The Olympic Buffet: Thursday, August 21

Thank goodness there weren’t any sports being contested at the Olympics today so NBC could show the “Champions’ Gala” gymnastics musicale revue in which absolutely no medals were awarded. In other news, Usain Bolt is awesome. In fairness, so were NBC and commentator Ato Boldon in untangling the disqualifications in the men’s 200m and capturing the moment when Walter Dix was told he had medaled. And, to be further fair, they did finally talk about Natalie du Toit and my favorite Olympic victor so far, super heavyweight weightlifter Matthias Steiner, so points added back.

Thursday’s Blue Plate Special: NBC will probably try to sell you on the idea that the compelling story in the women’s 10m platform diving competition is 30-year-old Sydney gold medalist Laura Wilkinson and whether she can reach the podium in her third Olympics. I’d argue the more compelling story is whether China can sweep the gold medals in the diving events. Only the individual platform events remain in their way, but a Chinese diver hasn’t won the women’s Olympic platform gold since the great Fu Mingxia repeated in Atlanta. The Chinese hopes this time are pinned on 15- and 16-year-old athletes who weigh less than 65 pounds each–will they come through, or overrotate buckle with the eyes of a nation on them? Primetime on NBC (spoilage is possible).

Thursday’s Chef’s Special: It’s easy to make fun of rhythmic gymnastics–see below, if you dare to think of Matt Lauer, Al Roker, and Brian Williams in spandex–and the waving a little ribbon around doesn’t help. But if you actually watch the sport for a few minutes, it becomes clear that rhythmic requires not only incredible flexibility (perhaps more than any other athletes here) but the kind of hand-eye coordination found in the great shooters, archers, and badminton and table tennis players who have competed here. Try shooting an arrow or hitting a birdie with your leg pulled so far up over your head your foot touches your nose. It’s hard work, and you can see it from 1-2pm on NBC.

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