Gold Medal Preview: Men’s Basketball, USA vs. Spain

Team USA will be looking at a Spanish language version of itself from four years ago when it meets Spain in the Olympic Gold Medal Game today at 10 a.m. ET (9 a.m. CT).

Back then, in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the Spain took the American Redeem Team to the brink in an epic Gold Medal Game many of us in the States – including myself – watched in the wee hours of the morning after stumbling in after a Saturday night out. That game ended 118-107, with Team USA returning to a Gold standard of basketball after a relatively poor performance netted bronze in Athens in 2004.

Familiar Foes

This Spanish team is arguably better than the 2008 version, and is looking for its own brand of redemption after such a hard-fought loss four years ago. The players are not unfamiliar with each other: they met in a pre-Olympics international friendly, a game which the U.S. won handily, and  the bulk of both teams’ impact players come from the NBA’s Western Conference.

Spain’s Pau and Marc Gasol (L.A. Lakers and Memphis Grizzlies), Serge Ibaka (OKC Thunder) and Rudy Fernandez (Portland Trailblazers/Denver Nuggets) have played with or against the United States’ Kobe Bryant (Lakers), Kevin Durant (Thunder), Chris Paul (New Orleans Hornets/LA Clippers) and Carmelo Anthony (Nuggets). Tyson Chandler (Hornets/Mavericks) and Kevin Love (Minnesota Timberwolves) – Team USA’s biggest guys – both have experience playing against these guys too.

Size Up Front

Spain will feature the most talented size Team USA has come up against thus far, with the two seven-foot Gasol brothers capable of playing a deadly combo at center and power forward, and OKC’s Serge Ibaka also providing a defensive specialist off the bench. Expect the bulk of the minutes to go to the Gasols. Pau played more than 30 minutes in a double-double effort in the semifinal against Russia, grabbing 10 rebounds on defense and scoring 16 points, and Marc played just under 30 minutes, scoring 11 points.

In the quarterfinal against France, Pau Gasol played 32 minutes, collecting 11 boards and scoring 10 points while drawing 8 fouls. Marc also played 32 minutes and put up 14 points with 8 rebounds (7 defensive) and drawing 7 fouls. Spain does lead the tournament in fouls drawn, with the Gasols drawing on average more than five fouls per game. The primary question here will be can Chandler maintain a presence in the game without getting into foul trouble too early on, forcing him out of the game and the smaller Love into a defensive role against Marc Gasol. James will be charged with guarding one of the Gasols – likely Marc – and should not be underestimated for his defense. Having fresh bigs in the game longer and out of foul trouble will be key to freeing up James and the rest to focus on offense.

Spanish Weapons Not Named Gasol

Spain’s role players – Fernandez at the 2 guard, Jose Calderon and Sergio Llull at the point and Juan Carlos Navarro in the backcourt – are not as talented as USA’s Paul, Russell Westbrook and Deron Williams and its elite shooters, but they are still threats. Navarro has been nursing an injury and has played about 20 minutes the last two games, not posing a scoring threat but still capable of dishing out assists.

Calderon factored heavily into the hard-fought victory against taller Russia, playing 33 minutes and scoring 14 of Spain’s 67 points with three assists. He did post 4 personal fouls though, which is one short of fouling out in Olympics play. It remains to be seen if he can keep up with the more agile Westbrook, Paul and even to an extent Williams if they’re on the court at the same time. Llull played 20 minutes that game with Calderon in foul trouble.

Fernandez is the greatest threat of these three, known for his shooting ability outside – he hit three of seven three-point attempts against Russia, but he is prone to cold shooting nights like his 0-5 three-point performance against France in the quarters. He’ll be guarded by Bryant while he’s in the game, and Bryant has seen Fernandez in the Western Conference plenty of times. Williams will cover Fernandez if Rudy is on the court when (and if) USA runs its dual-guard rotation with Deron and CP3 on the court together, but you may see Durant playing some on him as well, depending on Spain and USA’s lineups.

Spain is shooting 50 percent from the field and averaging 78 points per game – a far cry from Team USA’s 117 points per game – but has the size capable of dealing with Team USA if it can be drawn into foul trouble early on.

Team USA’s Game Plan

Size isn’t the key weapon for Team USA in this tournament – it’s offensive firepower. It’s been largely the LeBron James show for Team USA. He and Paul have largely orchestrated the Americans’ transition game, driving the ball to the paint and either scoring or dishing to open snipers like Anthony and Durant. Team USA has feasted on three-pointers in this tournament, draining several in the fourth quarter semi against Argentina. Team USA has been remarkably adept in the paint,

It’s been little challenge for Team USA’s scorers to come up big when needed, and it’s been a different guy each quarter seemingly, with James providing the consistent threat, turning it on in key moments like the closing of the tight game USA played against Lithuania. James has averaged an impressive 5.9 assists per game, tops on a team with assist machine Cp3. James and Paul have been critical in the rebounding game as well – posting 5.9 and 5.6 boards per game.

That’s the role James has been asked to play in a lineup stacked with firepower. Durant and Anthony have been two of the most reliable scorers for Team USA – KD has averaged 18 points per game in this tournament and is shooting an awesome 56 percent from the 3-point line, but Melo isn’t to be outdone, averaging 17.4 PPG and shooting 53 percent beyond the arc. Bryant has provided the scoring lead at times as well.

Chandler and Love won’t be asked to shoulder the scoring load – that will come from the outside – but will need to provide some form of defensive presence against Spain’s bigs for as long as they can while helping out on the rebounding front. Love has been the rebounding force we’ve come to expect from his prowess in the NBA, bringing in 7.4 per game in limited minutes.

Keys to Victory

Team USA must make Spain work for its points without getting into foul trouble and giving them free passage to the free-throw line. Make Fernandez and to an extent Calderon beat you and complement the Gasols inside. Chandler hasn’t played much but will be asked to counter the Gasols as best he can in what time he can. Let James and Durant continue to focus on the offensive front – though there will be a mismatch favoring Team USA if the Gasols are guarding these guys on the other end of the court.

Team USA’s biggest threat in this tournament came in the Lithuania game, when they shot only 30 percent from the 3-point line. That can’t happen for the tournament’s most prolific 3-point shooting team. The Americans have attempted the most threes with a whopping 256, but they’ve also shot the best at 45 percent per game. That must continue – Anthony, Durant, Bryant and the rest need to continue to hit those shots.

The open look at the three will come from Paul, James, Williams and Westbrook to an extent off the bench continuing to penetrate into the paint. If the threes aren’t falling for Team USA, look for James to turn it on and take more shots on his own. Westbrook may be a key change-of-pace scoring threat.

See Ya, Coach

Worth mentioning is that this will be Coach Mike Krzyzewski’s final gig coaching Team USA in the Olympics and international competition. Coach K brought this team back from disarray after a disappointment in Athens, first winning the bronze medal in the 2006 FIBA world championships but helping lead the Redeem Team to gold in 2008, and clinching gold again at the World Championships in 2010. For a college coach, Coach K – who is second to none – has done a fantastic job managing NBA-size egos and bringing these guys together in a system that has dominated all competition. This was a much needed stabilizing presence for this program to return to its former glories, and here’s hoping his successor will continue that trend.

You will also probably see the last of Kobe Bryant in the Olympics, which is sad considering he’s been a force for Team USA and has been a strong supporter of the Americans in many other events, being a constant presence at women’s basketball, beach volleyball and swimming events. James and Anthony may also be done after two Olympics.

Prediction

USA took down Spain easily, 100-78 in Barcelona in a pre-Olympics exhibition, a game where James scored 25 and Anthony put up 27. Team USA pulled away late with its perimeter shooters, despite losing Chandler early to fouls, but this Spain team has had several games to improve, recover from injury and establish team chemistry. They haven’t been the greatest scoring threat in this tournament, but they are not to be overlooked until the final buzzer sounds. Still, I think Team USA has been shooting so well, and Love and James are up to the task defensively enough to keep USA in front at the end. It may be a tighter game through three quarters than we’d like, but James has displayed impressive dominance and stamina at the end of games, and I feel USA will have enough open shots near the perimeter to take this game and repeat as Gold Medal Champions.

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Closing Time: Your Guide to the 2012 London Olympics Closing Ceremonies

You don’t want to say goodbye any more than I do, but all good things do indeed come to an end. But luckily, in a last-ditch effort to feed our insatiable need for Olympic spirit and international festive cultural interaction, there will be, as always, the Closing Ceremonies.

This year, the theme for London’s closing ceremonies will be “A Symphony of British Music,” and one has to wonder if icons like Elton John, The Rolling Stones or Ringo Starr – all missing from the Opening Ceremony – will make appearances here. One thing we DO know – the Spice Girls are back in full effect!

Speculation is running abound, but the band Muse and George Michael have confirmed they will participate, according to The Washington Times. Rumors also have Monty Python’s Eric Idle participating, which would make me really happy, and Adele is also a speculative participant. We shall see!

The Closing Ceremony begins LIVE at 4 p.m. ET (3 p.m. CT, 1 p.m. Pacific). The ceremony will be streamed live from NBCOlympics.com at those times, so if you can’t wait, check them out then, likely with the British broadcasts. NBC will indeed air the event in tape delay beginning at 7 p.m. ET and 6 p.m. CT, but the event won’t begin for Pacific audiences until 7 p.m. Pacific time. That’s an 8-hour wait for you West Coasters.

Refer here for a way to stream the events live.

Prepare to bid London goodbye!

2012 Summer Olympics – FINAL Daily Schedule for August 12 (includes Closing Ceremonies)

Well, it’s finally arrived. All good things must come to an end. These last two weeks have been incredibly fun, action-packed and memorable, and I don’t want them to be over. But we’ve got to move on.

But, for the final time, I’m proud to bring you the daily slate of events, so you can get your last fix of Olympics action in before we say farewell to London.

Basketball is king today, as King James, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant and the rest of Team USA look to silence any doubt they can’t handle the size of Spain in the Gold Medal Game, set to tip off at 10 a.m. ET/9 p.m. CT. Spain brings size in Serge Ibaka and Pau and Marc Gasol against the American sharpshooters, whose three-happy game plan was too much for Argentina to handle in the semifinals.

Track and field closes with the Men’s Marathon, in which three American men are competing. We also have two Americans each in the women’s Modern Pentathlon, men’s Mountain Bike Race and Men’s Freestyle Wrestling, the last of which begins with elimination rounds and culminates around midday with the bronze and gold medal matches if they advance that far.

Team USA also plays one final game in the pool, taking on Australia for bragging rights in the Men’s Water Polo 7th Place Match.

The world watches as medals are handed out in men’s water polo, volleyball and handball, and the Men’s Basketball Bronze Medal Match features Russia and Argentina, with both teams featuring NBA talent.

For the full slate of medal events, scroll down to the bottom. Rhythmic gymnastics and boxing also close today, but neither event features Team USA.

And with that, we bid the 2012 Summer Olympic Games of London adieu! I can’t promise I won’t cry. Closing Ceremonies will be streamed live online at NBCOlympics.com, and they begin at 4 p.m. ET (3 p.m. CT and 1 p.m. Pacific). NBC will indeed air the event in tape delay beginning at 7 p.m. ET and 6 p.m. CT, but the event won’t begin for Pacific audiences until 7 p.m. Pacific time. So just watch it online.

Refer here for a way to stream the events live.

 

(ALL TIMES CENTRAL)

Team USA 

* – Medal Event

  • 2:00 a.m.: Modern Pentathlon, Americans Margaux Isaksen and Suzanne Stettinius compete in the Women’s Fencing Event
  • 2:57 a.m.: Wrestling vs. BLR Belarus – Round of 16, American Jared Frayer competes in the Men’s Freestyle 66kg/145.5 lbs Division
  • 3:24 a.m.: Wrestling vs. UZB Uzbekistan – Round of 16, American Jake Varner competes in the Men’s Freestyle 96kg/211.5 lbs Division
  • 3:33 a.m.: Wrestling, American Jared Frayer may compete in the Men’s Freestyle 66kg/145.5 lbs Division Quarterfinals (pending earlier results)
  • 3:24 a.m.: Wrestling , American Jake Varner may compete in the Men’s Freestyle 96kg/211.5 lbs Division Quarterfinals (pending earlier results)
  • 4:18 a.m.: Wrestling, American Jared Frayer may compete in the Men’s Freestyle 66kg/145.5 lbs Division Semifinals (pending earlier results)
  • 4:36 a.m.: Wrestling, American Jake Varner may compete in the Men’s Freestyle 96kg/211.5 lbs Division Semifinals (pending earlier results)
  • 4:20 a.m.: Water Polo vs. Australia Australia, Team USA battles the Aussies for bragging rights and seventh place
  • *5:00 a.m.: Track and Field, Americans Abdi AbdirahmanRyan Hall and Meb Keflezighi run for gold in the epic Men’s Marathon
  • 6:35 a.m.: Modern Pentathlon, Americans Margaux Isaksen and Suzanne Stettinius compete in the Women’s Swimming Event
  • *6:45 a.m.: Wrestling, American Jared Frayer may compete in the Men’s Freestyle 66kg/145.5 lbs Division  Bronze Medal Finals (pending earlier results)
  • *6:54 a.m.: Wrestling, American Jake Varner may compete in the Men’s Freestyle 96kg/211.5 lbs Division Bronze Medal Finals (pending earlier results)
  • *7:30 a.m.: Cycling, Americans Todd Wells and Sam Schultz ride for gold in the Men’s Mountain Bike Race
  • *8:03 a.m.: Wrestling, American Jared Frayer may compete in the Men’s Freestyle 66kg/145.5 lbs Division Gold Medal Finals (pending earlier results)
  • 8:35 a.m.: Modern Pentathlon, Americans Margaux Isaksen and Suzanne Stettinius may compete in the Women’s Swimming Event (pending earlier results)
  • *8:48 a.m.: Wrestling, American Jake Varner may compete in the Men’s Freestyle 96kg/211.5 lbs Division Gold Medal Finals (pending earlier results)
  • *9:00 a.m.: Basketball vs. Spain Spain, Team USA goes for its second consecutive Olympic gold medal against its predicted final opponent, Spain, which features NBA players Jose Calderon and the Gasol Brothers, Pau and Marc
  • *12:00 p.m.: Modern Pentathlon, Americans Margaux Isaksen and Suzanne Stettinius may compete in the Women’s Combined (Run/Shoot) Event (pending earlier results; this is the decisive and final event in the Modern Pentathlon)

 

World Notables

* All are Medal Events

  • 3:30 a.m.: Volleyball, Bulgaria Bulgaria vs. Italy Italy, Men’s Bronze Medal Match
  • 5:00 a.m.: Basketball, Argentina Argentina vs. Russia Russia, Men’s Bronze Medal Game
  • 5:00 a.m.: Handball, Hungary Hungary vs. Croatia Croatia, Men’s Bronze Medal Match
  • 7:00 a.m.: Volleyball, Russia Russia vs. Brazil Brazil, Gold Medal Match
  • 8:30 a.m.: Water Polo, Montenegro Montenegro vs. Serbia Serbia, Men’s Bronze Medal Match
  • 9:00 a.m.: Handball, Sweden Sweden vs. France France, Men’s Gold Medal Match
  • 9:50 a.m.: Water Polo, Croatia Croatia vs. Italy Italy, Men’s Gold Medal Match

Medal Events

* – Team USA participation pending

  • 3:30 a.m.: Volleyball, Men’s Bronze Medal Match
  • 5:00 a.m.: Basketball, Men’s Bronze Medal Game
  • 5:00 a.m.: Track and Field, Men’s Marathon
  • 5:00 a.m.: Handball, Men’s Bronze Medal Match
  • 6:45 a.m.: Wrestling, Men’s Freestyle 66kg/145.5 lbs Division Bronze Medal Finals
  • 6:54 a.m.: Wrestling, Men’s Freestyle 96kg/211.5 lbs Division Bronze Medal Finals
  • 7:00 a.m.: Volleyball, Men’s Gold Medal Match
  • 7:30 a.m.: Cycling, Men’s Mountain Bike Race
  • 7:30 a.m.: Boxing, Men’s Flyweight Final
  • 7:30 a.m.: Rhythmic Gymnastics Group Competition, Final – Rotation 1
  • 7:45 a.m.: Boxing, Men’s Lightweight Final
  • 8:03 a.m.: Wrestling, Men’s Freestyle 66kg/145.5 lbs Division Gold Medal Finals
  • 8:15 a.m.: Boxing, Men’s Welterweight Final
  • 8:16 a.m.: Rhythmic Gymnastics Group Competition, Final – Rotation 2
  • 8:30 a.m.: Water Polo, Men’s Bronze Medal Match
  • 8:45 a.m.: Boxing, Men’s Light Heavyweight Final
  • 8:48 a.m.: Wrestling, Men’s Freestyle 96kg/211.5 lbs Division Gold Medal Finals
  • 9:00 a.m.: Basketball, Men’s Gold Medal Game
  • 9:00 a.m.: Handball, Men’s Gold Medal Match
  • 9:15 a.m.: Boxing, Men’s Super Heavyweight Final
  • 9:50 a.m.: Water Polo, Men’s Gold Medal Match
  • 12:00 p.m.: Modern Pentathlon, Women’s Combined (Run/Shoot) Event, final event of pentathlon

Yes We Can! Non-Olympic Sports We Need!

Watching the BMX races last night got me thinking. While I am actually really enjoying this cycling event, I figured, “Don’t they already have the X Games for this kind of event?” Why have something like this instead of baseball?

Then, following that line of thinking, I realize that soccer has the World Cup and tennis has its Grand Slams, and even baseball now has the World Baseball Classic. So I say, why not have BMX racing? The more the merrier really! I’ve got a fever, and the only prescription, is more Olympics.

So here are the five sports I think the Olympics really needs to add to the Summer Games slate, and soon! Wondering why golf and rugby aren’t on the list? They’re making their Olympic debuts in 2016 in Rio de Janeiro!

Parker’s Summer Olympics Additions

1. Baseball/Softball

Jennie Finch (here), Cat Osterman and others were regular sights on the Olympic softball fields, until this year. Bring them back!

BRING THEM BACK!!! NOW!!!

Baseball is my favorite sport, and it and softball by proxy are events I looked forward to every four years during the Olympics. It pains me and boggles my mind that these sports were removed from the Summer Games slate following the Beijing Olympics in 2008. They were removed on the basis of a lack of universality. I say that’s ridiculous.

Baseball itself has instituted a World Baseball Classic, which is sanctioned by the International Baseball Federation and features teams from around the entire world. The first two years it was played, 2006 and 2009, the Classic was won by Japan, but featured six different teams in the top four final rankings. The United States only placed fourth once, and it was joined in those six by Venezuela, South Korea, the Dominican Republic and Cuba. Baseball is incredibly popular in Southeast Asia, South America and the Caribbean; has international programs in Canada, Italy and Israel; and is featured in places like Australia and the Netherlands, as well.

IOC President Jacques Rogge said in 2008 that baseball and softball needed universality, a following and stricter sanctions by the world governing body on performance enhancing drugs, “When you have all that, you have to win hearts. You can win the mind, but you still must win hearts.”

Well, MLB is looking toward adopting HGH blood testing very soon and has already implemented the strictest drug testing program in all of American major sports. Since USA is the birthplace of baseball and the leading force behind the World Baseball Classic, it’s logical to assume the IBF will move to adopt those standards, if it hasn’t already.

As for capturing the hearts…please tell me how the Little League World Series doesn’t capture hearts, how perfect games don’t capture the hearts. International programs are working hard to merit inclusion in the World Baseball Classic, which will field 28 teams in 2013. They WANT to play. There is a desire there, and desire doesn’t come from the mind, it comes from the heart.

Baseball and softball need to be brought back, now.

2. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

I’m personally not a huge mixed martial arts fan, but those who are, and the athletes who participate, revere the forms and techniques taught in jiu jitsu. It is the fundamental basis for competition for many MMA athletes. The Olympics already feature taekwondo (a new addition), wrestling, boxing and judo as forms of hand-to-hand or body-to-body combat, why not include one of the other most popular forms in the world?

And why not let it make its debut in its home country, at least as an exhibition sport, for a start? Efforts are being made to have this happen, and USA Jiu Jitsu is petitioning to allow it. We shall see.

3. CrossFit, or Organized Exercise

File:Annie Mist Þórisdóttir (Annie Mist Thorisdottir - World crossfit champion 2011).jpg

Anníe Mist Thórisdóttir is the two-time defending CrossFit Games Female Champion. Could she and Rich Froning, Jr., the two-time defending male champion, be Olympic gold medalists soon?

Even within organized competition, there are what are known as “Weight Room Legends” – tales of vaunted feats of strength within the weight room by players like Alabama’s Trent Richardson, now with the Cleveland Browns. Athletes are known for their epic benchpresses, vertical leaps, curl counts, etc. Why not have them tracked, charted and rewarded on the international stage?

Further, with the burgeoning popularity of workout styles like CrossFit, and the introduction of the CrossFit Games, there is already a level of competition and notoriety that comes with victory. CrossFit is also a fast-paced exercise system that challenges the body to move faster, higher and stronger, which are the motto of the Olympic Games. There’s a place for CrossFit on the international stage. If not CrossFit, then at least expand weightlifting to include more typical gym exercises.

4. Paintball

You got it!  Who doesn’t love paintball? It’s fun, fast-paced, intense and actually physically demanding. I challenge you to think otherwise, and then I’ll put you on a course with some of the best shots in the country and see how quickly you run out of breath. I’ve played paintball many a time, and it combines elements of sport that are already exhibited in Olympic play – the agility of canoe/kayaking, diving and gymnastics, the speed of track and field and pentathlon, and the marksmanship and skill of archery and shooting. With all of these combined into the fun and competitive team nature of handball, basketball and soccer, paintball is a perfect fit.

5. American Football

Already World Champions from 2009-10, how would Drew like to be truly a WORLD Champion with a gold medal in Olympics American Football? (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

One can only dream, but eventually I think there are countries that have athletic body types typical of the football player that can compete on the world stage, if they’re driven to invest in developing a national football program. Football has proven popular in the United Kingdom, and Canada already has a league. There are players from Africa, Europe, the Caribbean and the Pacific islands that play prominent roles on their respective NFL teams.

Did you know that there is an International Federation of American Football? The IFAF features 62 member nations, and one of its primary goals is recognition by the International Olympic Committee and inclusion in the Summer Games. The IFAF hosts the IFAF World Championship of American Football, akin to the soccer World Cup, which features eight qualifying countries from the 54 worldwide that field American football teams. So there is international interest, and possibly promise for inclusion in the Olympics.

Of course, there are issues such as injuries, time and availability and the rather large size of team rosters involved in football that present difficulties, but hey…one can dream…

Parker’s Summer Olympic Contractions

I thought I told you “more is better!” when it comes to Olympics action. Are you telling me I HAVE to pick five sports to replace with the above five? Oh drat. Okay! Here are the five events I’d contract.

1. Rhythmic Gymnastics

“Ribbon Dancer…writing on the wall…” Don’t lie, you’re humming it to yourself, too. (Photo property of The Guardian, UK)

If you’re going to tell me dancing with a Ribbon Dancer or a Hula Hoop exhibit “Faster, Higher, Stronger” to a greater extent, with a greater following and more emotional attachment than baseball, I am apt to punch you in the face. And I don’t like fighting.

While I acknowledge the incredible flexibility and agility of the rhythmic gymnastics competitors, I don’t see how they’ve been included while baseball and softball and golf and rugby haven’t. Women and men alike play all these other sports, while only women compete in this event, and only men in Trampoline (see below). I can’t tell you the last time I saw rhythmic gymnastics on in a sports bar or a restaurant here or in any other country. Sorry, it’s got to go.

2. Trampoline

See above.

3. Synchronized Swimming

Again, I don’t reeeeeeeeally want to get rid of anything, and I enjoy the elements of cohesion and athleticism that go into synchronized swimming. But it’s again only an event for women, doesn’t seem to have much of an international following aside from the day or two it gets on primetime every four years and doesn’t tug at the heartstrings. It’s akin to ice dancing and rhythmic gymnastics for me – which are the respective evil stepsisters of figure skating and regular gymnastics, as synch swimming is to regular swimming. They’re beautifully artistic, yes, but do they test athletic resolve and push the human body to the brink? Not so much. Again, don’t want to cut anything, but for baseball’s sake, it’s got to go.

4. Modern Pentathlon

It’s great to see athletes who are really well-rounded in all these events – fencing, swimming, riding, running and shooting. But they’re already represented in their own events! We have the heptathlon and decathlon for the world’s greatest athlete designation, we have the triathlon with swimming, biking and running. What’s this all about? More athletes and more countries can compete in paintball, CrossFit and jiu jitsu than the handful of athletes worldwide who take time to train in each individual event. Got to go.

5. Weightlifting

Here’s where I”m cheating just a bit. It was down to synchronized diving, badminton and the martial arts already represented being consolidated, but I think weightlifting is the best fit here. We can consolidate judo and taekwondo and even boxing and wrestling to an extent into an all-around Martial Arts category and have them be specific events, much akin to the events in equestrian competition, but there are so many athletes in each weight class that I think it would become cumbersome. So I propose folding weightlifting into the organized exercise I mentioned above, and creating events that complement but preserve the current weightlifting events. This means adding bench press, CrossFit, squats, etc. to the slate of events, without actually deleting anything.

Disappointed USA Women’s Volleyball Team Settles for Silver

The American women were untouchable through seven matches, winning each one en route to the Gold Medal Match and an anticipated first-ever Olympic gold medal.

But it was not meant to be.

Team USA won the first set handily and perhaps got ahead of themselves before running into a Brazilian buzzsaw and dropping three straight sets to the defending Olympic champions from Beijing in 2008. Brazil reclaimed the gold medal, defeating the United States 11-25, 25-17, 25-20, 25-17.

The second set proved the turning point of the match, as Brazil look bewildered at the American onslaught in the first set. However, the Americans’ power game deserted them, as Brazil managed to handle nearly every American spike and break through each block attempt. Without the benefit of the block from Destinee Hooker and others in the front row that the USA relied on throughout its first seven games in London, libero Nicole Davis was nearly helpless, and the USA back row foundered.

Service errors compounded the Americans’ issues on offense, as did errors up front, with a couple of net touches and seemingly open scoring chances being powered out of bounds or into the net antenna (also out of bounds). Even veteran Logan Tom, for many the face of USA Volleyball, succumbed to uncharacteristic errors.

Team USA put on a handful of small runs to try to get back in the match in the last two sets, but Brazil never surrendered the lead to USA from the first point of the second set, allowing the Americans to only tie once. At times, it seemed like the Brazilians had ten women on the court, each seven feet tall, the Americans were so defenseless against their attacks. Fabiana was magnificent on the block, earning all of her team’s blocks with seven and contributing 14 points. Jaque led her team with 18 points on 18 spikes, and Sheilla was also a force, scoring 15 points. Brazil outspiked USA, totaling 61 spike points to USA’s 46.

Hooker and Tom led Team USA with 14 points each, followed by Foluke Akinradewo’s 11, but the U.S. missed Hooker’s blocking ability as she finished the match with none. Team USA finishes with the silver medal for the third time in the Olympics, having also won a bronze medal.

2012 Summer Olympics – August 11 Schedule

As we wind on down the road…

The Games end tomorrow, and there is much left to be decided. Today is a huge medals day for Team USA in track and field and other sports, so let’s get right to it!

Team USA Women’s Basketball hasn’t lost in the Olympics since God knows when, and they look to continue ownership of the Olympic gold medal when they take on France at 3 p.m. CT, live on NBC Sports Network. Team USA also has a shot at its first-ever Women’s Volleyball gold medal if they can get by Brazil at 12:30 p.m. CT. Track and field largely finishes up today, with Team USA going for medals in five major events during the afternoon and the women’s and men’s long walks, both “run” in the morning. The only event remaining will be the men’s marathon, run Sunday.

We’ve also got Americans competing for gold in women’s cycling, men’s canoe/kayak and the Men’s Modern Pentathlon – an interesting combination of events like fencing, swimming and riding. Americans are also competing in earlier rounds in three weight classes of men’s freestyle wrestling and in the men’s 10m platform diving event that culminate in medal rounds today, I’ve listed all times below so keep tabs on them if you wish.

And in high-profile world events, Brazil faces Mexico in the men’s soccer Gold Medal Match, Thailand has possibly its last shot for gold at these Games in men’s boxing, medals are awarded in men’s field hockey and women’s handball, and the bronze medal finals of women’s basketball and volleyball feature Australia vs. Russia and Japan vs. South Korea, respectively.

Enjoy!  After tomorrow, the Games will be gone for two years until the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

(ALL TIMES CENTRAL)

Team USA 

* – Medal Event

  • 2:45 a.m.: Modern Pentathlon, American Dennis Bowsher competes in the Men’s Fencing event
  • *3:00 a.m.: Track and Field, American John Nunn “races” for gold in the Men’s 50km Walk
  • *3:30 a.m.: Canoe/Kayak, American Tim Hornsby rows for gold in the Flatwater Men’s K-1 200m Sprint Finals
  • 4:00 a.m.: Diving, Americans Nick McCrory and David Boudia dive in the Men’s 10m Platform Semifinal
  • *6:30 a.m.: Cycling, Americans Georgia Gould and Lea Davison race for gold in the Women’s Mountain Bike Final
  • 7:18 a.m.: Wrestling vs. EGY Egypt, Round of 16 – American  Tervel Dlagnev wrestles in the Men’s Freestyle 120kg/264.5 lbs
  • 7:20 a.m.: Modern Pentathlon, American Dennis Bowsher competes in the Men’s Swimming event
  • 7:27 a.m.: Wrestling vs. KOR South Korea, Round of 16 – American Coleman Scott wrestles in the Men’s Freestyle 60kg/132 lbs
  • 8:03 a.m.: Wrestling vs. CUB Cuba, Round of 16 – American Jake Herbert wrestles in the Men’s Freestyle 84kg/185 lbs
  • 8:30 a.m. Wrestling, American  Tervel Dlagnev may wrestle in the Men’s Freestyle 120kg/264.5 lbs Quarterfinals (pending earlier results)
  • 8:39 a.m.: Wrestling, American Coleman Scott may wrestle in the Men’s Freestyle 60kg/132 lbs Quarterfinals (pending earlier results)
  • 8:03 a.m.: Wrestling, American Jake Herbert may wrestle in the Men’s Freestyle 84kg/185 lbs Quarterfinals (pending earlier results)
  • 9:06 a.m. Wrestling, American  Tervel Dlagnev may wrestle in the Men’s Freestyle 120kg/264.5 lbs Semifinals (pending earlier results)
  • 9:15 a.m.: Wrestling, American Coleman Scott may wrestle in the Men’s Freestyle 60kg/132 lbs Semifinals (pending earlier results)
  • 9:15 a.m.: Wrestling, American Jake Herbert may wrestle in the Men’s Freestyle 84kg/185 lbs Semifinals (pending earlier results)
  • 9:20 a.m.: Modern Pentathlon, American Dennis Bowsher competes in the Men’s Riding event
  • *11:00 a.m.: Track and Field, American Maria Michta “races” for gold in the Women’s 20km Walk
  • *11:45 a.m. Wrestling, American  Tervel Dlagnev may wrestle in the Men’s Freestyle 120kg/264.5 lbs Bronze Medal Match (pending earlier results)
  • *11:45 a.m.: Wrestling, American Jake Herbert may wrestle in the Men’s Freestyle 84kg/185 lbs Bronze Medal Finals (pending earlier results)
  • *11:45 a.m.: Wrestling, American Coleman Scott may wrestle in the Men’s Freestyle 60kg/132 lbs Bronze Medal Finals (pending earlier results)
  • *12:30 p.m.: Volleyball vs. Brazil Brazil, Team USA looks to win its first-ever Olympic gold medal in the Women’s Gold Medal Match
  • *12:45 p.m.: Modern Pentathlon, American Dennis Bowsher competes in the Men’s Combined Run/Shoot event (final event)
  • *12:46 a.m.: Wrestling, American Coleman Scott may wrestle in the Men’s Freestyle 60kg/132 lbs Gold Medal Finals (pending earlier results)
  • *1:00 p.m.: Track and Field, Americans Chaunte Lowe and Brigetta Barrett leap for gold in the Women’s High Jump Final
  • *1:21 p.m.: Wrestling, American Jake Herbert may wrestle in the Men’s Freestyle 84kg/185 lbs Gold Medal Finals (pending earlier results)
  • *1:30 p.m.: Track and Field, Americans Bernard LagatLopez Lomong and Galen Rupp race for gold in the Men’s 5000m Final
  • *1:56 p.m. Wrestling, American  Tervel Dlagnev may wrestle in the Men’s Freestyle 120kg/264.5 lbs Gold Medal Match (pending earlier results)
  • *2:00 p.m.: Track and Field, American Alysia Johnson Montano runs for gold in the Women’s 800m Final
  • *2:25 p.m.: Track and Field, Team USA runs for gold in the Women’s 4 x 400m Relay Final
  • *2:30 p.m.: Diving, Americans Nick McCrory and David Boudia may dive in the Men’s 10m Platform Final (pending earlier results)
  • *3:00 p.m.: Women’s Basketball vs. France France, Team USA looks to continue its unchallenged dominance in Olympic play in the Women’s Gold Medal Game
  • *3:00 p.m.: Track and Field, Team USA runs for gold in the Men’s 4 x 100m Relay Final

 

World Notables

  • *5:30 a.m.: Volleyball, Japan Japan vs. South Korea South Korea, Women’s Bronze Medal Match
  • *9:00 a.m.: Soccer, Brazil Brazil vs. Mexico Mexico, Men’s Gold Medal Match
  • *9:30 a.m.: Field Hockey, Australia Australia vs. Great Britain Great Britain, Men’s Bronze Medal Match
  • *11:00 a.m.: Basketball, Australia Australia vs. Russia Russia, Women’s Bronze Medal Game
  • *11:00 a.m.: Handball, South Korea South Korea vs. Spain Spain, Women’s Bronze Medal Match
  • *2:00 p.m.: Field Hockey, Germany Germany vs. Netherlands Netherlands, Men’s Gold Medal Match
  • *2:30 p.m.: Boxing, THA Thailand’s Kaeo Pongprayoon boxes CHN China in an attempt for his country’s first gold medal in London in the Men’s Light Flyweight Gold Medal Final
  • *2:30 p.m.: Handball, Norway Norway vs. Montenegro Montenegro, Women’s Gold Medal Match

 

Medal Events

* – Team USA participation pending

  • 3:00 a.m.: Track and Field, Men’s 50km Walk
  • 3:30 a.m.: Canoe/Kayak, Men’s Flatwater K-1 200m Sprint Finals
  • 3:47 a.m.: Canoe/Kayak, Men’s Flatwater C-1 200m Sprint Finals
  • 4:14 a.m.: Canoe/Kayak, Women’s Flatwater K-1 200m Sprint Finals
  • 4:41 a.m.: Canoe/Kayak, Men’s Flatwater K-2 200m Sprint Finals
  • 5:30 a.m.: Volleyball, Women’s Bronze Medal Match
  • 6:00 a.m.: Sailing, Women’s Elliott 6m Bronze Medal Match
  • 6:30 a.m.: Cycling, Women’s Mountain Bike Final
  • 7:05 a.m.: Sailing, Women’s Elliott 6m Gold Medal Match
  • 7:30 a.m.: Rhythmic Gymnastics, Final (rotations begin at 7:30 a.m., 8:03 a.m., 8:37 a.m., and 9:10 a.m.)
  • 9:30 a.m.: Field Hockey, Men’s Bronze Medal Match
  • 9:00 a.m.: Soccer, Men’s Gold Medal Match
  • 11:00 a.m.: Handball, Women’s Bronze Medal Match
  • 11:00 a.m.: Basketball, Women’s Bronze Medal Match
  • 11:00 a.m.: Track and Field, Women’s 20km Walk
  • *11:45 a.m. Wrestling, Men’s Freestyle 120kg/264.5 lbs Bronze Medal Match
  • *11:45 a.m.: Wrestling, Men’s Freestyle 60kg/132 lbs Bronze Medal Finals
  • *11:45 a.m.: Wrestling, Men’s Freestyle 84kg/185 lbs Bronze Medal Finals
  • 12:30 p.m.: Volleyball, Women’s Gold Medal Match
  • 12:45 p.m.: Modern Penthathlon, Men’s Final Event (Combined Run/Shoot)
  • *12:46 p.m.: Wrestling, Men’s Freestyle 60kg/132 lbs Gold Medal Finals
  • 1:00 p.m.: Track and Field, Women’s High Jump Final
  • 1:20 p.m.: Track and Field, Men’s Javelin Throw Final
  • *1:21 p.m.: Wrestling, Men’s Freestyle 84kg/185 lbs Bronze Medal Finals
  • 1:30 p.m.: Track and Field, Men’s 5000m Final
  • *1:56 a.m. Wrestling, Men’s Freestyle 120kg/264.5 lbs Gold Medal Finals
  • 2:00 p.m.: Field Hockey, Men’s Gold Medal Match
  • 2:00 p.m.: Taekwondo, Women’s Heavyweight Bronze Medal Finals
  • 2:00 p.m.: Track and Field, Women’s 800m Final
  • 2:15 p.m.: Taekwondo, Men’s Heavyweight Bronze Medal Finals
  • 2:25 p.m.: Track and Field, Women’s 4 x 400m Relay Final
  • 2:30 p.m.: Handball, Women’s Gold Medal Match
  • 2:30 p.m.: Boxing, Men’s Light Flyweight Final
  • *2:30 p.m.: Diving, Men’s 10m Platform Final
  • 2:45 p.m.: Boxing, Men’s Bantamweight Final
  • 3:00 p.m.: Track and Field, Men’s 4 x 100m Relay Final
  • 3:00 p.m.: Basketball, Women’s Gold Medal Game
  • 3:15 p.m.: Boxing, Men’s Light Welterweight Final
  • 3:45 p.m.: Boxing, Men’s Middleweight Final
  • 4:15 p.m.: Taekwondo, Women’s Heavyweight Gold Medal Final
  • 4:30 p.m.: Taekwondo, Men’s Heavyweight Gold Medal Final
  • 4:15 p.m.: Boxing, Men’s Heavyweight Final

Horsing Around: Equestrian Events Explained with 2012 Results

BY: BRITTANY FISHER, DVM CANDIDATE AT MISSISSIPPI STATE UNIVERSITY COLLEGE OF VETERINARY MEDICINE

McLain Ward on Antares - London 2012 Olympic Games
Famed American rider McLain Ward, recovering from a broken kneecap injury from January, rides Antares in the Equestrian Jumping event August 7 in London. (Source: Alex Livesey/Getty Images Europe)

Editor’s Note:  I know next to nothing about equestrian events other than they feature horses. That’s why I outsourced my equestrian coverage to Brittany Fisher, a former schoolmate of mine from Ocean Springs who is an avid, long-time horselover and equestrian competitor. She is currently studying for her DVM at Mississippi State University in Starkville, Miss. Consider this a definitive explanation of all things equestrian at the Olympics.

Editor’s Second Note:  I am assuming that, when Brittany says “non-horse people,” she is referring to people who don’t consider themselves horse aficionados and is not referring to regular people as opposed to centaurs. 😉

Equestrian disciplines are the only Olympic events that allow men and women to compete equally in the same divisions. There are three equestrian disciplines that compete in the Olympics: eventing, dressage, and show jumping. While to most non-horse people these just look like people sitting atop horses as they jump over obstacles or dance in an arena doing movements that look funny, these equestrian events have their roots in military cavalry.

Eventing

What is now known as “3-day eventing” was a trial for horses to see which ones were brave enough and had the stamina to stand up in battle going “across country” terrain –  jumping ditches, banks, fallen trees, or anything that stood in their path for days on end and being “fearless” to anything they may come across. Until 1952, only active military officers were allowed to compete in the event. The eventing sport has gone through several phases over the last half century, gradually excluding parts of the competition such as the steeplechase and roads and track phases. Today, what you will see in the Olympics is considered the “short” format and is known as a triathlon for horses and the ultimate equestrian sport.

Day 1 – Dressage

On day one of the competition, riders will compete in dressage. This is considered “ballet on horseback,” as riders must memorize a test in which they must execute certain maneuvers at very specific points in a 20- x 60-meter arena. They are judged on each movement by a panel of judges scoring them from zero to 10, with zero being not performed, and 10 being perfect.

These points are collected into an equation and the final score is a collection of penalty points, so the goal in the whole competition is to get the lowest score possible, or the lowest amount of penalty points. The point of dressage in eventing is to show the horse’s obedience and overall classical training.

Day 2 – Cross Country

Day 2 is cross country day, the most exciting and exhilarating of all the phases, even for those that aren’t horsey people. It tests both the horses’ and riders’ stamina and bravery, as riders must navigate a course of immoveable jumps over varying terrain, much like the cavalry horses used to encounter. These horses must jump over ditches, up and down banks, and into and out of water. These jumps at maximum are 4 feet high and 11 feet wide, and the down banks or drops are 6.5 feet that the horse must jump down.

Talk about ultimate bravery! These riders approach these jumps with the horses going up to 30 mph sometimes, and the horse has to clear the jump…that’s a long way in the air for the rider, who must really have ultimate trust in his or her horse. The course will be several miles long and have up to 30-40 jumps on course, and if that isn’t enough, this must be done within a certain time limit. Riders collect penalty points for any refusals towards jumps (20 points per jump) and any time over the optimum time limit given. Any fall by the horse or rider, and the pair is eliminated from the competition.

Day 3 – Stadium Jumping

The third day is stadium jumping. This phase is to show the horses’ willingness to go on after a grueling test of cross country the day before. There is an obstacle course set up of pretty fences with poles that, if touched even in the slightest way by the horse, will fall down. Riders collect penalty points for every rail down (4 points) and any refusals (4 points). There is also a time component here too, as any seconds over the optimum time given will collect as penalty points. The team or individual with the smallest score at the end of competition wins.

2012 London Olympics – Eventing Results

This year, Germany won gold in team eventing, as they tend to dominate the sports of eventing and dressage. Host nation Great Britain came home with silver, and New Zealand won bronze. Team USA finished seventh overall, with the highest individual ranking U.S. team member being Karen O’Connor riding Mr. Medicott in ninth place. Germany’s Michael Jung took individual eventing gold, with Sweden’s Sara Algotsson Ostholt taking silver and Germany’s Sandra Auffarth the bronze.

Dressage

Dressage is a separate competition also with roots in military. All military horses were trained in dressage, and the most advanced movements -“airs above ground” – were movements performed by the horse in battle the fend off enemies. In the olympics, the airs above ground are not performed. Instead, horses compete at the highest level of ground work:  Grand Prix. Horses that compete in only dressage are considered specialists and will perform more complex maneuvers than those seen also in the dressage phase of eventing. These maneuvers include: piaffe, passage, piroeette, half pass, and tempi changes.

  • The piaffe is a movement where the horse trots in place.
  • Passage is a forward moving trot, but slower and with more suspension in the air phase of the movement. It used to be considered the king’s march.
  • A pirouette is a turn the horse does at a canter (a controlled, three-beat gait, a natural gait for horses), turning a circle with the hind legs staying in the same place.
  • The half pass can be performed at a trot or canter, and the horse travels both forward and sideways across the arena at the same time.
  • Tempi changes are done at a canter. Torse changes leads, or what leg is leading, every other stride or every stride. It looks like a the horse is skipping.

These movements, along with extension and collection of the walk, trot, and canter, are all combined into a test that the rider must memorize and execute at specific areas of the arena. It is judged the same way as dressage in eventing, with judges scoring each movement performed from zero to 10. The difference in scoring, however, is that the points collected are not penalty points. When plugged into a specific equation, they are execution points, or rather can be compared to grading a test in school and how well the test was performed. The rider with the highest score wins.

As far as the Olympics go, each horse and rider compete in the Grand Prix – the specific test given to them they must memorize and perform to perfection. In the Grand Prix Special, the Grand Prix movements are rearranged. There is also a free style portion, or Grand Prix Freestyle. In the freestyle, the riders can create their own test as long as the special movements are performed somewhere in the routine. They choreograph these maneuvers to music the horse performs to. This is where dressage gets the nickname “horse ballet,” as it does look like the horse is just dancing to music while the rider sits atop the horse looking like a passenger.

However, do not be fooled, the riders are working as hard as the horses are. It takes years or decades to achieve the level of riding where it looks like you’re “doing nothing” up there. The same with the horses too. most horses competing in dressage are in their mid to late teens, as it takes years of training and strength building to reach the ultimate level of Grand Prix. So try to watch it and see if you can pick out some of these maneuvers. Maybe after a little understanding of the sport it’s not like watching paint dry, as I’ve been told.

2012 London Olympics – Dressage Results

This year, dressage has gained a little more publicity than usual, as Ann Romney’s mare, Rafalca, ridden by Jan Ebeling, competed. The pair was the first ride for USA and had a magnificent test in the Grand Prix, earning a 70.243 before being eliminated in the Grand Prix Special. Tina Konyot also qualified for the Special but was eliminated, riding Calecto V. Adrienne Lyle, riding Wizard, failed to advance past the Grand Prix.

Great Britain won two individual dressage medals, with Charlotte Dujardin winning gold and Laura Bechtolsheimer winning bronze. Dutch rider Adelinde Cornelissen won silver. The highest-ranked individual American at the finish was Steffen Peters aboard the famous Ravel, finishing in 17th place with a 77.286 in the Freestyle. Steffen and Ravel have gained numerous titles together, including individual fourth place at the Beijing Olympics.

In team Dressage, Team USA sat in fifth place after the Grand Prix and finished sixth overall. Great Britain won gold, Germany won silver and the Netherlands won bronze.

Show Jumping

Show jumping is the last of the equestrian disciplines performed at the Olympics. It’s a lot like the stadium jumping in eventing, except the jumps are higher and more technical, as these horses are jump specialists. The jumps are a colorful arrangement of gates, walls and poles decorated to the extreme to distract the horse or rider. Maximum jump size in the olympics is 5’3″ in height and 6’6″ in width…..that’s a big jump! These jumps are set as an obstacle course that involves quick turns, lead changes and precise navigation by the rider.

Types of Jumps:

  • Vertical – a jump with a gate or poles in a straight vertical line the horse jumps over
  • Oxer- a jump that is spread in width so that the horse must not only jump up, but the emphasis is getting over the spread of the jump
  • Combination fences known as a double and triple combinations- a set of two or three jumps set as a combination together and can be any arrangement of verticals or oxers, with 1-2 strides in between them
  • Water jump – a giant spread of water up to 13 feet the horse must jump over. If a foot lands in the water, it’s considered the same as knocking a rail down.

Scoring is based on whether or not the rails stay up. Any rail down or any refusal is a 4-point penalty. After three refusals, the horse and rider pair are eliminated. Again, like with eventing, the riders and horses are racing against the clock, and any seconds over the optimum time given are collections of penalties.

There are several rounds in show jumping. The first is the qualifying round, where everyone jumps. After, the best 60 rides go on to Round 2. Here, the best 45 rides using combined scores of round 1 and 2 can proceed to the Round 3. Here, the best 35 rides, using combined scores from all three rounds, can go on to Round 4. Again, same rules apply until the fifth and Final Round, where the best 20 horse and rider pairs compete for the win. If there is a tie, there is a jump off. This is where riders and horses jump only selected fences from the course and still race against the clock.

The difficulty in show jumping is being able to navigate the course and ride your horse to each jump in perfect stride and timing to not knock down any rails, and yet still be quick enough to make the clock. It’s a lot harder than it looks! The horses must be bold, athletic, quick and have a lot of scope.

2012 London Olympics – Jumping Results

Show jumping is usually a strong point for Team USA; however, a few rails down kept us a little lower in the competition. This year, Reed Kessler and her mare, Cylana, joined the USA’s show jumping team as the youngest member of an Olympic equestrian team at the age of 17. Special interest came with American show-jumping superstar, McLain Ward, who shattered his kneecap hitting a jump this past January.

Swiss rider Steve Guerdat won the individual jumping gold medal. Gerco Schroder of the Netherlands won silver, and Ireland’s Cian O’Connor won bronze. Ward, riding Antares, was eliminated after Final Round A, finishing in 29th place. American Rich Fellers, riding Flexible, finished eighth. Kessler finished 37th, and fellow American Beezie Madden finished tied for 72nd on Via Volo.

Great Britain again flexed its equestrian might, winning the Team Jumping gold medal. The Netherlands won silver, and Saudia Arabia won bronze. Team USA tied for sixth place with Sweden.

2012 London Olympics – Total Medals

Great Britain nearly ran the table in medals, winning three golds, a silver and a bronze in five of the six total equestrian events. Germany and the Netherlands each won four medals, with Germany taking two golds. Switzerland, Sweden, Ireland, Saudi Arabia and New Zealand each won a single equestrian medal. The United States was shut out of the medals, but here’s looking ahead to Rio de Janeiro in 2016!