August 18, 2004

More gymnastics

The Romanian girls are right-on with their routines; if only their routines were impressive. Their coach, Octavian Bellu, believes that it's better to take a less difficult routine and nail it than to try for the hard stuff. And it certainly paid off, in the event, but it's always nicer to see someone nail the hard routines, even if they don't always manage it. (At the same time, I believe strongly in the Law of Large Numbers and am always a little bothered by the one-shot approach to judging that is necessarily prevalent in the judged events, or for that matter any athletic competition.)

The Romanians did have some really great beam routines, though. The first one to go (Alexandra Eremia) did a lot of impressive acrobatics, and like in the qualifying rounds, came incredibly close to hitting her head on the dismount. Her teammate Catalina Ponor continued with the complicated combinations; I really like the ones where they jump or flip and include a ninety-degree twist---there's just no room for error there. The Russian Svetlana Khorkina took this to the next degree with some of the craziest moves I've ever seen on beam, including a flip around the beam as if it were a high bar and a dismount sequence where one foot dipped past the side of the beam. Wow.

I take back what I said the other day about the US women being unimpressive. They were a lot more "on" today, I thought. And unlike any of the meets I actually attended, nobody fell off the balance beam. In fact, I seem to recall beam falls being a fairly regular feature of even Olympic competition, but they pulled off some nice routines.

I've already raved about Mohini Bhardwaj, and I'm going to continue to do so now. She's like the rock that anchors the team, and tonight, when Courtney Kupets had a sore foot and pulled out of the balance beam competition, Bhardwaj got pressed into service on an event that's not her best and which she hadn't even practiced in a few days. And did great! I couldn't believe it when the commentators interviewed Kupets and Patterson but not Bhardwaj---she's the real hero here. In the event she competed one more apparatus than Kupets and averaged the same despite being a last-minute sub, but the commentators are all fawning over the "star of the team" Courtney Kupets. (Carly Patterson did, of course, actually compete all four and did slightly better.)

This follows on my previous analysis of the commentators being really irritating. While there was the occasional informative comment, mostly they just kept yapping to hear the sounds of their own voices, and then when it comes time to actually interact with the athletes, they ask lame questions that try to force people into the sensationalist boxes the media has created for them. This isn't limited to gymnastics; the folks over at the natatorium seem bound and determined to get Michael Phelps to utter some really rude and egotistical comment, but he's not biting. They're trying their level best, though. Bob Costas back in the studio isn't any better; after the 4x200 free relay team medalled, he started rattling off all the Olympic records that Phelps was set to tie or break (as if we hadn't heard them all about fifty times this week already). On the medals-in-one-event record (8), Costas was careful to point out that the record had been set by a Soviet gymnast in the 1980 Olympics, but---and these are his words here---"they were boycotted by the U.S. and much of the free world." He actually used the phrase "free world"! Not to mention, the US was the only country among the boycotters that posed serious competition in men's gymnastics, and even they were still pretty weak compared to the Soviets and Soviet satellite countries, so the 8 medals were certainly an accomplishment. But anything to make Michael Phelps more of a sensation, you know.

"I was reading the LotR series a while back and I was struck by how every damn sword, ring, hat, codpiece, and brandy snifter had some bad-ass name." --Joe Shidle

Posted by blahedo at 4:46am on 18 Aug 2004
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