Monday, August 22, 2016

Goodbye, Rio

There's something wrong with TigerBlog's TV.

There's no Olympics on it anymore. This can't be right, can it? When he clicked on the streaming menu, there were no live events. No track? No swimming? No horse-dancing?

Anyway, TB is on hold with the cable company. Surely they'll be able to fix the problem.

What? They're over? No way. That was quick.

It seems like only yesterday that NBC was gushing over Michael Phelps and showing his mother, girlfriend and baby more than they would dare show any non-American in the pool. Ah, those were the days.

The U.S. won 46 gold medals and 121 total medals in Rio. The next best totals were 27 golds (Great Britain) and 70 total medals (China).

Of the 121 medals (it's actually more people who won them, since each team medal counts as one), there were three won by Princetonians, one of each, to be exact.

The bronze medal was won by Diana Matheson as part of the Canadian women's soccer team. For Matheson, it was the second bronze of her career, after winning the same medal in 2012 in London.

Matheson is now 32. Her international career preceded her enrollment at Princeton in 2004, so she is quite the veteran. Earning two Olympic bronze medals is extraordinary, especially since Canada has not had great success in Summer Olympic team sports through the decades. In fact the 2012 medal was the first by a Canadian team in the Summer Games since basketball in 1936.

The silver medal went to the incredible Gevvie Stone, who coupled Olympic training with medical school. Stone won silver in the single sculls rowing, which is basically 2,000 meters of burning muscles with nobody out there to help ease the burden. She had finished seventh four years ago in London.

Even beyond her accomplishment, Stone became an instant all-time TigerBlog favorite by posting a comment under the blog that TB wrote about her medal:
"Wow" to your article TB. Thank you! I'm very proud to be a tiger!!! And, I gained a ton from my four years in the wonderful orange bubble!

How cool is that?

Proud to be a Tiger. It's a bond that lasts forever, and it's why every Princeton alum everywhere was pulling for her n her race.

The gold belongs to Ashleigh Johnson, the goalie on the women's water polo team and possibly the best women's water polo player in the world. She certainly dominated at the Olympics, and if you dominate there, then you certainly can make a case for being the best.

Her honors certainly back it up. She was named the outstanding goalie at the tournament. Her team was unbeaten. And she was this amazing force on the back line that allowed her teammates to play with incredible margin for error.

Johnson joins Bill Bradley as Princeton athletes who will have won gold medals at the Olympics and then returned to compete for Princeton. TB is pretty sure Nelson Diebel did not swim for Princeton again after winning two goals in Barcelona in 1992, though he has to double check that.

As for Johnson, she brought incredible publicity to Princeton and Princeton water polo. She had an endless amount of attention from the international media, and she backed it up in the pool. She was a great ambassador for Princeton and for what Princeton Athletics strives to be, which is a place where people can reach their highest athletic goals without having to sacrifice any part of their educational opportunity.

Johnson will be back in DeNunzio Pool this spring with the Tigers. That is absolute can't-miss stuff for sports fans of all kinds, not just Princeton fans or water polo fans.

And with that, the Rio Olympics are over.

Ah, but TigerBlog still has a few thoughts:

* TigerBlog was crushed by the disqualification of assistant men's cross country coach Robby Andrews in the 1,500 semifinal. It was a really close call, and it could have gone either way. Andrews was boxed in with nowhere to go, and it did look like he was forced across the line. It made watching the 1,500 final tough, since Andrews would have been right there for a medal, along with gold medalist Matthew Centrowitz, who ran a great race. Still, the time was slow, and Andrews is a great finisher.

* It seemed like the DQs in the track and field races were almost random. The one that really flabbergasted TigerBlog was when American Paul Chelimo finished with the silver medal in the 5,000 meters, only to be DQd - and then reinstated. What possibly changed? The tape was still the tape. Why was he possibly DQd in the first place? He never should have been, and TB is glad he got his medal back. And Chelimo also handled himself flawlessly when he was told he was DQd - on live TV during an NBC postgame race, no less. It seemed like an unnecessary attempt to create drama by NBC, but Chelimo handled it gracefully.

* TigerBlog lost track of how different events he watched. One he liked a lot was the rhythmic gymnastics. It seems much more graceful than the regular gymnastics, and the way the competitors are able to incorporate the ribbons or the hoops or the other things they use is really impressive - and athletic. The whole event made TB wonder how those gymnasts get involved in the rhythmic side as opposed to the more mainstream one.

* Other (non-mainstream) events TB liked a lot - trampoline, kayak and canoe, all of the rowing, midnight beach volleyball (especially how the fans got into it), synchronized diving, synchronized swimming (though not as much as the diving), team handball, field hockey (men's and women's). And of course, horse dancing (a.k.a, dressage).

* Sports that are wildly out of place in the Olympics - golf and tennis.

* Sports that drew great ratings that TB hardly watched - regular gymnastics, basketball (men's and women's), men's soccer, women's soccer (minus Matheson).

* If Carmelo Anthony really wants to impress TigerBlog, he'll do it in the NBA playoffs, not in the Olympics. Sorry, but winning the Olympics is not a great accomplishment for a team of NBA stars.

* His favorite non-Princeton athletes in the Games were Usain Bolt and Katie Ledecky. There is something about seeing incredible greatness take things to another level. That's what those two did. TigerBlog actually wonders what percentage of American sports fans were rooting for Bolt and Jamaica when he took the baton for the final leg of the 4x100 relay. His sense is it's a high percentage. Oh, and the U.S. had never DQd in a 4x100 men's relay in Olympic history until three Olympics ago, and now the U.S. has done so three straight times, while Bolt and Jamaica won each time. Is there a mental thing there?

* Dartmouth grad Abbey D'Agostino didn't win a medal or reach the women's 5,000 final, but she came away from Rio as an international symbol of sportsmanship, determination and grit. After an unfortunate spill, she first helped the New Zealand runner over whom she had fallen to her feet and exhorted her to finish and then hobbled around the track for more than four more laps to finish herself. It turned out she had a torn ACL, torn meniscus and strained MCL.

* As for Ryan Lochte, is it that hard to imagine that he and some of his teammates went out, got drunk and found trouble?

* Did you see the Japanese woman wrestler who won a gold? When her coach came out to celebrate, she took him to the mat and pinned him - and then carried him around on her shoulders. Now that was pure joy.

* The ability to watch events live through the NBC streaming made the packaged primetime coverage look even sillier. The streaming is the best advancement in Olympic coverage that TB can remember, especially since the explosion of social media makes it nearly impossible not to find out who already had won before the night's coverage began. This will be even bigger in the next three Olympics, all of which are in Asia - the 2018 Winter Games in South Korea, the 2020 Summer Games in Tokyo and the 2022 Winter Games in China.

* And speaking of TV, what percentage of the millions of people who watched gymnastics, track and field and swimming will watch any of those sports on television again at any point of the next four years? Less than one? It's a fascinating dynamic for TigerBlog. Those sports come into the main focus of the Olympics and then basically disappear, only to come back again in four more years as the feature sports of the next Games.

So that's about it for these Olympics.

It was a great run for Princeton in Rio, where 11 former and two current Tigers took their best shot against the rest of the world. Their presence, and the rest of a wildly entertaining Summer Games, made this one of the best two weeks of sports in a long time.

And now? Olympic withdrawal.

But that's okay. You know what this week is?

Game week for Princeton Athletics, whose first event of 2016-17 is this Friday.


Anonymous said...

Once again, we see that the best athletes (e.g., Ashleigh Johnson, or Bill Bradley 50 years ago) make everyone around them better. So Lochte - despite all of his medals - is one of the worst athletes ever.

And isn't the Japanese 4x100 men's team the old Boston Celtics of track? Flawless teamwork making the whole greater than the sum of its parts. Outstanding.

Anonymous said...

I watched many hours of the Olympics and I thought your article today very nicely captured the Games.

Anonymous said...

"One he liked a lot was the rhythmic gymnastics."

Please, please, please tell me you are kidding. Please?