Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Olympics Thoughts, Early Week One

Another collection of thoughts from watching the Olympics on Monday and Tuesday.
  • Every time I spend a decent amount of time watching an Olympic games, I discover a sport that I've never really paid attention to in the past. This year, it's whitewater canoe/kayak slalom. I vaguely remember seeing it in the London games, but it didn't catch my eye. There's been a decent amount of it on the NBC coverage this time, though, and it's really interesting. The course has gates to go through, not just downstream but also some that have to be passed going against the current. Just a tiny mistake can result in missed gates and crippling time penalties. It looks incredibly difficult, and every run is exciting to watch.
  • Gymnastics really isn't my favorite sport to watch, but you can't deny the drama. The men's final on Monday was equal parts suspenseful and painful to watch, as the USA did just well enough to stay in medal contention until a final fall on the horizontal bar ended their chances. The Japanese team took the gold, led by Kohei Uchimura, who said the team gold brought "5 times the happiness" over an individual win. And he would know, having won the gold individual all-around medal in London.
  • The women's gymnastics, on the other hand, had no suspense at all. The US team was so dominant that the whole thing was basically a coronation. All respect to the US athletes, but it really wasn't all that fun to watch. The few times that they showed performances from other countries' gymnasts were more interesting. NBC tape-delaying the whole thing into prime time didn't help. I look forward to the day when networks realize that the days of people hiding from the results until TV decides to show the competition are coming to an end.
  • Sure are a whole lot of support folks around all these events. People chasing down volleyballs, cars full of cycling team equipment, even a person for each boat in the rowing competition making sure they don't start early. Not to mention the thousands behind the scenes dealing with the spectators and setting up venues. I noticed Kerri Walsh Jennings made a point of going around to thank each person who helped at her volleyball matches, down to those chasing down loose balls. Good on her, those folks deserve the thanks.
  • In the US women's soccer team game versus Columbia, Hope Solo gave up the softest goal that I've ever seen her concede. Looked like she had it lined up, got hands on it, but it went right through the five-hole before she could grab on. After that, the whole team looked rattled for a while. They eventually recovered and the game ended in a draw, but that was a bit of a scare for the top-ranked team in the world.
  • I'm getting pretty tired of all the swimming, to the point where I skip anything that's not a final (or at least tune it out). I like Michael Phelps and Katie Ledecky as much as the next person, but the coverage is the very definition of over-exposure. However, I have to say that 3-time gold medalist Rowdy Gaines is great as the analyst/commentator. Does anyone get more excited for the finish of a race?

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