Olympics: Usain Bolt makes a big splash
During his semi-regular hazing* last night on NBC’s primetime coverage of the Olympic Games, Ryan Seacrest was either forced to say, or voluntarily chose to say, that certain female Olympic champions had blown up Twitter by delivering something called “buzzable bests.” While I’m not sure that’s the exact phrase the U.S. women’s soccer team used in the locker room before they won their gold medal match against Japan, I will at least concede that the only thing Usain Bolt wants to be is his “buzzable best.” The U.S. women’s divers? Not so buzzable, and not at their best. The U.S. women’s indoor volleball team? Totally buzzable, and totally at their best. Bob Costas’ disappearing-reappearing Harry Potter hipster glasses? The bestest and buzzablest of all! Let’s get to it!
(*I am convinced that Ryan Seacrest has spent the last two weeks being hazed. No one can have a string of TV appearances this humiliating just because.)
Usain in the membrane
On the one hand, Usain Bolt made history as the first man ever to win the 100 and 200 meter sprints in successive Olympic Games. On the other hand, the guy spent almost as much energy mugging for the cameras and crowd as he spent running his 200 meter race. There he is fake punching U.S. sprinter Wallace Spearmon backstage (which, granted, proved an apt visual metaphor for Jamaica’s medal stand sweep in the 200m). There he is telling the camera “I’m gonna win.” There he is slowing down in the last 10 meters of his run, as he holds up the number one to his mouth, and thereby misses a chance to break his own world record. There he is doing push-ups after the race, demonstrating for certain that he did not, as they say, leave it all out on the field.
When it came time for Bolt’s post-race interview, he’d managed to tie the Jamaican flag around his neck like a scarf. But just when I thought Bolt was about to also break the record for self-parody, he somehow managed to say “I showed the world I am the best” without coming off like a the biggest tool in the world. The man knows he’s the best because, for what he does, he is. He can be a narcissistic jerk, to be sure, but there’s no sloppy bluster with the guy — he wants to give us a show, not seek our approval. Which is more than I can say for the NBC commentators, who took every possible opportunity to slather superlatives all over Bolt. “We’ve all been in the presence of greatness tonight,” said one, and I don’t think he meant the size of Bolt’s ego.
Still, I don’t think I’m alone in far preferring David Rudisha’s performance both on and off the track to Bolt’s. The Kenyan middle-distance phenom blasted through his own world record in the men’s 800 meter final, leading the entire race — a rare feat for this race. Rudisha’s bright, camera-ready smile was on full display during his adorable up-close-and-personal package, which also showcased his criminally adorable coach, Brother Colm O’Connell, an Irishman who made Kenya his home decades ago. If the studio still made live-action movies, I’d expect a Disney adaptation of their story to go into development ASAP — it’s like Cool Runnings, but in reverse!
Elsewhere in the Olympic Stadium…
We watched highlights of the finals for the triple jump, a.k.a. the goofiest looking track and field event that you also think you could do yourself but would actually end up tearing some part of your nether-business that’s best not messed with.
Tianna Madison, Jeneba Tarmoh, Bianca Knight, and Lauryn Williams ran a scorching heat in the prelims for the women’s 4×100 meter relay. We were told that this team is chock full of “prima donnas and divas,” which I didn’t quite understand until I learned that 200 meter gold medalist Allyson Felix and 100 meter silver medalist Carmelita Jeter will most likely sweep in to join the team for the final. That’s kinda like me having our intern write the first draft of this post, and then I come in and add all the fancy-pants jokey jokes and win all the love and praise and Twitter followers. Which is true, I’m a monster, but you don’t see me signing any endorsement deals for it is all I’m trying to say here.
And finally, we watched Ashton Eaton triumph with the second day of the decathlon, making him the official Olympic Stud of the Day. Trey Hardee, Eaton’s more emotionally demonstrative (i.e. scream-y) training partner won silver. It’s just too bad for the guy, since he’s so homely.
Wait, her name is what?!
We joined the semifinal women’s indoor volleyball match between the U.S. and South Korea at the end of the second set, with the U.S. trailing 17 to 20 after winning the first set in a squeaker. The American ladies pulled out a win in that set, and in the subsequent set to win the match, thanks to terrific team work, dogged determination, and a secret weapon named Destinee Hooker. Upon hearing this statuesque and fearsome woman’s name for the first time, my snark demon Smirkelstiltskin began to emit a pungent steam from his ear-holes, so ready was he to unleash the full might of his powers upon Destinee Hooker’s improbable name. But after Destinee’s third kill shot just about put a crater in the floor, old Smirkel was cowering underneath the sofa, and didn’t come out again all night. Mad respect, Destinee. Mad respect.
Both Smirkel and I do have one question, though: Is that bacon on this South Korean player’s neck?
With apologies to Annie Barrett[/caption]
I mean, she does look hungry.
Diving gets all wet
In Olympics past, when I’ve watched platform diving, I’ve always felt in awe of the preternatural beauty of the sport, how the divers use mere seconds in the air to perform stunning feats of acrobatics before squeezing their bodies into the water with little to no splash. And then once and a while someone wipes out badly, and I get the cheap thrill of gritting my teeth as I bark a dramatic “OH!” at the diver’s misfortune.
Yeah, not so much this year with the women’s platform diving. If anything, that aforementioned pattern was reversed, with dive after dive going wrong for just about every diver who wasn’t eventual landslide gold medal winner Chen Ruloin. The two U.S. divers, Brittany Viola and Katie Bell, both had a particularly bad day, failing to place in the finals thanks to a string of badly botched dives. “I’m making myself sick by saying this over and over again,” said commentator Cynthia Potter, “but going in vertically and not making a splash, that’s the name of the final game.”
You could see it in the faces of Viola and Bell’s respective coaches and teammates, and especially in the gloomy stone face of Brittany’s ex-jock father. After a certain point, it was kinda cruel of the NBC cameras to keep cutting to the guy, especially since Katie Bell’s dad was so endearingly supportive. No matter how much his daughter’s dives spiked on the Splash-o-Meter, Papa Bell just kept clapping emphatically, bellowing the same mantra over and over: “AllrightALLrightallrightallright!” It was a rare highlight in an otherwise waterlogged event.
Watch out for the…oh nevermind!
In stark contrast to women’s diving, I don’t know if I will ever grow tired of watching all the out-of-nowhere wipeouts in the men’s BMX racing. The sport only started at the Olympics in Beijing in 2008, which may be why so much of it felt like the kind of videogame where all I do is keep mashing random buttons in the blind hope that I stumble onto victory. Indeed, the TV coverage was unsurprisingly unhelpful in explaining much of anything about the sport, including why the course looked like it was out of Mario Kart (not to mix my videogame metaphors). Also, why and how can some of the quarterfinal racers qualify after placing well in the first three races, but other competitors could only qualify after racing two more races? I have no idea if the previous sentence made any sense.
Ultimately, though, that doesn’t matter. I’m likely going to hell for this, but for my money there was no better laugh-out-loud moment all night than when seven out of eight BMX racers wiped out on a turn, allowing one contestant to finish the course by himself. He was clad only in black, which had me convinced he was actually a modern day Bond villain who’d spread thumbtacks from the heel of his shoe. Or something.
Your turn: What did you make of last night’s Olympics? Were you happy to see every single member of the women’s water polo team leap into the pool upon their gold medal victory, even if that meant one U.S. official in khaki pants appeared to leap on top of one of his contestants? And what did you think Chen Ruloin was watching on her smart phone as she waited for her next dive all curled up on the floor?