirdly demonstrative (unlike every other Chinese athlete) and the British team was all plucky and gritty and dragging the match out to three games as best they could. The British gal was all blonde cuteness in her little blue skirt-thing. The Chinese guy went into full Honky Tonk Man-level stall at one point when they fell behind, demanding new birdies and reversed calls and generally making an ass of himself. I love the pairs stuff, I couldn't help thinking both teams were trying to impress each other in some primal way. But there was no rules about gender must play gender: man served to man, or to woman, or woman to woman--whatever would bring glory on the badminton court. This was completely enjoyable light-hearted sport. And I guess badminton is a "light-hearted" sport; the birdie takes the physicality out of it as much as possible so it ends up being all about angles and momentum. I like.

Gymnastics: Forgot to mention Paul Hamm's amazing comeback yesterday, and now we have Carly Patterson's more steady gold medal effort today. It's funny--I don't expect Carly to be the huge cultural figure Mary Lou Retton was, or even Kerri Strug was. I guess we expect more success from our gymnasts than we used to.

But Paul Hamm's win has to be some kind of all-time greatest sports victories. You fall and hit the judges' table and come back to win gold? Yowzers.

Shooting, Women's: More ladies with shotguns. No weird "pull" commands this time. A Hungarian takes gold and I still love the shooting.

Field Hockey, Men's: Finally got to see the vaunted Pakistanis beat South Korea. Let's all hope for the India-Pakistan hatefest at some point.

Basketball, Men's: Hey, so we managed to beat Australia. We may be able to apply enough defensive pressure to get a whole bunch of fast break points to win gold. Or silver; having only a fast-break offense never did the Nets any good. I think we have to play Lithuania next and THAT will be an interesting contest.

Swimming, Men's: So Aaron "illegal dolphin kick" Peirsol got himself dq'ed by a judge who was probably a petulant judge, sick of Peirsol's complaining. Said dq got explained away by some IOC mumbo-jumbo and reversed so he could keep the gold. Well, whatever. Perhaps this'll learn him not to toss around illegal dolphin kick accusations so liberally.

That's it. Tomorrow: our women lay an egg against Japan in soccer. This, I predict.

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