Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Beijing 2008 wrap-up: The I swear the medal drought ends tonight edition

Day 4

Your daily Olympic wrap-up.

Notable Canadian performance: The fastball team was all business in defeating Chinese Taipei Taiwan 6-1. It wasn’t the toughest team to start, but the offense was a nice sight to see. The European champion Dutch are next tonight—another must win for the Canucks.

Notable international performance: We’re just going to assume Michael Phelps would capture this anytime he swims and instead look for the second most notable international performance of the day. That would be the Chinese male gymnasts. If you wanted a preview of how much pressure the Canadian hockey teams will be under in Vancouver all you had to do was watch yesterday’s team final. It also would have given you an idea of how the B.C. crowd will react if when we win.

The Maple Leaf Gold: Mike Brown – Canada’s only individual swimming finalist from Athens put up another nice swim in the 200m breaststroke, qualifying to the semi-finals with the fifth best time of the day. Before the Games he was pointed to as a possible darkhorse medal contender. Nothing he did this morning would suggest that those suggestions were unwarranted.

Maple Leaf silver: David Ford. The easy way out here is to point out that he once again failed to get to the podium. But, that’s a cop out. The former K-1 whitewater slalom world champion was a solid sixth (really fourth if not for a clear judging error that gave him a two second penalty in the final) despite the COA, in its infinite wisdom, pulling his funding last year. Put aside your thoughts on athletic funding for a moment. Even if you don’t believe in the concept, you have to agree that if the country is going to give money to athletes that it should concentrate that funding on those athletes that have a chance to medal. My cat could have told you that Ford was one of those athletes. Amateur sporting bodies in this country can be stunningly incompetent.

Let’s not cry too much for him however. It was revealed that Ford, 41, is dating Canadian Alpine skier Kelly VanderBeek, 25, during the broadcast. Ford is not be an Olympian medallist, but I suspect he’s still a hero to millions of middle-aged Canadian men.

Maple Leaf bronze: Megan Timpf – As Neate points out below, the Port Dover fastpitch player had a pretty nice little Olympic debut.

Maple Leaf tin medal: It’s tempting to pick on divers Roseline Filion and Meaghan Benefeito here, who had a bronze medal in their view before struggling on the last two dives of their competition. However, they are kids that will be better in London. So, I’ll reserve judgement on those that should know better. Like women’s soccer coach Even Pellerud. Time and time again today CBC commentators Nigel Reed and Jason de Vos ripped into the Canuck women for giving the ball away too easily. The suggestion being that the players were underperforming. Thing is, the players were doing what they have been taught for the last decade.

There is a reason Canadian soccer fans are counting the days until Pellerud retires. Today was exhibit 1A. Against strong teams Canada aimlessly blasts the ball up the pitch hoping that eventually one of their forwards will run onto it. Most often they just give it back to their opponents.

(Our own Andrew Bucholtz liveblogged the game at Sporting Madness.)

Canada did get a little lucky in the draw however. Any team they were going to draw was going to be tough, but the U.S. offers a similar style. It’s also now set-up for a quintessential Great Canadian Sports Moment ™--they all have to involve upsetting the Yanks, don’t they? Maybe they can get Hayley Wickenheiser to accuse the U.S. of spitting on a Canadian flag to inspire the troops.

(Edit: On his fine Olympics TV blog, The Globe's William Houston praises de Vos' criticism)

The WTF was the Ceeb thinking award: Claudia Kercoff-Van Wick . In addition to nearly peeing herself with glee at Ford's run (and not putting it into any type of context at all) she kept interrupting her partner Mark Connelly and seemed unable to read the split times. During eventual bronze medallist Benjamin Boukpeti’s semi-final run she exclaimed “That’s crazy he had all sorts of problems up (on the) top (half of the course)” when informed by Connelly that he was leading at the two-third split. Later, during Boukpeti’s final run she told viewers that he was “gaining time” on the course, despite that the split times were clearly showing that he had dropped nearly a second and a half during the run.

Honorary Canadian award: Raptors/Spain point guard José Calderón – ‘cause he pretty much is always an honorary Canadian anyway. And yesterday he was a big part of Spain's come-from-behind win over China. The world champions trailed by 11 late, but stormed back to put the game into overtrme with Calderón getting the assist on the tying basket. It was all Spain in the OT.

Canadian highlights for day 5: The 4 x 200m freestyle relay team, which rested two swimmers in this morning’s heats. The Americans will win, but it should come down to a blanket finish for the silver and bronze. Canada will be right there and we will be reminded of what it’s like to watch an Olympic swimming meet when Canada has medal hopes.

(Also, Stubby Clapp and the boys take to the diamond for the first time)

International highlight for day 5: Our friends to the south will be in full out creepy obsession mode over the women's frighteningly underdeveloped little girl’s team gymnastics final. Instead of feeding that unhealthy fetish, why not check out the U.S.-Australia fastball game. It’s the first real battle of the tournament between two medal contenders.

1 comment:

Andrew Bucholtz said...

Good post, Duane: I agree on most of it. Pellerud certainly didn't turn in a great performance today, and de Vos and Reed were quite right to point it out. I would have preferred it if he stuck with the more offensive-minded 3-4-3 he used against Argentina instead of a 4-3-3 with Lang and Sinclair far enough back that it was almost a 4-5-1.

Still, I think Pellerud deserves considerable credit for what he's done with the program: it wasn't going anywhere when he joined up in 1999, and he's accomplished quite a lot since then. What he can still accomplish is perhaps limited, and it probably is time for a new coach, but remember that his tactics worked quite well when Canada didn't have the mature talent to really compete in a possession battle with the likes of Sweden. I'm not even sure that we do now, as our best talent is still up front, but we're certainly closer than we used to be, and new coaching and tactics might help push us over the top. I don't object to Pellerud leaving, but I don't think he deserves complete vilification.

In any case, the Canada - U.S. game should be great to watch: we've come very close to beating them twice recently, and the third time may well be the charm. I'm looking forward to it, and will be planning on pulling another crazy lack-of-sleep night to live blog the match.

Looking forward to tonight's Canadian baseball game and American-Australian fastpitch battle: that should be a terrific duel.