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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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August 10, 2008 11:56 PM

U.S. women's eight dominates Canada, Britain, advance to final

Posted by Ron Judd

The U.S. women's eight crew, powered by Anna Mickelson Cummins and coxswain Mary Whipple, both former U-Dub crew members, led start to finish in their first race in Beijing, beating Great Britain, Canada and Germany. The margin of victory was more than 2 seconds. The U.S. team goes directly to the final, the rest into a repechage round.

Cummins, the only U.S. rower in two events, also will row in the women's pairs, with Portia McGee of Seattle, later in the Olympics.

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August 10, 2008 5:41 PM

Sunday night LIVE: Gold for U.S., Bremerton's Adrian

Posted by Ron Judd


In the big swim race of the night -- and perhaps one of the greatest ever in the Olympics -- the U.S. men's 400 freestyle relay team staged a stunning comeback, capped by a world-record anchor leg swum by Jason Lezak (46.06), to nip the French by .07 seconds.

The comeback, keeping alive Michael Phelps' historic quest for eight gold medals, erased a surprising early deficit after Phelps swam the first leg in 47.51.

Next up, Garrett Weber-Gale, who briefly regained the lead for the Americans by swimming 47.02. But the French charged back into the lead on leg three, swum by Cullen Jones at 47.65.

Into the water went Lezak, 32, facing off against French world-record holder Alain Bernard. He trailed Bernard most of the way, but skirted to the inside, near the French swimmer, and passed him in his last four strokes. Lezak's time, 46.05, obliterated the former fastest swim time for a relay start and sent the U.S. squad into pandemonium. Bernard swam his last leg in 46.73.

The finish time, 3:08.24, was almost 4 seconds below the 3:12.23 world record mark set by their prelims swim team, which included Bremerton's Nathan Adrian, who will take home a gold medal. The French finished in 3:08.32.

In the women's 400 free, America's Katie Hoff appeared to be have her first gold medal wrapped up, but was caught at the end and passed by Rebecca Adlington of Great Britain, who swam 4 03.22 to Hoff's 4:03.29. Joanne Jackson of Britain was third at 4:03.52.

In the men's 100 backstroke semis, Aaron Piersol swims 53.56, qualifying fifth.

In the women's 100 breaststroke semis, America's Rebecca Soni swims 1:070.7, winning the first heat and qualifying second overall. Second heat: Tacoma's Megan Jendrick swims 1:08:07, qualifying seventh for tomorrow's final. Qualifying first is Leisel Jones of Australia, who swam 1:05.80.

In the men's 100 breaststroke, Kozuki Kitajima of Japan defends his gold from Athens, swimming 58.91, a world record. Silver to Norway's Alexander Dale Oen, 59.20. Bronze to Hugues Duboscq of France, 59.37. Brendan Hansen is fourth at 59.57.

In the women's 100 fly, Australia's Libby Trickett takes gold, swimming 56.73. Silver to Christine Magnuson of the U.S. Bronze to Jessicah Schipper of Australia, 57.25.

Natalie Coughlin's world record in the 100 backstroke goes poof as Kirsty Coventry of Zimbabwe swims 58.77 in the semi-finals.

Michael Phelps advances in the semis of the 400 freestyle, swimming 1:46.28. Winning his heat was America's Peter Vanderkaay, swimming 1:45.76. Phelps goes into the final seeded fourth.

Equestrian Eventing

Duvall's Amy Tryon was dismounted, with both her and horse escaping injury. But she's disqualified from the competition, reports KING-5 TV's Allen Schauffler from Beijing.

Women's Synchro Diving

As expected, gorgeous to watch. Also as expected, China's Guo Jinging and Wu Minxia are nearly flawless in defending their 3-meter synchro title from Athens. Close call for American duo Kelci Bryant and Ariel Rittenhouse, who were tied for second after three dives (of five) when a mistake on the fourth dropped them to fourth in the competition. Silver to Russia, bronze to Germany.

Politics:

President Bush stops off at the NBC anchor desk for five minutes with Bob Costas. Costas gets him to confirm he was, indeed, talking to Vladimir Putin about the conflict with Georgia during the opening ceremonies, telling him the violence was unacceptable. They also discuss banned-from-China athlete Joey Cheek. "Joey Cheek's got to know I took the Sudanese message (to Chinese leadership) for him," Bush says.

He adds that he doesn't need the Olympics as an excuse to press Chinese leaders on human-rights issues, something he says the U.S. government does all the time.

In general, he has high praise for the Chinese handling of the Games, and says he's been thrilled to spend so much time with American athletes.

"Our team's fired up," he says. "And so am I."

Women's (girl's?) team gymastics:

Pretty tough night for the U.S. squad.

Don't miss the performance of China's He Kexin on NBC's prime-time delay-othon tonight. Let's just say something uncharacteristic occurs on her otherwise mind-boggling uneven parallel bars routine.

By the way: If that girl is 16, I'm Bette Midler. Discuss amongst yourselves.


He.jpg

Bette.jpg

>(Top: He Kexin; photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images. Bottom: Bette Midler or Ron Judd/Seattle Times file.)

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August 10, 2008 5:00 PM

Cracking the NUT: A note on live results

Posted by Ron Judd

MEMO

TO: Anyone offended by our posting of live results here.

FROM: Rules Committee, Olympic Insider.

RE: Timing.

We regret to inform you that we at Olympic Insider operate on Pacific Daylight Time (PDT), not NBC Universal Time (NUT).

Throughout the Beijing Games, when we have access to a live feed from China -- which, knock on wood, we hope to -- we'll be posting real-time results and commentary here every evening.

We'll say this once for the record: If you're waiting for NBC's delayed prime time coverage and don't want to know what's going on in the world in real time, don't be poking around on the Internet -- especially here -- until you're ready to rejoin the rest of the planet.

We'd love to welcome you back later, however.

That is all.

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August 10, 2008 4:46 PM

Men's freestyle relay could bring a medal to Bremerton's Adrian

Posted by Ron Judd

Nathan Adrian, 19, of Bremerton, helped put the U.S. men's 400 meter freestyle relay team in tonight's (scheduled: 8:26 p.m. PT) final. But it's unlikely he'll swim in the race itself.

Adrian swam 48.82 in the semis, where the U.S. team lowered the world record to 3:12.33. His teammates were Cullen Jones (47.61), Ben Wildman-Tobriner (48.03) and Matt Grevers (47.77). But two of those swimmers are likely to be replaced by veterans Jason Lezak and Michael Phelps in the final, in spite of their record preliminary time.

Adrian's time was solid, but the slowest of the group. Coaches consider a lot of other factors, as well, including experience, big-race competitive fire, start times and other factors. Usually, a coach gets no credit when he makes the right call -- and a lot of attention when he doesn't.

This call will be made by men's coach Eddie Reese, who doesn't exactly have a sterling record at choosing straws in this event in the recent Olympic past.

It was Reese who made the controversial decision to leave veteran, big-race swimmer Gary Hall Jr. on the beach for the same race in Athens four years ago. Hall publicly questioned Reese's decision to use Phelps -- who technically had not qualifed for the event at trials -- and Ian Crocker, who had been sick leading up to the race in Athens, instead. Crocker practically drowned on his leg, and the U.S. finshed third -- its worst finish ever, ending Phelps' quest for seven gold medals.

Reese responded that he'd made his decision strictly on the basis of recent times. So much for that strategy.

Whoever gets the call tonight will join his teammates in seeking some vengeance. America never lost the race until the Aussies beat them in Sydney in 2000. It has grown into one of the great grudge matches in the sport.

And all swimmers on the team, including Adrian, will get whatever medal the final four earn in the pool.

Choosing relay members is often controversial. And occasionally misinterpreted. Phelps was widely portrayed as heroic in Athens for bowing out of the butterfly spot for his final relay, the 400 medley, to give Crocker a chance to redeem himself for his freestyle relay debacle (which he did). Reese called it a "hell of a gesture." But it wasn't entirely selfless: Phelps, who had swum for the U.S. in the prelims, had already qualified himself for that medal. It would prove to be gold, and it would be his eighth, a record for any non-boycotted Games.

So far.

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August 10, 2008 10:06 AM

While you were sleeping: Bremerton's Adrian helps U.S. to world record

Posted by Ron Judd

While you were sleeping, Sunday morning edition:

Swimming

The U.S. men's 400-meter freestyle relay team, swimming in the semis without Michael Phelps, lowered the world record to 3:12.23. Making it happen were Bremerton's own Nathan Adrian along with Cullen Jones, Ben Wildman-Tobriner and Matt Grevers. The final kicks off around 8:20 p.m., PT.

Margaret Hoelzer, swimming 1:00.13, advanced to the semis in the 100 backstroke; the semis are tonight, Seattle time. Megan Jendrick swam 1:08.07 to advance to the semis in the 100 breastroke. Swimming in the same heat, Australia's Leisel Jones set a new Olympic record at 1:05.64. Semis are tonight; finals tomorrow night, Seattle time.

Katie Hoff, last seen looking glum accepting her first Olympic medal -- a bronze -- after the women's 400 IM won by Australia's Stephanie Rice (who also took Hoff's former world record), appears out for vengeance: She set an Olympic record in the semis of the 400 free.

Volleyball

The U.S. men's team, playing without head coach Hugh McCutcheon, whose father-in-law was killed in a bizarre attack by a crazed knife-wielding assailant, beat Venezuela in five sets. Assistant coach Ron Larsen filled in.

Courtroom

Greek sprinter/doper Ekaterina Thanou, who faked an accident to hide from drug testers and wound up withdrawing from her home Games in Athens, was ruled officially out of the Beijing Games by the International Olympic Committee, which, in a rare, frank display of outright distaste, called her conduct "scandalous."

Gymnastics

Coaching legend Bela Karolyi, on hand to provide commentary for NBC, stirred things up a bit by keeping alive controversy about the alleged ages of two young female Chinese gymnasts.

Karolyi, quoted by the Los Angeles Times, called the Chinese team's flouting of age rules "blatant," and accused the Chinese of using "half people."

"These people think we are stupid," he said. "We are in the business of gymnastics. We know what a kid of 14 or 15 or 16 looks like. What kind of slap in the face is this? They are 12, 14 years old and the government backs them and the federation runs away. There is an age limit and it can't be controlled."

Under international rules, competitors must be 16. The international gymnastics federation declined to investigate what it called "Internet" reports that the two Chinese girls qualifying for the individual medal round, Jiang Yuyuan and Yang Yilin, are underaged.

On the floor, meanwhile, the U.S. suffered a setback when Samantha Peszek injured her ankle during warmups before team competition. The U.S. finished second in its group to advance to the final on Wednesday.

Men's water polo

The U.S. beat China, 8-4.

Tennis

America's James Blake beat Chris Guccione of Australia in two sets in a match with a long rain delay that scuttled most other matches.

Soccer

Snatching tie from the jaws of victory, the U.S. men's soccer team gave up a free-kick goal in the 93rd minute for a 2-2 tie with the Netherlands. Winning would have clinched the team a spot in the quarterfinals; now it must beat or tie Nigeria on Wednesday.


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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.