Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Beijing Olympics - Day Twelve - Steiner and Shawn Both Golden

8:00 p.m. - Men's soccer on MSNBC; women's basketball on USA. US beats South Korea 104-60. Korea with no answer for Sylvia Fowles. She scores 26 and pulls down 14 rebounds. US plays Russia in semifinals. China vs. Australia in other semi. Winners play for gold; losers play for bronze.

Men's soccer match is between Brazil and Argentina - global heavyweights in semifinal. Winner plays Nigeria for gold medal. No score after 30 minutes of play. Argentina has free kick. Blocked by Brazil.

Back to USA for men's 2-man canoe. This looks like very hard work. Appears to be a pure sprint. 500-meter heat. Photo finish between Russia and China. China wins, but Russia and others advance.

Now the men's triathlon. No heats in this one. Swim 1.5 km; bike 40 km; run 10km. Winning time will be under 2 hours. Swimming takes place in a reservoir. Swimmers pass first turn buoy at 600 meters. New Zealander in first. Entire field around the buoy.

First guy gets out of the water at 17:50. Shane Reed of New Zealand. Bike ride should take almost an hour. Remarkable how tight the pack is after that long swim. Two bikers trying to break away, but not very far ahead. One of the US competitors goes to the wrong bike, but corrects himself - still lost a couple of seconds. Pack caught up to breakaway riders.

Competitors are well marked. Along with the decal on their helmets, they have their number inked on both upper arms and both thighs.

Another breakaway attempt accomplishes nothing. Almost the whole field is within a few seconds in the bicycling pack. Analyst says that drafting in the pack saves up to 20% of energy.

Alistair Brownlee of Great Britain is latest breakaway rider. Has a slight lead. Now a new leader. No one really trying to break lose from the field. A small group of about eight riders is lagging.

Now a group of three leads the way - Mexico, Belgium and Luxembourg are ahead by about 25 seconds. Still almost two laps of six left on the bike. Front group not rotating the lead very often. Analyst says they should rotate more often.

Two brothers racing - Shane Reed for New Zealand; Matthew Reed for US. Lead pack now has 35 second lead. Analyst says they need two minutes. Haven't seen the triathlon god Javier Gomez of Spain. Buried in chase group, but apparently he is the best runner in the field. Conceivable he could be more than 35 seconds ahead of the lead bikers.

Front group now out by 45 seconds. Race is in last lap of biking. Mexico fallen away from the lead pack a little. Just Luxembourg and Belgium in front. Analyst mentions need to create a little space for the transition to running. Having 30 or 40 bikers show up at once can get very hectic. Five or ten seconds can make a lot of difference.

First two are now running. Have 1:16 lead. Luxembourg in lead. Belgium second. Now the main group comes in about 55 seconds behind. Hunter Kemper of US and Brownlee are in front of big chase pack. Gomez in view. Moving up in chase pack. Belgium on heels of Luxembourg.

Belgium on top now. First lap about over. Analyst says that big guys are disadvantaged in the heat. Leaders now only 20 seconds ahead. Lead guys probably won't hold on at this rate. Brownlee and two Spaniards (Rana and Gomez) are in front of chase pack. Runners stretched out now. Looks like early leaders won't lead by end of second lap. Gomez moving up. Pack has caught leaders. Henning of Denmark and Brownlee in the lead. Early leaders dropped back quickly. Gomez and Rana are third and fourth.

Lead pack of nine runners now lead by Rana and Gomez. Brownlee third. Rana looks very smooth. Run about halfway over. Docherty of New Zealand now among the leaders. These four running together. Frodeno of Germany now joins group. Whitfield of Canada close behind. Lead group now numbers six. Brownlee in front. Analyst says that Gomez needs to get a lead because he's not a strong sprinter. Gomez now in lead. Frodeno second. Brownlee dropped from lead pack. Rana might be losing touch. One lap to go. 1:41. Whitfield won gold in 2000. Analyst seems to like Docherty. Whitfield has strong finishing kick. Gomez picking up pace.

Had a phone call - race finished in meantime - surprising gold medal winner was Jan Frodeno of Germany in a powerful sprint. Whitfield sprinted first then held on for silver. Docherty won bronze as Gomez fell back for fourth.

Argentina and Nigeria will play for gold in soccer.

Men's superheavyweight weightlifting next. MSNBC has this one. Latvian Scerbatish snatches 206 kg. Ukrainian Udachyn going for 207 kg. He's got it. Amazing. Steiner of Germany going for 207 kg. Competition combines snatch and clean and jerk. Scary. Bar tried to land on his head, but he got out of the way just in time. Chigishev of Russia going for 210 kg. Huge effort. He gets it airborne. Leader going into clean and jerk. 210 kg is 462 lb. I wish they'd relate this to an appliance.

Clean and jerk involves taking weight to chest/shoulders ("clean") and jerking it above head. Udachyn missed his third attempt. Latvian going for 242 kg. Cleans easily. Jerk OK. Total 448 kg. Udachyn drops to third. Steiner next. 246 kg (541 lb). Had it overhead for quite awhile. Couldn't get feet under control, a requirement for a completed lift. Almost threw it off the lifting platform.

Chigeshev going for 247 kg. Already the leader based on previous lift. Now destroying the competition. 8 kg ahead. Steiner missed 246 kg. Going for 248 kg. Silver medal lift. One excited German. Now in second. Still 6 kg behind the Russian. Chigeshev gets 250 kg. Scerbatihs going for amazing 257 kg. Cleaned well. Couldn't jerk. Still in third. Steiner going for 258 kg and gold. Gets the clean. And the jerk. Unbelievable! 258 kg. Going completely nuts. Total 461 kg. Gold medal for Germany's Matthias Steiner. Lost wife in car accident in 2007. One of most emotional victory outbursts. Steiner an early candidate for Tuesday Phelps Award along with countrymen triathlete Jan Frodeno.

China vs. Russia in quarterfinal women's volleyball. Rematch of 2004 gold medal match, won by China. Russia leads 9-7 in first set.

Had to do a little printing work there. China rallied to win the first set. Russia was set up to even the match, leading 24-22 in the second set before collapsing to lose 26-24. Russian women are among the tallest I've ever seen, even on US basketball team. They have two that are at least 6'8" -- mostly legs. Better teamwork, discipline and athleticism seem to be the margin for China. Russia is coached by an Italian--he has a translator to talk to his team. His predecessor, "the howling bear", yelled directly at them in Russian. Might make a difference. Russia up 16-14 in third set. Stuff block by China. 16-15. Another stuff block. Tied at 16. Russian kill from backline. 17-16 Russia. China kill by Wang Y.M. Tied at 17. Hit out by Russia. Had 13 errors in second set. China 18-17. Hit into net. 19-17.

Russia self-destruction continues. Now 24-19. Stuff block by China. They win 25-19 and 3-0. Sad match for Russia. Analyst calling for Russian coach to get pink slip.

Women's water polo semifinal next. Hungary vs. The Netherlands. Dutch are surprise team of tournament. Winner plays US for gold. Scored tied 2-2 in 2nd quarter.

Now in 4th quarter with just 2 minutes left. Netherlands holding on 8-7. Netherlands went only 1-2 in pool play, then upset Italy in quarterfinals. Used to dominate women's water polo but have slumped in last two Olympics. 1:30 left. Netherlands possession. Hungary undefeated coming in. Shot clock turnover to Hungary. 1 minute left. Good defense by Netherlands. No shot for Hungary. Foul against Hungary. Power play Hungary with just 22 seconds left. Strange ending. No defense by Hungary. Netherlands wins! Will play US in final on Thursday. Netherlands didn't qualify for Athens Olympics.

Pool round baseball between US and Taiwan (Chinese Taipei in Beijing-speak). No score in 4th inning. US batting in home half. Do you ever tire of my "Who is John Gall?" line. He flies out to right. Two outs. Lou Marson singles to right. Injured Yankee starter Chien-Ming Wang is from Taiwan. Marson is Phillies farmhand--a catcher. Could see some time with big club after Olympics with Ruiz struggling and Coste at age 33. Fly ball to center by next batter. US is 3-2 in pool play. Two games left--one each vs. Taiwan and Japan.

Taiwan leadoff hitter doubles into left field corner. Only second hit allowed by US pitcher. Good bunt moves runner to third. #9 hitter in RBI position. Grounder gets thru glove of 1B Matt Brown. Playing in. Couldn't make the play. Taiwan leads 1-0. Runner reaches first. US gets out without further damage. One run strategy works out for Taiwan.

Today's Marketing Question - whom do you like more (or dislike less), the Geiko caveman or gecko? I'm a gecko guy.

Triple off the right field wall for Dexter Fowler. Makes third easily despite admiring the shot for a couple of steps. US win gets them to the semifinal round. South Korea, Cuba and Japan already in. Barden plugs ball at base of right center field wall. Ties game at 1. He gets a double. Pitching change for Taiwan. Hsu out.

No pitching change. Defensive change. Announcers still trying to figure out who. Disadvantage of broadcasting from a remote studio. Fly to center. No advance. Strong throw to third. 1B Matt Brown next. Check swing strike out. DH Terry Tiffee next. Hitting .500. Taiwan down one player due to suspension for use of fertility drug. US has two injured subs. Backup catcher only non-pitcher on the bench. Tiffee walks on four pitches. US on 2nd and 1st with two outs.

Mike Hessman next. The living Crash Davis. 286 lifetime minor league home runs. Skied to center. Three outs. Tied 1-1 after five innings.

Man on second (double) and one out for Taiwan. Grounder to third. Runner holds. Two out. Single to right. Runner thrown out at plate by RF Schiurholz (sp?). Perfect throw.

Who is John Gall? Hitter of leadoff home run that gives US 2-1 lead in the home sixth. Pitcher gets careful and walks the next batter.

New pitcher. Sac bunt moves Marson to second. Fowler up next. Slice double down the line. Marson scores. 3-1 US. Fowler not running as hard as he could, but still made second. Barden strikes out. Third out on a grounder.

Leadoff hitter for Taiwan, Lin, homers to deep left. 3-2. Grounder to first. One out. Brandon Knight replaced as US pitcher. Mike Koplove in to pitch. A former Delaware Blue Hen. Good research team for these announcers as they name another half-dozen major leaguers from Delaware. Gets an out. Comebacker for third out. Nice job by Koplove.

Taiwan only 1-4 in Olympics. Lost even to China. Called strike three at knees on Mike Brown. One out for US in 7th. Tiffee grounds to short. Two outs. Called strike three on Hessman. US up 3-2 going into top of 8th.

US won gold medal in 2000. Didn't qualify for 2004 Olympics. Fowler tracks down a drive in right center. One out. Grounder to second. Two outs. Ben Sheets and Roy Oswalt led 2000 Olympians. o-2 to next batter. Now 2-2. Swinging strike out. Koplove retires all five batters he faces.

Gall doubles over the rightfielder's head. Marson up now. Swing favors current Phillies catcher Chris Coste. Count 2-2. Swings behind a pitch. One out. Trying to hit to right.

127 km per hour sounds fast, but is only 79 mph. Pitcher moves the ball around well. Donald singles to right. Gall scores. 4-2. Great piece of hitting and important run. Fowler next. Single, double, triple so far. New pitcher.

Next pitcher throws much harder - 147 km/hr. Donald steals second on strike two. Count 3 and 2 to Fowler. Missed low. Walk. Runners on first and second. Barden next. 1 and 2 count. Big fastball and big swing. Barden fans for fourth time. Did have an RBI double. Schierholtz next. Pop lands foul down left side. Swing and miss. Ends inning. One for US makes score 4-2. US needs three outs to get to medal round (without Taiwan scoring at least two runs).

Kevin Jepsen on for ninth inning. 154 kph on first pitch. Throws it past the batter. 0 and 2. Swing for strike three. Pitches in Angels organization. 23-years old. Looks like a great prospect. 0 and 2 to next batter. One hopper to third. Two outs. Lin up next. Has 2B and HR. Strike one. Maybe a different Lin. This guy is the SS. Other Lin was DH. Obviously, I'm not keeping a scorecard. Breaking ball low. After eight straight fast strikes. Fastball outside. 2 and 2. Fouled off to stands in right. Grounder to second. Game over. US wins 4-2! Joins Japan, Cuba and South Korea in semifinals.

3:15 a.m. Staying up far too late after an 8 hour car trip from Baton Rouge to Houston, but it's worth it to see Shawn Johnson win the gold medal in the balance beam final. Nastia Liukin finished second. Both routines were essentially flawless, Liukin's perhaps a little moreso, but Johnson's had higher difficulty, winning her the gold medal by 0.2.

On the track the results were more disappointing for favored American women. 400-meter favorite Sanya Richards cramped at the top of the stretch and finished third. 100-meter high hurdle favorite Lolo Jones was leading the race when she hit the ninth hurdle and finished seventh. Her postrace interview was gracious--she admitted that she messes up about twice a year, unfortunately one mess up in 2008 was in the Olympic final. Jones expected place at the top of the podium was taken by fellow American Dawn Harper, who couldn't quite believe the standings when she looked up at the scoreboard. She ran hard and took to heart her idol, Jackie Joyner-Kersee's, advice that anything can happen in one race.

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