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

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.

Badminton

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.

Equestrian

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.

Cycling

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.

Taekwondo

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.

Boxing

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.

Wrestling

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.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Rio 2016 Olympics: Day 5

10 August 2016 Wednesday. Day 5 of the Rio Olympics

Some interesting developments & amazing performances on Day 5 of the Rio Olympics.

First up, the drama. Over in men's gymnastics, the "Lord of the Rings", Yuri van Gelder is seeking an injunction against the Netherlands Olympic Committee to get himself reinstated to the Dutch team in Rio. The rings specialist, Van Gelder, was kicked off the team this week & sent home after leaving the athletes' village Saturday night, returning early Sunday, admitting he had been drinking alcohol. Van Gelder previously served a year-long ban for cocaine use; the Rio Olympics was supposed to mark his comeback. A hearing is set for Friday at Gelderland Court. Van Gelder is hoping to be reinstated for Monday's rings final.

More doping drama. US Sprinter Justin Gatlin says he's served his doping ban & isn't paying attention to those who say that he shouldn't be competing at the Olympics. He believes that's all in the past. He was reinstated in 2010 after a four-year ban & will take to the track Saturday to begin the men's 100 meters. Gatlin is considered the biggest threat to world-record holder Usain Bolt.

IAAF President Seb Coe was grilled by reporters wanting to know what the track & field governing body planned to do about the systemic doping that has rocked the track & field sports.

Coe was also asked about the International Olympic Committee's decision not to enforce a ban on all Russian athletes despite the country's state-sponsored doping scheme. And why is it that doping whistleblower Yuliya Stepanova couldn't compete in Rio when sprinter Justin Gatlin, banned twice for doping, could.

Coe's response: "It is the IOC's event." Shame on you, IAAF, passing the buck! Take responsibility, you crooks!

Shocking news in men's soccer. Two time Olympics champions Argentina are knocked out by Honduras! Defending London 2012 champion Mexico has been eliminated from the men's soccer tournament after 1-0 loss to South Korea!

In other news, Rio Olympic organizers say that initial findings have shown that stones, not bullets, hit a bus carrying journalists, breaking two windows yesterday. The incident happened as the bus was traveling in the Curicica area of Rio de Janeiro as it traveled toward the Olympic Park on Tuesday. Security has been stepped up, especially in light of the Montenegrin & Aussie federation members being robbed just outside the Olympics venues.

Dirk Van Tichelt, who won a bronze medal in the 73kg judo competition yesterday, was out on Copacabana beach celebrating with friends when a thief stole his training partner's cellphone. He chased down the thief but a man jumped out & punched him, before escaping, allowing the thief to get away. Police are investigating & a smiling Dirk Van Tichelt, sporting a black eye, appeared before a news conference to answer questions from the media.

Robberies of equipment & personal property have also occurred in the athletes' village, causing some teams to choose to stay in hotels for safety reasons. It's a sad commentary on the state of crime & poverty & violence that seems so prevalent in this nation. Here's to hoping that things get better.

Majlinda Kelmendi, who made history delivering Kosovo's first Olympics medal, a gold, has been drawn into a turf war between the International Judo Federation, the judo governing body, versus the French faction of the World Anti-Doping Agency. In June, at a French training camp, a controller was scheduled to test French athletes. Surprised at seeing so many foreigners at the camp, the controller requested samples from all the athletes. The IJF advised the foreign teams that they did not have to submit, given that the tests were scheduled for French athletes, & the IJF saw the controller as doing something not in keeping with procedure. So Kelmendi & other athletes refused.

Nonetheless, a week later, the IJF did collect samples from all those athletes who refused, including Kelmendi, & they all tested negative for doping. They were all CLEAN. But yesterday, for some reason, the French decided that since Kelmendi refused the test initially, even under the advice of the IJF, she is now banned from competing in France!

Could this be a case of French retaliation over the perceived threat to how they run their turf? Sour grapes over how France, a heavy judo favorite, has done so poorly at Rio? Or just plain old miscommunications & misunderstandings? Who knows?

What we do know is that Kelmendi tested clean, & she was following the advice of her sports governing body, who was suspicious of the controller showing up & demanding samples from other athletes without providing proper WADA credentials nor obtaining official/procedural clearance from nor notifying the governing authorities.

I say, let it go. She tested clean! Let Kelmendi & her country enjoy their moment in the sun. They won fair & square. Please don't ruin their well deserved celebration over politics & pissing contests! That only leads to a negative experience for all!

In other news, the pools continue to mysteriously turn green! Yesterday, the women's synchro diving 10m platform pool used by men the day before had turned from clear blue to green the next morning! The dramatic change happened in a matter of a few hours!

A picture taken on August 10, 2016 at the Maria Lenk Aquatics Stadium in Rio de Janeiro shows the diving pool of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. .Red-faced Rio Olympics organisers anxiously waited for the diving water to turn back from a nervy green to classic blue as a lack of chemicals was revealed as the cause of the colour changes. Heavy rain slowed the flow of new chemicals added to the water which was also green in the pool used for the synchronised swimming and water-polo.. / AFP / CHRISTOPHE SIMON (Aug. 9, 2016 - Source: AFP)

Olympics organizers are baffled. They suspect there might have been an introduction of unfiltered water into the pool after the filtration process. Some have theorized that it is algae or microbial growth--the diving arena is open roof, so rain, wind, & sun gets in. FINA, the diving & swimming governing body, says that it is a chemical imbalance from the water treatment & filtration; the pool waters have been tested & deemed safe. I suspect it's from all the divers pissing in the pool everytime they dived! They looked way too relaxed getting out of the pool & seemed quite eager to shower everytime they got out.

Well, now the green has affected the neighboring water polo pool! The pools share the same filtration system. And since there's no spare pool, the water polo players had to play in that mysterious green pool! No word yet on when the waters will return to clear blue. If the waters turns even darker, it will make it difficult for the referees to determine what's going on underwater.

Good news young people! The old people at the International Olympics Committee want you to participate. In an effort to attract more youths & make the Olympics more attractive, skateboarding, karate, baseball/softball, sports climbing, & surfing will officially be a part of the next Olympic Games, which is a huge change, & one that represents the biggest evolution in the Olympics program in recent times. Debuting in Tokyo 2020! It's also the return of baseball/softball, which were dropped after Beijing 2008. The IOC is making an effort to reach a wider audience. May I suggest keeping the Olympics clean as a start? No one likes a cheater! And drug cheaters cheapen & debase the Olympic Games.

Rough weather has led to a cancellation of the rowing events. Several races were on the schedule for Wednesday, including finals in the men's and women's fours, the first medal races of the Olympics regatta. New schedule will be posted, weather permitting. Safety first. The canoe/kayak events did take place. More on that below.

The heavy rains have also postponed all tennis events, since the tennis courts venue has no roof! I'm confused. Why don't the venues have roofs? Does it not rain in Rio? Is this city not located by a rainforest? Or are storms unexpected this time of year? Did no one take into account the weather when they planned the Olympics events?

The blustery winds & hard rain did not stop other events from being contested. The rough weather only made a hazardous course even more dangerous for the individual road race time trials for both the men & the women on Rio's challenging Grumari circuit. That cycling course has seen so many injuries! And that was on a good day, clear with plenty of sunshine!

First up, Annemiek van Vleuten has been released from the hospital following her crash in the Olympic road race Sunday & has been cleared to fly home to the Netherlands on Friday. She suffed a concussion & three spinal fractures in the crash at the final descent of the dangerous Grumari circuit. Currently, she is recuperating in a hotel, rather than the athletes' village. She believes she'll have a better recovery & rest in the hotel.

With so many athletes hurt & seriously injured on the Grumari circuit, the terrible weather made it even more hazardous for the racers who now had to deal with winds, rain, & slick steep roads.

Cycling Olympic Time Trials

Individual Road Race Time Trials Women's

Heavy rains & fierce winds hammered the athletes on the timed race up & down & around the dangerous, grueling Grumari circuit. Yet, digging deep & with skill & determination, Kristin Armstrong of the United States, Beijing 2008 & London 2012 champion, won her third consecutive Olympic time trial on Wednesday. And she becomes the first cyclist, male or female, to achieve this feat in the sport. She also becomes the oldest athlete in cycling to win the event! It is an early birthday for the racer who turns 43 tomorrow, Thursday.

Kristin Armstrong of the United States reacts after winning the Women's Individual Time Trial on Day 5 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at Pontal on August 10, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Aug. 9, 2016 - Source: Bryn Lennon/Getty Images South America)

Armstrong was the last racer on the course, & collapsed at the end of the grueling race, where she beat reigning London 2012 bronze medalist Olga Zabelinskaya of Russia by just 5.55 seconds! Zabelinskaya takes silver. And Anna van der Breggen of the Netherlands adds a bronze medal to her gold from the road race Saturday.

Heartbreak for Dutch rider Ellen van Dijk, who slid off the course, likely costing her a medal. She ended up in fourth.


Individual Road Race Time Trials Men's

Tour de France champion & London 2012 bronze medalist Chris Froome of Britain raced last in the men's event. And he repeats a bronze win in the event.

Tom Dumoulin of the Netherlands, who raced despite a broken hand from the Tour de France, claims the silver!

And such a momentous win for Fabian Cancellara of Switzerland, who is finishing his last season in cycling, to cap his career with another gold. He won gold before in the event at Beijing 2008 & a silver in the road race at Beijing 2008. When Froome, the last racer crossed the finish line, Cancellara burst into tears upon learning that he was once more an Olympics champion.

He was disappointed at pulling out of the Tour de France last month, which passed through his native Bern, Switzerland. But with this win, under incredibly difficult & dangerous circumstances, he can hold his head up high. What a fantastic way to end a career! And it's the first gold for Switzerland at the Rio Olympics.

Shooting

Men's 50-meter Air Pistol

A remarkable comeback for Jin Jongoh of South Korea, who overcame a serious mistake that threatened to eliminate him. Starting again from the bottom, he outshoots the competition to claim his third consecutive gold in the event!

It is the first time a shooter, male or female, has ever won three consecutive golds in the same event. He now adds to 50m a silver Athens 2004, gold Beijing 2008, gold London 2012. And he has a 10m silver from Beijing 2008 & gold at London 2012. Six Olympics medals.

Vietnam's Hoang Xuan Vinh gets silver, adding to his gold from the 10m on Saturday. North Korea's Kim Song Guk takes the bronze; he was leading going into the final, & he was a crowd favorite. Upon winning his bronze, he turned & bowed to the crowd, who cheered even louder.

Men's double trap final

Kuwait's Fehaid Al Deehani, competing as an independent, has captured men's double trap gold by defeating Italy's Marco Innocenti in the final match. Marco Innocenti takes the silver for Italy. It is the first time an independent athlete has won a medal.

Kuwait's Olympics Committee has been suspended by the IOC due to excessive government interference--that's a fancy way of saying corruption. The IOC has allowed Al Deehani & seven other Kuwaiti athletes to compete as independents in Rio. That means they compete under the Olympics flag, & should they win, it is the Olympics anthem that will be played.

A veteran of six Olympics, Al Deehani became the first Kuwaiti athlete to win an Olympic medal with a bronze at Sydney in 2000 & added another in London four years ago. A proud officer in the Kuwait army, Al Deehani dropped to the ground & kneeled after winning the final, then pounded his chest as he walked away. It was a signal of solidarity with fellow Kuwaitis.

He was asked to carry the Olympics independent athletes flag during the opening ceremony, but he felt that conflicted with his support of his fellow countrymen. So he didn't carry the flag.

It was a bittersweet moment for Al Deehani to stand on top of the podium & see not the Kuwait flag but the Olympics flag, to hear not the Kuwait anthem but the Olympics anthem playing for the biggest achievement of his career. But that is the price he paid for the privilege to participate in the Rio Games. It's unfortunate that his government's politics cost them a place in the Olympics.

Steven Scott hit all 30 targets to defeat fellow Great Britain teammate Tim Kneale for the bronze medal.

Canoe/Kayak

Men's Kayak Single Slalom Final

In 2004, Joseph Clarke was 11 & started competing in canoeing. Just a few years earlier, kayaking trips with the Scouts sparked his interest. But when he tried to join the local canoe club, they thought he was just too young, so they refused him. He was allowed to join when he turned 11 & started training & competing.

Twelve years later, the British slalom canoeist, Joseph Clarke, 23, has won the kayak gold medal at Whitewater Stadium. He wins Great Britain's second Rio gold.

Joseph Clarke of Great Britain competes during the Kayak (K1) Men's Semi-final on Day 5 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at Whitewater Stadium on August 10, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Aug. 9, 2016 - Source: Christian Petersen/Getty Images South America)
And he is only the second British Olympic champion in kayak slalom.

He was the eighth to run in a 10 man final. His clean run was the fastest so far. He was ahead of Peter Kauzer of Slovenia, a two-time world champion & the world series title holder. The ninth man, Jiri Prskavec of the Czech Republic, the world champion, finished faster, but he was penalized for touching a gate with his head, so he dropped to third. The final man, Jakub Grigar of Slovakia, finished fifth.

With a fantastic clean run, Joseph Clarke of Great Britain wins the gold. Peter Kauzer of Slovenia claims silver. And Jiri Prskavec of the Czech Republic takes the bronze.

Diving

Men's synchronized 3-meter springboard
Jack Laugher and Chris Mears of Great Britain compete in the Men's Diving Synchronized 3m Springboard Final on Day 5 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at Maria Lenk Aquatics Centre on August 10, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Aug. 9, 2016 - Source: Al Bello/Getty Images South America)


Jack Laugher & Chris Mears totaled 454.32 points for the gold, & Americans Sam Dorman & Mike Hixon took silver at 450.21. It is the best ever finish for the Americans in 3m springboard synchronized diving. China's Cao Yuan & Qin Kai settled for bronze at 443.70, ending their country's bid to sweep the eight diving medals at the Rio Games.

The Chinese had won the first three synchronized diving events. It is a disappointment for Qin, 30, the oldest in the competition, who was expected to win his third Olympics gold medal with a third different partner. But he acknowledged that his competitors were strong, but hey, a bronze medal is better than nothing. Just ask the fourth place & every one after that!

It is Great Britain's first ever diving gold. Jack Laugher & Chris Mears laughed at the "English weather"--the rains & wind that poured into the roofless venue & embraced it. In 2009, Mears nearly died after contracting the Epstein-Barr virus while competing at the Youth Olympics in Sydney. Both feel very lucky to be competing at Rio. Well done on a fantastic job, fellas! Congratulations!

Fencing

Women's Individual Foil

Russian Inna Deriglazova won gold in women's foil, giving her country its second fencing title of the Rio Games. Deriglazova beat Italy's Elisa Di Francisca, the gold medalist from the London Olympics, to claim a world title for the second year in a row.

Tunisia's Ines Boubakri took bronze, making history as the first African & Arab woman to medal in fencing. She dedicated her medal to all Tunisian, all African, all Arab women & reminded the world that all women have value & are an important, equal part of society.

Men's Individual Saber

Third-ranked Aron Szilagyi of Hungary beat upstart 10th ranked American fencer Daryl Homer to win gold in men's sabre. Homer had done a magnificent job of knocking out his opponents on his way to the gold medal match to face the better skilled Szilagyi.
Despite the loss, Homer earned the second silver medal on Wednesday for the U.S. men's fencing team in Rio. It is a remarkable feat for the American team. Junghwan Kim of South Korea won bronze.

Weightlifting

Women's 69-kilogram Weightlifting

China's Xiang Yanmei was superwoman today, winning Olympic gold, even after dropping a 118kg weight on the back of her head!

A favorite for gold in the women's 69-kilogram weightlifting class, she dropped the bar on her third attempt in the snatch. It delivered a glancing blow to her head on the way down. Xiang briefly appeared dazed and admitted to some pain but was fully alert. There were fears for her health. But she managed to finish the event & claim gold with a 116-kilograms in the snatch & 145 in the clean & jerk for a total of 261. 

China was worried that another surprise withdrawal might happen in the middle of the competition. Earlier, it lost world-record holder Chen Lijun to a cramp in Monday's men's 62-kilogram class. Xiang said she had not seen a doctor. Let's hope she sees one now that the contest is over.

The silver medal went to Kazakhstan's Zhazira Zhapparkul with a 259 total, while Egypt's Sara Ahmed won bronze with 255 kilos, & made history as the first woman from an Arab country to win an Olympic weightlifting medal. The 18-year-old is also Egypt's first female medalist in its 104-year history at the Olympics.

Even more interesting, Egypt could also receive a silver medal from the women's 75-kilogram class in the 2012 London Olympics, in which Abeer Abdelrahman finished fifth behind three lifters currently under investigation after failing retests of their samples.

Men's 77-kilogram Weightlifting

Some drama over men's 77kg weightlifting. Kazakhstan's Nijat Rahimov broke the clean & jerk world record to take gold in the men's 77-kilogram weightlifting class.

When reigning champion Lyu Xiaojun of China looked set for gold, Rahimov took the bold, risky step of moving up 12 kilograms on his second clean & jerk attempt for a world-record 214.

That gave him a total of 379, equal with Lyu. Rahimov won thanks to weighing in lower for the competition. Lyu took silver.

Here is where it gets interesting. Rahimov served a doping ban between 2013 & 2015. And he had been in doubt for the Rio Olympics after the International Weightlifting Federation tried to exclude the entire Kazakh team over repeated doping positives, but the procedure was not completed in time for Rio! The IOC let them compete anyway! A positive result now can change everything!

Bronze went to Egyptian Mohamed Mahmoud who scored 361. Bad news for Armenia's Andranik Karapetyan, who was second after the snatch, but an arm injury during a lift left him screaming in pain & he had to withdraw. A speedy recovery to him.

Table Tennis Women's Single

Table tennis--ping pong to us regular people--had the women's medal events contested today. Let's face it. This is China's game. China has won all the golds in the past two Olympics, & have claimed 24 of 28 gold medals since table tennis became an Olympic sport in 1988. Chinese women have won every gold singles medal since table tennis became an Olympic sport in 1988. When will air hockey & foosball make the Olympics?

And it's a repeat of London 2012, a rematch between China's Li Xiaoxia, London 2012 champion, versus Ding Ning, London 2012 silver medalist. Four years ago at London 2012, when Ding lost the gold match to Li, she broke down into tears & cried tears of agony.

And she cried again at the end of the match. This time it was tears of joy. The reigning world champ won gold. It's a reversal of London 2012. Ning Ding takes the Rio Olympics gold. Xiaoxia Li settles for silver.

Japan's Ai Fukuhara & North Korea's Kim Song played the bronze match. Kim Song I of North Korea won the bronze medal over veteran Ai Fukuhara of Japan in women's table tennis. It has been an incredible surprise run for the 50th ranked player, who dispatched all higher ranked opponents in her Olympics run.

Gymnastics Men's Individual All Around

Kohei Uchimura is the best gymnast in history! And he proved it again by winning gold in the men's all around, adding to his team gold won yesterday, Tuesday. He now has a total of 7 Olympics medals--2 silvers in Beijing 2008 in team & all around; 2 silvers in London for team & floor exercise plus a gold for all around; now 2 golds for team & all around. With multiple world championships, Kohei Uchimura secures his legacy as the best gymnast ever--& the most humble!

Kohei Uchimura of Japan competes on the pommel horse during the Men's Individual All-Around final on Day 5 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Rio Olympic Arena on August 10, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Aug. 9, 2016 - Source: Matthias Hangst/Getty Images South America)

The superstar gymnast from Japan won the men's all-around title on Wednesday, edging Oleg Verniaiev by less than a tenth of the point to capture his second straight Olympics title. He was definitely judged harsher on his rings routine. But his consistently more challenging routines gave him a slight edge, so long as he executed them with excellence.

Uchimura trailed heading into the final rotation but put up a dazzling 15.8 on high bar. It was the best performance of the demanding routine to date. It was the most difficult routine of the event & the highest scoring. Oleg Verniaiev of Ukraine followed with a less challenging routine, made small errors, & hopped forward on the dismount, costing him precious points.

Needing 14.9 to win, Verniaiev instead earned a 14.8! And that was enough for Kohei Uchimura to successfully defend his London 2012 title! A magnificent performance earned Max Whitlock of Great Britain a bronze, just ahead of fourth placed Russia's David Belyavskiy.

Judo

Japan sweeps the judo gold in the middle weight division, men's 90kg & women's 70kg.

Men's 90-Kilogram

First up, let's talk about Popole Misenga, a refugee competing at the Rio Olympics. Originally from the Congo, he has not seen his family for 15 years. Yet, he hoped they saw him on tv compete today. A huge Brazilian crowd cheered him on.

Three years ago, Popole Misenga came to Brazil to compete in a world championship, & stayed to train with renowned coach Geraldo Bernardes, the coach of Brazilian judoka Rafaela Silva — who won the country's first gold of the Olympics on Sunday. Say what you will about the boisterous Brazilian crowds, but these people are honest & passionate & enthusiastic in their support. They will boo the cheaters & cheer on those who need their support. And they cheered deafeningly loud for Popole Misenga.

After winning his preliminary fight on Wednesday morning, the Congo refugee faced top-seeded South Korean Donghan Gwak in the second round of the men's 90-kilogram division. After four minutes, Gawk, the current judo world champion - scored an automatic ippon victory. For Popole Misenga, it was an honor to last this long against the best, & he wished his family well, hoping that they were safe back in Congo.

Donghan Gwak would lose on his way to the finals. There was no hope of a gold medal for him. He was disappointed, but his coach reminded him that there was a huge difference between finishing third & finishing fourth. So he had to get his mind together & focus on the bronze match. He would defeat Marcus Nyman of Sweden to take the bronze. Xunzhao Cheng of China would defeat Lkhagvasürengiin Otgonbaatar of Mongolia to take the other bronze.

Second ranked Mashu Baker, whose father is American, trained at the Kodokan, the spiritual home of judo & its most famed dojo, starting judo at age 6. Baker has won four judo Grand Slam titles & won bronze at last year’s world championships. The crowd did boo Baker after it seemed like he was going to quit the gold match in the final minutes. But his one throw was enough to win gold over his opponent who couldn't score. Varlam Liparteliani of Georgia, ranked fifth, gets silver.

Women's 70-Kilogram

Haruka Tachimoto of Japan, penalized for passivity in the early minutes of the final round & working against a very vocal partisan crowd, managed to pin down Yuri Alvear for 20 seconds, scoring an ippon victory that automatically ends the bout.

Yuri Alvear is the London 2012 bronze medalist & three time world champion from Columbia, & was the flag bearer for Columbia. Haruka Tachimoto wins Japan the gold, Japan's third judo gold at Rio. Alvear takes silver. Laura Vargas Koch of Germany & Sally Conway of Great Britain take the bronzes.

Swimming

Men's 200-meter breaststroke

Dmitriy Balandin pulled off an incredible upset to deliver Kazakhstan its first Olympics swimming medal, a gold in men's 200m breaststroke! No one expected him to win much less be a factor in the race. Yosuhiro Koseki of Japan was favored to win, & he led the race all the way to the final lap. But near the wall, he faded as Balandin surged forward to claim the win.

Josh Prenot of the United States claimed silver, while Russia's Anton Chupkov landed the bronze. Yosuhiro Koseki ends up fifth.

Men's 100-meter freestyle

(L-R) Cameron McAvoy of Australia, Nathan Adrian of the United States and Kyle Chalmers of Australia compete in the Men's 100m Freestyle Final on Day 5 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Aquatics Stadium on August 10, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Aug. 9, 2016 - Source: Richard Heathcote/Getty Images South America)

Kyle Chalmers of Australia, 18, is the new swim king of speed, winning gold! He made an incredible surge at the turn, sprinting towards the wall to take first place. Pieter Timmers of Belgium claimed the silver. And defending London 2012 champion, Nathan Adrian of the United States, settles for bronze.

Women's 200-meter butterfly

Mireia Belmonte Garcia of Spain finally gets her gold in the closely contested women's 200m butterfly. The London 2012 silver medalist in this event & London 2012 silver medalist at the 800m, adds to a 400m IM bronze earned here at Rio 2016.

Madeline Groves of Australia claims the silver. And Japan's Natsumi Hoshi claimed the bronze.

Women's 800-meter freestyle relay

Katie Ledecky, 19, was the fastest swimmer in the pool, & she brought her American teammates along for the ride all the way to the top of the podium, to victory in the 4x200-meter freestyle relay late Wednesday.  She wins her third gold & fourth medal overall at the Rio Olympics.

The U.S. trailed through the first three legs of the race, as Sweden, China, & then Australia swapped the top spot. But Ledecky out swam the competition & left them behind as she finished the race first.

The US team of Allison Schmitt, Madeline Dirado, Leah Smith, & Katie Ledecky take gold.

Silver went to Australia's team of Leah Neale, Tamsin Cook, Bronte Barratt, & Emma McKeon.

Bronze was won by Canada's Katerine Savard, Brittany Maclean, Taylor Madison Ruck, & Penny Oleksiak.

And in other exciting news, what a tumultuous group staging playoffs in men's rugby sevens! Heavy favorites, top ranked Fiji & New Zealand were supposed to meet in the gold medal match. But an upstart, outstanding, unexpected Japanese squad did the unthinkable & beat New Zealand, forcing them to fight Fiji for a playoff spot!

It was a desperate do or die moment for the top teams. A loss meant being knocked out of medal contention. And it was a furious, aggressive, fierce match made more challenging & difficult by the rain. The plays were rough, the players even rougher! And when it was all said & done, Fiji has knocked New Zealand out! Oh, the pain & frustration for the Kiwis! To come so close, yet taken out unexpectedly!

And the surprises continue in rugby sevens as South Africa overcomes Australia in their quarterfinal, & will face Great Britain, who defeated Argentina, who was undefeated in their pool. So the semifinals are South Africa vs Great Britain, & those dauntless Japanese, slaying another rugby powerhouse, France, will take on Fiji in the semifinal!

I have to admit, I'm rooting for both Fiji & Japan to medal. Fiji deserves a win, for their hard work & superb skills, bringing joy to a nation who suffered 44 deaths & millions in damages from a hurricane this year. They earned their top ranking the hard way, through hard work, grit, & determination.

And Japan deserves to win, because these upstarts are slaying the higher ranked teams in their quest for Olympics glory! They play hard with all their hearts! And I root for the underdogs! Nobody gave them a second thought. No one believed they would be a factor. But they proved the adage that anything can happen at the Olympics! And I hope wonderful things continue to happen to them!

Lote Tuqiri of Japan offloads the ball during the Men's Quarter-final 2, Match 22 between Japan and France on Day 5 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at Deodoro Stadium on August 10, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Aug. 9, 2016 - Source: David Rogers/Getty Images South America)

Apologies to South Africa & Great Britain.

More fantastic action tomorrow. I can't wait to see who wins & makes it to the podium. Anything can happen. I hope it's all good things. Cheers to our athletes. I wish them all the best!

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Rio 2016 Olympics: Day 4

9 August 2016 Tuesday. Day 4 of the Rio Olympics

Some fantastic performances on Day 4 of the Rio Olympics.

Equestrian Eventing

Equestrian has three disciplines: eventing, dressage, and jumping, all of them with individual and team competitors. It is the only sport in the Olympics were animals compete & are considered athletes. It is also the only sport where men & women compete with each other.

Today, awards were handed out in the eventing team & individual contests. Eventing is a three day, three-part equestrian sport that combines rider’s scores from dressage, cross-country, & show jumping to determine the champion rider/horse combination.

Dressage is the most technical of the three stages, which requires riders to put their horses through a series of technical exercises in an arena setting, to determine precision, how well they execute the required tasks.

Cross-country, the second phase, is the most difficult due to its dangerous nature & speed. The horse & rider gallop through a pre-determined course that features obstacles, such as logs, ditches, jumps, water, etc.

The third day of competition consists of show jumping. Olympic level fences are 4-foot-3, & there are approximately 15 obstacles through which riders must guide their horse to jump over.

Japan's Yoshiaki Oiwa on The Duke Of Cavan competes during the Eventing's Individual Jumping of the Equestrian during the 2016 Rio Olympic Games at the Olympic Equestrian Centre in Rio on August 9, 2016. / AFP / John MACDOUGALL (Aug. 8, 2016 - Source: AFP)

I have to admit that I love seeing the horses perform & race through obstacles & jump fences. But the truth is, this is one of the most dangerous sports, for both horse & rider, especially during the cross-country phase. And all that running & jumping & dangerous obstacles can hurt the horse & rider. And there have been some serious injuries. And even though there are vets present to ensure the safety & well being of the horses--& to make sure the horses aren't drugged--I can't help but wonder if the horses would rather be doing something else.

But awards were earned today in the equestrian eventing team & individual events.

Equestrian Eventing Team

It was a dramatic show jumping final today, with Australia & New Zealand leading & France in third. The defending London 2012 champions, Germany, had imploded the past two days, landing them in fourth.

Astier Nicolas of France riding Piafde B'Neville during the eventing team jumping final and individual qualifier on Day 4 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Equestrian Centre on August 9, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Aug. 8, 2016 - Source: Jamie Squire/Getty Images South America)

But after Australia & New Zealand riders knocked down rails, the path was clear for France to leap up to the top of the podium, getting the gold. Germany manages to jump to silver, & Australia takes the bronze after an agonizing ordeal for New Zealand, whose rider knocked down three rails, dropping them to fourth.

Gold to the French team:
Karim Laghouag on Entebbe
Thibaut Vallette on Qing du Briot
Mathieu Lemoine on Bart L
Astier Nicolas on Piaf De B'Neville

Silver to the German team:
Julia Krajewski on Samourai du Thot
Sandra Auffarth on Opgun Louvo
Ingrid Klimke on Hale-Bob Old
Michael Jung on Sam FBW

Bronze to the Aussies:
Shane Rose on CP Qualified
Stuart Tinney on Pluto Mio
Sam Griffiths on Paulank Brockagh
Christopher Burton on Santano II

Equestrian Eventing Individual

Michael Jung of Germany riding Sam Fbw during the eventing team jumping final and individual qualifier on Day 4 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Equestrian Centre on August 9, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Aug. 8, 2016 - Source: Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images South America)

Defending London 2012 champions Michael Jung of Germany & Sam FBW won a second successive equestrian gold medal in eventing, with another clear round in show  jumping. It is worth noting that Jung only turned to Sam, the 16-year-old German Sport Horse he rode to win gold in London, a week before the animals were due to fly to Rio. His first and younger choice, Takinou, had suffered an infection.

Nicolas Astier & Piaf de B'Neville of France win silver to go with their eventing team gold.

Phillip Dutton of the United States won bronze on Mighty Nice. Dutton, a six-time Olympian, had previously won gold twice (Atlanta 1996 & Sydney 2000) for his native Australia, before becoming an American citizen & competing for the United States the last three Olympics. The oldest American athlete brings home the bronze.

Gymnastics Women's Team

Jade Barbosa of Brazil competes on the balance beam during the Artistic Gymnastics Women's Team Final on Day 4 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Rio Olympic Arena on August 9, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Aug. 8, 2016 - Source: Lars Baron/Getty Images South America)

The heavily favored US team successfully defends their London 2012 gold, winning over second place Russia by an 8.2-point margin:
Simone Biles, Gabby Douglas, Laurie Hernandez, Madison Kocian, & Aly Raisman.

The surprise Russian team soared to silver:
Angelina Melnikova, Aliya Mustafina, Maria Paseka, Daria Spiridonova, & Seda Tutkhalyan.

And China ends up with bronze:
Fan Yilin, Mao Yi, Shang Chunsong, Tan Jiaxin, & Wang Yan.

It is also the end of an era. Martha Karolyi, the USA team’s national coordinator, has all ready made it known that this was her last international event, planning to retire after the Olympics. Karolyi has been the driving force that has turned the American women's gymnastics team into the most elite team over the past decade. It will have to be someone extraordinarily special to replace her & keep up the outstanding standards of American women's gymnastics.

Diving Women's 10m Synchronized Platform

For the third straight Olympics in a row, China has won the event. Chen Ruolin & Liu Huixia won gold, doing incredibly challenging dives that put them more than ten points above their closest competitors. This is Chen's third gold in the event, having won with a different partner at Beijing 2008 & London 2012. China is now 3-3 on their quest to sweep all diving gold.

Ruolin Chen and Huixia Liu of China compete in the Women's Diving Synchronised 10m Platform Final on Day 4 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at Maria Lenk Aquatics Centre on August 9, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Aug. 8, 2016 - Source: Clive Rose/Getty Images South America)

Cheong Jun Hoong & Pandelela Rinong Pamg bring Malaysia the silver.

And Canadians Meaghan Benfeito & Roseline Filion repeated as bronze medalists in the Olympics, having also won bronze at London 2012.

Women's Weightlifting 63-kilogram

China's Deng Wei set a new world record of 262kg over two lifts, earning her the gold. North Korea's Choe Hyo Sim takes the silver. Kazakhstan's Karina Goricheva won the bronze.

Weightlifting has been rocked by drug cheat scandals, especially hard hit is this women's division. Kazakhstan's 2012 gold medalist Maiya Maneza failed a drug test, & two of the top four from last year's championship are also out due to doping.

Men's Weightlifting 69-kilogram

China's Shi Zhiyong won gold, making it the fourth consecutive gold for China in the event, & the most wins for any nation in this event. Turkey's Daniyar Ismayilov wins silver. And Izzat Artykov of Kyrgyzstan takes the bronze, his country's first ever Olympics medal.

Women’s 25mm Pistol

Anna Korakaki wins gold, the first Rio Olympics gold for Greece, adding to her own bronze from the 10m Air Pistol contested earlier in the games. It was a very tight match against Monica Karsch of Germany, who takes silver. And Heidi Diethelm Gerber of Switzerland wins bronze, beating China’s Zhang Jingjing, the number one ranked shooter in this event.

Canoe/Kayak

Men’s canoe single final

France's Denis Gargaud Chanut wins the gold men's canoe single. And it is the end of an era. Since Atlanta 1996, the event has been dominated by Slovakia's Michal Martikan (Atlanta 1996 & Beijing 2008) & France's Tony Estanguet (Sydney 2000, Athens 2004, London 2012). This time, Estanguet has retired, & Martikan did not make the Slovakian team.

Slovakia's Matej Benus takes the silver, keeping the Slovakian reputation as a paddling powerhouse intact.

But Japan's Takuya Haneda had the most amazing moment. He cried tears of joy after the last competitor crossed the finish line, because he knew that he had made it on the podium with a bronze. Ten years ago, at 19, right after high school, he moved to Slovakia to train in canoeing. His coach, Milan Kuban, a former team mate of Martikan, the five-times Olympic medal winner in C1, has worked with Haneda for seven years, steering him to seventh place in the London Olympics & fifth in the 2014 worlds.

Takuya Haneda of Japan reacts after competing in the Canoe Single (C1) Men's Final on Day 4 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Whitewater Stadium on August 9, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Aug. 8, 2016 - Source: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images South America)

With this bronze, he becomes Japan's first ever athlete to medal in canoeing, the first Asian to ever medal in the event! He thanked his family & his coach for their support. He now has a bronze to show his family & supporters. And he looks to make a promising run for Tokyo 2020. I wish him luck & congratulate him. It's always a joy to see hardworking athletes succeed.

Fencing Men’s individual epee

An exciting series of matches in men's individual epee! Sangyoung Park, 20, ranked 21, who's been sidelined most of 2015 due to a knee injury, manages to beat all other higher ranked fencers, to go on to the final.

Sangyoung Park of Korea in action against Geza Imre of Hungary during the gold medal medal bout in the Men's Epee Individual on Day 4 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games on August 9, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Aug. 8, 2016 - Source: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images South America)

There, the youngest fencer faced off against the eldest, Geza Imre of Hungary Imre, 41, bronze medalist twenty years ago at Atlanta 1996 & a team silver at Athens 2004. This time, Imre adds silver to his medal winnings as Park gets South Korea its first medal in any epee competition.

France's top-ranked Gauthier Grumier won the bronze. No. 2 Enrico Garozzo of Italy was beaten by Park in the elimination rounds.

Judo

Women’s 63-kilogram

Tina Trstenjak won Slovenia's first medal of the Rio Olympics, with gold in the women's -63kg judo. The world champion overpowered France's Clarisse Agbegnenou to ensure victory. Agbegnenou's silver is France's first judo medal of the Rio Olympics.

Yarden Gerbi won Israel's first medal of the Games, a bronze. And Netherlands' Anicka van Emden won the second bronze.

Men’s 81-kilogram

Olympics Twister: Right foot on Yellow!

Travis Stevens of the United States (L) and Khasan Khalmurzaev of Russia compete in the Men's -81kg gold medal bout on Day 4 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Carioca Arena 2 on August 9, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Aug. 8, 2016 - Source: Ryan Pierse/Getty Images South America)

Russia's Khasan Khalmurzaev defeats American Travis Stevens in the gold match of men's judo 81kg. It is Travis Stevens' third Olympics, & his silver is the first American men's judo medal since Jimmy Pedro, the US team's head coach, won bronze at Athens 2004. No American man has ever won gold.

The bronze medals were won by Sergiu Toma of the United Arab Emirates & Takanori Nagase of Japan. This is the UAE,'s second medal in any event.

Swimming

Men's 200-meter butterfly

Michael Phelps of the US reclaims the top spot, getting gold. In a pseudo feud hyped up by the media, this was supposed to be the rematch between South Africa's Chad le Clos, London 2012 defending champion, versus Phelps, the London 2012 silver medalist. Phelps wins gold, but the most surprising results were Japan's Masato Sakai, who surged unexpectedly in the final yards to clinch the silver. Then Hungarian Tamas Kenderesi follows immediately for the bronze!

Women's 200-meter freestyle

Meanwhile, in a really tight race, Katie Ledecky, of the United States wins gold in the 200m freestyle. She adds to her Rio 2016 4x100m freestyle relay silver, Rio 2016 400m freestyle gold, & London 2012 800m freestyle gold.

Sweden's Sarah Sjostrom, the record holder of Rio 2016 100m butterfly gold medalist, gets silver.

Emma McKeon of Australia gets the bronze to add to her Rio 2016 gold in the 4x100m freestyle relay.

Women's 200-meter Individual Medley

Hungary's Katinka Hosszu won the 200-meter individual medley, adding another gold to her 400m IM gold & 100m backstroke gold won at Rio 2016. It is a great relief for Hosszu, who went to London 2012 with big expectations, but fell apart instead.

Hosszu still has the 200m back and 200m butterfly on her Rio 2016 schedule. Known as the Iron Lady for her grueling training schedule, she is coached by her American-born husband, Shane Tusup. The couple met as students at the University of Southern California.

Siobhan-Marie O'Connor of Great Britain claims silver.

Maya DiRado of the US takes bronze, adding to the silver she won at the 400m medley.

Men's 4x200-meter freestyle

Michael Phelps had just over an hour to prepare to swim the anchor leg of the men's 4x200-meter freestyle after winning the 200-meter butterfly. Joined by Conor Dwyer, newcomer Townley Hass, & fellow rival & friend, Ryan Lochte, they won the gold with a sizeable lead over the other teams. This is the fourth consecutive gold the US has won in the event. This is Phelps 25th medal, 21st gold.

Michael Phelps of the United States competes in the Men's 4 x 200m Freestyle Relay Final on Day 4 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Aquatics Stadium on August 9, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Aug. 8, 2016 - Source: Richard Heathcote/Getty Images South America)

The surprise silver medal winners were Great Britain's Stephen Milne, Duncan Scott, Daniel Wallace, & James Guy who surged ahead of the other teams to claim silver.

Japan's Kosuke Hagino, Naito Ehara, Yuki Kobori, & Takeshi Matsuda claim the bronze.

Day 4 of the Rio Olympics was full of action & surprises. More surprises & exciting events are sure to follow over the next few days. Here's to hoping for better weather for our boating athletes! And good luck to all who are still in competition!