The iPINIONS Journal


  • 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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    Hillary the nominee
    Hillary the sec of state
    Yele

    * 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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    Migrants Mediterranean Sea

  • 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

    Related commentaries:
    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

  • Monday, August 8, 2016 at 11:10 PM

    Rio Olympics: Day 3

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Swimming

    The entire aquatics venue greeted the Russian Men’s 4x100m Freestyle Relay team with resounding boos last night. International media have been saturated with reports about doping among Russian athletes in recent months. Therefore, the boos were hardly surprising, and Russian athletes must expect no less at this point.

    Screen Shot 2016-08-08 at 9.04.43 AMWhat was surprising, however, was watching Lilly King of the USA air her suspicions during a live, poolside interview. Specifically, she vented disgust that her chief rival in tonight’s Women’s 100m Breaststroke, Yulia Efimova, has been allowed to compete.

    Efimova was one of seven swimmers initially banned from the Olympics after the IOC ruled that no Russian athletes who had received past doping bans would be allowed to compete.

    The 24-year-old has previously received a 16-month suspension after testing positive for anabolic steroids and was this year cleared by FINA, swimming’s world governing body, after testing positive for meldonium.

    Yet somewhat astonishingly, Efimova was still cleared to compete by FINA and the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

    (London Telegraph, August 8, 2016)

    587578774Interestingly enough, nothing indicates how unwelcome Team Russia is at these Games quite like Philip Craven, president of the International Paralympic Committee (IOC), upstaging and shaming the IOC by announcing a complete ban on all Russian athletes from the Paralympic Games in Rio next month:

    The Russian government has catastrophically failed its para-athletes. Their ‘medals over morals’ mentality disgusts me. The complete corruption of the anti-doping system is contrary to the rules and strikes at the very heart of the spirit of Paralympic sport.

    (BBC, August 8, 2016)

    No words could be more damning, no sanction more severe.

    But I’ve written all I care to on the scourge of doping in sports. I refer you to such commentaries as “IOC failure to Ban Russia Proves It’s in Putin’s Pocket,” July 25, 2016, “In Putin’s Russia Even Athletics Is a Criminal (Doping) Enterprise,” November 9, 2015, “Now Tyson Gay et al: Drugs as Rampant in Track as in Cycling,” July 16, 2013, and “A Plea for Landis, Gatlin, et al: Legalize Drugs…Especially in Sports,” August 3, 2006.

    Except that I feel constrained to reiterate that the Russian government only did for its athletes what far too many coaches around the world do for theirs. And I hope the sporting irony, if not moral injustice, is not lost on anyone that, if this paralympic ban stands, Russia’s physically disabled athletes will be paying for the sins of its able-bodied athletes, as well as those of its corrupt government.

    The hypocrisy and cravenness would be laughable if doping in sports were not so contemptible … in so many respects.

    Screen Shot 2016-08-08 at 9.54.18 PM

    That said, Lilly King seemed to relish the chance to rise above her disgust and vindicate clean athletes in the Women’s 100m Breaststroke. She had to have been inspired by Mack Horton of Australia – who denounced Sun Yang of China last night as a “drug cheat” and then proceeded to kick his ass to win gold in the Men’s 400m Freestyle. Well, hail to the “King”:

    • Lilly King of the USA won gold in 1:04.93; Yulia Efimova of Russia, silver; and Catherine Miele of the USA, bronze.

    As it happens, the only other final of note, the Men’s 200m Freestyle, featured Yang swimming to avenge that loss and show that cheaters often prosper. He did.

    • Sun Yang of China won gold in 1:44.65 ; Chad Le Clos of South Africa, silver; and Conor Dwyer of the USA, bronze.

    Fencing

    Not since The Princess Bride has fencing been so popular in the United States. And it has everything to do with Ibtihaj Muhammad.

    Ibtihaj-Muhammad (1)

    Would that her popularity had everything to do with her athletic parrying. Unfortunately, it has almost as much to do with her religious garb. She is the first American to compete in the Olympics wearing a hijab.

    Screen Shot 2016-08-08 at 11.48.58 AMNo doubt you’ve seen her in one of those terrific athlete profiles NBC features. In her case, it was interesting to see the New Jersey-born Muhammad explain that she chose Fencing because all athletes compete covered in armor from head to toe.

    Never mind the statement Egyptian Beach Volleyball players are making in Rio by competing fully covered, complete with hijab, against players who would be completely naked if they were any more scantily clad. I recall Saudi Track and Field athletes making a similar statement when they competed in similar fashion at London 2012.

    Alas, a French competitor jabbed Muhammad out of medal contention today, denying her the first opportunity to honor President Obama’s challenge for her to bring home the gold. She will have a second and final opportunity when she competes in the Team event later this week.

    Judo

    I see no reason for including Boxing in the Olympics but excluding more pugilistic martial arts like Karate, Muy Thai, or even MMA. Instead, we have Judo and Taekwondo, which look like variant strains of Greco-Roman wrestling.

    Screen Shot 2016-08-08 at 6.35.00 PMThat aside, I have two compelling reasons for commenting:

    The first is to hail Rafaela Silva for winning the first gold medal of these Games for host nation Brazil. The symbolism of this favela-dwelling, black athlete making this nation proud cannot be overstated. Especially given Silva’s documented complaints about the systemic racism and chronic hardship she’s had to overcome throughout her career.

    In any event, she defeated Sumiya Dorjsuren of Mongolia in the 57kg final. Never mind that their match looked more like mud wrestling … without the frolicking mud and titillating garb.

    The second is to damn Saudi Arabia for this:

    A Saudi judo competitor forfeited her first round match at the Olympic Games to avoid going up against a rival from Israel, it has been claimed.

    Joud Fahmy was supposed to have taken on Christianne Legentil from Mauritius for the right to take on Israel’s Gili Cohen in the next round.

    But before the clash, Saudi officials tweeted that she had injured her arm and leg during training and that medics had told her to pull out.

    (London Daily Mail, August 8, 2016)

    This clearly makes a mockery of the Olympic spirit. It also defies the motto that sports transcend politics.

    57a69c5bc36188624c8b4567Worse still, though, this self-defeating Saudi was only acting in accordance with a shameful legacy of religious bigotry against Jews, which too often constrains athletes from Muslim countries to forfeit their Olympic dreams.

    As the opening of the London Olympics approaches, and Israel is concerned that its athletes might be the target of a terror attack, some Arab states are more worried not only that the lottery will pit their athletes against Israeli competitors, but also that their representatives will have to stand next to Israelis on the podium if they win a medal.

    (YNet News, July 12, 2012)

    How stupid! How sad….

    For a little perspective, it might help you to know that I’d be utterly shocked if any Muslim athlete from the United States, like featured Fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad, ever refused to compete against a Jewish one from Israel.

    Related commentaries:
    Clarion call to ban Russians
    Putin’s Russia
    Now Tyson et al

    MEDAL COUNT: USA – 19; China – 13; Japan – 10

  • Sunday, August 7, 2016 at 11:47 PM

    Rio Olympics: Day 2

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Cycling

    I pissed all over the Men’s Road Race yesterday because of the way doping scandals have rendered every competitor a suspected cheat.

    Therefore, I feel obliged to note that women are dopers too. In fact, Marion Jones is as notorious in this respect as Lance Armstrong. But there’s no denying that, in the annals of Olympic doping, men probably outnumber women 1000:1.

    armitstead-cropped_14aqh4jpn3ook1p0oe384se2wcThat said, I fully expected Lizzie Armistead of Great Britain to be my favorite to win the Women’s Road Race today. Never mind that this was based on nothing more than the heartbreaking way she lost this race by the skin of her teeth before her home crowd at London 2012. And, because no athlete is more revered in Britain quite like a heartbreak loser, she became an instant national hero.

    Unfortunately, Armistead has been dogged by doping allegations ever since:

    Barely a moment ago, it was Russia’s athletes, with their state-sponsored drugs cheating, who were the talk of the Games.

    How regrettable then, that the spotlight has swung over to the Yorkshire lass who, in the space of a year, has missed three drugs tests and yet is competing in Rio, having avoided a ban for the mandatory period of two years.

    (Daily Mail, August 6, 2016)

    Talk about fishy; not to mention how her name conjures up axe murders and slave-ship mutinies.

    cheCeYumMeanwhile, as an uncompromising feminist, I resent that the women’s race is only 85 miles. After all, the men’s was 150. Frankly, only old-fashioned chauvinism explains requiring women to run 13 miles in the Olympic Marathon, while requiring men to run 26.2. The same holds for requiring women to play best of three sets in Grand Slam Tennis, while requiring the men to play best of five.

    As for the race itself, it played out pretty much as the men’s did yesterday – complete with similar vistas and crashes (except the more risk averse women suffered far fewer of them, naturally).

    I should clarify here that I will invariably base my occasional declaration of favorites either on sentimentality, as in this case, or jingoism, whenever a race features an athlete from the Caribbean, especially the country of my birth, The Bahamas.

    Accordingly, my new favorite for this race was Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio of South Africa, home to many personal friends and professional colleagues. She finished a respectable 10th. My old favorite, Lizzie Armistead of Britain, finished 5th.

    36FAE8A500000578-3728306-image-a-58_1470597829035But oh the agony of defeat for Mara Abbott of the USA! She had what appeared to be an insurmountable 30-second lead with less than 2 miles to go. Yet, with just 200 yards to go (i.e., when she could feel the thrill of victory), three bikers came storming by. Abbott could do nothing. She barely peddled on to finish 4th.

    • Anna Van Der Breggen of the Netherlands won gold in 3:51:27; Emma Johansson of Sweden, silver; and Elisa Longo Borghini of Italy, bronze.

    Diving

    08DIVING-blog427The Chinese women proved once again why China is as dominant in Diving as the USA is in Basketball. They got off to a flying start today in this sport’s first medal event, the Women’s Synchronized 3m Springboard.

    Truth be told, the only question is whether any diver will emulate David Boudia of the USA and Ilya Zakharov of Russia – who denied the Chinese gold in all 8 Diving events at London 2012 with stunning upsets in the Men’s 10m Platform and 3m Springboard, respectively.

    8c89a590f56c118965d501I was rooting for Jennifer Abel and Pamela Ware of Canada – in Commonwealth as well as racial solidarity (as Abel was the only black among 16 finalists). But I could not have been more pleased to see China’s Wu Minxia, the grande dame of this sport, bow out in Phelpsian style:

    Wu claimed her fourth consecutive gold in 3-meter synchro, becoming the first woman to win four golds in the same event at the Olympics. She also won in 2004, 2008 and 2012, and has had three different partners.

    Wu, 30, also made history as the first diver to win five career golds, having won the 3-meter individual event four years ago in London. She won’t defend that title in Rio.

    (New York Times, August 7, 2016)

    • Shi Tingmao and Wu Minxia of China won gold; Tania Cagnotto and Francesca Dallape’ of Italy, silver; and Madison Keeney and Anabelle Smith of Australia, bronze.

    Basketball

    Screen Shot 2016-08-07 at 6.34.09 PMGiven my reference above to USA dream teams, I feel obliged to at least acknowledge that this latest version is rolling through the preliminary rounds – just like predecessor teams did. This team, led by Kevin Durant (now) of the Golden State Warriors and Kyrie Irving of the Cleveland Cavaliers, defeated China yesterday 119-62.

    The USA women’s teams are not nearly as well known and none has ever declared itself a dream team. But they have been no less dominant. This team, led by Brittney Griner and Diana Taurasi both of the Phoenix Mercury, got off to a dream start, defeating Senegal today 121-56.

    As with the practically invincible Chinese divers, there’s probably no point in commenting on the exploits of USA Basketball teams any further … unless they suffer an upset.

    Gymnastics

    Screen Shot 2016-08-10 at 10.56.01 AMRemarkably, the USA women, defending champions in the Team event, are poised to dominate this sport the way the Romanian women used to. Granted this probably has a lot to do with the fact that all of Romania’s best coaches have immigrated to the United States. Most notable among them of course are Bela and Martha Karolyi: the former, the ebullient face of USA gymnastics since 1981; the latter, the technical groomer of champions.

    Martha has announced her intent to retire after these Games to join Bela — who retired in 1999.

    The U.S. women’s gymnastics team walked out of the arena after their qualification round in Rio on Sunday the prohibitive favorites to take home team gold. London veteran Aly Raisman and once-in-a-generation phenom Simone Biles earned spots in the All-Around final. The U.S. stands to win a medal in every single event final, with at least one gymnast qualifying on vault, bars, beam and floor.

    (Reuters, August 7, 2016)

    I’m not sure anything else needs to be said; except here’s to counting gold…? Well, even though Team gold seems assured, I expect gymnasts from Russia and Romania to put up quite a fight for gold in the event finals.

    636061879729468842-USP-Olympics--Gymnastics-Women-s-QualificationsBut I would be remiss not to acknowledge the equally remarkable dynamics between Gabby Douglas, the defending champion in the All-Around event, and Simone Biles, the three-time World Champion. For it seems Douglas can barely contain her resentment over the fact that Biles has not only replaced her as the darling of their sport, but is destined to dethrone her at these Games. I suspect failing to even qualify along with Biles for the All-Around only compounds her resentment.

    But Douglas needs to get over herself. After all, four years ago, I was pleading with corporate sponsors to give her the same commercial opportunities they gave Mary Lou Retton after she won the All-Around at Los Angeles 1984. Well, she has exploited those opportunities so shrewdly, she has earned the nickname “Gabby incorporated” – with everything from Gabby dolls to Gabby emojis raking in the dough.

    What’s more, it’s a measure of her pioneering influence in this respect that Biles came into these Games with nearly as many commercial endorsements herself….

    IF

    That said, I cannot resist noting that this team is not only the most talented but also the most racially diverse ever:

    Simone Biles, Aly Raisman, Gabby Douglas, Madison Kocian, and Laurie Hernandez make up the most racially and ethnically diverse group of Olympic athletes in the team’s history. Biles and Douglas are African American. Hernandez, whose mother describes her as a ‘second generation Puerto Rican,’ identifies as Latina, Kocian and Raisman (who is Jewish) are both white.

    (Vox, August 5, 2016)

    Incidentally, you might think fairness dictates that I comment on the USA men’s team. You might think that, but I could not possibly comment.

    Swimming

    Michael Phelps finally made his highly anticipated debut. And he was not only golden but produced the most thrilling swim of the meet thus far, giving his team an insurmountable lead (aka “clear water”) after swimming the second leg of the Men’s 4x100m Freestyle Relay.

    phelps-4x100m-free-relay-rio-olympics-swimming_webf-41

    • Team USA (with Caeleb Dressel, Michael Phelps, Ryan Held and Nathan Adrian) won gold in 3:09.92; Team France, silver; and Team Australia, bronze.

    And so Phelps’s haul of Olympic medals continues: one more gold makes 23, 19 of them gold.

    unnamed-8-800x533

    Other races of note included the Women’s 100m Butterfly, which happens to be my favorite event. I was rooting for Dana Vollmer to not only defend her title but also vindicate her relatively advanced age (28) and “Momma on a mission” mantra (she has a 15-month-old son).

    • Sarah Sjostrom of Sweden won gold and set a new World Record in 55.48; Penny Oleksiak of Canada, silver; and Dana Vollmer of the USA, bronze.

    Katie Ledecky is the latest to assume the awesome challenge of becoming the female Michael Phelps.

    So much for Missy Franklin becoming the female Michael Phelps by winning seven gold medals… I warned in my commentary on the U.S. trials about the precedent Katie Hoff set when she was touted as the female Michael Phelps in 2008: she did not win a single event. But I think Missy will fare better….

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

    MTZSPDEC71NOKS0E_768x432Franklin did in fact fare better, but she fell far short of that acclaim.

    But Ledecky is off to a pretty good start, having anchored the Women’s 4x100m Freestyle Relay to silver on Day 1. She did one better tonight in the Women’s 400m Freestyle.

    • Katie Ledecky of the USA won gold and set a new World Record in 3:35.46; Jazz Carlin of Great Britain, silver; Leah Smith of USA, bronze.

    MEDAL COUNT: USA – 12; China – 8; Italy – 7

  • Saturday, August 6, 2016 at 11:37 PM

    Rio Olympics: Day 1

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    df4090dbbe5e1039de1dc4c590a2755eOver the next 16 days, athletes will compete in 41 sports — from Archery to Wrestling. This is up from 32 in 2012.

    But am I the only one who fears diminishing returns? Nothing indicates this quite like so many top golfers snubbing their sport’s return to the Olympics after 112 years. I decried this in “Withdrawing from Olympics Over Zika a Betrayal of Olympic Spirit and National Pride,” July 2, 2016.

    And can someone explain the appeal of Handball? I get that it’s like Water Polo on land. But, like Curling, Handball strikes me as no more worthy of Olympic competition than Netball or Croquet.

    In any event, even though I shall be indiscriminate in my viewing (on TV and online), I shall be very discriminate in my commenting here. It might be helpful to know that my favorite sports are Swimming, Track and Field, and (women’s) Gymnastics … in that order.

    Which brings me to another quadrennial pet peeve:

    I find it more than a little difficult to reconcile all of the Chinese hype about these Olympic Games being such a source of national pride with all of the empty seats at so many events.

    (“Beijing Olympics,” The iPINIONS Journal, August 15, 2008)

    I am heartened that the Brazilians in 2016 are doing a slightly better job than the Chinese in 2008 and Britons in 2012 of ensuring that Olympians are not competing in virtually empty venues. That’s not saying much, but it’s all the more remarkable considering how many Brazilians are still protesting against hosting these Games.

    Cycling

    The Men’s Road Race is usually among the first medal events. But, given so many doping scandals in recent years, beginning with Lance Armstrong, cycling seems unworthy of retaining this vanguard position.

    Screen Shot 2016-08-06 at 7.21.11 PMIn fact, this race’s only redeeming feature now is the scenic views it provides of host cities. And, with all due respect to Beijing and London, Rio takes the gold in this respect – with its invigorating vistas along beachfronts and city streets and deep into botanical gardens and rain forests.

    Still, there’s no denying the suspense and thrill of watching bikers crash along the way; and many did. To be fair, it’s an indication of how “savage” the course is that 71 of the 134 bikers did not finish (DNF). They either crashed or conked out.

    But road racing must have the most rabid fans of any sport. Only this explains so many of them running along the course and shouting at bikers like stray dogs running along the road and barking at cars.

    In any event, Britons expected their compatriot Chris Froome to “cap a perfect summer” by winning Olympic gold in the six-hour, 150-mile Men’s Road Race, after winning the 21-day Tour de France last month. He did not, and it wasn’t even close. He finished 12th.

    I was rooting for Richie Porte of Australia – wholly in solidarity with an Aussie mate. But he crashed out.

    • Greg Van Avermaet of Belgium won gold in 6:10:05; Jakob Fuglsang of Denmark, silver; and Rafa Majka of Poland, bronze.

    Archery

    2016 Rio Olympics - Archery - Men's Individual Ranking RoundWho knew Archery could be so competitive and exciting?! But what does it say about an Olympic sport that its best athletes sport more beer bellies than six packs? Thank God none of these latter-day Robin Hoods were … men in tights.

    Anyway, I watched the USA shoot it out against South Korea for gold in the Men’s Team event. That the USA knocked South Korea out of the gold-medal round at London 2012, and that South Korea came into these Games as the top-ranked team in the world, heightened the drama considerably. I was rooting for the USA.

    • South Korea won gold; the USA, silver (again, having lost gold to Italy in 2012); and Australia, bronze.

    Women’s Beach Volleyball

    Forgive me, but I have to begin with this abiding pet peeve: I am truly dismayed that the IOC allows women Beach Volleyball players to compete dressed (or undressed) more like pole dancers than athletes.

    Screen Shot 2016-08-06 at 7.37.17 PMThe rationale seems to be that, because they play on the beach, players should don beachwear. Hence players wearing bikini bottoms that look only slightly more modest than thongs.

    For the integrity of their sport, however, Beach Volleyball players should be required to dress the way their indoor Volleyball sisters do, namely in form-fitting clothing that at least seems more suited for athletic competition than priapic titillation. And, for what it’s worth, the indoor players are not only every bit as attractive, their game is even more exciting to watch.

    Unfortunately, the sexualizing of female athletes, by female athletes themselves no less, is becoming so pervasive that, instead of beach players dressing more like indoor players, many indoor players are dressing like pole dancers too.

    Mind you, I doubt any self-respecting female sports fan would want to watch male athletes playing Beach Volleyball wearing nothing but speedos. What’s more, these same female Beach Volleyball players probably wonder why so many men still treat women as sex objects … no matter the context.

    Anyway, I did my best to focus on athletics rather than aesthetics as I watched host country Brazil defeat the Czech Republic in a preliminary (Pool B) round.

    Swimming

    Michael Phelps is the most decorated Olympian of all time – with 22 medals composed of 18 golds, 2 silvers, and 2 bronzes. Therefore, every other swimmer must fully appreciate that he’s the main attraction not only in this sport but at the whole Games.

    eY6jRVrUI doubt he’ll match his haul of 4 golds and 2 silvers from London 2012, let alone the 8 golds from Beijing 2008. But any medal now is just icing on the cake. Yet I’d bet my life savings that he’ll come away with at least 4, including at least 2 golds, which for any other Olympian would be the haul of a lifetime. The wide world of sports is waiting with bated breath.

    I’m sure there will be many other exciting races – complete with new Olympic and World records. But I fear all of them will play out like undercards before the main event (i.e., any race featuring Michael Phelps).

    This is the decidedly non-Olympic spirit with which I tuned in earlier to watch a Phelpsless night of swimming. There were four event finals, but only two are really worthy of comment: Men’s 400m Freestyle and the Women’s 400m Individual Medley.

    00c328d3a566f4e387330a73ffef51b5Not least because of this:

    Thoughts of juiced-up East Germans came to mind when Sun Yang’s first-ever win for a Chinese male swimmer in the Men’s 400m Freestyle (shattering the Olympic record) was followed in short order by Ye Shiwen’s win in the Women’s 400m Individual Medley (shattering the world record).

    The lithe-bodied Chinese dominating the world in the graceful sport of Diving is one thing; but in the grueling sport of Swimming? Something smells … fishy.

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

    As it happens, I was vindicated in 2014 when Chinese anti-doping authorities sanctioned Sun Yang for doping; albeit under circumstances so mysterious no international anti-doping agency fully understands them to this day.

    Yet there he was; poised to defend his title in the Men’s 400m Freestyle. Except that:

    • Mack Horton of Australia won gold in 3:41.55; Sun Yang of China, silver; and Gabriele Dettit of Italy, bronze.

    Ironically, the circumstances surrounding Ye Shiwen since London are even more mysterious. But I see no point in delving into them. Instead, I shall suffice to note that she’s clearly no longer on the juice. Because she failed to defend her title in the Women’s 400m Individual Medley in a fashion every bit as stunning as when she won it. She placed 27th in the heats, ending up way out of qualifying position for this final.

    Screen Shot 2016-08-08 at 12.30.45 AMNever mind that the way Katinka Hosszu blew away Ye Shiwen’s world record tonight is every bit as suspicious as the way Shiwen set it four years ago.  I’m just sayin….

    • Katinka “Iron Lady” Hosszu of Hungary won gold in 4:26.36; Madeline DiRado of the USA, silver; and Mireia Garcia Belmonte of Spain, bronze.

    kosuke-hagino-ap-rio-olympics-swimming_webf-5Incidentally, it’s early days but I feel constrained to note that Japanese swimmers are performing in Rio the way Chinese swimmers performed in London.

    For example, in the Men’s 400m Individual Medley, which I referenced in yesterday’s commentary, highlighting the way this event humbled former champions Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte:

    Kosuke Hagino of Japan won gold in 4:06.05; Phelps’s protégé Chase Kalisz of the USA, silver; and Daiya Seto also of Japan, bronze.

    I’m reserving judgment, but I’ll be keeping a hairy eyeball on them.

    Rifle Shooting

    20870019-mmmain

    I am giving this sport honorable mention only because it handed out the first gold medal of these Games – in Women’s 10m Air Rifle.

    • Ginny Thrasher of the USA won gold; Du Li of China, silver; and Yi Siling of China, bronze.

    MEDAL COUNT: USA – 5; China – 5; Japan– 5

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