The iPINIONS Journal


  • Monday, August 29, 2016 at 12:22 PM

    Delusional Kaepernick Standing Up by Sitting Down During National Anthem

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    f_kaepernick_160828.nbcnews-ux-1080-600I know many of you have no idea who Colin Kaepernick is, and couldn’t care any less about what he did. But bear with me.

    Kaepernick told NFL Network on Friday night that he chose not to stand [during the National Anthem] because: ‘I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.’

    (USA Today, August 28, 2016)

    I’m sorry, but this smacks of grandstanding. And it’s only slightly less lazy and misguided than blacks who think (re)tweeting slogans about racial injustice is tantamount to protesting against it.

    Screen Shot 2016-08-29 at 11.35.09 AMRosa Parks and the “Greensboro Four” showed the truly meaningful way to sit down to stand up for racial justice.

    Hell, even LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul, and Dwyane Wade showed a better way at July’s ESPY Awards. They opened the show with a joint plea for cops to stop killing blacks AND for blacks to stop killing each other … at a far more alarming rate. Ironically, this rate continued in Chicago just days ago when two black thugs killed Wade’s cousin in the crossfire of their drive-by-shooting.

    Unfortunately, Kaepernick is making a mockery of all that. Mindful of the 1960s, there has been an unrelenting national outcry for racial justice in recent years, stemming from the killing of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown, through that of Freddie Gray and Charles Kinsey. And, of course, this outcry has found its most defiant expression in the slogan Black Lives Matter!

    Therefore, that Kaepernick thought sitting down during the National Anthem would “bring awareness” to this injustice, instead of attention to himself, borders on delusional. And arguing that he has the right to protest anyway he wants is about as insightful as arguing about that he has the right to breathe.

    Meanwhile, it’s no accident that this is probably the first time you’ve heard any media mention of his name in years. That’s because he became a shell of himself after Russell Westbrook of the Seattle Seahawks outplayed and humbled him during the 2014 NFC Championship game.

    He now seems afflicted with the same kind of “yips” that have reduced Tiger Woods to a shell of himself, making more news off the course than on it over the past few years.

    So, in addition to doing little to help the San Francisco 49ers succeed, Kaepernick is now drawing attention away from teammates who are. Hence, it would not surprise if his team releases him before mid-season for distracting too much, while contributing too little.

    Having said all that, only politics and religion incite the kind of emotion and devotion sports do. No doubt this is why some “proud American” got the idea to imbue this emotion and devotion with patriotism.

    Only this explains beginning practically every sporting event with the National Anthem these days, obliging everyone attending to stand to show respect. But this reeks of fascist-style nationalism. How soon before reciting the Pledge of Allegiance at these events becomes the American thing to do?

    But loyalty to country should not depend on such communal rites, especially when all you want to do is enjoy a friggin’ game. Not least because most people turn to sports to escape the very political nonsense Kaepernick stirred up by sitting down.

  • Monday, August 29, 2016 at 7:53 AM

    Hey Media, Wikileaker Assange Is Still a Self-Promoting, Bail-Jumping Rape Suspect!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Julian Assange must feel like he’s in Heaven. Which, of course, is ironic considering he’s actually in the first circle of Hell (aka Dante’s Limbo).

    Julian-Assange_2044349cYou’d never know it from his TV interviews, but he has been hiding out in the Ecuadorian embassy in London since June 2012. That’s when he fled there to avoid having to face justice on rape and sexual molestation charges.

    (I have written on what caused him to jump bail in such commentaries as “Arrest and Bail of Julian Assange,” December 20, 2010, and “Wikileaker Assange Fears Guantanamo … and Assassination,” January 13, 2011.)

    No surprise then that he fell out of favor with many of the celebrity friends he coveted, especially those who forfeited their part of the nearly $350,000 collected to bail him out of jail. Here, for example, is how heiress, journalist, and human rights campaigner Jemima Khan expressed her disaffection in the New Statesman on February 6, 2013:

    I have seen flashes of Assange’s charm, brilliance and insightfulness…

    But I have also seen how instantaneous rock-star status has the power to make even the most clear-headed idealist feel that they are above the law and exempt from criticism.

    In any event, the reason for his heavenly glow is that Russian hackers chose him to leak a treasure trove of purloined e-mails, which could make him as notorious a peddler of political gossip as he used to be of military secrets. Never mind that his record of leaking documents recklessly has so undermined his credibility, his only source these days are rogue, anti-Western hackers – who see him as nothing more than a useful idiot.

    maxresdefault (6)But nothing gives Assange’s life meaning quite like playing his self-appointed role as the keeper and leaker of secrets – no matter the source, no matter how innocuous or grave. Only this explains his rapturous countenance during interviews on Fox News last week, during which he teased that forthcoming leaks will entertain his enabling voyeurs as much as derail the Clintons’ 2-for-1 presidential ambitions.

    In reality, I suspect his leaks will reveal nothing more than what we already know about the Clintons’ shady dealings, and perhaps some titillating details about their transactional relationship with Barack Obama – the (Machiavellian) black prince who pulled off “the biggest fairy tale [they’ve] ever seen.”

    Whatever the case, Assange is clearly milking the gravitas the media conferred upon him last month. That’s when his recent leak of private correspondence among members of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) led to many of them, including chairman Debbie Wasserman Shultz, losing their jobs.

    kpcuwyhbthmgfkku7qczIt hardly mattered that the leaked e-mails merely showed members rooting for Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders to win the Democratic nomination. This, after all, was always as obvious as members of the RNC rooting for anyone but Donald Trump to win the Republican nomination.

    Not to mention that leaking e-mails about granting favors, peddling influence, and shifting alliances in Washington, is rather like leaking e-mails about political corruption, casino gambling, and street prostitution in Macau (all of which are legal, mind you).

    Yet, like a self-appointed messiah of transparency, Assange is sharing his hacked loot with any news organization prepared to facilitate his self-aggrandizing crusade. More to the point, far too many news anchors and political commentators are playing along – like disciples spreading his gospel.

    36BC8DCB00000578-3716498-image-a-31_1469925089792Whereas you’d think they would want to hide in shame after foraging through the e-mails of DNC staffers, then reporting and commenting as if they’re “shocked, shocked” that those staffers were doing, well, as staffers do.

    I mean, what do you think Fox, the BBC, the New York Times, the Guardian, and other news organizations would do if Assange were leaking hacked e-mails of their anchors and reporters – purportedly to expose bias in the media? The obvious answer only hints at why my disgust with the news media compelled me to write commentaries like “Journalism Is ‘Having a Very, Very Pathetic Moment,’” November 13, 2013.

    More importantly, though, far too few news organizations are bothering to report on the damaging nature of Assange’s leaks. And none of them appear to have any qualms about facilitating his cyber crimes, which serve no compelling public interest and are devoid of any socially redeeming value.

    (Apart from the Chelsea-Manning dupes who stole/hacked classified information for him, I dare you to name a single person who has been prosecuted for wrongdoing as a result of Assange’s leaks.)

    But here is how I framed this darker side of his stock-in-trade in “Ecuador Grants Wikileaker Julian Assange Asylum … in London?” August 20, 2012.

    __________________

    It is plainly absurd for Assange to be championing freedom of speech from sanctuary being provided by a country that is notorious for denying this freedom. Not to mention that his schtick about being a martyr for transparency and freedom of the press smacks of nothing more than a cynical ploy to avoid doing time for his crime(s)…

    I’m on record declaring that if Assange were in the business of exposing government corruption and/or actions that betray the public trust, I would be his most ardent supporter. But in his foolhardy and untenable ambition to foster complete transparency in diplomatic relations, he has only ensured that diplomats will be even more secretive in all of their dealings to avoid even the remotest possibility of being ‘exposed…’

    It is truly mind-boggling that his supporters do not even seem concerned that Assange’s cult-like mission has ruined the careers and endangered the lives of scores of innocent diplomats.

    __________________

    Incidentally, apropos of leaks that are worthy of the attention the media lavishes on Assange, I refer you to “Unlike NSA Leaks, HSBC Leaks Actually Serve Public Interest,” February 10, 2015.

    Screen Shot 2016-08-24 at 7.16.52 AMThis is why I was so heartened when the Associated Press broke ranks with this take on his latest media dump.

    WikiLeaks’ giant data dumps have rattled the National Security Agency, the U.S. Democratic Party, and the Saudi foreign ministry. But its spectacular mass-disclosures have also included the personal information of hundreds of people — including sick children, rape victims and mental health patients [as well as that of wholly innocent gay people in countries where homosexuality is punishable by death]…

    In the past year alone, the radical transparency group has published medical files belonging to scores of ordinary citizens while many hundreds more have had sensitive family, financial or identity records posted to the web.

    (August 23, 2016)

    All of this wanton harm from a man who told PBS in 2011 that, like doctors, he’s guided by an oath to do no harm to innocent people with his leaks. In fact, he has continually violated that oath, and the news media have continually abetted him in doing so.

    snowden-cia2.jpg.1000x297x1Ironically, nothing indicates how much harm he has done quite like notorious “whistleblower” Edward Snowden criticizing him.

    Two of the biggest names in government data leaks clashed over how to responsibly release information on Twitter on Thursday.

    The spat spotlights a major split between how WikiLeaks and Snowden have handled the data they helped make public. Snowden worked with the Washington Post and other news organizations to expose National Security Agency surveillance programs…

    WikiLeaks’ approach to data disclosure is more radical: It often posts massive, searchable caches online with few – if any – apparent efforts to remove sensitive personal information.

    (Washington Post, July 28, 2016)

    Mind you, this is the same Snowden who has done more to compromise U.S. national security than anyone else in history. I’m on record denouncing him for inciting hysteria over NSA spying to keep people safe, while uttering nary a word about Google and other companies spying even more just to sell people stuff.

    images (23)Not to mention that Snowden was riding on his high horse from exile in Russia, where hacking for personal gain, like doping for personal fame, is sponsored by the state.

    (I have written on his misguided crusade in such commentaries as “Complaints about NSA Spying Are Schizophrenic … Misguided,” June 8, 2013, “I Spy, You Spy, We All Spy,” July 2, 2013, “From Spycraft to Stagecraft, Snowden Debuts as Putin’s ‘Useful Idiot,’” April 22, 2014, and “More Evidence Snowden Leaks Undermining Global Security,” June 16, 2015.)

    Anyway, such is the honor among hackers, traitors, and leakers. But you have to think Assange is especially rankled that Snowden gets to live relatively free in Russia, while he’s holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy, like a dinner guest who refuses to leave.

    the-fifth-estateThis self-important narcissist is probably also seething with jealousy over blockbuster projections for the movie about Snowden, which opens on September 16, given the flop the 2013 movie about him turned out to be.

    Still, I cannot overstate that the real story here is the media’s complicity in disseminating hacked documents that do far more harm than good. For just as Assange will leak anything for attention, news organizations will broadcast any leak for ratings – even the national security of the country be damned.

    Frankly, given that Assange remains a fugitive from justice, it’s a betrayal of public trust for news organizations to continually invite him on air to play public crusader. But nothing betrays their abandonment of the most rudimentary journalistic principles quite like news anchors being so eager to have Assange propagate ratings-generating gossip, they fail to ask him threshold questions like:

    • Why are you still holed up in that embassy, Mr. Assange?
    • Do you intend to stay there for the rest of your life?
    • Wouldn’t your crusade as a leaker of government secrets have more credibility if you were prepared to face up to your own secrets? After all, your secrets pertain to serious criminal allegations; whereas the secrets you leak pertain either to legal government surveillance or to mundane political machinations?

    This last point is especially noteworthy. Because, for all their leaks, Assange and Snowden have mostly incited hysteria, compromised national security, and undermined good governance in Western democracies. Meanwhile, they have provided aid and comfort to totalitarian regimes, which have used their leaks to give credence to the moral relativism that justifies denying their people democratic freedoms.

    All the same, I maintain that as soon as ISIS or al-Qaeda pulls off “another 9/11,” which is inevitable, the same people calling Assange and Snowden heroes today will be not only calling for their heads but also questioning why there wasn’t more government surveillance to stop it.

    Related commentaries:
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    * This commentary was originally published yesterday, Sunday, at 11:43 a.m.

  • Saturday, August 27, 2016 at 7:09 AM

    EpiPen Price Gouging Is Just Hallowed Capitalism at Its Best … or Worst

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Screen Shot 2016-08-26 at 9.13.15 PM

    America has a new pharmaceutical villain. Her name is Heather Bresch.

    As the chief executive of Mylan, the owner of the severe allergy treatment EpiPen, Ms. Bresch is at the center of the latest public outrage over high drug prices, excoriated for overseeing a fourfold price increase on EpiPen while taking a huge pay raise.

    (New York Times, August 26, 2016)

    Except that, if a CEO could rake in 500 times the median salary of his employees, it’s hardly surprising that this CEO would think nothing of hiking the price of her best-selling product 500 percent … if the market would bear it.

    Morally repugnant?

    Yes. But so is the fact that millions of people are living in poverty in the richest country in the history of mankind. And this is just one of many such unconscionable facts of life in America today.

    Indeed, what do you make of Uber’s “surging pricing” strategy? It calls for charging $13 or $47 for the same trip depending on such things as demand, weather conditions, or holidays (i.e., when you need it most).

    On a more serious note, if you think this CEO should be pilloried for charging $600 per year for EpiPen to treat allergic reactions, what do you think should happen to the CEOs who charge $44,800 per month for Orkambi to treat Cystic Fibrosis, or $81,000 per month for Sovaldi to treat Hepatitis C?

    A little perspective here would help, folks.

  • Friday, August 26, 2016 at 7:34 AM

    Forget the Clinton Foundation. Shut Down the Trump Organization!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    EDIT5-foundation-081216-APNo doubt you’ve heard Donald Trump accusing the Clinton Foundation of a pay-for-play scheme, in which foreign donors pay cash in exchange for favors from the U.S. government.

    Never mind that, for as much as foreign donors paid, Trump has presented no evidence they ever played as alleged.

    Yet the media have bitten on his ruse like dogs on a bone. In fact, so much so that they are propagating the specious notion that the Clinton Foundation should not only be investigated but closed to prevent trumped-up accusations of corruption.

    In doing so, the media are reducing to a mitigating factor the true nature and work of the Clinton Foundation.

    Most notably, they are ignoring that the foundation is predicated on taking money from the rich to help the poor – effectively doing globally what Robin Hood did in Sherwood Forest. Moreover, that the foundation uses this money to fund everything from health services (including life-saving vaccines) to education and poverty alleviation for millions from Haiti to Bangladesh and all points between.

    Of course, the reason Trump rushed down to flood-ravaged Louisiana last week – bearing supplies purchased with money from his campaign donors – is that he knows the value of a good photo-op. Well, foreign leaders do too.

    This is why they donate millions to the Clinton Foundation and pay handsomely for both Clintons to give canned speeches. In each case, far more than seeking favors from the Clintons, they are giving their own people the impression they are important and influential players on the world stage.

    The suspicion that any of this has anything to do with peddling influence in Washington  – to help rich people get richer or for the Clintons to enrich themselves – is vintage Trump (i.e., pure bullsh*t). Besides, if the mere appearance of peddling access were a crime, every senator and congressman would be guilty.

    Indeed, you must appreciate as much as I do the hypocrisy inherent in Trump accusing Hillary of corruption for granting access to rich donors, given how often he has boasted about donating to politicians for access…?

    All the same, I hasten to concede that the Clintons showed lots of skill, but too little discretion, when it came to using rich people to enrich themselves. But here too, if this were a crime, every former president and too many former politicians to count would be guilty. Remember former President Ronald Reagan’s $2-million speech at a Prudential realty-division sales convention … in Japan?

    It’s also worth noting that the Clintons have never taken a dime in compensation for their work, which stands in commendable contrast to the lucrative way the heads of most charitable foundations are compensated.

    DONALD TRUMPMeanwhile, the media seems unconcerned that Trump is so beholden to foreign partners and creditors, he personifies the very potential for conflict and corruption he’s denouncing. Trust me, his love of Chinese bankers and Russian oligarchs, including President Vladimir Putin, is not unrequited.

    But foreign entanglements are the least of the Trump Organization’s compromising business practices. After all, Trump’s art of the deal, which has spawned thousands of lawsuits against his organization, makes patently clear that he thinks nothing of robbing poor people (of their labor and hard-earned cash) to enrich himself.

    One needs only recall some of the despairing tales hard-working Americans have shared – about being fleeced by his Trump-University scheme, his South-of-the-Border-condo scheme, and his Atlantic-City-casino scheme, to name just a few – to appreciate his mercenary ruthlessness in this regard.

    Then there are the U.S. taxpayers he fleeced (of billions over the years) with tax-avoidance schemes, which explains his mortal determination to prevent the media from ever seeing his tax returns. But nothing reflects his trademark corrupt practices quite like this huckster now using campaign donations to pay himself for renting his own office space at four times market value; this, despite promising to use his self-proclaimed $10-billion net worth to fund his campaign. Talk about P.T. Barnum and a sucker born every minute….

    The point is that, given these known facts about the Clinton Foundation and the Trump Organization, which do you think poses the greater potential for influence peddling (to the country’s detriment) if either Hillary or Trump becomes president of the United States, respectively?

    Frankly, Trump calling for the charitable Clinton Foundation to be shut down if Hillary is elected is perhaps the “yugest” example of pot calling kettle black in American political history. The psychopathology afoot here is called, projection. And it defines and explains almost every charge Trump has hurled against his opponents throughout this presidential campaign.

    Incidentally, apropos of his psychopathology, what kind of mind thinks it makes sense to get rid of a campaign manager because of his suspicious ties to Russian oligarchs, only to replace him with one who has notorious ties to white nationalists – as Trump did last week?

    In any event, it’s high time the media get a perspective and begin asking him if he will shut down his for-profit Trump Organization if he’s elected. After all, if it’s untenable for Bill and Hillary to leave their daughter to run their charitable foundation; it’s doubly so for Trump to leave his children to run his for-profit organization.

    Screen Shot 2016-08-23 at 4.43.14 PM

    That said, there’s no denying that the Clintons have an imperial sense of entitlement. Only this explains Hillary defying Obama’s presidential authority by using her now infamous private e-mail server while serving as secretary of state. Of course, it’s pure karma that issues related to this server are now dogging her presidential campaign.

    And nobody has been more critical of the Clintons in this respect than I. As it happens, in “Hillary as Secretary of State?! Don’t Do It Barack,” November 15, 2008, I warned Obama that the Clintons’ abiding “2-for-1” presidential ambition would pose untenable conflicts.

    More to the point, in such commentaries as “Haiti Earthquake One Year Later,” January 11, 2011, I criticized the Clinton Foundation’s stewardship of rebuilding efforts. Not least because shady dealings involving family and friends rivaled those of Wyclef Jean’s Yele Foundation, which I wrote about in such commentaries as “The Gall of Haiti’s Wyclef Jean Criticizing International Donors,” January 21, 2014.

    It’s just that, even with all their faults, Donald J. Trump has no leg to stand on when it comes to accusing the Clinton Foundation of any wrongdoing or shady dealings.

    Related commentaries:
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    * This commentary was originally published on Tuesday, August 23 at 4:23 p.m.

  • Wednesday, August 24, 2016 at 8:43 PM

    Truth about Viral Image of (Another) Syrian Boy

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Screen Shot 2016-08-24 at 11.09.38 AMA boy, covered in blood and in obvious shock, became the “image of the war” in Syria last week. It “sent shock waves around the world,” evoking conscience-stricken calls for the international community to “act now” to prevent a recurrence.

    The media abandoned all pretense of objectivity as it validated this reaction. On Monday’s edition of the NBC Nightly News, for example, anchor Lester Holt reported that it took this image “to open the eyes of the world” to the horrors of Syria’s five-year war.

    Except that the Groundhog-Day spectre of this image belies the authoritative reporting, betrays the heartrending outrage, and befuddles the clarion calls.

    Screen Shot 2016-08-22 at 11.44.52 AMAfter all, a boy, drowned at sea and washed ashore, became the image of the war in Syria last year. It too sent shock waves around the world, evoking similar calls.

    Hence the fleeting truth: this latest image shows that, despite the shock waves and outrage, those calls for action have gone unanswered. Which is why it’s only with forlorn hope that one can believe these calls won’t go unanswered too.

    Meanwhile, thousands of Syrians – who have suffered, and are suffering, similar fates – are conspicuously absent from far too much of the reporting on and reaction to these two heartrending images….

    But I hasten to clarify that the Syrian boy who drowned was not even fleeing Syria. He was fleeing Turkey. Therefore, he had more in common with countless African migrants who also drowned in the Mediterranean Sea than with the Syrian boy who survived that bombing … in Syria.

    Which brings me to this discriminating truth: all of the reporting on Syria’s “children of war” highlights the media’s failure to report (as widely and with equal urgency) on the children of war in countries across the African continent.

    Most notable in this respect is the D. R. Congo’s “children of genocide,” which my stricken conscience compelled me to comment on in “D. R. Congo’s Heart of Darkness Get Even Darker,” December 4, 2012.

    b9ad772005653afce4d4bd46c2efe842_LThis country alone has seen 5.4 million killed and 2.6 million displaced since 1996; whereas, according to the UN Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Syria has seen 250,000 killed and 6.5 million displaced (and 4.8 million migrate) since 2011.

    Hundreds of thousands of Congolese boys and girls have been abducted, raped, and conscripted. And, regarding conscription, the D. R. Congo’s “child soldiers” have become notorious for perpetrating acts of terror and unspeakable horror against their own people, including family members.

    Clearly many of these children, slaughtered and tortured, could have provided heartrending images of “the horrors of war and survival” for headline news every day for the past 20 years. Yet you’d be hard-pressed to recall ever seeing a single one.

    Incidentally, the same could be said today of the children of war in countries like Mali, Nigeria, Central African Republic, and South Sudan. Not to mention those in countries like Iraq and Afghanistan.  But I digress….

    SeaRescueMainExcept that, for more on displaced Africans emulating displaced Syrians (or vice versa) by fleeing to Europe, I refer you to such commentaries as “Lampedusa Tragedy Highlights Europe’s ‘Haitian’ Problem,” October 7, 2013, and “Migrants Still Turning Mediterranean Sea into a Cemetery,” June 1, 2016.

    That said, the war in Syria now seems every bit as chronic as privation in Africa; specifically, the conditions that compel migrants to flee, respectively, show no signs of ebbing.

    In fact, nothing ensures those conditions will only worsen quite like Russia bombing Syria in support of the government of President Bashir al-Assad, the United States bombing Syria in support of opposition forces trying to topple Assad, Turkey bombing Syria to rout out so-called Kurdish terrorists, and Russia, the United States, and Turkey bombing Syria to defeat ISIS. Got that?

    6e6bdabacdfa13c0f16eddb087c6501dApropos of this babel of bombing, aerial shots of this war-ravaged country show why Mother Nature, with earthquakes like the ones that struck in Italy and Myanmar today, has nothing on mankind when it comes wreaking senseless death and utter destruction….

    Human rights groups are pleading for a temporary cessation of hostilities to enable humanitarian relief. But the bombings have become so inexorable and unwieldy that thinking humanitarian relief will save Syrian children is rather like thinking bailing out water would’ve saved the Titanic.

    Syria is a hopeless cause … unless the United States leads a coalition of the willing to enforce a safe zone … inside Syria. At the very least, this would stem the tide of Syrians migrating to Europe and might even encourage many of them to return home, if they’re not forcibly repatriated.

    Screen Shot 2016-08-24 at 11.34.27 AM

    Here, for example, is what I wrote in “Europe’s Migration Crisis: Sowing Seeds of Unintended but all too Foreseeable Consequences”, September 7, 2015.

    ___________________

    Even the United States is no longer welcoming unyielding waves of huddled masses yearning to breathe free. Therefore, as Orbán warns, it seems irresponsible for Europe to be doing so.

    Accordingly, I reiterate that European leaders should coordinate comprehensive humanitarian interventions, enabled and protected by NATO (not UN) forces, to contain would-be migrants within their borders. It’s clearly far better to provide local safe zones than for migrants to continue risking life and limb, only to end up in splendid desolation in Europe, or in fetid isolation in internment camps, where millions are being detained today in Jordan (pictured), Lebanon, Turkey, and, increasingly, in Hungary.

    ___________________

    Not to mention that, besides all of the humanitarian benefits, if Obama had chosen from the outset to enforce a safe zone, he would not be repeating the same mistakes in Syria today (masquerading as a fight against ISIS) that he claims he regrets making in Libya. Of course, he pursued regime change/nation building in Libya only to suffer the same kinds of all too foreseeable pitfalls his predecessor suffered in Iraq.

    I also predicted in “Bombing ISIS Smacks of Masturbatory Violence,” November 18, 2015, that the highly touted Russian intervention would do no more to resolve the Alawite-Sunni-ISIS conflict in Syria than American intervention has done to resolve the Shia-Sunni-Kurd conflict in Iraq. Sure enough, here we are.

    Frankly, I have bemoaned these foreign follies in far too many commentaries. I have also duly noted that enforcing safe zones applies as much to war-ravaged countries in Africa as to those in the Middle East.

    Again, all else is folly

    Related commentaries:
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  • Sunday, August 21, 2016 at 9:17 PM

    Rio Olympics: Closing … Day

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    olyc1-150x150

    To be honest, folks, I am pooped.

    Watching (or staring at) TV as much as I have over the past two weeks is probably not good for my health … to say nothing of my already failing eyesight. Never mind the irony inherent in the cause for this being my addictive interest in watching the healthiest people on the planet compete in their respective sports.

    But frankly, I believe I deserve a gold medal — not just for watching so many events, but for actively participating by writing so many commentaries on them as well (i.e., instead of sitting passively and eating it all up like a couch potato): over 150 hours of viewing and 14-consecutive days of commentaries. Bolt thinks he’s the friggin’ greatest thing on two legs; well, let’s see him do that!

    (“London Olympics: Day 14,” The iPINIONS Journal, August 10, 2012)

    That was four years ago, when my younger self had better eyesight. Therefore, it’s clearly foolhardy that I did the same this year, despite my documented health concerns. Which of course is the very definition of addiction.

    But enough about me!

    Track and Field

    image (7)The Men’s Marathon highlighted this final day of competition. What I found most interesting was watching Galen Rupp run for most of this race in the slipstream the usual contenders from Ethiopia and Kenya created. He stood out like a doe in a pride of lions. You knew (he knew) they would eventually eat him up.

    So here’s to Rupp for fighting off all but two of the Africans and giving the USA its best result since 1908.

    • Eliud Kipchoge of Kenya won gold in 2:08:44; Feyisa Lilesa of Ethiopia, silver; and Galen Rupp of the USA, bronze.

    Basketball

    It came as little surprise that the American men and women crushed their respective opponents in gold medals games.

    Screen Shot 2016-08-21 at 7.39.35 PM

    • Team USA won gold in Women’s Basketball yesterday, defeating Team Spain 101-72; and Team USA won gold in Men’s Basketball in similar fashion today, defeating Team Serbia 96-66.

    These gold medals were the surest of any during these Games, notwithstanding the men’s lackluster play in two early round games, which had fans fearing a repeat of the nightmares of Olympics past (namely Seoul 1988 and Athens 2004).

    FINAL MEDAL COUNT: USA – 121; China – 70; Great Britain – 67 (Host nation Brazil – 19)

    Closing remarks

    Women ruled!

    Women athletes composed the majority of a significant number of teams, not least medal-count winner Team USA. Even more significant, however, is the extent to which women won the most medals for their respective teams. For example, women won the majority of Team USA’s haul, including 26 of its 46 gold medals.

    Of more personal interest, even though men got the most attention, women won the majority of Team Jamaica’s 11 medals; and Shaunae Miller won the only gold for Team Bahamas at these Games (its men’s 4×400 relay won the only other medal, bronze).

    Bravo Brazil!

    No doubt polluted waters and empty seats were eyesores. But even these seemed hospitable given the pre-Olympic drumbeat of perils and hazards, which media reports had everyone fearing.

    Of course, Rio can thank USA swimmer Ryan Lochte for his Olympian lies about being mugged. After all, his lies made Rio’s well-documented menace of street crime seem like just a condescending stereotype concocted by the foreign press.

    Still, all things considered, there’s no denying that Brazil acquitted itself well as the host nation.

    Closing Ceremony

    Screen Shot 2016-08-21 at 8.42.04 PM

    Frankly, every four years I’m left to wonder why they even bother. Hell, even Mother Nature showed her disinterest by passing wind and pissing rain all over this closing ceremony.

    The point is that, by now, most people are usually so strung-out on anything related to the Olympics, they’d just as soon watch The Simpsons.

    377940A200000578-3752157-image-a-92_1471823084063Granted, some athletes probably welcome this opportunity to celebrate the end of competition in a state of bonding revelry.

    Never mind that the vast majority of those who bother to attend are usually mere qualifiers who spent more of their Olympics partying in local bars than competing in sports venues. No surprise then that Usain Bolt was seen departing at the airport as these athletes were marching into the stadium.

    But it speaks volumes that, while I can remember almost everything that happened during the opening ceremony in Beijing, I cannot remember anything that happened during the closing ceremony. The same is the case with respect to London 2012; and will no doubt be the case with respect to Rio 2016.

    3779730B00000578-3752157-image-m-75_1471822505168Nothing telegraphs this quite like NBC covering it as if tiny gymnast Simone Biles struggling to carry the flag for Team USA was the highlight.

    To be fair, though, NBC’s coverage reflects the fact that even the girls from Ipanema – with their samba gyrations in feathered costumes – can be overplayed. But one can hardly blame organizers for using beautiful dancers to stimulate as much interest as possible.

    Yet, am I the only one who thinks the best part of this Rio 2016 Closing Ceremony was the Tokyo 2020 Preview Presentation?

    Screen Shot 2016-08-22 at 8.43.16 PM

    Apropos of which, I appreciate the importance of thanking the host city, as well as the symbolism of passing the Olympic flag over to the next one.

    But I see no point in doing this as part of a show designed to rival the pantomime of the opening ceremony. Especially given that the only thing the athletes want to do at this point is be let loose for one last night of partying … without the entire world watching.

  • Saturday, August 20, 2016 at 10:04 PM

    Rio Olympics: Day 15

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Triathlon

    I refer you to Day 13 for introductory comments on this very challenging event – complete with the observation that seeing the vistas along this course in Rio was almost as interesting as watching the athletes compete.

    Still, I enjoyed watching the Women’s Triathlon far more than the men’s; and it had nothing to do with prurient interests. There was just something more engaging about the relative parity among the women, which made the outcome far more suspenseful.

    After all, the two Brownlee brothers ran away with the men’s race midway through the bike phase and never looked back. And, given their history, everybody knew which one would win gold.

    Screen Shot 2016-08-20 at 1.50.22 PM

    Whereas, in this race, it wasn’t until the run phase that Gwen Jorgensen took control. Even then, defending Olympic champion Nicola Spirig seemed determined to retain her title. And the group of runners chasing them made the race for bronze no less compelling.

    • Gwen Jorgensen of the USA won gold in 1:56:16; Nicola Spirig of Switzerland, silver; and Vicky Holland of Great Britain, bronze.

    Soccer

    ssQJ6VmCBrazil and Germany played the Men’s Gold Medal Match. I did not watch one second of it.

    Nonetheless, given my lamentation on Canada defeating Brazil in the Women’s Bronze Medal Match yesterday, I feel obliged to at least acknowledge that the men managed to attain some measure of redemption for this Soccer-mad host nation.

    • Team Brazil won on penalty kicks after ending regulation and extra time 1-1.

    Track and Field

    The relays and other events were interesting but not worthy of comment.

    Except I should note that, by anchoring the Women’s 4x400m Relay to gold, Allyson Felix became the most decorated female Track and Field athlete (with 6 golds and 3 silvers) in Olympic history. And by defending his London 2012 titles in both Men’s 5000m and 10,000m, Mo Farah became the most decorated Track and Field athlete in UK Olympic history. Unsurprisingly, calls for the Queen to knight him “Sir Mo” have gone viral.

    By contrast, it would take volumes to do justice to interest in the Women’s 800m; and the Men’s 1500m deserves honorable mention.

    With respect to the latter, it was easily the most exciting 1500m I’ve ever watched – complete with lots of jostling and a fall. It hardly mattered that my pick, defending Olympic champion Asbel Kiprop of Kenya, was too tripped up and boxed in all race to be in contention down the stretch.

    But here’s to Matthew Centrowitz for becoming the first American to win this signature distance race since 1908.

    ct-centrowitz-mens-1500-meters-gold-20160820-001

    • Matthew Centrowitz of the USA won gold in 3:50.00; Taoufik Makhloufi of Algeria, silver; and Nicholas Willis of New Zealand, bronze.

    By the way, Kiprop was my pick only because he looks so much like a living character from J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. (Google him.)

    With respect to the 800m, Caster Semenya was the prohibitive favorite coming into this race. But, given all of the controversy surrounding her, I’ve decided to set up the results with the following from “Gender Bending South African Athlete Pilloried at Worlds,” August 21, 2009.

    __________________

    There have only been a few cases of androgynous men competing as women in international competition. The most notorious of course was Polish sprinter Stanislawa Walasiewicz who won the women’s 100m at the 1932 Olympics in Los Angeles, but was found to have a ‘partially developed male genitalia’ after her death in 1980.

    294652-caster-semenya (1)With all of the testing and media scrutiny today, however, it seems incomprehensible that anyone would even attempt, let alone get away with, such a gender-bending feat. Yet this is precisely what many are accusing South African Caster Semenya, 18, of doing on Wednesday – after she blew away the field in the Women’s 800m final at the World Track and Field Championships in Berlin.

    Admittedly, after being awed by Semenya’s performance (which I saw when the race was rebroadcast on Wednesday night), I too became transfixed by her appearance as she celebrated her victory.  I even remarked, purely in jest, that if her coach had instructed her to shave her armpits, legs and facial hair, she might have clocked an ever faster time…

    But it never occurred to me that I had just watched a man in drag racing against women. This is why I was so stunned the next morning by reports that complaints about her performance at a competition just weeks ago compelled IAAF officials to order her to take a gender test.  And that it was only because the results would not be confirmed for several more weeks that they allowed her to compete at these championships…

    The accusation that she might be a he, strikes me as not only farfetched but also unnecessarily cruel.  Let us not forget that this is an 18-year old being held up to this scrutiny, which has now robbed her of the thrill of victory and heaped unprecedented embarrassment upon her and national shame upon South Africa.  And only God knows what long-term psychological damage she will suffer…

    Caster’s mother Dorcus Semenya suggested that questions about her daughter’s gender are ‘motivated by jealousy.’ I agree.

    __________________

    Just last year, after years of testing and testimony, the Court of Arbitration for Sport vindicated my take on Semenya’s eligibility. It ruled that Track and Field’s governing body, the IAAF, could no longer require intersex athletes to undergo treatment to lower their testosterone levels. This meant that Semenya could compete as a woman, despite having a body so masculine she looks like a man running among girls.

    The sad irony is that a number of lesser known intersex athletes had already gone to such extremes to compete as women, they had their gonads removed. Their athletic performances have never been the same….

    Apropos of irony, am I the only one who noticed that one other athlete in this Women’s 800m, namely Margaret Wambui of Kenya, looked even more “hyperandrogenic” than Semenya? (Google her.)

    Rio Olympics Athletics

    In any event, Semenya came into tonight’s final after coasting in her semifinal to the fastest qualifying time.

    • Caster Semanya of South Africa won gold in 1:55.28; Francine Niyonsaba of Burundi, silver; and Margaret Wambui of Kenya, bronze.

    NOTE: Semenya competed in this event at London 2012. But the open hostility back then was such that I suspect she decided to let a girly girl win gold to avoid the backlash that would have ensued had she won. She settled for silver.

    MEDAL COUNT: USA – 116; China – 70; Great Britain – 66

  • Friday, August 19, 2016 at 10:37 PM

    Rio Olympics: Day 14

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Tack and Field

    With all due respect to the other events that played out today, the relays were the only ones of note.

    In the Women’s 4x100m Relay, Team USA recovered from near disaster in the preliminaries. It stemmed from Allyson Felix dropping the baton as she attempted to pass it after the second leg. But the USA filed a protest. Sure enough, a review of the exchange showed that a fellow competitor interfered in her lane and caused her to drop the baton.

    Accordingly, Track officials gave Team USA an “unprecedented” opportunity to qualify on time in a solo heat. It not only qualified, but did so with the fastest time of the day … running against itself.

    No surprise then that Team USA ended up raining on Team Jamaica’s dominant parade, denying its 100m and 200m champion, Elaine Thompson, a Bolt-like gold trifecta. This, despite having to start from lane 1 after that kerfuffle in the preliminaries, which placed it at considerable disadvantage to Jamaica in lane 6.

    Screen Shot 2016-08-19 at 10.35.37 PM

    • Team USA won gold in 41.01; Team Jamaica, silver; and Team Great Britain, bronze.

    Apropos of trifecta, the Men’s 4x100m Relay seemed ordained to seal Usain Bolt’s legacy. He was poised to become the first Track and Field athlete to win the same three events in three consecutive Olympics. Those events of course are the 100m, 200m, and this last one, the 4x100m Relay.

    376AA61D00000578-3749984-image-m-81_1471658171136

    • Team Jamaica won gold in 37.27; Team Japan, silver; and Team Canada, bronze.

    Bolt now joins Paavo Nurmi of Finland and Carl Lewis of the USA as an illustrious trio of athletes who have won 9 Olympic gold medals in Track and Field (aka Athletics). Except that, given the new reckoning of retrospective testing for doping, I offer this qualification/warning, which could see Bolt stripped of one or more of his medals:

    I wonder if it’s a testament to their national training methods or the performance-enhancing ‘herbs’ they use to flavor their sports drinks that make these Jamaicans so incredibly fast.

    (“Beijing 2008: the Phelpsian Touch …Pure Gold,” The iPINIONS Journal, August 16, 2008)

    But the most exciting part of this race was watching Japan run stride for stride, leg to leg, and then out-lean the USA at the finish line for silver. As if that were not shameful enough, the USA soon learned that it had been disqualified.

    And so the American men continued their legacy of fumbling shame in relays (i.e., by either dropping the baton or committing lane infractions – as was the case tonight). The USA has not won this event since Sydney 2000.

    The irony, of course, is that NBC introduced this Men’s 4x100m Relay with a video of the members of Team USA reacting to clips of previous “missed opportunities.” They included races where the team had an insurmountable lead over Jamaica going into the final leg but dropped the baton. Each member evinced unbridled disgust as he watched and then vowed that this would be the day of redemption….

    Soccer (Football)

    On Day 7, I commented on how Sweden prevailed in a penalty-kick shootout to upset the USA, the defending Olympic champion, in Women’s Soccer. Imagine the reaction then when Sweden proceeded to upset host Brazil in similar fashion.

    heJc6PlRAfter all, this punctuated the host country’s quadrennial frustration in trying to vindicate its national obsession with this sport. Brazil has never won Olympic gold in Women’s Soccer. This loss relegated it to the Women’s Bronze Medal Match against Canada.

    • Team Canada won 2-1, adding insult to Brazil’s ongoing national frustration … and shame.

    Hope springs eternal that the men’s team can restore a little Brazilian pride by defeating Germany in the Men’s Gold Medal Match tomorrow. I’m not a big Soccer fan, but I’m rooting for Brazil.

    In the meantime, Sweden played Germany in the Women’s Gold Medal Match. I couldn’t have cared any less who won. But I imagine the insult to not just Brazilian but South American pride was such that their disinterest – in watching these two European teams play for gold on their soil – probably simmered with resentment.

    • Team Germany won 2-1.

    Rhythmic Gymnastics

    I gather I upset many of you last week when I dismissed Equestrian (Dressage) and Trampoline as hobbies unworthy of Olympic competition. Well, here’s to fans of Rhythmic Gymnastics joining your ranks.

    Screen Shot 2016-08-19 at 3.15.14 PMI watched a little of the Individual All-Around Qualification Rotations today. And, truth be told, the most interesting part was listening to commentators talk about the hardships Ukrainian Ganna Rizatdnova had to overcome just to make it to Rio.

    Frankly, I got the impression I was watching auditions for the female lead in a live performance of the Kama Sutra. Which might explain why this sports seems likely to be among the best attended of these Games.

    Mind you, some of the rhythmic positions the performers got into demonstrated impressive feats of athleticism. It’s just that their performances seemed more suited for the Cirque du Soleil than the Olympics.

    MEDAL COUNT: USA – 105; China – 65; Great Britain – 60

  • Friday, August 19, 2016 at 11:04 AM

    Anti-Trump Quote of the Campaign

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    I interrupt my Olympics-only commentary to chime in on this irresistible news.

    The artist group INDECLINE placed statutes of Donald J. Trump on public display all over the country yesterday; naturally, because Trump personifies Western civilization in decline.

    But the NYC Parks Department found the nude, anatomically correct statue too obscene for public view.

    jbareham_160818_1191_0046.0

    Here, courtesy of CNN, is how spokesman Sam Biederman explained the department’s decision to remove it after only hours on display:

    NYC Parks stands firmly against any unpermitted erection in city parks, no matter how small.

    Ouch!

    No doubt the laughably thin-skinned Trump will feel compelled to show the world that his private parts are much bigger than the statue depicts. Never mind that those parts appear entirely consistent with the nubby little hands he keeps trying to convince people are so big….

    God help us.

    Related commentaries:
    Hillary the nominee

  • Thursday, August 18, 2016 at 10:23 PM

    Rio Olympics: Day 13

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Track and Field

    In Gymnastics, the winner of the All-Around is considered the best athlete in the sport; in Swimming that title goes to the winner of the Individual Medley. In this sense, the winner of the Decathlon for men and Heptathlon for women is considered the best athlete in Track and Field.

    (“London Olympics: Day 8,” The iPINIONS Journal, August 4, 2012)

    I was impressed when Nafissatou Thiam of Belgium dethroned defending Olympic champion Jessica Ennis of Great Britain to win the Heptathlon on Day 8. But I was even more so when Ashton Eaton of the USA defended his Olympic title in the Decathlon today, becoming the first to repeat since Daley Thompson of the Great Britain at Moscow 1980 and Los Angeles 1984.

    Screen Shot 2016-08-18 at 9.02.02 PM

    • Ashton Eaton of the USA won gold; Kevin Mayer of France, silver; and Damian Warner of Canada, bronze.

    The Decathlon requires athletes to compete over two consecutive days in 10 events: the 100m, Long Jump, Shot Put, High Jump, and 400m on the first day; the 110m Hurdles, Discus Throw, Pole Vault, Javelin Throw, and 1500m on the second.

    image_1471479059_34595146But nothing indicates how athletic they are quite like Jeremy Taiwo of the USA jumping 7’2” in the High Jump yesterday. After all, this would have placed him 7th in the regular Men’s High Jump final on Day 11, in which 15 jumpers competed. Except that Taiwo then had to run the 400m to complete his first day of competition.

    In the interest of full disclosure, I’m a little biased because Taiwo is a family friend. But no less a person than Usain Bolt affirmed my take, even if unwittingly. For he made news this week when he complained about having to run two 100m sprints in one day; whereas these athletes have to run, jump, and throw in five events in one day and do the same the very next day.

    3761BFB800000578-3748249-image-a-33_1471572105423Speaking of Bolt, he continued his historic quest for an Olympic three-peat in three events in the 200m, having already done so in the 100m. It’s too bad this final lost most of its drama after Bolt’s archrival, Justin Gatlin of the USA, failed to qualify.

    Never mind the drama inherent in the man hyped to have a final showdown with Bolt failing to even show up. But I suspect Gatlin decided that it’s better to blame his failure to qualify in the Men’s 200m on an early round miscalculation than face another loss to Bolt – complete with the resounding anti-doping boos that have greeted him every time he entered the stadium at these Games.

    • Usain Bolt of Jamaica won gold in 19.78; Andre DeGrasse of Canada, silver; and Christophe LeMaitre of France, bronze.

    Triathlon

    As the above attests, I believe the winner of the Decathlon should be acclaimed as the best athlete in Track and Field. But being acclaimed as the best athlete in the world is an entirely different proposition. Not least because the winner of the Modern Pentathlon can be so acclaimed for performing feats of athleticism and endurance in five different sports in one afternoon (tomorrow for women, Saturday for men); and the winner of the Triathlon can be no less so for performing feats of athleticism and endurance in three different sports in two hours.

    Screen Shot 2016-08-18 at 8.38.30 PM

    With respect to the Men’s Triathlon, brothers Alistair and Jonathan Brownlee were the clear favorites. Together they are as dominant in the Triathlon as the Jamaicans are in Track. Therefore, nobody was surprised when Alistair defended his London 2012 title and Jonathan improved from bronze to silver.

    • Alistair Brownlee of Great Britain won gold in 1:45.01; Jonathan Brownlee of Great Britain, silver; and Henri Schoemann of South Africa, bronze.

    By the way, this version of the Triathlon includes 1.5km of Swimming, 40km of Cycling, and 10km of running. The women compete on Saturday.

    Wrestling

    One of the transformative features of these Olympics is the extent to which women are not only generating far more excitement but also winning more medals for their respective teams. For example, Team USA has an insurmountable lead in the overall medal count, and women account for the majority of its haul.

    Kh5Zu9btHelen Louise Maroulis demonstrated this in historic fashion when she became the first woman in U.S. history to win gold in Wrestling. She competed in the Women’s Freestyle 53kg.

    • Helen Louise Maroulis of the USA (a first-time Olympian) won gold; Saori Yoshida of Japan (a three-time defending champion), silver; and Sofia Magdalena Mattsson of Sweden, bronze.

    It is truly humbling to concede that if I were on the mat with any of the women competing — even in the lightest weight class — she probably would have had her way with me … gladly.

    MEDAL COUNT: USA – 100; China – 58; Great Britain – 56

  • Thursday, August 18, 2016 at 8:54 AM

    USA Swimmer Ryan Lochte’s Olympian Tale of Robbery

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    After his less than stellar performances, USA swimmer Ryan Lochte found a way to upstage the marquee athletes at these Games, namely Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt.

    Two of the U.S. Olympics swimmers who were with Ryan Lochte when he was apparently ‘robbed’ in Rio have been hauled off a plane and prevented from leaving Brazil by the country’s authorities.

    The dramatic turn of events came amid mounting questions over whether the gold medal-winning swimmer really was held at gunpoint as he claims – and as Lochte changed for a second time his version of the events of Sunday night…

    Meanwhile, Lochte, 32, has been spotted in in Charlotte, North Carolina with his Playmate girlfriend Kayla Reid.

    (London Daily Mail, August 18, 2016)

    Screen Shot 2016-08-18 at 8.14.32 AM

    I suspect this international incident stems from nothing more than a late-night drunken prank – aimed at making fun of Rio’s well-earned reputation as a Dickensian city where Faginesque robberies abound.

    To say there are glaring inconsistencies and gaping holes in their tall tale is an understatement. One wonders, for example, what has become of the Taxi driver – who had to have been either a victim as well or a co-conspirator. And how considerate of the “robbers” to demand only cash, letting them keep wallets, watches, smartphones, and jewelry….

    Incidentally, this screen capture shows my immediate reaction (at 8:04 p.m. last night) as this tale – told by idiots, full of lies and deception, signifying nothing – was being sold:

    Screen Shot 2016-08-18 at 3.38.07 PM

    The only question is how long it will be before one of these knuckleheads cracks and admits the whole thing was a perverse and imperious joke (or “cover-up”). How convenient for Lochte, though, that he’s the only one who got out of dodge before the shit hit the fan.

    On the other hand, given all of the reputational damage it has suffered during these Games, one can hardly blame Brazil for making an international incident out of this misdemeanor. After all, this not only deflects from Zika, polluted waters, empty venues, etc., but might even engender a little international sympathy … if not good will.

  • Wednesday, August 17, 2016 at 11:25 PM

    Rio Olympics: Day 12

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Table Tennis

    Today was the final day of competition in this sport, which China dominates more than any country dominates any sport. Indeed, this headline in today’s New York Times speaks volumes about its dominance:

    At Least 44 Table Tennis Players in Rio Are Chinese-Born. Six Play for China 

    Screen Shot 2016-08-17 at 9.27.17 PM

    To make it a little more relatable, this is rather like a 100m sprint with 8 runners who are all Jamaican-born, but only 2 of whom are running for Jamaica. I commented on Day 9 about this rent-an-Olympian phenomenon, in which natives not good enough to make their home team become athletic mercenaries for other teams.

    No surprise then that China won gold in every event coming into this final one, the Men’s Team Match for gold against Japan.

    • China won … again.

    This Chinese domination might explain why Table Tennis got so little prime-time coverage on American TV during these Games.

    I submit, however, that more people worldwide would do well to play this sport. In fact, the only reason I’m bothering to comment on today’s event is to encourage you to give it a shot.

    ping-pong-documentary-movie-review-hugh-hartford-docnyc-2-noscaleTable Tennis enables a unique combination of exercise and fun, irrespective of one’s age or level of fitness. The British documentary film Ping Pong dramatizes this to endearing and encouraging effect.

    It features players from around the world competing in the over-80 division of the 2010 World Veterans Table Tennis Championships. Most notable among them is Dorothy DeLow of Australia, a 100-year-old legend who could still hold her own.

    Closer to home, I applaud Will Shortz for doing so much over the years to popularize this sport here in the USA.

    Five years ago, dipping into the small fortune that his crossword and Sudoku puzzles have brought him, the New York Times crossword editor Will Shortz bought an old ‘junk dealer’s warehouse,’ near his home in Pleasantville, New York, and — because puzzles aren’t his only obsession — turned fourteen thousand square feet of it into a world-class Ping-Pong facility.

    In late October, Westchester Table Tennis Center hosted one of Shortz’s monthly club tournaments, which are the largest in the United States.

    (The New Yorker, November 2, 2015)

    I am proficient at Swimming and Ping Pong. And, trust me, Ping Pong not only provides the same kind of total-body workout, it’s also a lot more fun.

    Track and Field

    athletics-women-s-100mAfter failing thus far to win gold in any Track event, Team USA found some measure of redemption in Women’s 100m Hurdles, sweeping it for the first time in Olympic history.

    • Brianna Collins of the USA won gold in 12.48; Nia Ali of the USA, silver; and Kristi Castlin of the USA, bronze.

    Chances are that, but for the doping controversy surrounding Russian athlete Darya Klishina, relatively few people would’ve been interested in the outcome of the Women’s Long Jump.

    Screen Shot 2016-08-17 at 11.13.39 PMMore to the point, given what I wrote in my Day 8 commentary, I would be remiss not to acknowledge how it finally played out today.

    • Tianna Bartoletta of the USA won gold in 23’5″; Brittney Reese of the USA (the defending champion), silver; and Ivana Spanovic of Serbia, bronze. (Klishina placed 9th.)

    That said, the event of the day was the Women’s 200m. As indicated in my Day 10 commentary, I had far less interest in this event after injury prevented Allyson Felix of the USA from qualifying. Given that, and the absence of any Bahamian, I really did not have a horse in this race … so to speak.

    Frankly, the only point of interest for me was whether the white Dutchwoman, Dafne Schippers, would break the near monopoly blacks have had on gold medals in this event in recent history. The notable exceptions being at Munich 1972, Montreal 1976, and Moscow 1980, when doped-up East German women prevailed. Which of course compels one to wonder about the uncanny resemblance Schippers bears to those East Germans….

    As it happens, she came as close to winning as any white girl has since Moscow.

    3759A53B00000578-3746322-image-a-86_1471484513804

    • Elaine Thompson of Jamaica won gold in 21.78 (becoming the first woman to double in the 100m and 200m since Florence Griffith-Joyner at Seoul 1988); Dafne Schippers of the Netherlands, silver; and Tori Bowie of the USA, bronze.

    But, to be fair to white sprinters, black ones from Africa have been no more successful. Indeed, it is a curious thing that blacks from Jamaica and the United States have been as dominant in Olympic sprint events as blacks from Kenya and Ethiopia have been in Olympic distance events.

    MEDAL COUNT: USA – 93; China – 54; Great Britain – 50

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    Klishina long jump

  • Tuesday, August 16, 2016 at 10:22 PM

    Rio Olympics: Day 11

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Track and Field

    With all due respect to the Men’s 110m Hurdles and Men’s High Jump, the Women’s 1500m was the premier event of the day. I was rooting for Genzebe Dibaba of Ethiopia based solely on my admiration for the way she has continued the winning ways of her older sisters:

    P1010363Ejegayehu Dibaba (34) won silver in the 10,000m at Athens 2004.

    And Tirunesh Dibaba (31) won bronze in the 5000m at Athens 2004, gold in the 5000m and 10,000m at Beijing 2008, gold in the 10,000m and silver in the 5000m at London 2012, and bronze in the 10,000 here at Rio 2016.

    As if that were not impressive or dynastic enough, their cousin Deratu Tulu (44) won gold in the 10,000m at Barcelona 1992 and at Sydney 2000, and bronze in the 10,000m at Athens 2004.

    RIOEC8H04S8XA_768x432Of course, Genzebe (25) herself came into these Games as the reigning World champion in this event.

    • Faith Kipyegon of Kenya won gold in 4:08.92; Genzebe Dibaba of Ethiopia, silver; and Jennifer Simpson of the USA, bronze.

    Given those results, this seems relevant:

    The coach of the women’s 1500m world record holder and reigning world champion has been arrested in Spain as part of an anti-doping operation. Mr [Jama] Aden coaches Ethiopian star Genzebe Dibaba.

    Dibaba, 25, is female world athlete of the year and a hot favourite to win gold at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics later this year.

    (BBC, June 20, 2016)

    Naturally, Dibaba has been under a cloud of suspicion for doping ever since. And, post Lance Armstrong, it hardly matters to most people that she has never tested positive.

    The guilt by association had to have unnerved her. Only this explains her subpar performance.

    Gymnastics

    Screen Shot 2016-08-16 at 8.20.11 PMBiles made her last bid for gold in Women’s Floor Exercise tonight, hoping to recover form after a shocking bobble on Beam cost her certain gold last night. Indeed, her talent is such that, even with that bobble, she was still good enough to win bronze.

    But there was no bobbling tonight. She soared, literally. If you haven’t seen her Floor routine, it is truly something to behold.

    • Simone Biles of the USA won gold; Aly Raisman of the USA, silver; and Amy Tinkler of Great Britain, bronze.

    But all’s not well. Because after Biles won her second gold of these Games, in the All-Around, many sports commentators began hailing her as the greatest gymnast in history. Nadia Comaneci, arguably the Michael Jordan of her sport, was the notable exception. She urged them to reserve judgment. I agreed.

    2-1After all, Michael Phelps is the greatest Olympian in history because no athlete in any sport has ever won more medals than his haul of 28 over four Olympic Games (23 golds, 3 silvers, and 2 bronzes). Whereas, Biles’s haul of 5 medals at these Olympic Games (4 golds and 1 bronze) pales in comparison with gymnast Larisa Latynina’s haul of 18 over three Olympic Games (9 golds, 5 silvers, and 4 bronzes).

    Of course, far too many Americans think American history is world history. But, although she’d never say so herself, even Comaneci has a more legitimate claim than Biles at this point – given her career haul of 9 medals over two Olympic Games (5 golds, 3 silvers, and 1 bronze). Not to mention that practically every winner of the All-Around at every Olympics has been hailed as the greatest gymnast in history – as I’m sure a now humbled and ignored Gabby Douglas would be all too happy to remind anyone who cares.

    You’ve come a long way Simone – as the first U.S. gymnast to win four Olympic gold medals. But you’ve got a long way to go, baby.

    (Oh, your overshared schoolgirl crush on Zac Efron is the best thing that has ever happened to him. But he’s not good, or good enough, for you.)

    Canoeing

    I watched the Men’s Canoe Single 1000m this morning and got more of a jolt from it than my coffee. I found it surprisingly thrilling, especially considering I couldn’t have cared any less who won.

    1024x1024But it was odd watching burly men canoe while kneeling in what looked like kayaks. I kept expecting them to capsize. Instead, their obvious skill and strength was such that they not only maintained perfect balance, but propelled their kayak-canoes as if aided by an invisible inboard motor.

    Incidentally, my incredulous comments are based on experience. I spent many summers as a teenager at camp on Ahmic Lake canoeing and kayaking for hours every day. I thought I knew the difference between them.

    • Sebastian Brendel of Germany won gold in 3:56.926; Isaquias Dos Santos of Brazil, silver; and Serghei Tarnovschi of Moldova, bronze.

    Badminton

    The medal rounds began today. But chances are the only thing you know about this very strange sport stems for the scandal that erupted at London 2012. That’s when event organizers disqualified four top-seeded teams for “disgracing the Olympics” by throwing early round matches to receive more favorable seating in the medal rounds.

    I not only disagreed with those disqualifications but decried them as demonstrably hypocritical:

    If all athletes were disqualified for failing to extend their best efforts to win every time they competed, London’s two most-celebrated Olympians (namely, Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt) would be the first to go. For it is routine for swimmers and runners to ‘throw’ qualifying heats to conserve energy for the all-important medal rounds — even if only to get a better lane. What’s the friggin’ difference?!

    (“London Olympics: Day 5,” The iPINIONS Journal, August 1, 2012)

    badminton-mixed-doublesBut I also expressed wonderment about this sport:

    Can somebody explain the appeal of Badminton, which seems to defy gravity by having players use what looks like a squash racket to swat at what looks like a cluster of chicken feathers over what looks like a mini Volleyball net?

    (“London Olympics: Day 1,” The iPINIONS Journal, July 28 2012)

    By the way, that little cluster the players swat back and forth is called a “shuttlecock.” Make of that what you will….

    To be fair, like Soccer, Badminton is one of the most popular sports in the world outside of the USA. In fact, data show that more people play Badminton in China than watch Baseball, Basketball, and Football combined in the USA.

    Clearly, the joke might be on us.

    MEDAL COUNT: USA – 84; Great Britain – 51; China – 50

    Related commentaries:
    London Day 5

  • Monday, August 15, 2016 at 11:03 PM

    Rio Olympics: Day 10

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Track and Field

    I became more mesmerized by Allyson Felix with each round of the 200m. If ever anyone could be thought of as a beautiful two-legged gazelle, it is she. I know the Jamaican girls seem poised to repeat their dominance, but I think Felix will be a spoiler in London in the 200m.

    (“US Trials: Preview of Olympian Feats to Come,” The iPINIONS Journal, July 2, 2012)

    This quote only hints at how fond I am of Allyson Felix. Hence, I was crestfallen when injury prevented her from qualifying in the 200m, after qualifying in the 400m, at the U.S. Trials. Not least because this would have made it easier for me to root against her in the 400m knowing that she had the 200m pending to defend as reigning Olympic champion.

    As things stood tonight, I had a born duty to root for fellow Bahamian Shaunae Miller to win the Women’s 400m. Granted, it helped that Miller displays all of Felix’s speed and grace – only in a much taller frame. She’s 6’1”.

    • Shaunae Miller of The Bahamas won gold in 49.44; Allyson Felix of the USA, silver; and Shericka Jackson of Jamaica, bronze.

    920x920 (1)

    Of course, there was nothing graceful about Miller’s dive across the finish line to win by the tip of her titty, tit, tits (i.e., 0.07 of a second). On the other hand, her lane assignment (7) was almost as disadvantageous as Wayde van Niekerk’s (8) in the Men’s 400m. So I’ll cut her some slack…. Not to mention turnabout being fair play, given that American David Neville took an uncannily similar dive to deny Bahamian Chris Brown a medal of any kind in the Men’s 400m at Beijing 2008.

    But, hey man, it’s Better in The Bahamas tonight! Especially given that this is our first medal of these Games. Now the world knows why the then relatively unknown Miller carried our flag during the Opening Ceremony.

    Perhaps Felix can derive some consolation from the fact that she is now the most decorated athlete in the history of American Track and Field – with 4 golds and 3 silvers.

    Speaking of my fondness for certain athletes:

    If you tune in to watch Emma Coburn of the United States win the Women’s 3000 Steeplechase, you’ll see why she had my eyes glued to the TV for the 9:32.38 time it took for her to win the trials in this event. (Time for a cold shower…?)

    (“US Trials: Preview of Olympian Feats to Come,” The iPINIONS Journal, July 2, 2012)

    Well, I wasn’t that hot and bothered, but you get the point.

    Rio Olympics AthleticsAlas, she did not make the podium at London 2012, finishing 8th. And midway through this race, it looked like Coburn would be denied at Rio 2016 too. Because that’s when a tiny, 19-year-old rent-a-runner from Kenya, competing for Bahrain, took off like a bat out of hell, and the only runners who seemed capable of giving chase were two of her former compatriots.

    But then a funny thing happened on the way to the podium. Coburn would not be denied. She actually looked like a white Canadian lynx chasing after three black Siamese cats.

    The only question was whether, like most predators, she would settle for catching the slowest one or go after the fastest. She settled.

    • Ruth Jebet of Bahrain won gold in 8:59.75; Hyvin Kiyeng Jepkemoi of Kenya, silver; and Emma Coburn of the USA, bronze.

    But, given her “traitorous” victory, it behooves Jebet to think long and hard before returning home to visit family….

    Field Events

    “Field” is clearly the underappreciated stepbrother of “Track” in this sport. As a case in point, I challenge you to name the winner of a single Field event from London 2012…?

    To be honest, the only reason I remember the winner of the Women’s Pole vault is that Yelena Isinbayeva of Russia has been all over the news lately pleading her case, to no avail, against that infamous IAAF ban.

    Apropos of which, Darya Klishina of Russia won her appeal just yesterday to participate as her country’s only competitor in Track and Field. She’ll compete in the Women’s Long Jump, which gets underway tomorrow. She’s not a medal contender, but her ordeal alone should inspire interest in how she performs.

    usa-today-9455102.0Beyond this, I can’t think of another Field event I’m particularly interested in watching.

    Mind you, if Usain Bolt were as good an athlete as either Jesse Owens or Carl Lewis, I would’ve been interested in watching him compete in the Men’s Long Jump (or any other field event to demonstrate his mastery of Track and Field). As it happens, I merely caught highlights of an American-led upset of defending Olympic champion Greg Rutherford on Saturday.

    • Jeff Henderson of the USA won gold in 8.38m (27’4”); Luvo Manyonga of South Africa, silver; and Greg Rutherford of Great Britain, bronze.

    Weightlifting

    There hasn’t been much (Western) interest in Olympic weightlifting since Montreal 1976, when larger-than-life Vasiliy Ivanovich Alekseyev of the Soviet Union commanded rock-star attention.

    In fact, watching coverage of Rio 2016 from America, you’d be forgiven for having no clue that weightlifting is an Olympic sport. To be fair, this might have something to do with quadrennial results, which suggest that a Westerner winning gold in weightlifting is as improbable as an Easterner winning gold in Track sprinting.

    Sure enough, this is how results are playing out: Westerners have won only 2 of the 42 medals awarded in women’s and men’s weightlifting to date, and those two were bronze.

    BhwfOkelThis is a curious thing, of course. After all, given the average size of Americans alone, one would have thought they would be better (natural) weightlifters than, say, Kazakhs or Uzbeks, who are atop the medals leaderboard in this sport. I’m just sayin’.

    Apropos of the “Great Alekseyev”, a field of 17 – not one Westerner among them – competed in the Men’s 105kg class today for acclaim as the “world’s strongest man.” Those in “Group A” lifted medals follows:

    • Ruslan Nurundinov of Uzbekistan won gold; Simon Martirosyan of Armenia, silver; and Alexandr Zaichikov of Kazakhstan, bronze.

    Meanwhile, 6’8″, 414-pound American Brian Shaw is currently down in Botswana, Africa, defending his title in the annual competition to determine “The World’s Strongest Man.”

    landscape-1439221232-brian-shaw-wsm-1

    And it’s easy to believe he really is the strongest, given that Shaw defeated no less a strongman than “The Mountain” from Game of Thrones (aka Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson of Iceland) for the title last year.

    MEDAL COUNT: USA – 75; China – 46; Great Britain – 41

    Related commentaries:
    US trials….
    IAAF bans Russia

  • Sunday, August 14, 2016 at 11:23 PM

    Rio Olympics: Day 9

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Track and Field

    The feature race of every Olympics is the Men’s 100m for bragging rights as the world’s fastest man. The media spared no space hyping this one as a showdown – not only between a David and a Goliath nation, namely Jamaica and the United States, respectively, but also between a good and an evil athlete, namely the putatively clean Usain Bolt and the sanctioned drug cheat Justin Gatlin, respectively.

    This might betray too much of my contrarian and forgiving spirit, but I was rooting for Gatlin.

    373D175F00000578-3740762-image-a-85_1471227450842

    • Usain Bolt of Jamaica won gold in 10:81; Justin Gatlin of the USA, silver; and Andre DeGrasse of Canada, bronze.

    My old college roommate suggested that Bolt just knows how to get into Gatlin’s head. I think he’s right. Because only this explains Gatlin allowing Bolt to win with a time that is slower than that which Gatlin routinely runs at far less important meets….

    In any event, Bolt is now the first man in history to win this feature race at three consecutive Olympic Games. What’s more, he can become as Phelpsian as any athlete can by “threepeating” in the 200m and 4x100m Relay as well later this week.

    Gold in each would allow him to retire with a total of 9. Yes, I think he will retire, and he would be well-advised to do so.

    The Jamaicans are becoming to Track and Field what the Chinese are to Ping Pong. Not only are they dominating the sprints for Jamaica at these Olympic Games; like the Chinese, they are also providing the best results for other countries by competing under non-Jamaican flags.

    Jamaican grande dame Merlene Ottey pioneered this trend when she began competing for Slovenia in 2002.

    (“Beijing 2008: Day 9,” The iPINIONS Journal, August 19, 2008)

    lp6QmyDQThis rent-a-runner phenomenon played out in truly dramatic fashion during the Women’s Marathon today. Specifically, the last few miles featured a duel between former Kenyan Eunice Jepkirui Kirwa and Kenyan Jemima Jelagat Sumgong. Now bear in mind that distance running is to Kenya what Soccer is to Brazil. So just imagine the outrage, backlash, resentment if the former had won.

    • Jemima Jelagat Sumgong of Kenya won gold in 2:24.04; Eunice Jepkirui Kirwa (now) of Bahrain, silver; and Mare Dibaba of Ethiopia, bronze.

    I hope marathoners will forgive me for admitting that, but for the terrific vistas along the way, watching most of this race was like watching paint dry. But, truly, if you’ve never been to Rio, watching running and cycling road races during these Games provides a terrific virtual tour.

    Finally, as thrilling as the Men’s 100m was, the Men’s 400m was even more so – even without the hype. It is noteworthy that no Jamaican was in the race, let alone in medal contention.

    It featured LaShawn Merritt, the Beijing 2008 champion, and Kirani James, the London 2012 champion, in a proverbial rubber match. Except that there was an unsung dark horse, Wayde van Niekerk, the World 2015 champion.

    This one was easy. I was rooting for James.

    NINTCHDBPICT000259359699

    • Wayde van Niekerk of South Africa won gold and set a new World Record in 43.03; Kirani James of Grenada, bronze; and LaShawn Merritt of the USA, bronze.

    Truth be told, given that Van Niekerk is the reigning World Champion, he clearly deserved more media coverage coming into this race.

    Still, James and Merritt could be forgiven for thinking he would not be a factor after seeing the lane assignments. After all, no runner had ever won a major championship from lane 8, the most difficult of all. Of course, this is what made Van Niekerk’s win as impressive as it was historic.

    Amandla!

    Incidentally, you might wonder why, as a Caribbean native, I would root for the American Gatlin instead of the Jamaican Bolt in the 100m. I submit, however, that the more poignant wonder might be why Bolt would root the South African van Niekerk instead of the Grenadian James in the 400m. It’s complicated.

    But suffice it to know that most people from the Caribbean feel about Jamaica the way most people from Africa feel about Nigeria. And if you don’t get this analogy, I suggest you add people from these regions to your circle of friends.

    Boxing

    Rio 2016 is setting records for all kinds of anomalies that have nothing to do with sports.

    Most notable among them are the number of athletes complaining about contaminated water and the number of them getting mugged by local thugs – as was the case with Ryan Lochte and several swimmers from Team USA on Saturday night.

    But one salient sports anomaly is the extent to which Wrestling has replaced Boxing as the premier contact Olympic sport.

    origin_b948591441c27046f54cfbd94eb194a2It hardly helps that no fighter of the caliber of former Olympians like Muhammad Ali, Sugar Ray Leonard, Oscar de la Hoya, or even Leon Spinks is participating. But no fighter has even generated any buzz – if only because of his Ali-like trash talk. And I doubt any will become a household name after these Games.

    But you know something’s wrong when a fighter from India is beating the crap out of one from the USA — as happened when Krishan Vikas defeated Charles Conwell in a preliminary round on Day 4.

    RIOEC8E13HMBK_768x432Meanwhile, women are competing in Boxing for the second time. But can someone explain to me why they’re still wearing protective headgear, given this:

    Male boxers will not wear protective headgear at Rio 2016 after the International Olympic Committee ratified the rule change by the sport’s governing body.

    The International Boxing Association (AIBA) provided medical and technical data that showed the number of concussions is lower without headgear.

    (BBC, March 1, 2016)

    Alas, given the popularity of women’s MMA bouts, watching women box, according to the Marquess of Queensberry Rules, is about as exciting as watching men compete in Synchronized Swimming would be — ewww!

    Apropos of which:

    Synchronized Swimming

    Competition began today. And, at the risk of seeming chauvinistic, what struck me most is that pole dancers have nothing on synchronized swimmers when it comes to displaying remarkable athleticism in titillating fashion. Indeed, how thoughtful of NBC to enhance our viewing pleasure by giving us shots of their rhythmic gyrations above and below water.

    375FAF5B00000578-3747908-image-a-28_1471555372452This might be the only sport where cheering is stimulated more by carnal lust than evoked by national pride. Not to mention the bemusement that this is actually an Olympic sport….

    Frankly, it’s surreal and emasculating enough that men compete in Handball. But when I happened upon them competing in Field Hockey at London 2012, my first thought was that men will soon be competing in Synchronized Swimming too. Sure enough….

    Nobody is a greater supporter of equal rights between men and women than I, but this is ridiculous.

    Incidentally, if members of team duets look uncannily alike, it’s not just similar make up. Countries seek a calculated advantage by training and fielding identical twins.

    MEDAL COUNT: USA – 69; China – 45; Great Britain – 38

    Related commentaries:
    Beijing 2008: Day 9

  • Saturday, August 13, 2016 at 11:38 PM

    Rio Olympics: Day 8

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Swimming

    This was the last day of competition. Michael Phelps insists it was his last too. Which constrains me to reprise what I wrote in this regard on the last day of competition at London 2012:

    He insists that he will now rest on his laurels, and who can blame him. But I fully expect him to tire of being a couch potato after a year or so and begin training to defend his titles in the 100m Butterfly, 200m Individual Medley, 4x100m Medley Relay, and 4x200m Freestyle Relay at the Rio Olympics in 2016. Not to mention the competitive compulsion to avenge his two losses here – in the 200m Butterfly and 4x100m Freestyle Relay.

    (“London Olympics: Day 8,” The iPINIONS Journal, August 4, 2012)

    Well, vengeance was his – as he won gold in both the 200m Butterfly and 4×100 Freestyle relay. In fact, he ended these Games in vintage style; that is, on the gold medal podium for the Men’s 4x100m Medley Relay.

    • Team USA (with Ryan Murphy, Cody Miller, Michael Phelps, and Nathan Adrian) won gold in 3:27.95; Team Great Britain, silver; and Team Australia, bronze.

    Screen Shot 2016-08-14 at 2.07.33 PMExcept that Phelps failed to defend what is arguably his most prized title: Olympic Champion in the 100m Butterfly. And I suspect he’ll be haunted with thoughts about avenging it at Tokyo 2020.

    But I fully expect him to retire for good this time. For he’s sensible enough to appreciate that no amount of training will enable him to avenge this loss. Besides, he probably takes mentoring pride in the fact that it was one of his own protégés, Joseph Schooling of Singapore, who handed him his only loss at these Games.

    But, what a haul; and what a treat: 23 golds, 3 silvers, and 2 bronzes for a total of 28 Olympic medals. I doubt the world will ever see a phenom like him again.

    There were two other races of note:

    Screen Shot 2016-08-13 at 10.51.17 PMPernille Blume of Denmark did in the Women’s 50m Freestyle tonight what Simone Manuel of the USA did in the Women’s 100m Freestyle on Thursday: she led a shutout of the heavily favored Bronte sisters of Australia. In doing so, Blume won her country’s first Olympic gold in this event.

    • Pernille Blume of Denmark won gold in 24.07; Simone Manuel of the USA, silver; and Aliaksandra Herasimenia of Belarus, bronze.

    And, speaking of Manuelshe followed up her historic win by anchoring the USA to gold in the Women’s 4x100m Medley Relay.

    • Team USA (with Kathleen Baker, Lilly King, Dana Vollmer, and Simone Manuel) won gold in 3:33.13; Team Australia, silver; and Team Denmark, bronze.

    Meanwhile, even though Phelps was the most decorated swimmer (with 5 golds and 1 silver), Katie Ledecky was easily the most dominant.

    372C11E900000578-0-image-a-128_1471055759745It’s one thing to hail her for winning more medals than any other female swimmer (4 golds, 1 silver). It’s quite another to have seen her utterly destroy the competition in her signature events: the Women’s 400m and 800m Freestyle. The latter she won by over 11 seconds last night, setting a new World Record.

    Finally, at the outset of these Games, Katinka Hosszu of Hungary seemed a lock to become the most decorated female swimmer. But, as I hailed in my Day 7 commentary, Madeline Dirado of the USA disrupted her quest for 4 individual golds by defeating her in the Women’s 200m Backstroke. Hosszu ended up with 3 golds and 1 silver.

    Therefore, given that Ledecky won 5 medals, including 3 individual golds, she is clearly more deserving of this title. Not to mention my abiding suspicions about Hosszu’s doping.

    NOTE: Am I the only one who wonders why the Swimming pool remained crystal blue throughout but the Diving and Water Polo pools turned everything from cloudy blue to putrid green…? Of course, the importance of Swimming and the celebrity of Phelps are such that these Games would have been brought to screeching halt if any such concerns bubbled up in the Swimming pool, no?

    Fencing

    d73399f255bdb813e1f6bc078cadd640__1440xSports is often war by other means. This was certainly the case with Ukraine vs. Russia for gold in the Women’s Sabre Team duel. Never mind that Ukraine and Russia mobilized this week to engage in the real thing, pursuant to their ongoing conflict over Russia’s annexation of Crimea and incursions into Eastern Ukraine.

    But if this fencing duel was any indication of things to come, East Ukrainians might be hearing this from marauding Russians very soon:

    You killed my people, prepare to die.

    • Russia annihilated Ukraine 45-30 for gold.

    Screen Shot 2016-08-13 at 9.34.16 PMMeanwhile, I remarked on Day 3 that the team duels would give celebrated fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad of the USA a chance to redeem herself. After all, she not only failed to honor a presidential challenge to bring home the gold, but got parried out of the medal rounds in the individual duels.

    • The USA annihilated Italy 45-30 for bronze.

    Not quite what President Obama had in mind, but surely, in the spirit of the Olympics, leading her team to a bronze medal is worthy of presidential commendation.

    Track and Field

    Competition began yesterday in this feature sport of every Summer Olympics. And the Women’s Heptathlon was center stage; never mind that the stadium was practically empty for most of the day. (See “Day 5” for my lament about empty venues.)

    In Gymnastics, the winner of the All-Around is considered the best in the sport; in Swimming, that title goes to the winner of the Individual Medley. In Track and Field, it goes to winner of the Decathlon for men and Heptathlon for women.

    Nafi_Thiam-large_trans++y08Da6cf2EQ4ZBxJBf36o3-BeeTnpyNbi2a1kq49oEYIn the Heptathlon, athletes compete over two consecutive days for the most points in seven events: the 100m Hurdles, High Jump, Shot Put, and the 200m on the first day; and the Long Jump, Javelin, and the 800m on the second.

    Each event at these Games showed an upstart 21-year-old Belgian athlete outperforming the defending champion Jessica Ennis-Hill. But Ennis-Hill would have retained her crown if she had beaten the young Belgian in the 800m, the final event, by 10 seconds. I was rooting for the “old lady” (who is only 30, mind you) to do so, but she did not.

    • Nafissatou Thiam of Belgium won gold; Jessica Ennis-Hill of Great Britain, silver; Brianne Theisen Eaton of Canada, bronze.

    From the sublime to the surreal, I never thought one could be riveted during every second of the Men’s 10,000m. But I was thusly riveted watching a London 2012 rematch between Mo Farah of Great Britain and Galen Rupp of the USA. Farah outfoxed and outkicked Rupp to win gold back then.

    Therefore, imagine the collective gasp when none other than Rupp caused Farah to trip and fall mid race…. But Farah would not be denied. He bounced back to his feet, with feline alacrity, and joined the pack as if he never missed a stride.

    Screen Shot 2016-08-13 at 9.34.28 PM

    I knew then the race was his. What I did not know was that Rupp would be more affected by Farah’s fall than Farah himself.

    • Mo Farah of Great Britain won gold in 27:05.17; Paul Kipngetich Tanui of Kenya, silver; Tamirat Tola of Ethiopia, bronze. (Rupp ended up 5th.)

    It’s too bad Jessica Ennis-Hill and Greg Rutherford failed to defend titles in the Heptathlon and Long Jump, respectively. This denied Team Great Britain the gold trifecta that got it off to such a galvanizing start at London 2012.

    Finally:

    Who would’ve thought this tiny island nation would outperform the mighty United States in the premier events of these Olympic Games? Yet Jamaica has done just that by winning gold now in the Men’s 100m, gold, silver and bronze in the Women’s 100m, gold in the Men’s 200m and is poised to win at least silver in the Women’s 200m.

    (“2008 Beijing Olympics: Day 12,” The iPINIONS journal, August 21, 2008)

    Talk about having a bull’s eye on your back. This is the enviable reputation that made Jamaica the most feared team, as well as the one with the most to lose, entering every international Track and Field championship since Beijing 2008. And, in almost every case, they lived up to that reputation.

    bpIfMUbfNo surprise then that the only question coming into the Women’s 100m was whether Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce would make history by winning gold for the third consecutive Olympics. She did not.

    But such is the breeding and training of Jamaican sprinters that she merely ceded her crown to a younger compatriot.

    • Elaine Thompson of Jamaica won gold in 10.71; Torie Bowie of the USA, silver; and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce of Jamaica, bronze.

    That said, I always feel obliged to put times for the Women’s 100m into perspective. Florence Griffith-Joyner set the World Record of 10.49 in 1988. But it seems unfair to hold these women to that standard. Because I have no doubt that, if the sophisticated tests we have today were available back then, they would have revealed that she fueled her way to that record on performance-enhancing drugs.

    Apropo of which:

    Doping Scandal Continues

    I have written a fair amount on the doping scandal that led the IAAF to ban every Russian Track and Field athlete, except one, from competing at these Games.

    Screen Shot 2016-08-13 at 9.33.38 PMTherefore, I would be remiss not to acknowledge this about that one athlete:

    The only Russian Track and Field athlete due to compete at the Rio Olympics has been banned by the sport’s governing body on the eve of competition…

    The IAAF had said that any athletes who could prove they were untainted by the Russian system could be cleared to compete, with only the US-based [long jumper Darya] Klishina passing the test out of a possible team of 68 athletes…

    However, on the eve of competition the IAAF received new information that has led to her exceptional-eligibility status being revoked.

    (London Guardian, August 13, 2016)

    I suppose you can take the doping Russian out of Russia but you can take the doping out of the Russian.

    Actually, I feel obliged to clarify that I’ve been as critical of dopers from the United States and Jamaica as I’ve been of those from Russia. This is why I think it reeks of hypocrisy as much as rudeness that spectators and fellow athletes alike have been raining bullying boos down on members of Team Russia at every venue.

    Rio 2016 Olympics: Women's SwimmingMost notorious in this respect was teenager Lilly King of Team USA denouncing Yulia Efimova, her chief rival in the Women’s 100m Breaststroke, as a “drug cheat.” Even more disappointing, though, was that no less a person than Michael Phelps joined the near-universal chorus of those hailing King for doing so.

    But I wish he had used his celebrity and influence to admonish all athletes to let each sport’s governing body sanction the cheaters and let their performances in competition convey their contempt. If he had, I suspect everyone would have begun treating Russian athletes at every venue with due respect.

    MEDAL COUNT: USA – 61; China – 41; Great Britain – 30

    Related commentaries:
    London Day 8

  • Friday, August 12, 2016 at 11:17 PM

    Rio Olympics: Day 7

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Rugby Sevens

    I was too caught up in the excitement unfolding at the Swimming and Gymnastics venues last night to watch, let alone comment on, anything else.

    Screen Shot 2016-08-12 at 6.52.18 PMBut I won’t pretend to have any real fondness for or understanding of this game, which is so barbaric it makes American Football look effeminate. Apropos of which, women play too. And they look every bit as barbaric doing so.

    Nonetheless, I would be remiss not to hail Fiji for upsetting Great Britain 43-7 for the gold in Men’s Rugby Sevens.

    Regular readers know I cannot resist gloating whenever a former British colony gets the better of our former colonial master … in anything. Therefore, here’s to Fiji not only for making history by winning its first Olympic medal of any kind in any sport, but also for sticking it to England to boot.

    But who knew the tiny Pacific nation of Fiji is as much a powerhouse in Rugby as the tiny Caribbean nation of Jamaica is in Track….

    Screen Shot 2016-08-12 at 2.07.49 PMThat said, my gloating soon turned to utter stupefaction and dismay as I watched each Fijian player get on his knees and bow before Britain’s Princess Anne to receive his gold medal.

    Ironically, given the way they looked on, I suspect every British and Australian player who remained standing on the silver and bronze podiums, respectively, was equally stupefied and dismayed.

    Alas, it reflects the insidious legacy of British colonialism, as well as the perverse loyalty to British royalty, that these proud and triumphant Fijians showed more regard for this third-rate royal than for their own national flag and anthem.

    Oh, Australia defeated sister nation down under, New Zealand, 24-17 for the gold in Women’s Rugby Sevens on Day 3.

    Archery

    2016 Rio Olympics - Archery - Semifinal - Women's Team SemifinalToday was the final day of competition in this sport. Only four medals were awarded but every qualifying round provided excitement and suspense worthy of The Hunger Games.

    Apropos of which, I became interested during London 2012 only because Khatuna Lorig of the USA, the unsung archer who famously trained Jennifer Lawrence for this movie, was competing. She eventually lost a nail-biter to Mariana Avitia of Mexico in the women’s bronze medal match. But no archer inspired that Lorig kind of rooting interest at these Games.

    Football (Soccer)

    I did not expect to be commenting on Women’s Soccer at this point. Not only because the medal rounds do not begin until the penultimate day of Rio 2016, but also because Team USA was as favored to win gold in Women’s Soccer as it is to do so in Women’s Basketball.

    But a funny thing happened to the three-time defending Olympic Champion and defending World Cup Champion on the way to a four-peat coronation: Team Sweden.

    As it happens, I tuned in only after a “Breaking News” bulletin about Sweden and the USA beginning penalty kicks after a 1-1 tie in regulation and extra time.

    Hope Solo is the most famous and controversial USA player. But she has earned a well-deserved reputation for shutouts, becoming the first goalkeeper in international history to record 100 of them just last month.

    Screen Shot 2016-08-12 at 4.35.29 PM

    Therefore, her teammates could be forgiven for thinking she would “save” them from a very close call. She did not.

    Sweden beat the USA 4-3 in the penalty shootout. Granted, it might be that Sweden’s coach, Pia Sundhage, got into the heads of the USA players, causing superstar Alex Morgan and another player to miss what should have been bankable shots on goal. Of course, Sundhage could do so because she just happens to be the former coach who guided the USA to gold at both Beijing 2008 and London 2012.

    In any event, this is easily the biggest upset in the history of USA women’s soccer, and arguably the biggest in Olympic history; well, at least since Argentina defeated the USA Men’s Basketball team (aka Dream Team) at Athens 2004, relegating it to the bronze medal game.

    NOTE: Solo lived up to her controversial reputation by whining that the USA lost to “a bunch of cowards.” Her Trumpian arrogance is such that coming across like a sore loser probably never occurred to her.

    Trampoline

    2016-rio-olympicsThis sport is always a thrill to watch. Not least because the performers display all of the skill and grace of springboard divers and gymnasts combined.

    Despite this, I cannot get over the feeling that jumping up and down on a trampoline is a recreation that belongs in the backyard, not a sport that belongs in the Olympics. Not to mention my irritation with the dizziness watching their quadruple summersaults with triple twists caused….

    Swimming

    Watching Lilly King of the USA upset Yulia Efimova of Russia in the Women’s 100m Breaststroke on Day 3 was really exciting. No doubt the cloud of doping hovering over Efimova added to the drama.

    RIOEC8D039B1H_768x432Well, watching Madeline Dirado upset Katinka (“Iron Lady”) Hosszu in the Women’s 200m Backstroke tonight was even more so. No doubt the cloud of doping hovering over Hosszu added to the drama. And to say they were both shocked by their respective feats would be an understatement.

    But I’ve commented enough on doping at these Games; besides, it’s far better to hail King and Dirado as cheater slayers. So here’s to them showing that (suspected) cheaters don’t always prosper.

    • Madeline Dirado of the USA won gold in 2:05.99; Katinka Hosszu of Hungary, silver; and Hilary Caldwell of Canada, bronze.

    When Michael Phelps stepped onto the starting block for the Men’s 100m Butterfly tonight, he was already the most decorated Olympian in history – complete with more individual golds than any athlete since Leonidas of Rhodes ended with 12 in 152 BC (2,000 years ago). Specifically, he already had 26 medals composed of 22 golds (13 in individual events and 9 in relays), 2 silver, and 2 bronze. Still, I have no doubt he dearly wanted this last individual race of his historic career to be another golden one.

    Alas, it was not to be. Because not only Phelps, but his old rivals were all schooled by an upstart.

    Screen Shot 2016-08-12 at 11.47.34 PM

    • Joseph Schooling of Singapore won (his country’s first) gold and set a new Olympic Record in 50.39; Michael Phelps of the USA, Chad le Clos of South Africa, and Laszlo Cseh of Hungary, silver.

    That’s right, Phelps makes history even when he loses, sharing the first three-way tie Olympic competition.

    I don’t know if I’ve (ever) been in a tie, so a three-way tie is pretty wild.

    (London Telegraph, August 12, 2016)

    Phelps can clearly afford to make light of it, but there’s no denying this was a huge upset. I suspect he’ll derive some consolation if he ends his Olympic career with another gold as part of the Men’s 4x100m Medley Relay tomorrow night, which seems a virtual guarantee.

    Screen Shot 2016-08-12 at 10.32.01 PMI’m on record declaring that the Men’s 50m Freestyle should not even be an Olympic event. So imagine my mixed feelings when sentimental favorite, old man Anthony Ervin (35), shocked the swimming world.

    • Anthony Ervin of the USA won gold in 21.40; Florent Manaudou of France, silver; Nathan Adrian of the USA, bronze.

    Who said old men can’t sprint!

    Perhaps even more interesting is the fact that Ervin also won this event 16 years ago, when he was a 19-year-old teenager at Sydney 2000.

    MEDAL COUNT: USA – 50; China – 37; Japan – 24

  • Thursday, August 11, 2016 at 11:48 PM

    Rio Olympics: Day 6

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Diving

    I indicated in my Day 2 commentary that there would be no reason to comment on this sport, unless a country disrupts China’s gold rush.

    Screen Shot 2016-08-11 at 9.43.45 PMWell, in the wee hours this morning, not one but two countries did just that in Men’s Synchronized 3m Springboard.

    • Jack Laugher and Chris Mears of Great Britain won gold; Sam Dorman and Mike Hixon of the USA, silver; and Yuan Cao and Kai Qin of China, bronze.

    To be fair, the Chinese divers were probably more unnerved than others by the crystal-blue water in the Diving pool turning swampy green in the midst of competition, especially after event organizers confessed they had no clue what caused it.

    Swimming

    The media hyped the Men’s 200m Individual Medley as an Ali vs. Frazier-like matchup between Phelps and Lochte – complete with headlines like “Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte in league of their own…,” courtesy of NBC on August 10.

    Except that Phelps has owned Lochte in Olympic competition dating back to Athens 2004, the way the Harlem Globetrotters has owned the Generals and Nationals in charitable exhibitions dating back to the 1950s. What’s more, this was always going to be a three-way matchup – with Kosuke Hagino, the upstart winner of the 400m Individual Medley on Day 1, posing a greater threat to both Phelps and Lochte than they posed to each other.

    usa-today-9445469.0

    Sure enough, Phelps not only owned Lochte again, he blew away the entire field, winning his fourth gold medal of these Olympics, to make 22 overall, with relative ease.

    • Michael Phelps won of the USA won gold in 1:54.66; Kosuke Hagino of Japan, silver; and Shun Wang of China, bronze. (Lochte placed 5th.)

    Words no longer suffice to explain or hail the phenomenon that is Michael Phelps (31). He added to his historic career by becoming the first swimmer to win gold in the same event in four consecutive Olympic Games. Apropos of which, the phenomenon only grew when he returned to the pool within 40 minutes of this race to easily qualify for tomorrow’s final in the 100m Butterfly. He now has a chance to win gold in this event in four consecutive Olympic Games too.

    Clearly, it was highly unlikely that any other race would upstage tonight’s Men’s 200m Individual Medley. Yet, only minutes later, the Women’s 100m Freestyle did just that. 

    Commentators touted one of the celebrated Campbell sisters of Australia to win gold. Some even speculated they might go one, two.

    Except that two North American “sisters” had other ideas. I was really rooting for one of them. This excerpt from “Black Women Dominate NCAA Division 1 Swimming?!” March 24, 2015, explains why.

    __________________

    simone-manuel-lia-neal-start-300x225Thirty years ago, when I was struggling to make my mark in NCAA Division III swimming, I could not have imagined a day when black swimmers (men or women) would be dominating Division 1…

    African-American swimmers took the top three finishes in a single event at the Women’s Division 1 NCAA Championship this weekend…

    Freshman phenom Simone Manuel of Stanford set an NCAA, American, U.S. Open, Championship and Pool record when she clocked a time of 46.09 in the Women’s 100-yard Freestyle. Manuel’s Stanford teammate Lia Neal came in second place with a time of 47.13 … the University of Florida’s Natalie Hinds [came in third] with a time of 47.24.

    (NBC Sports, March 23, 2015)

    I could not be more proud. And I don’t mind admitting that my best time in the 100-yard Freestyle would not have been good enough to even qualify for the final in their event, let alone win a medal.

    Of course, pioneering black swimmers like Enith Brigitha, Maritza (Correia) McClendon, Anthony Nesty, Anthony Ervin, Cullen Jones, and Alia Atkinson (of Jamaica!) dispelled the myth that blacks can’t swim long ago. But this is an historic occasion worthy of celebration and, frankly, deserving of far more mainstream media coverage than it’s getting.

    No doubt coverage of their feats at Rio 2016 will more than compensate. I can’t wait!

    __________________

    Well, the wait is over. Let the coverage begin!

    • Simone Manuel of the USA and Penny Oleksiak of Canada tied, won gold, and set a new Olympic Record in  52:70; and Sarah Sjostrom of Sweden, bronze. (The Campbell sisters placed 4th and 6th.)

    37239B7D00000578-3735602-image-a-9_1470970831882Manuel (20) made history again by becoming the first black female swimmer to win individual Olympic gold. Her reaction – complete with uncontrollable tears – indicated that she was all too aware of the historic nature of her accomplishment. Her words later confirmed it:

    The gold medal wasn’t just for me. It was for people who came before me and inspired me to stay in this sport, and for people who believe that they can’t do it. I hope that I’m an inspiration to others to get out there and try swimming.

    (Washington Post, August 11, 2016)

    Adding to the drama was the fact that Oleksiak is just 16 years old. Remarkably, her accomplishment was not quite as historic. For Kyoko Iwasaki of Japan is the youngest female to win gold in Swimming: the Women’s 200m Breaststroke at Barcelona 1992.

    Gymnastics

    Another black Simone, this one Biles, has completely dominated women’s gymnastics in recent years; so much so that it would have taken an upset – on par with Chad le Clos upsetting Michael Phelps in the Men’s 200m Butterfly at London 2012 – to deny her gold in the Women’s Individual All-Around.

    Not only was no such upset in the offing, but Biles stayed true to form, winning by the highest margin in the modern history of this competition.

    • Simone Biles of the USA won gold; Aly Raisman of the USA, silver; and Aliya Mustafina of Russia, bronze.

    Screen Shot 2016-08-11 at 6.16.08 PM

    Here’s the high praise no less a person than NBC commentator Nastia Liukin, herself the All-Around gold medalist at Beijing 2008, heaped on Biles after her historic win:

    She’s by far the best gymnast I have ever seen.

    For a little perspective, it might be helpful to know that Biles’s margin of victory was 2.100; whereas the margin for Kohei Uchimura of Japan, who won the Men’s All-Around last night, was just 0.099. Or, to paraphrase NBC anchor Bob Costas’s more dramatic assessment: Biles’s margin of victory is greater than that of the nine previous All-Around champions, dating back to 1980, combined.

    Like I said on Day 2, all that’s left is the counting of medals – as the four Event finals are now on tap.

    MEDAL COUNT: USA – 38; China – 30; Japan – 22

    Related commentaries:
    Black women dominate

  • Wednesday, August 10, 2016 at 11:40 PM

    Rio Olympics: Day 5

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Empty Venues

    I imagine nothing is more dispiriting to Olympic athletes than competing in practically empty venues. Hell, even I find it dispiriting just watching on TV.

    Screen Shot 2016-08-10 at 9.36.33 PMUnfortunately, this has become a quadrennial farce. Ironically, it originated at Beijing 2008, when empty seats betrayed all of the hype China had propagated about national interest in those Games. Frankly, I was stupefied that its totalitarian regime did not ensure one of its 1.3 billion butts was firmly planted in every seat at every venue for every event.

    But, given that embarrassing Chinese precedent, I was even more stupefied that organizers of London 2012 allowed the eyesore of empty seats to undermine the optics of success.

    It’s not as if organizers were not aware that this might be the case. It boggles the mind, therefore, that they did not enlist tens of thousands of volunteers (from pensioners to school kids) to show up at a moment’s notice to fill seats if ticket holders do not show up. They could have warned in print on all tickets that the holder forfeits the seat if it is not occupied by 15 minutes before the scheduled start of the event.

    (“London Olympics: Day 1,” The iPINIONS Journal, July 28, 2012)

    2016-08-09T221838Z_1358203976_RIOEC891PZ0TT_RTRMADP_3_OLYMPICS-RIO-AGYMNASTICS-W-BEAMAs it happens, I posited in my Day 1 commentary that organizers of Rio 2016 might do a better job. I am now convinced they will not.

    For example, since Beijing, women’s gymnastics have ranked in popularity only behind swimming events featuring Michael Phelps and running events featuring Usain Bolt. Yet, watching the Women’s Team final last night, the stands were so empty you’d be forgiven for thinking it was a closed practice round – open only to coaches and family members.

    In fact, empty seats have become so dispiriting, no less an athlete than Bolt has taken to social media to plead with fans to get tickets for Track and Field events, which begin on Friday.

    Tennis

    It hardly made news when Venus Williams of the USA lost in the first round. After all, you could count on one hand the number of times she advanced beyond the early rounds in any major tournament in recent years.

    Williams-Sisters-lose-Olympic-Womens-Doubles-First-Round-MatchBut it was truly “breaking news” when a) her sister Serena lost in the second round; b) the Williams sisters lost in the first round in doubles; and c) Novak Djokovic of Serbia lost in the first round.

    After all, coming off singles and doubles victories at Wimbledon just weeks ago, Serena was the prohibitive favorite not only to win singles gold, but carry her sister to doubles gold to boot. And, granted, Djokovic came into these Games in a bit of a slump, after losing in the early rounds at Wimbledon. But he’s still the reigning No. 1 player in the world, having won the French Open and Australian Open earlier this year.

    Enough said:

    I appreciate inquiries about why I’m not commenting on the way the USA men and women’s Basketball teams are routing their opponents. But, truth be told, I simply cannot get too excited about sports like Basketball and Tennis at the Olympics that enjoy perennial popularity. In fact, I rather like the Olympian reordering of things, which sees sports like Swimming and Track and Field getting the media attention that is usually lavished on big-time professional sports.

    (“London Olympics: Day 6,” August 2, 2012)

    Swimming

    Tonight’s featured event was the Men’s 100m Freestyle. The winner of this race can fairly claim to be the fastest swimmer in the world.

    This, notwithstanding the Men’s 50m Freestyle, which should not even be an Olympic event. The four strokes and medleys thereof already give swimmers an unfair advantage when it comes to opportunities to win Olympic medals – as Michael Phelps can readily attest. There’s no 50m Sprint in Track and Field, for example.

    RIOEC8B0638XQ_768x432The point is that the fastest runner has always been the most celebrated athlete in Track and Field. And the fastest swimmer used to be the most celebrated in this sport.

    But Phelps’s unprecedented haul of medals in other events has given him such unparalleled celebrity, most people probably think he’s the fastest swimmer in the world; whereas he has never even competed in the Men’s 100m Freestyle at any Olympic Games.

    • Kyle Chalmers of Australia won gold in 47:58; Pieter Timmers of Belgium, silver; Nathan Adrian of the USA, bronze.

    Rowing

    Poor Brazil, it can’t catch a break.

    Screen Shot 2016-08-10 at 9.45.22 PMBefore these Games began, you would’ve been hard-pressed to find a single commentator who did not express some foreboding over Zika, political chaos, terrorism, and/or sewage-infested waterways.

    Of course, similar concerns precede every Olympics, and they invariably prove unwarranted. They are proving so in Rio too – just as I predicted in “Political Chaos In Brazil Makes Zika Virus Least of Pre-Olympic Woes,” April 8, 2016. Hell, even the clear blue waters of the Diving pool mysteriously turning swampy green did not disrupt competition….

    But nobody anticipated Mother Nature pissing and passing wind with such fury that would make rowing impossible. Specifically, it turned what should have been flat, glistening waterways into white-water rapids.

    This forced organizers to cancel a full day of competition on Day 2 and again today. Yet they insist the medal rounds will begin tomorrow as scheduled … come what may?

    Fencing

    Chances are that the only thing you’ve heard or seen about Fencing was from NBC profiles of black female fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad of the USA. And, based on the ones I’ve seen, those profiles invariably focus more on her religious garb than fencing skill. Therefore, I suppose it’s fitting that she lost in the early rounds of Women’s Sabre Individual.

    Screen Shot 2016-08-10 at 9.47.53 PMMeanwhile, you’ve probably never heard of black male fencer Daryl Homer of the USA. Not least because NBC has given him less than ten percent of the coverage it has lavished on Muhammad. Perhaps things would be different if Homer were a Sikh who competes in a turban, the way Muhammad competes in a hijab….

    More to the point, though, while the media had cameras trained on Muhammad’s early loss, Homer was winning round after round in virtual obscurity. He reached the gold medal round in Men’s Sabre Individual tonight.

    I was really rooting for him. Unfortunately, he lost to the defending Olympic champion.

    • Aron Szilagyi of Hungary won gold; Daryl Homer of the USA, silver; and Kim Junghwan of the Republic of Korea, bronze.

    All the same, Homer’s silver represents the first Olympic medal any American has won in this sport since 1984.

    MEDAL COUNT: USA – 32; China – 23; Japan – 18

    Related commentaries:
    London Day 1
    London Day 6
    Pre-Olympic woes

  • Tuesday, August 9, 2016 at 11:17 PM

    Rio Olympics: Day 4

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Doping

    I wrote only yesterday that I see no point in commenting any further on doping among Russian athletes. But then I woke up to this “breaking news” on CBS This Morning:

    [D]oping expert Thomas Hoberman, who is based at the University of Texas, believed the IOC chose not to ban the entire Russian team because Russian President Vladimir Putin spent more than $50 billion on the Sochi Olympics, a record amount.

    Except that there’s nothing breaking or newsworthy about this expert’s insight.

    image (6)After all:

    Putin and his cronies used the $51-billion Sochi Olympics as an egregious kickback scheme. Nothing betrays this fact quite like Sochi already looking like a crumbling, desolate North-Korean settlement just weeks after the end of the Games.

    (“Prokhorov, Russian Owner of NBA Nets, Exposed,” The iPINIONS Journal, March 26, 2014)

    And:

    Putin probably has each IOC member on videotape accepting millions in bribes to award Russia the Sochi Olympics. If so, it would amount to professional suicide for the IOC to defy/betray him in this spectacular fashion.

    (“Clarion Call to Ban All Russian Athletes from Rio Olympics for Doping,” July 18, 2016)

    Enough said?

    Swimming

    michael-phelps-opponent-realizes-hes-been-beaten

    With that off my chest, it had to have been the most anticipated race of these Games: A London 2012 rematch between Michael Phelps of the USA and Chad le Clos of South Africa in the Men’s 200m Butterfly. Recall that le Clos shocked the world when he won that race by his fingernails. And he has seized every opportunity since to rub it in Phelps’s face.

    Well, here’s to Phelps’s redemption – as if he needed it.

    Screen Shot 2016-08-09 at 9.54.45 PM

    • Michael Phelps of the USA won gold in 1:53.36; Masato Sakai of Japan, silver; and Tamas Kenderisi of Hungary, bronze.

    That’s right; le Clos did not even make the podium. Having placed a disappointing 4th, he’ll be heading back to South Africa, with his tail between his legs, to eat a whole lot of humble pie.

    katie-ledecky-breaking-world-recordsIncidentally, in my Day 2 commentary, I hailed Katie Ledecky as the latest female Michael Phelps. Therefore, I would be remiss not to acknowledge that she is actually living up to that acclaim with a spectacular swim in the Women’s 200m Freestyle.

    • Katie Ledecky of the USA won gold in 1:53.73; Sarah Sjostrom of Sweden, silver; Emma MCKeon of Australia, bronze.

    In fact, Ledecky is competing with Katinka Hosszu of Hungary for acclaim as the most decorated female competitor at these Games.

    Speaking of Hosszu, in my Day 1 commentary, I insinuated that her swimming at these Games seems as fueled by performance-enhancing drugs as Marion Jones’s running at Sydney 2000 turned out to be.

    After cruising to victory in the Women’s 400m Individual Medley on Day 1, and again in the Women’s 100m Backstroke on Day 2, she continued her dominating ways tonight in the Women’s 200m Individual Medley.

    • Katinka Hosszu of Hungary won gold and set a new Olympic Record in 2:06.58; Siobhan-Marie O’Connor of Great Britain, silver; and Madeline Dirado of the USA, bronze.

    370538FE00000578-3730686-image-m-53_1470714820052

    What’s more, NBC analyst Rowdy Gaines insisted that she would have won gold in the Women’s 200m Butterfly too. But Hosszu started tongues wagging this morning when she failed to show up for the preliminary round. The media are still trying to determine why….

    Gaines, who won three gold medals in Swimming at Los Angeles 1984, speculated that she decided to forego gold in this event to ensure gold in the 200m Individual medley. But this makes about as much sense as Michael Phelps deciding to forego gold in one event at Beijing 2008 to ensure gold in another, and being satisfied with seven instead of his record-breaking eight gold medals.

    Interestingly enough, Gaines also speculated that Phelps would forego gold in tonight’s Men’s 4x200m Relay to ensure gold in the 200m Butterfly. He did not, and raised his Olympic haul to 21 golds.

    • Team USA (with Conor Dwyer, Francis Haas, Ryan Lochte, and Michael Phelps) won gold in 7:00.66; Team Great Britain, silver; Team Japan, bronze.

    Frankly, I suspect Hosszu was just trying limit media scrutiny about her enhanced performance; scrutiny that increases with each improbable win. Alas, only time will tell if my insinuation about her … “Jonesing” was justified.

    Never mind that her muscle-bound husband/coach is already imputing guilt by relationship. I urge you to watch one of Hosszu’s races; because he’s truly something to behold.

    3705A35600000578-3730686-image-a-56_1470714892932He seems to think fans are more interested in watching his roid-rage antics in the stands than her (allegedly) drug-fueled swims in the pool.

    In fact, fans at every meet invariably complain about his “violent behavior.” Yet one can hardly blame him; after all, NBC covers him almost as much during her races.

    Except that it was this coverage that compelled me to wonder if Hosszu developed her sudden speed the way he developed his antic rage. Especially as I listened to NBC commentator Dan Hicks credit him as:

    The guy responsible for turning his wife into a whole different swimmer.

    If that isn’t an unwitting insinuation of doping, I don’t know what is. Yet the only thing Hicks has been forced to clarify is its plainly sexist implication.

    Equestrian

    I appreciate that many of you don’t know Dressage from corsage. And I lost much of my fondness for horse riding years ago after my horse, forebodingly named Spectre, threw me and I nearly broke my neck. I know: you’re supposed to get right back on. But images of a paralyzed Christopher Reeve proved too inhibiting.

    Screen Shot 2016-08-09 at 4.01.22 PMNevertheless, I really enjoy watching Eventing, which includes Dressage, Cross Country, and Jumping. But I enjoy watching Polo too. It is not an Olympic sport, however. And, for the same reason, I don’t think Eventing should be: it’s a rich man’s sport.

    More to the point, success depends almost as much on the nature of the horse as it does on the skill of the rider. The mere fact that one has to be rich or have a patron to participate makes a mockery of the egalitarian spirit of the Olympics.

    This in part is why I argued in my Day 1 commentary that, instead of adding sports, like Golf, the IOC should get rid of some, like Equestrian.

    That said, given how much I enjoyed watching, I feel obliged to acknowledge that the first medals were awarded today. They came in Eventing Team Jumping:

    • Team France won gold; Team Germany, silver; Team Australia, bronze.

    Gymnastics

    I could heap no higher praise on the USA women’s team than to hail it as heir apparent to the once-dominant Romanian women’s team – as I did in my Day 2 commentary. I also wrote that the only thing worth commenting on for the rest of these Games is its medal haul.

    Accordingly, here is how this team fared tonight in the Women’s Team event:

    Screen Shot 2016-08-09 at 5.54.51 PM

    • Team USA won gold by a record margin; Team Russia, silver; and Team China, bronze.

    This is the first USA team (women or men) to win back-to-back gold. And now its members will pursue individual gold and glory in the All-Around and Event finals.

    Meanwhile, the USA men’s team duly vindicated my decision to ignore them:

    While the United States women remain a shining example of gymnastics in their sport, the men continue to fall short of the global elite.

    After an inconsistent Sunday, the United States men’s gymnastics team couldn’t rally to medal during the final competition on Monday.

    The U.S. has not medaled in men’s team gymnastics since the 1996 Games in Atlanta, and haven’t won gold since 1984 in Los Angeles.

    (CBS, August 9, 2016)

    They placed 5th.

    Table Tennis

    I thought I was pretty good at Table Tennis. But watching these Olympians (men and women) play made me realize that my game is to tricycle as theirs is to bicycle (if not motorbike).

    China dominates Table Tennis the way it dominates Diving; so much so that the best players on many other teams, including Team USA, are of Chinese descent.

    FUKUHARA-Ai-JPN-1But a little suspense is afoot. Because Ai Fukuhara of Japan is poised to disrupt China’s dominance in Women’s Table Tennis at the Games the way David Boudia of the USA disrupted its dominance in Men’s Diving at London 2012.

    In fact, she’s rolling over players like no Chinese player ever has. I watched her dispatch Feng Tianwei of Singapore in four-straight games today to continue her remarkable streak of matches without losing a single game.

    She faces a Chinese player in semifinal 2 tomorrow, and would likely face another Chinese player if she continues on to the final tomorrow night. Go Ai!

    Water Polo

    57ab92231700002600c726e9You’d be forgiven for thinking that the Marathon, Triathlon or Cycling Road Race is the most grueling Olympic sport. But Water Polo must be a bona fide contender.

    Players must not only have the stamina those sports demand (with non-stop swimming or treading water), but also be able to take the physical blows sports like Boxing, Wrestling, and Judo inflict. And the women seem every bit as durable and physical as the men.

    Like Basketball, Soccer, and Volleyball, which have preliminary rounds and single elimination, medals in this sport will be awarded over the last days of these Games.

    MEDAL COUNT: USA – 26; China – 17; Japan – 14

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