Saturday, August 30, 2008

Spectacular Beijing Olympics Wrapup - Team Land, Sea and Air Awards

As tough as the competition was for individual Olympic Spectacle Awards, the choices for the team awards were even more difficult.

Best Men's Team Performance, Land Division - There are several great nominees - the Jamaican 4 x 100-meter relay team, which smashed the previous world record for the event by 0.3 seconds; the US "Redeem Team" basketball team, which rolled over the opposition by 30+ points per game before surviving a spirited gold-medal game effort by Spain; the US men's volleyball team, playing with almost the worst imaginable distraction after the father-in-law of coach Hugh McCutcheon was killed by a random attacker while sightseeing in Beijing before the games began; US beach volleyball gold medalists Todd "The Professor" Rogers and Phil "The Thin Beast" Dalhausser; and even the US 4 x 400-meter relay team, which shook off the ignominious baton-passing woes of their 100-meter teammates to win gold and set a world record. And the Spectacle goes to -- (sorry LeBron) -- the US volleyball team for beating a tall and powerful Russian team and the defending Olympic champion Brazilians in the last two rounds to claim the gold medal. Honorable mention to all the other nominees. Apologies to winners of sports such as soccer, team handball and field hockey, all of whom I'm sure are quite worthy, but of whose sports I saw very little.

Best Women's Team Performance, Land Division - My American citizenship (and LSU fandom, as recent Tiger stars Seimone Augustus and Sylvia Fowles both contributed to the team's success) is probably showing here, but the US women's basketball team look like an obvious Spectacle winner in this category. They dominated the field with smothering defense and efficient offense to claim the US's fourth straight gold medal. Team captain Lisa Leslie won her fourth consecutive gold medal and ran her individual game record to 32-0. Honorable mention goes to the US beach volleyball team of Misty May-Trainor and Kerry Walsh, repeat gold medal winners and winners of 108 straight matches; to the 4 x 100-meter Jamaican relay team and to the Brazilian volleyball team, the latter despite my not seeing their gold-medal winning match against the US.

Best Men's Team Performance, Sea Division - I wish I were more up on Olympic boating. If so, you might see some nominations from rowing and yachting. But I watched a lot of swimming and water polo, and as such, my nominees for this award come from those competitions, starting with the US 4 x 100-meter freestyle relay team, who outtouched heavily-favored and cocky France by 0.08 seconds. The US 4 x 100-meter medley relay team also gets a nod for winning gold and smashing the previous world record by more than 2 seconds. Oh yeah, how about the US 4 x 200-meter freestyle relay team that broke 7 minutes, setting a world record and beating the second place Russians by more than 5 seconds. The US water polo team came close to sweeping this category, but fell to nominee Netherlands in the final. The Dutch water polo team eked into the medal round with a 1-2 record but beat world power Hungary and a hot American team in the medal games. No big surprise here - the winner of the Spectacle is the American 4 x 100-meter freestyle relay team for winning as an underdog in possibly the most exciting swimming relay race of all time. The individual swimmers were Michael Phelps, Garrett Weber-Gale, Cullen Jones and 32-year-old Jason Lezak, who for all of the deserved hype about Phelps, may have swum the best single leg of any Olympic swimmer. Honorable mention to all the other nominees.

Best Women's Team Performance, Sea Division - This will definitely require some research, but I'm guessing that Australian swimmers will be in there somewhere. Indeed, Australian swimmers get the call with golds in the 4 x 100-meter medley relay and the 4 x 200-meter freestyle relay and a bronze in the 4 x 100-meter freestyle relay. Let's go with the world-recordsetting Australian 4 x 100-meter medley relay team - Emily Seebohm, Leisel Jones (pictured), Jessicah Schipper and Libby Trickett - for the Spectacle award.

Best Men's Team Performance, Land and Air Division - No doubt about this one as the dominating Chinese men's gymnastics takes the Spectacle award.

Best Women's Team Performance, Land and Air Division - Once again, Chinese gymnastics takes the Spectacle award as both men and women won the team gold medal. These girls not only overcame their competition, but also reports and rumors that some of their key athletes were younger than the minimum age to compete.

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