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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 23, 2008 6:11 PM

Saturday highlights: U.S. V-ball gold; Iceland team handball update!

Posted by Ron Judd

6:10 p.m.
The men's marathon, being shown live to the East Coast, is getting down to the nitty gritty. A leader's group of three runners, Deriba Merga of Ethiopia, Jaouad Garib of Morocco and Samuel Wansiru of Kenya, are running through temps in the low 90s on a course that has claimed many victims.

6:22 p.m.
Wansiru makes a move to break away, pulls to a 10-meter lead over Gharib. Wansiru is the world record holder at the half marathon. Kenya, interestingly, has never won the Olympic marathon.

Random update: The U.S. beat Japan 8-4 to take the bronze medal in baseball. Local player Matt Brown gets three hits for the U.S. After the beanballing and jaw-flapping of this Oly tournament, a lot of of people are probably saying "good riddance" to baseball in the Olympics. South Korea takes what might be the last gold medal; Cuba takes the silver.

6:28 p.m.
Wansiru extends his lead to about 20 meters. He is within sight of the Bird's Nest.

Looks brutally hot on the course at only 9:30 a.m. It was a bit controversial to move the marathon to such an earlier hour; it traditionally finishes before the sellout crowd for the closing ceremony. Likely a good call for the runners, however. We watched the end of the women's marathon in Athens, which was staged in mid-afternoon to end at dusk in downtown Athens. The heat was brutal; a number of women were hospitalized.

6:32 p.m.
Wansiru has passed 25 miles and has a comfortable lead that appears to be widening. It's his race. If he wins, it'll be Kenya's fifth gold medal, an all-time high for the nation.

6:37 p.m.
Wansiru has entered the stadium, which we are happy to see has a fairly large crowd. Wansiru waves to the crowd. He's going to smash the 24-year-old Olympic record set by Carlos Lopez in 1984.

Wansiru makes a powerful sprint to the finish over the last 100 meters. He finishes in 2:06.32. The world record is 2:04.32. Garib of Morocco, the two-time world champion, takes the silver.

There's a race for third between two Ethiopians, Merga and Tsegay Kebede. Kebede passes him on the last corner as Merga simply runs out of gas.

Dathan Ritzenhein of the U.S. has entered the stadium in ninth place, which is where he will finish at 2:12 and change. Teammate Ryan Hall finishes 10th.

NBC now goes to tape: Platform diving and then the 4 x 400 relays in track.

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7:25 p.m.
OK, it has to be said.

Platform diving is approaching beach volleyball on the stupefication scale.
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7:28 p.m.
Clearly, we've missed some stuff:
Just for the record: What's amazing to me, after having consumed what feels like 3,000 of NBC's vaunted 3,600 hour of Olympic coverage, is that the network seems to have completely ignored at least several sports. Speak up and let us know if you saw, anywhere, anytime, on any NBC network, coverage of: triathlon, mountain biking, archery, modern pentathlon, whitewater or flatwater kayaking, open-water swimming (outside the feature on the swimmer missing one leg), judo and sailing.
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7:37 p.m.
OK, when we wrote below that it'd be nice to see some athletes make a political statement in Beijing, this was not exactly what we had in mind. As we watch the replay of the 4 x 400 women's relay last night in the Bird's Nest, we learn that the American women switched from their traditional blue halter tops to red ones -- to honor China.

Well, there you go. If they hadn't won a gold medal, they probably would've gotten one slipped to them by the leadership of the USOC for that bit of suck-uppage.

That said: What an incredible anchor leg by Sanya Richards to overtake the Russians. Epic.
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Programming note on men's basketball final: It starts at 11:30 p.m., local time, if you're interested. And, contrary to what we mistakenly reported here earlier, it IS on LIVE (be still, our hearts) tonight on KING-TV, according to the station (thanks for the note). NBC started its coverage earlier tonight to accommodate the game. It's also set to be live on CBC.

We note also that the schedule for NBC late night includes mountain biking, which we haven't seen on the network yet, and which happened yesterday.

Right now on NBC's basketball channel as well as Universal HD and CNBC (somebody doesn't want you to miss this): Lithuania vs. Argentina in the bronze medal game.
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9:25 p.m.
The men's volleyball gold medal game is up on CBC right now. Brazil is 24-19, set point, in opening set. This has been a great Olympics for U.S. volleyball. Gold medals in both men's and women's beach, a silver for the women in indoor, and now a silver or gold for the men in indoor.
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9:35 p.m.
See our corrected note up a few graphs about the men's gold medal basketball game tonight.
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9:37 p.m.
CBC takes a "time oat" in the v-ball match with the U.S. leading 8-1 in second set, having lost the first 24-20.
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9:50 p.m.
We're getting down to the end here, folks. About all that's left after the men's hoop final is the final in men's water polo (around 12:40 p.m.) with the U.S. vs. powerhouse Hungary; and then the team handball final (France vs. Iceland), which we would dearly love to watch, but suspect we won't get.

Since you asked: Iceland, a Summer Games participant since 1908, has three medals in Olympic competition, two bronzes and a silver (details, we're still looking up). A win over France would be the first ever gold medal for the nation, and a very unexpected outcome. You can watch Iceland's shocking semifinal win against Spain on nbcolympics.com!
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10:01 p.m.
The U.S. volleyballers take the second set, 25-22.
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10:07 p.m.
Iceland update: John Branch of the New York Times has a fun piece here on the Olympic team handball craze in Iceland, which the nation's president predicts will "come to a standstill" during the final match. The piece also contains Iceland's Olympic medal history -- three summer medals (triple jump; judo, pole vault), never a gold, none in winter, and previews the "greatest moment in Icelandic sports history," which will occur later tonight, one way or the other.
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10:17 p.m.
Just to catch up, we're watching the Iceland/Spain team handball semifinal match on nbcolympics.com's online replay. The video is herky-jerky, almost unwatchable -- no doubt due to the fact that every last soul in Iceland is watching it over and over and over. Iceland is off to a 5-0 lead. And it's almost worth watching just for the animated (Chinese) commentary during timeouts.

In the volleyball match: It's 13-11 U.S., in the third set. Might be a long one.
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10:27 p.m.
It's the U.S., 21-18 in third set.
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10:30 p.m.
Seeing Bernard Lagat show up on the NBC west coast feed again reminds us: What a terrible Olympics for him. Lagat's no-final performance in the 1,500 and ninth-place finish in the 5K ranks as one of the great disappointments of the Olympics, as he was reigning world champion in both. If you saw the replays, he simply didn't look himself. From the very start of the 5,000, shown tonight, Lagat had a deer-in-headlights look that just didn't appear normal. He faded so badly, and so far, with three laps to go in the race that you wondered if he would finish.

Not the Lagat we've become accustomed to watching. You can only wonder if he's ailing in some very major way. It's a shame. Tough circumstances for a good guy.

Volleyball: The U.S. wins the third set, 25-21. They're up 2-1 in the best-of-five final. Next set win gives them the gold.
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10:45 p.m.
V-ball: It's 9-8 Brazil in the fourth set.
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10:48 p.m.
On NBC's Western feed, Bob Costas is interviewing Jacques Rogge. We're watching to see if Bob slips him his paycheck. Bob is asking him about the Chinese kiddie gymnasts. Jacques is assuring him he's getting right on that.

Jacques said it is a serious matter, and it would be silly to do away with age restrictions. "You have to protect young people from overtraining and from injuries."

They discuss the small number of positive doping tests here. Jacques said the war on doping has been his priority issue as president. He says "it's never been so difficult to cheat as today. Does that mean that there is no athlete running around who is doping? Of course not."
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10:52 p.m.
It's Brazil 17-16. We just noticed that among the rabid U.S. fans in the lower bowl are two guys wearing those three-point, Quaker-oats style colonial hats. Nice touch.
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10:55
Brazil 19-16. Time oat on the floor.
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11:00
U.S. pulls ahead, 21-20. This is the tightest, best v-ball match we've ever seen. Too bad most of America won't see it until it's a day old.
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11:02 p.m.
U.S. leads 23-21.
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11:03 p.m.

Set and match point, 24-22!

US wins, 25-23.
First gold medal for the U.S. since 1988. Emotional moment for Hugh McCutcheon, who lost his father in law in China. He's overcome with it all and has left the arena.
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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.