Thursday, August 2, 2012

Olympics day 5: The race for gold

1 Aug 2012 Wednesday

What a gloriously golden day for the host nation! Great Britain wins its first gold of the London 2012 Olympics!

Britain's Golden Girls
And it's the fabulous team of Royal Artillery Captain Heather Stanning from Lossiemouth, Scotland and her rowing partner, PE teacher Helen Glover from Penzance, Cornwall, who win Great Britain's first gold of the London 2012 Olympics. And they also become the first pair of British women rowers to win gold in the sport. When these girls started pulling ahead and kept pushing on, I cheered for both of them wholeheartedly. It was an incredible win for the British pair, who leaped out from the start and kept ahead of the race, carrying on with amazing strength amidst the cheers of a wonderful and excited British public. A teacher and a soldier, from the far ends of the island nation, came together and delivered a great victory for the people of Great Britain. Well done, ladies! Congratulations and Well done! World Champions New Zealand's Juliette Haigh and Rebecca Scown settled for bronze, as Australia's Kate Hornsey and Sarah Tait took the silver.

Great Britain goes on to claim another medal in rowing. The men get the bronze in Men's Eight rowing. Rowing powerhouse Canada grabs the silver; and Germany wins the gold! I luv watching men's rowing events. These guys are fun! They celebrate their wins by throwing teammates into the water and just running wild, singing and screaming on the stage! Pure exhilaration and joy!

And the gold keeps rolling in for Britain as Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins wins gold in the Men's
Individual Time Trial Road Cycling. Germany's Tony Martin takes silver, and fellow British Team Sky member, Chris Foome secures the bronze for Great Britain.
I won! Now I can afford to buy underwear and pants that fit!

But perhaps the most amazing win for me has to be swimmer Michael Jamieson of Glasgow, who stunned the world by winning silver in the Men's 200m breaststroke! The gold was secured by world record holder and two time 200m breaststroke champion Daniel Gyurta of Hungary, edging the win by a touch, barely 0.15 seconds! Japan's Ryo Tateishi takes the bronze. What made Michael Jamieson's silver win incredible was that no one expected him to medal at all! Who is this guy? He didn't even qualify for the 100m breaststroke, and barely made the national team. But in the heats leading up to and during the 200m breaststroke, he broke British swimming records and set his own personal best! It's an amazing and spectacular silver win for Michael Jamieson whose hard work and dedication has paid off wonderfully on the world stage. Great job, Michael!

Meanwhile in the Women's Individual Time Trial, US cyclist Kristin Armstrong (no relation to Lance Armstrong), successfully defends her 2008 Olympic title to win gold in the 2012 London Olympics. Judith Arndt of Germany gets silver; and Russia's Olga Sergeyevna Zabelinskaya wins bronze, to add to her other bronze she won in a difficult road race event.

Who says women can't have it all?
Right after the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Kristin retired from the sport to start a family with her husband, Joe Savola. After giving birth to her son, Lucas, she found herself still longing for the game. So, in 2010, and with the support of her family, she announced her return to the sport and trained hard to get back into form. It was long and difficult road back to the Olympics. In May, she suffered an accident during a race and had to undergo surgery to repair a broken collarbone. But she kept training and was rewarded for her hard work with a gold medal, and becoming the oldest person (if 38 is considered old) to win an Olympic time trial event.

Over at the Men's Individual All Around Gymnastics, there were surprising developments.

While it's no surprise that Japan's Kohei Uchimura won gold; he is the 3 time all around world champion; but as we've learned in past, world champion doesn't always mean Olympic champion. What was surprising about Kohei Uchimura tonight were the mistakes he made in his usually stellar performance. He seemed subpar, less than his usual outstanding delivery. But Kohei's subpar delivery is still so much better than all the other male gymnasts the he clearly outclasses by a longshot! So he made some mistakes here and there; but it wasn't enough to bring him down from the heights he has soared.

And it was those tiny mistakes that made all difference between who would get on the podium and win a medal, and who would be so tantalizingly, achingly, painfully close. Consistency counts in gymnastics. If you can't deliver a powerful, high risk, high reward, stunning performance, then you damn well better deliver a flawless one! Mistakes, no matter how tiny, can add up and knock someone off the podium to make room for someone else. And it was those tiny mistakes that knocked some of the favorite competitors off the podium and allowed two surprising but well deserved gymnasts to take bronze and silver!

What a great story for US gymnast, Danell Leyva, a Cuban immigrant, whose parents defected from Cuba to the US when he was just a baby. His stepfather and trainer escaped from Mexico where his Cuban gymnastics team was competing, swimming across the dangerous Rio Grande river to seek freedom and a piece of the American dream. And here is Danell Leyva, the product of hard working parents and driven by talent, by dreams, and by perseverance, here he wins a bronze for United States. Here is living proof of the American dream! Here is a reason for Americans to stop, step back, and reflect that we are a nation of immigrants; and to many people in distressed parts of the world, we are a beacon of hope and a land of opportunity. Perhaps we should reassess our current policies and rethink our approach to illegal immigration. And unless you're a Native American, we're all immigrants in this land; and instead of punishing people who flee here seeking safety and opportunity and freedom, just as our ancestors did, perhaps we ought to focus on ways to best integrate these people into the diverse and rich fabric of our nation. No, it's not about giving out handouts or encouraging illegal border crossings. It's about creating opportunities to help these people and ourselves build a stronger, safer, and better nation. Sometimes, we forget that when we come together, we can create amazing and noble, marvelous things. Our history is full of testaments to that legacy. And sometimes, we need someone like Danell Leyva to remind us of who we are, where we come from, and what being an American really means.

And my favorite surprise gymnastics win tonight has to be silver medal winner Marcel Nguyen of Germany. Marcel Nguyen, half Vietnamese and born in Munich, always had the potential to be a great gymnast. But often he was overshadowed by other more famous, powerful members of the elite German team. Ever humble, his biggest enemy is often himself, his own self doubt. Though he failed to qualify for the all around in the Beijing Olympics, he has steadily worked his way up from the bottom, slowly advancing up the rankings, to finish 8th at the 2011 World Championships. Two years ago, he broke his leg in competition. He worked hard to recover and has a tattoo that states "Pain is Temporary Pride is Forever" on his chest, to remind him to keep working hard towards his goal. That hard work and consistency paid off tonight, as he slowly worked his way from the bottom ranks and fought his way steadily to second place, winning the silver and Germany's first all around medal in 76 years, since 1936! The look of disbelief on his face was priceless! Even as he received his medal on the podium he looked dazed and unsure that it was still happening. The genuine look of joy on his face when he completed his performance was fantastic. He wasn't sure if his mother and sister were able to find tickets into the event to watch him win silver, but he said he wasn't going to celebrate yet. He still has the apparatus event coming up, and given his performance today, I have no doubt he'll do very well!

And in other men's event, was there ever any doubt that China would win gold in Men's 3m Synchronized Diving? China's Qin Kai and Luo Yutong outperformed their competition in both difficulty and synchronization to gain a good size lead over the other divers. Qin Kai, here with a different partner, successfully wins another Olympic gold.

Russia's Ilya Zakharov (front) and Evgeny Kuznetsov take silver.

But the sweet surprise has to be the US diving team of Kristian Ipsen and Troy Dumais who won the bronze. This is Kristian Ipsen's first Olympics. For Troy Dumais, it is his fourth. And after coming up so close, fourth place in Syndey 2000, to finally win an Olympic medal is the culmination of years of hard work. This time around, he was having fun and more relaxed. This time around, he was able to fend off other competitors and fought hard with his partner to earn their spots on the podium. And I was so happy to see Troy finally get his medal! Congratulations, Troy and Kristian!

And back to the fast and furious world of swimming, it was another legendary battle in the long, fierce, and friendly rivalry between the United States and Australia. These two swimming powerhouses have traded leads and winnings over the course of many Olympics. No other country has waged a brilliant and savage war for swimming dominance as the one between Australia and the US. And for tonight, the US comes out swinging and lands blows.

In a thrilling and fantastic Men's 100m Freestyle race, American swimmer Nathan Adrien bursts out from the shadows of his superfamous teammates Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte and establishes himself as a superstar in his own right. It was an incredible race, right from the explosive start when all swimmers surged forward at astonishing speed.

Australia's "The Missile" James Magnussen, who posted the fastest time this year in the event, took no prisoners as he carved his way in the water. He showed without a doubt that he was among the fastest swimmers in the event, certain to win the gold. But it was on the last 50 feet of the race that American Nathan Adrien powered through the lane and caught up to James Magnussen. In the last few seconds of the race, amid the screams and hysteria of the crowd, Nathan Adrien would reach forward and edge out James Magnussen by 1/100th of a second!

The smallest margin possible, but a world of difference between gold, silver, bronze, and those who don't make it onto the podium. Not to be outdone, Canada's Brent Hayden sweeps in to claim the bronze.

And then it was the women's turn to battle it out! The mermaids from Down Under take on the Americans from Over Yonder! It was an exciting and sensational race, as these two teams fought fiercely for gold. Right from when the very first swimmers hit the water, it was obvious that the other teams would be fighting for bronze. The Aussies and Americans were going to leave them in their wake!

The Aussies and Americans were about even, going head to head as the first swimmers took off. The crowds cheered and shouted, screams echoing off the walls and drowning out the telecasters. By the time the second relay swimmers from both teams hit the water, a gap was developing that started to separate the two powerhouse Aussie and American teams from the rest of the field. So close was the race as the second swimmers battled it out. But things started to change when the third relay swimmers hit the water. The Aussies began to pull away, inch by inch, starting to leave the Americans in their wake! And when the third relay swimmers returned to tag in the final relay swimmers, it was clear that the Aussies had pulled ahead of the Americans, gaining a clear advantage! Aussie swimmer Alicia Coutts seizes the moment and takes off to make the most of a strong lead! The Aussies race ahead with a half second lead!

Screams and cheers rocked the building as the crowd stomped and clapped and went into a frenzy of flailing and yelling. Prayers were offered to various deities to intervene! Sacrifices were promised and bargains were struck with the otherworldly by the desperate and despondent. Curses were uttered and hollered and fists were waved and an overcome crowd jumped and shook with a rush of excitement and fear and passion! Chanting and mantras permeated the cacophony of grunts and shrieks and cries of a wildly agitated, delirious crowd! Who would win? Who will take the gold?

And it would be American anchor swimmer Allison Schmitt who slices through the waters to catch up to Aussie Alicia Coutts and overtake Coutts for the lead! And Allison Schmitt widens the lead heading towards the end of the race. The frenetic crowd unleashes a thunderous, rapturous roar as Allison Schmitt touches the wall and the Americans win the race! The Americans have pulled off an upset! Coming from behind to pass up the Aussies and leaving them in their path to settle for silver! A glorious and epic battle between two titans of the swimming world, a battle worthy of poems and song!

The French women pick up the bronze. The Americans win this round, but the war for swimming superiority is far from over as the Aussies and Americans face off again in upcoming races. And I am so amped up to see what happens next in race for gold!


  1. [off topic. sorry]

    My favorite Olympic sport is Fencing. Yesterday, US Seth Kelsey (épée) and Mariel Zagunis (sabre) made strong runs into the quarterfinals. Both lost early leads and were sent to their respective bronze medal rounds. Again, both lost early leads and lost out on any medals. I felt badly for both.

  2. lx, Well, it was a good efforts from the Americans.

    You know, I feel bad for athletes too when they lose out. But then I think, well, they're at the Olympics, and not many others can say that. And as long as they gave it their all and did their best, then there should be no regrets. I say, Good for them for giving it their all.

  3. The Brits know how to take advantage of flood water - we've had enough of it to train ourselves up to Olympian standards.

  4. Indeed, Scarlet! That certainly explains why your countrymen are doing extremely well in the rowing, canoe, and boating events!