It was odd to watch the seventh heat yesterday morning for the men's 100 meter dash. That was the one in which two-time defending Olympic champion Usain Bolt was competing. It was remarkable. Halfway through, and as everyone else was pumping as hard and as focused as they could, it appeared as if he slowed down to conserve energy, almost and jogged the rest of the way -- literally looking around him to see where the others were -- as he not won easily. And this by a man going for his unprecedented third gold medal. Granted it was just a heat, but was still fascinating to see.
I've been enjoying all the rowing events, even though at times it looks like you're watching boats sitting in the water without much perspective, but there's a beatific sensibility to it all. Today had one of the premiere events, the "women's eight," which is the 2000 meter race with eight rowers. The American women won for the third consecutive Olympics. The coverage has been good, with solid commentary by analyst Mary Whipple. She gives good insight into what's required by the competitors, though when she gets into the meaning of it all, she gets much too florid and without the poetry to have it mean much of anything. Also, good as she is -- when dealing with the specifics of the race -- she has a voice so high-pitched it sounds like Howie Mandel doing his little boy character, 'Bobby.' I don't say that for ad hominen reasons, but when one is an announcer, the voice is one of the tools.
One of my favorite races is the steeplechase. I like long races, since they have so much strategy, but they can be a bit monotonous at various points (though TV these days, at least during the primetime coverage -- another reason to watch during the day... -- generally now cuts away periodically during them), but the steeplechase keeps your interest with obstacles thrown in the way all around the track, whether leaping over hurdles or jumping into water. The women's 3000 meter race was won by Ethopian runner Etenesh Diro, made all the more interesting because she lost a shoe and just kept on.
I'm a big fan of Mo Farrah and Galen Rupp who are training partners for the 10,000 meters race. I first came across them 5-6 years ago, and was impressed by their stories and how such good and supportive friends they are. Farrah runs for Great Britain and won the Olympics four years ago in London, while Rupp finished right before him for the U.S. Because they train so closely, and the Farrah remained the favorite, I figured that it was likely to be the same result this year, with Rupp staying on Farrah's heels and ahead of the pack. Alas, it came close, but Rupp unfortunately faded in the last couple hundred years and finished fifth. But Farrah did again win -- all the more remarkable because he was tripped early in the race (oddly, when he hit brushed again Rupp) and fell, but he was able to quickly get up, and ultimately win.
I've never cared much for water polo. I like soccer, hockey, and field hockey, and water polo is like that, just in the water. But for me, that being "in the world" just doesn't make it interesting for me. The other sports are fun because they're moving forward, racing up-and-down the field. In water polo, there's a lot of bobbing up and down. And yes, I know I should like any sport that has "bobbing" in it, but other than going for apples, this just doesn't cut it for me.
As I mentioned the other day, SNL's Leslie Jones made her first TV appearance here on the late night show. They had a lot of amusing footage of her around at the various events (including doing a sort of cartwheel for legendary gymnastics coach Bela Karolyi), and she sat down for a respectful -- and wildly enthusiastic -- interview with Ryan Seacrest.
And I have to mention Michael Phelps, since he's from another planet. If I had to guess, it would be that this is indeed his last Olympics. I know that some have uncertainty about that, but he looks totally at peace when saying he accomplished all he wanted to do here and wants to move on to another adventure.
Finally, here's another video produced by my friend Clare Duffy. This one centers on Shannon Miller, the winningest Olympic gymnast in U.S. history, and tells her surviving battle against cancer, and what she's doing for others, as well. As always, I can't embed it, but you can find the link here.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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