Saturday, December 27, 2008

The REBIRTH of NOW Sports

NOW Sports America is coming back on New Year's Day! Go to our new website:

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Games of the XXIX Olympiad: The ULTIMATE OLYMPIC RECAP

What the city of Beijing, as well as the athletes that have come to compete here, has done is nothing short of spectacular. In fact, the Games of the XXIX Olympiad will probably be known as the most ridiculously awesome Olympic Games ever staged in history.

There were winners, losers, gold medal moments, and off-the-podium disappointments. Best of all, these historic moments were held beneath a setting unlike any other in a country that the world had never imagined would host the greatest sporting event in the world 20 years ago.

In the following blog posts, to be written over a period of 2-3 days, NOW Sports looks back at what can arguably be the "Greatest Olympic Games Ever." From the athletic performances, to NBC's coverage and our blog coverage, NOW Sports reviews every aspect of this unforgettable fortnight of sports and looks ahead to the future of the Olympic movement and the world of sports.

Overall Impression
What will be obvious when we look back at these games is how smoothly the Chinese had executed and coordinated this grand festival of sport. From the grand venues that were visually stimulating and became benchmarks in the history sports architecture to the feelings of openness and welcome conveyed by Chinese volunteers during the games and the performers during both the opening and closing ceremonies, it was obvious that China cared deeply about hosting these Olympic Games.

Never before have sports fans been delighted by scenes from venues like the Water Cube or the Bird's Nest which were architectural wonders from the time that architects had conceived the ambitious idea. The Opening Ceremony itself showed how dedicated China was to being grand Olympic hosts, through their precise and perfect performances to the majestic way that the Olympic cauldron was lit. Reports of kind and helpful volunteers, from translators to greeters, that kept the Games running smoothly added to the success of these Games.

Even more significant is the performance of the Chinese athletes. Though there were questions regarding the age of the Chinese gymnasts, though Yao Ming couldn't secure a spot in the medal round for Chinese basketball, and though Chinese hurdler Liu Xiang had to quit because of an injury, China had the most gold medal moments of any country during these games. With 51 gold medals, China was ahead of the United States and Russia in amount of golds. The United States, however, appeared on the podium the most times and came away with 110 total medals.

But China heard their national anthem more times during these Games, with notable performances in gymnastics, diving, table tennis and badminton. China was also able to pull off several upsets several sports, including swimming, fencing and field hockey.

China wasn't the only one to accomplish goals at these Olympics. Nations like Togo and Afghanistan were able to win their first Olympic medals. India won its first gold medal in shooting while Bahrain won their first gold medal in the men's 1500 meters in track and field.

The IOC has a lot to be happy about as well. IOC President Jacque Rogge predicted 30-40 postive doping tests, but as of Sunday, only 6 tests had turned positive. According to the Los Angeles Times, only two of those positive tests involved medalists, and neither was a gold medalist, a sign that it is tougher to cheat in sports these days. And worries about pollution disappeared with the rains that came in Beijing, producing several days of clear blue skies during the fortnight.

While the Games seemed perfect, there were still several problems that China (and the IOC) wishes would just go away. Protesters were still silenced from voicing their opinion, preventing anyone from doing so despite the protest zones that were set up during the games. There were obvious problems with the scoring in gymnastics and issues involving human rights and Tibet were ignored.

But these Games turned out to be the way that the world expected, and in ways, they turned out even better, especially when it came to the competition, or lack thereof...

Phelps and Bolt Emerge As The Headliners of Olympics Full of Winners
When looking at these Games as a whole, Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt will most likely be the two athletes that will be most remembered as they dominated (in some cases, barely) their respective competitions. 

I doubt no one will ever forget Michael Phelps's performance at the Water Cube, where he dominated in some races and barely won in others. From his first gold medal, to the amazing comeback by teammate Jason Lezak in the 4x100 free relay, to the magic touch by Phelps to beat Cavic in the 100 butterfly, Phelps's amazing run to win eight took so many twists and turns that his legacy will last for generations. His impact on the games, the Olympic movement and sports in general is one that can never be repeated. 

Usain Bolt may not have won eight gold medals, but his dominance at the Bird's Nest during the second week of the Olympics was one that had a similar impact that Phelps had on sports. Sprint races are incredibly hard to win for any athlete as it requires a lot of hard training, conditioning and of course quick speed. 

So it was surprising that in races packed with so much talent that Usain Bolt can win all three of his races--the 100m, 200m and 4x100m relay--by huge margins. 

Saturday, August 23, 2008

To my readers...

So obviously I haven't been posting as often as I had planned to since I made the move to college. I know a lot has gone on in Beijing and I should be blogging like crazy but I just haven't had the time. I'm lucky if I can catch the Olympics on television because I'm so busy running around campus meeting people and doing all this orientation stuff.

As I begin this once in a lifetime chapter known as going to college, we all witness the end of an unforgettable Beijing Olympic games. I'll be posting a huge long recap on the games, my thoughts on the games itself, NBC's coverage, what I've learned as a blogger, and a look ahead to the future. I'll be doing that tomorrow (Sunday) and into Monday.

Then I'll be taking a week off to settle into the first week of classes. And hopefully, I can comeback to cover great global sporting events like Australian Football, the U.S. Open in tennis, and the Race for October in MLB.

But for now, I apologize for the lack of posts but I plan to be back tomorrow as the games end. For now, enjoy the games and also check out the blog on Yahoo! Sports: Fourth-Place Medal.
It's pretty much the blog that I've always wanted this one to be and gives amazing info and stories you wouldn't see anywhere else.

Hope you keep reading,

The Network of Olympic World Sports

Friday, August 22, 2008

Day 13/14 RECAP: A Look at What I've Missed in the Past Two Days

College hasn't deterred me from blogging but it has limited my capabilities of posting a full blog. I'm in the middle of orientation and residence hall bonding and what not so I haven't been watching as much as I have liked. But it's still worth it to look back at the past two days and quickly review what has been going on as the Olympics come to an end.

Day 13: Merritt Wins 400m Showdown, US Softball Loses
- Softball: USA Loses to Japan
For a sport that is being taken off the Olympic program because the United States is always winning, the huge upset that the softball world needed might have come at the right moment. The United States lost to Japan in the gold medal game of softball in a shocking 3-1 defeat. While the United States left runners at base, Japan played to their full potential despite playing two extra-inning games the night before. The Americans' first loss since 2000 may be what the sport needs as it may be reinstated for the 2016 Olympic Games, especially if the IOC selects Chicago to host it.

- Women's Soccer: USA defeats Brazil in extra time for second consecutive medal
After Abby Wambach broke her leg in an exhibition match against Brazil, hopes for defending an Olympic championship seemed lost with the team's only veteran player now gone from the roster. Things looked worse when Team USA lost to Norway in their opening round match by giving up two goals early in the first half. So when Brazil, who was going for their first ever gold medal in the sport of soccer, women or men, lost to the United States 1-0, the skeptics who had doubts on the Americans were all proven wrong.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Day 12 RECAP: Lightning Strikes Twice for Bolt

EDITOR'S NOTE: Sorry for the late posting and the random posts and the lack of updates. Currently, I'm going through that once in a lifetime move to college as a freshman so I haven't been able to spend as much time on the blog as I should be. This also explains why I have condensed today's post to mainly links, with the exception of the Olympic Highlight of the Day. And as for Day 13, I may or may not release a preview or recap the day's events. Keep checking out the site and I'll do my best to update you when I can. Meanwhile, check out Fourth-Place Medal from Yahoo Sports!. That blog has really inspired me to work harder in covering global sports events.

Only 11 sets of medals were awarded on Day 12 of competition, but there were plenty of highlights to go around as many of the team sports approach the medal rounds.

Olympic Highlight (and Dominating Performance) of the Day
Last night (earlier this morning), viewers around the world and in the Bird's Nest witnessed Olympic track and field history when Usain Bolt of Jamaica completed the elusive sprint double that has not been accomplished since 1984.
Bolt won the 200 meter final in world record time after running around the turn like a sling shot to surge into the lead. He led from start to finish and there really was never any doubt that Usain Bolt could win this race. The 200 meters was the event that Bolt has been training for and he only picked up the 100 meters event earlier this year. After winning the 100 meter final on Saturday night in world record time, the stage was set for Olympic glory to be achieved.

The gold medal won by Bolt in a time of 19.30 accomplished the first Olympic sprint double since Carl Lewis achieved that feat in 1984 in Los Angeles. And the time of 19.30 breaks the world record previously held by Michael Johnson when he ran a 19.32 in the 200 meters in the Atlanta Olympics of 1996. This is the first time ever that a man accomplishes the sprint double and breaks world records in both events. Neither Carl Lewis nor Jesse Owens have done that. Bolt ran a 9.69, though he could have gone faster, in the 100 meters.

The victory also continued Jamaica's success in the sprints. After winning both the men's and women's 100 meter events, including a Jamaican sweep in the women's 100 meters, Usain Bolt has become the face of success that has been found in Jamaican sprinting. That success continued when Melanie Walker won gold in the women's 400 meter hurdles in Olympic record time in another dominating performance.

Confusion of the Day...
I never planned to have this section and I hope I never have to use this section of the recap again, but it was worth noting that while it was very clear that Usain Bolt won the gold medal in the 200 meters, the silver and bronze medalists changed multiple times before Shawn Crawford and Walter Dix were given silver and bronze respectively.

It was originally thought that Churandy Martina of Netherlands Antilles and Wallace Spearmon of the United States captured silver and bronze. Then as Spearmon was celebrating, he was notified that he had ran outside of his lane, a violation of an IAAF rule. That disqualification moved Shawn Crawford up to bronze medal position. He was later upgraded to silver medal position when video evidence showed that Martina had traveled outside of his lane as well. Meanwhile, Walter Dix won his second medal of these games by being bumped up to the bronze medal position due to the disqualifications.

Team Performances of the Day...
US softball survives scare, beats Japan
US men's volleyball rallies into semis

Feel Good Moment of the Day...
Afghanistan wins first Olympic medal

Close Finish of the Day...
Argentina nips Greece

Day 12 Preview: BMX Cycling and Open Water Swimming Makes Debut at Olympics

Although we're approximately 3/4 of the way done with the Games of the XXIX Olympiad, several sports have yet to begin competition. BMX Cycling finally makes its long awaited debut in the Olympic program while the newly-added Open Water swimming discipline tests the endurance of long-distance swimmers. The first medals are also awarded in synchronized swimming and taekwondo.

- Track and Field: Men's 200m Final (10:10AM ET)
Jamaica's Usain Bolt has looked strong throughout the entire year and has peaked in time to win the 100m gold medal and claim the title as fastest man on Earth. Today he goes for the elusive track double when he competes in the 200m final. No athlete has ever completed the elusive double since Carl Lewis in 1984 in Los Angeles. Bolt has several huge threats in his bid to win another gold medal, including Americans Walter Dix and Shawn Crawford.

- Synchronized Swimming: Duet Free Routine (3AM ET)
Russia has less than a half-point lead over Spain going into today's free routine final when the first medals are awarded in synchronized swimming at the Water Cube. Anastasia Davydova and Anastasia Ermakova are in the lead but will have to stay perfect if they want to win this battle of water ballets. Japan and China, virtually tied after the technical routines, will battle for a spot on the podium as well.

- Men's Volleyball Quarterfinals: China vs. Brazil (8AM ET), United States vs. Serbia (10AM ET)
Spots in the semifinals are decided when the top volleyball teams in the world faceoff in the quarterfinal round. The Americans are facing Serbia in a rematch of the World League Final this year, won by the United States in four sets, 26-24, 23-25, 25-23, 25-22. That win clinched the United States its first World League title ever after Serbia defeated them in the first match of the World League finals tournament. With the head-to-head matchup even, this one may be the most important of all. In other team sports, quarterfinals will also be held in men's water polo, men's handball and men's basketball. Semifinals will be held in softball and men's beach volleyball.

CHECK OUT NOW Sports later for a full recap of the day's competition and any important updates and breaking news.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Day 11 RECAP: Gold Finally for Johnson, Bahrain

Milestones were met for multiple athletes while heartbreak and disappointment were felt by others on Day 11 of competition at the Games of the XXIX Olympiad.

Olympic Highlight of the Day
Three silver medals were a fine achievement for the young Shawn Johnson of the United States of America. But she has said before that she has trained to win gold. After three competitions, gold has eluded her by slim margins. But tonight in Beijing, Johnson was finally able to capture gold after a superb performance on the women's balance beam final, the last women's competition of artistic gymnastics for these Olympic Games.Nastia Liukin won silver in this competition while China's Cheng Fei won the bronze medal. Johnson won the competition with a 16.225 score on her routine. China won gold in the other event finals of the night, the men's parallel bars and the men's horizontal bar. At the end of the artistic gymnastics program of these games, China came out on top with 11 golds, 1 silver and 5 bronze medals. The United States, getting most of their medals from the women's competitions, won 2 gold medals, 6 silvers and 2 bronze medals.

Johnson's gold makes for happy Americans 12:41 pm EDT (AP)
Finally, gold 9:28 am EDT (Yahoo! Sports)

Feel Good Moment of the Day
Yes, Bahrain won their first gold medal ever with a victory in the men's 1500 meters, a classic event on the track and field program. But there was en even bigger feel-good moment that occurred at the wrestling venue on Day 11. Henry Cajudo, 21 years old, had never won a match on the world senior-level before these Olympic games. Today, he won Olympic gold in the men's 55kg weight class in freestyle wrestling. As the son of illegal immigrants from Mexico that met in Los Angeles, Cajudo was the youngest of six kids whose father was in and out of jail before dying of heart problems at the age of 34. Earlier today, he said (according to the AP report) that his gold medal was for every kid whose life seemed hopeless, who went to sleep hungry, whose parents couldn't always buy food, let alone Chrismas presents.

For more on this feel-good story, click here for the report done by the Associated Press.

Upsets of the Day
Lolo Jones and Sanya Richards were favorites in their respective events, the 100 meter hurdles and the 400 meter dash. Both expressed their high expectations to win gold for the United States and experts had little doubt of that happening. But tonight at Olympic Stadium, neither of those favorites won gold and only one of them was able to get onto the medal stand.

Sanya Richards was in the lead early in the 400m final, and perhaps she went out too early. She lost her lead to Great Britain's Christine Ohuruogu in the final straightaway, winning the country's first track gold medal of these games. Richards was able to hold on for the bronze medal.

Gold was in Lolo Jones's grasp in the women's 100 meter hurdles final, taking the lead from the start. But after she clipped the ninth hurdle of the ten-hurdle race, she was unable to recover and finished outside of the medals. Instead, American Dawn Harper won gold for the United States after barely making the U.S. Olympic team after she finished third at the Olympic trials, ahead of the fourth-place competitor by 0.007 second.

Dominating Performace of the Day...
Chris Hoy of Great Britain won his third track cycling gold medal today, winning the most medals that a track cycling sprinter can get. His performance is being hailed as "Phelpsian." While it is no where near the eight gold medals that the swimming legend has won, Hoy accomplished an incredible feat for the sport, and became the first British athlete to take three gold medals in a single Olympic Games.
In addition to Hoy's personal achievement, Hoy was a big part of the British accomplishment made during the track cycling program of these Olympics, finishing one-two in three events in track cycling and winning seven of the 10 total gold medals available in track cycling.

Team Performance of the Day...
It was slated to be a huge match in tonight's semifinal between Argentina and Brazil in men's soccer. But in the end, it was no contest. Argentina defeated Brazil, 3-0, thanks to two goals scored in the second half by Sergio Aguero and a penalty kick placed into the net by Juan Roman Riquelme in the 76th minute. The defending Olympic champions will play for their second consecutive gold medal on Saturday at noon (Friday night at midnight ET) in a rematch of the 1996 Atlanta gold medal final against Nigeria, who beat Belgium 4-1 in the other semifinal.

BEIJING 2008 Tentative NBC Schedule (BLOG POSTS BELOW...)