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Ron Judd's Olympics Insider

Ron Judd, an Olympics junkie and Seattle Times columnist who has covered Olympic sports since 1997, will use this space to serve up news and opinion on the Summer and Winter Games -- also inviting you to chime in on Planet Earth's biggest get-together.

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July 31, 2008 5:25 PM

Local track competitions, down to the minute

Posted by Ron Judd

Take note if you're trying to work out a TiVo schedule in advance: Seattle track and field journalist Paul Merca has taken the time to comb through the schedule and post, on his blog, starting times for Beijing Olympic events featuring Washington state athletes. A tip of the hat to Paul for keeping everyone up to date.

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July 31, 2008 11:08 AM

Reportedly still unbanned in Beijing, we will try harder

Posted by Ron Judd

According to a post down below by a helpful reader in Beijing (welcome; enjoy it while you can) this site has yet to be blocked by Chinese censors. That's a bit of a downer, especially given all the excellent, detailed, censor-worthy material posted by many other helpful readers to help us reach our goal of lights-out in China.

And, we're still holding out hope that maybe there's a special censor banning us from the Media Center and other official Olympic facilities. But if not, well, there's always tomorrow. Or even later today.

Speaking of censoring. The International Olympic Committee, made to look like a flaccid accomplice of the Chinese government in worldwide news reports yesterday, now says there was NO deal to allow China to block certain Internet sites at Olympic facilities.

It's beautiful how China seeks to have it both ways here: They say the Beijing Games are all about presenting China, as a nation and growing power, to the world, but reporters stationed there are only supposed to report on the Games themselves, so they clearly have no need to access material of any organizations or publications critical of the Chinese government. That's a good deal if you can get it. But the IOC insists it's a deal it never made.

Here is the IOC statement in its entirety:

IOC STATEMENT

Our position is that the IOC has always encouraged the Beijing 2008 organisers to provide media with the fullest access possible to report on the Olympic Games, including access to the internet.

In light of internet access problems which were experienced this week by media in the Olympic Games Main Press Centre in Beijing, the IOC -- namely Chairman of the Beijing 2008 IOC Coordination Commission Hein Verbruggen and Olympic Games Executive Director Gilbert Felli -- held meetings and discussions today with Games organizers (BOCOG) and Chinese authorities.

The issues were put on the table and the IOC requested that the Olympic Games hosts address them. We understand that BOCOG will give details to the media very soon of how the matter has been addressed. We trust them to keep their promise.

The IOC would like to stress that no deal with the Chinese authorities to censor the internet has ever in any way been entered into.

###

We can hardly wait to see what happens next. One thing's for sure: The Chinese people will be the last to know about it.

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July 30, 2008 8:33 PM

Top 10 signs some Chinese gymnasts might be underaged children

Posted by Ron Judd

10. "A" and "B" samples for all of them came back positive for Skittles.
9. Constantly napping during floor exercise.
8. Still waiting for that pre-teen growth spurt to push them over 3 feet.
7. To stick the landing from a rings dismount, they need a permission slip from Mom.
6. Distinctive "Wheeeeeee!" can be heard during airborne portions of vaults.
5. Chinese Olympic officials pushing hard for new demonstration sport in London 2012: Synchronized Monkey Bars.
4. Absolutely can't stop giggling while peeing into dope-testing beaker.
3. For kicks, often tie their coach to his chair with those rhythmic gymnastic ribbons.
2. One of them recently appealed his bedtime to international Court of Arbitration for Sport.
1. After practice, they go straight back to the Nike factory floor.


Note: Surely this, coupled with all the excellent FREE TIBET comments attached to the posts below, is enough to get us censored from Chinese Internet servers. If not, well, there's just no injustice anymore.

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July 30, 2008 2:32 PM

Chinese age scandal brewing

Posted by Ron Judd

Some of you might have read about another scandal brewing in China, this one over the alleged underage status of a couple of its kiddie gymnasts, whose records might have been fudged a bit to make them Olympic eligibile.

This is no surprise. We're not saying it's official state policy or anything, but at the last international swim meet we covered, we're pretty sure we saw a breaststroker wearing a prototype Huggies Little Swimmers LZR suit.

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July 30, 2008 12:06 PM

No, seriously: We want to be blocked

Posted by Ron Judd

Another story on the IOC's clearly dirty fingers in the Beijing censhorship scandal is here.

Actually, we have mixed feelings about this. Clearly the Chinese reneging on (yet another) promise is infuriating. But journos arriving at the Media Center to find some Web access blocked should consider the upside, like mysteriously missing emails and directives from editors back home in the states:

"Huh? You wanted me to cover the synchronized swimming prelims last night instead of the basketball gold medal game? Never got the note. It's those blasted Chinese censors!" And so on.

And we will close by saying: Tibet. Tibet. Tibet. Tibet. Tibet. TIbet. Tibet. Tibet. TIbet. Tibet.

Did we mention Tibet?

Speaking of Tibet: Did we mention the Amnesty International Report?

Just checking.

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July 30, 2008 9:39 AM

Attention China: Please censor this blog

Posted by Ron Judd

So it's all official now.

The Chinese government (motto: Yeah? So what's your point?) has admitted that it'll block whatever Web sites it wants from the Olympic media center and other venues. This in spite of earlier promises to the contrary. And the IOC scurried to capitulate, saying it regrets the situation, but... oh, well!

Not sure what's left to say, except, we'll feel left out if the Chinese fail to block this blog, keeping us from the worldwide headlines, and sympathy, we so richly deserve. What are we? Chopped Internet liver?

Maybe a few mentions of the word TIBET in all posts this week will take care of the problem. Go ahead, censor boys. Make our day.

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July 29, 2008 5:43 PM

Smog avoidance, 101 -- stay home

Posted by Ron Judd

Add Canadian triathlete Simon Whitfield of Victoria to the long list of athletes who won't be marching in the Opening Ceremony -- or even anywhere close to Beijing - when the Games begin a week from Friday. Whitfield and other Canadian athletes will parachute in (not literally) five days before their event to avoid the smog and chaos of Beijing. He'll be watching the Opening Ceremony at a Victoria bike shop with friends, dining on Chinese takeout, the Vancouver Province reports.

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July 29, 2008 1:20 PM

More protests about Chinese human rights record as Games near

Posted by Ron Judd


Promise broken.

The two words sum up the charges by Amnesty International, which has released a new report on the status of human-rights abuses by the Chinese government. The group says the Chinese have violated the "core values" of the Olympic movement -- and are getting away with it.

Amnesty International notes that China promised to improve its human-rights record -- assurances made publicly at the time -- but hasn't followed through, and in many cases, has gotten worse.

The group charged the Chinese with rounding up thousands of activists to "clean up" Beijing before the Games begin, alleging that many have been arrested and sentenced to labor camps with no court trials.

Lesser abuses are already occurring as the world arrives for the Games, the group said. The Chinese, according to Amnesty and many media reports, already are violating pledges they made for the Games, such as allowing a free and full flow of information to journalists. Reporters arriving early in Beijing have found many Internet Web sites -- including that of Amnesty International, big surprise -- blocked by servers in the Media Center, where some 25,000 accredited journalists will be based.

Indeed, many Chinese rights abuses seem to fly firmly in the face of the Olympic charter, which sets out the Games as a means of encouraging peaceful brotherhood among nations. IOC members were sold a bill of goods by the Chinese when the Games were awarded seven years ago. But the time to do anything about it came and went a long time ago.

Chinese officials were so enthusiastic and thorough about every other aspect of their bid -- financing, facilities construction and the like -- that the Olympic Committee long ago lost any leverage to apply subtle political pressure to the Chinese government. And once that two-year-out window -- the last-ditch date to move the Games somewhere else -- passed, Chinese officials seem less and less concerned with what IOC members think about their public face.

The IOC and its multi-billion-dollar sponsors won't ever say this, but they obviously were keen to get the Games into the world's largest emerging consumer market. And IOC members of a more idealistic bent reportedly leaned heavy on the South Korean model for justifying picking China. The Olympics coming to that nation are widely credited with democratic reforms and an opening of the country to the world.

That storyline -- whether the Games have a hope of still doing the same for China -- will be a fascinating undercurrent to the entire Olympics, likely making this one to remember.

And it raises a question in the future: Should a nation's political behavior and human-rights record play a greater or lesser role in picking host nations? And if a nation's world standing is considered a factor, how would that bode for America's own bid -- Chicago's quest for the 2016 Summer Games?

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July 25, 2008 11:40 AM

Kirk blasts dope-test timeline, vows to fight for Beijing spot

Posted by Ron Judd

Bremerton swimmer Tara Kirk, citing "incompetence, laziness and deceit" among those responsible for dope-testing swimmers and establishing the U.S. Olympic team, today vowed to petition for what she says is her her rightful spot on the Beijing squad in light of a reported positive doping test by swimmer Jessica Hardy, who finished ahead of Kirk in the Olympic Trials.

Is she righteously indignant, or, given that Hardy's positive test has not been fully vetted, a little quick off the line? In any case, get ready for the lawyering.

Kirk's complete comments, from her blog on WCSN.com, follow:


July 25th, 2008
A note to everyone who's wondering what's going on.

Greg told me Thursday morning that he had read in the Mercury News online that Jessica Hardy, one of the girls who finished ahead of me at Trials, had tested positive for a banned substance. The media was also reporting that the roster for the Olympic Team had already been finalized and that I could not be added to the team.

I had and still have many questions pertaining to the timeline of events and the results of these tests. I feel certain that someone along the way failed me and Lara, who would have been named to the team in the 50 free. The results of the drug test should have come back earlier, at least in time to name alternates to the team. It has, after all, been three weeks since the tests were taken. Did they come back earlier? If so, why am I just hearing about it by reading the newspaper and why am I not on the team? If not, why did they take so long?

I emailed USA swimming but did not get a response over the day.

In the evening I called Lea, my coach, who was trying to figure out exactly what had happened. It seemed that people were simply saying the deadline had passed and that we had to move on. That answer was not good enough for either of us. It is not acceptable to us that the dreams and work of four hard years be shrugged off on a technicality.

I called the head of USA swimming and left a message. He called me back and said that they were following entry procedures and that it was too late to add me to the team and that Jessica would be going through appeals for her drug test. I asked him to make an appeal to change the final roster and, after a long and emotional plea, he agreed.

That is where I am at right now. Before today I had thought that responsibility for me not making the team rested on my shoulders. If I had just swum to my abilities I would have made the team. It was a difficult situation but one in which I could only look within for answers. Today the situation seems much more gray. The fault now lies on many shoulders and I fear that incompetence, laziness and deceit may have played a role. That is much harder to take. Regardless of intent, mistakes were made and I am paying for them.

People I trusted to do their jobs and to ensure the working order of the system we put in place for our sport failed me. I hope that I am not being unreasonable in my analysis of the situation. But I just cannot stand the thought of these organizations, which are supposed to protect me, sitting on their hands while my dreams are being ripped away. I cannot go quietly away in this; I've worked too hard. I hope that you support me.

UPDATE 12:07 p.m.: Tainted supplements?Meanwhile, following up on her coach's suggestion that Hardy's positive test might have been due to an indavertent ingestion from a nutritional supplement, the Orange County Register reports that some supplements produced by AdvoCare, a company whose products are endorsed by Hardy and five other members of the current U.S. Olympic team, have been banned by the NCAA because of quality concerns and reports of doping positives for a different stimulant. Read that story here.

The company issued a written response, posted on the Swimming World Magazine site, denying any link to banned substances.

UPDATE: The Orange County Register later issued a correction taking back one of the primary claims in its original story about AdvoCare. See it here.

And Hardy herself, appearing on The Early Show on CBS, professed her innocence, saying "I have no idea how it happened. In my heart I know I'm 100 percent clean. I know that I am innocent. We just have to prove it."

UPDATE, 5:30 p.m.: In the first quote wev'e seen from the U.S. Olympic Committee, spokesman Darryl Seibel splashes cold water on any momentum to have Tara Kirk named to the Beijing swim team. He tells the New York Times:

"I'm not aware of any procedure or provision by which an athlete can be added to the official roster in place of another athlete if that athlete is suspended because of a doping violation."


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July 24, 2008 11:17 PM

UPDATES: Hardy's dope test leaves questions swirling in the wake

Posted by Ron Judd

More questions than answers swirl around the reported positive doping test of breaststroker/freestyler Jessica Hardy, who, according to media reports using unnamed sources, tested positive for a stimulant, the asthma medication clenbuterol, at the U.S. Swimming Trials July 4.

Hardy, who won the 100-meter breaststroke, finished second in the 50 meter freestyle and grabbed a fourth-place 100 freestyle relay spot, hasn't been suspended, and no official notice of a doping violation has been issued. But her attorney and other sources confirmed the positive test to nbcolympics.com, saying Hardy disputes the result and plans to appeal.

The New York Times, also quoting an unnamed source, reports that Hardy's positive test came between clean tests administered earlier and later at the same Trials. That was confirmed today in a statement by Hardy's coach, Dave Salo, of USC.

Numerous reports that the substance in question was clenbuterol were confirmed Thursday by Hardy's attorney. The drug is not currently approved for human use in the United States, but reportedly is used by body builders, athletes and dieters. It is believed to improve aerobic capacity, increase strength, and perhaps help shed fat. A handful of prominent athletes, including former Seattle Mariner David Segui, have been linked to the substance.

In his statement Salo speculated that Hardy might have ingested the substance accidentally, through a nutritional supplement -- something he advises his athletes not to use, he said, because "the supplement industry runs unabated without any controls."

Hardy, he said, "has come by her results with honest committed hard work."

It's unclear what impact a potential departure of Hardy, 21, will have on Olympic prospects for the U.S. swim team. A aypical penalty after appeals are exhausted in these cases is a two-year ban. Some sources have indicated that it's too late to sub third-place Trials finishers onto the team, because the deadline to do so was Monday.

If that proves to be the case, Hardy's events likely would be swum by other athletes already on the team, such as training mate Rebecca Soni, in the case of the 100 breaststroke. But USA Swimming rules apparently provide an avenue for that body to petition the U.S. and International Olympic Commitees to replace a swim team member even after the submission of names.

That decision, of course, would be of intense interest to Bremerton breaststroker Tara Kirk, who finished third in the 100 breaststroke -- a mere hundredth of a second behind Megan Jendrick of Tacoma. If Hardy was disqualified, Jendrick would be declared the winner of that race, with Kirk moving up to second. But Kirk's coach, Lea Mauer of Stanford, suggested to the San Jose Mercury News that being named to the squad at this late date would be a longshot.

"It's still possible, but it is an arduous fight," she told the newspaper.

Kirk, who has been licking her substantial wounds on a trip to Ireland since the Trials, presumably has not been training. All swimmers named to the Olympic team proceeded immediately to a training camp in Palo Alto, Calif. at the conclusion of the Trials July 6. They're scheduled to fly together to another camp in Singapore on Friday. The AP reported yesterday that Hardy had left the Palo Alto camp, and teammates were informed of the positive doping test in a meeting . It's unclear whether she's been bumped from the flight to Asia pending outcome of her appeal.

Hardy has the right to appeal her positive test to an arbitration panel, and then to the international Court of Arbitration for Sport.

The big question raised by this bit of extremely bad timing is about the testing process itself, particularly its timeline. Specifically: How can the USOC fail to allow time for doping questions to be raised and answered satisfactorily before names of Olympians must be submitted to the IOC? If Hardy is bounced and cannot be replaced, it's a blow to the U.S. swim team, particularly because Hardy was entered in multiple events. While other swimmers can take her spot in individual events, the team has one less swimmer for relays, placing it a substantial disadvantage.

And then this question: A decision not to make an eleventh-hour replacement of an athlete, such as Kirk, who hasn't been training, might be a sound one for strategic purposes. But how does the USOC, USA Swimming and the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency explain to Kirk that she really finished second, but still doesn't get to go to the Olympics?

All of it, of course, is conjecture until more is known about Hardy's doping test, and until the appeals process is allowed to run its course. And at this point, for obvious reasons, nobody is talking.

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July 23, 2008 2:15 PM

Vancouver's pricetag likely to get a little -- or a lot -- bigger

Posted by Ron Judd

How many times to the well before the water dries up -- and the people hauling the bucket get cranky?

In a province where people already are quick to accuse Olympic organizers of "hiding" chunks -- very large chunks -- of the cost of the Vancouver 2010 Olympics on someone else's budget, new cost estimates to secure the Games are going over like a lead security zeppelin (remember Athens?)

Vanoc, the Games organizing committee, originally set the bar for security at around $175 million, a figure many experts and most critics have since have dismissed as hopelessly low. Security at the 2002 Salt Lake Games was estimated at more than $500 million; security tabs in Athens and Turin, Italy both exceeded $1 billion U.S.

The new Vancouver figure might climb as high. Critics already are throwing around a figure of $1 billion Canadian, based on the projected costs not only of direct security at venue sites, but broader defense measures by Canadian troops, border guards and immigration officials. (RCMP officials already have announced plans to berth one and possibly two large cruise ships on the Vancouver waterfront just to house police at a time of intense hotel bookings in the city. )

Government types, mulling all this at a recent Pacific North West Economic Region summit in Vancouver, reportedly weren't biting on that billion-dollar estimate, saying only that the final security cost "clearly" will jump over the budgetary line drawn with the Games' original bid in 2002.

At the conference, Stockwell Day, the federal public safety minister, sidestepped questions on the pricetag, saying they're still being developed, Canwest reports here.

"It's going to be more than $175 million, clearly, and the exact numbers will be out pretty soon," Day said. "We're just going over some fine details."

The true cost of security is always difficult to define, given the broad number of agencies, local, federal and even international (NATO provided air support for the Athens Games; the U.S. 6th Fleet patrolled the Mediterranean), that get involved. The smart money in Vancouver these days is that the official, final budget for security might wind up at twice or three times the original estimate. (Recent cost boosts, such as a doubling of the original budget for doping patrol, while defensible due to changes in the program, tend to reinforce that expectation with the public). The official operating budget-estimate for the Games remains at about $1.6 billion Canadian, most of which is expected to be recouped through TV rights, ticket sales, advertising and other sources. And to be fair, these Games seem far more likely to come in at or near budget than a number of others in recent history.

But the question in B.C. -- a valid one -- is whether the budget used to sell the Games to a largely agreeable public was realistic to begin with.

Whatever the security number proves to be, it will presumably be shared, as in the original estimate, by the provincial and federal governments, who also are sharing a $580 million capital construction budget that doesn't include an off-the-books pricetag upwards of $2 billion for a widened Sea to Sky Highway and a palacial new visitor's center on the downtown waterfront that will host the International Broadcast Centre. And don't even get people started on whether the new Skytrain line to Richmond should be part of the overall Oly tab.

All of this should provide great fodder for Vancouver's anti-Olympic forces, who long have predicted that the "true" cost of hosting a modern Olympics will be dramatically greater than the sanitized-budget version -- amounting to a cost that's just not worth it.

Also of note are Day's comments about border patrols during the Games -- a major concern for government types in both Washington state and British Columbia, who fear that federal help from both Ottawa and Washington, D.C., might be too late or simply insufficient to prevent border nightmares when an estimated 5,000 people per day cross the border for Olympic purposes during the Games.

"We are not going to have those long, multi-hour lineups at the border that some people are talking about," Day pledged at the conference."


Canadian officials, for their part, are pledging to increase the number of entrance and exit lanes from four to as many as 10, Day said.

Clip that one out and save it for 18 months.


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July 21, 2008 3:37 PM

The new Wallechinsky tome -- a capable Beijing companion

Posted by Ron Judd

51eU0B4ZvbL__SL500_AA240_.jpg
THUD.


That was the sound of the latest edition of "The Complete Book of the Olympics" hitting the front doorstep last week.

The new edition of David Wallechinsky and Jaime Loucky's Summer Games bible is huge -- almost 1,200 pages. That's one for every cliche about to be uttered by an expert commentator for NBC during the next four weeks.

We're not sure about the exact source of the inflation, other than adding one more Olympics' results, of course. Our 2000 Sydney edition of the book weighs in at just over 900 pages, and we can't compare the Athens version because someone stole our copy somewhere in France. (A check of the record says it was 1,152 pages.) Suffice to say that if we were headed for Beijing, this baby might not be coming with us. Customs inspection is almost guaranteed: You could hollow the thing out and smuggle several small gymnasts inside it.

At any rate: The book truly is, as the cover suggests, a "treasure trove of lore, drama and anecdote from 112 years of Olympic history," including the top eight finishers from every Summer Olympic event since 1896.

If you're not familiar with the book, it's basically the bible on Olympic results of the past. Wallechinsky, the son of writer Irving Wallace, tells the history of the Games in sport-by-sport fashion, providing an overview of each event, its results through the years, and historical notes of interest along the way. Truly memorable events get lengthier treatment, and historical photos are a nice touch.

There's a lot in here, and, as usual, it's not always easy to find. The book has long cried for an authoritative index, which would turn it from an occasional, rainy-day read to an at-the-fingertips reference for journalists and Olympi-philes alike. Although, granted, it would be a whopper of an index, given all the names here, just adding to the bulk.

But the new book, published by Aurum of London, does have some organizational upgrades. Gone are the confusing former groupings of sports by individuals, teams, etc.; sports now (at least after track and field, which comes first perhaps because of its old designation as "Athletics"?) are listed alphabetically, making it much easier to find details on, say, Chinese player Dong Jiong's sivler medal from Atlanta in 1996. New subheadings at the page tops also aid in navigation. Nice improvements. But oh, for an index...

The book even has results of discontinued events -- motorboating and tug of war are two, all you bar-betters -- and a brief history of every Summer Games. And a nice reference in the front matter is a compendium of busted drug users from each Olympics -- men, women and horses.

As usual, it's a keeper. If you can make space for it. Don't be looking for winter sports results here: In spite of the new, general name "Olympics," (as opposed to the former, "Complete Book of the Summer Olympics") those sports remain in a separate, winter edition.

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July 16, 2008 11:01 AM

A new dope lab -- and a backup power plan -- for Vancouver

Posted by Ron Judd


Don't be surprised if doping once again becomes a news thread running through the Beijing Games, with record numbers of tests being administered, and new tests for at least some previously undetected substances, such as EPO.

Doping is already making news, meanwhile, in Vancouver, where the Vancouver Organizing Committee (VANOC) is about to announce that its new drug lab will be located in space at the new Richmond Oval (see post below on that building).

The doping lab -- 15,000 square feet of it -- will be built into the street level of the building, the Vancouver Sun's Jeff Lee reports today. Vanoc has yet to confirm the deal, but Lee reports that the Richmond lab, which will be in space that will become a sports-medicine clinic after the Games, solves a major problem for Games organizers. They had initially planned to send doping samples to Canada's only World Anti-Doping Agency-certified lab, in Montreal. But the International Olympic Committee said no that that idea.

Meanwhile, a massive power outage in downtown Vancouver on Monday, caused by a fire in underground cables, has some people worried about a similar catastrophe during the Games. Especially since the blackout left in the dark the massive waterfront Convention & Exhibition Centre, which will be the working space for the world's assembled media.

Officials with B.C. Hydro said they're reviewing plans, and will have a backup source of power identified before the Games begin. Monday's power outage left a large portion of downtown Vancouver in the dark for a day and a half.

Ironically, as the Sun notes here, B.C. Hydro is an "official supporter" of the Olympics, having signed a deal to provide primary and secondary sources of power to most venues. That guarantee allowed Vanoc to save about $20 million in backup generators it would have needed to ensure power at all venues.

It's a safe bet that the details of that plan are getting a fresh look from Vanoc officials this week. Monday's failure almost shut down the city, without the pressure of an Olympics.


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July 14, 2008 2:33 PM

The Winter Olympics: It's not just for months with an "R"

Posted by Ron Judd

A couple updates on Seattle-area hopefuls for the 2010 Vancouver Games, which will be here before you know it once Beijing wraps up -- less than 18 months, or 531 days, after Closing Ceremonies, but who's counting?

Alpine skier Scott Macartney seems fully healed from his horrific, head-smacking World Cup crash at Kitzbuhel last season. Macartney got medical clearance to get back on skis, and participated in a fairly mellow (by ski racing standards) U.S. Ski Team camp at Mammoth, Calif., last month.

"My head is feeling good," he says. He's also healing quickly from a scope surgery to repair a meniscus tear in his knee. "It's feeling pretty solid."

By the last three days of the Mammoth camp, "I was pretty much doing giant slalom courses full length," he says. "It was pretty moderate terrain, great for working on stuff, a good way to ease back into racing gates again."

In a way, he's more prepped for the season this year than at the same point a year ago, when a hip surgery in April kept him off the snow until late summer. "Hopefully I'll get some little things sorted out," he says. "I'm dealing with a couple back things, doing lots of PT, getting everything lined up again."

Make no mistake: Recuperating from a head injury is a different thing altogether than surgery, he notes. "The head injury was different, because I felt OK, but I was really limited by advice of doctors, who kept saying you've got to keep your intensity down, keep your heart rate down. With other injuries, you wake up and take a step on that hip and it feels like crap right away."

A bit of self-governing was in order, something he's not used to. But that's much less of a concern now. The next step is a big one: More speed at another Ski Team training camp in Chile next month. "That's where we really start ramping up the speed, and the intensity."

Looking back, he says the incident was scary, but he never seriously considered staying on the sidelines because of it.

"It was a bad crash and I was very lucky in a lot of respects, basically escaping with no major damage to my head and the stuff with my body wasn't that big of a deal," he told U.S. Skiing recently. "But, it's part of the sport and part of the risk that we take to be in alpine skiing. It was tough, but at the same time, after I woke up I never had any point where I was like, 'maybe I should quit or maybe I should look to do something else.' That never came into my mind. I guess it was just a reiteration of the dangers of the sport and how it can come up and grab you at any time."

Scotty Mac also planned to lug down to Park City a big bale of insurance paperwork he's been dealing with since his crash. It's really fun, he points out: Three different insurers, each trying to shift the cost of the medivac helicopter, trauma center treatment, etc., onto the other one. The gist of it is that they all try to make it clear the others are responsible, and then when someone finally agrees to ante up, they insist too much time has passed. Can anyone say AFLAC in German? (That's the other fun piece of the puzzle: The bills are in German.)

Also: A major bone of contention is who owed exactly how much, and when, because of the rapidly varying exchange rate between the Euro and the U.S. dollar.

Macartney is hoping an accountant from the U.S. Ski Team can sort it all out.

Good luck with that.

Oh: Before we leave Scott, we are gleefully happy to point out his recent revelation, in an interview with U.S. Skiing, that one of his biggest pet peeves in life is ... left-lane campers on the freeway.

Amen, brother Scott.

Meanwhile, in Oregon:

Promising moguls skier and Olympic hopeful Pat Deneen of Cle Elum gives U.S. Skiing this summertime update:

For over half of my life, I've been spending my summers skiing at Mt. Hood, OR.

My sister Amy, my dad and I would sleep in the back of our old suburban in the Mt. Hood parking lot, cook hot dogs on the hood of the truck, wake up early and hit the slopes with the alpine racers so we could train flats on the morning ice. Then, as the snow softened, we would jump into the mogul lane.

I first met up with the U.S. Freestyle Ski Team when I was 12 at Mt. Hood. The Freestyle Team was training on the Palmer snowfield, so in an effort to learn their secrets I stood by the side of the mogul lane to watch the team rock the bumps.

After a while, Team members Shelley McGill (Winter Park, CO) and Michelle Roark (Denver) asked me if I wanted to take a run in the bumps with them. It was a dream to ski with the Team, a moment that I still remember.

I watched the Team train the rest of the week and snuck a run whenever I could. Fast forward eight years and Roark and I have become good friends and teammates, both of us standing on podiums at Lake Placid this year.

Summer training has been and continues to be very important to me as it is the time of the year that I work to improve my skiing and airs. It is a time to relax, work on specific issues, and have fun with my friends.

In addition to working on the snow, I have been working with the Hart Ski Company's development team putting the final touches on the 2009 F 17 Competition Mogul Ski. I am also continuing to work on the development of the F 17J, the soon to be announced Hart Junior Competition Mogul Ski.

It is great to work with Hart as it is supporting the U.S. Freestyle Ski Team with new skis and a commitment to help our team to be the Best in the World. And now I am able to sleep in the Hart house at Hood instead of the Suburban!

Next Stop: The Blackcomb Glacier.

All we'll add is this: If you ever get a chance to watch World Cup level bump skiers in action, take it. All of these people ski the bumps fast. But Deneen skis crazy fast. You sort of have to see him in action to appreciate it. We're guessing his first appearances on the World Cup podium last season were not his last.


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July 11, 2008 11:33 AM

Here's your publicly financed arena: Check out the new Richmond Oval

Posted by Ron Judd

Richmond Oval 1.jpgRichmond Oval 2.jpgRichmond Oval 6.jpg

Non-editor's note: This is the first of an occasional series of glimpses at 2010 Olympic venues. Look for more when we get around to it.

Whoa.

That's your first reaction when you drive up the Richmond Oval, the new speedskating (long-track) venue for the Vancouver 2010 Games.

It's immense. Looks like you could park three or four 747s in there, wing to wing. Actually, you could, according to the stats sheet. The thing is 361,281 square feet. Its roof is 6.5 acres. It seats 6,832 lucky spectators and houses, of course, one 400-meter ice track, for the Games -- and lots more, after them (read on).

The $178 million building, on the banks of the Fraser River in Richmond, likely will become the signature venue for the Vancouver Games simply by nature of its enormity -- and its proximity to Vancouver Intergalactic Airport, which sits right across the river. Everyone flying into YVR is going to see this baby. And it's an impressive sight.

The roof, shaped in the general form of a wave, is supported by massive beams of B.C. timber -- a purposeful attempt to showcase that fine (dwindling) building material to the world. Nice stroke of PRism, that. But not one without its problems: Some of the wood apparently wasn't dried properly, and surrounding insulation had to be replaced because of fungus that formed inside the structure. That was a construction hiccup of $2 million and change.

The roof itself is quite the engineering feat: Its 15 "glulam" support beams are almost 100 meters (328 feet) long. The roof, with arched trusses and rafters to give it a rippled appearance, utilizes a million board feet of B.C. lumber, primarily milled in Williams Lake, and mostly harvested from trees killed by pine beetles, the Games green-thinking organizers are quick to point out (another unadvertised benefit of global warming!)

It looks like construction crews will deliver this monster venue on schedule, this fall, in time for speedskating test events in the single winter remaining leading up to the Games of February, 2010.

We're anxious to see how the ice performs here. Building managers of the last major North American structure of this size, the oval in Kearns, Utah, built for the 2002 Games, made a lot of the fact that it contained "the World's Fastest Ice," because the building sits at 4,500 feet in elevation. And in fact it has proved to be that, with many world records set there.

Does that mean that the Richmond Oval, the first such facility to sit essentially at sea level, will be the world's slowest ice? Only time will tell.

Oval_Main_Activity_Area_-_2010_Games16689.jpg

Meantime, if you want to see the building for yourself, it's easy to find. The Oval sits on River Road, between the No. 2 Road and Dinsmore bridges, just north of downtown Richmond. It's so large, you can also see it from many high places in the area, including several bridges leading into and out of Vancouver.

It's one of only two Vancouver competition venues still under construction. (A non-competition venue, the massive, glassy, waterfront exhibition centre near Canada Place, which will serve as the International Broadcast Centre for the Games, is still being finished up, as well.)

Organizers, with a $580 million budget, pledged to bring all the sport venues online by this fall, to allow a full winter's testing before the Games. They appear to be meeting that goal. The impressive Thunderbird Winter Sports Centre, a remodeled hockey rink on the University of British Columbia campus on the city's west side, opened its doors on Monday. That building will stage most of the early rounds of ice hockey (more on this soon.)

That leaves only the Oval and the curling venue, which sits next to Nat Bailey Stadium, home of the Vancouver Candians (a Class-A Northwest League affiliate of the Oakland A's) adjacent to Queen Elizabeth Park, still under construction. With just a cursory look, it appears Vancouver will boast facilities on par with, and in many ways superior to, many that we've seen at other recent, successful Winter Games.

Note: That's assuming, of course, they roll up their sleeves and spiff up the outdated B.C. Place domed stadium, home of the opening and closing ceremonies, AND give some kind of an external makeover to the figure-skating venue, Pacific Coliseum, which at present still looks distinctively like a water-storage tank. Bottom line: So far, so good for VANOC.

Since you asked: After the Games, the Richmond Oval will be a community "sports and wellness" center, and all that space will be put to good use. In fact, this is one Olympic venue that's likely to shine more brightly after the Games than druing them. The impressive future sports fieldhouse will be divided into three areas, housing two Olympic-sized ice rinks, a massive hardwood floor capable of hosting eight (!) multiple court sports, such as basketball games, simultaneously, a rubberized turf field for soccer and other sports, a walking track, a 320-meter walking track and a 200-meter indoor running track. All at once. And, of course, the space can be reconfigured for speedskating, when called for.

Parking? Plenty, all underground. The entire lower floor is parking garage.

Oval_Main_Activity_Level_-_Post_Games16690.jpg

The building also will be home to various community health programs, sports medicine training, a fitness center, retail space and other amenities. It will even have a paddling center, with ergo machines and current-equipped pools. In other words: Massive amounts of dry, indoor space for all the stuff you don't want to do outside in a soggy Vancouver winter.

Some of you may recall an earlier plan to build a speedskating oval at Simon Fraser University. That one went by-by when construction estimates kept increasing, and VANOC didn't want to foot the entire, escalating bill. Richmond stepped in with a bigger, more expensive package. VANOC's contribution was capped, and the remaining $118 million or so came from casino revenues, developer fees for adjacent projects along the city's riverfront, and other non-tax sources.

Here's an idea: How about scooping up the various taxes proposed for a new arena for lazy, rich NBA players on a non-existing Seattle basketball team and use them to build something useful, like this, at Seattle Center instead? It's a bargain at half the price, and something ordinary taxpayers might actually use.

More data on the Richmond Oval can be found on the city of Richmond's Web site.

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Construction photos: Ron Judd/Seattle Times
Conceptual drawings: City of Richmond, B.C.

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July 8, 2008 11:32 AM

Nation jumping: Is it fair?

Posted by Ron Judd

The very completeness of it made it stand out.

The 1,500 meter final at the U.S. Track Trials in Eugene this weekend was won by a Kenyan immigrant, former Washington State University track star Bernard Lagat. Rounding out the top three Olympic spots were Leonel Manzano, two-time NCAA champion and an an immigrant from Mexico; and Lopez Lomong, who escaped the civil war in Sudan and in 2001 emigrated to the U.S., later becoming the 2007 collegiate champ at Northern Arizona.

All three immigrants, all competing for the U.S. in Beijing, while a field of "homegrown" athletes, if you will, will be left on the sidelines.

The inevitable question: Is it fair to U.S. native athletes? Doesn't this smack of Olympic officials recruiting foreign athletes just to win medals, at the expense of homegrown talent?

It's easy to wonder, but a look even an inch below the surface reveals the flawed premise of the question. It's pretty clear that none of these gifted athletes sought U.S. citizenship simply to run in a red, white and blue singlet. Each came to America for the same reasons our forebears did: For opportunity, freedom, and a way of life.

Lagat, a WSU student more than a decade ago, had lived for years in the U.S. His career was here. His training center and partners were here. A wife and family were here. He felt like an American. He applied for citizenship. Like any other track athlete, he paid a significant price to do so: A three-year limbo period in which he was not allowed to compete internationally.

Clearly, his citizenship application might have gotten a boost from someone in a high place: It was granted, in fact, before he expected in 2004, creating the unusual specter of his competing -- and winning a silver medal -- in the Athens Games for Kenya, when he was in fact already an American citizen. But Lagat sought no special favors in the process.

Manzano's family, according to a piece in the New York Times, emigrated from Mexico to Texas when he was only 4 years old. His father, Jesus, had crossed the border 16 times, trying to earn enough money to support his family. He became a legal citizen and moved his family here in 1987.

Lomong's journey here was even more perilous. He was one of the "Lost Boys of Sudan," kidnapped at age 6 and thrust into a 10-year existence in a Kenyan refugee camp before coming to the U.S. in 2001. A compelling account of his travails is described by Tom Farrey in ESPN The Magazine here.

Convenient opportunism? Please. To get cranked up about immigrants "taking" U.S. spots is to assume that U.S. track and Olympic officials are out recruiting athletes to pad their medal count. (I picture them accosting Manzano's father at the border, telling him he had to go back south -- unless his 4-year-old son happened to have a good finish kick in the 1,500 meters.) While they clearly welcome talent of this caliber on the Olympic Team -- who wouldn't? The last U.S. medal in this race was won by Jim Ryun in 1968 -- it's just as clear that they didn't go fishing for crossover stars.

Still, some carping persists, even among journalists. Phil Hersh of the Chicago Tribune, in a blog post last week, asserted that Lagat had conveniently switched nations because he was worried he wouldn't be good enough to make the 2008 Kenyan team. The claim not only isn't supported, it makes no sense -- Lagat was the fastest Kenyan runner at the time he made his application, and remains so today. (Further: If a runner was shopping for a home country purely to ensure a spot in the Olympics, wouldn't he be starting immigration procedures in, uh, someplace like Iceland?) Yet other voices have similarly whispered that the injection of foreign athletes into the U.S. Trials is somehow unfair.

Steve Kelley's Monday column made the opposite case -- that all three are "as American as barbecue," and should be embraced as competitors who won, fair and square.

I agree. If "homegrown" U.S. track athletes want a spot on the Olympic team, they can compete for one just like everyone else: Train harder, run faster, beat the best your nation has to offer -- regardless of the pure accidental nature of their place of birth. How would one of those native-born athletes feel claiming a spot on the Olympic team, knowing that a competitor from some exotic place like, oh, Arizona, where Lagat has long resided, had a faster time?

Your thoughts, as always, are welcome.

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July 6, 2008 9:05 PM

Track Trials: Lagat cruises in 1,500

Posted by Ron Judd

No matter the weather, not a lot of sweat was evident on the brow of former WSU runner Bernard Lagat in Eugene this week. Lagat, the Kenyan native appearing in his first U.S. Olympic Trials, cruised to wins in both the 5,000 and 1,500 meters, the latter race occurring this afternoon. Lagat took the 1,500, his favorite event, with a time of 3:40.37, and seemed in control from start to finish. Leo Manzano and Lopez Lomong took the second and third Olympic spots. All three are U.S. imimigrants. See Steve Kelley's column on the trio here.

Lagat wasn't the only ex-Coug claiming a spot on the Olympic team. Ian Waltz won the discus with a throw of 216-1, earning his second Olympic spot. Another local athlete, Jarred Rome, formerly of Marysville-Pilchuck High, fell from the top qualifying spot to 11th place.

Rainier Beach grad Ginnie Powell was sixth in the finals of the women's 100 hurdles.

For a full roundup of Washington state athlete results, see track and field writer Paul Merca's blog post here.


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July 6, 2008 6:48 PM

Silver faces hand surgery; should be back for Beijing

Posted by Ron Judd

Tough break for Bainbridge (Cal) swimmer Emily Silver, who smacked the boards too hard in the 50 free last night and broke her hand -- an injury that will require surgery. The injury to Silver, 22, came in a preliminary race on Saturday and was disclosed by team coach Mark Schubert today.

It's the third time the same hand has been broken during competition in Silver's career, Schubert told the AP. He said Silver should still be able to swim in Beijing, where she qualified to swim the 400 meter freestyle relay by finishing fifth in the 100 free at the trials. See our story here.

If she's unable to recover before Beijing, SIlver would be replaced by Kara Lynn Joyce.

The 50, meanwhile, was won by Dara Torres, whose eye-popping times as a 41-year-old are garnering world-wide attention. Torres also won the 100 freestyle, and will be the oldest swimmer ever to compete in the Olympics. She swam the 50 in 24.25, lowering her own American record set last night. Finishing second was Jessica Hardy at 24.82.

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July 5, 2008 5:35 PM

Hoelzer grabs world record in 200 backstroke

Posted by Ron Judd

King Aquatic swimmer Margaret Hoelzer, of Huntsville, Ala., set a world record in the 200m backstroke at the Olympic Trials in Omaha this evening. Hoelzer swam 2:06.29, besting young Elizabeth Beisel, who finished second at 2:06.92. Touching third was Hayley McGregory at 2:07.69. It was McGregory's second third-place finish in Trials events where only the top two swimmers advance. Hoelzer had already qualifed for the Beijing Games in the 100-meter backstroke. The previous record in the 200 was 2:06.39, set last year by Kirsty Coventry.

Hall's streak ends
In another major race, the men's 50 free final, 10-time medalist Gary Hall Jr.'s two-Olympic reign as gold medalist will end, after finishing fourth behind Garrett Weber-Gale (21.47), Ben Wildman-Tobriner (21.65) and Cullen Jones (21.81). Hall finished at 21.91. Bremerton swimmer Nathan Adrian, 19, who qualified earlier as a 100m relay swimmer, finished sixth at 22.07.

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July 5, 2008 11:37 AM

Silver advances in 50 free

Posted by Ron Judd

Emily Silver of Bainbridge, who qualified for relay teams by finishing in the top five of the 100 free last night, stands 14th today moving into the semis of the 50 free (top 16 advance). Silver swam 25.57. Leaders in the prelims were Lara Jackson (24.50), Jessica Hardy (24.63), and American record holder Dara Torres (24.72). Semifinals are tonight.

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July 4, 2008 5:10 PM

Bainbridge swimmer Emily Silver qualifies for Beijing

Posted by Ron Judd


Women's 100 free
Bainbridge swimmer Emily Silver swam herself onto the Beijing Olympic team with a fifth-place finish in the 100 freestyle final won by 41-year-old Dara Torres at 53.78. In second was Natalie Coughlin at 53.83. Silver, who trains with Coughlin at Cal, swam 54.91 to claim her first Olympic berth (the top six qualify for the Olympics). Silver likely will swim the 400 freestyle relay in Beijing.

Men's 200 IM final
Ho-hum, another race and another WR for Michael Phelps, who dropped .18 off his previous mark, swimming 1:54.80 and holding off a hard-charging Ryan Lochte, who took second at 1:55.22. The world will have a hard time catching up with these two in Beijing.

Women's 200 back semis
Margaret Hoelzer of King Aquatic is well-poised to qualify for a second event in the 200 backstroke. She swam the third-fastest semifinal time tonight, 2;09.04, looking very relaxed. Fastest two times: 15-year-old Elizabeth Beisel at 2:07.28 and Hayley McGregory, seeking to come back after a tough third-place finish in the 100, at 2:08.28. Finals tomorrow.

Men's 200 back final
A close race was expected between Aaron Piersol and Ryan Lochte. Couldn't get much closer. Piersol out-touched Lochte at the finish to regain a tie for the world record Lochte took from him -- 1:54.32. Lochte clocked in at 1:54.34.

Women's 200 breast final
Good thing Puyallup's Megan Jendrick qualified for Beijing in the 100. She was in the race for the 200 breaststroke tonight -- but only sort of. The start-to-finish leader, Rebecca Soni, left the field in the dust, swimming 2:22.60. Amanda Beard touched second; Jendrick was a distant fifth, swimming 2:27.85. UW swimmer Ariana Kukors was sixth at 2:28.55.

Beard, who first swam in the Atlanta Games as a 15-year-old, qualified for her fourth Olympics.

Men's 50 free semis
Nathan Adrian of Bremerton hung with the pack in the semis, swimming to the seventh-fastest time, 22.03. Leading the pack into tomorrow night's final: Ben Wildman-Tobriner, 21.65, Cullen Jones, 21.71, Garrett Weber-Gale, 21.83, Gary Hall Jr., 21.94, and Nick Brunelli, 21.99. Finals are tomorrow night.

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July 4, 2008 10:39 AM

Bremerton's Adrian fourth fastest in 50 free prelims

Posted by Ron Judd

Nathan Adrian of Bremerton is tied for fourth after the morning prelim swims in the 50 freestyle in Omaha. Leading the pack is Cullen Jones, with a new AR of 21.59, followed by Stanford's Ben Wildman-Tobriner (21.68) and Gary Hall Jr. (21.89). Garrett Weber-Gale and Jason Lezak share Adrian's time, 22:05, in the fourth slot.

In tonight's semis, Adrian swims in lane three in the first heat, against Wildman-Tobriner and Weber-Gale. The second semi heat pits Jones against Lezak and Hall. The start list is here. Strong field here, with only two Olympic spots open. Finals are tomorrow night.

Adrian, 19, qualified for the Beijing team last night with a fourth-place finish in the 100 freestyle, where the top six earn Olympic spots.

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July 3, 2008 9:01 PM

More on local Beijing-bound swimmers

Posted by Ron Judd

If you weren't paying attention yet when we ran some earlier coverage of local swimmers who have since earned spots on the Olympic team, you're forgiven. And you have time to catch up.

Meri-Jo Borzilleri's look at the suddenly prominent King Aquatic club, which has already placed two swimmers (Margaret Hoelzer and Megan Jendrick) on the team for Beijing, can be found here.

Her story about the comeback of Jendrick can be found here.

Her look at Bremerton sprint phenom Nathan Adrian, who trains with legendary sprint coach Mike Bottom and legendary sprint king Gary Hall Jr. can be found here.

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July 3, 2008 4:52 PM

Thursday Swim Trials Updates: Bremerton's Nathan Adrian qualifies

Posted by Ron Judd

Update 6
Women's 200 breast semifinal
Puyallup's Megan Jendrick, already an Olympian in the 100, swims to second place in the first semifinal heat, posting a time of 2:26.94. UW swimmer Ariana Kukors is fourth. In the second semi, top seed Rebecca Soni swims 2:23.05, a lifetime best. Amanda Beard is second at 2:25.43. Both Jendrick and Kukors advance to tomorrow night's final. Bremerton's Tara Kirk, who finished a crushing .01 out of the running in the 100, swam the 200, but ranked 33rd.

Also: Speculation from the commentators tonight that Natalie Coughlin, who finished second in the 200 IM race last night, might scratch from that arduous event for Beijing. If so, Kukors, who finished a close third, would qualify for that event.

Update 5
Men's 100 free final
Garrett Weber-Gale wins at 47.92, with Jason Lezak, the number one qualifier, second at 48.05. Bremerton's Nathan Adrian, who barely got into this final (see below) finishes fourth, at 48.46, putting him on the Olympic team as a relay swimmer. (The top six go to the Olympics.) Adrian was the only teenager in the field. He also could qualify in the 50 meters as an individual swimmer.

Update 4
Women's 200 fly final
Elaine Breeden, who already qualified in the 100 fly, wins at 2:06.75. Kathleen Hersey is second at 2:07.33.

Update 3
Men's 200 back semis
First semi: Ryan Lochte looks strong, cruising in at 1:56.52. Can he beat Aaron Piersol in tomorrow's final? Nick Thoman is second at 1:58.57. Second semi: Piersol also cruises, swimming 1:55.78. Tyler Clary is a distant second. Piersol and Lochte go into the final 1-2.

Update 2:
Women's 100m freestyle semifinals:
Emily Silver of Bainbridge swims 54.71, for fourth position in the first of two semis. In second semifinal, American record holder Natalie Coughlin wins at 53.66, followed closely by Dara Torres, 41, who swam a lifetime best 53.76. Emily Silver ranks seventh overall, advances to the final. She'll have a chance to make the Olympic team if she can beat a swimmer or two in the final tomorrow night.

Update 1:
Men's 200 breaststroke final:
Huge upset. Brendan Hansen not only fails to reclaim his world record (see below), he fails to qualify. Scott Spann and Eric Shanteau finish 1-2, Hansen gets fourth. Spann and Shanteau will be first-time Olympians.

Watch this space for sort-of-live swim trials updates. The evening session begins at 5 p.m. PT. Of local interest:

-- Bremerton's Nathan Adrian swims the 100 free final. It's a fluke he's there. Adrian was tied for 9th place (top 8 advance) yesterday when a gift arrived: Ryan Lochte scratched from the event. Adrian won a swim-off by a thin margin to advance. Tonight, he must beat two swimmers to grab a likely Olympic spot. The top six swimmers usually go, to fill relay slots, etc. Adrian is also a threat in the 50 meter free.

-- Local swimmers Megan (Quann) Jendrick, who already qualified by finishing second in the 100 breaststroke, and U-Dub swimmer Ariana Kukors swim the semifinals for the 200 breaststroke -- in the same (first) heat. Event leaders through the prelims are Rebecca Soni and Amanda Beard, who will match up in the second heat.

Of non-local interest:

-- Bet on breaststroker Brendan Hansen to be looking to reclaim his world record from hated rival, Kosuke Kitajima of Japan, in the 200m final. Time in question: 2:07.51.

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July 2, 2008 8:20 PM

Swimmer Tara Kirk: "Despair lies on me like an avalanche."

Posted by Ron Judd

As happy as local swim fans are for returning Olympian Megan Jendrick, you've got to feel for runner-up Tara Kirk of Bremerton, she of that .01 second separation from the Olympics in yesterday's 100m breaststroke final. Kirk writes in her blog today that she's struggling to find the strength to compete in the 200 meter breaststroke, her only remaining chance to make the team for Beijing.

"Today, despair lies on me like an avalanche. I still have some decisions to make but they are important ones, not to be made with emotion. I have to decide if I am going to still swim the 200, an event that, for me, has not been particularly successful of late. And then there are decisions beyond that. Fortunately, I am surrounded by people who care about me. "

Read the rest of the post on wcsn.com here. There's a comment section. Some encouragement from back home might be welcome.


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July 2, 2008 5:56 PM

Swim Trials: Kukors nudged from Beijing slot by Coughlin

Posted by Ron Judd


Tough break for U-Dub swimmer Ariana Kukors in the women's 200 IM tonight. Kukors, swimming alongside eventual winner Katie Hoff, was headed for an apparent second-place finish -- and a spot on the Beijing Olympic team -- when she was out-touched by Natalie Coughlin, who make a miraculous recovery in her final four strokes to hit the wall eight one-hundredths of a second ahead. Kukors actually led the race into the final turn. She appeared to take a fatal half-stoke on her final reach to the wall.

The times: Hoff 2:09.71; Coughlin, 2:10.32; Kukors 2:10.40.

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July 1, 2008 5:07 PM

Swim Trials; Jendrick, Hoelzer earn Beijing spots

Posted by Ron Judd


Some spoilers for those of you with cable who can't get the live swim-trials feed:

Women's 100 Breast:
Megan Jendrick is back, baby. The Puyallup native, a double gold medalist in Sydney in 2000 as a 16-year-old, finished second behind Jessica Hardy to win a spot on the Beijing Olympic team. Hardy swam 1:06.87, Jendrick 1:07.50 -- a third of a second slower than her best qualifying time yesterday. Bremerton native Tara Kirk finished third -- by an excruciating one one-hundredth of a second. It was a reversal of the outcome from four years ago in Long Beach, where Kirk edged Jendrick by 11 hundredths. And it's the culmination of an amazing story -- the two actually swam together in the same pool as youngsters in Bremerton.

Hardy led most of the race, and Jendrick trailed Kirk by what looked to be almost a meter with 25 to go. That patented Jendrick finish kick rocketed her into second -- and into the Olympics. It's a compelling comeback story: It would have been easy to retire after the crushing defeat four years ago.

Rebecca Soni of USC was fourth at 1:07.80. Three-time Olympian Amanda Beard was sixth at 1:08.80. Beard is a stronger contender for the 200 breast, where Jendrick, with the immense pressure of making the team now removed, might also prove to be a terror. She's been swimming faster than ever in that event leading up to the trials. The 200 breast prelims and semifinal are Thursday. The final is Friday night.

Both Jendrick and Hardy will need to up their game to return from Beijing with a gold medal, however. There, they'll face Australian superstar Leisl Jones, who holds the world record at 1:05.09. Hardy holds the American record at 1:06.20.


Men's 100 Back:
Another race, another WR. Aaron Piersol, the WR holder and defending gold medalist, lowered his own mark to 52. 89, edging out Matt Grevers (53.19) and Ryan Lochte (53.57). In fourth was Randall Bal at 53.45 -- same position as the Trials in '04. Ouch. Grevers got to the wall a flash faster with those long arms -- he's 6-foot-8.

Women's 100 Back:
OK, so Natalie Coughlin's pretty fast, too. For the second time in two days, the five-time Olympic medalist broke her own WR in this event, swimming 58.97. Right behind her was our first swimming local to make the Beijing team, Margaret Hoelzer, touching at 59.21. Hoelzer, an Alabaman who trains at King Aquatics, edged out Hayley McGregory, who briefly broke Coughlin's old WR yesterday and touched at 59.42. It was McGregory's second straight trials finishing in that awful position -- third, close enough to taste the Olympics, but not close enough to get there. Big day and big career step for Hoelzer, who swam under 1 minute in this race for the first time yesterday.

Men's 200 Free:
OK, Michael Phelps is pretty fast. The human torso, qualifying in the number one position for his third event (and counting) for Beijing, jjust swam a 1:44.10 in the 200 free -- a little off his own world record. Phelps finished a full body length ahead of the field. That's a long ways. He's 6-foot-4, and probably still growing.

Quote of the Night:
"He's as close to a dolphin as a human can be." -- Rowdy Gaines, on Michael Phelps.

Comment: Wasn't Flipper as close to a dolphin as a human can be? Or was it the other way around?

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July 1, 2008 9:55 AM

UPDATE: You say ET, I say PT -- let's call the whole thing off

Posted by Ron Judd

So I've been having this ongoing e-mail dialogue for three days with a person from NBC, who shall remain unnamed because ... well, because I'm such a nice person. He is in London on a Blackberry, I'm here on the marginally relevant West Coast. The gist of the debate: How is it possible that after four days, NBC has been unable to give me accurate programming info for when and where Olympic Trials coverage will run on local television?

He keeps sending me schedules. I keep tuning in and finding them, amazingly, wrong.

Well, last night an explanation finally came about. Much of NBC's trials coverage, especially midweek, is on its USA Network feed. Mr. NBC has been insisting that trials coverage on that channel should run at the same local time on both coasts. IE, last night's swimming coverage should be at 8 p.m. on USA, whether you're in Ballard or Boston. The glitch: It was not, in fact, on USA at 8 p.m. for DirecTV satellite customers, who probably tuned in at 8 p.m. to find track and field coverage, scheduled for 11 p.m. on the NBC schedule.

Here's why: USA is a "two-feed" network, one for the East Coast, one delayed three hours (like everything else in the world) for the West Coast. This allows the network to plug a show, say, "Tuesdays at 8," on both coasts. Most (I didn't say ALL) cable systems, including Comcast in the Puget Sound area, broadcast the West Coast USA net feed. DirecTV -- and other satellite systems, including Dish Network , a reader reports -- goes with the East Coast feed for all its customers, everywhere.

Result: If you have DirecTV, you need to subtract three hours from the advertised times for all Olympic Trials coverage. This is a mixed blessing. It makes it tough for poor scribes like us to tell you, simply, when something's on TV, without resorting to the proverbial -- and, it appears, necessary -- "check your local listings." On the other hand, local DirecTV customers this week are getting Olympic Trials coverage in real time -- concurrent with East Coast viewers. That means some of the swimming and track coverage truly IS live here -- but only if you're watching on satellite, or tuned in to the East Coast-timeslot Internet simulcast on nbcolympics.com. An unexpected, and pleasant, surprise.

So, there you have it. I stand by everything I said below about the need for West Coast live feeds of Olympic Trials -- and of the Olympics themselves. But it's nice to know that some of us, at least, are getting that this week. (Remember, however, that the coverage on NBC itself is still time-delayed three hours, even for satellite customers.) Depending on how much stuff NBC chooses to broadcast on USA (which incidentally, arrives in stunning HD via DirecTV at our house), this could be a major TV-watching factor when the Games themselves begin Aug. 8. Stay tuned for more on that. Again, the network's full coverage schedule is supposed to be announced sometime this week.

And before we forget: Several readers have informed us that they're unable to get the nbcolympics.com broadcasts, delivered via Microsoft "Silverlight" technology, whatever that means, on Macs. Anyone able to confirm this, or report a workaround?

Happy watching. And don't go looking for track coverage tonight or tomorrow. They're taking two days off in Eugene.

WEDNESDAY UPDATE: Just to further confuse things: We've now learned that some Seattle-area Comcast customers actually can get the East Coast (earlier) version of Trials coverage -- if they have USA Network's HD feed, which is broadcast live on East Coast time. The SD, low-def channel still carries the USA coverage on West Coast time, ie, three hours delayed. People at KING TV, the local NBC affiliate, say the best way to find your own coverage is to do what they do: Just consult your cable-TV scheduling grid, which is accurate and scheduled at least a week in advance.

Also: A network spokesman says Microsoft's Silverllight media player, a plug-in installed from the nbcolympics.com Web site when you first load video there, should be fully compatible with Macs or PCs. A separate service being set up to download streaming games coverage will be MS Vista-compatible only. But live, streaming coverage on nbcolympics should be open to all users.


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Blogroll and links

www.olympic.org: The official International Olympic Committtee site, with news releases, a searchable Olympic medals database and other archival information.
www.nbcolympics.com: Olympic news site from one of the Games' primary sponsors.
NBC Olympics columnist Alan Abrahamson's column/blog
Chicago Tribune Olympic sports writer Philip Hersh's blog
www.usolympicteam.com: U.S. Olympic Committee's athlete web site.
www.aroundtherings.com: Ed and Sheila Hula's Olympic News Service (subscription).
www.wcsn.com: News service with audio, video and text coverage of Olympic sports, during and between Olympics. Free, but charges for live video feed subscriptions.
www.beijing2008.com: Beijing Organizing Committee Web site.
www.vancouver2010.com: Vancouver Organizing Committee's 2010 Winter Games site.
www.london2012.com: London 2012 Summer Games site.
www.sochi2014.com: Sochi, Russia's 2014 Winter Games site.
www.chicago2016.org: Candidate city Chicago's summer 2016 bid committee site.
Olympic swimmer Tara Kirk's highly entertaining WCSN blog
Bellevue Olympian Scott Macartney's WCSN alpine ski-racing blog
Other WCSN Olympic athlete blogs.