Tuesday, August 7, 2012 at 6:09 PM
Truth be told, the most interesting thing about this event was taking in all of the tourist sites along the very scenic route where it was staged – from the Serpentine Lake, around Hyde Park, along Constitution Hill, to the Queen Victoria Memorial and Buckingham Palace. I felt no affinity with any of the competitors and none of them inspired even adoptive cheers.
That said, the Brownlee brothers of Great Britain were the clear favorites, and not just for the obvious reason. For, as the commentators informed us, together they are as dominant in Triathlon as Tiger Woods used to be in Golf. Who knew; but they sure performed to expectations - leading the pack for most of the .9-mile swim, 26.7-mile bike, and 6.2-mile run. (A considerably less challenging race when compared to the Iron Man Triathlon of 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike, and 26.2-mile run with which most of us are more familiar.)
What the throngs of Britons cheering on the sidelines could not have known, however, is that one of the brothers had incurred a 15-second penalty during the swim-to-bike transition, which he would have to serve at some point before the finish. This is why the Brownlees appeared so determined to create as much distance as possible between themselves and the pursuing pack to ensure that – when that penalty was factored in – both of them would still end up on the podium. And so they did; except that a Spaniard inserted himself in their slipstream and spoiled their one-two coronation.
Accordingly, the older 24-year-old Alistair Brownlee won gold; Javier Gomez of Spain slipped in for silver; the younger 22-year-old Jonathan Brownlee – even with the penalty – won bronze. This was the first-ever gold for Great Britain in this event.
(My day job intruded and caused me to miss the women’s triathlon that was stage on Day 8. Nicola Spirig of Switzerland won gold; Lisa Norden of Sweden, silver; Erin Densham of Australia, bronze.)
I imagine, after Gabby Douglas led the USA to gold in the women’s team, and then followed up with gold for herself in the all-around, everything else became anticlimactic. No doubt this is why, after a major mistake on the uneven bars left her in last place in the individual event yesterday, she reacted as if it were just another day of practice.
Far more interesting, though, was seeing prima-diva Aliya Mustafina of Russia finally flash a smile and display a little sportsmanship. Because this stood in such sharp contrast to the resentful brooding and hysterical tears that followed her poor performances throughout the team and all-around competitions. To say she’s a sore loser is putting it mildly. Anyway, that smile and a few hugs for her worthy competitors, including Gabby, came because she won gold in this event, the uneven bars. Kexin He of China won silver; Beth Twiddle of Great Britain, bronze.
Meanwhile, Gabby’s teammates were still looking for the icing to put on their cake of gold from the women’s team. Alas, nobody suffered more frustration in this respect than vault specialist Mckayla Maroney. Because she performed her first, signature vault so well on Day 9 that, to win gold, all she had to do was land on her feet on her second, much-easier vault. Instead she landed flat on her ass. She was crestfallen. Sandra Isbaza of Romania got gold … by default; McKayla settled for silver; Maria Paseka of Russia, bronze.
Then today it looked like Aly Raisman would squander her opportunity for a little golden icing as well when minor mistakes caused her to settle for bronze on the balance beam. Two gymnasts from China won gold and silver. Unfortunately, after her meltdown on the uneven bars yesterday, Gabby did little on the balance beam today to redeem herself. She fell off.
This was clearly not the way for the all-around champion to end her Olympic Games: with performances in two individual events that were not even worthy of qualification for Team USA. But I suppose there’s some consolation in not finishing dead last this time … just next to last. I hope this does not diminish her commercial value….
On the other hand, apropos of leaving a good impression, Aly was not done. For in the very last event of these Games in Gymnastics she came up golden on the floor exercise; Catalinal Ponor of Romania won silver; and a now golden Mustfina of Russia cracked another smile when she added bronze.
Sadly, Jordyn Wieber’s quest for individual gold ended in shambles when she made more mistakes on her floor exercise than Gabby made on the balance beam. She too finished next to last.
Incidentally, the American men vindicated my decision to ignore them after they fell apart in the team competition by failing to win a single medal of any type in any of the six individual event competitions. And nobody was more disappointing in this respect than John Orozco who led them during the qualifying rounds.
No American athlete has enjoyed more pre-Olympic publicity than hurdler Lolo Jones. One can be forgiven for thinking that this has everything to do with her relatively stunning beauty.
But there’s no denying the role her redemption story is playing. After all, Jones was just a hurdle away from certain gold in the women’s 100m hurdles in Beijing when she clipped it and fell in medal-less disgrace.
But now the 30-year-old Lolo’s legacy will probably have more to do with her promotion of the quixotic virtues of virginity than with any Olympic triumph. This was telegraphed in dramatic and titillating fashion when she qualified for Team USA just by the tip of her nipples.
More to the point, even though she stayed on her feet this time, she remains medal less. Sally Pearson of Australia edged defending Olympic champion Dawn Harper of the USA for gold. Kelly Wells of the USA won bronze; Lolo completed a USA sweep, after first place, by finishing fourth.
Apropos of hurdles, here in part is what I wrote when the then 2004 defending Olympic Champion Liu Xiang pulled up lame in the men’s 110m hurdles in Beijing:
Call me cynical but I believe Xiang decided it was better to claim injury, which might inspire sympathy, than to lose this race, which would incite national shame. Frankly, that Dayron Robles of Cuba recently broke Xiang’s world record might have inspired his dramatic passion play on this world stage….
To be fair, however, reports are that Xiang suffered a torn Achilles tendon several months ago. Yet, given the national interest vested in his performance, one wonders why China’s best doctors – renowned for practicing traditional Chinese medicine like acupuncture – did not ensure that he was fully rehabilitated for this big occasion.
(“Beijing Games: Chinese hero comes up lame,” The iPINIONS Journal, August 19, 2008)
Well, it seems getting injured before the big race has become his Achilles heel. Because, reportedly nursing another torn Achilles tendon, Xiang pulled up lame again, crashing into the very first hurdle in his qualifying heat today.
But he seemed determined to demonstrate his Olympic spirit this time around. Because after writhing in pain on the track for a while, he got up, hopped on his one good foot to the side, then hopped all the way to the finish line – reveling no doubt in more applause than he would have received had he actually won his heat … or even gold in this venue.
I think it’s safe to say this was his swan song. But given how big the Chinese are on “face,” he would be well-advised to live out the rest of his life in exile….
What empty seats?
Given the overflow crowds at the 80,000-seat Olympic Stadium this week – even for qualifying heats in Track and Field – you’d never know these Games were beset last week by the scandal of Olympians competing at practically empty venues.
These Games have utterly shattered the myth that Britons are a reserved lot – prone to react with a stiff upper lip no matter the excitement or incitement. Because no athletes have shed more tears – complete with upper lips quivering pneumatically – than the Brits. What’s more, their anomalous emotions have been on full display as much in the thrill of victory as in the agony of defeat.
Granted, those most responsible for this diluvial display of unbridled emotion happen to be Scottish, not English. But this is neither the place nor time to dwell on such distinctions….
Mars … again?
It would be remiss of me not to at least acknowledge the non-Olympic cheers that erupted all over the United States yesterday when the rover Curiosity finally landed on Mars after an almost nine-month journey.
But, frankly, I don’t get it. Curiosity only traveled where many other rovers (namely, Pathfinder, Sojourner, Spirit and Opportunity) have gone before. And each one of them merely proved what earthbound astronomers have known for decades; namely, that our closest neighbor in Milky Way galaxy is nothing but a desolate, volcanic, uninhabitable mass.
Meanwhile, scientists estimate that there are over 500 million planets in our “galactic habitable zone” alone. And there are supposedly billions of other galaxies in the universe. So why, pray tell, all the jubilation, to say nothing of the billions wasted trying to breathe life into this dead planet? And here’s a news flash folks: if NASA thought there was even the remotest chance of its rover encountering life on Mars it would not be beaming images back live for all the world to see!
MEDAL COUNT: China: 73 USA: 70; Great Britain: 48