Monday, August 6, 2012 at 6:41 PM
Not since the Montreal Games in 1976, when larger-than-life Vasiliy Ivanovich Alekseyev of the Soviet Union commanded rock-star attention, has there been so much interest in Olympic weightlifting. Unfortunately, the person generating that kind of interest at the London Games is not even competing.
Instead, the media have turned NFL player Nick Mangold’s absurd dithering over leaving training camp in New York for a day to see his “little” sister Holley compete into a Shakespearean drama. By instructive comparison, MLS player David Beckham made news recently by flying between Los Angeles and London three times in one week just to promote these Games.
It’s too bad that – in the full glare of publicity no weightlifter alive has ever experienced – Holley could only lift her way to a 10th place finish (yesterday) in the women’s over 165-pound class. But the greater disappointment is that it took her brother’s coach, Rex Ryan of the New York Jets, to get him to see the importance of flying over to support her. No doubt this will become a classic example of the self-absorbed and distorted sense of priorities that define millionaire professional athletes these days.
For the record, the 350-pound Holley lifted 235 pounds in the snatch and 297 pounds in the clean and jerk. The winner, Lulu Zhou of China, lifted 322 pounds and 412 pounds, respectively. Tatiana Kashinrina of Russia won silver; Hripsime Khurshudyan of Armenia, bronze.
Track and Field
“Field” is clearly the underappreciated step-brother of “Track” in this sport. As a case in point, I challenge you to name the winner of a single field event from the 2008 Beijing Games…?
Well, I quite enjoyed watching the athletes competing in the women’s pole vault soar to great heights with ease and grace. Okay, so a few of them have really hot bods! But it was Jenn Suhr of the USA who vaulted to gold, denying two-time defending Olympic champion Yelena Isinbayeva of Russia a three-peat feat; Yarisley Silva of Cuba took silver; Isinbayeva settled for bronze.
And because Suhr’s Olympian feat will probably stay in your memory about as long as Mexican food stays in your belly, I’ll add that she is to pole vaulting what Elisa Di Francisca of Italy is to fencing: that rare athlete whose prowess on the field is matched by her beauty off it. (If you don’t believe me, google them.)
Meanwhile, until tonight Kirani James of Grenada was most famous for being the athlete who asked double-amputee Oscar Pistorius of South Africa (the so-called Blade Runner) for his Olympic bib after their semifinal heat yesterday in the men’s 400m.
James won the heat and Pistorius came in last. But James endeared himself to the world when he revealed that he asked for the bib to show his respect and admiration for Pistorious’s history-making participation in these, as opposed to the Paralympic Games.
Well, he followed up that remarkable gesture of sportsmanship today with a remarkable display of athleticism by winning gold in this event in Bolt-like fashion. This is the first-ever gold in any sport in Olympic history for Grenada. Therefore, to say that it will make James a national hero is an understatement. Luguelin Santos of the Dominican Republic won silver; Lalonde Gordon of Trinidad and Tobago, bronze.
My regional pride compels me to note that this amounts to a Caribbean sweep, which is made all the more sweet when I add fourth place finisher Chris Brown of The Bahamas, my country of birth!
But there’s more, because Felix Sanchez of the Dominican Republic won the men’s 400m hurdles, making it clear that Bolt and Blake are only the tip of the spear where Caribbean prowess in this sport is concerned. Michael Tinsley of the USA won silver; Javier Culson of Puerto Rico, bronze. Team USA swept this race in Beijing.
Incidentally, Angelo Taylor was the heavily featured, if not the heavily favored, competitor going in to this event. Not just because he was the two-time defending Olympic champion (2000 and 2008), but because he was so determined to emulate his idol Edwin Moses (who won two gold and a bronze in this event) that he grew a full beard to look more like him. Alas, by finishing 5th instead of third, Taylor came up short.
Finally, it was interesting to watch Yuliya Zaripova of Russia and Habiba Ghribi of Tunisia not just out-run and out-jump but out-muscle their featherweight competitors from Ethiopia to win gold and silver, respectively, in the women’s steeplechase. Sofia Assefa of Ethiopia survived for bronze.
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)
This quote makes clear that I thought the precedent the IOC set last week by sanctioning the disqualification of 8 Badminton players for “failing to extend their best efforts” was as unsustainable as it was foolhardy. Well, that precedent came home to roost today when a judge disqualified Brice Etes of Monaco in the qualifying heats of the men’s 800m for failing to extend his best efforts.
Not surprisingly a protest ensued. And I’m sure Etes and his representatives pointed out that billions of people heard commentators remarking on how other runners were easing off in qualifying heats to reserve their best efforts for the semifinals and final.
There’s no indication that IOC member Prince Albert II of Monaco pulled any strings, but the protest was reportedly resolved by having Estes produce a doctor’s note saying that he was under doctor’s orders to conserve his energy for the final.
This clearly compels one to wonder if the Badminton players had produced similar notes from their doctors, which no doubt would have been very easy to do, would they have been reinstated too?
What a farce!
MEDAL COUNT: China: 64 USA: 63; Russia: 42