Saturday, August 13, 2016

Olympics Thoughts, Late Week One

Another collection of thoughts from watching the Olympics on Wednesday through Friday.
  • I missed a lot of the rugby, but since I decided to try out Playstation Vue for access to extra coverage, I was able catch the men's medal matches. Both matches were blowouts, which I had not expected. South Africa beating Japan wasn't a surprise, even as a blowout, although the Japanese certainly put up a fight early on. I thought the Springboks were a bit unsportsmanlike at the end, running up the score with no time left on the clock. Perhaps some revenge from the South Africa loss to Japan in last year's Rugby Union World Cup? In the gold medal match, though, I expected a closer score. I was pulling for Fiji to win their first ever Olympic medal, and boy did they deliver. Great Britain looked completely outmatched in the first half, and by the time they gathered themselves it was already over. Congratulations to the Fiji Bati!
  • I remember watching the US women's water polo team win gold in London four years ago, with this teenager named Maggie Steffens setting scoring records and winning the MVP awards. She's 23 years old now and it looks like she could be just as dominant in Rio, but seems to me that she's purposefully letting others get involved. There are plenty of team members even younger than Maggie, so it looks like the US women will have a solid team for years to come.
  • The weather got involved with rain, and enough wind to delay some events (such as rowing). It certainly affected the cycling, where at least one rider slipped on wet pavement and went down. Looked a bit chilly for events like beach volleyball, too. Part of the risk you run when holding summer events in the winter (southern hemisphere), but I suspect everyone is happier with this than the alternative of heat and humidity that you'd get in a Brazilian summer.
  • Speaking of weather, it's affecting even some sports that I wouldn't have expected, such as indoor volleyball. Apparently the concourse of that venue is open to the outside, so outside winds can blow through the doorways and swirl around the playing area. No roof on the diving and water polo pools, either, which apparently isn't completely unheard of but not what you usually see. A couple of times, rain was falling hard enough that it was pretty obviously affecting the athletes' concentration.
  • NBC is doing some interesting things with their people, having them do some unfamiliar things. The Golf Channel's David Feherty spent some time with swimmer Ryan Lochte at his home in North Carolina, for example, and I thought it was a pretty good piece. I was less impressed with Pierre McGuire as poolside reporter for water polo, though.
  • The diving pool turned a weird green color, which prompted some comment and concern. Then the water polo pool next to it started to show the same. Apparently it's a problem with the pH balance in the pools, and doesn't pose any danger to health for the athletes in the water. It's got to be disconcerting, though, when you're standing on a diving board and trying to concentrate.
  • Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena of the US played an amazing beach volleyball match against Paolo Nicolai and Daniele Lupo of Italy on Thursday afternoon. Both teams were going to advance anyway, so this match was just to determine seeding for the knockout rounds, but you'd have thought this was the gold medal match from the way they went at it. Three sets and 17 extra points before the US finally won it. We can only hope the medal matches are nearly this good.
  • Almaz Ayana of Ethiopia ran an amazing 10k race to win gold on Friday, breaking the world record by nearly 15 seconds. Her time of 29:17.45 is about what I a 5k. And it looked to me as if she could have kept going for a while! Congratulations to her on an incredible run and a well-deserved gold medal.
  • Friday was a disappointing day for US women's soccer. The US team dominated ball possession, but allowed so many scoring opportunities to go by the wayside. The chances were there - 27 shots by the US to only 6 for Sweden - but the finish wasn't. The match ended in a penalty kick shootout won by Sweden, but really the US shouldn't have gotten that far. Their one goal came off an incredibly lucky bounce off a defender's head, and Sweden had a goal disallowed that should have counted. You never want to see your team lose, but in this case, I'm glad Sweden won the shootout. They deserved the win, after the inability of the US team to convert their opportunities into goals. And as for Hope Solo - who called the Swedes "cowards" after the game - I hope we've seen the last of her in USWNT play. I'd much rather see Alyssa Naeher take over in goal.
  • Seeing Michelle Carter take the US flag from her father Michael after her gold medal win in the shot put was fantastic. He's a silver medalist in the event himself, and though he wasn't showing a lot of emotion, you could just feel his pride in his daughter and her accomplishment. Great family moment.

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