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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 18, 2008 5:17 PM

Monday prime-time: NBC mocks its own late-night viewers

Posted by Ron Judd

Once again, watching NBC so you don't have to -- or so you know when to switch from CBC:

20:50: More cutting wit from Bob Costas

OK, those of you who love to get fired up about the network should stay tuned until the last bit of tonight's prime-time broadcast. Because there, Costas -- and we would not joke about this -- does a little packaged bit, poking fun of the fact that people all across the country are forced to stay up all night to watch NBC's coverage.

Which I guess is sort of funny if you stayed up to watch live coverage that just happened to run late. But a lot less amusing if you stayed up simply because the network spoon-fed you packaged, delayed coverage.

"We hear you, America!" Costas quips, never mentioning the tape-delay issue. He then proceeds to give some faux health tips for American sleep-deprived viewers, courtesy of the network's medical specialist, such as:

-- Stay hydrated.
-- Tell yourself you only need 4 hours sleep.
-- Listen to whatever was on Michael Phelps' iPod.
-- Skip work. "You're never going to see another Olympics like this, anyway."

We can hear the laughter echoing from Denver to Los Angeles.

Can't get any worse than that. Over and out.

If you happen to be online and have access to Universal HD channel: Team handball!!
And then table tennis.

Al Trautwig quote of the night, on the Nastia Liukin/He Kexin gymnastics judging controversy, after his co-commentators opined that Liukin should have won: "Four of the six judges are from countries that have never produced a single Olympic medalist."

In other words: They're morons. But the last time we checked, the same group was scoring for everybody.

We note that the West Coast feed of NBC is now showing the Liu Xiang injury withdrawal: 20 hours after it happened. East Coasters are still watching the finals of women's uneven parallel bars. CBC: Cycling portion of men's triathlon.

Bob Costas, Tim Daggett and Bela Karolyi are talking about judging controversies in gymnastics. Uh-oh. It looks like...yep: Bela has just coughed up a lung.

CBC, live (apparently) in the DTZ, is showing the start of the men's triathlon. The women's version, yesterday, was carried in great detail by CBC, and was one of the best visual spectacles we've seen from the Games. (For one thing, it showed us a lot of China, outdoors, in the sunshine).

For the second day in a row, nothing on NBC. Nothing. Did they not get the schedule?

NBC has just shown the U.S. men's sweep in the 400 hurdles. CBC: The bike portion of the triathlon. It's a good race.

It ends. The U.S. wins. Yay. On to gymnastics, women's trampoline.

Meanwhile, in the official Beijing protest zone: Silence.

18:30: Do the people of TImbit Nation realize that they're missing the semifinal women's beach volleyball match?

Dick Ebersol was right: America is captivated by Misty and Kerri. I certainly feel captivated -- or at least some variation of captivity -- right now.

CBC, live in the DTZ, is showing that 4-year-old Chinese girl on the uneven parallel bars.

Oh, no. Heather Cox has just divulged that Misty has a cold. This is what happens when you walk around in your underwear all the time.

Actual NBC quote in the background (heard over mower) "They don't seem to care about, 'Is Misty better?,' or, 'Is Kerri better?"

The winner plays for the gold medal. The loser? Who cares?

It has begun. Beach volleyball. Time to mow the grass.

NBC has the women's discus, including gold-medal winner Stephanie Brown Trapton of the U.S. It's essentially highlights of the competition. They're calling it the biggest upset of the Games so far, because Trapton finished third at the U.S. trials. Seattle's Aretha Hill finished seventh. It's the first gold medal for the U.S. in this event since 1932. Coming up later, NBC promises: Beach volleyball!

OK, we were kidding about the trampoline.

NBC: Usain Bolt of Jamaica and Shawn Crawford of the U.S. measure one another in heats of the 200 meters.

On NBC, women's hurdles prelims from yesterday.

Good evening, DTZ. NBC has led off its nightly East Coast primetime show (you'll get it at 8 p.m. local time) by showing Chinese hurlder Liu Xiang hobbling off the track and out of the Olympics. I think I remember posting that on this blog yesterday morning. Or was it the day before? Can't remember.

CBC, live in the DTZ, is showing gymnastics -- the trampoline -- which we have to admit is sort of cool on TV.

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August 18, 2008 3:34 PM

CBC once again captures the moment

Posted by Ron Judd

Yelena.JPGRussia's Yelena Isinbaeva clears the bar to break the world record as she wins gold in the women's pole vault final at the Beijing Games. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

You can't overestimate how wonderful it is to see a television network get it.

The big story in Beijing last night, by far, was Russian pole-vault star Yelena Isinbaeva's gold-medal performance in the Bird's Nest. It wasn't surprising -- she's head and shoulders above the field, and was an overwhelming gold-medal favorite.

But it was a signature moment in the Olympics simply because of her star power and the dramatic nature of the pole vault. And Isinbaeva is a made-for-TV star.

The pole vault was the last event on the docket last night, and Isinbaeva already had secured the gold medal. The only question: Would she break, yet again, her own world record?

There was no question she'd try. Her career ambition, after all, is to best countryman Sergey Bubka's record of 35 broken world records.

She had the stage literally to herself as almost all of the crowd of 90,000 lingered to watch. Twice, she hefted her pole and went through her odd pre-jump routine -- talking rapidly to herself, to her pole, the bar, whatever -- and made runs at 5.05 meters(16 feet 6 3/4). Twice, she brushed it with her thighs, to the collective groan of the crowd.

On her third attempt, with the clock ticking down, Isinbaeva launched down the runway, set a perfect pole plant, and cleared the bar by what appeared to be several inches. The moment she cleared -- still at least 8 feet off the ground -- her face lit into an ear-to-ear grin. She screamed on her way down. After landing, she did a backflip as the crowd cut loose with a roar not year heard at these Games.

It was a great moment, made greater by CBC's minimalist approach. The network launched its afternoon West Coast show with tape of the event, making it clear it had happened last night, and they were showing it first because it was the daily highlight. They showed all her attempts, rather than just a slow-mo of the successful one, and let the drama build by itself.

Classy, simple and refreshing. No teasing of the event to keep you onboard through three hours of beach volleyball. Just the event.

It's another example of CBC making use of the best of modern technology, but not force-feeding us the fluffery and puffery and gimmickry that goes along with it on NBC.

So nice.

Afterward, she was asked about American pole vaulter Jenn Stuczynski's prediction that the Athens champion would be dethroned.

"You saw tonight what happens," Isinbaeva said in halting English. "People who talk too much, they never do anything."

Stuczynski's best jump, for the silver, was 4.80 meters.

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August 18, 2008 1:41 PM

All Hail NBC, part 43

Posted by Ron Judd

The hyperbolic panting about the great success of NBC's Olympic effort reached new heights today, with a piece in the New York Times essentially declaring Dick Ebersole, executive producer of NBC's Beijing Games, as the savior of network television.

We kid you not.

Note that in the entire piece, not a single word, mention, or even oblique reference is made to the huge numbers of disaffected viewers in the Disadvantaged Time Zone. Not surprising, given the general we-are-the-world-and-you-live-in-Nome tenor of most East Coast-based journalism. But a bit surprising given that Times' media reporter Richard Sandomir shares a byline on the piece. Sandomir did some of the best -- and only -- East Coast reporting on the West-Coast delay issue when the Games began.

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August 18, 2008 11:22 AM

Kirkland's Reed ousted from cycling medal round

Posted by Ron Judd

JReed.JPGJennie Reed of Kirkland competes in the Women's Sprint Qualifying at the track cycling event held at the Laoshan Velodrome during Day 9 of the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympic Games. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

The Games are over for Kirkland's Jennie Reed, who bowed out in quarterfinals qualifying for track cycling's women's match sprints at the Laoshan Velodrome.

Here's the rundown from U.S. Cycling:

Beijing, China (August 18, 2008)-Day four of Olympic track cycling at the Laoshan Velodrome ended on a sour note for the U.S. squad after Sarah Hammer (Temecula, Calif.) crashed out of the women's points race and Jennie Reed (Kirkland, Wash.) was eliminated from medal contention with a quarterfinal loss in the women's match sprint.

After an early exit from the 3,000-meter individual pursuit two nights earlier, Hammer was looking to rebound in Monday night's points race when she found herself caught behind a crash early on in the 100-lap race. Racing in a tight pack, Hammer wasn't able to avoid the two fallen riders in front of her, crashed into them, and tumbled to the apron. The injury, which was later confirmed as a fractured left clavicle, forced her to withdraw from the race.

After the two intermediate sprints that had been contested up until that point, Hammer had no points. Marianne Vos (NED) was leading the race with eight points at the time. Vos later won the gold medal with 30 points ahead of silver medalist Yoanka Gonzalez (CUB), who scored 18, and Leire Olaberria (ESP), who notched 13.

Meanwhile, Reed was poised to make a run at the medals in the match sprint following her 1/8 final victory over Simona Krupeckaite (LTU) on Sunday. Pitted against Dutchwoman Willy Kanis in the quarterfinals, Reed lost two consecutive rides in the best-of-three format to end her medal hopes in Beijing. Reed attempted to take both sprints from the front but was overtaken by Kanis on the homestretch in each of her two losses.

Track competition at the 2008 Olympic Games will conclude on Tuesday when Reed will compete for fifth place in the 5-8 finals against other quarterfinal losers Natalia Tsylinskaya (BLR), Clara Sanchez (FRA) and Krupeckaite. The Madison pairing of Michael Friedman (Pittsburgh, Pa.) and Bobby Lea (Mertztown, Pa.) will also be in action in the 200-lap team race.

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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.