Sunday, August 28, 2016

The Experimental Gardner: Challenges

I've all ready mentioned before how I have no plant growing skills. Which might seem surprising, seeing as I grew up on a farm. Everyone else in the family has some talent in growing plants--flowers, bushes, vines, fruits, veggies, trees. But I had none. In fact, my only noticeable skill when it comes to plants was that I was very good at killing them. And that skill was put to good use eliminating weeds & harmful plants from the farm. I was very effective at my job. And I loved it.

And while I never did master the necessary skills to grow plants successfully, I did appreciate the hard work & challenges that went into growing produce. These past two months, I was reminded of the big challenges that every farmer growing produce has to face. The big three farming challenges that I dealt with growing up were: Weather, Disease, & Pests. Any one or combination could ruin the harvest & destroy months of hard work.

You can't control the weather--hurricanes & droughts happen. Sudden summer storms can flood the land or send lightning strikes that cause wildfires to burn & devour the parched, dying earth. You can only try to minimize the damages & salvage what you can. You try your best to shield the crops from the terrible weather & utilize best practices that manage resources efficiently, hoping to maximize production while minimizing costs. You hope for the best, & prepare for the worst. Sometimes, all you can do is pray. Sometimes, you learn to accept the hardships & losses that are inherent in farming.

But other times, you fight back against the challenges, because if you react fast enough & work hard enough, you can succeed, especially when it comes to disease & pests. Remove the problem early enough, & you can save most of your harvest. To overcome these challenges, you have to be vigilant, you have to assess the state of your crops & livestock daily, to constantly monitor for changes & intervene when necessary to ensure the health of your crops & livestock. These are the fundamentals of farming, lessons that every farm child lives & learns growing up.

And these past two months, I was reminded of these challenges & the hardships that are part of the nature of farming. As you may recall, I found two sweet potatoes germinating in the back of the lower cupboards when I was doing some cleaning. These two had rolled into the back of the cupboards from a sack of sweet potatoes that I had bought in the winter holiday season. So you can imagine my surprise at finding two spuds germinating in the dark cupboards about three months after I had bought them!

You can also imagine my conundrum trying to figure out what to do with the germinating spuds. Both were on the verge of dying. But by lucky coincidence & fortunate turn of events, I was inspired to try growing them in some mulch & large five gallon plastic containers that had recently come into my possession. Long story short: One sweet potato successful took root & grew. I named him Chip. The other sweet potato died, but it was incorporated into the mulch that would go on to support a bean--yes, a bean!--that I had left over from an empty sack. Out of curiosity, I planted the left over beans, & one took root & actually grew! I named him LL Bean.

I was actually quite stunned at the success of growing these two plants. I didn't think they'd last a week, much less a month, surviving & thriving under my care. Yes, my care! Me, the Grim Reaper of plants, actually managed to grow plants! My family would've been shocked, as I was at my unexpected success.

Two months in, & all was going well. Then came the end of July, when the weather took a turn for the worse. We were subjugated to high, dry, gusty winds that blew constantly every day for three weeks. The gusts were starting to cause my small plants' stalks to bend. I had to mound up the sweet potato, to strengthen the stalk. And I had to tie the beanstalk to a stake--improvised with an old wire hanger & twist ties. Then I had to MacGyver some wind barriers using some cardboard. And with careful water management & protection from the harsh winds, the plants began to recover their vibrancy & started to thrive.

I was so proud of my efforts & ingenuity to protect my young plants, confident that they would be all right. Then tragedy struck a week later at the beginning of August. I left town for two days. And two days was all that was needed for calamity to strike.

The morning I returned home, I went to check to see if my plants needed watering. Imagine my shock at discovering pests destroying my crops! Caterpillars! Caterpillars had devoured half the leaves of my sweet potato & consumed nearly three quarters of the leaves of my bean plant.

I was filled with rage! My plants! My poor, defenseless plants! I could barely resist the urge to snatch those caterpillars from the leaves & crush them with my fingers! But as I reached out to snuff the lives of those caterpillars, I was suddenly reminded of my Mom, working in her garden, me helping her, though I was more of a useless burden & pest as a small child. It was only when I was older that my plant killing skills were applied to eliminating weeds from the flower garden.

I remember being grossed out yet fascinated by the caterpillars my mother was removing from her flowers. I admit, a small part of me wanted to squish them in the small container my mother was collecting them in. I didn't fully understand why Mom was picking out the caterpillars & putting them into the container instead of just crushing the little buggers. I didn't say anything, but somehow, Mom picked up on my confusion. And she proceeded to teach me one of the first life lessons that I have ever learned.

She said that all life is connected. And every living thing & how we treat them affects all other life in ways we don't always understand. She surprised me, when she told me that ugly, gross, squishy caterpillars turned into beautiful, colorful, floating  butterflies. I didn't believe her at first, to think that something as disgusting as a caterpillar can turn into a gorgeous butterfly. I thought she might be joking with me, but she looked serious, so I had to take her word & try to make sense of the fantastical & nonsensical things that I was being told.

I still had that puzzled look on my face as Mom & I left the garden & headed out to the woods just a stone's throw away. There she found a flowering bush & emptied her container of caterpillars. Then she pointed out a leaf with a large brown bump on it. She surprised me further when she explained that in that brown bump--a cocoon--a caterpillar was turing into a butterfly. And in a week or two, a butterfly would emerge from that cocoon. And that butterfly would would go eat the sweet nectar, food from the flower, & in return, it'll spread the pollens from that flower to other flowers, helping the flowers make seeds for new flowering plants.

To say I was fascinated was an understatement. I was obsessed! Every day, I'd check up on that cocoon at least three times a day. I told my two brothers about it, so it became a part of our daily routine for the next week to check on that cocoon a few times a day. By then, we noticed two caterpillars actually beginning building their cocoons. We were so excited! Maybe a butterfly would hatch soon!

Five days in, we saw that there was a change in the cocoon one morning. It had changed colors from brown to shiny black! We called excitedly for Mom, & she came to see what the yelling was all about. She was very patient & understanding. We could hardly stand still, eagerly waiting for our butterfly to emerge. Mom warned us it would take about three to four hours for the butterfly to emerge, spread its wings, then fly. She warned us not to touch the butterfly nor interfere with it in anyway, lest we hurt it or cause it to die.

Mom left us alone for a few hours as we watched the cocoon patiently, fascinated when the butterfly first emerged, then waited expectantly, marveling at how the butterfly wings were slowly opening. And soon enough, the wings were fully opened, & when they were set, the butterfly took off & we followed it as it landed on a nearby flower & started feeding just as Mom had said. It was quite a revelation, as if we were witnesses to some magic behind the scenes; we had glimpsed a hidden, amazing world that was full of wonder & amusement.

Why I was suddenly thinking about those childhood memories, I didn't know. But the thought of that butterfly, the excitement my brothers & I felt, & the lessons from my mother was enough to stay my hand, to keep me from crushing those caterpillars.

I picked up a stick, got one caterpillar to crawl on it, then relocated the caterpillar to a nearby flowering bush. I repeated the same with the other two caterpillars. Yes, just three small caterpillars. But those three were more than enough to cause serious damage. When I had set up my cardboard wind barriers, it created a safe, calm place for the caterpillars to live & eat without getting blown away. And they ate a lot! In two nights, they had decimated my two small plants. Those two days & two nights I was away & left the plants untended was more than enough for three caterpillars to infiltrate & infest my small fragile plants, causing serious damage.

I tried my best the next two weeks, carefully nurturing my plants. But the damage was severe. The leaves were full of holes & started dying, turning yellow & brown, then die & fall off. My poor beanstalk wasn't able to generate new leaves. It turned brown, dull, & died. I was very sad to see the once thriving green plant savaged, shrivel, & then die. LL Bean did not survive the pest infestation.

And things weren't looking good for my poor Sweet Potato Chip. Every day, the few surviving leaves, full of holes & missing large chunks from ravenous caterpillars, were turning yellow, then brown, then die & fall off. For two weeks, I kept watch, I nurtured, I hoped. But it all seemed futile. I was resigned to accept the inevitable, my sweet potato would also die.

Two days & two nights was all it took. It was just enough time away from the plants that enabled a caterpillar infestation that devastated the plants. I tried to console myself that it was nature. That it wasn't my fault. I didn't kill the plants by drowning them, as was the usual way that I've killed plants over the years, by overwatering them. And I didn't smother them with too much soil or nutrients or starved them of sunlight. This was nature at work. And though I tried, nature had won. Survival of the fittest, & I wasn't fit to raise plants. They died under my care.

There was some guilt in knowing that my negligence, my time away, was what had led to this wanton destruction of my fragile, nascent garden. Maybe I really can't grow plants, & I shouldn't stray outside my long established & accepted role as the Grim Reaper of plants. Some things cannot be changed. It is what it is. It is nature.

But some things can change! It is inevitable. Change is nature! Three weeks after the plague of caterpillars, two weeks after the destruction of my beanstalk & devastation of my sweet potato, when I was ready to accept my losses, I found hope.  And hope was in the form of a second chance, a second stalk had started to emerge from the sweet potato mound. I have carefully nurtured it over the past two weeks, & I am thrilled to report that new leaves have emerged!

As the last leaf is dying & falling off the original sweet potato stalk, the new stalk is growing & thriving. It's put out a lot more leaves, & I am happy to report that for now, my experimental garden is still alive! Hope still reigns, & this new thriving stalk is such a joy for me to behold! It is a reward, a reminder that all my hard work wasn't in vain. And that in spite of all the challenges, I may still yet see my efforts pay off, when my sweet potato plant grows larger & perhaps even productive.

For now, it is more than enough to see my lone sweet potato plant grow. And I will continue to nurture it & protect it & help it grow bigger, stronger, & help it survive & thrive for as long it can. It may have started out as an experiment but that sweet potato has become a symbol of hope & resilience to me. It is my reminder that all life is connected, that we may not understand all of it, but we should cherish it & make the most of it. Never give up hope, for where there's a will, there is a way. And be brave. Make the most of second chances & seize every opportunity. For with perseverance & hard work & caring, you can overcome the challenges, no matter how big or impossible they may seem.

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The Experimental Gardener

Monday, August 22, 2016

Rio 2016 Olympics: Closing Ceremony

21 August 2012 Sunday. Day 16 of the Rio Olympics, Closing Ceremony.

It's the last day of the Rio Olympics. The Closing Ceremony starts a few hours after the last game. But there were still a few sports left where the medals were on the line.

But even though it's the last day of the Rio Olympics, there was still some controversy that took place today.

First up, the behind the scenes news.

The US Olympic Committee say they will take further action regarding the furor caused by American swimmers Ryan Lochte, Jack Conger, Gunnar Bentz, & Jimmy Feigen who were involved in a gas station vandalism dispute; but then reported they were robbed at gunpoint, launching an official investigation that finally exposed the truth & wasted valuable time & resources, damaging the reputation of the Rio organizers, the city of Rio, & embarrassing the US Olympic teams.

The Olympic Council of Ireland reports that Sunday morning, Brazilian police have seized passports, phones, & laptops from members of its delegation in Rio de Janeiro as part of a ticket-scalping investigation. The OCI says the unspecified number of people have been asked to show up at the police station Tuesday for question. All unsold tickets were also seized. The head of the Olympic Council of Ireland, Patrick Hickey was arrested in connection with the investigation & he remains jailed in Rio.

The ruling body for wrestling, the United World Wrestling, have removed & indefinitely banned three officials who made a very controversial, questionable call in the match between Puerto Rico's Franklin Gomez & Ikhtiyor Navruzov of Uzbekistan quarterfinal match. The match was tied 5-5, Gomez had the criteria advantage. He made a move to grab Navruzov, resulting in both fighters scoring either 2 points for Gomez or for both. Gomez would still have the criteria advantage & win.

But in a stunning decision, the officials award 2 points to Navruzov & no points to Gomez! Gomez's corner challenges the scoring, but the challenge is denied. The replay clearly showed that Gomez should've won. The audience starts to boo the poor decision loudly, causing a huge ruckus & bringing attention to the injustice. I love the Rio crowds for being passionate & booing those cheaters & losers who don't deserve to win!

In response to the situation, United World Wrestling has removed & suspended indefinitely Tong-Kun Chung of South Korea, Temo Kazarashvili of Georgia, & Russia's Sergei Novakoskiy, who oversaw the match between Puerto Rico's Franklin Gomez & Ikhtiyor Navruzov of Uzbekistan. The suspended officials also face further investigation & possible sanctions.

The appearance of any officiating impropriety could do harm to a sport that was kicked out of the Olympics for corruption just three years ago & has worked very hard to be later reinstated into the Olympic program. The UWW president, Nenad Lalovic, defended the organization, saying that the majority of the matches were properly officiated. And the few that were inappropriately scored are being investigated & handled, asking for just a little more time to clear out the corruption from the sport.

In related news, two Mongolian coaches stripped off their clothes & tossed them into the ring to protest the result of the 65kg bronze match.

Uzbekistan's Ikhtiyor Navruzov--the same one involved in the controversial match being investigated by UWW--appeared to have lost to Mongolia's Mandakhnaran Ganzorig 7-6 on Sunday.

Uzbekistan challenges the scoring, with ten seconds left as the Mongolian runs around celebrating his apparent win, instead of engaging Navruzov. Navruzov wins the challenge & the match on criteria as the last wrestler to score.

Ganzorig, who had already started celebrating, fell to his knees in disappointment. His coaches protest, but are denied. So Byambarenchin Bayoraa took his shoes & shirt off & threw them to the mat in disgust in front of the officials. Tsenrenbataar Tsostbayar went further & stripped all the way down to his blue briefs. The Brazilian crowd in agreement with the Mongolians show their support by loudly chanting "Mongolia! Mongolia!"

Mongolias coaches protest the judges decision after Mandakhnaran Ganzorig (red) of Mongolia is defeated by Ikhtiyor Navruzov (blue) of Uzbekistan in the Men's Freestyle 65kg Bronze match against on Day 16 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at Carioca Arena 2 on August 21, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Aug. 20, 2016 - Source: Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images South America)

I love the Brazilian crowd! And I hope the UWW steps in & stops the corruption or wrestling is out of the Olympics!

And on the final day of competition, The Court of Arbitration for Sport says Mongolia's Chagnaadorj Usukhbayar, 19, tested positive for testosterone & was disqualified from the games. He never completed the event in the 56kg division.

In the most sobering & most serious of news, Feyisa Lilesa of Ethiopia was nearing the finish line at the men’s marathon on Sunday morning when he crossed his wrists above his head. He won silver. He did the posture again, crossing his wrists over his head as the reporters & photographers asked him the meaning of his sign.

Feyisa Lilesa of Ethiopia celebrates as he crosses the line to win silver during the Men's Marathon on Day 16 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at Sambodromo on August 21, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Aug. 20, 2016 - Source: Matthias Hangst/Getty Images South America)

It was then the 26 year old stated that his sign was a show of solidarity with the protestors in Ethiopia. He was protesting the killing of protestors by the Ethiopian government. His gesture was made in protest of the killing of the Oromo people by government forces.

When asked about the consequences of his actions on global tv, Lilesa said maybe “they kill me…if not they kill me, they put me in prison.”

When told that the IOC frowns on political messages & protests at the Olympics, Lilesa said, “They can’t do anything. It’s my feeling.”

I hope he is safe. I hope this brave athlete is not harmed.

And now to the last games of the Rio Olympics.

Men's marathon

Eliud Kipchoge, Kenya, finally wins an Olympic gold medal in the marathon. He has a bronze from Athens 2004 in the 5000m & a silver in the Beijing 2008 5000m. He has won other marathons before, but this is his first Olympic marathon medal. Kenya has now won both the men's & women's marathon for the first time.

Feyisa Lilesa, Ethiopia, takes the silver & makes a brave stand against the government slaying of the Oromo people. His life is now in danger, but he made the extraordinary brave choice to use the moment to put the global spotlight on the plight of the oppressed. He has my admiration.

And Galen Rupp, 10000m London 2012 silver medalist, wins bronze in his second marathon of his career, claiming the first medal for the US since Meb Keflezighi won silver in Athens 2004.


Women's middleweight gold medal bout

Claressa Shields, United States, defeated Nouchka Fontijn, Netherlands, 3-0 to take gold in the women's middleweight division. Shields is the first American female boxer to win two Olympic golds--the first American to win two golds in 112 years. She successfully defends her London 2012 title.

Kazakhstan's Dariga Shakimova & China's Li Qian took the bronze medals

Men's flyweight gold medal bout

Uzbekistan's Shakhobidin Zoirov won the men's Olympic flyweight boxing gold medal on Sunday with a unanimous points victory over Russia's Armenian born favorite, two times world champion & London 2012 bronze medalist, Mikhail Misha Aloyan, 3-0.

The gold was the second of the boxing competition for Uzbekistan. Zoirov was worried a cut over his eye from a previous bout would cost him the gold, but Aloyan also suffered a cut in the bout.

Venezuela's Joel Segundo Finol & China's Hu Jianguan won the bronze medals.

Men's light-welterweight gold medal match

Uzbekistan's Fazliddin Gaibnazarov won the Olympic light-welterweight gold by beating Azerbaijan's Cuban-born Lorenzo Sotomayor Collazo on a 2-1 split decision on Sunday. Lorenzo Sotomayor Collazo moved to Azerbaijan in 2013 & was hoping for gold. He leaves with silver instead, which is still a great feat.
The gold was Uzbekistan's second of the afternoon & third of the boxing tournament.
Russia's Vitaly Dunaytsev & Germany's Artem Harutyunyan won the bronze medals.

Men's super-heavyweight gold medal match

Reigning world champion Tony Yoka of France beat Great Britain's Joe Joyce to win the men's super-heavyweight boxing title in a 2-1 decision. Yoka takes gold for France, Joyce gives Britain the silver.

Croatia's Filip Hrgovic & Kazakhstan's Ivan Dychko took the bronze medals.


Men's cross-country mountain bike final

It's a reversal of fortune in favor of Nino Schurter, Switzerland, who sprint past Jaroslav Kulhavý, Czech Republic, beating him to gold. Four years ago at London 2012, it was Kulhavý who sped past Schurter in the last lap to win the gold. This time, Schurter takes gold, & Kulhavý settles for silver. And Carlos Coloma Nicolas, Spain, takes bronze.

Men's Handball

In the exciting gold medal match, Denmark defeats two time defending champion France 28-26 to take gold for the first time in men's handball.

Over in the bronze medal, Germany beats Poland 31-25 to win the third spot on the podium.

Rhythmic Gymnastics

Group final

Russia continues its dominance in the rhythmic gymnastics team event. For the fifth consecutive Olympics, the Russian rhythmic gymnastics team has won gold. Spain takes silver & Bulgaria takes bronze.

Men's Volleyball

In the gold medal match, the men's team deliver Brazil a gold on the last day of the Rio Olympics, defeating Italy 3-0 (25-22, 28-26, 26-24). Italy takes silver.

Meanwhile, United States rallies back from two set losses to defeat defending London 2012 champions Russia 3-2  (23-25, 21-25, 25-19, 25-19, 15-13) to take the bronze.


Men's freestyle 65 kilograms gold medal match

Soslan Ramonov, Russia, defeated London 2012 champion Toghrul Asgarov, Azerbaijan, 4-0, to take the gold in men's 65kg freestyle wrestling. Asgarov takes silver.

Frank Chamizo of Italy & Ikhtiyor Navruzov of Uzbekistan were the bronze medalists.

Men's freestyle 97 kilograms gold medal match

20 year old Kyle Snyder is the youngest American wrestler to win a gold medal in wrestling. Kyle Snyder, US, won gold on Sunday in the 97 kg freestyle wrestling division by beating Khetag Gazyumov of Azerbaijan. The 33-year-old Gazyumov was a bronze medalist at the Beijing 2008 & London 2012 Games. Gazyumov settles for silver.

It is the second time an American has won this division. Jake Varner, who Snyder beat at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials in April, won in London 2012.

Albert Saritov of Romania & Uzbekistan's Magomed Ibragimov took the bronze medals.

Men's Basketball

In the last game played at the Rio Olympics, the United States beat Serbia 96-66 to win their third consecutive Olympics gold. The US has won 15 of the 19 basketball events played at the Olympics.

Spain beat Australia 89-88 in a close bronze medal game to deny Australia a spot on the podium again for the fourth Olympics in a row.

And so ends the last games of the Rio 2016 Olympics, & what a fantastic & wonderful & surprising Olympics it has been! Thank you, Rio, for a spectacular Olympics!

Let's take a look at the Closing Ceremony:

First up, the most glorious & most magnificent of all Olympic cauldrons!
Closing Ceremony on Day 16 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at Maracana Stadium on August 21, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Aug. 20, 2016 - Source: Patrick Smith/Getty Images South America)

It is the standard by which all cauldrons will be judged.

A photo shows the cauldron bearing the Olympic flame during the closing ceremony of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Maracana stadium in Rio de Janeiro on August 21, 2016. / AFP / Odd ANDERSEN (Aug. 20, 2016 - Source: AFP)

Next up, Pita Nikolas Taufatofua of Tonga made such a momentous impression at the Opening Ceremony as a flag bearer that he was invited on stage with other athletes to join & perform in the Closing Ceremony festivities.

Pita Taufatofua of Tonga on stage during the Closing Ceremony on Day 16 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at Maracana Stadium on August 21, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Aug. 20, 2016 - Source: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images South America)

Pita Nikolas Taufatofua of Tonga is the standard by which all Olympic flag bearers will be judged.

I have to admit that as fantastic & gorgeous the Rio 2016 cauldron is, the best Olympics cauldron lighting ever belongs to Barcelona 1992. That's when an archer fired a burning arrow into the cauldron to set the cauldron on fire.

But the Rio 2016 cauldron is the most spectacular & most stunning Olympics cauldron ever!

And the way they extinguished the flame at the Closing Ceremony makes it the most awesome way to extinguish an Olympic cauldron. They made it rain on the cauldron while Mariene de Castro sang a beautiful, haunting song about things coming to an end. It was a lovely & longing version of Pelo tempo que durar. The song ended & the flames died in the rain. It was quite mesmerizing & amazing. 

Singer Mariene de Castro performs in front of the Olympic Cauldron before being extinguished during the Closing Ceremony on Day 16 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at Maracana Stadium on August 21, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Aug. 20, 2016 - Source: Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images South America)

From now on, every time I turn off the lights, I want Mariene de Castro to sing her song--kitchen lights, porch light, bathroom light, etc. But please, no rain while she sings. There's a drought in these parts. No use wasting good water. And I'd hate to mop up after all that water.

But what a fantastic Closing Ceremony! The amazing dancers:

Dancers perform during the closing ceremony of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Maracana stadium in Rio de Janeiro on August 21, 2016. / AFP / Fabrice COFFRINI (Aug. 20, 2016 - Source: AFP)

The fireworks:

Fireworks explode during the Closing Ceremony 2016 Olympic Games at Maracana Stadium on August 21, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Aug. 20, 2016 - Source: Buda Mendes/Getty Images South America)

(This image was taken with a fisheye lens.) Fireworks explode during the Closing Ceremony on Day 16 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at Maracana Stadium on August 21, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Aug. 20, 2016 - Source: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images South America)
Fireworks explode at the end of the closing ceremony of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Maracana stadium in Rio de Janeiro on August 21, 2016. / AFP / VANDERLEI ALMEIDA (Aug. 20, 2016 - Source: AFP)
The colors:

Dancers perform during the closing ceremony of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Maracana stadium in Rio de Janeiro on August 21, 2016. / AFP / Ed JONES (Aug. 20, 2016 - Source: AFP)

Dancers perform during the closing ceremony of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Maracana stadium in Rio de Janeiro on August 21, 2016. / AFP / Ed JONES (Aug. 20, 2016 - Source: AFP)
This picture shows an overview of fireworks during the closing ceremony of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Maracana stadium in Rio de Janeiro on August 21, 2016. / AFP / Antonin THUILLIER (Aug. 21, 2016 - Source: AFP)
The amazing festivities:

Dancers perform during the closing ceremony of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Maracana stadium in Rio de Janeiro on August 21, 2016. / AFP / Ed JONES (Aug. 20, 2016 - Source: AFP)

Samba dancers perform in the "Cidade Maravilhosa" segment during the Closing Ceremony on Day 16 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at Maracana Stadium on August 21, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Aug. 20, 2016 - Source: Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images South America)
Brazilian model Izabel Goulart parades during the closing ceremony of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Maracana stadium in Rio de Janeiro on August 21, 2016. / AFP / Luis Acosta (Aug. 20, 2016 - Source: AFP)
Rio knows how to party & they threw a spectacular closing ceremony! It was a marvelous & amazing Olympics! Thank you, volunteers & organizers! Thank you athletes & supporters! Thank you, Rio & Brazil for giving us an amazing & astonishing Olympics! Thank you for welcoming us & for hosting these games & the world. You did an outstanding job, & we are grateful & thankful.

Obrigado, Rio! You were amazing!

Fireworks explode at Maracana Stadium during closing ceremonies at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games on August 21, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Aug. 20, 2016 - Source: Mario Tama/Getty Images South America)

And Konnichiwa, Tokyo! We look forward to 2020!

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Rio 2016 Olympics: Day 15

20 August 2012 Saturday. Day 15 of the Rio Olympics.

This is it. The Closing Ceremony is on Sunday. And on the second to the last day of the Rio Olympics, the athletes continue to dazzle & amaze us with their astonishing feats. It has been a good summer Olympics overall. The host nation Brazil has done an outstanding job of meeting all the challenges, expected & unexpected. Thank you, Brazil.

Now to the news behind the scenes.

The Australian Olympic team reports that nine of its athletes have been fined after being detained for falsifying games accreditations. The nine were taken into custody when officials suspected the athletes' accreditations had been tampered with to gain access to Australia's basketball semifinal against Serbia.

Instead of waiting three weeks, an expedited hearing resulted in the nine being fined 10,000 reals, about $3,100. No criminal convictions will be recorded & records of the proceedings will be expunged after two years.

The Australian team leader, Kitty Chiller, insists that the athletes were not at fault & it was tradition for the athletes to put a sticker on the accreditation with another venue's access code but Brazil treats such incidents much more seriously.

And in much happier news, the Uzbekistan taekwondo team is the friendliest team in all of the Olympics. Before they get down to kicking opponents, the Uzbekistanis give their opponents small Uzbekistani figurines as gifts before the matches. They believe it's the courteous thing to do. And its a wonderful way to show just how friendly & warm the Uzbekistan people are! They exemplify the spirit of the Olympics & the best human qualities of kindness & caring. You're all awesome, Uzbekistani taekwondo team!

And now to the events that were contested in the second to the last day of the Rio Olympics.


In the sport that mattered the most to the host nation, Brazil has won gold in men's soccer, for the first time in history. It is a sweet revenge on the Germans who beat them at the last World Cup in Brazil, where Brazilian star Neymar, suffered a back injury in a collision with the Germans.

The game tied 1-1 with Germany. Penalty kicks, with Neymar scoring the last goal, ensured a 5-4 Brazil win over Germany.

Germany takes silver. And in the bronze match, Nigeria beat Honduras 3-2. Nigeria takes bronze.

Women's Triathlon

It is a sweet, golden redemption for Gwen Jorgensen, United States, who won gold in the women's triathlon at 1:56:16. Four years ago in London 2012, she was in the lead when her tire went flat. The inexperienced, fairly new triathlete was then passed up by Nicola Spirig-Hug of Switzerland, who went on to win the gold while Jorgensen ended up 38th.

This time, Jorgensen dominated, eventually pulling ahead to win the US' first ever gold in women's triathlon.

Nicola Spirig, Switzerland, would finish 1:56:56 for the silver. And Vicky Holland outsprinted British teammate Non Stanford for the bronze, finishing at 1:57:01.


Women's cross-country mountain bike

In women's cross country mountain bike, Jenny Rissveds, Sweden, pulls ahead of the competition to win gold with a time of 1:30:15. Beijing 2008 silver medalist Maja Włoszczowska, Poland, finishes at 1:30:52 for silver. And Catharine Pendrel, Canada, survived an early crash to finish at 1:31:41 for bronze.


There is a new dominant superpower in men's badminton, & his name is Chen Long of China.

For the past decade, badminton has been dominated by Lee Chong Wei of Malaysia, top ranked, & Lin Dan of China, Beijing 2008 & London 2012 champion who relegated Lee Chong Wei to silver. Long have these two been considered the top players in the sport.

But a new star has risen. Chen Long of China beat Lee Chong Wei at the 2014 & 2015 world championships. And in the gold medal match, Chen Long defeated Lee Chong Wei 2-0, once again relegating him to silver, for a third time! China takes gold, & Malaysia will settle for silver, again.

Over in the bronze match, rising star Viktor Axelsen, Denmark, defeated China's Lin Dan, defending Beijing 2008 & London 2012 champion, 2-1. Denmark takes bronze. And it's the end of an era & the beginning of a new one in badminton.

Women's Basketball

For the sixth straight Olympics, American women have won gold in women's basketball, continuing a long dynasty. The US beat Spain 101-72 in the gold medal match. Spain settles for silver. Over in the bronze match, Serbia beat France 70-63 to claim the bronze.


Women's flyweight gold medal match

Defending London 2012 champion, Nicola Adams, Great Britain, defeated Sarah Ourahmoune, France, 3-0, to successfully win gold in women's flyweight division. Adams is now the first female to win back to back Olympics titles. Sarah Ourahmoune will deliver France the silver.

Men's bantamweight gold medal match

Meanwhile, defending London 2012 champion Robeisy Ramirez Carrazana, Cuba, defeated Shakur Stevenson, United States, 2-1 in men's bantamweight division. Carrazana's pinning Stevenson to the ropes & delivering a flurry of punches in the last few moments of the final round gave Carrazana the edge to take the gold. Stevenson takes silver for the US.

Men's middleweight gold medal match

Over in the men's middleweight, Arlen Lopez, Cuba, defeated Bektemir Melikuziev, Uzbekistan, 3-0 to take the gold. Melikuziev settles for silver.


It was a golden, rich day for the canoers & kayakers in the last races of the Rio Olympics. All the gold winning teams & medal winners have won multiple Olympic medals in the finals Saturday.

Men's kayak single 200-meter sprint

In the men's kayak single 200m sprint, Liam Heath of Great Britain wins gold, adding to the men's K2 200m silver medal he won with partner Jon Schofield on Thursday.

Maxime Beaumont, France, takes silver. But in a remarkable feat, Saul Craviotto Rivero, Spain, & Ronald Rauhe, Germany, both tie at 35.66 seconds for bronze! Rivero adds the bronze to his K2 200m gold medal win.

Ronald Rauhe, K2 500m gold Athens 2004, silver Beijing 2008, bronze Sydney 2000, ends on career high with his K1 200m bronze here at Rio 2016.

Men's canoe double 1,000-meter sprint

Germany’s Sebastian Brendel & Jan Vandrey picked up gold medals in the men’s canoe double 1000m. Brendel adds a second gold to the one he won in the men's canoe single 1000m on Tuesday.

Isaquias Quieroz dos Santos & his partner Erlon de Souza Silva held on for silver after leading for the majority of the race. Quieroz dos Santos is the first Brazilian athlete to win three medals at a single Olympic Games, having already won silver in the C1 1000m & bronze in the C1 200m. It's an amazing haul for dos Santos.

Dmytro Ianchuk & Taras Mishchuk of Ukraine took bronze in the challenging race.

Women's kayak four 500-meter sprint

Hungary's Danuta Kozak, Gabriella Szabo, Tamara Csipes, & Krisztina Fazekas-Zur won gold the women's K4 500m sprint. The London 2012 champions successfully defend their title. Danuta Kozak, Gabriella Szabo, & Krisztina Fazekas-Zur were on the London 2012 gold team.

This is Danuta Kozak's third Rio gold. Her two other gold medals in Rio came in the women's K2 500m & K1 500m. She now has 6 Olympic medals in her career, including 5 golds & 1 silver, becoming one of Hungary's most decorated athletes. Gabriella Szabo now has a second gold to add to her K2 500m gold, in addition to a London 2012 K4 500m gold & Beijing 2008 K4 500m silver.

Germany's Sabrina Hering, Franziska Weber, Steffi Kriegerstein, & Tina Dietze take silver. Franziska Weber & Tina Dietze also won silver in the K2 500m Rio games.

The bronze went to Belarus' Marharyta Makhneva, Nadzeya Liapeshka, Volha Khudzenka, & Maryna Litvinchuk. Nadzeya Liapeshka, Volha Khudzenka, & Maryna Litvinchuk were on the London 2012 K4 500m bronze team.

Men's kayak four 1,000-meter sprint

Germany's Max Rendschmidt, Marcus Gross, Tom Liebscher & Max Hoff won gold in the K4 500m sprint. Max Rendschmidt & Marcus Gross add to another gold they won in men's K2 1000m here at Rio. Max Hoff is the London 2012 K1 1000m bronze medalist.

Silver went to Slovakia's Denis Myšák, Erik Vlček, Juraj Tarr, & Tibor Linka. Erik Vlček adds silver to his Beijing 2008 K4 1000m silver & Athens 2004 K4 1000m bronze. Juraj Tarr was on the Beijing 2008 K4 1000m silver team.

It's a repeat for Czech Republic's Daniel Havel, Lukáš Trefil, Josef Dostál, & Jan Štěrba who take bronze. All were on the London 2012 bronze team. Josef Dostál adds bronze to a K1 1000m Rio 2016 silver.

Men's Diving 10m platform

Aisen Chen, China, won gold in men's 10m platform diving. He also won men's 10m synchronized dive with partner Yue Lin here at Rio 2016.

Silver went to German Sanchez, Mexico. He has a silver from London 2012 10m synchro dive.

Bronze went to defending London 2012 champion David Boudia, United States. He & partner Steele Johnson picked up silver in 10m synchro dive here in Rio 2016.

Golf (Women)

Inbee Park, South Korea, won the first gold in the return of women's golf at the Olympics, 116 years since Paris 1900, the only other time women were allowed to play golf at the Olympics. Silver went to top ranked Lydia Ko, New Zealand. And bronze went to Shanshan Feng, China.

Handball (Women)

Russia wins its first ever gold in women's handball, beating France 22-19. At Beijing 2008, Russia won a silver. This is France's first Olympic medal in women's handball, a silver.

Defending London 2012 champions Norway defeats Netherlands 36-26 for bronze.

Men's Modern Pentathlon

Every Olympics, I discover a new sport that is totally unfamiliar with me. This year, that sport is the modern pentathlon. I knew about the decathlon & heptathlon in track & field. And I know about the biathlon in the winter games. But I'd never heard of the modern pentathlon. What is the modern pentathlon?

The modern pentathlon is an Olympic sport that comprises five different events: fencing (epee), 200m freestyle swimming, show jumping, & a final combined event of pistol shooting & a 3200m cross-country run. And they keep tweaking the sport every few years.

World record holder, Alexander Lesun, Russia, won gold & scored 1,479 points, setting an Olympic record in men's modern pentathlon.

Pavlo Tymoshchenko, Ukraine, scored 1,472 for silver.

And Ismael Marcelo Hernandez Uscanga, Mexico, scored 1,468 for bronze.

Rhythmic Gymnastics

I don't know why they call the other gymnastics artistic gymnastics, instead of the more appropriate athletics gymnastics. Because really, the most artistic gymnastics is the rhythmic gymnastics.

Rhythmic gymnastics is the one where the tall, flexible, fully grown women use hula hoops, clubs, ribbons, & a ball to perform floor exercise dance routines. There's an individual all around contest & a team contest. And on Saturday, the individual all around contest was held.

Gold went to Margarita Mamun, Russia. The silver went to Yana Kudryavtseva, Russia. And bronze went to Ganna Rizatdinova, Ukraine.

As wonderful & talented the other gymnasts were, I have to mention a special shout out to the American rhythmic gymnastics team: Natalie McGiffert, Kiana Eide, Alisa Kano, & Kristen Shaldybin. Four years ago as young teens, they relocated to the Chicago area & trained with former Belarusian national team coach Natalia Klimouk at North Shore Rhythmic Gymnastics in Deerfield. No one ever expected they would be good enough to make the Olympics. They were the test group to see if a rhythmic gymnastics program can succeed in the US.

These ladies finished last in qualifying Saturday. And they cried as they left the floor. But those were tears of joy, because they made Olympics history as the first ever American team to qualify for the Olympics. Atlanta 1996 was the first & last time the US fielded a team as a courtesy berth given to all host nations. This team, put together four years ago, is the very first American team to qualify for the Olympics on their own merits. They earned their spot the hard way, through hard work & grit & determination. Together, they made the impossible road to the Olympics happen.

USA's team compete in the group all-around qualifying event of the Rhythmic Gymnastics at the Olympic Arena during the Rio 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro on August 20, 2016. / AFP / Thomas COEX (Aug. 19, 2016 - Source: AFP)

And it's their last time performing together, because once the Olympics are over, the team will split up as the young ladies go off to different colleges & begin their young adult lives. They leave behind a remarkable legacy of hope & hard work. They were never expected to go to Rio, yet their hard work paid off when they medaled & scored in enough competitions to earn a spot at the Olympics. It's the best showing of any American team. And just being able to win a spot in the qualifying round is a huge accomplishment. Not everyone makes it to the Olympics, but these young ladies did. Congratulations, ladies on a job well done. Best wishes for the future.


Men's 80 kilogram plus

Radik Isaev, Azerbaijan, defeated Abdoulrazak Issoufou Alfaga, Niger, 6-2 to claim Azerbaijan's first taekwondo gold medal. Niger takes silver.

The first bronze was won by Maicon Siqueira, Brazil, who defeated Mahama Cho, Britain, 5-4. And the second bronze went to Dongmin Cha, South Korea, who defeated Dmitriy Shokin, Uzbekistan, 4-3.

Women's 67 kilogram plus

World champion Shuyin Zheng, China, defeated Maria del Rosario Espinoza, Mexico, 5-1 for the gold. The silver for Espinoza adds to her Beijing 2008 gold & London 2012 bronze.

The first bronze went to Bianca Walkden, Great Britain, who defeated Wiam Dislam, Morocco, 7-1. The second bronze went to Jackie Galloway, United States, who defeated Gwladys Epangue, France, 2-1.

Track and Field

Men's 1,600 meters relay

In the mens 4x400m relay, the United States' team of Arman Hall, Lashawn Merritt, Gil Roberts, & Tony McQuay return the title to US, winning gold.

Silver went to Jamaica's team of Javon Francis, Peter Matthews, Nathon Allen, & Fitzroy Dunkley.

And defending London 2012 champions Bahamian team consisting of Chris Brown, Alonzo Russell, Michael Mathieu, & Steven Gardiner take bronze.

Men's 1,500 meters

Matthew Centrowitz is the first American to claim Olympic gold in the 1,500 meter race in 108 years, since Mel Sheppard’s victory in the London 1908 Olympics. Matthew Centrowitz was fourth in London 2012. He is coached by his father, Matt.

Defending London 2012 champion Taoufik Makhloufi, Algeria, takes silver. He adds to another silver he all ready won in the 800m in Rio.

Bronze went to Nicholas Willis, New Zealand, the Beijing 2008 silver medalist.

Men's 5,000 meters

Mo Farah, Britain, successfully defends his London 2012 title, winning gold in men's 5000m. He all ready won the 10,000m earlier, now completing his long distance double.

But there was drama in the silver & bronze standings. Paul Chelimo of the US crossed the finish line second & initially award the silver. But hold on! The officials disqualify Paul Chelimo & Canada's Mohammed Ahmed, fourth, & Ethiopia's Muktar Edris for violating the rule to stay off the inside rail of the track.

Hagos Gebrhiwet, Ethiopia, had crossed the finish line third. With Chelimo disqualified, he was bumped up to silver.

Now Bernard Lagat, United States, fifth, the eldest 5000m finalist ever at 41, was bumped from fifth to third for bronze. But the US & Canada file protests. They succeed & Chelimo & Ahmed are reinstated. Chelimo is restored to silver, the first US medal in the 5000m since Tokyo 1964. And Gebrhiwet is awarded bronze.

Men's Javelin

Thomas Rohler, Germany, won gold in men's javelin, landing 90.30 meters.

Silver went to Julius Yego, Kenya, landing 88.24 meters, getting the first javelin medal ever for Kenya.

Defending London 2012 champion Keshom Walcott, Trinidad & Tobago, 85.38 meters, takes bronze.

Women's 1,600-meter relay

For the sixth straight Olympics in a row, the US women's 4x400m relay team has won gold. The United States' team was made up of Allyson Felix, Courtney Okolo, Phyllis Francis, & Natasha Hastings. Allyson Felix now has a track record 6 gold medals, 9 Olympic medals overall.

Allyson Felix of the United States reacts after winning gold during the Women's 4 x 400 meter Relay on Day 15 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium on August 20, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Aug. 19, 2016 - Source: Ian Walton/Getty Images South America)

Silver went to Jamaicans Anneisha McLaughlin-Whilby, Novlene Williams-Mills, Stephenie Ann McPherson, & Shericka Jackson.

Bronze went to Great Britain's Christine Ohuruogu, Emily Diamond, Anyika Onuora, & Eilidh Doyle.

Women's 800 meters

It's an African sweep in women's 800m race.

Caster Semenya of South Africa leads the field during the Women's 800 meter Final on Day 15 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium on August 20, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Aug. 19, 2016 - Source: Ian Walton/Getty Images South America)

Caster Semenya, South Africa, dominated the women's 800m race, easily holding off the field & taking a huge lead in the last lap to win the gold. Semenya won silver behind Russia's Mariya Savinova in London 2012, but Savinova faces a lifetime ban for doping!

Silver went to Francine Niyonsaba, Burundi. And Margaret Nyairera Wambui, Kenya, claims the bronze.

Women's High Jump

It's a European sweep in women's high jump.

It was a four way tie in women's high jump that led to a jump off to break the tie & sort out the medal winners. The women all cleared the jumps until they all failed the 2 meter mark. They all passed the 1.97 meter mark. But the winner was Ruth Beitia, Spain, who didn't miss any of her attempts. Silver went to Mirela Demireva, Bulgaria, who missed one attempt. And bronze went to Blanka Vlasic, Croatia, who missed three attempts, one for each height increase from 1.88m 1.93m, 1.97m, til they all failed to clear 2 meters.

Women's volleyball

China defeats Serbia, 3-1 (19-25, 25-17, 25-22, 25-23) to win gold in women's volleyball. Their coach, Jenny Lang Ping, made history as the first female coach to send a team to the final, & she's the first person to win women's volleyball gold as a player & a coach.

Serbia wins silver, their first ever medal in women's volleyball.

Meanwhile, the United States defeated Netherlands, 3-1 (25-23, 25-27, 25-22, 25-19) to take the bronze.

Water polo (Men)

In men's water polo, Serbia defeats defending London 2012 champions Croatia 11-7 for the gold. It is Serbia's first gold in men's water polo.

In the bronze medal match, Italy beats Montenegro 12 -10 to take the bronze.

Men's Wrestling 125 kilogram

Taha Akgul, Turkey, defeated Komeil Ghasemi, Iran, 3-1 to take the gold. Iran takes silver.

The first bronze went to Ibragim Saidov, Belarus, who defeated Levan Berianidze, Armenia, 3-1.

The second bronze went to Geno Petriashvili, Georgia, who defeated Tervel Diagniv, United States, 4-0.

Men's Wrestling 86 kilogram

Abdulrashid Sadulaev, Russia, defeated Selim Yasar, Turkey, 3-0 for the gold. Turkey takes silver.

J'Den Cox, United States, defeated Reineris Salas, Cuba, 5-0 for the first bronze.

And Sharif Sharifov, Azerbajan, defeated Pedro Francisco Ceballos Fuentes, Venezuela, 3-1 for the second bronze.

And so ends the second to the last day of competition at the Rio Olympics. Sunday is the Closing Ceremony with just a few more events to be contested--the marathon, some boxing matches, etc. It has been a lively Olympics with so many surprises. And I can't wait to see how Rio closes the Olympics tonight!

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Rio 2016 Olympics: Day 14

19 August 2016 Friday. Day 14 of the Rio Olympics.

There were some great action Friday as the Olympics winds down. The Closing Ceremony is Sunday.

First up, the news.

Ryan Lochte has issued an apology over how he & his swim mates mishandled a local dispute in a gas station after a night of partying. They got drunk, stopped to use a gas station restroom, but the outside restroom door was locked, so they break down the door & damage a soap dispenser. The gas station employees stop them from leaving, security even using a gun to keep them from leaving, then they all negotiate a settlement of about $50 with the help of a customer interpreting, & the matter is considered settled before the police arrive. The swimmers return to the athletes village.

That would've been the end of the matter, except the swimmers sensationalize the story & embellish it to the point where they claimed that they were robbed by armed imposters wearing security uniforms who pulled their taxi over on way way back to the athletes village. This caused a furor as local law enforcement & Rio Olympics organizers scrambled to find the alleged armed robbers & issued an apology to the swimmers for the "robbery".

The investigation has now revealed the facts, & two of the swimmers Gunnar Bentz & Jack Conger, returned to the U.S. after being prevented from leaving Brazil 24 hours earlier. Ryan Lochte was all ready in the US before a judge served a warrant for the swimmers passports to be seized so that they remain in a Brazil while the investigation continues. Jimmy Feigen, remains in Brazil & reached an agreement to pay a fine of 35,000 reals, about $10,800, for falsely reporting a crime. The money will go to charity.

The US swim federation & the USOC have apologized for the actions of the swimmers & are reviewing the matter for further possible sanctions. The IOC & the Rio organizers have accepted the apologies & want to move forward & not let the focus be on this terrible judgement call of drunk idiots but instead, the focus should be on the athletes & their accomplishments.

In athletes related news,Russia's Yelena Isinbayeva, the pole-vault world record holder, says she is retiring from competing in the sport. Isinbayeva, who has never failed a doping test, was elected by the athletes to be an athletes' representative on the International Olympic Committee on Thursday.

Yelena Isinbayeva is the world record holder & double Olympics champion for Athens 2004 & Beijing 2008, bronze at London 2012, & has never tested positive for prohibited substances. Unfortunately & unfairly, she was banned along with the majority of the Russian track team (with one lone exception out of the 68). She tried to appeal, but her appeal was unjustly rejected. Her ban was not because of a doping violation, but collateral damage against Russia's state wide doping system.

It is a tragedy & injustice to ban such a talented athlete just because the governing authorities are making a point & flexing their powers. If you're going to ban people, do it because they're guilty, don't hurt the innocent & law abiding athletes in your war against the criminals. It damages credibility & breeds dissension & causes further conflicts.

Yelena Isinbayeva is well regarded by her peers & other athletes. Her election to the IOC athletes commission to serve 8 years as the liason between athletes & Olympic organizers is a testament to the faith & high regard the athletes have in her. Along with Yelena Isinbayeva, Britta Heidemann from Germany (fencing), Seug-min Ryu from Korea (table tennis), & Daniel Gyurta from Hungary (swimming) were all elected by the athletes to represent them on the IOC athletes commission to speak on behalf of the athletes.

Italy has ended America's run for gold in men's volleyball. It was back & forth over four sets but in the fifth & final set, the Italian squad was more organized & sharper in their defense & attacks, taking advantage of the Americans scattered & sluggish response. In the end, the Italians outlasted the Americans & the Italians win the match.

And now to the games.


Women's singles gold medal match

Top ranked Carolina Marin of Spain has beaten number ten ranked Pusarla Venkata Sindhu of India for the gold in women's singles badminton. Sindhu has had a spectacular run, defeating players like Nozomi Okuhara of Japan in the semifinals. Sindhu claims silver for India. Marin takes gold.

In the first set, Sindhu rallied to tie the game at 19. Then, in rapid succession, she took two points to stun the Spaniard, 21-19.

An aggressive Marin fights back to win the second set 21-12. In the deciding set, Sindhu came back from a deficit & tied the match at 10 after a long, exciting rally that saw repeated smashes and several lunging saves. But Marin opened another lead & Sindhu couldn't repsond fast enough, losing the final set 21-15. It was a magnificent match.

Men's doubles gold medal match

China's Fu Haifeng & Zhang Nan win gold in the men's doubles badminton event, coming from behind to beat Malaysia's Goh V Shem & Tan Wee Kiong, 2-1. China wins their first gold on badminton in Rio, salvaging a bit of a disappointing showing at Rio. Malaysia takes silver.

Meanwhile, Malaysia's Lee Chong Wei has beaten two-time Olympic champion Lin Dan of China in Olympic Badminton, avenging his last two losses to Lin in the Beijing 2008 & London 2012 Olympic finals. Lee will now face Chen Long of China, the second ranked player who defeated Lee at the world champions in 2014 & 2015. It will be a fantastic showdown!

Synchronized swimming

Team event

Team Italy competes in the Teams Free Routine final during the synchronised swimming event at the Maria Lenk Aquatics at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro on August 19, 2016. / AFP / CHRISTOPHE SIMON (Aug. 18, 2016 - Source: AFP)
Russia scored near perfect to win team gold to add to the duet title won by Natalia Ishchenko & Svetlana Romashina on Tuesday. It is a grand winning dynasty! Russia has not been beaten in an Olympic synchronized swimming event since Atlanta 1996. Ishchenko & Romashina also were members of the Russian team Friday & collect their fifth career gold medals.

China took the team event silver, adding it to the silver won in the duet Tuesday. Japan beat Ukraine to team bronze to add to their duet bronze, making it their first synchronized swimming team medal since Athens 2004.


Individual jumping

Drama in the jump off!

France's Roger Yves Bost on his horse Sydney Une Prince takes part in the final round of the individual equestrian show jumping event at the Olympic Equestrian Centre during the Rio 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro on August 19, 2016. / AFP / John MACDOUGALL (Aug. 18, 2016 - Source: AFP)

The competition was so fierce that six riders tied for number one! A jump off was used to break the six way tie & determine who would end up on the podium & in what order.

Nick Skelton, 58, of Britain went first. He has a metal left hip, once broke his neck, & his back aches so much that he needs a stepladder to mount his horse, Big Star. But he was able to put in a clean run, cleared all his jumps, & finished at 42.82 seconds. His was the time the rest of the field would try to beat. He rode clean & fast, forcing the rest of the field to run faster & likely make mistakes.

Peder Fredricson, Sweden, went second & cleared all his jumps, but he finished in 43.35 seconds, earning him the second spot.

Eric Lamaze of Canada took bronze. The Beijing 2008 gold medalist caught a post late in his round but finished in 42.09 to earn a medal. After that, the rest of the field hit the posts in their jumps, ending any medal contention.

Defending London 2012 champion Steve Guerdat of Switzerland finished fourth. Fifth was Kent Harrington of the U.S., & sixth was Sheik Ali Al Thani of Qatar.

Nick Skelton wins Great Britain's first individual jumping gold. Peder Fredricson delivers Sweden the silver. And Canada's Eric Lamaze takes bronze.

Field Hockey (women)

In women's field hockey, Germany outscores New Zealand 2-1 to claim the bronze.

In the close gold medal match, the score was tied Great Britain 3 & the Netherlands 3. They had to go to a shootout, & Great Britain wins 2-0 over the Netherlands. Great Britain wins their first women's field hockey gold. The Netherlands, defending London 2012 & Beijing 2008 champions, settle for silver.


It was another fast & furious day of racing as BMX riders dashed & crashed on their races to the top of the podium.

Women's BMX

In the women's race, defending London 2012 champion Mariana Pajón, Colombia, successfully defends her title to win the gold. Pajón took the lead from the start all the way to the finish line. Everyone else was playing catch up.

Alise Post, United States, takes silver. And Stefany Hernandez, Venezuela, claims the bronze.

Men's BMX

On the men's side, the Americans lead the field from the start. And halfway through, Connor Fields takes the lead & holds it all the way to the finish line.

Jelle van Gorkom, Netherlands, surges ahead for silver. And  a foto finish analysis was needed to determine that Carlos Ramirez, Colombia, takes the bronze, edging out the United States' Nic Long, who ends up fourth.


Women's 67-kilogram

South Korea's Oh Hye-ri, 28, beat top ranked France's Haby Niare  in the women's 67-kilogram division on Friday, giving South Korea its second gold medal of the Rio de Janeiro Games. Kim So-hui earned the first Taekwondo gold for South Korea in the women's light flyweight division on Wednesday. South Korea has also earned two bronze medals in taekwondo in the Rio games.

While she didn't score until the second round, Oh quickly landed numerous head shots within about 30 seconds to win 13-12.

Ruth Gbagbi of the Ivory Coast & Nur Tatar of Turkey won the bronze medals on Friday.

Men's 80-kilogram

In the men's event, Cheick Sallah Sisse won the 80-kilogram division by beating London 2012 bronze medalist, Lutalo Muhammad of Great Britain, in the final, giving the Ivory Coast its first Olympic gold medal. Heartbreak for Muhammad, who was surprised by Sisse's last minute reverse turning kick that took gold for the Ivory Coast, leaving Great Britain the silver.

The bronzes went to Oussama Oueslati, Tunisia & Milad Beigi Harchegani, Azerbaijan.


Women's lightweight (60kg)

On her 24th birthday, Estelle Mossely of France gave herself the most awesome birthday present when she won gold in women's lightweight 60kg boxing division.

Mossely won over China's Junhua Lin by split decision. Each fighter won a scorecard 39-37, & one judge scored the fight 38-38. The Puerto Rican judge, who scored it a tie, got to choose the winner. And with the push of a blue button, picked Mossely, the first French woman to medal in Olympic boxing.

Tony Yoka, 24, Mossely's fiancee, was present to celebrate  Mossely's gold. He himself just won his bout on two of three scorecards against Croatia's Filipto Hgrovic, which advances him to the super heavyweight final on Sunday against Britain's Joe Joyce.

Junhua Yin, China, takes silver. And Finnish fighter Mira Potkonen takes the first bronze. While Russian fighter Anastasii Beliakova, her left arm in a sling because of an injury suffered in a semifinal bout against Mossely, wins the second bronze.

Water polo (women)

It was a close game in the bronze match of women's water polo. In the end, Russia beat Hungary 19-18 in penalty shots to win bronze. It is Russia's first medal in the sport since another bronze at Sydney 2000.

Meanwhile in the gold medal match, the US, defending London 2012 champion, became the first two-time Olympic champion in women's water polo history, beating Italy, Athens 2004 champion, 12-5. Only four women from the London 2012 games returned on the US squad--Maggie Steffens, Kami Craig, Melissa Seidemann, & Courtney Mathewson. The US played smart, took the lead at 4-1 in the beginning & then kept increasing that lead. The US takes gold; Italy, silver.

It should be noted that behind this amazing, undefeated American team is a remarkable coach, Adam Krikorian, who experienced a tragic loss, yet kept sharp focus to help his team win at the Olympics. The day before the opening ceremony, he learned that his brother Blake had passed away suddenly from natural causes. He had to return home to deal with the sudden tragic loss & be back in time to see his team make it through every tough match on their way to gold.

His willingness to put aside his personal struggle to focus & guide his team to victory is a testament of his incredible strength & leadership. Not only did he have the support of his team, but they were inspired to rise above & do their best, to give it their all to achieve the goals & the gold they set out to capture. And they succeeded.

So now he can celebrate & he can mourn. He has helped his team win the gold. And now, he can breathe a bit & take some time to mourn the loss of his brother & find some comfort that he is not alone in his struggle. In life, there will be losses, there will be pain. But there will also be times to celebrate, to take joy in the beauty of life.  So mourn the losses in life, because they hurt & they're never easy to accept. And when you can look up again, take the time to cherish life & your loved ones. Life is short, so make every moment count.

Modern pentathlon

Women's combined (running and shooting)

Chloe Esposito won Australia's first gold in women's modern pentathlon. Her father & coach, Daniel, was a pentathlete at Los Angeles 1984. Her brother Max is competing on the men's side. The family moved to Hungary to train, & it's paid off.

Silver went to Elodie Clouvel, France. And bronze went to Oktawia Nowacka, Poland.


Men's freestyle 57 kg

Georgia’s Vladimir Khinchegashvili, world champion & London 2012 silver medalist, defeated Japan’s Rei Higuchi in the final of the men’s 57 kilograms freestyle wrestling. He earns Georgia's second Rio gold after Lasha Talakhadze's win in the men's over 105kg weightlifting event.

Rei Higuchi, Japan, takes silver. And the two bronzes went to Haji Aliyev, Azerbaijan, & Hassan Sabzali Rahimi, Iran.

Men's freestyle 74 kg

It was a thrilling gold medal match that was frequently punctuated by stops to fix Russia's Aniuar Geduev's bleeding cut above his eye. Geduev's cut came from a previous bout. And as the final match against Iran's Hassan Yazdani went on, the cut started bleeding, so the match was stopped to fix the bandaged cut to stop the bleeding. Soon, the medical stops got longer & more frequent, & the bandage got bigger til it resembled a helmet, covering Geduev's entire head, except form his face! And in between the stops, Geduev scored three take downs worth two points each. He was 6-0 in the first round. But Yazdani managed to score twice, to make it 6-4.

In the last five seconds of the gold match against Geduev, Yazdani scored a two point takedown, to tie 6-6. Since he got the final score, Yazdani gained the advantage on criteria & was awarded the win. Yazdani's win marked the first time that Iran won a freestyle wrestling gold since Alireza Dabir at Sydney 2000.

Russia's Aniuar Geduev, ranked number two in the world, takes silver. He managed to dispatch top ranked American Jordan Burroughs, defending London 2012 champion, out of the quarterfinals. Jordan Burroughs lost the repechage to Uzbekistan's Bekzod Abdurakhmanov, so Burroughs didn't make the bronze matches.

Bronze medals went to Azerbaijan's Jabrayil Hasanov & Turkey's Soner Demirtas.

Soccer (women)

Over in women's soccer, heartbreak for the host nation as Canada scores 2 goals to Brazil's 1. Canada takes bronze, just as they did in London 2012.

Meanwhile, Germany defeated Sweden, 2-1, to win the women's soccer gold medal for the first time in the Olympics. Sweden accidentally kicked the ball into their own goal, gifting Germany the second goal. It is the first time both Germany & Sweden have made it to a final. It is  Sweden's first Olympic medal, a silver, in women's soccer.

Track and field

Men's 50-kilometer race walking

Believe it or not, there was some drama in men's 50km race walking. Yes, race walking! This is track & field's longest event, since walkers race (not run) on a 31 miles course! If you run, you're disqualified! It's a real powerwalk event! And today, it was the one of most dramatic races in the Olympics!

A little past the 35km (21 miles), the world record holder Yohann Diniz of France, who had a significant lead in the race, suddenly keeled over when he was stricken by apparent stomach problems. Race officials helped the gritty high-school sports coach back to his feet. He doused his head with a bottle of water & was up & walking again, but he still struggled & started to drop back.

That's when Evan Dunfee of Canada took action & led a five-man group, with reigning Olympic champion Jared Tallent of Australia & world champion Matej Toth from Slovakia, to bypass Diniz & take the lead.

In the end, world champion Matej Tóth, Slovakia, takes the gold. Defending London 2012 champion Jared Tallent, Australia, takes silver. And Hirooki Arai of Japan crossed the finish line third.

And this is where the drama kicked into high gear. In the final two kilometres of the 50km race, Dunfee lost stride after Hirooki Arai of Japan bumped him during a collision. Arai went on to cross the finish line third, in a time of three hours 41 minutes 24 seconds — 14 seconds ahead of Dunfee, who improved his Canadian record time to 3:41:38.

Arai was awarded bronze, but Canada protested & Arai was disqualified! Dunfee gets bumped up to bronze. But hold on! Japan appeals & wins, restoring Arai to bronze. Now Canada was going to appeal the appeal, but Dunfee, in a remarkable spirit of sportsmanship, decides not to appeal.

Dunfee is proud of his accomplishment, & his review of the video gives him doubt that Arai intentionally bumped him. He believes that they both have suffered enough & he was proud of his fourth place finish. He wouldn't have felt better about winning a medal he didn't rightfully earn, & it wasn't right to take it from someone who did not intend nor plan to bump him. It was an accident.

Evan Dunfee of Canada competes in the Men's 50km Race Walk on Day 14 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at Pontal on August 19, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Aug. 18, 2016 - Source: Bryn Lennon/Getty Images South America)

Evan Dunfee may not have an Olympic medal. But he is a hero for practicing the Olympic spirit. He is a true champion.

And just so you know, Yohann Diniz, survived his stomach ailment & finished a respectable eighth.

Women's 20-kilometer race walking

While there was less drama in the women's 20km (12.4 miles) race walk, there were still some fascinating developments. At the first half of the race, world champion Liu Hong of China, world silver medallist Lu Xiuzhi of China,  World Race Walking Team Championships winner Maria Guadalupe Gonzalez of Mexico, & Italy’s Eleonora Giorgi formed a lead pack that kept a moderate pace, just fast enough to separate themselves from the pack, but slow enough to deal with the stifling heat.

Then at the 12km (about 7.456 miles), Italy’s Eleonora Giorgi was disqualified for loss of contact--the same thing happened at the 2015 world championship & the 2016 IAAF World Race Walking Team Championships!

By now, Liu & Gonzalez started to pick up the pace to thin out the lead pack. It eventually came down to Liu, Gonzalez, & Lu. Gonzalez pushed the pace & broke Lu, who settled into third place as Liu & Gonzalez kept pace with each other. And with only 40 meters left in the race, Liu surges forward & crosses the finish line first!

Hong Liu, China, powerwalks her way to gold. Maria Guadalupe Gonzalez, Mexico, struts to silver. And Xiuzhi Lu, China, gets bronze.

Men's 400-meter relay

It's official: The US men's 4x100 meter relay team is cursed!

The disqualification came after the U.S. exchanged the baton illegally outside the zone at the first change. As a result, the US is disqualified & Canada was elevated to the bronze-medal position.

It was the ninth time since 1995 that the U.S. men have been disqualified or failed to get the baton around at an Olympics or world championships. The last time the US made the podium was a silver at Athens 2004!

Since Beijing 2008, Jamica has been the reigning champion in the 4x100 meter relay. And Friday night, they were champions again. Jamaica's gold medal team: Asafa Powell, Yohan Blake, Nickel Ashmeade, Usain Bolt, with alternates Kemar Bailey-Cole, & Jevaughn Minzie finished at 37.27 seconds.

Usain Bolt has achieved his triple triple sprint. Gold in 100m, gold 200m, gold in 4x100m relay. He has nine golds in track & field.

Usain Bolt of Jamaica crosses the finishline to win the Men's 4 x 100m Relay Final on Day 14 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium on August 19, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Aug. 18, 2016 - Source: Quinn Rooney/Getty Images South America)
Japan stunned everyone by taking silver! The team came out of nowhere & blew the competition away, hanging on to Jamaica all the way to the finish. Japan's silver team: Ryota Yamagata, Shota Iizuka, Yoshihide Kiryu, & Aska Cambridge finished at 37.60 seconds.

The US team of Mike Rodgers, Justin Gatlin, Tyson Gay, & Trayvon Bromell finished third. They went as far as to pose with flags & celebrate the bronze win. What a nightmare it was when they found out in a few minutes that they were disqualified for illegally passing the baton before the exchange zone! The US is appealing the ruling.

And now Canada is bumped up from fourth to bronze! Canada's bronze team: Akeem Haynes, Aaron Brown, Brendon Rodney, Andre de Grasse, with alternate Mobolade Ajomale finish at 37.64 seconds.

What is it with the US men's relay team & batons? Seriously!?! Who the hell did the US piss off that resulted in this curse? At least when it happened to the women, it was because of interference. And they silenced the critics by winning their race Friday. The men are cursed! Which is a lot easier to swallow than to admit that they just SUCK big time!

Women 5,000 meters

Vivian Jepkemoi Cheruiyot, Kenya--London 2012 silver medalist 5000m & bronze in the 10000m, & Rio 2016 silver medalist in the 10000m--sets an Olympic record of 14:26:17 in the women's 5000 meter race. She overtook Almaz Ayana, Ethiopia, in the last lap & passed her up to cross the finish line first. Ayana had led the race until the last lap.

Hellen Onsando Obiri, Kenya, 14:29:77, took silver. And Ethiopia's Almaz Ayana--Rio 2016 gold 10000m--finished at 14:33:59, third for bronze.

Women's pole vault

Ekaterini Stefanidi of Greece took gold. Sandi Morris of the US took silver. And Eliza McCartney of New Zealand takes bronze.

Defending London 2012 champion, American Jenn Suhr, didn't make the final cut. Cuba's Yarisley Silva, silver medalist in London 2012 & the reigning world champion was eliminated from the top three.

To be honest, it didn't feel like a true pole vault final without Russia's Yelena Isinbayeva, double Olympics champion & multiple world champion. She was unfairly barred from competing at Rio, even though she has never tested positive for banned substances.

Women's 400-meter relay

The US women's 4x100m relay team silenced their critics by winning gold by a large margin, leaving the field behind as they charged down the track. They successfully defend their London 2012 title, & helped Allyson Felix win a record fifth Olympic gold.

Tori Bowie of the United States competes in the Women's 4 x 100m Relay Final on Day 14 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium on August 19, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Aug. 18, 2016 - Source: Quinn Rooney/Getty Images South America)

The gold winning United States team: Tianna Bartoletta, Allyson Felix, English Gardner, Tori Bowie, with alternate Morolake Akinosun finished at 41.01 seconds.

Second place silver team from Jamaica: Christania Williams, Elaine Thompson, Veronica Campbell-Brown, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, with alternates Simone Facey, & Sashalee Forbes finished at 41.36 .

And Great Britain's bronze team: Asha Philip, Desiree Henry, Dina Asher-Smith, & Daryll Neita finished at 41.77 seconds.

And so ends another day of dramatic competition & exciting action as the Olympics winds down. Sunday is the closing ceremony. Just a few more events are left for the athletes to fight in their quest for gold. And we get to cheer them on & watch them do incredible feats.