Tuesday, July 31, 2012 at 6:44 PM
Here is what I published within hours after Ye Shiwen of China blew away the field in the women’s 400 individual medley on Day 1:
[T]houghts 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 Yi 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.
(“Day 1,” The iPINIONS Journal, July 28, 2012)
Ryan Lochte knocked Olympic icon Michael Phelps off his perch on Saturday with a brilliant performance to win the men’s 400m individual medley.
But just minutes later, in the women’s version of the event, a 16-year-old Chinese prodigy performed an even more amazing feat as she smashed the world record and left her competitors far behind. Ye Shiwen posted such a good time that her final 50m was in fact faster than Lochte’s performance in the men’s event, at just 28.93 seconds.
Her achievement was so unprecedented that it even led some broadcasters to question whether Ye had benefited from underhand practices.
(Daily Mail, July 29, 2012)
The problem of course is that, just as Lance Armstrong is alleged to have done, Ye appears to have taken masking agents that conceal her performance-enhancing drugs. This is why, like him, she has already passed the doping test she was mandated to take right after her race. But, like him, she’s not fooling anyone.
As dominant as the Chinese were in winning gold in the men’s team yesterday, the Americans were in winning gold in the women’s team today — posting a score of 183.596. In fact, the defending Olympic champion Chinese did not even medal. The Russians took silver with 179.530; the Romanians, bronze with 176.414.
The undisputed superstar was Gabby Douglas, the only gymnast whose performance was good enough to score points for the USA on each of the four apparatuses: vault, uneven bars, beam, and floor exercise. I just hope she gets at least half the credit and commercial endorsements Mary Lou Retton got when she led the USA to gold in women’s team in Atlanta 16 years ago.
In the meantime, this result will undoubtedly provide some measure of redemption for the way the Americans fell apart in men’s team yesterday.
In what will probably be deemed the biggest upset of these Games, Chad le Clos of South Africa defeated Phelps in his signature event, the men’s 200m butterfly. What’s more, le Clos turned Phelps’s own Beijing magic — of winning gold by a fingertip — on him, making this the second time Phelps has suffered this fateful irony in London. He settled for silver; Takeshi Matsuda of Japan won bronze.
Alas, this silver also means that Phelps lost this opportunity to join only two other swimmers who have won gold in the same individual event at three Olympic Games.
Nevertheless, this medal coupled with his gold from today’s 4x200m freestyle relay and silver from Sunday’s 4x100m freestyle relay made Phelps the most decorated Olympian in history, surpassing Soviet gymnast Larisa Latynina who had 18 medals. Phelps now has 19: 15 gold, 2 silver, and 2 bronze. And he has three more opportunities to pad his record in this respect.
Yet there’s no gainsaying that his reputation, perhaps even this stellar legacy, will be tarnished somewhat if he comes out of these Olympics without winning gold in a single individual event.
That said, I cannot help feeling like something of a soothsayer, having warned/predicted that Phelps’s Olympics would be thus:
Since being defeated at the outset in this energy-sapping and potentially ego-deflating event [the 400m individual medley] could ruin his chance at gold in every other event, it would not surprise me if Phelps decides to withdraw.
(“Olympic Trials: Preview of Exciting Feats to Come,” The iPINIONS Journal, July 2, 2012)
I suspect he fears, and I predict, that if he were to lose this first head-to-head matchup with team rival Ryan Lochte, his confidence and aura of invincibility would be so sapped that he’d be lucky to win gold in half of his remaining events.
(“London Olympics Opening Ceremony,” The iPINIONS Journal, July 27, 2012)
Meanwhile, Ye followed up her win in the women’s 400m individual medley with another in the 200m individual medley in equally dominant (i.e., suspicious) fashion. Alicia Coutts of Australia won silver; Caitlin Leverenz of the USA, bronze.
Unfortunately, Missy Franklin failed even in her modified Phelpsian quest to win gold in all of her individual events by coming in fourth in the women’s 200m freestyle. Her USA teammate Allison Schmitt won gold; Camille Muffat of France, silver; and Bronte Barratt of Australia, bronze.
Ping pong & Shooting
I always thought I was a pretty good ping pong player. After watching these Olympians (men and women) go at it, however, I now realize that my game is to tricycle as theirs is to bicycle. But it’s very encouraging indeed to see that non-Asians can play at this level too.
More begrudgingly, I suppose gun fanatics in the United States can claim some vindication from Americans winning gold in men and women’s skeet shooting. In fact, throughout the history of the Games, the USA has won almost twice as many medals in shooting as its nearest rival.
MEDAL COUNT: China: 23; USA 23, Japan 13