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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 14, 2008 10:30 PM

Liukins, Johnson 1-2 in gymnastics; Al Trautwig weeps openly

Posted by Ron Judd


OK, we lied about signing off.

As a public service, just for those of you who simply can't get enough of TV gymnastics commentator Tim "Crazy good!" Daggett, we give you this link to his professional speaking business, which declares:

Today Tim Daggett is one of the most "in demand" professional speakers in the country. Beyond his Perfect 10 and Olympic Gold, Tim's story of inner strength, motivation and learning to overcome insurmountable obstacles shows audiences that with commitment to a goal, and belief in oneself, anything is possible.

We are making none of this up.

Tim is a teacher, and he is a do-er. His presentation is filled with a unique mix of emotion, humor and entertainment, and as he shares his momentous success and his heroic struggle, he touches the hearts of all who hear him. Believability permeates the room ... for Tim Daggett has been there. An understanding of his words builds as he speaks .. for Tim Daggett is magnetic.

Book him now, or you'll be crazy sorry.

----------------------------------


The Trout, emoting, during the gymnastics medal ceremony:

"And now, she (Liukins) will only be known by one name."

Well, what is it?

Waiting...

Pele?

Waiting....

Cher?

Waiting....

Flipper?

Waiting...

Trout?

We'll have to get back to you on this.

Meanwhile: Daggett, as the anthem fades: "..And the home of the brave. And they certainly were!"

(Note: You'll have to stay up until 1:15 a.m. to get all of this in person. Put on a pot of Folger's.)

We can't top any of that. Over and out til tomorrow.
-------------------

Gymnastics:

Liukin perrorms a clean routine, which scores 15.525, which is a good -- or bad -- thing, given that commentator Tim Daggett said "I'll fall down dead right here" if she doesn't get it.

Memorable quote:

"That could be a routine that we are watching for generations." -- Al Trautwig, master of the overstatement.

Shawn Johnson needs a 15.45 to get the silver. Her routine is clean, under huge pressure. A "U-S-A" chant is heard faintly in the crowd. Her score: 15.525, to earn the silver. Liukins is the champeen. Yang takes the bronze.
------------------------
Yang scores 15.00 on her floor exercise, which prompts The Trout to extoll: "How about wow?" Liukin is up, needing a 14.85 to keep her lead.
--------------------------

Liukin posts a 16.175 on the balance beam to take the lead with one rotation remaining (floor ex). Yang Yilin of China trails by .15. Shawn Johnson stands third, .60 out of the lead.

-------------------------
Nastia Liukin stands second after two rotations. Shawn Johnson is fifth, trailing by .75.
--------------------
Want some controversy?

Tune in Olympic boxing, on any network. Earlier today, boxing announcers on both CNBC and CBC were beside themselves over the judging during various bouts. One of them went so far as to say he was glad they were there to document the debacle, just for the purposes of righting wrongs down the road.
---------------------
Just to show you we're equal-opportunity grumps: CBC has just shown an extended view of America's Shawn Johnson taping her feet on the sidelines. NBC immediately sued them for violation of intellectual property rights.

--------------------
Before we move to gymnastics, a word about sailing:

Sailing was scheduled to commence Thursday at Quingdao, which sailors worldwide have speculated might have insufficient wind. Result: No wind. Will try again tomorrow. Meanwhile, we're awaiting a statement from BOCOG insisting that there actually was wind; you just had to be open-minded enough to look for it.

------------------
Women's 100 freestyle final:
Amazing. Britta Steffen of Germany wins at 53.12, but Libby Trickett of Australia, who got into the final by luck when a Chinese swimmer false-started in the prelims, swims from lane 8 for the silver, swimming 53.16. Natalie Coughlin gets the bronze, her 10th Olympic medal.
----------------------
Men's 200 IM
Michael Phelps, yawn, smashes his own WR to win in 1:54.23. Laszlo Cseh of Hungary is second at 1:56.52. Ryan Lochte of the U.S. wins bronze with 1:56.53.
----------------------
Women's 200 backstroke semifinal:

Kirsty Coventry of Zimbabwe swims a relaxed 2:07.76 to win her heat and lead contenders into tomorrow night's final. King Aquatic swimmer Margaret Hoelzer is third in the heat at 2:08.25, fifth seed for the final. American Elizabeth Beisel qualifies second for the final. Should be a hot final.
-----------------------
200 backstroke: 2 more U.S. medals

Ryan Lochte wins the 200 back, with a new WR of 1:53.94. Aaron Peirsol wins silver.
-----------------------
Big news:

Rebecca Soni has just stunned Beijing -- and all of Down Under -- by smoking world-record holder Leisel Jones of Australia in the 200 meter breast stroke. Time: A WR of 2:20.22. Jones is second at 2:22.05.

-----------------
Thankfully, May-Treanor and Walsh pull out the first set. The bombers have been turned around at Belgium's border. For a second there, we thought we were going to have to interrupt regular programming.
---------------
The NBC cameras already are rolling the action into East Coast households, where people are snuggling up to their sets and seeing ... beach volleyball! We've run out of jokes about it. At this point, it's simply depressing. And it's not even the finals.

Possible gigantic, pressing, beach-volleyball questions perhaps to be answered tonight:

-- What if Kerri Walsh loses her wedding ring again?

-- Can we see, just one more time, the inscription inside it?

-- Is it true that Misty May-Treanor really carries around little vials of her mother's ashes to sprinkle in the sane in places where she plays? Is this sort of a macabre version of a dog peeing in another's territory, or former Olympic swimmer Amy Van Dyken spitting in an opponent's lane in the pool?

-- What color of tape will Kerri have plastered across her shoulder, like tape applied by an inebriated UPS-store employee, today?

Stay tuned.

CBC, meanwhile, is showing, RIGHT NOW, DTZ TIME, track and field preliminaries.f

It's an easy call.

Meanwhile, we hate to alarm America, but the Golden Girls of U.S. beach volleyball are trailing in the first set of their match against two unknown and largely irrelevant opponents from Belgium.

Comments | Category: Beach volleyball , Beijing 2008 Games , Gymnastics , Swimming |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

August 14, 2008 3:14 PM

Track and field debuts: 100m prelims on CBC

Posted by Ron Judd


CBC's afternoon coverage, which kicks off at 3 p.m. DTZ daily here in the Disadvantaged Time Zone, promises coverage of the men's 100 meters preliminary heats, including Jamaica's Usain Bolt and Asafa Powell and America's Tyson Gay, this afternoon.

The conditions: The morning has dawned clearer and cooler than normal in Beijing, CBC says. And also: They're holding out hope for a judo medal today. Or a swimming medal. Or any medal...

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August 14, 2008 3:11 PM

Hey; throw that medal in this direction

Posted by Ron Judd


A Swedish wrestler, Ara Abrahamian, tossed his bronze medal onto the floor in disgust, saying he was hosed by judges in Greco-Roman wrestling's 84-kilo class semifinal.

The Swede was beaten by eventual gold medalist Andrea Minguzzi of Italy. In a grand display of Olympic sportsmanship, he yelled at the referee and then verbally accosted the judges. Teammates restrained him, CNN reports.

At the medal ceremony after his bronze medal match, Abrahamian left the bronze on the mat. It reportedly was later returned to his sport's governing body.

Know this: If that baby goes up on e-Bay, we're going after it.


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August 14, 2008 1:47 PM

Raise your hand if you're reading this at work

Posted by Ron Judd

Viewership stats confirm it: The great bulk of online viewing of the Olympics is being done by people doing some daytime "research" in the office.

Nielsen stats show that more than 2 million people lurked on the video section of NBCOlympics.com on Monday, compared to about 850,000 on the weekend, CNET reports. Yahoo also reported an 86-percent traffic surge on Olympic sites from Sunday to Monday.

OK, now get back to "work."

Comments | Category: Beijing 2008 Games , NBC , Olympic media |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

August 14, 2008 1:35 PM

Behind the scenes, it gets testy

Posted by Ron Judd


A fascinating New York Times account of journalists demanding answers to questions about human rights, China and the IOC at the most recent IOC/BOCOG news conference is found here. Recommended reading.

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August 14, 2008 1:21 PM

Day 7 Canadian medal update

Posted by Ron Judd

Medals won so far by Canadian athletes:

(THIS SPACE LEFT INTENTIONALLY BLANK)

Meanwhile, Ukraine with a gold in the men's team saber, joins Chinese Taipei, Tajikistan, Togo and Egypt as nations that have won at least one medal as the Canadians plug away at it.

Chin up, TImbit Nation: Rowing is on the slate for the weekend.

And by the way: We KID the Canadians.

But, serioiusly, we heard that, due to the Summer Games' team's performance in the first week at Beijing, the Canadian Olympic Committee's "Own the Podium" slogan has been modified to: "Perhaps Let's Just Lease the Podium for Several Minutes Here and There."

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August 14, 2008 12:15 PM

More evidence on Chinese kiddie gymnasts?

Posted by Ron Judd


It's the story that won't go away for China.

The Associated Press in Beijing reports that just nine months before the Games, the Chinese government's own official news agency, Xinhua, reported that female gymnast He Kexin -- the one who looks like she's maybe 13 -- was 13. And -- surprise! -- that information has suddenly disappeared from Xinhua's Web site.

The complete story appears below. But we're wondering if any official traction will ever be gained on this issue. If the Chinese athletes are underaged, the Chinese government clearly is complicit: They've all been issued passports showing them to be 16.

And if that's the case, only a full-scale International Olympic Committee investigation could undo what's been done on the arena floor, where China already has captured the team gold medal. Yet, even after compelling proof of the age shenanigans was printed well in advance of the competition in the New York Times and elsewhere, the IOC has sat on its doughy hands.

Oddly enough, as others have noted, the IOC seems to relish that cop role when it comes to other cheaters, such as dopers and scandalous judges. Why the great wall of silence around the age controversy? It's a rhetorical question: The Olympic movement already has proven it's willing to sell its own soul to placate the Chinese, who apparently now run the organization.

Let's face it: The only solution is the King Solomon test: Somebody is going to have to cut one of those little gymnasts in half and count the rings.

Here's the story:

BEIJING (AP) -- Just nine months before the Beijing Olympics, the Chinese government's news agency, Xinhua, reported that gymnast He Kexin was 13, which would have made her ineligible to be on the team that won a gold medal this week.

In its report Nov. 3, Xinhua identified He as one of "10 big new stars" who made a splash at China's Cities Games. It gave her age as 13 and reported that she beat Yang Yilin on the uneven bars at those games. In the final, "this little girl" pulled off a difficult release move on the bars known as the Li Na, named for another Chinese gymnast, Xinhua said in the report, which appeared on one of its Web sites, www.hb.xinhuanet.com

The Associated Press found the Xinhua report on the site Thursday morning and saved a copy of the page. Later that afternoon, the Web site was still working but the page was no longer accessible. Sports editors at the state-run news agency would not comment for publication.

If the age reported by Xinhua was correct, that would have meant He was too young to be on the Chinese team that beat the United States on Wednesday and clinched China's first women's team Olympic gold in gymnastics. He is also a favorite for gold in Monday's uneven bars final.

Yang was also on Wednesday's winning team. Questions have also been raised about her age and that of a third team member, Jiang Yuyuan.

Gymnasts have to be 16 during the Olympic year to be eligible for the games. He's birthday is listed as Jan. 1, 1992.

Chinese authorities insist that all three are old enough to compete. He herself told reporters after Wednesday's final that "my real age is 16. I don't pay any attention to what everyone says."

Zhang Hongliang, an official with China's gymnastics delegation at the games, said Thursday the differing ages which have appeared in Chinese media reports had not been checked in advance with the gymnastics federation.

"It's definitely a mistake," Zhang said of the Xinhua report, speaking in a telephone interview. "Never has any media outlet called me to check the athletes' ages."

Asked whether the federation had changed their ages to make them eligible, Zhang said: "We are a sports department. How would we have the ability to do that?"

"We already explained this very clearly. There's no need to discuss this thing again."

The International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) has said repeatedly that a passport is the "accepted proof of a gymnast's eligibility," and that He and China's other gymnasts have presented ones that show they are age eligible. The IOC also checked the girls' passports and deemed them valid.

A May 23 story in the China Daily newspaper, the official English-language paper of the Chinese government, said He was 14. The story was later corrected to list her as 16.

"This is not a USAG issue," said Steve Penny, president of USA Gymnastics. "The FIG and the IOC are the proper bodies to handle this."

Comments | Category: Beijing 2008 Games , Gymnastics |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

August 14, 2008 10:44 AM

Finishing kick nears for Puget Sound swimmers

Posted by Ron Judd

Lost in the (much-deserved) media prop wash of Michael Phelps' historic medal quest has been the performance of Puget Sound swimmers in Beijing. To date:

-- Nathan Adrian, 19, of Bremerton, earned a gold medal by qualifying the U.S. men's 400 freestyle relay team for the final that resulted in the historic finish by Jason Lezak, nipping the French.

-- Similarly, freestyler Emily Silver of Bainbridge/Cal qualified the U.S. women's relay team for what would become its silver-medal-winning final.

-- KIng Aquatic swimmer and recent Seattle transplant Margaret Hoelzer won bronze in the women's 100 backstroke.

-- Tacoma's Megan Jendrick finished out of the medals by 0.3 seconds in the women's 100 breaststroke, which she won in Sydney in 2000.

But some swims are still to come:

-- Hoelzer swims the semifinals of the 200 backstroke, for which she holds the world record at 2:06.09, Friday morning in Beijing, or tonight, Seattle time. Her former college roommate, Kirsty Coventry of Zimbabwe, who swept the women's IM medals in Beijing this week -- will swim in the same preliminary heat. The final is set for 7 p.m. Friday, Seattle time.

-- Jendrick is likely to swim a prelims breaststroke leg of the 400 medley relay for the U.S., which holds the world record in the event and is a perennial medalist. The heats are at 5:30 a.m. local time tomorrow; the final is at 7:40 p.m. Saturday, local time.

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August 14, 2008 10:29 AM

Doh! The Water Cube is actually a 'parallelepiped'

Posted by Ron Judd


Somehow, I knew if I threw out a geometric term that just sounded funny (as in "rhombus," in the Top 10 list below), someone who understands the science would come forth with a precise geometric description of Beijing's "Water Cube."

Thus it is gratifying, although not surprising, that Halstead Harrison, a University of Washington professor emeritus, helpfully informs us this morning that:

The 'Water Cube' is more properly a 'right rectangular parallelepiped' [3-dimensions], not a rhombus [2-dimensions]. Tsk! Geometry 101. Just thought you'd like to know.

Yes, I took the class. Got a C-, and knew there would come a day when I would need to know how that an equilateral quadrilateral like a rhombus -- which, as any fool knows, is a two-dimensional, closed, four-sided figure with opposite sides parallel and of the same length -- could never be used to host swimming at the Summer Olympics.

We are now turning Prof. Harrison loose on the new gymnastics scoring system.


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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.