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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Beijing: Week 2

The second week of the Olympics wasn’t nearly as exciting as the first. I attribute that mainly to the timing of the events I was most interested in. The events ran throughout the day and most of the track and field events took place in the afternoon. Thanks to the wonder of our digital recording device, we could arrive home from work and watch the events of the day at will.

So here are my top moments of the second week.

INDOOR VOLLEYBALL:
I was totally impressed that both the men and women’s volleyball team made the final. This hasn’t happened in a long time and it was pretty great that both teams were playing Brazil. I was sad that the women lost but thrilled for the men, especially since they had suffered such great trauma with the in-laws of the head coach being attacked and the father killed earlier in the first week. The women’s final was nostalgic for me as it reminded me of the 1984 gold medal match the US women played against China. My interest in the US volleyball scene was at fever pitch at that point and I knew who all of the players were. I had been following this team for ages and wanted them to do well especially since in 1980 the games had been boycotted and most of these women didn’t get a chance to win gold. Perhaps the names of Flo Hyman and Debbie Green ring a bell. Debbie Green was just the greatest setter on earth at the time and I idolized her abilities. I remember watching the final alone, in my living room, so intent on every point, living and dying with every set, every dig, every block, every kill. Sadly, the women lost and had to settle for silver. I cried. Even so, silver is a great accomplishment and I was very happy to see US volleyball on top again in these Olympic games. By the way, the men played Brazil in 1984 as well and won the gold medal then as well.
My only comment about the “new” game at this point is that I really, really, really don’t like speed scoring and the players miss their serve way too often. OK, ‘nuff said.

TRACK:
-I was totally thrilled that women’s steeplechase winner broke the 9 minute mark for the first time in history. What a thrill to watch people set new records!
-I loved the woman from Cameroon who long jumped in a skirt! And she won the gold medal as well!
-The women’s 100 meter race being dominated by, who else, the Jamaicans! Guess it’s time for another nation to dominate the sprints.
-I don’t really need to say more about Usain Bolt. It’s all been said. One does wonder however why ALL sprinters, regardless of nationality, are so cocky. Guess it just runs in the genes.
-Loved the US going Gold, Silver and Bronze in the men’s 400 meters and Men’s 400 meter hurdles. Awesome.
-The 4x400 meter relays: The women were amazing! That come from behind final leg was super exciting! The men lived up to the hype and looked great. Jeremy Wariner looked stronger in the relay than he had in the individual race. I'm glad he got his gold in the relay.
-The Russian female pole vaulter who broke the world record! She is a character.
-The Belgian woman beating the Croatian in high jump. That was utterly fantastic as the Croatian woman was practically viewed as positively unbeatable. Women’s high jump in Europe is a marquee event and we love following it. Until recently, the Swedes had a jumper who consistently scored in the top 3 spots in all meets. She’s retired now but a new young one is up and coming so Sweden should soon have a stake in women's high jumping again.
-The Cuban's 110 meter hurdle win. He looked perfect.

BIG TIME DISAPPOINTMENTS:
-The 4x100 meter relays. Could NOT believe that both teams could NOT figure out how to get to the finals. UGH.
-Sweden’s female hurdler. This young woman fell on the first hurdle of the semi-finals. This was a national disaster as she was one of the Swedes greatest hopes for a medal. Would’ve liked to have seen how she would’ve done. Speaking of hurdles…felt sad for Lola Jones as well. Hurdles are a heart-breaker. She was within 15 meters of the gold medal…and stepped on it as well. Both women gave awesome interviews and were so gracious. Very refreshing.
-In the end, I was pretty disappointed that I didn’t see any of the beach volleyball, especially with both US teams taking gold. I saw a brief interview with one of the men and he seemed like a great guy. Congrats. Sorry I missed it.

Sweden had the worst summer Olympics in history. There was a palpable sadness in the media. Too bad, but they’ll rebound at the winter Olympics I’m sure.

So to conclude, I’ll share my own Olympic medal moment. Oddly enough, the word for hurdle and the word for ass are the same words in Swedish! The context and sentence structure with which they are used determine which word is appropriate. So, after the hurdle disasters, I wanted to ask a couple of my male colleagues, “Did you see the women’s hurdles final?” and inevitably asked, “Did you watch the women’s asses yesterday?” We had a good laugh and in the end, the young men had to admit that the answer was yes to both questions!

See you in London in 2012.