Okay, so I set myself up for an inevitable fall. In previous years, possibly to my defense, I have managed to keep up with daily posts detailing some nonsense (with pictures) about which sneakers I wore each day, but the notion of posting daily about happenings at Olympics that happen both whilst I’m at work and later into the night when I’m asleep, seems overly optimistic to say the least. So here we are, enough days into the Games that I no-longer really know how many days we’re actually in, and I’ve not mentioned anything since the shenanigans on Saturday – largely focusing on a preposterously dangerous Cycling road-race course, positing that it could cause chaos in the second race as the Women were scheduled to tackle it the following day. So read on to see how self-congratulatory I can be about bad things, and other stuff……
I’m not always happy to be right…..
Dutch Cyclist Annemiek Van Vleuten, riding in what she suggested would be her last Olympics*, was the unfortunate victim of the shockingly precarious decent towards the end of the Cycling Road Race. Out on her own in a strong position to win, the same sketchy bad-idea of a parcour that had already claimed the scalps** of several of the top male riders cruely ripped the potential for her biggest career victory out of her grasp, and worst still, the severity of the crash, largely exacerbated by the nonsensically placed concrete blocks aside the road, landed the rider in intensive care. Ending what she later said ruefully to be the best ride of her life with concussion and 3 fractured vertebrae, Van Vleuten would have been completely unaware that in her absence, compatriot Anna van der Breggen took home the Gold for the Netherlands, topping a podium without the heavily fancied World Champ Lizzie Armistead or 2012 Goldist Marianna Vos. The struggles of the former, on a course admittedly not suited to her profile, were a salient example of the nuances of road racing without race radio, a tool available to the riders throughout their ‘day-job’ but inexplicably removed in the Games; whilst receiving a bike change at the back of the race, Armistead would have normally requested her teammates to either come back and help, or at the very least assist in minimising the speed of the main group, whereas in fact, unaware of her team leaders predicament, Emma Pooley actually drove the pace faster at the front of the bunch before Nikki Harris received a stern ticking off for not twigging that Lizzie was nowhere to be seen in the peloton.
*More on age and cycling later
**Well, lots of skinsuit fabric and flesh at the very least
As ridiculous as this radio fiasco is (worsened by the fact that several days later the Time Trial riders such as Emma Pooley were allowed to use radios), it didn’t match the absurdity of the course, that having claimed at least 3 vertebrae, 2 collarbones, a shoulder blade and a pelvis has “angered” former pro-turned pundit Chris Boardman, who has joined the voices raising displeasure about the de-prioritisation of human life and safety now synonymous with Rio 2016***.
(***Okay, excluding the crucially important Lifeguards in the Aquatics Centre)
He IS a Jolly Goodfellow
Vicariously living through people you don’t know seems to be the largest motivator for many Olympic armchair athletes – but I must confess the tenuous relationship I have with Synchro-Divist Daniel Goodfellow, having known him as a child who attended a Holiday Playscheme I worked out for many years) greatly increased my enjoyment and excitement. Admittedly, I didn’t actually manage to watch his Bronze-medal winning display with Tom Daley, but the very fact that I was concerned with the result of a sport I don’t follow, speaks volumes to me. Otherwise, the main intrigue could have been the fact that the water in the outdoor diving pool has mysteriously turned green, with no explanation offered as yet from the organisers. Also, some other GB divests did them some even betterer diving and won Gold in the Springboard Synchro, largely based on doing an incredibly difficult dive very well individually, and less-so on the actual synchronisation.
Interestingly for me, I’ve had the revelation during these Games that ‘athletic’ type events (those whereby winning and losing is decided upon tangible measurement e.g. distance) are generally awarded on single, best performance (e.g. furthest throw in Javelin) and not as the ‘averaged’ reward for consistency in ‘gymnastic’ type events (which tend to give qualitative scores over a range of attempts). I’m not 100% sure what I think about this distinction, as to which I think is a more valiant system…..
Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number
Yeah, so I’m blatantly using the title of deceased R’n’B star Aaliyah’s debut album to highlight the creepiness of R. Kelly, the producer of the then 13yr olds album which featured a single with the same title, sung as a chorus line proceeded by “going down ain’t nothing but a thing”. This, coupled with the Album Cover alone, should have been enough to convict Kelly in his later trials for abusing minors. But distasteful digression aside, the Cycling Time-Trials were great examples for us older guys and gals. All-time World Legend Fabian Cancellara capped off his swansong season by powering around Rio to best Tom Dumoulin and Chris Froome, despite being the second-oldest to come down the incredibly long starting ramp. A popular athlete amongst his peers, many will be pleased that he was able to make amends after crashing-out on the Mall, from a very promising position in London 2012. This said, his story pales in comparison to his female counterpart……
Armstrong may be the most respect-worthy cyclist of All-Time
There’s a headline most wouldn’t expect to read, however, the completely-unrelated-to-Lance-despite-having-the-same-name-as-his-ex-wife Kristin Armstrong put on a clinic to her younger competitors, all of whom were at least 7 years her junior, as she completed her second return from retirement with her 3rd Gold in as many Olympic cycles. Surpassing the post-retirement exploits of even Michael Jordan (even if MJ won 2 Golds before retiring the first time mind!), Armstrong, whom I shall only mention is 43 years of age as a respectful sign of her achievement, limited her losses on the lumpy stuff knowing full well her legs contained the wattage to surpass any disadvantage held by the time she reached the flat sections. To the best of my knowledge, the only mention of this Armstrong with any kind of doping is the triumphant story high up the Google searches as she bested previously banned Russian Olga Zabelinskaya to Silver. Kirstin’s palmares, combined with her non-sporting life, really do make her one of the best rounded stories of individual greatness I’ve come across at these Games.
Swimming: Lacking distinction or is Phelps simply superb?
Michael Phelps, a man who has apparently maintained a frat-boy lifestyle whilst becoming the most decorated Olympian of all-time, and has now taken to the Voodoo practice of ‘Cupping’ (presumably as a post-retirement plan to make a killing selling such witchdictory nonsense) has won a further 3 Gold Medals this Olympics to his existing record total of 18, in just 4 Olympic cycles. Whilst 9 of these have come in relay events with teammates, the remaining 12 have come from 5 “different” events, utilising either butterfly, freestyle or a ‘medley’ of strokes. I’ve certainly been in bar chats whereby the suggestion that the lack of distinction is a causal factor in the ability of certain physical specimens to dominate at their peak. It’s pretty much unheard of, outside swimming, for athletes to gain more than 3 medals in a single Games, so is Phelps’ total padded out by the nuances (or lack thereof!) of his event? Would Usain Bolt not also be 80, 150 and 220m Champion?
In any case, none of this matters this side of the pond as that Peaty lad ripped his own World Record to shreds, claiming 100m Gold in Breaststroke. My earlier assertions that Swimming must be doped up beyond belief, based largely on the frequency with which World Records fall, is equally as likely to be a product of the fact that so many darn different records exist, given the numerous ‘different’ events available to competitors.
Errors & Omissions
PTI inspired, I’m sure I’ve left loads out, so this section will be here ‘for the editor’ as things I’ve forgotten/neglected inevitable come to mind!