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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 12, 2008 5:46 PM

Tuesday prime time thread: Phelps gets 5th gold; China gold in gymnastics

Posted by Ron Judd

NBC has signed off on the East Coast -- 30 minutes late again. For consecutive nights, East Coasters have had to stay up until nearly 12:30 a.m. to see the end of gymnastics. Whereas, if NBC was showing it live in Seattle, it actually would be IN prime time. But what do we know.

CBC, meanwhile, has finally found an event in which Canada is ahead -- baseball, where they lead China 3-0 in China's first game ever in the Olympics.

Note: NBC's West Coast broadcast at this minute says "LIVE" on beach volleyball. It's a lie. It will stay there for the first two hours. It's still a lie.


goggles.JPGGood night for Michael Phelps, bad night for Speedo. Phelps flings his Speedo goggles in disgust after swimming to another world record, in the 200 butterfly, blinded by water. (Photo: Itsuo Inouye/AP.)

Phelps, on NBC, speaks about becoming the all-time gold medal leader with 11:

He thought about it earlier and got all choked up, he says.

"I'm almost at a loss for words."

And he reveals that he did, indeed, have a goggle malfunction while winning his first gold medal of the night in the 200 butterfly:

"As soon as I dove in, they filled up. They kept getting more and more and more full. I broke the record, but I can go faster."

Back to Bob Costas:

"If you were wondering if MIchael Phelps is good enough to do it with his eyes closed, the answer apparently is yes."

And then Costas, who, recall, doesn't like to emphasize the medal count, shows us the medal count, which shows China leading in golds.

China wins the gold medal in women's team gymnastics, beating the U.S. by 2.375 points. Romania wins the bronze.

So much for that. NBC goes back to ... Michael Phelps!

On women's gymnastics:

The U.S. squad is in floor exercises. (Sorry, had to file a column for the print edition, and just sort of half-viewed the balance beam, but heard things like "major deduction" coming from the commentators.) Chinese athletes have made a large numbers of mistakes on the balance beam, but the U.S. can't capitalize, matching goof for goof.

Alicia Sacramone falls on a jump pass on her floor routine. She's rattled, and later steps out of bounds. Afterwards, she looks absolutely, completely devastated.

I've watched in person as gymnasts self-destruct like this at the Olympics, and every time, your heart really aches for them. Men and women both. From any country. It's excruciating. And imagine trying to ask them, after the fact, what went wrong. There's nothing fun about it. Most of them face up to it and try to explain, but you can literally feel the pain. They don't want to be there. Neither do you. You both do your job.

You have to keep in mind the big picture: They train insanely for four years for, literally, one moment, and there are just so many things that can go wrong. A step over the line here. A minor balance shift there. Boom, you're done.

It's not like beach volleyball, or fencing, where if you screw up and lose a point, well, you come back and do better. Not possible here. Hard to imagine the nerves of steel it takes to conduct this high-wire act. And at such young ages, for the most part.

The U.S. remains in silver-medal position, but is struggling, after leading the Chinese early.


800 freestyle relay
So much for Phelps being tired. The Human Torso, leading off, had nearly a two-body-length lead at 200 meters -- 2 seconds under the world-record pace. Stunning. Ryan Lochte swims second, extending the lead, and touching 3.63 seconds below WR pace. The third swimmer, Ricky Berens, kept the lead at nearly half a pool length. Peter VanderKaay brought it home on the anchor leg, bringing the U.S. in with a new WR of 6:58.56, followed by Russia at 7:03.70 and Australia at 7:04.98.

Phelps is now five for five, and they're all world records.

Women's 200 IM final

Australia's Stephanie Rice grabs her second gold, winning in 2:08.45. Kirsty Coventry of Zimbabwe is second at 2:08.59. Natalie Coughlin wins bronze with 2:10.34. Katie Hoff is 0.34 behind, in fourth.
All-time medalists

Someone just asked where Phelps' career 10th gold and 12th overall medal places him on the all-time list for total medals of all colors. Here it is, with name, event, and total medals (athletes with 10 or more medals, including Phelps' results tonight):

Larissa Latynina, USSR, gymnastics:18
Nikolay Andrianov, USSR, gymnastics:15
Takashi Ono, Japan, Gymnastics: 13
Edoardo Mangiarotti, Italy, fencing: 13
Michael Phelps, USA, Swimming: 13
Boris Shakhlin, USSR, gymnastics: 13
Alexei Nemov, Russia, gymnastics: 12
Jenny Thompson, USA, swimming, 12
Sawao Kato, Japan, gymnastics: 12
Birgit Fischer, Germany, canoeing: 12
Bjorn Daehle, Norway, XC skiing: 12
Paavo Nurmi, Finland, track and field: 12
Carl Osburn, USA, shooting: 11
Viktor Chukarin, USSR, gymnastics: 11
Vera Caslavska, Czechoslovakia, gymnastics: 11
Matt Biondi, USA, swimming: 11
Mark Spitz, USA, swimming: 11
Alexander Dityatin, USSR, gymnastics: 10
Dara Torres, USA, swimming: 10
Raisa Smetanina, USSR, XC skiing: 10
Polina Astakhova, USSR, gymnastics: 10
Agnes Keleti , Hungary, gymnastics: 10
Gary Hall Jr. USA, swimming: 10
Vitaly Scherbo, Belarus, gymnastics: 10
Akinori Nakayama, Japan, gymnastics: 10
Aladar Gerevich , Hungary, fencing: 10
Carl Lewis, USA, track and field: 10

Here's what it's like to be us.

Not 10 minutes after Phelps won his 10th career gold medal, the following announcement appeared in our inbox:

Today, Visa unveiled a special edition commercial commemorating Michael Phelps’ historic achievement of setting the all-time record for most career Olympic gold medals at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games. I've attached a press release below for your review.

Let me know if you are interested in speaking with a Visa executive about the new commercial or the company's long-standing relationship with Michael Phelps.

We'll get right on that.

Gymnastics update:
All American gymnasts appear to have successfully unpacked their bags. Is that a "Hello Kitty" logo on the back of one of them?

Men's 200 butterfly final:
America's Michael Phelps, claiming gold medal number four in Beijing, number 10 overall, breaks his own world record with a 1:52.03. He finally looks tired, and a bit irritated. Silver to Laszlo Cseh of Hungary. Phelps will be back shortly for his relay swim.

Meanwhile, NBC switches quickly to women's gymnastics. Wouldn't want to miss Team USA walking out of the tunnel and lacing up their shoes.

Women's 200 freestyle final:

Federica Pellegrini of Italy, leading start to finish, wins in world record time, 1:54.82. Silver to Sara Isakovic of Slovenia. Bronze to Pang Jiayhing of China. No medal for America's Katie Hoff.

Nap over. Both networks have switched to swimming. First up: Men's 100 freestyle prelims.

Heat One: Alain Bernard of France, regaining some mojo after getting spanked by Jason Lezak at the end of the 400 relay, lowers his own world record, swimming 47.20. Lezak is third at 47.98; Stefan Nystrand of Sweden second at 47.91.

Commercial break note: Anyone else lamenting that our own Brandi Carlile has sold out to General Motors? Sad.UPDATE, Wednesday a.m.: See post above.

Heat Two: Eamon Sullivan of Australia grabs the
WR right back, swimming 47.05. How low can they go? Pieter van den Hoogenband of the Netherlands is second at 47.68. Garrett Weber-Gale of the U.S. does not make the final after finishing fifth in this heat, swimming 48.12.

On CBC, they're giving an update on all the possible medalists from Timbit Nation. The report just started and ... well, there's the end.

We KID the Canadians!

Oh, no. There it is. Bump, set, spike. Lather, rinse, repeat.

We'll get back to you when something actually happens.
Double uh-oh: On NBC (East Coast only: West Coast: irrelevant), Costas has just said the three words that send the world reaching for the remote:

"Men's beach volleyball."

(We are expecting that, simply in the interest of fairness, the network will be showing wedding photos of the men, and discussing where they took their brides on the first date.)
Uh-oh: The killer, impenetrable, lung-clogging, penetrating smog, sorry, refreshing fog, has re-descended upon Beijing, if the view behind Ron McLean on CBC is any indication.

Hey: The view behind Bob Costas is sunny blue skies.

Just kidding. Although nothing, at this point, would surprise us. Just some more "cinematic effect!"

Synchro diving results are posted below. (Close your eyes if you don't want to know.)


Appearing now on NBC (East Coast) and CBC, everywhere:

Women's synchronized diving, 30m platform.

We were hard on the guys doing this yesterday. We seek to make amends: It's a great sport. Just not the sport of the future, which everyone has now acknowldged is team handball.

Speaking of which: Learn about team handball -- heck, sign up for it -- at USA Handball's web site.

Synchro diving results, women:

1) China
2) Australia
3) Mexico

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August 12, 2008 4:54 PM

History in the making: Swim schedule for the Human Torso

Posted by Ron Judd

In case you want to watch Michael Phelps, the Human Torso, win five more gold medals, live (well, good luck with that, if you're relying on NBC) on TV, here's his remaining swim schedule*, from our crack research staff:

200 butterfly: 7:21 pm today
800 freestyle relay: 8:19 pm today
200 IM: 7:48 pm Thursday
100 butterfly: 7:10 pm Friday
400 medley relay: 7:58 Saturday.

*Note: All times are Pacific Daylight Time, AKA Disadvantaged Time Zone Time (DTZT).

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August 12, 2008 10:42 AM

Lip-synch Shocker! China admits ceremony song sung by Milli Vanilli

Posted by Ron Judd

Some of it seemed too good to be true.

Well, some of it was.

Reports from Beijing today have Chinese officials admitting that the adorable little red-dressed girl singing the adorable little song, "Ode to the Motherland" as the Chinese flag was marched into the opening ceremony was lip-synched. No a crime, to be sure -- even Pavarotti lip-synched his famous "Nessun Dorma" at the Turin opener, because of his health and the extremely cold weather.

But in this case, the voice echoing around the world did not even belong to the pig-tailed girl on camera. It was a recording of another young Chinese girl, authorities confessed today. It was their solution to a dilemma: The girl on camera, Lin Miaoke, 9, was judged to be the most adorable. But she didn't have the best voice. So they mixed and matched, using the voice of another 7-year-old girl deemed cuter by China's Politburo.

What's more, Lin, the New York Times suggest, may not even have known she was being dubbed. See their posted mug shots and decide for yourself about the Chinese Politburo's taste.

Meanwhile: Bob Costas's tortured description of those "footprint" fireworks leading up to the opening of ceremony makes sense now with the revelation that those didn't really happen, either. The actual 29 fireworks footprints were set off during practices, but it was too smoggy the night of the show itself. So they filled in with B-roll combined with computer effects, which Costas and other announcers described as a "cinematic device" without ever actually just saying that what you saw wasn't real.

This, coupled with NBC's insistence on running a "LIVE" bug on West Coast broadcasts of events that ended hours earlier, makes you wonder: Is anything you're seeing in China real? In the future, why not just produce the entire thing on a blue screen?

(NBC's limp explanation today: They can't remove the bug for West Coast broadcasts. Just pay no attention to it.)

Speaking of which:
In the New York Times, we here in Siberia south are now being referred to as viewers in "disadvantaged time zones."

Does that mean we get a front-row parking space?

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August 12, 2008 8:49 AM

While You Were Sleeping, Tuesday edition

Posted by Ron Judd

Good morning, Irrelevant West Coast. Here's what you've missed:

Basketball: The U.S. men's team downed Angola, 97-76 to go 2-0 in the Olympics. Next up: Greece, which stunned the U.S. at the World Championships in Japan two years ago. It might be payback time.

Women's soccer: The U.S. secured its spot in the quarterfinals by skunking New Zealand, 4-0, in Shenyang.

Men's volleyball: Still playing without the head coach, the U.S. improved to 2-0 by defeating Italy.

Marathon: The reigning women's champion, Mizuki Noguchi of Japan, announced she's withdrawing from Sunday's Beijing race because of a thigh muscle sprain and groin problem. Noguchi won the grueling marathon on one of the hottest days of the Athens Games -- conditions so tough that many competitors failed to finish, and many who did suffered from severe hydration.

Softball: The U.S. beat Venezuela 11-0 in a match called in the fifth inning because of the "mercy" rule. Jennie Finch and Monica Abbott combined for yet-another no-hitter. Makes you wonder if fans of the sport rallying to have it reinstated in the Olympics (this is scheduled to be its official swan song) might be better served placing some ringers on foreign squads. It's just not competitive outside the U.S. and Australia.

Trap Shooting: Glenn Eller of Texas won gold in men's double trap.

Tennis: Rafael Nadal, the Williams sisters and Roger Federer all advanced.

Everyone ready for some more beach volleyball?

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August 2008

Blogroll and links The official International Olympic Committtee site, with news releases, a searchable Olympic medals database and other archival information. 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 U.S. Olympic Committee's athlete web site. Ed and Sheila Hula's Olympic News Service (subscription). News service with audio, video and text coverage of Olympic sports, during and between Olympics. Free, but charges for live video feed subscriptions. Beijing Organizing Committee Web site. Vancouver Organizing Committee's 2010 Winter Games site. London 2012 Summer Games site. Sochi, Russia's 2014 Winter Games site. 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.