Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Beijing Olympics - Day Six - Who Is John Gall?

8:50 p.m. - Back from choir practice. Missed men's synchronized diving, but got back in time to watch May-Trainor/Walsh complete dismantlement of a Norwegian team in women's beach volleyball.

Replay of Phelps' IM heat from last night. Phelps in second after 3 legs, but wins in 1:58.65. Semifinal happens tonight, along with other medal races for other swimmers.

Men's 200-meter breaststroke medal race. Kitajima from Japan is right on world record. 2:07.64 for gold medal, just 0.13 off his own world record.

A semifinal race. Maybe women's 100-meter freestyle. Coughlin wins. Libby Trickett of Australia on the bubble to make the finals. Great heat. Five beat Trickett, but Pang from China is DQ'd for false start. Trickett sneaks into final as 8th seed.

Men's 100-meter backstroke semifinal next. Aaron Peirsol in first race; Ryan Lochte in second. Race for gold appears to be between these two. Peirsol on 100-meter and 200-meter backstroke gold in 2004. Won 100-meter backstroke in Beijing. Peirsol wins in 1:55.26. He's happy with the race. Lochte in second semifinal. Rogan of Austria his main rival. Lochte wins in 1:55.40. Will swim next to Peirsol in final.

Women's 200-meter butterfly breaststroke is next. Schipper of Australia is the favorite. Two Chinese girls in the field. Schipper leads after one length. Liu of China takes lead after 3 lengths. China goes one/two, both break world record--Liu then Jiao. Highlight of Olympic swimming for the host country. US was 7th and 8th. Schipper gets the bronze.

Men's 100-meter freestyle final next. Lezak, Bernard (FRA) and Sullivan (AUS) are featured swimmers. Sullivan is world record holder. Lezak of course anchored US relay. Van den Hoogenband is from Netherlands. Bernard nips Sullivan for gold. Lezak ties Brazilian for bronze. Nice moments for Bernard and Lezak. Redemption for Bernard. First-ever individual medal for Lezak. Time just over WR at 47.21.

Men's all-around gymnastics final is next. Should be tense, though Chinese men will be tough. Jonathan Horton of US could be a threat. Yang Wei of China is man to beat - has the most difficulty points. Artemev will compete for US. Pretty good routine--solid. Uchimura of Japan has great floor ex routine. 15.825.

200-meter IM semifinal next. Phelps in this one. Hasn't lost this race since he started swimming it. Scary. Cseh from Hungary is strongest competitor. Phelps reaches the front during breaststroke. He wins in 1:57.70. Cseh second.

Ryan Lochte in next 200-IM semi. Lochte leads after three legs. Wins in 1:57.69. He'll swim in Lane 4 of final. Phelps in Lane 5.

Back to men's gymnastics all-around. German scores 15.825 on floor. Yang Wei on floor. One bobble, but a good finish. 15.25. Horton starts on pommel horse. Makes mistake early. Gets 13.675.

Back to swimming. Relay race - women's 4 x 200 meter freestyle. Australia first during first leg. Australia still in lead on second leg. Australia still leads in third leg, but race is tightening. Australia way ahead of gold medal pace. Leading big. China second. US third. China closing a little, but Australia looks safe. Maybe not. China fighting with US for silver. Australia, China, US in that order. France out of medals. Aussie girls going nuts. World record by a lot--more than 5 seconds.

Lots of gymnastics yet. Horton did better on vault. Improved to 14th place. Yang Wei still looks like favorite. Haven't seen overall standings. Japanese Tomito lost handle on one ring just before dismount--free fell to ground with sideways spin. Only got 13.85.

Korean Yang-Tei Yung in first. Yang Wei in second. Artemev 12th. Korean finished second in 2004, but did poorly in team competition.

Horton did OK on parallel bars, but missed the landing a bit. 15.275. Good vault for Tomito. 15.7. Good vault for Uchimura. Korean guy does sprint after vault landing. Still gets 15.625. Great bar routine for Artemev. Super landing. 15.075. Nice job by Yang-Tei on high bar. 14.75.

Horton on high bar. He's 12th; Artemev 14th. Great routine. Step on landing. Yang Wei on p-bars. Big step on landing. He's still cruising toward gold. Will finish on high bar. 15.35 for Horton on horizontal bar--no medal for Horton. Yang Wei gets 16.1.

Overall this competition has been anticlimactic. Too many mistakes. No drama about Yang Wei winning the gold medal. He's 2.5 ahead going into last rotation.

Great horse routine by Artemev. Should have a chance to medal in event final. 15.525--great score. One of US's best tonite.

Yang-Tei from Korea is next. Trying to hold onto silver medal. One big error--sat on horse. Has 0.6 to play with. Uchimura on high bar. Three release moves. Sticks the landing. Gets 15.4. Yang-Tei got 13.7. Horton sticks dismount on floor, but is too far back. Hambuchen of Germany flies off bar on release move. Great landing, but way too many mistakes. Yang Wei next. Coronation ahead. Needs 12.2. OK, but not great. Certainly good enough for gold. Uchimura silver and Frenchman Benoit Caranobe bronze.

9:00 a.m. - I got up early this morning and found women's volleyball on MSNBC. What a match between China and Cuba. China won the first two games (sets) easily. Cuba trailed 15-11 in the third game, but rallied to win by two. The fourth game was a battle royal with Cuba holding off seven match points before winning 32-30. The fifth game to fifteen points is tied at eight. Now tied at 9-9. Top spikers for Cuba are Calderon and Ruiz with kills from the left size. Cuban block sails OB. China leads 10-9. Service error by China. 10-all. Great kill by China. 11-10. Weak defense by China. Tied at 11. Block off face of Zhang. 12-11 Cuba. Chinese kill ties the match at 12. Kill by Calderon gives Cuba 13-12 lead. She can jump to the sky and hit to the openings. Chinese kill ties game at 13. 24th kill for that player. Serve way long. Cuba has match point, leading 14-13. Middle set and kill for Cuba. They win 15-13 and take the match. Stunning loss for China.

Greco-Roman wrestling is next. I may channel surf. USA Network is showing soccer highlights. I'll see what they have next. US women's basketball. I'll hang around for that. US plays Mali. Should be a mismatch. Mali lost to Czech Republic by 40; Czechs lost to US by 40. US gets first five points. US starters are Taurasi, Byrd, Leslie, Smith and Thompson. No defense by Mali yet. Recent LSU stars Sylvia Fowles and Seimone Augustus on the US roster. Fowles was a big contributor in their two wins.

Mali guard launches a 3-point heave. It goes in! 7-3. US turnover. Mali jumper from lane. 7-5. Mali turnover. Mali sinks another three to take the lead, 8-7! US calls timeout. US scores to retake lead. Foul on Mali. Leslie to shoot two. Misses first. Makes second. 10-8, US. Mali steps OB. Taurasi drives and scores; gets fouled. 12-8. Three-point play the old-fashioned way. 13-8. Six straight for US. Mali answers 13-10. US turnover. Candace Parker in game for US. Heckuva substitute. Another US turnover. Mali gives it back. Their seventh turnover in first quarter. Catchings scores for US 15-10. Long miss by Mali. Leslie scores. 17-10. Foul on Parker. Fowles and Augustus check in. Free throws for Mali. 17-11. 17-12. Augustus scores. 19-12. Parker can't hold on to a steal. Mali features colored hair - blue and orange. Fowles scores, but foul precedes shot. Misses free throw. Makes second. Scoring 17 per game in 17 minutes. Long pass to Fowles. Layup. 22-12. Major heave short by Mali. Lawson hits jumper. 24-12. Lawson just misses. First quarter ends. 24-12, US.

US continues momentum in second quarter. Up 34-15. Backdoor pass gets bucket for Mali. Now 38-17. Byrd makes another. 40-17. Now 44-19 after next Mali basket. Now 46-19. Mali's first-ever Olympics. Mali sinks three. Byrd answers. 49-22. Mali banked three. 49-25. Another long lefty three. 49-28. Pondexter gets two. Long three at buzzer just misses. 51-28 at halftime.

US men's soccer was eliminated by Nigeria. US women's softball won a second straight no-hitter.

More of same in second half of women's basketball, without the Mali threes. Now 68-31, US. Fowles in a tie-up under the basket. Ball goes to Mali. Turnover. Parker fouled. Will shoot two. Augustus back in. Makes both. 70-31. Turnover and Parker basket 72-31. Hard to call off the dogs. US has super talent down to the last player on the bench. Parker fouls Mali shooter. Nice upper body on Dwight Howard. He's in stands in a sleeveless T-shirt. Like a giant gymnast. Both free throws missed. Seimone gets a layup. 74-31. Next Mali shot short. Rebound tipped OB. 23-3 in 3rd quarter. Mali makes two free throws. 76-33 after three quarters. Defensive problems solved as Mali scores only five in that quarter.

Will check over on NBC. Night women's beach volleyball with Walsh and May-Treanor. Other than Phelps, they appear to be the American darlings of the games so far. Shawn Johnson will compete for this title if she wins gymnastics all-around. Not Walsh/May in this one. Second US team of Branagh and Youngs is playing a Cuban team. The US team won the first game.
Back to women's basketball. Mali gets behind the US defense. Gets a layup. 81-37. Mali rebounds a missed free throw, but misses the shot. Pondexter makes three. 84-38. Augustus and Fowles on the floor. Sylvia gets a rebound. Mali scores on a driving layup. 84-40. Carrying turnover on Mali. Lawson drains a three. 87-40. Another Mali turnover. Four minutes to go. Seimone rips a jumper. 89-40. Another Seimone jumper. 91-40. Three minutes to go. Pondexter gets a layup. Foul on three point shot. Three free throws for Mali. Makes one of three. 91-41. Pondexter scores again. 95-41. Seimone this time. 97-41. 29 turnovers for Mali. Mali dribbles out the clock. Fewest points ever scored against USA women in Olympic play. 28th straight Olympic win for US.

Branagh/Youngs beat the Cuban team in women's beach volleyball 15-12 in 3rd game. Cubans won the second game handily, but couldn't win the match.

We're watching a men's 200-meter backstroke heat. Favorite is American Aaron Peirsol. Piersol has best time 1:56.25. Still three more heats and semifinals to go. Ryan Lochte is in next heat. Announcers say he is best US swimmer behind Phelps and Peirsol. Most versatile. Lochte posts best time so far. Later this evening he'll have 25 minutes between races if he qualifies for both finals in 200-meter backstroke and 200-meter IM, facing Peirsol and Phelps in the respective races. US is #1 and #2 going into semifinals of 200-meter backstroke.

Rebecca Soni of US now swimming in women's 200-meter breaststroke heat. Sets new Olympic record of 2:22.17, also new individual record and American record. Wins heat by 2+ seconds. Could give Leisel Jones a run for the gold. Jones in next heat. Norwegian even with Jones after 50 meters. Now Jones ahead. Jones leads after 100-meter. Best interim time. Jones off world record time, but easily into semifinal. 2:23.81, a little behind Soni. Amanda Beard of US doesn't qualify for semifinals. She was 2004 gold medalist in this event.

Men's 200-IM heats now. Interesting story about Phelps in 200-meter butterfly. His goggles leaked as soon as he got in the pool, impairing his vision throughout the race.

There was some more swimming while I worked on fixing my camera. Now it's US-Italy women's water polo. Score tied at 4. Go girls! I'm going to fix lunch. Game ended in a 9-9 tie. Moral victory for underdog Italians, particularly since they trailed with just 24 seconds to play.

NBC finishes for the morning. Over to MSNBC for baseball. US vs. Korea. Korea leads 6-4 in top of 6th. US team composed almost entirely of minor leaguers, given that games occurred in middle of major league season. Home run for US in this inning, but they still trail. Strikeout ends the inning. The US didn't compete in 2004.

Great play by US shortstop Jayson Nix retires first Korean batter in the 6th. This is the first game of the tournament for the U.S. Strikeout ends the Korea 6th. Nine pitches. Nothing happening live at this point; it's 3 a.m. in Beijing.

Interesting note on gold medals in Olympic baseball. Became a medal sport in 1992. My memory of 1984 must have been of a demonstration sport. Cuba has won most of the gold medals.

US batter Gall gets a break on a check swing call. Looked like strike three. Strikes out again on next pitch. US batters not picking up ball out of sidearm delivery. Another K. Five in a row.

Things looking up for US in the 9th. Korean closer gives up homer, single, double to first three US hitters, numbers seven thru nine in the order. Runners on second and third and no outs with US still down by 5-6. Catcher Teagarden is on third. We'll see if US manager Davey Johnson inserts a pinch runner. He does.

Who is John Gall? He's the US leadoff man. Batting now. Two quick strikes. A ball. 1-2. Next pitch inside. 2 and 2. Good cut. Fouled back. Nix and Tiffee to follow. Swing and miss at high fastball. One down. Streaks of wins in Olympic openers and in games vs. Korea are at risk. Nix needs to put ball in play. Runner will probably break from third on contact. Oh and two. Some risk of line drive double play. Pop up in infield. Caught by second baseman. Two outs. DH Tiffee is next. Lefty hitter. Righty on deck. Hits in last two ABs. Will pitch very carefully to Tiffee. Way outside. 2 and 0. Again wide. Three and oh. Ball four. Intentional walk in all but name. Matt Brown is next. 1 for 4 with an RBI. Back to the slider. Gets strike one. Swing and miss at low outside slider. Two strikes. Just fouled off a slider. Got one up. Fouled into right field stands. Hangs a slider. Brown fouls it back. Third slider lashed over shortstop for two-run single! US leads 7-6. Great swing by Brown. Pitch was on outer half but he was looking for it. Tiffee takes third. Schierholz batting. Count is two and two. Fly to right. Third out.

Leadoff batter for Korea doubles into the left field corner. No bunt from Korea. Count is 0-2 to next batter. Fouls off a couple. Foul tip gets away from catcher. Another foul. Still oh and two. Grounder to second. Out at first. Runner advances to third with one out. Squeeze bunt popped foul out of reach. Mid-at-bat pinch hitter. First guy got one chance to lay down squeeze bunt. He's gone. Pitch inside. 1 and 1. Slider outside. Two and one. Fastball fouled off. 2 and 2. Now full count. Grounder to second. Throw a little toward first. Runners slides in safe. Batter reaches first on fielder's choice. Head first slide by Korean runner. Game tied 7-7. Pickoff throw gets away. Runner zips to third. Another run wins game for Koreans. Count is two and one. Infield in. High fastball. Swing and miss. Two and two. Fly ball to center. Throw comes in, but runner scores. Korea wins 8-7. Exciting finish. Hideous error by US to put game-winning runner at third.

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