Friday, August 15, 2008

WSPN Beijing 2008: Event Transition

Here we are, nearing the halfway point of the Beijing Olympic Games, on day 8 (in China). And that signifies a very large transition, one that leads from the pool to the track. As the festivities progress into the second half, crowds and cameras will shift their focus from the Water Cube (which, in fact, isn't a cube; it would be more appropriately labeled Water Rectangular Prism, but I guess that isn't as attractive) to the Bird's Nest.

This forward-looking attitude isn't to say that we are all anxious to leave the aquatic events. For one, the men's 4 x 100 meter relay was most likely the best swimming event in Olympic history, spearheaded by an unbelievable performance by Jason Lezak. And, of course, Michael Phelps has now been dubbed the "greatest Olympic champion ever", owing to his recent capture of the most amount of gold medals in history.

Expect the magnitude of excitement and the quality of athletic performances to remain high as the track and field athletes lace up the spikes. But the the swimmers haven't closeted those crazy NASA-engineered supersuits yet. Phelps is indeed still in pursuit of a record 8 gold medals in one Olympics; he can achieve his seventh today and his eighth tomorrow. So while you get psyched for competing human lightning sprinters and beastly shotputters, don't forget those men-fish either.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

WSPN Beijing 2008: Day 5 Update

As the Olympic Games pick up more speed, the global sports community has already witnessed some incredible and unforgettable instant classics, such as the men's swimming 4x100meter relay. Other notable moments include a friendly embrace of a Russian and a Georgian athlete before taking the medal podium while their two nations were at war (by the way, shame on Russia for instigating a conflict and invading during the Olympics), the incredibly significant matchup of the United States and China, led by host country flag-bearer Yao Ming, on the basketball court, and the U.S. men's volleyball team's emotional victory after the leave of their coach, necessitated by a heartless ambush of his wife and parents-in-law in Beijing.

More exciting moments are sure to come, since some of the more popular events like track and field and table tennis are still to come. What? I'm the only one that likes table tennis? Okay, fine by me, I'll enjoy it by myself. Anyways, at this point, the United States leads the overall medal count with 22, but China is by far in front in the gold medal race with 13, even though they only have 20 total medals. The U.S. is second in the gold count with 7 golds, and South Korea is third with 5, and also third in the total count with 12. The all-out dominance by China in gold medals testifies to their intensity in striving for perfection. Other medals almost seem to be unacceptable for some athletes, such as the men's gymnastics team, who were expected to dazzle with their uncomparable attention to detail and precision (and they certainly followed through). Other events for the host country feature athletes or teams which aren't expected of much, but who still have turned in good performances. A good example of this is the men's water polo team, who almost stunned Team U.S.A., holding them to a 6-6 tie until the last quarter of play. All in all, China has much to be proud of; their hosting of these events has been exceptional so far, and the events themselves have been memorable.

As some sports begin to end and award medals to the winners, the medal count may reflect the transition to other sports. China has gone 3 for 3 in diving competitions, and the United States obviously has a grasp on many of the swimming medals with studs like Michael Phelps in the pool. Look for Australia, who is currently fourth in the overall medal count with 10, to fall down the list a bit once swimming culminates. And, at the same time, be prepared to view some countries rise on the medal count list once track and field competition picks up. This is an exciting time in Beijing, when certain sports are finally reaching the medal rounds and others are just beginning!

WSPN Beijing 2008: Men's Synchronized 10M Platform Diving

From inside the beautiful structure that is the Water Cube comes Men's Synchronized Diving, an event which requires extreme precision along with quality individual and team dives. Note that the maximum possible points increases as the degree of difficulty increases. Below is a short description and analysis of each dive along with the respective score.
Daley/Aldridge(GBR) - Forward 1 1/2 Somersault Dif 2.0 - Solid execution by the young British team. As Aldridge heads into the water his arms are very much out of sync, and he makes an undesirable splash. 52.80.
R2: Inward 1 1/2 Somersault Dif 2.0 - Daley hits the water just before his teammate and once again Aldridge makes an undesirable splash. 50.40.
Hausding/Klein(GER) - Forward 1 1/2 Somersault Dif 2.0 - The German team comes in with a history of recent success, having won a silver medal in the same event at the 2008 World Cup, and with Klein having won a silver medal in the individual platform. Klein made all his movements slightly before Hausding, otherwise this would have been a great dive. 52.80.
R4: Back 3 1/2 Somersault Dif 3.6 - Hausding bends his knees slightly before Klein's on the platform, and the two cannot recover. The most noticable difference is that Hausding's feet are spread apart during the somersaults and Kelin's are touching. Both cannot finish vertically and make matching giant splashes. 71.28.
R5: Reverse 3 1/2 Somersault Dif 3.4 - Hausding and Klein give a decent individual performance and a strong synchronized performance in a great rebound from Round 4. Both had spread leg tucks and large splashes. 88.74.
R6: Back 2 1/2 Somersault 2 1/2 Twists Dif 3.8 - Coming into the final round in third place, the Germans need an exceptional dive to solidify their medal hopes, and they deliver with the best synchronized dive of the evening, and manage a very high score even though their individual dives were not extraordinary. The amazing effort on the last two dives earns them the silver medal. 96.90.
Finchum/Boudia(USA) - Forward 1 1/2 Somersault Dif 2.0 - A new wave of young Americans who have been diving together in Indianapolis for seven years. Finchum puts his hands together noticeably before Boudia does, even in real time speed. 51.60
R2: Amazing dive in the second round, quite improved from the first round, with the most notable mistake being that Boudia closes his hands slightly earlier going into the final part of the dive. 54.60.
R3: Back 2 1/2 Somersault 1 1/2 Twists Dif 3.4 - The individual dives are well done in the third round, yet the timing is out of sync, as Finchum spinds faster than his teammate and makes the seubsequent movements quicker. 80.58.
R4: Reverse 3 1/2 Somersault Dif 3.4 - The American team seems to grow with each dive, and this one proves no exception to the rule. Boudia beings turning slightly early, yet they finish strong by hitting the water at the exact same time. 82.62.
R5: Inward 3 1/2 Somersault Dif 3.2 - Despite good synchronization, Finchum creates a splash by turning slightly past vertical, much too large to merit a high score, and the Americans fail to break 80 points on their second to last dive. 77.76.
R6: Back 2 1/2 Somersault 2 1/2 Twists Dif 3.8 - An exceptionally difficult dive for such a young team, still Finchum and Boudia handle it very well. Both divers have difficulty with a vertical entry, Finchum moreso than Boudia, and this mistake costs them a medal in the final round, which would have been the first American medal in the event. 93.48.
Yue/Liang(CHN) - Forward Dive Dif 2.0 - The talented Chinese team plays the role of favorite very well. They come very close to exactly mimicing eachother's movements and enter the water as smoothly as possible. 57.00
R2: Inward Dive Dif 2.0 - Near perfect execution on this dive, that's all that need be said. 59.40.
R3: Back 2 1/2 Somersault 1 1/2 Twists Dif 3.4 - A very well synchronized dive, with Yue entering the water a little earlier and Liang making a large upward splash. 89.76.
R4: Inward 3 1/2 Somersault Dif 3.2 - The team makes up for poor tucks and lack of synchronization with a clutch, vertical finish that yields minimal splashing. 86.40.
R5: Reverse 3 1/2 Somersault Dif 3.4 - Yue's midsection hits water before Liang's hands hit water, and average individual dives yield and average result. 86.70.
R6: Back 2 1/2 Somersault 2 1/2 Twists Dif 3.8 - Great synchronizaton atones for a poor dive (crossed feet and a non-vertical entry) by Yue. Even though this is not the best dive from the Chinese team, their score creates a cushion that secures them Olympic Gold. 88.92.
Galperin/Dobroskok(RUS) - This pair dove together in Athens and finished second to the Chinese team in last year's World Championships. Galperin's arms are by his side and Dobroskok's are perpendicular to his body as the somersault. Dobroskok hits the water well before his teammate. 53.40.
R3: Back 2 1/2 Somersault 1 1/2 Twists Dif 3.4 - The Russians pull out an interesting stunt by deciding to twist in opposite directions, which can go over differently with different judges, and they come together very cleanly for the final part of the dive. The judges do not seem to disapprove of the decision. 86.70.
R4: Inward 3 1/2 Somersault Dif 3.2 - Impeccable synchronization and matching vertical finishes highlight one of the best dives to this point in the competition, as the Russians hold on to second place after four rounds. 88.32.
R5: Reverse 3 1/2 Somersault Dif 3.4 - Galperin showcases his individual talent in this dive, but Dobroskok kicks his legs back off the platform much later that his teammate, and the proceeds to enter the water with legs horizontally, resulting in a costly splash. 70.38.
R6: Back 2 1/2 Somersault 2 1/2 Twists Dif 3.8 - Dobroskok twists much faster than Galperin, and the two are out of sync as all of Galperin's movements going into the water happen first. In spite of their efforts, the Russians cannot overcome the round five blunder, and walk away with the bronze medal. 90.06.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

WSPN Beijing 2008: "Smashing" Victory in the Pool

"Smashing". The word took on a very significant meaning tonight in the heavily anticipated men's 4X100meter fresstyle team swimming competition. The French team was easily the favorite for this match, and brushed aside the possibility of the more highly-publicized American team of stealing their glory. The U.S. squad, comprised of star swimmers Michael Phelps, Garrett Weber-Gale, Cullen Jones, and team captain Jason Lezak, would have enough success in other events. But this one, for the French, was THEIR big event. Said anchor Alain Bernard, "The Americans? We're going to smash them". He believed that was what they were there to do.

Bernard's predicted outcome seemed in question early after the first leg, when France was about neck-and-neck with America, featuring Phelps as the starter, for second, while Australia's team was out front. After the second leg, the race was a blur. France, the U.S., and Australia were about even, all of which were way in front of the world record pace. After the third leg, France had a sizeable lead, about a half-body length. Which all but secured victory since the French anchor Bernard holds the world record for 100 meter freestyle. Essentially, there is no one better at his leg, and he has the lead. However, in a frenzied swim, Lezak made up about a half-body length down the stretch and made it a photo finish.

Both the French and American teams anxiously looked up at the scoreboard for the final results as both swimmers touched the wall with their fingertips. And then Michael Phelps let out a long, primal scream, soon to be joined by his teammates, Jones and Weber-Gale, and Lezak, who, following his world record (yes indeed, that world record) 100meter freestyle of 46.06 seconds, almost lept out of the pool in excitement and triumph. Phelps did this not because he was relieved that his shot at getting 8 golds remained intact, but because his fellow countrymen and he defended a nation's honor against pointless and unnecessary banter, against unsportsmanlike behavior. And as Alain Bernard solemnly hung his head in defeat and disbelief, the world witnessed a great moment in sports. No, not a world record. Rather a display of humble class, sportsmanship, and the greatest effort by the world's second-fastest men's 4X100meter freestyle team that made the great nation of the United States of America proud. Because...yes Mr. Bernard, SMASH! They are the fastest now.

Moments like these, not medal counts or new records, define the greatness of the Olympic Games. Emblems of national pride, like Michael Phelps' elated and victorious scream and Jason Lezak's impeccable world-class comeback on the final leg, will remain significant and deeply meaningful to the American people for a very long time. Longer than any gold medal can be worn or any record will stand.

WSPN Beijing 2008: Basketball - United States vs. China (Preliminaries)

10:03 AM - NBC's Jim Lampley says that this game might be the most watched basketball game in the world. Of all time. Epic indeed.
10:06 AM - This was supposedly the toughest ticket to get at the games. And it's a first round match. That's saying a lot.
10:09 AM - Yao Ming is the centerpiece for Team China.
10:11 AM - Yao's flag-bearing march with the heroic young survivor of the Sichuan earthquake a third his size is a touching image which will live on in history for a long time.
10:14 AM - This is Coach K's 500th international game as coach! The milestones are making this game all the more incredible.
10:15 AM - President Bush is sitting next to the Chinese Foreign Minister in the stands. A good gesture for international cooperation....let's see if these same feelings are shared on the court.
10:16 AM - The crowd is really loud and into it. TIP OFF!!! U.S. forfeits possession right away.
10:17 AM - Yao freaking hits a three! Yes that's right. A 7'6 center hits a three to start the game. Not a good sign of things to come for the defense-deficient United States team.
10:18 AM - The intensity is high. Turnovers abound. Three in a row now, culminated by a Dwight Howard jam on a fastbreak.
10:19 AM - Sun Yu Wei (new Lakers signee) hits a three for China. Howard responds by hitting a layup, yet missing the corresponding free throw for the foul.
10:20 AM - Lebron charges down the court and gets a three point play. Yao has his first foul...this is crucial.
10:21 AM - These Chinese are just owning the three ball. This game is so incredibly fast-paced and exciting. A good change of pace (no pun intended) from the NBA.
10:22 AM - Subs in for the first time for both teams. 11-9 China. Both teams have about 6 turnovers each. No lie.
10:24 AM - First timeout, with China leading...and they say China isn't even a medal contender. Come on "Redeem Team", let's go!
10:26 AM - Lebron has a nice one-handed slam. The fastbreak is the U.S.'s best weapon so far. Kobe hits a three! Okay, now we are starting to gain some poise and momentum. Three point lead. Wade gets a steal and adds another layup. The announcers are right, the Chinese have little depth.
10:27 AM - Li Wei hits another three for China. They are 4 of 4. The threes are the great equalizer.
10:28 AM - Momentum back to China as the fans are incredibly into it. Game is tied 16-16.
10:30 AM - This game is seriously so exciting. And this is coming from a guy that never watches the NBA at all. I'm liking this international intensity. I can sense that both sides feel it's all on the line.
10:32 AM - Dwyane Wade hits two free throws to give the States a two point lead. China seems to use up the shot clock on every possesion. Maybe they're trying to shorten the game.
10:34 AM - Timeout as the U.S. has the last possession of the first. It will have to be Laettner-esque...there are only 2 seconds remaining.
10:35 AM - The first quarter ends as the score is U.S. 20, China 16. Still anything can happen at this juncture.
10:38 AM - The second quarter begins. The Chinese hit a three yet AGAIN. They are 5 of 7 for three point land now.
10:39 AM - And the U.S. is about 7 of 7 on dunks as Wade throws in a two-handed reverse. Our guys can really take it to the basket.
10:40 AM - We have been pretty clutch at the charity stripe so far. 24-21 lead for the States now.
10;41 AM - Okay this is seriously incredible. Lebron just snatched the ball out of the air with a block and chucked it down to Wade who threw it down. The back-and-forth tempo is really taking its toll on China.
10:42 AM - China is staying in the game with the 3-pointer, but their depth can't match the team of NBA all-stars.
10:44 AM - Yao with a skyhook brings China to only a three point defiicit, 29-26.
10:45 AM - Sun Yu Wei hits yet ANOTHER three. They are an incredible 7 of 11. 29-29! Deron Williams misses a three. I think we are more like 3 of 11.
10:46 AM - Bosh gets a nice offensive rebound and puts home another dunk to put the U.S. up 31-29.
10:47 AM - Kobe rushes down and takes it to the rim. Wow! Steal and he just did it again! 6 straight points in just thirty seconds. 35-29 United States lead. Probably 24 of those points have come on dunks.
10:49 AM - These Chinese guys are ROBOTS! Another three. 35-32 U.S.
10:50 AM - Just as the three keeps China in the game, the fastbreak keeps distancing the U.S. Lebron hits a layup and the refs call an intentional foul on Yi Jianlian. The U.S.'s free possession nets nothing.
10:52 AM - Bosh with a layup in the post. Yi misses a three. This game might be starting to get out of hand. Amazing fastbreak leads to a Lebron-Wade alley oop tandem followed by a missed free throw. U.S. up by nine. Okay eleven...the full court press is really killing China. A 16-3 run.
10:54 AM - Yao hits a couple of free throws. Yet five seconds later the U.S. is already down the court and hits another fastbreak layup. 49-36 United States lead.
10:56 AM - China holds on for the last possession and Li Wei draws a foul off of Lebron. Only a few seconds to go.
10:57 AM - Li Wei hits one of two. 3.7 seconds to go. During the timeout, the camera shows the entire U.S. womens basketball team in attendance. It's awesome the support that U.S. athletes show each other. They're all in it together for country.
10:59 AM - Halftime begins. The United States have a solid lead, 49-37, with a good deal of the momentum. Another similar half will be sure to seal victory for the U.S. team.
11:02 AM - Back to the studio. Lebron has 11 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2 blocks. Very well-rounded, and great for the team's leader. Yao has 7 points for Team China.
11:03 AM - A recap is shown of Michael Phelps amazing 400 IM victory and world record at the Water Cube yesterday.
11:05 AM - Highlights of the U.S. mens soccer team's tie with Netherlands. Yes, a TIE AGAINST THE DUTCH!!! Now, all they need is a tie or win against Nigeria to advance. Too bad they gave up a goal in the 93rd minute to lose the victory against the Netherlands to clinch that berth.
11:09 AM - A nice story about the growing passion and fever of basketball in China, all created by Yao as an ambassador of the game. Sales of Yao's jersey are only 6th however in China. This shows the respect the Chinese have for the NBA and American basketball. This piece really puts a spotlight on how significant this U.S.-China game is.
11:15 AM - Back to the game. The U.S. is 1 of 12 from downtown, but they own down low, and now have a 51-37 lead.
11:16 AM - The announcers seem to hate on the refs for no specific reason.
11:17 AM - Yi with an incredible and powerful tip-in slam to narrow the States' lead to 51-39.
11:18 AM - Carmelo picks up a foul, it's Yao's second. 5 fouls is a foul-out in the international game. Making Yao foul out isn't too big of a priority with this lead now.
11:19 AM - Wow! China missed two threes in a row! Sign of the apocalypse.
11:20 AM - Sun Yu Wei with a beautiful block on the other end. China's ensuing possession nets another offensive rebound, yet a turnover. The 11th for China.
11:21 AM - This is starting to become a mixtape show for Lebron around the rim. 54-39 United States with many of those points coming as easy baskets or slams.
11:23 AM - China's three point magic is gone. A missed open three. Most definitely the culprit is fatigue.
11:24 AM - Yao gets to the line to pick up his 8th and 9th points. 56-41 U.S. now.
11:25 AM - Paul misses a three yet Chris Bosh gets another offensive rebound and puts it home. Another turover by China leads to another fastbreak. This a game of "anothers".
11:26 AM - Two Chinese free throws narrow the still-wide States' lead to 60-45.
11:27 AM - Lebron hits a three! Our second one today. It could be an early dagger. 63-45. Lebron is truly leading this team.
11:29 AM - Kobe to Wade who hits an acrobatic lay up. Anything the Chinese can do just doesn't matchup to the Americans' impeccable raw skill. 68-48 U.S.
11:30 AM - Bosh has made a nice prescence underneath the basket as he draws a foul. He has 9 points now after hitting a free throw. 21 point lead.
11:32 AM - Another fastbreak dunk, this time by Kobe...this game is starting to become a runaway. 72-48 now U.S.
11:33 AM - Steal and corrseponding dunk by Wade to increase the lead to 26 as the third quarter ends. 25-11 U.S. in that quarter. The game is certainly over. 74-48 United States over China.
11:36 AM - Fourth quarter begins. Let's see if China can get some momentum running for their next game.
11:38 AM - This time is also crucial game time for some of the U.S. reserves that don't typically get many minutes. Yet they have to be ready in case of injury or foul-outs down the line in the tournament.
11:40 AM - Yao's third foul as Deron Williams hits two free throws to expand the United States' lead to 79-50.
11:41 AM - President Bush is leaving the venue. You mean to tell me he has more important business than watching this game? Really? Come on.
11:43 AM - A dunk for Yao as he jumps off the ground about an inch. Michael Redd responds with a three, making the United States' lead 87-52.
11:46 AM - Little action has occurred recently as China calls a timeout. 89-54 United States.
11:48 AM - Yi completes his attempt at a three point play. About four minutes to go in the final quarter.
11:50 AM - Deron Williams has had a pretty good game off of the bench in his first Olympic game. 91-64 as Boozer picks up a foul and heads to the line.
11:52 AM - The Chinese fans are still into it when Team China does somthing well. This game means a lot more than a win or a loss to them.
11:53 AM - Chris Paul knocks down a three to make the score 98-66 in the U.S.'s favor. Maybe they'll get to triple digits?
11:54 AM - Michael Redd hits a three to give the U.S. a 33 point lead.
11:55 AM - The game ends with a resounding victory for the United States. Final score: U.S. 101, China 70. This is the culmination of much anticipation and both teams have reason to be very proud. The Chinese fans surely show their appreciation.
11:56 AM - This U.S. team certainly looks to be the one to return to the gold medal podium with this great start. They have a day to rest and then they get after it against Angola on Tuesday. USA! USA! USA!

Saturday, August 9, 2008

WSPN Beijing 2008: Day 1 Competition Recap

At this time, about 24 hours exactly have passed since NBC's official primetime airing of the Beijing Opening Ceremonies. Though this broadcast wasn't live, it is still a good measuring tool and reference point to be used for the duration of the games. Although only one day of competition has transpired, many events have already declared winners and handed out prized gold medals. This isn't to say there wasn't action occuring in other sports that only featured preliminary heats either. Overall, the first day of the 2008 Summer Olympic Games didn't disappoint in following the incredible splendor and perfect display of the opening ceremony, and that's saying a whole lot.

Right now, as of press time, the medal count displays the United States in first place with 7 medals, and China and South Korea are tied in second place with 3. All three nations feature 2 gold medalists; the other winners of golds come from Australia, Czech Republic, Romania, and Spain, where those medals are the countries' sole ones. The top 3 nations may have settled in to their expected places for the total medal count, so this may be a sign of things to come. Many experts expect the U.S. and China to battle for the overall medal count and gold medal total.

What is really interesting in this medal race is the dominance of certain events by a single country. With so many talented athletes in a variety of sports all around the world, it is mindblowing to think that one nation can feature athletes that can consistently win over all others. A great example of this is the medal sweep of the women's individual sabre (fencing) competition by the U.S. Also, the Chinese traditionally win every medal in events such as diving and table tennis. So, the international battle for the most medals might depend on a country's competitors stepping it up and putting in big performances as underdogs. Such as China's womens field hockey team taking it to the highly-favored Spanish team 3-0 in the second right now (yes, I am indeed watching that right now online while I'm writing this). So, while you're watching the Olympics unfold, keep an eye out for the underdogs as well as monitoring the supposed favorites (i.e. Michael Phelps). They might, in fact, make history as well. Not just for national glory in a stat column, but for a personal achievement they will never forget and others might never either (think Kerri Strug's one-legged feat in the 1996 gymnastics team competition). For the Olympics, which have fully surrounded us now, are the greatest and most prestigious stages in all of sports. And legends may be in the making as we speak.

Friday, August 8, 2008

WSPN Beijing 2008: The Opening of the Games

As NBC's official primetime broadcast of the Opening Ceremonies looms closer and closer, I find myself browsing and sampling the online broadcasts of many of the sports. And even though the ceremonies begin in 3 minutes (yes, I know they already took place in Beijing a while ago) while I'm writing this sentence, my television remains off. Point is, NBC's online Olympic headquarters is absolutely AMAZING! It grants online, high-quality live streaming videos of events, and even though there are no play-by-play announcers, the audio is impeccable and makes the viewer feel like he is courtside.

After discovering this treasure trove of sport, which by the way, has live streaming events virtually 24/7 for the length of the Olympics, I find myself questioning the very nature of sleep. Do I need it? Can I survive if I refrain from it for a couple weeks? Because I'm seriously tempted to.

In less than 30 minutes, I have witnessed a few badminton matches, some sparring in women's individual fencing (sabre), and females that look half as big as me lifting five times as much weight I can. On any other day in my life, witnessing any of these would have been impossible. But now, thanks to the splendor that is the Olympic Games and NBC's impeccable dedication to the coverage of athletics, I now get to choose which live world-class competition I would like to watch. Just now, Katerina Emmons of the Czech Republic has won the first official gold medal of the Olympics in women's shooting (air rifle)!

And now witnessing the beginning of the Opening Ceremonies (while watching badminton and writing multi-tasking skills will be challenged to the utmost, but I couldn't be more ready and excited), I feel an inate sense of pride: both national, in my dedication and loyal support to Team U.S.A., and global, in feeling together with many other millions on this planet, all joined by a transcendant athletic and human identity.