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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 16, 2008 7:03 PM

Phelps wins 8th, silvers for Hoelzer, Jendrick; Sunday TV preview

Posted by Ron Judd

Saturday wrap:

With swimming wrapping up, the focus shifts to track and field, which presents interesting logistical challenges, to say the least, for distant viewers. Today's 100-meter men's final, discussed below, is a good example.

Several readers have asked if there's a schedule detailing exactly what time a certain event -- the men's 1,500, a certain U.S. women's soccer game, etc., will be on one of the many NBC networks. The short answer is no, not in a down-to-the-minute way for people seeking to record the game or event. The closest we've come, for NBC broadcasts, is this schedule.
(Note that you might have to register on the site to get it to display Disadvantaged Time Zone times, but when you do that, it also gives you local online Games stories and stats from KING-TV.)

The schedule (there's one on the bottom of the page for online streaming) at least breaks the volumnous network offerings into two-hour chunks, and uses local times.

For example, here's how it breaks down Sunday's NBC lineup:

10:00a - 12:00p
The U.S. women's basketball team plays New Zealand in a preliminary-round game (LIVE ET/CT). American women have won the past three gold medals in this event. New Zealand has made two Olympic appearances, finishing 11th in 2000 and eighth in 2004.

12:00p - 2:00p
The women's track cycling individual pursuit final. Four years ago, Beijing wasn't on Sara Hammer's radar. The pedaling prodigy who first raced competitively at age 3 had left the sport, burnt out and conflicted. But the California native, inspired after watching the Athens Games, returned to cycling and has become an Olympic medal contender. Also, coverage from rowing, equestrian, and table tennis.
Medal Event

2:00p - 5:00p
Ethiopia's Kenenisa Bekele is the best in the world in the men's 10,000m. In Beijing, the three-time world champion seeks his second straight Olympic gold. Other coverage likely includes rowing "eight" finals and U.S. women's volleyball vs. Poland.
Medal Event

5:00p - 6:00p
Americans Nicole Branagh and Elaine Youngs play China in a women's beach volleyball quarterfinal match.

7:30p - 12:30a (8/18
The first night of gymnastics individual event finals, including men's floor and pommel horse; the women perform floor and vault routines. Also, track and field finals

Happy hunting.

Next Up -- first up? last up? -- track and field:

20:40: There's at least one world record involved in the men's 100 meters -- for longest delay of a worldwide major sporting event. East Coast viewers at this moment are watching the men go to the blocks for the race, which began just after 7:30 a.m. Seattle time. That's a 13-hour delay from start time. By the time NBC viewers in the Disadvantaged Time Zone see the race, it'll be a 16-hour and 10 minute delay. That breaks the old, 15-hour delay record for the opening ceremony broadcast.

If you don't already know: Usain Bolt of Jamaica wins in world record time, 9.69 seconds. And that's after pulling up to start celebrating with 20 meters still to go. Nobody on the track was even close. In second was Richard Thompson of Trinidad & Tobago; Walter Dix of the U.S. takes the bronze. Tyson Gay failed to make the final.

BTW: Can we declare a moratorium now on TV "Mom shots?
First up: Swimming

Men's 400 medley relay
Aaron Piersol established a small lead for the U.S. Breaststroker Brendan Hansen gives it up to Japan on the second leg. Phelps, swimming the fly, reclaims a narrow lead over Japan and Australia. And then Jason Lezak does it again, holding off all comers to claim the gold in a WR time of 3:29.34. Phelps' swim of 50.15, fittingly, is the turning point in the race. Australia takes the silver at 3:30.04 , Japan the bronze at 3:31.18.

Women's 400 medley relay
Australia blows away its own world record, swimming 3:52.69 to take the gold. The U.S. is second at 3:53.30. China is third at 3:56.11. It's Natalie Coughlin's sixth medal in Beijing -- a first for a U.S. woman. It also brings silver medals to King Aquatic swimmers Megan Jendrick and Margaret Hoelzer, who leaves Beijing with three medals.

Men's 1500 meter freestyle
Ous Melluli of Tunisia wins the long one at 14:40.84; Grant Hackett of Australia is second at 14:41.53; Ryan Cochrane of CANADA takes the bronze at 14:42.69. Larsen Jensen of the U.S. is fifth at 14:48.16.

Women's 50 freestyle
Britta Steffen of Germany, wins at 24.06, an Olympic record. Dara Torres is second at 24.07; Cate Campbell of Australia is third at 24.17. Libby Trickett of Australia is fourth at 24.25.

Sorry we're slow getting rolling tonight.

Some guys from NBC showed up at the front door, dark glasses, etc., wanted to talk about this blog's "attitude problem."

We told them to come back in three hours.

Actually, had to write Sunday's newspaper column, which will be a highlight reel of Week One of the Games. Not to be missed. Likely to be laminated. Joe Bob says check it out.

On tap tonight: The big Michael Phelps race for No. 8. Dara Torres in the 100. Full slate of track and field, including the men's 100 meters, which occurred approximately last Tuesday in Beijing.

A special shout out tonight to all our readers in Canada, where, after that first GOLD in women's wrestling yesterday, the medals came in a virtual torrent. Well, at least a steady trickle. More on this to come, as well.

Get your fans all pointed toward the couch (Dad, keep pushing the nurse button), and, as they say in ice dancing, get ready to rhumba...

Comments | Category: Beijing 2008 Games , NBC , Olympic Medals , Swimming , Track and Field |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

August 15, 2008 9:33 AM

On Phelps, Eric Heiden, and Olympic history

Posted by Ron Judd

Big response in the inbox this morning to today's newspaper column on Michael Phelps and his place in history. Most people say they appreciate the reminder of other great Olympians, and some have offered up suggestions of their own, which I'll post in a followup later. Thanks to all of you who have written.

(Thanks also to a few of you who pointed out a sentence that's not entirely clear in the column: When I noted that Carl Lewis won an "unprecedented" golds in a single event, the long jump, I meant that it was unprecedented in the long jump. Others, such as Al Oerter in the discuss, have won four straight in other pursuits.)

There were a few of the expected knee-jerk, how-dare-you-diminish-swimming responses: The usual "obviously you're not a swimmer" retorts from swimmers. One reader even angrily suggests I'm "running down" swimming out of abject ignorance, by diminishing the difficulty of mastering multiple strokes, or suggesting that the sport is "easy on the body."

Au contraire. As an Olympics writer, I've been chronicling, and praising, the incredible athleticism of elite swimmers for a long time. I don't recall ever writing, in my lifetime, that mastering multiple swim strokes was easy. I did say it was a more "natural" transition that switching between completely unrelated events, and it is. Some people will take that as an insult to swimmers. But some people take anything that's not gratuitous praise of their favorite hobby as an insult, so what can you do.

As I said in the column, I wrote it not to diminish, even in the slightest, what Phelps is accomplishing in Beijing. It's phenomenal, and, I believe, one of the most ingeniously choreographed -- by Phelps himself, and coach Bob Bowman -- athletic achievements ever at the Olympics. There's no denying it's one of the greatest single performances ever, at any Games. He has already established himself as the greatest swimmer of all time. And he obviously leads in the gold medal count.

But you can argue -- and most Olympic historians agree with this -- that when it comes to the "greatest Olympian" title, longevity should be a major factor, as should diversity of athleticism. That's what led me to point out some Olympians from the past who have dominated the way Phelps is dominating now, but over a longer period of time, and in more-diverse events.

My comparison of Phelps' single-Games performances versus others, such as Eric Heiden's sweep of the 1980 speedskating events at Lake Placid was a second argument, meant to illicit some creative debate, and it seems to have done just that. My wife, Emjay, who is also an Olympics nut, and I had the same argument last night that I filed the column.

Assuming Phelps wins his last individual event, both athletes will have won five individual -- as in, non-relay -- golds in a single Games. Phelps will be the first person to do that since Heiden. (Note: Mark Spitz won four individual medals, three relays.)

The differences:

Heiden performed at a much broader variety of distances: from 500 meters to 10,000. As I wrote, that's like winning the 100 meters, the 10K -- and everything in between -- in track, which is astonishing. Phelps' swimming distances vary from 100 to 400 meters, but he must swim four different strokes to get where he's going. Also amazing.

Does greater variety in distance trump varied technique that utilizes completely different muscle groups? I gave the edge to Heiden; Emjay was leaning more to Phelps.

There's no right answer. These things are, as I wrote, absolutely apples and oranges comparisons. But it's a fun argument, and it sheds some light on Olympic history, which in my book is always a good thing.

I guess I had Heiden on the brain because I just finished researching a book about the Winter Games, and it includes a lot of detailed, great-moments history. I watched Heiden's exploits on TV as a high-school punk, but had forgotten the unprecedented nature of what he had done until talking to people who saw it live.

An aside: Most people forget, or don't know, that Heiden, who by current standards was sort of laid back about all this, almost spoiled his own perfection by oversleeping and nearly missing his final race.

He had been out late the night before, reveling, with everyone else, in the Miracle on Ice U.S. hockey victory over the Soviet Union. He barely had time to do a warmup.

Unlike Phelps (and most other current athletes) Heiden hit the spotlight and then quickly ran out of it. He left the sport soon after the '80 Games, and turned down countless sponsorship opportunities to stay out of the limelight. He became an elite cyclist (ending when he suffered a concussion in the 1986 Tour de France), then a physician, and he now works as an orthopedic surgeon. Heiden has been the team doc for U.S. speedskating at the last couple Olympics. He sewed up Apolo Ohno's leg after a gash suffered in a fall in Salt Lake City.

With that, I open the floor to discussion on the above, and ask another question: Aside from the obvious (Spitz) are there other single-Olympic-Games performances that rank with these two? I can think of a couple contenders.

Comments | Category: Beijing 2008 Games , Olympic History , Olympic Medals , Olympic Records , Olympic Trivia , Past Olympians , Track and Field , World Records |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

June 24, 2008 5:07 PM

Track trials, packed with local athletes, begin Friday

Posted by Ron Judd

TrackTown USA is in the spotlight for the next two weeks. The 2008 Beijing Olympic Trials begin Friday afternoon at the University of Oregon's Hayward Field in Eugene.

Local athletes, headlined by champion pole vaulter Brad Walker and former WSU distance runner Bernard Lagat, will be out in force.

For a complete list, see local track and field writer Paul Merca's tabulation here.

Here's the event Web site. And the competition schedule. And the TV schedule.

Happy viewing.

Comments | Category: Beijing 2008 Games , Olympic Trials , Running Sports , Track and Field |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine







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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.