The Olympic Buffet: Friday, August 22

NBC’s sideline interviews haven’t been outstanding–Andrea Kremer putting an awkward hand on weeping 15-year-old diver Haley Ishimatsu‘s shoulder after Ishimatsu didn’t qualify for the 10m platform finals was a low point–but the live interviews at the Bird’s Nest provided a couple of moments today that give a glimmer of hope. The interview immediately after the US women’s 4X100m relay team dropped the baton led to a still-panting Lauryn Williams claiming that someone must have a voodoo doll with “USA” on it, an amusing distraction from the unfortunate result. And while I am one who tends to roll my eyes when an athlete drags God into their victory (what, God hates your opponent? Leave God alone), the interview immediately after the 200m race allowed Allyson Felix, disappointed silver medalist and daughter of a preacher man, to direct some thanks heavenward after she lost. This refreshing change of pace makes us wonder if there might be a point to the sideline reporters after all.

Friday’s Blue Plate Special: A lot of superlatives get tossed around in sport (why is The World’s Fastest Man the guy who wins the 100m instead of the one who wins the 10,000m?); tonight you can see the guy they’ll call The World’s Greatest Athlete, the winner of the decathlon, crowned. What makes an athlete “the greatest” is open to debate, but the decathletes are pretty darned impressive, having to demonstrate remarkable speed (100m, 400m, 110m hurdles), hops (long jump and high jump), strength and technique (pole vault, javelin, discus, and shot put), and endurance (capping it all with a 1500m run). Reigning world indoor champion Bryan Clay is favored for gold but will have to hold off the only man ever to break 9,000 points in the decathlon, Athens silver medalist and defending Olympic champion Roman Sebrle. Sebrle also just happened to be skewered by a javelin during training last year. Can you imagine being the poor javelin thrower who pinned The World’s Greatest Athlete? See how Sebrle has recovered, and how he, Clay, and others battle it out, noon (EDT) and in primetime on NBC (spoilers could hit you in the shoulder).

Friday’s Chef’s Special: Turn the decathlon upside down with the modern pentathlon. The founder of the modern Olympics started the modern pentathlon to create the perfect athlete, balancing physical and moral superiority. Why this sport would be more moral than any of the others (take that, basketball rapscallions!) is unclear, but it does require a broad and impressive skill set. Rather than throwing or jumping over things, pentathletes shoot pistols, fence, swim 200m, show jump pretty horsies, and run 3K. You can see how the modern pentathlon nicely updates the ancient one, trading hand-to-hand combat skills for more tehcnologically based bloodletting. While it has a military history, it screams dueling to me, so I am dying to see if anyone slaps a rival with a glove. The women’s competition can be found on USA Network at noon EDT.

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2 thoughts on “The Olympic Buffet: Friday, August 22

  1. It may interest you to know that Sparta reportedly boycotted the ancient Olympics when biting and eye-gouging were forbidden during Pankration matches. Take that, UFC!

  2. Now, see, people would watch modern pentahlon more if there were biting and eye-gouging. Among the human competitors, not the horses.

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