Friday, July 16, 2021

One Week Away

TigerBlog has gotten into watching the Tour de France on TV.

He's watched the last few days as the riders have gone through climbs that have taken them to elevations of 7,000 feet, pushing onward through 10 percent upgrades. It's amazing stuff to watch, especially for someone who is a regular bicycle rider himself.

He couldn't even dream of getting close to making it a fraction of the way up the mountains that these riders make look routine. There's a separate championship for the King of the Mountain, and that might be more impressive to TB than who wins the overall title.

The event began on June 26 and runs through Sunday, and there have been two days off in the middle. The riders will cover a total of 2,121 miles, with a shortest one-day distance of 17 miles and the longest one-day distance of 154 miles. There are 12 different days where the riders go at least 100 miles

One thing that is clear from the TV broadcast is that there is almost no separation between the fans and the riders when they come by. The first stage of the race, you might recall, was interrupted by one fan who wandered a little too far out onto the road and took out a bunch of riders, resulting in injuries (the riders) and an arrest (the spectator).

In the stages that TB has been watching, the spectators have stepped out to hold up signs and yell encouragement, and they've even tapped riders on the back as they've gone by.

TB still hasn't come up with a favorite rider. He's more fascinated by the endurance and willingness to put yourself through something like that. 

The broadcasts have been on NBC Sports Network. As the riders go along, there are also ads that scroll to promote the upcoming Olympic Games. The opening ceremonies are just one week away, beginning July 23 in Tokyo.

The Olympics have been delayed a year by the pandemic. They will also not have fans in venues, again because of COVID. What is left is a made-for-TV event, one that will dominate the sports scene for two weeks.

Princeton will again be well-represented at the Summer Games. The Tigers have, by TB's count, 19 athletes and four coaches in Japan.

Princeton has an amazing history at the Olympic Games, dating back to the first modern Games in 1896. Prior to 2021, Princeton has been represented by 114 athletes who between them have made 159 total appearances. There have been 19 gold medals, 24 silver medals and 24 bronze medals.

One of those gold medalists is Ashleigh Johnson, who led the U.S. team to the championship in the 2016 Games in Rio. The U.S. is the heavy favorite to win again, which would allow Johnson to join Caroline Lind as the only Princeton women to win two golds.

Gevvie Stone is back in 2021 as well. It's her third Olympic appearance, after not medaling in London in 2012 and then winning silver in single sculls in 2016. She's rowing in the doubles this time around.

Should Stone and/or Johnson get another medal, they'd join a short list of Princetonians who have won multiple Olympic medals. Lind obviously did so, as did Nelson Diebel in 1992 in swimming (golds in the 100 breaststroke and medley relay). Rowers Doug Burden (bronze in 1988, silver in 1992) and Anne Marden (silvers in 1984 and 1988) are the other two who have done so in the last 70 years.

There are all kinds of great stories for Princeton at the upcoming Games. There's Kathleen Noble, who will row for Uganda, the country in which she grew up. There is a strong fencing contingent. Of course there are the two steeplechasers. There are Princeton athletes representing nine different countries.

As has been the case in all recent Olympiads, Princeton Athletics will be telling all of those stories. There will be daily updates, a social media presence, photos and of course entries here to read. TB's favorite events in the Olympics are the ones in which Princeton athletes compete.

And that all begins in one week. It's been a delay of a year, and it might not be the Olympic experience that normally exists. But it will be the Olympic Games, and so once again, that means Princeton will be there.

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