It’s a little antsy for reporters gathered here in China. At least for those of us with Maple Leafs inside our passports.
While the Chinese and the Americans celebrate opening ceremonies and weightlifting and swim medals and bask in the glory of Michael Phelps, us folks from north of the border are getting pumped about merely making the finals of swimming events when we have no chance of winning them.
Yeah, making a final is no small accomplishment, and it looks better for us than it did in Athens, at least as far as the swimming pool is concerned. But it’s still pretty slim pickings for the Canadians, and nobody knows when our first medal will come.
More than 100 medals have been awarded to more than 40 countries after three days of the Beijing Olympics. But Canada’s medal count is still zilch.
The best news on Monday (our Monday, not yours) was a commanding show by the men’ s eights rowing squad. They bombed out in their qualifying race in Athens and never recovered; coming home with a fifth place consolation prize instead of a gold medal. This time, they powered out and finished first in their heat and advanced straight to Sunday’s finals.
Chris Cook of Toronto is in fourth place after six of ten sailing races, which is pretty good. David Ford of Edmonton had a bad day in whitewater kayaking but managed to sneak into the semifinals for Tuesday.
But there wasn’t much else to smile about over China way. The men’s 4x100 metre swim team did their best but finished sixth in the race won in the last split-second by the American squad. Susan Nattrass looked like she was on target for a spot in the finals of trap shooting, but collapsed in her third and final segment of firing and ended up missing the finals. Frank Dancevic of Niagara Falls got bounced in the first round of tennis. Later in the day, Daniel Nestor and Frederic Niemeyer lost in doubles, putting an end to Canada’s participation in the Olympic tennis tournament after just two days of play.
Canadians may have something to cheer about Tuesday, when the 10-metre synchro diving team of Meaghan Benfeito and Roseline Filion have a go of things (2:30 a.m. EDT start). But they’re not favourites. Alex Despatie and Arturo Miranda could pull off a medal in the three meter springboard synchro event on Wednesday, or perhaps Brent Hayden can get a medal in the men’s freestyle Wednesday night Toronto time. But Canada’s best medal hopes are still a couple days away, with appearances by the men’s eights rowing team on Sunday.
So if you’re anxious and sweaty and waiting eagerly for a Canadian medal, you might have to wait a little longer. There will almost certainly be a medal won by a Canadian athlete sometime between now and 2010.
Boy, it’s too bad Curtis Joseph wasn’t an equestrian athlete. CuJo has always been known in some circles as a guy who likes to find excuses for things that go wrong; some guy drinking a beer too loudly behind him, a chip in the ice in front of the goal, whatever. It’s the way some athletes handle failure, we guess.
There are others, of course, who take all the blame even when they shouldn’t. Former Jay Pat Hentgen used to berate himself loudly in the clubhouse even if he gave up a couple unearned runs. Other guys insist it’s usually someone’s fault, and that helps keep their egos intact for the next match.
But if you’re an equestrian athlete, it’s even better. You don’t get to blame your racquet or the umpire or a fan yelling “You Da Man,” you get to blame your horse.
On Sunday alone, you should’ve seen the comments about the equine elements down in Hong Kong.
Sharon Hunt of Great Britain said her horse was spooked by flower pots in the arena. As if horses have never seen flowers before? What a wuss.
Phillip Dutton of the U.S. said his horse was distracted by having a flame burning in the background. Guess he’s not from Buffalo.
Finally, Tim Lips of the Netherlands said his horse, named OnCarlos, “has been afraid of the video screen since the beginning of the week.”
That is simply proof that horses are not athletes. I’ve been covering sports on and off for 16 years, and I’ve never once seen a ballplayer that doesn’t like staring at himself on the Jumbotron.
Not quite sure I understood the details, but a report by Sky News out of Britain said parts of the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics were faked. The report suggested that television viewers who thought they were seeing a series of giant firework “steps” proceeding north from Tiananmen Square to the Bird’s Nest stadium were, in fact, witnessing a computer animation.
That issue aside, most observers loved the ceremony. Apparently, however, one of the architects who built the renowned Birds’ Nest isn’t among them.
“Writing on his blog,” Sky News reported, “Mr. Ai described the ceremony as ‘a recycling of the rubbish of fake classical culture tradition; a sacrilegious visual garbage dump and and an insult to the spirit of liberty; low-class sound play that’s just noise pollution.”
Boy, was he steamed.
A British journalist who was sitting not far from me in the press centre this morning was thinking about wandering down the road to catch the morning swim races at the Water Cube. But he opted instead to watch the eventing competition on TV from Hong Kong.
Then he found out a British swimmer, Rebecca Adlington, had won a gold medal in the 400 freestyle. And another Brit had won bronze. Notebooks flew, much rage was spewed and many swear words hurled.
“Eventing,” he shouted. “We win a f---ing gold medal and I’m watching f---ing eventing!”
It’s a fun story (well, not for him) but it illustrates just how tricky it is to cover an Olympics. There are 28 sports and dozens of disciplines and thousands of athletes, and you never know when a Chandra Crawford, to take one example, is going to jump up and win a medal in something you hadn’t planned on. But that’s what sports so much fun.
Unless you’re a British reporter who chooses to watch horses prance about in Hong Kong instead of walking 300 yards to watch your swimmers.
Canadian fencer Igor Tikhomirov had a tough time against Frenchman Fabrice Jeannet the other day.
“I don’t like his style,” said Tikhomirov. “It’s the style that always puts me in trouble: tall, fast, French guys who always control the distance; little blade work and lots of footwork.”
Yeah, and they’ve got big, pointy things in their hands that can really hurt.