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Wednesday, August 1, 2012

BACK TO THE LONDON OLYMPICS


I watched a lot of Olympics action yesterday, and will focus here on swimming and women's gymnastics.  First, above, Michael Phelps, just after he had won his 19th medal, eclipsing the record of now 77 year old Larisa Latynina (that's her with Putin to the left, and below when a few years younger) of the Soviet Union, nearly half a century after her final Olympics performance in Tokyo, where she won two each of gold, silver and bronze.


She coached the Soviet Olympic teams from 1968 to 76, but in 1972 spoke poorly of Olga Korbut (because she was from Belarus, not Russia) and did not think well of Nadia Comaneci, indicating that this young girl from Romania had a great PR team.  Larisa is in London to observe Michael, and is not getting any attention.  She has to purchase tickets to watch her record broken and offered to bestow this 19th medal to Phelps, but was snubbed.

Phelps still has three more swimming events, so has a shot at bringing the total medal count up to 22, perhaps increasing his gold collection beyond 15.  Consider that the whole country of Brazil has won 18 gold medals in the entire history of the Olympics, and you can better appreciate this achievement, perhaps never to again be reached.


On the other hand, there is 17 year old Missy Franklin (Phelps did not win his first Olympic medal until the age of 19) and 16 year old Ye Shiwen (left) of China, who broke the 400 meter individual medley by more than a second, where she swam the final 50 meters faster than Ryan Lochte, and for her second gold claimed an Olympic record in the 200 meter individual medley.   This is no sudden development, for two years ago she beat Ariana Kukors of the U.S., the world record holder of that race.

The media marveled at the maturity and promise of Missy (right).  They questioned the integrity of Shiwen.  Doping?  Wonder if the Military-Industrial Complex is at work here.  Or maybe there is some gender conspiracy.  While there is a history of Chinese cheating in swimming, there are now stringent tests.  She has never failed a drug protocol and Chinese swimmers all passed the 2008 Beijing tests (and, of course, this year in London).  They take this so seriously that their swimmers are not allowed to eat outside their private canteen.  Actually, some of the meat (for the normal civilian population) in China is tainted with clenbuterol so many would not be able to pass an Olympics drug test, and don't know about this.  So what's the problem?   I guess the warning is avoid char siu from China.

The USA first (and last) won an Olympic gold for the women's gymnastics team in 1996 over Russia by 0.821 points.  This year they swamped Russia by 5.066 points.  I can't imagine why they looking so apprehensively, but here they are gazing at the board awaiting the imminent announcement of official results:



That 1996 final jump (above) of the women's gymnastics competition was voted as the #1 Olympic moment of all-time by NBC (they have been covering since 1988, so other memorable highlights like the 1980 "Miracle on Ice," did not qualify).  In some ways the situation was similar to yesterday.  USA was ahead of Russia going into the final rotation, and all Kerri Strug had to do was to complete the vault on two feet. They have two chances, picking the higher score.  On her first jump, she landed badly, sprained her ankle and stumbled.  She could not continue, but coach Bela Karolyi (who in 2012 remains the head coach) pleaded:  "You can do it, you better do it."  She limped to the end of the runway, somehow could run and landed on both feet, instantly hopping on her one good foot, then collapsed, but earned 9.712 points to give America the gold.  (Click to watch that performance.)  Kerri to the left today.

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Typhoon Saola did a curious left turn, and is dumping significant rain over Taipei, but will weaken into a tropical cyclone head for China.  However, Typhoon Damrey at 85 MPH will skirt south of Kagoshima (Japan), surge just south of Cheju Island (South Korea) and make landfall in Shandong Province.  


Shanghai and Zhoushan just happen to be in the middle of both tracks and will not be affected.

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