The Bishop and the Butterfly: Murder, Politics, and the End of the Jazz Age
    Donal's picture

    I can see the Olympics from my couch

    My daughter and I spent much of Friday and Saturday in cosplay at Otakon, but I got to watch some of NBC's Olympic coverage — which in some events seemed more obsessively focused on Americans than ever.

    On Saturday morning, I did catch Alexander Vinokurov's surprising and crafty victory in the cycling road race. Vino followed the younger legs of Rigoberto Uran to get ahead of the pack, then the Kazakh sprinted for the line while the Colombian was still foolishly looking back at what had long ceased to be the main threat. Vino is another rider with a long history of doping scandals, banned in 2007 and associated with now-banned-for-life Dr Michel Ferrari.

    On Saturday, I missed Ryan Lochte's gold medal win [4:05.18] in the 400 Individual Medley. Lochte did not break Michael Phelps world record (WR) from Beijing, but he beat silver medalist Thiago Pereira [4:08.86] of Brazil by three and a half seconds. Japan’s Kosuke Hagino [4:08.94] took bronze ahead of Phelps, who (in a replay) looked a bit shocked to finish out of the medals, but who posted props to Lochte on Facebook for keeping the gold medal in American hands.

    Before the Women's 400 IM, the announcers were talking up American Elizabeth Beisel. China's Ye Shiwen led slightly after the butterfly leg, and Beisel didn't fall very far behind in the backstroke, and the announcers predicted that Beisel would pull away in the breast leg then hold on in the free. Beisel did pull to almost a body length lead after a strong breaststroke leg, but then Ye tore away in the freestyle leg, setting a world record [4:28.43]. Beisel took silver [4:31.27] and China’s Li Xuanxu took bronze [4:32.91].

    Korea's Tae-hwan Park had been disqualified for a false start in the prelims of the 400 Free, which was troubling because a Canadian official's dq of Park would have let Canadian Ryan Cochrane into the final eight. While the video clearly showed that another swimmer had moved instead, Olympics procedure supposedly didn't allow for video review. Somehow Park was reinstated, though, and my Korean friend upstairs told me that the chairman of Samsung had his entire family in the stands. As I expected, though, China’s Sun Yang was too much for Park. Sun set an Olympic record [3:40.14] while Park took silver [3:42.06] and American Peter Vanderkaay took bronze [3:44.69]. My friend told me that Park was crying. There's no crying in swimming.

    In the Women’s 4×100 freestyle relay, Australia set an Olympic record [3:33.15] for gold, the Netherlands took silver and the USA took bronze. The Americans seemed happy enough to have medaled.

    On Sunday, I walked the trash over to the dumpster so I could miss most of the synchronized diving. I had this idea to invent Rhythmic Synchronized Gymnastic Waterfalling, whereby all the sports that elude my interest could be rolled into one, and then over the nearest falls. When does ninja warrior become an Olympic sport?

    After a while the US water polo team took on the fearsome squad from Montenegro. It was a good defensive match, though I have to admit that I still don't understand how almost drowning a guy can be a foul sometimes but not all of the time. They showed some beach volleyball, then moved to gymnastics. I like gymnastics, and had enjoyed watching the men's routines the night before. At one point a coach told a young American male gymnast, "Smile a bit. You just finished your first day at the Olympics."

    In contrast, the way they gushed over the American Fab Five turned me right off. Even when a Fab made some awkward landings, the announcers couldn't stop promoting their overall form as far superior to the rest of the world. How could the right-wingers not enjoy that?

    Back to swimming,and in Women's 100 Fly, America's Dana Vollmer set a new World Record [55.98] taking the gold, China’s Ying Lu took silver [56.87]  and Australia’s Alicia Coutts took bronze [56.94].

    In 100 Breaststroke, NBC kept talking up the rivalry between Brendan Hansen and Kitajima Kosuke, but neither man was in the center lanes. Hansen had beaten Kitajima once, but never at the Games, and the Japanese was trying to win a third gold medal in 100 Breast. But it was South Africa’s Cameron van der Burgh that led all the way and set a World Record [58.46] to take the gold medal. Australia’s Christian Sprenger took silver [58.93] and Hansen took bronze [59.49], beating Kitajima, who came in fifth. I read that van der Burgh paid tribute to his late competitor Alexander Dale Oen at the finish, but I didn't catch it on NBC.

    In the women’s 400 Freestyle, I was on my feet as NBAC's Allison Schmitt stayed within a foot or so of France's Camille Muffat for almost the entire race, with the duo clearly in front of the field. Muffat pulled away on the final length, but Schmitt almost pulled even to finish only three-hundredths behind. Muffat set an Olympic record [4:01.45], Allison Schmitt took silver [4:01.77] and Great Britain's Rebecca Adlington took bronze [4:03.01].

    In the Men's 4x100 relay, the announcers downplayed the American team's chance against an Australian team led by James Magnussen, nicknamed the Missile, but said anything was possible. They were right. The Aussies and Americans had the center lanes, and the strong French team, still smarting from a surprise loss in Beijing were next to the Americans. Everyone was startled to see American Nathan Adrian leading Magnussen, who only swam 48.03 in the first leg. Magnusson was supposed to have a 46 something in him. The Aussies faded, but the French were still close behind.

    Phelps gave the Americans a decent lead on his leg, and Cullen Jones held on for a slight lead in the third leg. So when Ryan Lochte dove in just ahead of Frenchman Yannick Agnel, it looked like another gold medal surprise. But Lochte had already swum in the 200 semifinals that day, and was unable to answer Agnel's attack. Agnel pulled even in 50 meters, then Lochte pulled ahead with an excellent turn, but Agnel blazed past Lochte again to win the gold [3:09.93]. The French were ecstatic in their revenge, and Lochte looked exactly like a guy who let down his team, though he didn't swim badly at all as the team won silver [3:10.38]. Magnussen was a guy who let down his team, which finished fourth [3:11.63] behind the Russians, who took bronze [3:11.41]. Aussie Coach Nugent called the result disastrous.



    Ye Shiwen apparently swam her final 50 meters free in 28.93 seconds, faster than Ryan Lochte's 29.10 seconds. Since she is Chinese, her performance raises the issue of doping with some coaches.

    On the one hand, Ye had to swim her fastest to overtake Beisel, while Lochte was already comfortably ahead of the field. Also, Lochte is not the fastest of male freestyle speed merchants, though he is of course very fast.

    On the other hand, the best women can sprint 50m in just under 24 seconds, the best men in just under 21 seconds. So even without a starting dive, Ye was only five seconds slower than the world's best female sprinters after having swum 350 yards of fly, back, breast and crawl. That's amazing.

    We'll see how it all plays out.


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