7 Aug 2012 Tuesday
It was a thrilling Day 11 of the London Olympics as many top athletes battled it out for supremacy in the race for gold and a place on the podium
What a fantastic finish for the Brownlee brothers, who deliver a decisive 1, 3 punch in the Men's Triathlon, winning Great Britain gold and bronze. Spain's Javier Gomez put in a valiant effort to keep up with the brothers, to win silver. It was an aggressive race from the beginning as the Brownlee brothers took the lead right after swimming, attacking several times during the the cycling portion, repeatedly trying to break from the pack, forcing the other riders to try harder to keep up. And by the time they got to the running portion of event, older brother Alistair set a brutal pace that weeded down the pack to just the Browlee brothers and Javier Gomez. Younger brother Jonathan was the first to fall back towards the end. He also had to spend 15 seconds in the penalty box for getting on the bike too early during the transition from swimming to cycling. I don't get that. Isn't the whole idea of a race to do everything fast and get out as quickly as you can?
In the end, Gomez fall off the brutal pace, leaving Alistair the clear winner for gold. He was so far ahead in the race that by the time he reached the finish line, he grabbed a Union Jack flag on the way, stopped right before the finish line and turned around to see how far behind his next competitor was, then just walked across the finish line and collapsed, waiting for Gomez and younger brother Jonny to catch up. Gomez crosses next and also collapses next to Alistair, then crawls over to congratulate the winner. Jonny Brownlee crosses the line for bronze, hugs his brother, then collapses and required medical attention and a wheelchair! Truly, he had given it his all and won a place on the podium next to his superstar brother, Alistair, who had recovered from a serious Achilles injury at the beginning of the year and comes here to claim top prize for his country.
Over in Men's 66kg Greco-Roman wrestling, South Korea's Kim Hyeon-woo pulls off an upset and wins a surprise gold! The 24 year old has only been competing professionally for two years, and earned his spot by beating out the other heavy medal favorites. Beaten, bloodied, but not broken, he fought hard in his matches and overcame heavy odds to take the gold. Tamas Lorincz of Hungary gets silver. The defending Beijing 2008 champion, France's Steeve Guenot, was beaten by Kim in the quarter-finals, and ends up with one of the bronze medals. Manuchar Tskhadaia of Georgia gets the other bronze.
It's a golden day for the land Down Under. Sally Pearson of Australia upgrades a Beijing silver to a London gold! It was a dramatic race from the beginning in field loaded with the best, and it needed a foto finish to determine who had won. Pearson narrowly beats defending Beijing champion, American Dawn Harper, in the Women's 100m hurdles. Harper takes silver, and another American, Kellie Wells takes the bronze.
Australia's Anna Meares gets the Aussies another gold in Women's Track Cycling, beating out her long time rival, Britain's Victoria Pendleton. Meares was the stronger competitor who outraced Pendleton to the finish. Guo Shuang of China took bronze.
Exciting and controversial results in the Women's gymnastics balance beam and floor exercise event. First off, in the balance beam, China's Deng Linlin wins gold by beating fellow teammate and balance beam world champion Sui Lu, who gets the silver. But a controversy occurred in the fight for bronze. Romanian Catalina Ponor was at first, assured the bronze, until the American team asked for an inquiry, where it was determined that Raisman would get an increase in the difficulty element of her score. That meant Raisman now matched Ponor in points! And it would be a tie breaker rule, the same one that knocked Raisman out of a 3rd place tie in the all around event, would now knock Ponor out of the bronze! Aly Raisman of the US gets her bronze!
But the controversy continued on the floor exercise, where Catalina Ponor, the 2004 Athens floor champion who came out of retirement to compete, once again faces off against Aly Raisman, this time, for the top spot! Russian teenager Aliya Mustafina takes bronze. Aly Raisman went first and delivered an outstanding performance with a high difficulty element. And Catalina Ponor would follow with an equally stunning routine. And in the end, the judges gave Ponor deductions that the crowd disagreed with. Ponor would settle for silver. And though Raisman did execute an excellent routine, I can't help but wonder if Ponor was scored lower, because her routine was a bit more suggestive and flirty compared to the other gymnasts. The judges can be quite stuffy and well, judgmental at times.
To be honest, I thought Ponor should have scored higher. I'm surprised her team didn't file an inquiry. But Ponor leaves these games as a champion. She all ready won team gold in Athens 2004 and was the floor and beam gold medalist in those events, making her only the second woman in history-the first being fellow Romanian Daniela Silivas-to have won 3 gymnastics golds in one Olympics. She came out of retirement to help her Romanian team, and she has overcome injuries and heart surgery in 2011 to come here as one of the oldest gymnasts at 24 and be fearless and skilled in going against the much younger teen girls. She is the perfect example of why Romanian women have always won a medal at the Olympics. They are powerful and talented and fearless. Ponor is a champion and leaves these games with respect and admiration.
Over on the men's side, it was an amazing display of skill and power in the Men's High Bar event. It was the best night of gymnastics at these games ever! Every competitor brought their A game and gave the performance of a lifetime, dazzling the crowds as they soared to dangerous heights. Defending Beijing champion, China's Zou Kai, fresh from his winning gold in the floor event, is the first to set the high bar even higher! He executed a routine that put him way above the rest.
And he was followed by high bar rock star, Germany's Fabian Hambuchen who soared even higher with an amazing, difficult routine! Fabian was all but guaranteed the gold.
Until Epke Zonderland of the Netherlands rocketed to the heavens with 3 back to back releases and delivered the most difficult and extraordinary routine that placed him the pantheon of gymnastics gods!
Everyone knew that it was a gold medal performance and his rivals embraced and congratulated him, elated and stunned by Zonderland's epic performance. And with this gold medal win, Zonderland becomes the first Dutchman to win an Olympic gymnastics medal. It becomes Netherlands first Olympic medal since 1928, 84 years ago!
And the men continue to deliver amazing performances in the parallel bars event. Feng Zhe of China successfully defends his Beijing title, claiming the gold. It was a solid performance from the 2010 world champion in the event.
And Germany's newest and brightest star, Marcel Nguyen, fresh from his silver win in the all around competition, delivers another great performance that gets Germany another silver at these games.
But it was France's Hamilton Sabot who has the best win of the event, claiming bronze. Sabot qualified last in the event, with the lowest score compared to the rest. But he executed a strong performance that earned him an unexpected spot on the podium!
Over at the Men's 3m Springboard Dive, Russia's Ilya Zakharov demolished Chinese hopes for a sweep of the 8 diving events. It is devastating news for the Chinese who usually takes the top spots in this event; Qin Kai, a Beijing bronze medalist in the event, cried when he realized that the gold was now out of reach. 21 year old Ilya Zakharov's gold is the first for Russia in diving since 2000. His last two spectacular dives were the most difficult, earning him enough points to take lead and leave Qin Kai of China the silver. Defending Beijing champion He Chong fell to bronze; he held his head in disbelief when Zakharov executed his gold medal winning dive. Ilya Zakharov has all ready won silver in the 3m synchronized diving, behind the team of Qin Kai and He Chong.
The most exciting and fiercely fought events of the day all took place in women's volleyball, indoors and beach. It was a great day for volleyball.
First off, it is going to be an All American final in Women's Beach Volleyball. April Ross and Jennifer Kessy claimed a surprise win over number 1 ranked and reigning world champions Juliana Silva and Larissa Frana of Brazil. The Brazilians won the first set 15-21. But the Americans rallied back to win the second set 21-19. The Brazilians started falling apart, and they started yelling each other, creating tension and distraction that the Americans capitalized on. And when the rain started falling, the Americans used that to their advantage, having much more experience dealing with such weather. Ross and Kessy used their momentum to win the 3rd set 15-12 and earn a surprise spot to play for gold.
Meanwhile, defending two-time Olympic champions Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings beat China's Xue Chen and Zhang Xi. The Americans would come from behind in both sets to beat the Chinese 22-20 22-20.
The best and most closely contested matches took place indoors, where Brazil barely snatched victory when they went toe to toe with Russia in 5 exciting sets, 24-26, 25-22, 19-25, 25-22, 21-19. It was an even closer, thrilling match that saw Japan finally beat China after 5 Olympics in five sets 28-26 23-25 25-23 23-25 18-16. And it is South Korea who pulls off a stunning upset, beating out a heavily favored Italy, knocking the last European nation out of the semifinals. Korea's Yeon-Koung Kim is definitely the best volleyball player in these games, leading the underrated Korean team to a decisive victory.
And finally, we come to my favorite event of the games, the crown jewel of the Olympics, as far as I'm concerned, the only reason to have an Olympics: the most fabulous, most dazzling, and most scintillating sport of synchronized swimming!
In the battle of fierce facial gestures and dramatic body movement, Huang Xuechen and Liu Ou of China take bronze in the Women's Synchronized Swimming Duet. Spain's Ona Carbonell Ballestero and Andrea Fuentes Fache tango their way to silver. And once again, Russia's Natalia Ishchenko and Svetlana Romashina, outshine the competition and take the top spot for a gold win. The team event takes place Thursday, and I can't wait to see all those wonderful facial expressions and all those legs scissoring in the air!