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Posts Tagged ‘Olympics’

Aug 21, 2016

Top 10 Takeaways from the Rio 2016 Olympic Games

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The flame has been extinguished (and what a cool flame holder it was) on the XXXI Olympiad and man is my sofa worn out. There were plenty of memorable moments, and some that we’d rather all forget. If watching the Olympics was an Olympic sport, I’d be in the hunt for Gold (see photo at bottom). Let’s just say I watched or fast forwarded through almost every moment of broadcast on NBC, NBCSN, USA, MSNBC, and CNBC over the last two weeks. To put a nice bow on it, I’ve collected my thoughts in these Top 10 Takeaways from these Olympic Games.

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10. Goodbye Hope Solo

The US Women’s National Team’s quarterfinal defeat at the hands of eventual Silver-winning Sweden was one of the lowest moments of the games (and biggest upsets as well). That the already controversial goalkeeper Hope Solo immediately called the Swedes “a bunch of cowards” and complained that the best team didn’t win is the worst part of the whole debacle. As if allegedly beating up your family members and picking fights with former USWNT stars wasn’t enough, Solo was booed every single time she touched the ball after posting a photo of herself kitted out in anti-Zika gear before the games. This had to be a distraction for the team. The “Zi-ka!” chant was so popular the Brazilian fans started doing it to other teams and even other sports like beach volleyball.

This is a rebuilding period for the USWNT after many of their stars retired post-World Cup victory last summer. That said, this is still the best team in the game and the new talent coming up is even more exciting than the women who left. One of those new talents must be good at tending goal because it’s time that Hope Solo steps aside as well.

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9. Modern Pentathlon is the perfect sport (…for 19th century aristocrats)

So pretend you’re a 19th century sportsman for a moment. Here is your path to victory. This two-day competition starts with 35 fencing matches. The eventual winner, Russia’s Aleksander Lesun went 28 and 7 (an Olympic Record) that netted him 268 points. The worst fencers (there were three) went 9 and 26 and only scored 154 points for it. You then take to the pool for 4 lengths (200m). Britain’s James Cooke won this event with an Olympic Record time of 1:55.60 – good for 354 points. Lesun was in 22nd at 2:05:58. Cuba’s Jose Ricardo Figueroa was slowest at 2:15.39 which still got him 294 points. By contrast, the men’s 200m Free was won in Rio by China’s Sun Yang with a time of 1:44.65. There were only two swimmers that swam their heat times slower than Cooke. The slowest 200m Free swimmer Ahmed Gebrel of Palestine’s 1:59:71 would have put him in 4th in the Modern Pentathlon.

Day two begins with the bonus round of fencing (not sure how this works). Then they move on to horse jumping. Now I’m not usually a big fan of the Olympic equestrian events but here it’s awesome. What good 19th century sportsman can’t jump a horse? Well some of these guys. The best part is when a horse refuses to jump and it derails an entire pentathlon. Four of the 36 riders recorded a zero score because they fell off their horses or the horses just refused to jump. Our pal Figueroa from Cuba made it in under the time limit but scored a measly 233. Six riders scored a perfect 300. Lesun scored 279. Oh and the other great part about the equestrian event is that all the riders wear the traditional uniforms of their home countries. Hungary’s is particularly WWI-esque.

Finally, we end the second day with the main event: combined running and shooting. The points are added up from the previous events and you get a head start based on your time. You start with shooting (it’s a laser pistol, not particularly 19th century, I know). You run a kilometer. Shoot again, run, shoot, and run. 3KM and 3 times at the range. Lesun started first and carried the lead all the way through, proving that he is indeed, the best 19th century sportsman alive in 2016.

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8. Neymar is now a God, but it doesn’t erase 7-1

The Men’s Soccer final was undoubtedly the highlight for Brazilian fans. Tied 1-1 through both regular and added time, the match went to a penalty shootout. It came down to the final kick after Germany’s fifth kick was saved by Brazil. It just happens young star and captain Neymar had insisted to go last (not the smartest move but certainly the most dramatic) and he stepped up and buried the shot to win gold. This is great for Brazil but it’s important to remember this was a U23 tournament and while it points to better things in the future for the flailing Brazilian National Team, it doesn’t erase the problems in the senior team best exemplified by two summers ago’s 7-1 World Cup semifinal defeat at the hands of the Germans in Brazil and the two subsequent early exits from the Copa America. Neymar’s great (he scored the goal in the final as well) and the fact they didn’t give up a single goal in the tourney until the final are both good things for Brazil, but it also might be that Brazil was just taking this tournament on home soil way more seriously than everyone else.

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7. Boys will be boys

Taken in isolation, everything that dumbass Ryan Lochte did in his drunken vandalism/cover-up was kinda understandable. I mean, idiotic, but understandable. Who hasn’t taken a whiz outside when the bathroom door was locked or done some dumb drunken action they aren’t proud of the next day. Even the initial lie that set this in motion wasn’t that crazy. He did have a gun pulled on him. They did take his money. This whole thing was of course avoidable, but he’s a knucklehead. It just happens he’s a super famous knucklehead and this got so crazy blown out of proportion. Let’s all move on, please.

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6. Golf was a hit, even if 4 of the top 5 golfers were bozos for not coming

The Zika excuse was quickly pointed to when Jason Day, Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth, and Rory McIlroy all decided to sit out Golf’s reentry into the Olympics after 100+ years. As it was widely reported, no one even saw mosquitos in Rio! So that flimsy excuse didn’t hold up. What’s much more likely is that they just didn’t want to travel all the way to Brazil for a tournament without a real purse. Too bad because it was quickly evident that the guys who showed up came to play. This was one of the most exciting tournaments of the year with Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson battling it out even rivaling Henrik and Phil Mickelson a few weeks ago at Troon. Regardless, it was super cool to have this game in the Olympics and I think it will be taken much more seriously in Tokyo in 2020. My only advice would be to come up with some sort of matchplay-esque scoring system. It doesn’t have to be a Ryder Cup, but it would be cool if there were some rule changes that made the scoring slightly different than a regular tournament to make it a bit more based on country strength and not just individual skill. Anyway, we have 4 years to figure that out.

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5. Interviews with athletes are the worst

Mike Tirico is sitting down with the bronze medalist form the steeple chase? Fast forward! It’s always the same with these athletes. They’re taking it one day/game/year at a time. They are still in shock. They are super thankful that Jesus made this happen to them. At least the “Final Five” gymnasts were entertaining because, Gawd is that how teenage girls talk LOL? But man, by the second week of coverage I really couldn’t stand to watch another random athlete blabber.

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4. Equestrian, Synchronized Swimming and Rhythmic Gymnastics needs to go.

The Summer games are way too packed and they just keep adding more sports, so something has got to give. I could probably give the axe to about eight events (see below) but these three are certainly ripest for the pickin. The face that NBC chose to highlight so much Synchronized Swimming and Rhythmic Gymnastics on their network broadcasting is mind boggling. Did anyone watch these?

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3. Badminton, Boxing, Flat Water Rowing/Canoeing, Taekwondo and Table Tennis are pretty boring without someone to root for

These were the events I just couldn’t get into unless there was an American in medal position (and that didn’t happen often). However, this is in pretty stark contrast to Archery, Judo, Shooting, Weight Lifting, and the White Water events, all of which are very entertaining regardless of who is competing.

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2. Track Cycling is far better than expected

As most people know, I am a huge road cycling fan (listen to episode 38 of the PeloTonOfFun to hear my reaction to the action-packed road events). But I had little experience with the track events. They are great! Keirin involves cyclists following a motorbike and then sprinting for the win. Team Pursuit pits two teams of cyclists against each other on the same track, which is awesome (especially when they catch each other). But the Omnium is where it’s really at.

Think of Omnium as the Modern Pentathlon of cycling. Six events over two days with 18 riders, all from different countries. It starts with a 15km all out race (called the Scratch Race). Next is a 4km Individual Pursuit (like the Team Pursuit but one on one). Then the amazing Elimination Race where every two laps the last place rider is eliminated until it’s down to a winner.

Day two starts with two Time Trial sprint events of a 1km and 250m (with a flying start). It ends with the Points Race which is a 40km race with all of the racers sprinting for 1st (5 points), 2nd (3 points), 3rd (2 points), and 4th (1 point). If you lap the field you get 20 points(!) meaning someone who was way behind from the previous five events still had a chance if they were aggressive in the Points Race.

Though he only took 1st in one event (the Elimination Race), Italy’s (and Team Sky’s) Elia Viviani won Omnium by 13 points over GB’s Mark Cavendish. In turn Cav was only 2 points ahead of London 2012’s winner Lasse Norman Hansen of Denmark who took the Bronze. This was so much fun to watch and I’m sure I’ll be tuning more than just once every four years (especially as more sprinters from the peloton start to jump in).

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1. Rugby Sevens is the best

Without a doubt my favorite new sport of the Summer Games is Rugby! I’ve watched a bit here and there but never a full Sevens match. And don’t blink because the games are super short, taking only about 20 minutes for a full match. What other big sport is that quick? It’s action packed and full speed, plus the athletes are big time characters. Not to mention it is ridiculously popular in parts of the world. The entire country of Fiji stopped to watch their men’s team win the country’s first ever medal (had Rugby been in past Olympics, I have a feeling this wouldn’t have been their first). I watched every second of both men’s and women’s Rugby Sevens tourneys and was left just wanting more. The fact that the English Premiership is going to be on NBCSN this year is awesome but these tourneys are the way to go. What’s that you say? The Sevens World Series starts in Dubai this December? Sign. Me. Up.

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What’d y’all think? There’s a comments section right down there. Lemme hear ya!

Posted by enderzero at 11:49pm on Aug. 21, 2016    
Feb 23, 2014

Top 10 Highs & Lows from Sochi 2014

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The last two weeks have absolutely flown by (hmm, that might be an exaggeration) but the Sochi 2014 flame has been extinguished and all eyes now turn to Rio 2016 and the next Summer Games. Before we get ahead of ourselves, here is a look back at my Top 10 moments of the Sochi Winter Games — both the hits and the misses.

See the list

Posted by enderzero at 5:58pm on Feb. 23, 2014    
Feb 7, 2014

Sochi 2014 Olympics – Ryland’s TV & Streaming Highlights

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It’s Winter Olympics time again and anyone who was around four years ago will remember just how damned excited I get for the Games. USA won the total medal count last games with 37 with host country Canada winning the most Golds (14 to USA’s 9). Russia finished way back in the pack with only 3 gold medals and 15 medals total. That was good enough for sixth place (behind Austria). You can bet the Ruskies are going to be looking for some redemption.

UPDATE: I’ve created a Public Google Calendar with all of the event discussed in this post. See the Calendar below.

Click here for all the fun

Posted by enderzero at 7:03pm on Feb. 7, 2014    
Jul 27, 2012

XXX Olympics Men’s Soccer Tournament Power Rankings

With one round of games in the book before the Opening Ceremonies even air (tape delayed in the USA, of course), the XXX Olympic Games have officially begun. We all know who the favorites are in the Women’s Tournament (USA have never missed a final and won 3 of 4), but I’m going to spend a bit of time talking about what to look forward to in the Men’s Tournament.

The Beijing Olympics four years ago were, along with that summer’s Euro Cup Tournament, a big part of the soccer bug that bit me (we’ll call them the thorax) and turned me into the raving soccer maniac I am today. Having watched all 16 teams play their first games, one thing is plainly evident: these 23 years and younger (plus 3 exceptions) teams are definitely not the senior teams that I’ve become accustomed to watching duke it out on the world stage. That isn’t to say there aren’t plenty of familiar names and faces, but the quality (mostly) on display yesterday was much closer to MLS than EPL. I’ve broken the 16 teams into an unscientific and quite biased ranking with a few words about the performance and chances of each squad.

1. Brazil – There is really no doubt that a Brazil team that contains Neymar, Marcelo, Pato, Thiago Silva, Rafael, Sandro, Hulk, and Oscar are the runaway favorites to go all the way. Add to that a hunger based on the fact and they’ve never won an Olympic Gold and it seems a done deal. And that’s exactly how Brazil looked in the first half of their match versus Egypt going up 3-0 in the first 30 minutes. However, that wasn’t the story in the second half when a resurgent Egypt buried two past shaky looking 19 year-old goalkeeper Neto who was supposed to be their backup. A frustrated looking Brazil was able to regroup and maintain enough possession for the win, but it shows this dream team may have some vulnerabilities.

2. Uruguay – They’ve been the sweethearts of South America since their semifinal run in South Africa and haven’t shown a lot to give fans doubt until UAE slotted a goal against them in the 23rd minute of their first Olympic match since 1928. But the uber-talented team was able to regroup behind their no less histrionical captain Luis Suarez and come back to win 2-1. They certainly have the skill and if they keep showing this kind of fortitude, La Celeste should top a very tough Group A.

3. Japan – Looking to put the business class controversy behind them (along with the women’s team), a vibrant, talented, and disciplined looking Japanese team came storming out of the gates in their first match and took control of Group D with a victory over group faves Spain. Some may wonder if this upset was more Spain’s poor play but Japan had opportunity after opportunity and the 1-0 score line belies a commanding performance that could have ended 4-0 to the Japanese. Of course, it always helps to be up a man for 49 minutes of play. We’ll see if they are the real deal in Sunday’s match against Morocco that could see the team put a thumping on the speedy North African youngsters.

4. Great Britain – Coming in as such favorites, a sorta-united Great Britain team (Scotland and Northern Ireland banned their players from joining due to FIFA fears of losing their autonomous status) was bound to stumble out of the gates. Playing a stupidly zealous Senegal, the Brits couldn’t find a second goal to seal things up and let the Senegalese draw level with minutes to play. There is a ton of talent on this team, even having left so many big names watching from home, but you can’t help but wonder if the pressure is just too much for this choke-happy home nation.

5. Spain – Yes they lost their first match but let’s all remember the eventual World Cup champions lost their first match in South Africa to Switzerland as well. Still, this obviously-not-senior Spanish squad is really going to have to get organized behind 24 year-old Juan Mata if they are going to fulfill the expectations set forward by their big brothers.

6. South Korea – While South Korea failed to find the back of the net, they also kept a clean sheet against a usually rampant scoring Mexico. This might be more Mexico’s fault but South Korea certainly looked fast and very fit. With Group B being weakest group, look for South Korea to definitely advance (but that could be about it).

7. Honduras – Yes I’m sore that the Hondurans are in London and not the Americans but the CONCACAF runners up looked pretty solid in their 2-2 draw with Morocco, which was undoubtedly the most entertaining of the first day of play. They’ve got a very tough game coming up against Spain on Sunday. But if the Spanish can’t get their shit together, look for Honduras to make a knockout stage run.

8. Egypt – It has been a rough going for Egyptian soccer (really Egyptian society) with live sports being banned after recent riots. But the squad played their hearts out versus Brazil and managed to score two goals against the obvious faves. There were only four other teams with at least two goals out of the 16 and none of them didn’t walk away with at least one point. Tough luck for Egypt but it bodes well for them in a Group C in which they have a very good chance of nabbing the runner up spot.

9. Belarus – One of only four teams to manage all three points in their first game, Belarus should be congratulated for their performance but it isn’t worth getting too worked up about. In their first major tournament since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, any run will be good for the nation, but it would be a huge surprise if they managed points off of either Brazil or Egypt in the next two matches.

10. Mexico – It warms my heart to report that this is quite possibly the weakest Mexican team I’ve ever watched compete in a major tournament. They have plenty of talent but looked completely disorganized against South Korea Thursday and were barely able to hold on for the 0-0 draw. Usually an extremely offensive team, Mexico managed only two shots on goal. Things could pick up for El Tri if/when Giovani Dos Santo starts in Sunday’s match versus group minnows Gabon. Plus, let’s not get too excited and forget Mexico has a huge advantage as the most experienced team in a very weak group.

11. Morocco – The Moroccans looked like a young, hungry, and most importantly, energetic team in their 2-2 draw with Honduras. This team is packed with speed and showed they can score goals, but have a tough challenge ahead of them if they are to advance from the very difficult Group D.

12. United Arab Emirates – The UAE squad showed they have a good amount of young talent to jump ahead to a 1-0 lead versus Uruguay. But their lack of experience proved their downfall as they eventually lost their lead and then gave up all three points to the much tougher side. In an easier group, they may have a chance to advance, but things don’t look so rosy with no points and Great Britain still to play.

13. Senegal – A rambunctious team, to say the least, Senegal probably would have finished with only eight or nine men on the field had their match referee not been so ridiculously lenient. Their play versus Great Britain was downright dangerous but they do have plenty of speed and they did find the net to earn the late point. Don’t count them completely out, but do be sure to get out of the way when you see them charging in.

14. Switzerland – The weird thing about power rankings is that while the Switzerland that took the field Thursday would likely lose to my 11th – 13th ranked teams, they have a better chance to advance than any of them due to their fortunate placement in Group B. Though they’ve shown very good results for their youth squads in recent memory, Switzerland looked flat footed against an even less impressive Gabon in their first match. We’ll see if they can turn it on versus a more robust South Korea on Sunday.

15. New Zealand – The All Whites had nothing going for them in their first match versus Belarus managing just four shots on goal. The good news is that goalkeeper Michael O’Keefe had a decent game with seven saves and just the one losing goal allowed.

16. Gabon – In the first 15 minutes of their match against Switzerland, Gabon looked like they had no idea what sport they were playing. It’s rare you see a team so out of sorts but leave it to Switzerland to blow their 1-0 5th minute penalty lead by allowing Gabon back into the game. It wasn’t pretty, but who knows what’s in store for this tiny nation who did make it to the Quarterfinals in the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations last winter.

Posted by enderzero at 6:29pm on Jul. 27, 2012    
Mar 1, 2010

Top Moments from the Vancouver Olympics

The torch may have been extinguished, but before the post-Olympic hangover really kicks in, I’d like to share a few of my favorite memories from the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics. You won’t find anything on this list about NBC’s atrocious coverage (though NPR has a great article). Al Michaels’s daytime drinking might have been a fun diversion, but Costas’s constant head movement and witticisms grew old very quickly. You also won’t find anything here about choke artist John Shuster and his despicable performance for USA Curling. And I certainly have nothing good to say about Ice Dancing. No activity that involves twizzles should be an Olympic sport. While there might have been those few lows, overall the games were incredibly enjoyable – and successful for Team USA. Here are the moments I will remember most:


Hannah Kearney Gets Team USA Going
The first gold medal for the USA came in the Women’s Freestyle Moguls on the first full day of competition. Canada’s Jennifer Heil had laid down a killer run and everyone was thinking Canada might break their home gold drought on day one. But along came Hannah Kearney who threw down an absolutely perfect run and took the gold away with ease. Canada only had to wait one day for Alex Bioldeau to win the men’s turn down the bumps. They went on to win 14 golds on their home soil, topping the gold chart with 4 more than their closest competitor.


Sven “Drama” Kramer
Say it so it rhymes. I was truly touched when Dutch speed skating star Sven Kramer jumped into the crowd after winning the 5000m and hugged his family. Then a few days later, Kramer made headlines again when he asked NBC’s Andrea Kremer if she was stupid for not knowing who he was (video here). But the icing on the cake was in the 10,000m (Kramer’s best event). While setting a time that would assure him the gold, Kramer made an illegal lane change on the insistence of his coach and was DQ’ed! The worst part is that Kramer knew it was wrong but made the move anyway. Kramer came back and won a Bronze with Holland in the Team Pursuit a few days later.


The Glory of Curling
Anyone who has watched much of the games with me knows how bitten by the curling bug I have become (especially when it comes to Brit-Skip Eve Muirhead). I had heard it was a great game but really had no idea just how complex and exciting it is. It is often dubbed “chess on ice” because of all the strategy that goes into planning your shots out many throws in advance. But the huge element necessary in curling but not in chess is execution. After you figure out what you want to do, you still gotta be able to do it. I had a whole lot of fun watching and am hoping it starts to get some more non-Olympic TV coverage… especially the women’s UK team.


Canada Has Trouble Making Ice
One of the funniest moments came a few days in when speed skating was delayed because of problems with the surface of the ice. Three ice surfacing machines (notably not name brand Zambonis) malfunctioned at the Richmond Oval and it took “chief ice maker” Mark Messer over an hour to get it right. And here I thought it was Canada that invented ice.


Shaun White Simply Dominates
Love him or hate him, the guy is truly amazing. The first run White threw down was good enough to win him the gold (hell his prelim run was probably good enough) – but he still came back and laid down the sickest half pipe run ever seen in competition. There really isn’t anyone who can even get close to what he is doing.


Cross Country Wipeout Medalist
During a prelim run in the women’s Individual Sprint race, Slovenian cross-country skier Petra Majdic took a really nasty tumble into a gully. During the coverage, the NBC team showed the crash over and over again, deriding the fact that she was given a delayed start time. She went on to complete all three 1.4km heats and win the bronze medal. After the race, it was revealed she had broken four ribs and suffered a collapsed lung. Just imagine breaking four ribs and suffering a collapsed lung and then running 3 miles at medal pace!


Big Face and Funny Hat
Sticking with cross country, a quick word has to be said for NBC’s wonderful Nordic commentary team of Big Face and his pal Funny Hat (aka Al Trautwig and Chad Samelka). Al has an incredible voice which you can hear in the video above (you also might remember him as NBC’s gymnastics announcer) and Chad is surely quite knowledgeable – but more importantly… look at those guys! Al’s face in enormous! Just compare him to Chad. And those mitts! He looks like he is going to strangle that poor microphone. And come on Chad… just what is the deal with that hat?


Kim Yu-Na!
Incredible. While her free skate was glorious, it was Kim Yu-Na’s short program that won her both the gold medal and the hearts of millions around the world. Women’s figure skating is always one of the main things to be remembered from the winter games and Kim Yu-Na’s performance was simply one of the best ever.


USA’s Hockey Run
The only undefeated team coming into the final, Team USA hadn’t even trailed by a point in the tournament. As we all know, that ended 12 minutes into the final versus Canada (after defeating them in prelims). But for USA fans, it is hard to say there was any moment in the Olympics more exciting than when Zach Parise buried a goal with 24 seconds remaining in regulation to even the score at 2-2 and force Canada to a sudden death overtime. It may have ended up being Canada’s night, but really who can complain about that performance? It is almost worth it to lose and not have to feel bad about how devastated Canada would have been. Almost.


37!
What an Olympics! The USA jumped out to an early lead in the medal count on day one and never relinquished that lead. That is an incredible achievement and the first time since 1932 we have won the overall count. We also set a record for most medals ever won by anyone! Congratulations Team USA. What a fantastic showing!

Posted by enderzero at 1:57am on Mar. 1, 2010