Friday, August 15, 2008
Finally... GOLD for US Gymnastics...
I’m having a different Olympics experience this time around. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I watched so little of the Games. I was unemployed during the Athens Games, so… that helped. But the time difference is the real killer. The gymnastics events are happening sooo late at night; I can barely stay awake to see the outcomes. For the women’s team finals, I missed the epic meltdown of Alicia Sacramone, because I was having an epic meltdown of my own… in my bed. Wait, that doesn’t sound right at all. I went to bed, ok? And I hated myself for it.
The next night was a repeat. I couldn’t keep my eyes open for the end of the Men’s all-around, but I suppose I didn’t miss much – I think my man Horton finished 9th and the other one was 12th.
I did watch the swimming, though, which is always fun. I’m gonna be honest here: I think I have Michael Phelps fatigue. I’m invested in his run to 8 gold medals and all the records and blah blah blah, but I feel like the primetime coverage has become so Phelps-centric, I’m all, “can I see something else, please?” I mean, aren’t there other Olympic-type things going on somewhere? I felt the same way about the gymnastics coverage, too. I’m pulling for America and everything, but I’m not opposed to watching other athletes from other countries compete. Like, in the men’s team finals, all we saw were the Americans and the Chinese. The Japanese took the silver and I don’t think we saw more than two of their routines. What’s up with that?
The women’s team final was good Olympics, though, at least the parts that I saw… I really enjoy watching Shawn Johnson and Nastia Liukin work. First of all, they look like women. There’s a maturity to their movements and athleticism that I appreciate, and which I don’t get it from the Chinese girls. Alright, let’s just do this! I don’t believe for a second that all those Chinese girls are over 16. Some of them? Maybe. But most of them are still in diapers. So what if the Chinese government produced passports? This is the same government… you know what? I’m not going to do this. If the proof of age documents passed the IOC, then I guess it’s a done deal. I’m just saying that I wouldn’t put it past the Chinese Gymnastics Team to do anything, and I mean anything to win. The part that confuses me most is why they would cheat, if they did. Is it an advantage to be younger and smaller? I would think the inexperience would be enough of a disadvantage to discourage sneaking in younger gymnasts. Then again, the younger gymnasts aren’t dealing with beaten up bodies and even more beaten up psyches. Maybe it’s a toss-up. But those girls aren’t 16.
I hope the women aren’t too disappointed with their second place finish. Obviously, if Sacramone had landed her routines, or even just one of them, they probably would have won the whole thing. Any other night, and they probably would have won, but them’s the breaks, right? I thought they performed magnificently, and they certainly put pressure on the Chinese. Taking second place is always easier to swallow if you know the winner had to really work for it, and those Chinese girls definitely had to work. Moreover, I couldn’t be more proud of Sacramone and her teammates. In interviews, Alicia Sacramone made no excuses, but simply stated that her nerves beat her, which can happen to anyone. Meanwhile, the other girls stood by her, smiling and enjoying their silver medal win. After all, competing in the Olympics is an honor in itself, and a silver medal is nothing to cry about.
I will say that I love the America/China rivalry, because it’s one that I can actually see - like, for myself, without all the help from the commentators. I can’t really explain it, but I think I can see it. The Chinese are more polished and elegant, but the Americans (both the men and women) seem so much more explosive and powerful on the equipment. I think the judges have their preferences, too, which goes a long way to explain why the two countries are constantly trading the first place finishes. But the Chinese are also incredibly consistent, which isn’t surprising considering the lifetime of focus and pressure.
What does everyone think of the new scoring? It took me a while to understand it, and now that I do… I’m undecided. I applaud any attempt to make the scoring fairer, which I believe is what they’re trying to do. By establishing a degree of difficulty score, and taking the deductions from a separate execution score out of ten, and then combining the two – it seems like a good way to go on paper. But I have to say, it sure does drain the excitement out of the sport.
The degree of difficulty score is meant to reward the gymnasts who perform difficult skills, but what that actually does is force more falls, because some gymnasts are doing skills they don’t really have, so perfection becomes more and more rare. But it doesn’t do them any good to do easier routines, either, because then they can’t beat the harder routines even when they perform perfectly. Am I making sense? The Chinese guy with the hardest routine could miss his landing completely, and even skip a skill during his routine, and he would still receive a higher score than the French dude who performed an easier routine, but perfectly. So what happens is – teams like the Chinese and the Americans just shut everyone else out. The contest is decided before it even starts. I’m struggling to find the sport in that. Ok, I’m done.
That brings us to last night. I’m shocked at how into volleyball I am during the Olympics. I really enjoyed watching the Men’s volleyball team beat Bulgaria. And the Beach Volleyball match between Misty and Kerri and the Belgians was a real treat. It fires me up. How crazy was it that Misty and Kerri almost lost that first set? To an unseeded team? Who barely made it to the elimination rounds to begin with? I have no doubts that Misty and Kerri would have come back and won the match, but dropping a set would have been a huge upset in itself – for them, anyway.
I only made it through the first two rotations of the women’s all around in gymnastics. I was excited about it, but then I quickly became discouraged when the scores started popping up. After both Shawn and Nastia got screwed on the vault and the uneven bars, I decided to call it a night. I was getting all sorts of pissed off about it and I don’t like to go to bed angry, so I shut it off and went to sleep. I was thinking as I dozed that I was going to wake up to a major headline, “U.S. Team Protests Crackpot Judges,” or, “Luikin kicks balance beam judge in teeth – mayhem ensues,” or, “Shawn Johnson moons judges during Floor routine – audience gives perfect 10.”
I really don’t understand how these athletes and coaches keep their cool during these meets when the judges are throwing out scores that clearly aren’t based in reality. I don’t know if it’s the new scoring or what, but when the Chinese girl jumps on the balance beam, checks her balance no less than 5 times, steps out on her landing, starts with a lower difficulty value, and STILL manages to score better than an American who did a tougher routine and did it better… something ain’t right! That’s what was happening. I loved how the commentators were literally biting their tongues. You just know they wanted to call bullshit. Well, they don’t need to because we aren’t blind. Those judges were going very easy on the Chinese and that is a FACT.
So you can imagine how happy-slash-upset I was this morning to read that Nastia and Shawn managed to snap up the gold and silver. Happy because, well… it’s good news. But upset because I missed it. I’m sure they’ll show it again at some point (I hope!). The best part, though, is that the US ruined the chance for China to sweep the medals. I think it was the Chinese head coach who said, and I’m quoting loosely, “This Olympics will be a failure if we don’t win all the medals.” First of all, that’s just a terrific attitude, I say sarcastically. Second of all, SUCK IT! HAH!
Now we have to work on breaking their gold medal streak in diving.
Some bonus eyecandy!
We didn’t see much of him during the competitions, but Raj Bhavsar is sooooo hot. I have a thing for ethnic guys, especially Indians.
This picture made me laugh out loud. It’s incredibly cheesy, but I appreciate it anyway. For obvious reasons.
Ah, camaraderie. This picture does it for me, I’m not gonna lie.