Monday, August 22, 2016

Olympian Thoughts

1. I enjoy most of the events in the Olympics, but the track events are why I watch.  I especially like the sprints – the 100-meter, the 200-meter, the 4x100 and the 4x200.  And at this level the 400-meter is a sprint as well, though I always considered it a distance run when I had to do it.  I could watch those events all week long, both women’s events and men’s.  The field events are fun too, but the track is where the action is as far as I am concerned.

2. The men’s 100-meter is the King of Summer Olympic Sport.  These are the fastest human beings on the planet, at the peak of their strength, and it doesn’t get any better than that.  The women’s 100-meter comes close, though.  Then the 4x100s.

3. Usain Bolt is a machine.  Way back when, I was a sprinter on my high school track team – not a good sprinter, you understand, but enough of one to understand the mechanics of the sport and to know the difference between average sprinters, good sprinters, really good sprinters, and machines.  I sat watching Bolt’s three races with my jaw dropped.  It should not be as easy as he makes it look to finish a 200-meter race four strides ahead of his nearest competitor.  He should not be grinning at the cameras when he finishes the 100-meter.  He should not be able to pull away from the field as smoothly as he did in the 4x1.  It’s astonishing how fast that man is.  Someday the guys who came in last in each of the three races he ran in Rio – and the six others he’s run in two previous Olympics – will tell their grandchildren that they once watched Usain Bolt run away from them during a race.  I’ll tell mine I saw it live.  It was fun watching that kind of history being made.

5. Although to be honest, sometimes Bolt really annoys me.  He has such insane skill and talent, yet he hotdogs his way across the finish line.  Yes, he owns all the world and Olympic records now, but can you imagine how much lower those marks would be if he would just run flat out another five paces?  Run through the line, not to the line – that’s how it’s done.

5. If you are part of a group of people of which Ryan Lochte is described as the mastermind, you may want to reevaluate your life choices.

6. Actually, the women’s gymnastics floor routines come nearly up to the track events as far as my interest.  How do they bounce like that?  I just love the passes where they do these twisting flips in the air, hit the mat hard with their feet and bounce right up for another flip or whatever – especially if they can reverse direction.  It is just a joy to watch, I think.

7. It amazes me that there are people who work all year long to get into some of those sports.  They’re really good at them, and they can’t just pick them up with a couple of weeks to go.  But really?  People do synchronized diving when it’s not the Olympics?  Where?  Why?  I suppose there must be a market for it in non-Olympic years and I’m glad there is because otherwise I wouldn’t get to see it at the games, but that always comes as an odd thought.

8.  Seriously – Ryan Lochte, “mastermind.”

9. It’s nice that the US wins so many medals – and I find it especially awesome that the US women are now winning more than the US men – but I still find myself cheering for the athletes from places that never seem to win anything.  Estonia won a bronze in one of the rowing events.  A woman from Burundi won a silver medal in the 800-meter.  If that isn’t enough to make the day worthwhile you aren’t thinking right.

10. Switching over from the NBC broadcast coverage to the streaming app coverage made all the difference in the world.  There were far fewer commercials – sometimes they’d run out of commercials before they were supposed to cut back to the event they were covering and they’d put up a little graphic telling us to wait a bit for coverage to resume, which I found charming.  They showed the entire event and not just the Americans and select favorites, so you could actually get caught up in it.  There weren’t any of those cloying personal interest stories to wade through, nor any guest analysts wearying my ears with empty verbiage from the studio.  The events were shown a bit earlier – NBC Broadcast would delay things so they could edit them how they wanted – which meant I didn’t have to stay up until midnight to watch anything.  And they always seemed to farm out the actual announcing to random Australians, which lent an air of absurdist humor to the whole thing.  Next time we’ll just start with the app and save time.

11.  Masssssstermiiiiiiiiiind!  Oooooooooooooh!

12. The US women’s gymnastics team was justly celebrated for its achievements – and, really, watching Simone Biles reinvent the sport even as Aly Raisman was still improving the older version of it was a treat – but whatever became of the blonde one?  They never really seemed to show her doing anything.  I started to feel bad for her after a while.  I’m sure she did well – you don’t get to be part of that team without some freakishly high level of talent and a whole lot of hard work – but she was sort of the forgotten person in that group.

13.  With the possible exception of the entire hammer-throw event, there is nothing on this earth quite as absurd as the gazelle-like bounding that Olympic high jumpers use on their approach runs.  I’m sure it works, as those are not people who would do anything that didn’t.  But still.

14. For an Olympics that was supposed to collapse into a pile of mosquito-infested slapstick it turned out quite well, I’d say.  All the events happened when they were supposed to happen and where they were supposed to happen, and things went well.  I hope Rio in particular and Brazil in general got what they wanted out of them.  I wonder what will happen to all those venues in five years.  The precedents are not very encouraging, but I wish them well.

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