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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 17, 2008 10:02 PM

A look back at the first half

Posted by Ron Judd

Before the day slips away -- or some other big story breaks in track and field -- here's today's print column, catching you up on events, and non-events, from the first week.

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August 17, 2008 9:48 PM

Lagat: "I didn't have it, honestly"

Posted by Ron Judd

Bernard Lagat's thoughts on what went wrong as he tried to become the first American since 1908 to win the metric mile are explored in a piece just posted by the New York Times.

In the piece, Lagat admits he's not fully certain he'll run the 5,000 meters, which begins Wednesday.

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August 17, 2008 8:56 PM

Chinese hurdle star Liu Xiang out of Olympics with injury

Posted by Ron Judd

Defending 110 hurdles Olympic champion Liu Xiang, slated to be the hometown star of the Beijing Games, pulled up lame with an injured Achilles tendon in today's preliminary heats.

Liu, lining up for his first sprint, pulled up limping badly after a false start in what was to be his initial heat. He pulled off his race number in disgust and walked off the track. He was last seen icing his Achilles under the Bird's Nest Stadium. Liu's health had been the subject of some scrutiny for months. He pulled out of two widely heralded races in the U.S., including the Prefontaine Classic. He had been training in seclusion in China for weeks.

NBC broke into its East Coast programming with the news just before midnight; CBC showed his preliminary heat about a half hour later.

It will be a major blight on the Olympics for China, where a topsports official was quoted as saying Liu's previous accomplishments -- the world record and a gold medal in Athens -- would be meaningless if he failed to capture the gold medal in his home country.

More on Liu from our Beijing preview section here.

Meantime, in another prelim heat, America's Terrence Trammell -- expected to be a threat to Liu in the 100 hurdles -- pulls up lame himself, grabbing his left hamstring.

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August 17, 2008 4:33 PM

Sunday night live thread

Posted by Ron Judd

20:30: NBC East is showing the women's 100 meter final. It occurred in Beijing at 7:25 a.m., Pacific Time. So the race is delayed 13 hours to the East Coast. It'll be 16 hours to us here in the Disadvantaged Time Zone. That's shaping up to be about the average delay for track events.

20:20: Sorry about the long break. Had to file tomorrow's column.

I have been informed by the remote-sitters that NBC's eastern broadcast has stuck with the women's gymnastics apparatus finals, in which a Russian woman actually accrued a score of zero in the vault. How? She false-started. No joke.

Meanwhile, America's Shawn Johnson and Nastia Liukins continued to duke it out, with Johnson, up to now, winning a silver and Liukins a bronze in floor exercise.

It Might Be, It Could Be, It IS!

19:00: We don't to alarm anyone out there in TV -land, but it appears as if CBC is broadcasting LIVE coverage of track-and-field AND the women's triathlon, which looks like a very, very cool event. Check it out.

Speaking of triathlon: The women are swimming in a lake, and are followed by a chase boat. The boat looks alarmingly like that skimmer boat they used to use to harvest milfoil from Green Lake in Seattle.

Ron McLean comments that the lake and surrounding hills are "as pretty as the Okanagan."
17:52: Let the record reflect that Canada has finished fourth in yet another event, women's springboard diving. Sorry if we jinxed Blythe Harley. Taking gold is Guo Jingjing of China, her second of the Games. Silver to Yulia Pakhalina of Russia; bronze to Wu Minxia of China.

Meanwhile, in track: NBC is promising the women's 100-meter finals sometime later in the broadcast. We saw it hours ago on CBC.

17:32: On NBC East Coast, Canadian Blythe Hartley is in contention for a medal in springboard diving. Which reminds us, it's been a while since we had a Canadian Medal Update:

They're up to seven. Which, after that 0-for-the-first-week start, is pretty impressive. They may yet leave with as many medals as Michael Phelps.

16:55 NBC's East Coast feed, at 4:55 p.m., Disadvantaged Time Zone, is showing the women's eight crew race won by the American squad that's led by former U-Dob coxswain Mary Whipple. Look for it at 7:55 p.m. local Seattle time.
Lots of speculation here in Satellite Control about how tall Mary Whipple is. Consensus: She's about 5-foot-3 -- which means she's a good 4 inches taller than Bob Costas. (Emjay has now confirmed the height, from our earlier special section story, found here.
16:00 Good evening, DTZ.

We'll be posting highlights from the prime-time broadcasts of CBC's local broadcast, and NBC's East Coast feed, just for reference.

On NBC's East Coast feed, Bob Costas has Michael Phelps, Rowdy Gaines and Bob Bowman (coach) on the couch, going race-by-race through Phelps' eight gold medals.

This is in case you haven't seen enough of the Phelps' highlights, only this time it's the Phelps highlights with Phelps voiceovers. Coincidentally, NBC goes to commercial and happens to mention the Michael Phelps video it is hawking on

Next up: Michael's mom, who has supplied NBC with lots of embarrassing young-Mikey-Phelps photos -- the even-bigger-ears look, like a Volkswagen with the doors open. Very cute.

Same time: CBC is doing a piece on Victor Conte and Balco. Sorry, but we're switching to that.

Conte, the brains behind the BALCO company, says doping in sports is "less," but still "rampant." He blames the timing of dope testing, namely the lack of out-of-competition testing. Conte claims on camera, as he has before, that he had "inside intelligence" from IOC-accredited doping labs that allowed him to continue to distribute THG to athletes through his BALCO company, because he knew the labs had no tests to detect the illegal substance.

He further claims that athletes today continue to use similar intelligence to foil testing, and that some athletes even get away with submitting samples for pre-screening to see if they're clean.

"It's like a war," Conte says. "You need intelligence."

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August 17, 2008 9:06 AM

Gold for U-Dub's Whipple, Cummins in U.S. women's eight

Posted by Ron Judd

crew.JPGFrom left, USA's Erin Cafaro, Lindsay Shoop, Anna Goodale, Elle Logan, Anna Cummins, Susan Francia, Caroline Lind, Caryn Davies and coxswain Mary Whipple react after capturing the gold in the Women's eight final the Beijing 2008 Olympics in Beijing, Sunday, Aug. 17, 2008. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

Mary Whipple can take that silver medal off her bed post. The former UW coxswain kept it there for four years, still ticked that the favored U.S. women's eights lost to Romania at the Athens Games. Monday in Beijing, her boat, powered by fellow Husky alum Anna Mickelson Cummins of Bellevue, led start to finish in Beijing to win the gold over the Netherlands by 1.88 seconds.

It was the first gold for the U.S. in the event since 1984.

"Before we left Princeton, we gathered and watched that 1984 race," Whipple said. "I made the call halfway through the race saying that it was just like 1984 and that we couldn't let them down. Then we just motored ahead."


"We learned a lot from Athens," said Whipple about winning the silver medal in 2004. "I think the group from '04 built a foundation for this team, and these girls have stepped it up. It's taken about 13 or 14 girls to build this eight."

The men's eight, meanwhile, trailed badly at the start, but poured it on to claim bronze in the race, won by Canada. In the boat: Former UW coach Bryan Volpenheim, 31, the stroke, who also powered the gold-medal U.S. men's eights in Athens.

"I'm really happy," Volpenhein said. "I was really excited to get out there today. I'm not disappointed with bronze. It's always good to come away with a medal."

The men's crew got off the line in sixth place, but pushed to fourth at the 1,000 meter mark and took third from The Netherlands in the final third. The U.S. crew pushed the silver-medal British boat, but fell short by .23 seconds at the finish. Canada lead wire to wire to win with a time of 5:23.89. Britain clocked in at 5:25.11, followed by the U.S. at 5:25.34.

Two other Seattle rowers, Lindsay Meyer and Lia Pernell, finished fifth in women's quadruple sculls.

TV note: NBC broadcast the men's eight final on its East Coast feed at 11:10 a.m. today; it should be broadcast at 2:10 p.m. today, Seattle Time. The women's eight's race was promised by Jim Lampley, "later on, in prime time" -- whatever that means.

Whipple1.JPGFormer Husky coxswain Mary Whipple, center, gets a hug from unidentified teammates after they won the gold medal in the women's eight final at the Beijing 2008 Olympics in Beijing, Sunday, Aug. 17, 2008. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

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August 17, 2008 8:56 AM

Disastrous U.S. track team start: Lagat fails to qualify

Posted by Ron Judd

Lagat.JPGBernard Lagat of the United States reacts after failing to advance in the men's 1500-meter semifinal at the Beijing 2008 Olympics in Beijing Sunday. (AP Photo/Anja Niedringhaus)

So much for safe bets.

Former WSU star and recent American immigrant Bernard Lagat has failed to qualify for the final of the 1,500 meters. He finished sixth in his semifinal heat.

Lagat, interviewed by Elliott Almond of the San Jose Mercury-News, said he was feeling well and the heat of Beijing was not a problem. He was at a loss to explain his performance.

"I don't know what happened," he said. "I gave it my all at the end and it is unusual for me to run fast and not make it to the final."

Lagat realized he was one spot out of qualifying as he came down the home stretch, he said.

"I thought, man, I’ve got to dig in," he said. "I thought maybe I'd made it. But you know what, life goes on. To my mom, my friends in America: I didn't let them down. I did my best. If I let them down that means I didn't give my best. I tried 100 percent."

Lagat, a bronze and silver medalist in the event and reigning world champion, missed the final by two hundredths of a second.

Teammate Lopez Lomong, the U.S. flagbearer in the opening ceremony, also failed to qualify.

It's been a disastrous start, capital D, for the U.S. track team. Tyson Gay failed to qualify for the final of the 100 meters, won by Usain Bolt. And Jamaicans swept the top three spots of the women's 100 meters, with Lauryn Williams and Muna Lee finishing fourth and fifth. They later protested the race, saying they'd been holding back because of what they perceived to be a false start. The protest was denied.

Things have gone no better in field events, where America's vaunted shot put contingent, expected to sweep, took only a silver the medal round.

What next?

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August 17, 2008 8:51 AM

Megan Jendrick: No retirement gifts, please

Posted by Ron Judd


A reader asks what's now to become of Megan Jendrick of Tacoma, who brings home a silver medal after her role on the U.S. medley relay team.

Here's a note from Megan on a blog she's writing from Beijing, which sheds a little light:

I'm not going to say these are my last Olympics; with so many articles having come out, each with their own little twist, some people have interpreted that I was retiring for good now. I just want everyone to know I've never said that and I'm very excited to keep racing and hopefully continue to represent America.

You can read the rest of her impressions of Beijing, and the performance of longtime teammate Michael Phelps, here.

Photo: Megan Jendrick of Tacoma at a practice at the National Aquatics Center practice before the Beijing 2008 Olympics. (Streeter Lecka/Getty Images).

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Browse the archives

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.