Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Back To The Final For Donn Cabral

TigerBlog saw a kid in his neighborhood the other day who was on a skateboard while walking his dog.

It made TB think that it could be an Olympic event. Skateboard dog walking. Would it really be different than some of the others? How about the Olympic horse dancing? If that can be in the Olympics, why not skateboard dog walking?

TB isn't sure how some of these events become Olympic events. He's not knocking the skill it takes to excel at them. He's questioning how some "sports" become Olympic events and others do not.

Like synchronized swimming. Or the equestrian events. Or even rifle. And so many others.

Are these "sports?" Are the competitor "athletes?" What if ballet wanted to be an Olympic event? What if cheerleading did?

Who makes these decisions and why?

Take the equestrian events, which date back to the earliest days of the modern Olympics. According to the rules, in Olympic horse dancing - also known as dressage - "horse and rider are expected to perform from memory a series of predetermined movements."

That's great. It's actually very artistic to watch. But how is it "sport?" Oh, and how do they ship the horses from wherever they are to Rio?

TigerBlog has watched more of these Olympics than any other, he's pretty sure. He's probably watched more different events than he has in any other Olympics as well.

Did you see the end of the women's open water race yesterday? The course is 10 kilometers, and much of the talk leading up to the race was about the quality of the water. It led to this first sentence in the AP story:
"The sewage-filled waters off Copacabana weren't much of an issue for the open water swimmers."

The real story was that, after nearly two hours of swimming, the silver and bronze came down to a bit of a wrestling match between the French and Italian competitors. In this race, it's not about swimming through the finish line. It's about slapping the touch pad. And the French swimmer was DQ'd for going over the back of the Italian - even though TigerBlog isn't sure where she was supposed to go, as she was being boxed out.

If TigerBlog watched only one event these Olympics, though, it would have been the steeplechase. The one with humans, not horses.

The reason is that Donn Cabral, Princeton Class of 2012, was competing in the steeplechase for the second-straight Olympics. Cabral reached the final in London four years, finishing eighth overall.

Would he do it again? Reach the final for the second time?

TigerBlog is on record as saying that he roots for few athletes more than Donn Cabral. It stems from Cabral's time at Princeton, when he won the NCAA steeplechase title as a senior. Actually from before then, back to when he won Heps cross country as a junior in incredibly impressive fashion. And from all the times TB saw Cabral train on Weaver Track.

Cabral earned a return to the Olympic Games by rallying on the final lap at the Trials. Now that he was in Rio, he was in the third of three heats.

To qualify, he needed to be in the top three of his heat or have one of the six best times among non-automatic qualifiers. There was one American in each heat, and when Hilary Bor and Evan Jager each won the first two heats, it seemed like a good omen for Cabral.

As his heat reached the end of Lap 1, Cabral was in 10th. TigerBlog, though, had no doubt that Cabral was going to reach the final. In fact, at no point during the race was TB worried.

Eventually, Cabral began to move up. Seventh. Sixth. Eventually to third, where he eased across the line.

His heat had the three fastest times. Four years ago, he qualified with the 10th fastest time and finished eighth. This year, he has the third-best time heading into the final, which, by the way, is tomorrow morning at 10:50.

This tweet came out from the Princeton track and cross country account:

It had more than 50 likes in about five minutes. Why? Because Cabral is one of the most popular Princeton athletes in the time TigerBlog has been following the Tigers.

Can he win a medal? It'll be tough. But it's doable.

Ashleigh Johnson figures to come home with a medal from Rio, but the women's water polo goalie will be disappointed if it's not gold. She's certainly doing her part: Johnson didn't allow a goal in the first three quarters of a 13-3 win over Brazil in the quarterfinals yesterday.

By the way, if you've watched Johnson play in these Games, then you can't wait to see her back in DeNunzio Pool as a senior this coming spring. And, if you've watched, you've also noticed that 1) she's unbelievable and 2) the one word that the TV announcers most use when talking about her is "wingspan."

Up next will be Hungary, who defeated Australia in a shootout to reach tomorrow's semifinal. TigerBlog had never seen a water polo shootout, but it reminds TB that he hates deciding games with shootouts or PKs or anything. Just keep playing until someone scores. They will at some point. 

It was a big Princeton day in Rio, and the events were staggered so that it went Cabral, field hockey quarterfinal, water polo quarterfinal.

Unfortunately for Princeton fans, the field hockey game was a heartbreaker. The U.S., who had won its first four games in pool play, lost to Great Britain 2-1 Saturday to finish second in the group. That set up the quarterfinal against Germany, who knocked out the Americans 2-1 after scoring two first half goals and then holding on.

As a result, Princeton alums Katie Reinprecht, Julia Reinprecht and Kat Sharkey had their hopes for a medal derailed. Still, to go from 12th out of 12 to reaching the quarterfinals is a huge step in four years, and those three have been a giant part of the rise of American field hockey.

So Princeton's remaining Olympic competitors are now Cabral, Johnson and Diana Matheson, who plays today at 3 in the women's soccer semifinals for Canada against Germany. A win assures the Canadians of a medal better than the bronze that Matheson won four years ago.

Oh, and assistant track and field coaches Robby Andrews and Priscilla Frederick. Andrews is up today at 9:30 in the 1,500 first round, while Frederick high jumps Thursday.

TigerBlog marveled yesterday at the accomplishment of silver medalist Gevvie Stone in the women's single sculls.

He marvels today at Donn Cabral, who is back in the Olympic steeplechase final.

Marvel at Donn Cabral again. 

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