The Olympic Buffet: Monday, August 18

OKSANA CHUSOVITINA!!!! Woo! And NBC even deigned to show her this time!

Wow, I wish I were in Jamaica this week–there might be a party or two celebrating sweeping the 100m races. Too bad we had to watch an extensive feature on Michael Phelps’ shoelaces and Mary Carillo’s search for acupuncture before seeing it. Expect this to be much worse in 2012, as I doubt NBC will get the Brits to move events around to accommodate the US (read: East Coast) market.

Monday’s Blue Plate Special: The gymnastics coverage is winding down, with finals in rings, uneven bars, women’s trampoline, and men’s vault. We admit to pulling for the 2nd-place rings qualifier, Bulgaria’s 35-year-old Jordan Jovtchev, who is competing in his fifth Olympics. While he’s won four Olympic medals, he’s still chasing that elusive gold (which some people thought he was robbed of in Athens). Jovtchev, however, has another fan base that may never have seen him in his specialty. He’s competed several times in the Japanese obstacle course show Sasuke (shown in the US on G4 almost daily under the alias Ninja Warrior), a competition that somehow manages to be both an amazing demonstration of athleticism and a little hilarious. That’s right–Jordan Jovtchev has faced not only the rings, but the Rumbling Dice, the Cliff Hanger, and the Jumping Spider. He’s never achieved “total victory” on the obstacle course, but we’re kind of hoping he will in the Olympic Games. Female gymnasts are in action, too, with all-around champion Nastia Liukin, reigning bars world champion Ksenia Semenova, and event specialists He Kexin and Yang Yilin in the running. Primetime on NBC (thar be spoilers).

Monday’s Chef’s Special: Table tennis might be the most universal sports contested at these games. It’s a nearly ubiquitous basement or backyard experience; it revolutionized the video game industry; and it changed geopolitics. And at the Olympic level, it’s played at the speed of light, with both tricky changes of pace that resemble knuckleballs and overhead smashes that, frankly, seem a little dangerous. Since it’s enormously popular in China (Chinese president Hu Jintao recently stated that if he could be in the Olympics, he’d choose to play table tennis), it’s a perfect opportunity to soak in the soaring support the heavily Chinese crowds have rained down in the Olympic venues. Morning hours on both MSNBC and USA.