NBC’s primetime telecast had something for everyone Friday night: Joy and pain at the track (both running and BMX), the network’s two best trips down memory lane (with the 1992 Dream Team and the first charming man to run under a four-minute mile), male 10m platform divers with and without body hair, and a Downton Abbey shout-out in a Mary Carillo segment on castles and coats of arms. (Why didn’t they choose a funnier sound bite from the Dowager Countess?) Let’s dig in.
TRACK AND FIELD: I covered the U.S. men’s 4 x 400m relay loss to the Bahamas in my post naming Bryshon Nellum the Olympic Stud of the Day anyway for his personal triumph. So let’s start with the women’s 4 x 100m relay win over Jamaica, which set a new world record. Some fuzzy screengrabs courtesy of my phone tell the story:
Clearly Carmelita “They’re gonna drop the stick, they can’t do this, they can’t do that, and we did it” Jeter should do every post-race interview ever. Like, even if she wasn’t in the race, I want her to do the interview for the winner. When she retires, she should become a field reporter for NBC.
On the flip side of that emotion, was the utter disappointment of Morgan Uceny, who had her foot clipped by another runner, Abeba Aregawi, right after the final bell lap of the 1,500m final and crashed to the track — which she beat with her hands while sobbing. She fell at the 2011 World Championships, too, so those tears were justified.
I can’t imagine the what ifs going through Uceny’s head today. What if I’d been on the inside of the track? What if Aregawi — who wanted to run for Sweden, where she lives with her Swedish husband — had sat out the Olympics instead of competing for Ethiopia, which allegedly took her passport and cell phone and threatened her family until she relented and ran under its flag? How do I have worse luck than my teammate Shannon Rowbury, who spit right as the camera cut to her before the race? She’ll never get those answers, so I hope she’s able to move on.
One thing I can answer for you: The story behind Morgan’s necklace. She used to make necklaces for herself in junior high and wear one every day. She made this one, and it just became her trademark. For better or worse.
In other track news, the U.S. men’s 4 x 100m relay team qualified for Saturday’s final with a new American record and a time .01 faster than Jamaica. Both teams will shake up their lineup, and Jamaica’s Yohan Blake promised that with the addition of Usain Bolt, its time will be “crazy” and “devastating.” Can’t wait. Sadly, Germany didn’t make that final, so we won’t be seeing Paul Wesley-lookalike Julian Reus again.
The U.S. women qualified for today’s 4 x 400m relay final, with anchor DeeDee Trotter blowing a kiss to the camera.
Men’s pole vault is awesome, and not just because the defending Olympic champ, who was too injured to clear one height, is an Aussie named Steve Hooker. Also because the 2012 silver medalist, Germany’s Bjorn Otto, reminded me of Wolverine.
Also noteworthy: Ethiopia’s “Baby-Faced Assassin,” Tirunesh Dibaba, only got bronze in the women’s 5,000m. How about that story of her 2008 wedding being a 10-day televised celebration that included a parade with her and husband riding on a chariot in front of 500,000 people?
NEXT: Diving adjustments
DIVING: Men’s platform is the most competitive of the diving events, which means even the prelims are a nail-biter. Only the Top 18 made it into today’s semifinals (those results are already up, if you can’t wait). The U.S.’s David Boudia just made the cut after almost landing on his stomach in the fourth of six dives and receiving 4.5s. Apparently he found the half hour wait between dives difficult.
Also, so much Speedo adjusting went on last night. China’s Lin Yue liked to do it before his dive, Boudia after. Underwater cam, sir! But it has to be done.
Great Britain’s 18-year-old superstar Tom Daley, who’s popular enough there to have released a memoir earlier this year, also blew a dive, nearly landing on his back in the fifth round and drawing moans from his supportive home crowd. Still, he made it through in 15th place, and hands-down takes the most advantage of that shower on the deck, so we’re rooting for him. How odd was it to finally hear him talk when he was interviewed at the end?
This was your leader after the prelims, China’s Qiu Bo, looking confused because he only got 9.5s for a dive.
This is the other American, Nick McCrory, who finished 8th, making me wonder how much it will hurt when the tape is pulled off his hairy leg.
And this is the defending Olympic champ, Australia’s Matthew Mitcham, being great TV. (Thanks, @redcoloredstars!) That package NBC showed of him talking about coming out to his supportive mother (“Well, duh”) at 14, after having worn a rubberband on his wrist and snapping it if he had gay thoughts, was more inspiring than his 9th place standing.
NEXT: A nightmare crash and a Dream Team
BMX: Crashes have been the story of BMX in London. The U.S.’s Alise Post had a dizzying one that got plenty of screen time. We watched as she tried to stand so she could get back on her bike and finish but just fell back to the ground. Eventually, she was able to walk over the finish line with help. (This was only slightly more painful to watch than Britain’s medal favorite Shanaze Reade’s interview after finishing sixth. She’d crashed in the final in Beijing. How does she feel failing again four years later? “A little bit empty and a little bit flat,” obviously. Though she vowed to keep going until she won Olympic gold.)
WRESTLING: Jordan Burroughs gave the U.S. its first wrestling gold in London. And made these kids really, really happy they hadn’t dressed like that for nothing.
Dream Team: I’d say this short film was even better than the 1996 women’s gymnastics short we saw earlier in the Games. I’d also name Magic Johnson the MVP of it — from that humbled and grateful look on his face when he said he wasn’t sure whether the Olympics needed him or he needed the Olympics more after his HIV diagnosis, to his enthusiasm telling great stories about Michael Jordan. Example: On the third day of the team scrimmaging, the West was on a run and the East took a time out. Johnson trash-talked Jordan. “’Look, Mike, if you don’t turn into Air Jordan, we’re gonna blow you guys out.’ So, you know, that bald head started just steamin’ then, right,” Johnson said. “The tongue came out a little longer. He broke out of that huddle and he turned it on….” I wish we’d gotten footage of that 360° dunk Johnson described. But at least we got this.
SIR ROGER BANNISTER: On May 6, 1954, he became the first man to run a mile in under four minutes. He never medaled at the Olympics because he didn’t have the stamina needed for all the heats — he could only train 30 minutes a day due to his studies to become a world-class neurologist. He should have done track commentary for NBC. “I think the art of running is to take out of yourself more than you’ve got. That’s the state I was in when I crossed the line,” he said.
And he almost got me wanting to jog when he described running on the beach on family seashore holidays. “As I accelerated, I entered into a slightly dreamy state, feeling aware of the sun, and the sky, and the birds, and the clouds, and the wind. I think that was when I realized I could be a runner.”