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.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Day 11 PREVIEW: The Olympics Go On Without Liu Xiang...

While China is still reeling from yesterday's shocking withdrawal by Liu Xiang, China remains on the gold medal hunt as they compete on the final day of individual finals in artistic gymnastics as well as the 3m springboard final in diving. Meanwhile, action on the track at the Bird's Nest heats up as the United States looks to follow up on their recently found success with finals in the women's 400 meters and 100m hurdles.

- Track and Field: Men's 1500m (10:50AM ET) and Women's 400m (10:10AM ET) Finals, Same Day Tape on NBC Primetime
The classic middle distance event on the men's athletics program will be wide open in the absence of world champion Bernard Lagat from the United States, eliminated from the semifinals. Expected to contend for medals are Kenya's Asbel Kipruto Kiprop and Augustine Kiprono Choge. In the women's 400m final, Sanya Richards of the United States is expected to add another gold medal to the American tally while Great Britain's Christine Ohuruogu, the defending world champion, will run for Olympic glory with the games in London just four years away.

- Gymnastics: Men's High Bar and Women's Balance Beam Final
It's the final day of individual event finals and the explosive men's high bar routines will be in the spotlight at National Indoor Stadium. American Jonathon Horton competes for his first indivdual medal of these games while China will look to continue their men's gymnastics dominance. Japan, meanwhile, looks to turn the tide on what has been a disappointing Olympics so far.

In the women's balance beam final, Shawn Johnson and Nastia Liukin are back for the United States in their last competition in Beijing. Johnson hopes that her first Olympic gold will come here, after finishing in silver medal position in the team and individual all-around and the floor exercise final. The men's parallel bars final will take place tonight as well.

- Track Cycling: Men's and Women's Sprint Finals
Final day of track cycling at the Laoshan Velodrome features the men's and women's sprint finals where Great Britain seeks to capitalize on their success that they have had so far at the velodrome. Victoria Pendleton and Chris Hoy are British favorites in the women's sprint and men's sprint finals respectively. Bradley Wiggins and Mark Cavendish will compete in the men's madison final.

- Men's Soccer: Argentina vs. Brazil, Semifinals (9AM ET), LIVE ON MSNBC
It's a classic South American showdown in Beijing as Lionel Messi and Argentina will face off against Ronaldinho and Brazil in the semifinals of men's soccer. The two national sides have faced off countless times before, including championship games in Copa America and most recently, a scoreless tie in World Cup qualifying. Argentina seeks to defend their Olympic gold medal won in Athens while Brazil searches for their first ever gold in men's soccer. Nigeria and Belgium meet in the other semifinal.

- Women's Water Polo: Semifinal - USA vs. Australia (2:20AM)
In a rematch of the 2007 world championship final, when the U.S. beat Australia 6-5, the two sides meet again for a spot in the gold medal final.

Stay with NOW Sports for continuing updates on the competition in Day 11 of the Games of the XXIX Olympiad, including a complete recap at the end of the day's competition.

Day 10 RECAP: American Sweep in Hurdles Highlights American Night at Bird's Nest

There were plenty of highlights (and one lowlight) to go around on Day 10 of competition at the Games of the XXIX Olympiad in Beijing, China. The day began with disappointment for all of China when Chinese hurdler Liu Xiang pulled out of the event this morning with grimace on his face as he dealt with a strained right achilles. While this was the worst possible news to affect the Chinese Olympic team and its fans, gold continued to add to the tally accumulated by the Chinese, as it won medals in men's table tennis and artistic gymnastics. Meanwhile, the United States got back into the gold medal race when it won several medals in track and field and won the team jumping final in equestrian.

Olympic Highlight of the Day...
The United States had come into the fourth day of the track and field competition without having won a gold medal, as well as not having won any medal on the track. After shutouts from the men's and women's 100 meter finals, the United States had a tremendous chance for gold in the 400 meter hurdles, with defending champion Felix Sanchez failing to qualify.

Led by Angelo Taylor in lane 6, the United States swept the medals in the men's 400m hurdles, winning the country's first medals on the track. Taylor won in a time of 47.25 seconds. Kerron Clement off of lane 4 finished second and Bershawn Jackson from lane 7 finished third. This was the first American sweep in the event since 1960 when the games were held in Rome. The win capped a successful day for the Americans after American Stephanie Brown Trafton won gold in the women's discus throw.

American pole vaulter Jenn Stuczynski won silver in the women's pole vault by clearing a height of 15 feet, 5 inches. The competition, however, was dominated by Russia
n Elena Isinbayeva, who won her second straight gold medal in the event. She beat her own world record by clearing a height of 16 feet, 6 3/4 inches. In other action at National Stadium on Monday night, Pamela Jemilo won the 800 meters race in a one-two finish for Kenya. Jemilo won in a time of 1 minute, 54.87 seconds, a new world junior record. Kenya also won gold in the men's 3000 meters steeplechase.

Feel Good Moment of Day 10...
It's always a feel good moment when a nation wins its first ever Olympic gold medal. That happened today in track and field, when Panama's Irving Saladino won gol
d in the men's long jump.
Saladino won by jumping 8.34 meters. South Africa's Khotso Mokoena won silver and Cuba's Ibrahim Camejo won the bronze.

Earlier in the year, it was uncertain if Panama would even be competing at the Beijing Olympics. The International Olympic Committee had banned Panama for participating after an IOC meeting in Guatemala in 2007. The IOC had imposed the ban due to government interference in the country's national olympic committee and internal problems that had existed in the organization.

But after the Comite Olimpico de Panama held elected a new board on March 19, the IOC lifted the ban in April, paving the way for Saladino to participate in these games and win their first ever gold medal.

Upset of the Day (and quite possibly, of the Olympics)...
It was supposed to be the defining moment of these Olympic Games. When Liu Xiang, the defending gold medalist, takes to the track on Thursday night in front of the people of China at the Bird's Nest and on television to win gold in his signature event. That moment will never happen.

Liu Xiang has been the face of these Olympic Games since winning gold in Athens four years ago. His run up to the games has been followed closely by all of China and he has been put on at least on ebillboard within every square mile. Thursday night at National Stadium remains the hottest ticket of the games, but the night's biggest star will be unable to compete.

Up to now, these have been the perfect Olympics for China. They lead the gold medal count after winning nearly all the competitions in men's gymnastics, sweeping all the medals thus far in diving and countless other victories across other sports. But it appears that the medal that meant to the Chinese the most was the gold that was supposed to be won by Liu Xiang on Thursday. Without that medal, it appears that these games, at least to China, will fall short of perfection.

But China will understand that Liu Xiang gave his all, that he knew what that moment meant not only to him but to the1.3 billion people of China. It was brave and courageous for him to even step out onto the track, with a look of grimace on his face because of the pain he felt, and try to at least compete, which was the essential message of the Olympic movement: to take part. He understood what kind of pressure was on him. The expectations were similar to or even greater than the United States had on Michael Phelps. And Liu Xiang only had to win one gold medal.

And while Liu Xiang will never get a chance to race for Olympic gold in Beijing ever again, China should still be proud of him. These Olympics were promoted in China thanks in part to the famous Chinese hurdler. Without him, the games wouldn't be as successful. And though he will be absent on Thursday night, these games remain to be one of the most successful Olympics held in history.

Dominating Performance of the Day...
It's hard enough to compete in a triathlon. It's even harder to win a triathlon. But when you run away from the competition, then that gets you the title of Dominating Performance of the Day.
Australia's Emma Snowsill finished more than a minute ahead the rest of the field in her gold medal win of the women's triathlon on Monday. She even had time to stop and get a flag on her way to the finish line. Snowsill finished the swim-bike-run event in a time of 1:58:27.66 after pulling away from the other competitors at the start of the final leg. Snowsill's win was the first Australian win in the women's triathlon, which first became a part of the Olympic program in 2000 in Sydney.

Team Performance of the Day...
Table tennis was always China's sport, and it remained that way when they won Men's Team gold earlier on Day 10. China swept Germany, 3-0, to capture gold while South Korea won the bronze.
China beats Germany for team table tennis gold 11:29 am EDT (AP)

Other highlights of Day 10:
- Women's soccer semifinals took place earlier today. Brazil advanced after a 4-1 win over Germany in a rematch of the Women's World Cup final. Brazil will face the United States, who rallied to beat Japan, 4-2, in the other semifinal.
- Nastia Liukin settled for silver after losing a tiebreak in the women's uneven bars. Liukin and China's He Kexin got the same score, 16.725. But the gold was awarded to He because she received a higher execution score. A tiebreaker also decided the medals of the men's vault competition. when Poland's Leszek Blanik beat France's Thomas Bouhail after both scored 16.537.

NOW Sports will be back later with a preview of Day 11 of competition at the games of the XXIX Olympiad.

Day 10 2AM Update: BREAKING NEWS - Liu Xiang Drops Out of Olympics

BREAKING NEWS coming into the NOW Sports Newsroom:

Actually, this news came out just a couple of hours ago, but its definitely worth mentioning. Liu Xiang, the country's hopeful to win a gold medal in the Men's 110m hurdle final on Thursday night, has pulled out of the event, citing a strained right achilles tendon. The following report is from the Associated Press:

Hurdler Liu Xiang done without a run in Olympics

BEIJING (AP)—Liu Xiang and the entire nation of China looked forward to this moment for years: The defending Olympic champion lining up to run the 110-meter hurdles at the Beijing Games.

He didn’t even get to race.

Already grimacing before getting into his crouch, Liu pulled up lame just steps into the first round of qualifying Monday, leaving the Summer Games’ host country without one of its biggest stars—and far and away its biggest star in track and field.

He limped out of the block at the starting gun, took a few awkward steps, then pulled up when the second gun sounded to signal a false start. No one is disqualified by an initial false start, yet Liu tore the pieces of paper with his number off each leg and immediately headed for a tunnel.

While the other entrants in his heat prepared for the restart, Liu took a slow walk along a concrete path leading away from the rust-colored track where he was supposed to thrill a nation of 1.3 billion people.

Instead, he sat against a wall alone, that smiling face that adorns so many advertising billboards now sullen.

“We worked hard every day, but the result was as you see, and it’s really hard to take,” Liu’s personal coach, Sun Haiping, said at a news conference the hurdler did not attend.

Sun, who paused to wipe away tears while answering questions, said Liu was bothered by a right foot injury that has lingered for six or seven years—and not the right hamstring that has dogged him for months. The foot pain intensified Saturday.

There were signs of trouble as soon as Liu made his first appearance on the Bird’s Nest’s big screen. Once on the track, he stopped after clearing two hurdles during the warmup period, then crouched down and walked gingerly back to the starting area.

He peeled off his red shirt when others were lining up behind the blocks and seemed to wait forever before pulling a new jersey over his head.

“In watching warmups, we could see he wasn’t quite as strong as you expect him to be,” said former world record-holder Colin Jackson. “But we didn’t know it was as bad as it turned out to be.”

Liu’s hamstring problem forced him to pull out of a meet in New York on May 31—the same night Usain Bolt first broke the world record in the 100 meters.

A week later, Liu lined up for the Prefontaine Classic in Eugene, Ore., but was disqualified for a false start. He hasn’t raced since and only rarely has made public appearances, training in seclusion.

The 25-year-old hurdler is as much a celebrity here as Houston Rockets center Yao Ming. Thursday night’s 110-meter hurdles final was expected to be one of the highlights of these Olympics: China’s Liu vs. Cuba’s Dayron Robles, the man who broke Liu’s world record in June—with 91,000 fans crowding into the Bird’s Nest to cheer on their man.

Liu’s withdrawal was by far the most stunning development on Day 4 of the track and field competition—of far more significance than any races that actually were run, including 100-meter champion Usain Bolt’s advancing to the second round in the 200.

“A 110-meter hurdles race without Liu is such a pity,” said Qatar’s Mohammed Issa Al-Thawadi, who was lined up in the adjacent lane for Liu’s heat. “I feel so bad for him.”

Liu Xiang of China leaves the track without starting his 110m hurdles heat of the athletics competition in the National Stadium at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games August 18, 2008.  After one false start Liu stopped before the first hurdle clutching his leg and then walked out of the stadium.     REUTERS/David Gray (CHINA)

Now Robles, who won his heat in 13.39 seconds and well off his world record time of 12.87, becomes the clear favorite.

Yet another of the top contenders departed Monday when two-time Olympic silver medalist Terrence Trammell of the United States grabbed the second hurdle and limped off the track with an injured left leg.

That was moments before Liu’s turn to take to the track. It’s been quite clear for quite some time that he would be under a tremendous amount of pressure at these Olympics, and yet Liu has insisted he didn’t feel it.

There was no way to know exactly what he was thinking Monday, because he didn’t speak to reporters.

And his countrymen?

“I think they will be disappointed,” said Wang Wei, executive vice president of the games’ organizing committee. “But they will understand. When somebody has an accident, you can’t help it.”

The exits of Liu and Trammell leave David Oliver, thought to be running as consistently as any of the U.S. hurdlers of late, as a serious medal candidate. His personal best of 12.95 seconds is only 0.08 second off Robles’ world record.

Asked before Liu lined up for his heat whether he knew that his Chinese rival appeared to be hurting badly, Robles said he didn’t care.

“I’m going to do what Usain Bolt did,” the Cuban said when asked about breaking his hurdles world record. “The track is perfect. Anything is possible in the final.”

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Day 10 PREVIEW: Gymnastics Event Finals, Trampoline, Table Tennis Highlight Day 10

As we enter the second week of these Olympic Games, the potential for great moments to occur exists in a variety of sports, among them table tennis, trampoline and the triathlon.

- Track and Field: Men's 400m Hurdles Final (10AM ET) and Women's Pole Vault Final (7:20AM ET), Same-Day Tape on NBC Primetime
More track and field continues at the Bird's Nest as several finals will take place on both the field and the track. The Men's 400m Hurdles final is destined to be the highlight of the night. After Dominican Republic's Felix Sanchez, the defending gold medalist, failed to qualify for the final (he didn't even qualify for the semi-finals), the field is wide open for anyone to take gold. This may turn out to be another Jamaica vs. United States showdown as both countries field medal contenders in this final. For the United States, defending world champion Kerron Clement as well as Angelo Taylor and Bershawn Jackson will try and capture the United States' first gold medal of the track and field competition. For Jamaica, look out for veteran hurdler Danny McFarlane, silver medalist in Athens, and Markino Buckley.

The women's pole vault final will again feature Russian and world record holder Yelena Isinbayeva while American Jenn Stuczynski will try for the ultimate upset. The two have gone one-two several times this year, including at the world indoor championships. Finals will also take place in the womens' 800 meters, the men's long jump and men's 3000m Steeplechase.

- Gymnastics: Women's Uneven Bars Final (6:43AM ET), Same-Day Tape on NBC Primetime
The women's individual all-around gold medalist Nastia Liukin will compete for gold in one of her signature events--the uneven bars. She received a 16.650 on this apparatus during the all-around final in her road to the gold medal. Standing in Liukin's way is China's Yang Yilin, the only athlete in the all-around that got a higher score than Liukin, with a 16.725. It could be another China vs. United States showdown at National Indoor Stadium.

The men's vault and men's rings final will also take place tonight at National Indoor Stadium. Liukin is the only American competing in tonight's indidvidual event finals.

- Table Tennis: Men's Team Final, China vs. Germany (7:30AM ET), LIVE Online, Delayed on USA Network (between 8AM-12PM)
The team event in table tennis was created to prevent countries like China from dominating the competition. While they may not sweep the medals, China is the overwhelming favorite to take gold in their signature event. Germany, who fought a tough battle against Japan in the semifinals, is looking for an upset of Olympic proportions in tonight's final.

- Women's Soccer: Semifinals, GER vs. BRA (6AM ET), USA vs. JPN (9AM ET), LIVE on MSNBC
The teams that will play for gold will be determined tonight in the semfinals of the women's soccer competition. In the first semifinal, Germany faces Brazil in a rematch of the Women's World Cup final, won by Germany 2-0. Then, Japan takes on the defending gold medalists United States in the second semifinal.


Stay with NOW Sports for the latest updates on the competition of Day 10 of the Games of the XXIX Olympiad.

"WHAT UP?! Media" NBC Olympic Coverage Week 1: All Phelps, All the Time

Thanks to Michael Phelps, week 1 of the Olympics has been a primetime success on NBC. But swimming is now over, which means no Phelps, and no more live competition in primetime this week.

Let me correct myself, there will be some live coverage this week. But it pales in comparison to having the swimming finals shown live in primetime, even if the athletes being shown live this week are sexy, well-toned beach volleyball players.

NBC paid over $900 million dollars to obtain broadcasting rights to air the Olympic Games in the United States. When you're paying a significant part of the IOC members' salary, it is likely that you're going to get what you want, including scheduling marquee finals for the morning. NBC was able to convince Olympic organizers to hold the finals of the swimming competition in the morning so that it can be shown live in primetime here in the United States. In addition, NBC also was able to get the team and individual all-around finals in artistic gymnastics and beach volleyball matches to take place in the morning for primetime viewing.

All this rescheduling paid off for NBC as Michael Phelps single-handedly turned a multi-million dollar investment into a profit for NBC and their parent company General Electric. The lure for viewers to witness history in the making each night was a money maker for NBC. On most nights of the first week, primetime ratings beat out the respective nights during the Olympics in Athens four years ago. The most likely reason for this success? Live competition.

Speaking of live, that term can only refer to those viewers watching in the eastern and central time zones. Viewers in the west coast had to wait three hours after the live competition was aired on the east coast. And even though the competition was clearly taped, NBC taunted viewers by keeping up the "LIVE" sign at the top right corner of the screen. Then later in the week, after rumors spread that NBC would broadcast Phelps's historic eighth race live in all time zones, the network shot those rumors down and kept their stand that viewers in the west coast would have to watch the competition that was live on the East Coast in primetime.

There are two things wrong with this concept. One is that several events that were airing live on the east Coast actually took place late at night in the east. If NBC had broadcasted the events live in all time zones, gymnastics and swimming would have taken place in primetime on the West Coast anyway. It's bad enough that those who had work the next morning on the east coast had to stay up until 1AM in the morning to find out the results of the women's individual all-around in gymnastics. Why make viewers on the west coast go through the same thing?

Second, it's just plain wrong to tape delay sports, especially when half of the country is watching the event live. NBC took a "NBC Nightly News" or an even better example, an "American Idol" approach to broadcasting these Olympic Games in primetime. Those on the east can watch the nightly news or American idol live, but those on the west will be watching the taped version. While that may work for events like American idol where you'll want to actually see the show, no matter if it is live or taped, sports and the Olympics don't work the same way. But NBC treated the Olympics as an entertainment event that draws advertisers rather than a sporting event.

East or west, everyone will in the same boat this week as most of the primetime coverage on NBC will be taped, including all track and field finals, with the exception of the men's marathon, to be aired live on Saturday night. Only BMX racing and beach volleyball will be aired live in primetime, and like last week, live only to the east coast. As far as the track and field and gymnastics finals that will be aired this week, all of those events will have already happened approximately 12 hours before they are broadcast to the American audience.

What this means is possible lower ratings for the network, with results of the track and field finals available on the internet well before they are aired. In fact, we may see ratings similar to that of the Sydney Olympic games, when all of the events aired on NBC were taped. While the limited number of events that will be aired live may help draw ratings, don't expect results similar to last week's shows. NBC and America does not have a big superstar like Michael Phelps to attract ratings this week, and if the United States ends up not medalling in many events on the track or in gymnastics, then NBC is likely to beg Phelps to swim live in primetime, even if the competition is over.

The good news is that online coverage has been amazing. Though many of the big sports are not being streamed live, the offerings that has are sufficient enough to pass the time and has provided excellent quality. The technology that NBC is using in streaming coverage has produced clear cut video and the use of live blogging helps viewers get interactive with experts that are providing comments on the event.

Beijing 2008 has proved to be an Olympics of transition for NBC in terms of delivering media to a hungry American audience. While the primetime trends of tape delay remain the same, the use of live and online coverage mean the best is yet to come in Olympics coverage. We'll just have to see what Week 2's ratings will hold for the big Olympic monopoly network.

Day 9 RECAP: Phelps, Jamaican Sweep Mark Olympic Halfway Point

Haha, I figured since NBC is going to tape delay the Olympics this week, I'll delay my blog postings...(just kidding, I had other tasks to finish, sorry readers.)

The first week of the Beijing Olympics are in the books and it's a week that many will not soon forget. And this Day 9 of competition has served as the exclamation point of this memorable week.

Olympic Highlight of the Day
Take a good look readers. These are moments that you will not likely see for some time. In fact, this accomplishment may never happen again.
All of you know the story by now, but it never seems to get old, especially for Michael Phelps. He's won eight gold medals in a single Olympic games, accomplishing a feat no other athlete has ever done in Olympic history and more likely, sports history. The magical week at the Water Cube in Beijing will always be remembered for what Michael Phelps did for swimming, the United States, the Olympics and sports history. And even though Phelps had a lot of help, which he is very grateful for, the moment belongs to Phelps and we can only be thankful that we were united by the moment, living together as the motto of these Beijing Olympics: One World, One Dream. And what a dream it has been, that is now reality.

Feel-Good Moment of Day 9
There were actually many feel-good moments on Day 9, from Romania's Constantina Tomescu Dita's win in the marathon to Dara Torres winning two silver medals on the last day of competition. Both wins showed that you can do anything at any age if you set your mind to it. But today's feel good moment comes from the sport of fencing and the American silver medal win in the men's team sabre final.
Keeth Smart was not supposed to be competing in Beijing. His athletic career should have been over and if it wasn't for a two-week intensive treatment period, Smart should be dead by now.

Smart was diagnosed with a rare blood disease just four months ago, and doctors told him that his athletic career as a fencer could no longer continue. Then after a two week period of treatment, his mother succumbed to a two-year battle with cancer.

These difficulties came after disappointment in Athens, when Smart lost on the final touch and resulting in the U.S. men's sabre team leaving without a medal. The following year, his father died of a heart attack.

Considering all these circumstances, it's amazing to learn that Smart, instead of quitting from the sport, did the total opposite and plunged himself into training for this year's Olympic games. The results of his efforts? A well earned silver medal, better than none which happened in Athens.

See Report from New York Daily News.

Upset of the Day...
The most unexpected result of Day 9 came from artistic gymnastics when it made its return to the National Indoor Stadium for the individual event finals. Shawn Johnson of the United States was looking for her first gold medal of these games in the floor exercise final. It looked like she was going to clinch it when she posted a 15.500 for her routine that drew much applause and roar from the crowd.
Johnson's score held up until Romania's Sandra Izbasa, the last competitior on floor exercise, wowed the judges with her floor exercise routine and scoring a 15.650. Johnson ended up with silver, all-around gold medalist Nastia Liukin won bronze.

Team Highlight of the day...
When you think of team sports, you probably wouldn't think of the sport of rowing. But the concept of teamwork resonated throughout the Shunyi Rowing and Canoeing Park when seven finals took place on Day 9. Among the highlights of the final day of rowing were big wins by China and the United States. China won gold in the women's quadruple sculls final with a late surge to the front ahead of the team from the United Kingdom in the final 500 meters. The team of Jin Ziwei, Tang Bin, Xi Aihua and Zhang Yangyang crossed the finish line Sunday in 6 minutes, 16.06 seconds, blowing kisses and raising their arms in triumph in front of a roaring home crowd. This was China's first ever rowing gold medal.

The American women won gold in the classic women's eights event while the American men got bronze in their respective eights event. For the women, this was their first gold medal win in the event since 1984. The two-time world champions defeated the two-time Olympic champions from Romania after slowly emerging to the front of the race by the halfway mark. Romania won bronze behind the Netherlands.

Dominating Performance of the Day...
A sweep of the medals is usually seen as a dominating performance by a nation in that event or sport. That was seen today in tennis when Russia swept the medals in women's singles. But an even bigger sweep happened in the women's 100m final at the Bird's Nest. Shelly-Ann Frasier followed up yesterday's big win by Usain Bolt in the men's 100m final by leading a sweep of the medals in the women's 100m final. Frasier won with a time of 10.78 while her compatriots, Sherone Simpson and Kerron Stewart, both finished with a time of 10.98 and will both be awarded silver medals. These medal successes in the sprints over the weekend thus made Jamaica, the fastest nation in the world.

Those are our highlights from a very busy day 9 of competition. Just so that we didn't leave anyone out, here are some of the other highlights from Day 9.

- Rafael Nadal continues amazing year in tennis with gold medal win in Beijing.
Nadal wins gold medal in men's tennis
- Track and Field: Bekele retains 10,000 meter title 1:17 pm EDT (Reuters)
- Diving: Guo wins record sixth diving medal 12:10 pm EDT (AP)

And finally, here is a look at the medal count coming into Day 10 of competition.

Overall medal standings - 328 of 436 medal events complete

See Full Standings

I'll be back shortly with coverage and a preview of Day 10.

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