Saturday, August 16, 2008

Beijing Olympics - Day Nine - The Year of Eights - "That Guy Can Run"

9:15 a.m. - I got up just in time for the USA-Spain men's basketball game. Good timing. Game tied at 11 after five-plus minutes of play. As always, LeBron James has been the US's best player. Kobe Bryant picked up two early fouls. Coach K sends in Dwayne Wade as a replacement. Nice option to have. James made two free throws and a three. Score now 16-13. Paul and Williams in the backcourt. Wade playing small forward. Steal and dunk by Wade. Sixth turnover for Spain. James and Bosh are the big men. Another steal by Wade. Spain's featured players are Pao Gasol of the Lakers and Jose Calderon of the Raptors. Paul at foul line. Makes two. US leads by seven. Ricky Rubio at line for Spain. 17-years-old. Makes two. Anthony answers with a three. 23-15. Rubio has been likened to Pete Maravich. Has shaggy haircut. Rubio makes one free throw. Turned pro at age 14. Some Spaniards have first name on shirt; others have last name. Paul makes two free throws. 25-16. Two fouls on Gasol. Paul feeds Anthony for dunk. Paul length of court to Wade. Reverse layup. 29-16. Fabulous start for US. Led by defense, but supported by better 3-point shooting. Two free throws for Marc Gasol, brother of Pao. That's why his first name is on his jersey. Marc G. hits 29-20. Bad pass by Williams. Spain playing zone defense for first time. Berni Rodriguez makes a layup. Scramble at both ends. Wade grabs it and goes in for the dunk. 31-20. Ten turnovers for Spain. Another great quarter for Wade.

Prior to US-Spain, China nipped Germany by four to reach medal round. Prince drains open three. 34-24. Prince alley oop pass to James for one-hand dunk. 36-24. Juan Carlos Navarro scores from the lane - played for Memphis last year. Gasol blocks Prince's shot. Prince gets it back. Foul on Spain. Offensive foul on Howard. Push off. Steal and Kobe dunk. 38-26. Good passing leads to open shot for Gasol. 38-28. Technical foul on Spain. Bryant misses first free throw. Makes second. 39-28. Good passing, but Bosh can't finish. Good inside move by Gasol. Makes shot and will shoot free throw. 39-30. Makes free throw. 39-31. James hits three. 42-31. US 5 for 8 from outside. Bryant hits three. 45-31. Biggest lead of game. Kobe fouls Marc Gasol. His third foul. Tough matchup. Gasol much bigger. Steal by James. Wade misses layup. Gasol dunks. 45-33. Spain shooting 65%, but have too many turnovers - 13. Anthony makes. 47-33. Anthony fouls Marc Gasol. Two free throws. Marc G. is a big man. His nickname is "The Tank". Will play with Memphis next year. Was traded for his brother. Another foul by Anthony. His third. 47-36. Three free throws altogether. Foul on Spain. James to Wade for dunk. Three seconds on Spain. 49-36. Williams hits three. 52-36. Williams layup. 54-36. Steal by James then turnover. Travel on Spain. Defended by James. 15th turnover, at least. Timeout. 3 minutes left in half. Foul on Marc Gasol. Paul makes a free throw. And another. 56-36. Garbajosa makes three for Spain. 56-39. 16 turnovers for Spain. Timeout.

Williams misses layup. Steal by Wade. Offensive foul on Wade. Prince fouls Rubio. Makes both. 56-41. Wade to Prince. Prince fouled in the act. Short with first. Makes second. 57-41. Great pass from Rubio to Rudy Fernandez for dunk. 57-43. Paul turnover. Paul rebounds Rubio miss. Paul races past defense. Fouled on drive. Boozer on for Prince. Paul makes two. 59-43. James rebounds a miss. Misses three. Less than 1 minute left in first half. Spain goes to line. Makes two. Boozer misses. Fernandez misses. Boozer scores on second rebound just before buzzer. 61-45. Spain shot too early; allowed extra time for US to score. Halftime. Shower time.

Great half by James. 14 points, 4 steals, 3 assists. Too many fouls and turnovers for US. Second half starts with a US flurry. Lead balloons to 72-48. Last bucket is layup by Jason Kidd, heretofore scoreless and without a shot in the tournament. Talk is that Spain will "experiment" for the rest of this game. Marc Gasol makes 72-52. Bryant misses three. Dishwasher empty. Kitchen clean. Back to the ballgame. Score is 86-63 after Bosh dunk from James. End of third quarter.

Paul hits jumper. 88-63. Turnover by Spain. Wade dunks. 90-63. Wade follows own miss. 92-66. Turnover by Wade. He takes a seat. Prince steals. Kobe misses. Howard misses layup. Lob to Gasol. 92-68. Williams misses layup. 3 for Spain. 92-71. Timeout US. Howard makes and gets fouled. Makes free throw. 98-71. Rebound and outlet pass. Redd makes and gets fouled. 100-71. Misses free throw. Turnover for Spain. US still playing defense. Williams deflects pass OB. Paul lobs to Howard. 102-71. 4 minutes left. Boozer in for Howard. Williams drives and scores on reverse. 104-71. Bleak second half for Spain. 12-0 run for US after they already had 21 point lead. Ten 3-pointers for US today. US-Germany on Monday. Last game of pool play. Pao dunks. Great pass to Williams for layup. Steal, Paul to Williams 108-73. Three for Spain. Lookaway pass from Paul to Redd for dunk. No D from Spain. 110-76. All US players have scored. Prince three. 113-76. Spain putback. 113-78. Boozer fouled on shot. US women's team in attendance. Boozer makes one. 114-78. Bad game for Calderon. He makes two free throws. 114-80. James to Boozer for layup. 116-80. Eight assists for James. Spain layup. Paul to Prince for three. 119-82. Prince misses three. Spain misses last three. Game over. Yikes. 58% shooting from field. 28 Spain turnovers.

Men's indoor cycling (pursuit) is next. NBC shows nice human interest story about US rider Taylor Phinney, whose father (a former Olympic cyclin medalist) is recovering from Parkinson's Disease. Unfortunately, Phinney loses his semifinal race to New Zealander Hayden Roulston, who apparently was not shown the video segment. Roulston, dressed in villainous black, has a medical condition all his own, some lengthy syndrome that means shortness of breath--very unfortunate for a competitive bicyclist. Roulston's opponent in the final is Brit Bradley Wiggins. I'm guessing he'll show no mercy for Roulston's medical condition. Of course, Wiggins has his own medical condition story (now healed). He was sick during the British qualifying for the Olympics. Wiggins leads slightly about halfway thru the race. Wiggins now 0.2 seconds ahead. Now 0.7. Now 1.2. Now 2.0. Looks like Wiggins will win. 2.4. Lap by lap, his lead grows. Again 2.4. Just one lap to go. Wiggins wins by 2.7 second. Gold medal for Bradley Wiggins. Repeats his 2004 triumph.

Now women's badminton. Both players from China. One set each. Zhang leads Xie 13-6. Announcer Jim C. has highlight. Describes shuttlecock as "landing like a butterfly with sore feet." He had to think that one up in advance. Xie coming back. 13-9. Just long 13-10. Great rally, Zhang's shot hits net and comes back. 31 shots on that rally. Commercial.

Back from commercial. Xie bunts into net. 20-17 Zhang. Gold medal point #1. Zhang won in Athens. Xie saves it. 20-18. Gold medal point #2. Xie was #1 seed. Xie hits into next. Zhang wins gold. Shots low and close to net are most dangerous.

Women's single sculls next. Favorites are from Bulgaria, Belarus and China. Spectators cycle alongside the course. Maybe those are the coaches. Czech Republic leads. Announcers nightmare - Czech, Bulgaria, Belarus--though Karsten is pretty easy to say, compared to Knapkova. Great event for a blimp shot. Bulgaria leads over Czech. Now Belarus second. I can't keep up with the history, but one competitor beat another by 0.01 seconds in 2000. American Guerrette in second. Very surprising. Bulgarian Neykova gets gold. Guerrette gets silver. Belarus Karsten gets bronze.

I missed men's single sculls. Now showing men's double sculls. We are rooting for American team, the Winklevosses - great name, but they are well behind. Canada and Australia lead the race. Aussies lead. Winklevosses about 20 seconds back. But they're OK; got a big settlement from Facebook in a legal case. They finished 30 seconds behind the leaders and 18 seconds behind fifth place South Africa. Australia wins gold; Canada silver; New Zealand gets bronze. One of their rowers is named Twaddle. Kallie notes that both Winklevoss and Twaddle sound like names out of a Harry Potter book.

Now women's double sculls. New Zealand and China are favorites. US in finals, but not favored. Each paddler has two oars, unlike the men's race. Not sure what that's about. Kallie thinks its sculling vs. rowing. China and Germany in front. New Zealand and Great Britain next. Now Germany leads. New Zealand inching into second. Germany about half-boat ahead of New Zealand. Great Britain in third. Best closers. Kiwis now very close to Germans. New Zealand wins gold by 0.01 second, on last stroke. Germany second. Great Britain third.

I missed a men's fours rowing race while making lunch. Men's water polo on now. US vs. Croatia. Probably a pool game (well, obviously that) rather than medal round. Croatia is world's top-ranked team and defending gold medalist, but US leads 6-4 with 4 minutes left. US just scored after Croatia cut the margin to one goal. 3:30 left. Upset of "epic"proportions in store. "Epic" is favorite word of this Olympics, led by Phelps' seven gold medal. Now 3 minutes to go. US could advance to medal round. Last won Olympic medal in 1988. "Titanic" upset. Penalty on US. Croatia scores. 6-5. Four of five Croatia goals on power play. 2 minutes left. No goal; foul on Croatia. Power play for US. Needs a goal here. Into center and a goal! 7-5, US. Beautiful pass. Croatian defender unhappy. 1:30 left. Offensive foul on Croatia. 70 seconds left. Offensive foul on US. 50 seconds. Croatia timeout. 41 seconds left. Power play for Croatia. US steals. They'll win! Final score, 7-5 USA.

Women's trampoline next. This optional round takes 16 competitors down to 8. Jumping inside the box is important. American Erin Blanchard didn't do it very well and probably won't qualify for final round.

What did we do before Car Wars and the breakfast chicken sandwich at McDonalds?

Great work by Chinese performer until she fell. Not sure what happened. Only 59 points total, not in top eight.

Romanian trampolinist (?) next. She stays suspended in air while HD transmission is interrupted. She'll be off the air before coverage returns. She's Canadian when NBC comes back. Nice score for her. Places fourth. Guarantees her the medal round.

Men's trampoline next. Fabulous performance by China's Dong Dong - 71 points overall. Difficulty of 16.2. Looked like a demo tape of how to score high on trampoline.

Ukraine next. He ends up with almost 71 points. Lost a little height during his 10 skills. Will qualify for finals.

Lu Chunlong of China next. Everything dead center. Again lost a little height from beginning to end, but that doesn't seem too important. He finishes first; teammate second. US competitor didn't make the finals

Great story from reporter Jimmy Roberts about ping pong diplomacy in the early '70s. A chance meeting between US player Jimmy Cowan and the then Chinese world champion sparked a change in Chinese foreign policy, which for 21 years had cut the country off entirely from the US. Later the US table tennis team was invited to China as honored guests to play a match. Shortly thereafter President Nixon visited China, perhaps the high point of his presidency. Thiry-six years later a modernized China hosts the world in the Beijing Olympics.

Ever more men's beach volleyball. Gibb and Rosenthal play a Spanish team. The Spaniards lead 17-16 in first set. Now tied at 17. Now tied at 19. Americans save a set point. Then Spain saves one. 21-21. Gibb kills. 22-21. Rosenthal bunts wide. Surprising he didn't kill to open court. Kills next one. Now 23-22. Kill by Spain. Gibb kills. 24-23. Gibb's middle name is Spiker (mom's maiden name). Mesa kills for Spain. 24-all. Service error by Spain. 5th set point for US. Gibb wins joust. Ball falls on Spain side. 26-24. Great dig by Rosenthal.

This is a knockout round. 16 teams started the round. Second set tied at 4. Nice bunt by Mesa. 5-4 Spain. Gibb kills. 5-5. Rosenthal digs one Mesa spike. Next one lands clean. 6-5 Spain. Rosenthal kills 6-6. Now tied at 7. Commercial.

Took a nap there. Live blogging the Olympics can be tiring. Will look up who won the beach volleyball match.

7:50 p.m. - Been watching women's marathon for awhile. Now NBC is showing the men's 100-meter semifinals on tape. Dix and Bolt are featured runners. Dix is 5-time NCAA champ. Bolt runs 9.85 into a slight headwind. Again looking around, as he did in 9.92 second prelim yesterday. He's a 200-meter specialist, but he figured out 100-meter pretty quickly. Analyst is upset - Bolt just jogged 0.01 better than his personal best.

Back to live coverage of women's marathon. Romanian is running about 50 meters ahead about an hour from the finish. There's a large pack of about 30 runners behind her.

Second men's 100-meter semifinal. American Tyson Gay in this one. Nursing sore hamstring. Asafa Powell also in this heat. Powell was former world recordholder. Powell wins and Gay finishes fifth, out of the final. Gay says he was 100%, but "not his day." Dix and Patton will represent US in final.

Constanina Tomescu Dita (had to look up that spelling) of Romania is 34 seconds ahead in the women's marathon. Now by 50 seconds. Stadium is almost full just to see finish of marathon in about 50 minutes. Only event of morning track session. Ran her last mile in 5:16. Will see if she crashes and burns near the end. Has had trouble finishing long races. Still eight miles to go. 55 seconds ahead. Tomescu Dita is 38 years old. Now 57 seconds ahead. Seems to be struggling a little more. Chase pack has spread out a little. Just five runners in lead group. Now eight in second pack. Includes two runners from China.

Tomescu Dita not looking to see how far the other runners are behind. Runners are coached not too look back. Good analysis about how she might get a clue about her lead - a quick look on a turn; listening for crowd reaction--though the crowd is well off the race course--on the other side of the wide boulevard with a median in between.

Tomescu Dita still leads by almost one minute. Less than six miles to go. 52 seconds. Analysts say that chase pack needs to work more together. Hazy cool morning in Beijing. Sight of Birdsnest will give leader a shot of adrenalin. Race now 2:06 hours old.

Now 2:10. Took a peek at 2:09. Now 1 minute ahead. 2:14. To commercial for Olympics soundtrack. Now AT&T - almost as familiar as McDonalds and Car Wars. The merger commercial is cute.

Just one mile to go. 2:17. Tomescu Dita still 1 minute ahead. Sure gold barring total collapse. Two China and two Kenya are in contention for silver and bronze. Less than one mile. Tomescu makes hairpin turn on way to Birdsnest entrance. Kenya and China battling for silver. Kenya leads. Tomescu Dita wins gold in 2:26.44. Kenya and China in a sprint for silver. Kenya's Ndereba gets silver. China's Zhou gets bronze. About 30 seconds behind. Tomescu taking victory lap. Oldest ever winner of women's marathon. World recordholder Paula Radcliffe is struggling to finish. In obvious pain.

Back to pool. Former British PM Tony Blair in attendance. Women's 50-meter freestyle. All eyes on US's Dara Torres. 41-years-old. Already oldest women to win Olympic gold at 33 in 2000. Aussies Cate Campbell and Libby Trickett are threats. Campbell is 16. Britta Steffen of Germany outtouches Torres by 0.01 for gold. Campbell third. Winning time 24.06. Steffen wins both 100-meter an 50-meter sprints. Like Phelps last race, Steffen won with her last stroke. Was behind the whole way. I thought that race was between Torres and Campbell, which Torres won.

Men's 1500-meter freestyle next. Australian Grant Hackett going for third consecutive Olympic gold in this event. Larsen Jensen is lone America. Ous Mellouli from Tunisia in Lane 7. Our favorite name. Hackett hasn't lost this race in 11 years. Ous, Hackett and Cochran are right together. Ous about a body ahead with 350-meters left. Still Mellouli at 300-meters. Mellouli still ahead at 200-meters. Now more than a body length. Hackett second. Mellouli still ahead 1.4 seconds with 100 meters to go. Hackett thrashing. Now 0.7 ahead. Hackett pulling hard. First-ever swimming medal for Tunisia, gold won by Ous Mellouli. 14:48. Hackett second for silver. Canada's Cochran wins bronze. Last individual gold of 2008 Olympic swim meet.

Men's 4 x 100 - medley relay with Phelps will end all Olympic swimming for this year. Women will race 4 x 100 medley relay first. Lezak should have lead going into the men's freestyle leg. Torres will swim anchor leg for US women in the relay. Torres goes straight from her medal ceremony to the ready room for the relay.

Women's 4 x 100 medley relay next. Australia heavily favored - Seebohm, Jones, Schipper, Trickett. US sends Coughlin, Soni, Magnuson and Torres, all medal winners. Coughlin and Soni are US best. Several contenders for bronze. Coughlin with lead after 50. Stretching it out. Soni in pool. Very close for first. Jones catching up. Russia leading. Jones staying with the Russian. Soni very close. All ahead of world record pace. Schipper and Magnuson in fly leg. Schipper ahead by about a body. Two-team race. Maybe one. Trickett vs. Torres at end. Torres making up ground. Half body length left. Now falling back. Australia wins gold in WR time of 3:52.69. Silver for US in 3:53.30, an American record. Great swimming but Australia just too good. Jones won this race for Australia. 1:04 for the breaststroke. Sweden DQ'd for false start. Australia wins gold. China wins bronze. Coughlin medalled in all six events. Great interview by Andrea Kramer with American women. They were pleased with their performance and gracious about the faster Australians.

Men's 400-meter medley is next. Chance for Michael Phelps to get his eighth gold medal. US favored, but total best times are close. Likely that freestyle anchor Jason Lezak will have to hold off Aussie Eamon Sullivan for the gold.

US team is Peirsol, Hansen, Phelps and Lezak. Aussies counter with Stoeckel, Rickard, Lautersetin and Sullivan. Rest of field will swim for bronze.

Stoeckel trying to stay close to Peirsol. Peirsol wins backstroke. 53.16. Hansen hanging on in breaststroke. Japan moving up, but should fall back. Phelps in pool now. Lauterstein going stroke for stroke with Phelps. Now Phelps ahead. Japan second. Lezak has a body length. Phelps 50.1. Lezak holds on for gold. 3:29.34. New world record. Australia wins silver. Eighth gold medal and seventh world record for Phelps. Japan wins bronze.
US has never lost this race in the Olympics. Lezak says he was inspired by LeBron and Kobe in the stands and couldn't let them down. A "Phelpsian feat." per Aaron Peirsol.

Ravens' fans go wild watching Phelps swim on big screen. They were in Ravens Stadium for an exhibition football game. Costas points out that eight gold medals fits with 8.8.08 0800 starting time for these games.
Men's 100-meter final next on tape. Jamaicans Usain "Lightning" Bolt and Asafa Powell are favored. Bolt broke world record for 100 meters in his second try. Powell and Bolt have seven of top ten times at 100 meters.

Runners on track. Ms. Bolt is jamming in the stands. Walter Dix is US Olympian in 100-meter and 200-meter. Third Jamaican in Lane 2; Doc Patten of US in Lane 3; Bolt in Lane 4; Thompson from Trinidad & Tobago in Lane 5; Dix in Lane 6; Powell in Lane 7 - only repeat performer from 2004 Olympics; Burns from T&T in Lane 8; Martina from Netherland Antilles in Lane 9.

Bolt wins in new world record 9.69 seconds. Spread wings for the last 20 meters when he realized that no one would challenge him. How fast would he have run if pressed? Ms. Bolt hugging every one in sight. Bolt poses with Jamaican flag and gold shoes. Thompson second and Dix third. Thompson is VERY HAPPY! Laying on the track. Powell very glum. Another non-medal run. After Honorable Mention yesterday, Bolt wins Michael Phelps Award for Saturday.

Bolt happy with the victory, not worried about time. Dix has understatement of the night about Bolt, "That guy can run."

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