Monday, August 11, 2008

Day 2

Okay, recap of the big news of the first two days of competition.

And, of course, I'm American, so I'm pretty much only writing about the US. I mean, Korea beating Germany in women's handball might be a big deal over there, but I, and probably pretty much everyone reading this, really don't care.

Okay, top moments so far.

#1 - men's 4x100 meter freestyle relay takes gold
Was there any doubt as to what would be #1?! This was the most amazing relay I have ever seen.
The Americans, formerly unbeatable in this event, hadn't won gold in the past 2 Olympics, and were heavy underdogs to the French (I didn't know French were good swimmers... color me suprised). Phelps went out strong, and touched about even with the French and South Africans. Second leg Garrett Weber-Gale kept it going, and third leg Collen Jones lost it a bit to the French, who had their best racer still to hit the pool.
Then came the final leg.
Alain Bernard dove into the pool with a comfortable lead, a full body length, and kept it doing. American Jason Lezak, America's anchorman for years, tried all he could, but stayed behind for that 150 meters as expected.
With 50 yards to go Bernard, who earlier in the week said the French were going to 'smash' the Americans , had a comfortable lead on Lezak. I was so bummed out, I wanted to really stick it to those high-and-mighty Frenchmen. But with 25 meters to go, I sat up - Bernard seemed to tighten up, and Lezak must have felt it, riding his wave to cut down on drag. With 10 meters, I was on my feet on my bed -- THERE IS NO WAY. With 5 meters it suddenly seemed like the impossible was going to happen. Then with one gigantic reach, the 32-year old American out-touched the a-hole Frenchman to win the gold. Ahhh sweet, sweet redemption.
Oh, and not for nothing, but it keeps Michael Phelps' quest for 8 gold medals alive... I don't think I've ever seen someone so pumped.

#2 US women and men's gymnastics plagued with injury
So for the men, Morgan and Paul Hamm are both out, leaving the US with no athletes with prior Olympic experience. With two of three alternates now competing, the US men managed to advance to the finals in fourth place, with 365.200 points, behind China (373.600), Japan (369.500) and Russia (365.425). This isn't suprising in and of itself, because even with both Hamm's, the best I think the men could have done is the bronze. now they will be scratching at the eyes of the Ruskis, with only .225 points seperating them from the podium with 6 rotations to go. The US will need every athlete to step up and give their greatest performances for a chance at a medal.
As for the women...
The gold medal favorites coming off of a gold medal performance at the 2007 Worlds, and with two of the best All-Around athletes in the world in Shawn Johnson (yes, that is a girl) and Nastia Liukin (yes, that is an American). But all of a sudden this week, the team was knocked down with injuries: first to Chellsie (what were her parents thinking with that spelling?) Memmel, who was originally competing on all 4 events forced to draw out of all but the uneven bars with an ankle injury. If that wasn't bad enough, just minutes before she was to take the floor in the opening rotation of the team event Sunday, Samantha Peszek, who was also slated to compete in all four events in the team all-around, sprained her left ankle while warming up on the floor. Cut to the events, where the US was forced to enter just 4 athletes (instead of 5) on 3-of-4 events (excluding the bars) and all of the scores would have to count to the team total (instead of dropping the lowest).
Then came the competition...
Two stepped out of bounds on the floor.
Vault proved strong.
Then uneven bars, usually a strength, but it was far from that Sunday night, with both former world champions in the event, Memmel and Liukin, having uncharacteristic falls.
The girls ended on beam, which of course is the "heart attack" event for those of us watching at home. It was strong, and despite all odds stacked against them, at the end of the event,Team USA was in second place, less than 1.5 points behind China (which is kind of a lot in gymnastics). Johnson and Liukin finished 1-2 in individual qualifiers, and at least one member of Team USA qualified in each individual event.
So all ended well, but the US women, injuries and all, have quite an uphill climb Tuesday night if they want ANY chance of beating the hosts.

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