Here are my thoughts on some of the events I was able to see on day 9 of the Olympic Games.
Andy Murray defeated Roger Federer 6-2, 6-1, 6-4 to win the gold in Olympic Men’s Tennis. Some were calling it a breakthrough for Murray who has lost all four of his grand slam finals appearances. Not me. Olympic gold is nothing to scoff, but it is a one week tournament with all matches until the finals being best of three set matches. Grand slam tournaments are two weeks long with all matches being best of five sets. It is a different beast that you truly need to win to breakthrough. As for the match itself, Federer played pretty badly. He missed an uncharacteristic number of forehands and could not convert on numerous break point opportunities. Federer did not move well either, probably due to the accumulation of tennis not only from his marathon semifinal match, but dating back to his Wimbledon championship run.
In women’s water polo, I saw Hungary upset Russia 11-10 in quarterfinal play. I enjoy water polo. It does amaze me at the number of fouls called. It seems like the whistle is being blown every five seconds. However, most fouls only allow a team to retain possession. When an exclusion is called, a team will go on a power play where they have a player advantage similar to hockey. The game is very physically taxing as well. It takes tons of stamina and endurance to not only tread wate, but to swim, wrestle/jostle for position. The athletes have to be in superb shape… well most do. It seems the down low players do not appear to be in the type of physical shape you would expect, but they must be to play this game. As for this game, it was high drama late. Russia had woman advantage in the final seconds, but could not score the equalizer.
Next up in women’s water polo was Australia taking on China in another quarterfinal showdown. This match was even rougher than the Hungary-Russia match. There were more fouls and exclusions in this match by a long shot. As one of the favorites in the tournament, this was supposed to be an easy match for Australia. They were 3-0 in the preliminary round while China was 0-3. Easy day at the office, right? Not so much. China led most of the way while Australia was playing catch up. Australia tied the game late. They forced a turnover with eleven seconds to go, but could not convert thanks to an offensive foul. As the game headed to overtime, I thought the younger, inexperienced Chinese team would finally play as we thought they would entering the match. I was wrong. China, though trailing through most of the overtime, leveled the match late. Australia had a shot, but it hit the crossbar and the match went to a shootout. Australia immediately missed their first shot and China went up 1-0. Australia then saved China’s third round shot to level the match at 2-2. Australia scored to take the lead. China then hit the post, giving Australia an opportunity to close the match out which they did as Mel Rippon clinched Australia’s shootout win at 4-2. It was a huge win. Australia’s biggest problem in the match was when China got the ball in deep. Every time they were able to do that, Australia would commit an exclusion penalty. They were lucky to escape the problem against China, but it will need to be addressed in the semifinals or Australia will have no chance of making it to the finals.
Women’s Boxing made its Olympic debut today. The first match I saw pitted Sweeden’s Anna Laurell against Australia’s Naomi-Lee Fischer-Rasmussen. Laurell won the bout 24-17. It was a good fight. Both fighters showed good technique and an understanding of the game. Too often in the U.S. we do not see technically skilled women boxers’ bouts televised.
Nigeria’s Edith Ogoke pulled off a surprising upset by defeating reigning world championhip silver medalist Elena Vystropova of Azerbaijan 14-12. It was an interesting bout. Vystropova had the height advantage but was unable effectively use her jab or lead right to keep the southpaw Ogoke at bay. Ogoke moved inside and fired combinations which largely missed, but scored enough to carry the bout.
I saw some equestrian today and found it to be quite cool. I liked how the jumps all had a London flare to them. They used British post boxes, Big Ben, the London Eye, a double decker bus, the Tower Bridge and a tribute to Abbey Road. Pretty cool.
This is more criticism and a rhetorical question than anything, but why does NBC tape delay broadcasts, yet skip ahead after commercials as though the action had continued? They continue to do it as once again evidenced in beach volleyball match between Americans Misty May-Traynor and Kerri Walsh-Jennings and Italians Marta Menegatti and Greta Cicolari. The Americans prevailed 21-13, 21-13. Too bad we didn’t get to see all of it.
Speaking of beach volleyball, anyone else notice the trumpet in the background that randomly plays followed by the crowd shouting Ole? I give the crowd credit, it happens so often that I would not expect them to always shout Ole with passion, but they do. I wonder if it bothers the players, if they are used to it, block it out, or just don’t notice it since they are concentrating. I bet there are some people playing games each time that trumpet goes off.
The women’s vault finals were held Sunday. American McKayla Maroney was the odds on favorite to take the gold. She had what should have been scored a perfect vault in the team final. Her first vault was a 15.866. Not as good as her one in the team final, but still much better than any of her competitors in this final. However, on her second vault, Maroney’s legs slipped out from under her and she landed in a seated position. She scored a 14.300 for an average of 15.083 overall. She still had the lead with only one lady left to vault. Romania’s Sandra Izbasa took to the vault and had two great vaults. She scored a 15.383 on the first and 15.000 on the second for an average score of 15.191 which was good enough to bring home the gold. It was shocking to say the least. The gold seemed so certain for Maroney.
I saw a lot of track and field events. There were too many to comment on individually. From the women’s triple jump to the women’s 400 meter hurdles to the men’s mile and so on and so on. I could watch track and field all day. The biggest event on the track was the men’s 100 meter final. The four fastest racers ever in the event (Usain Bolt, Tyson Gay, Yohan Blake, and Asafa Powell) participated in the final along with Justin Gatlin. Despite criticism entering the Olympics that he was no longer the fastest man alive, Usain Bolt ran past everyone to repeat as Olympic champion. Bolt set an Olympic record with his 9.63 seconds. It was the second fastest time ever run. Bolt is the first man to repeat as 100 meter Olympic champion since Carl Lewis (1984 and 1988 champion). The race was not even close. Yohan Blake ran the 100 meters in 9.75 to win the silver. Gatlin won the bronze with a time of 9.79.