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Closing Ceremony [Oct. 16th, 2008|12:59 am]
And this is it! I can't believe I posted all these ridiculous entries, many so late after the Olympics ended. But now it is over.

  • Venue: Bird's Nest
  • Commentators: Bob Costas, Dan Hicks, Mary Carillo, and Joshua Cooper Ramo. Much better than the Opening--I generally like Hicks and Carillo.
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Wrestling [Oct. 16th, 2008|12:45 am]
I generally watched the Americans wrestle until they lost. Wrestling is kind of like boxing (and judo and taekwondo) in that you sort of know what gets a score but don't understand it at the same time. I especially don't get Greco-Roman wrestling. In that discipline, most matches go 0-0 into a "par terre" position. Often both wrestlers get a point for defending in that position, and the round goes to the one who defended last. This means that the round, and often the match, is decided by picking a ball out of a bag. I remember one match in which an American dominated round two but lost rounds one and three (and the match) by this arbitrary procedure. Awful--freestyle is much better.

  • Venue: China Agricultural University Gymnasium
  • Commentators: Matt Devlin and Rulon Gardner. Gardner may be an Olympic hero, but he was a lousy commentator. He would repeat the same things over and over and give no real insight, as far as I was concerned.
  • Henry Cejudo of the U.S. won gold in the lightest freestyle division. Cejudo is the son of illegal immigrants and, as we were told by NBC over and over, once didn't even have a bed to sleep in. He seemed like a cool guy on Leno, especially when his mom surprised him.
  • The U.S. got two more medals, bronzes for Adam Wheeler in Greco-Roman and Randi Miller in women's freestyle.
  • Controversy erupted when Swede Ara Abrahamian, protesting an earlier decision, left the podium in the middle of the medal ceremony, laid his bronze medal on the mat, and walked away. His medal was stripped, and he was expelled from the Games, but apparently the Court of Arbitration for Sport agreed that the wrestling federation did not appropriately hear his appeal.
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Weightlifting [Oct. 16th, 2008|12:18 am]
I actually watched quite a bit of weightlifting and enjoyed it immensely. The athletes and crowd really get into it. In fact, I think this would be a great event to attend (London 2012, maybe?).

  • Venue: Beijing University of Aeronautics & Astronautics Gymnasium
  • Commentators: Pete Pranica and Shane Hamman. Former lifter Hamman did a fantastic job explaining things and getting appropriately excited during the lifts. I was really surprised how much I enjoyed weightlifting, and Hamman was a big part of that.
  • The Chinese took 8 gold medals (4 men's and 4 women's), adding to their large haul.
  • One memorable Chinese winner was babyfaced rookie Long Qingquan, who won the lightest weight class.
  • Hungarian János Baranyai suffered a horrifying injury--a dislocated elbow that became a Youtube sensation.
  • American Melanie Roach was a highlight. She just missed the Olympics in 2000 and then started a family. One of her sons was diagnosed with autism. But she kept her dream alive to reach the Olympics. Not only did she compete, she set an American record in total weight and was completely ecstatic about her performance. Melanie was a great example of the Olympic spirit and representative of America!
  • Her weight class was won by Thai lifter Prapawadee Jaroenrattanatarakoon, who changed her name before the Olympics because a fortune teller told her it would bring her luck. I guess it worked.
  • And finally, one of the best moments of the Games: German lifter Matthias Steiner won the heaviest weight class. For Steiner, it was bittersweet because his wife died in a 2007 car crash. Steiner won by 1 pound after a tremendous last lift. He then collapsed to the mat in tears; later, he brought a photo of his wife to the medal stand. Definitely a Beijing highlight.
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Water Polo [Oct. 4th, 2008|11:49 pm]
Water polo is somewhat hard to watch on TV because (1) the ball is sometimes hard to see and (2) there are tons of whistles that make no sense. But I watched a good amount.

  • Venue: Yingdong Natatorium
  • The U.S. men were led by Terry Schroeder, former player and model for the male athlete statue at the L.A. Coliseum. He managed to bring the team back from a bad few years.
  • The first signs of something special came when the U.S. beat Italy. They lost to eventual bronze medalist Serbia, but they upset favorites Croatia. They actually earned a bye to the semis, where they then beat Serbia! Unfortunately, Hungary defeated them, but for this team, silver was quite the Cinderella story.
  • On the other hand, the U.S. women were a heavy favorite. But they were upset by the Netherlands in the final.
  • Overall, U.S. team sports were a HUGE success at these Olympics!
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Volleyball [Oct. 4th, 2008|11:29 pm]
Beach volleyball was again a major event on NBC, which makes sense because the Americans did very well. Indoor volleyball wasn't often featured in prime time, but it got plenty of coverage (often live in late night), and was the final event shown before the closing ceremony.

  • Venues: Chaoyang Park Beach Volleyball Ground (beach), Capital Indoor Stadium and Beijing Institute of Technology Gymnasium (indoor)
  • Commentators: Chris Marlowe, Karch Kiraly, and Heather Cox (beach). Marlowe and Kiraly did a great job as usual. Paul Sunderland and Kevin Barnett (indoor).
  • Favorites Todd Rogers ("The Professor") and Phil Dalhausser ("The Thin Beast") were upset in their first match by the unheralded Latvians. Luckily, they turned it around to make the elimination round.
  • To get to the finals, Rogers and Dalhausser had to beat an oddly named team: Brazilians Renato "Geor" Gomes and Jorge "Gia" Terceiro, who now compete for...Georgia! Yep, they went by just "Geor" and "Gia."
  • Brazilians Márcio and Fábio defeated their favored countryman Ricardo and Emanuel (the eventual bronze medalists) to reach the final. There they barely lost the first set to Rogers and Dalhausser and took the second set. But in the third, Dalhausser became a dominant blocking force, getting a bunch in a row (very cool!) to get the gold.
  • On the women's side, the Americans didn't have so much trouble. That's because they were Misty May (-Treanor) and Kerri Walsh! My favorite girls dominated again, not losing a single set en route to a second gold medal. In the final, they had to defeat a hometown team in the pouring rain, but they prevailed. China took bronze as well...seriously?!
  • Misty scattered her mom's ashes on the court again after the win.
  • Misty and Kerri also had a big fan present early on--President Bush, who was playing volleyball with them and apparently slapping Misty on the back or ass...WHAT?
  • Misty was also adorable doing a ridiculous dance on the Great Wall...and wearing a huge colored wig while watching the men play.
  • Yes, these girls are awesome.
  • The U.S. men's volleyball team was struck with tragedy on day 1 of competition. Head coach Hugh McCutcheon's father-in-law and mother-in-law were attacked by a random lunatic (who then jumped to his death). The father-in-law later died of his stab wounds, but the mother-in-law recovered. McCutcheon was away from the team for a while.
  • The team, led by (great name) Lloy Ball, must have been inspired or something, as they went 5-0 in pool play.
  • They then made it to the semis, won a great match against Russia, and then took on Brazil for gold. And won! This was the last event NBC showed, and I was already spoiled. But it was still great to see--I never imagined such a happy ending, even though it was still shrouded in tragedy.
  • Meanwhile, the women's team, led by former Chinese player "Jenny" Lang Ping, went 4-1 in pool play, losing only to Cuba. But then they beat Cuba in the semis to advance to the final!
  • Unfortunately, they couldn't complete the volleyball sweep, losing to the Brazilians. But still, a great performance, the best since another silver in 1984.
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Triathlon [Oct. 4th, 2008|11:22 pm]
Triathlon came and went so fast! But I managed to watch a good portion of the races, sometimes too much (since they showed them in their often boring entirety).

  • Venue: Ming Tomb Reservoir Triathlon Venue
  • Aussie Emma Snowsill wasn't selected for the 2004 team, but in 2008 she managed to hold off rival Vanessa Fernandes for gold. Another Aussie got bronze.
  • In the men's race, there was a thrilling finish as underdog German Jan Frodeno, discounted by the announcers until the last second, outsprinted all the favorites to win gold! Fun ending.
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Tennis [Oct. 4th, 2008|10:48 pm]
USA showed a lot of live tennis early in the mornings. I couldn't really watch all of this, but I did watch the complete men's singles and women's doubles finals by fast-forwarding between points!

  • Venue: Olympic Green Tennis Court
  • In men's singles, Roger Federer continued his slide by losing to American James Blake in the quarterfinals.
  • Blake, however, lost in the semifinals to Fernando Gonzalez, blowing three match points. A controversy erupted when Blake felt (correctly) that a shot he hit out actually hit Gonzalez' racket. He believed Gonzalez should have alerted the referee due to the honorable nature of tennis. Blake then lost in the bronze medal match.
  • Rafael Nadal continued his fantastic year by beating Gonzalez for gold.
  • In women's singles, both Williams sisters were eliminated in the quarterfinals.
  • Russia swept all three medals, led by Elena Dementieva.
  • Roger Federer got redemption in men's doubles. He and partner Stanislas Wawrinka upset the favorite Bryan brothers (of the U.S.) in the semifinals, then went on to win gold--and Federer's first Olympic medal. Mike and Bob Bryan recovered for bronze.
  • In women's doubles, Venus and Serena Williams got their own redemption, winning gold pretty handily. It was fun to see these two great tennis champs get so excited about winning (another) Olympic medal--they were really into it, talking about how they used to watch the Olympics on TV as kids and were proud to represent the U.S.! Way to go, girls! (Nadal and Federer were also very excited about winning.)
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Taekwondo [Oct. 4th, 2008|10:33 pm]
Taekwondo was one of the three sports not shown on TV. I caught exactly one match online, and apparently I was a curse...

  • Venue: Beijing Science and Technology University Gymnasium
  • For the U.S., the Lopez siblings were impressive. Mark won silver, while Steven and Diana won bronze. (Their older brother Jean is their coach.) It was the first time since 1904 that three siblings have been on the same Olympic team.
  • Steven, however, had won gold at the previous two Olympics. He also hadn't lost since 2002. He had been up 2-1 in the quarterfinals, but the match was sent into OT after a controversial penalty call. Then he lost. Yep, this is the match I watched live. (I had no idea what was happening.)
  • The U.S. tried to protest but were refused. They complained because they were apparently pressured into signing a document that said they wouldn't protest at the Olympics. They claimed the international federation (run by Koreans) wanted to put on a "pristine" image at the Games, instead of trying to get things right. Apparently taekwondo is as controversial as boxing.
  • After Angel Matos of Cuba was disqualified for taking too much injury time, he took matters into his own hands, er, feet--he kicked the referee in the face! He and his coach were then banned for life, but Fidel Castro supported them...shocker.
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Table Tennis [Oct. 4th, 2008|10:21 pm]
Table tennis got a lot of coverage on NBC--maybe they are trying to inspire Americans, since it is one of the three sports in which we have never medaled!

  • Venue: Peking University Gymnasium
  • Doubles was replaced with an odd team competition. Each team had three members, and they played up to five matches (first to win three won the whole contest). The first two were singles, the third doubles, and the last two (if necessary) were singles.
  • As expected, China dominated, winning both team golds as well as sweeping the medals in both singles competitions. And they want to get rid of softball because it's not competitive?!
  • The U.S. women (all of Chinese descent) did quite well, going 2-1 and making it to the round before the bronze medal match. They lost to the defensive-minded (and boring to watch) South Koreans.
  • The men's singles winner, Ma Lin, had choked away a big lead at the 2007 Worlds. After the match, he found out his grandfather had committed suicide--no one had told him, but he sensed something wrong anyway.
  • American Wang Chen made it all the way to the quarterfinals in women's singles, the best ever performance by an American. Gao Jun was eliminated a round earlier.
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Synchronized Swimming [Oct. 4th, 2008|10:15 pm]
I watched a handful of synchro routines, but not as many as 2004 when Victoria was here.

  • Venue: Water Cube
  • In the duet, Russia won, followed by Spain and Japan, with China, the U.S., and Canada after them. Wasn't the U.S. once good at this sport?
  • The same six teams did the best in the team competition. Russia and Spain got gold and silver, but China got bronze--making this another sport they (successfully) put a lot of effort into. Canada took fourth, followed by the U.S. and Japan, who received a penalty for touching the bottom!
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