The Olympic Buffet: Sunday, August 17

Hooray for the old ladies! In addition to Dara Torres’s remarkable performance in the pool, 38-year-old Romanian runner Constantina Tomescu-Dita won the women’s marathon and 35-year-old Bulgarian rower Rumyana Neykova won the women’s single sculls yesterday. In their honor, I shall continue to sit on the couch and watch their exploits on TV. This sacrifice may mean I will actually go mad trying to figure out how the NBC family of networks can show only a handful of gymnasts but the entire men’s 20K walk. And then follow it up with Jimmy Roberts’s stand-out piece on 1970s ping-pong diplomacy. And then play Michael Phelps clip pieces over both “In Your Eyes” and “Knights of Cydonia”. You are indeed an enigma wrapped in a riddle, NBC.

Sunday’s Blue Plate Special: The Fastest Man on Earth may have been crowned yesterday (good criminy, Usain Bolt), but his sprinting sisters take the track for their 100m final today. There are several compelling stories among the potential finalists, including teeny big-race specialist Lauryn Williams (silver medalist in Athens and 2007 Worlds; gold at 2005 Worlds) and Kerron Stewart and Sherone Simpson, who will try to pull off the 100m/200m double for Jamaica after legendary Veronica Campbell-Brown shockingly missed out on the 100. They’ll be joined by Torri Edwards, returning after a suspension for testing positive for a drug no longer deemed illegal; Debbie Ferguson-McKenzie, representing the Bahamas in her fourth Olympics; and Belarussian Yuliya Nestsiarenka, the defending Olympic champion. NBC in primetime; the race is earlier, so watch out for spoilers.

Sunday’s Chef’s Special: Today is your last chance to catch rowing, starring athletes with the largest lung capacities ever recorded. All of the medals being contested today are team endeavors, so the rowing you’ll be seeing is kind of like sprinting a mile (more, actually; the course is 2000 meters) with the precision of synchronized divers–while pulling a boat with you. One of the bronze medalists yesterday, rowing through a stomach ailment, had to have a rescue boat sent after him following his race, collapsing on the deck afterwards and having to be carried to his own medal ceremony. These folks are tough. The sculling events have two oars per athlete; the sweeping events have one offset oar per participant, like in Ben Hur. You get the feeling watching these amazing athletes that if they were Ben Hur’s rowing galley slaves, we’d all be speaking Italian today (boat cavalry!). Coverage of as many as seven finals on NBC between 1 and 5pm EDT (be careful of spoilers).

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