Celebrating last-place finishes at the Olympics. Because they're there, and you're not.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

DFL on Hiatus

I'm sorry to announce that I will not be blogging the 2010 Winter Olympics on DFL.

For the most part, however, I've already said what needs saying about how hard athletes have to work to make it to the Olympics, and how good you have to be to finish even in last place at the Games. If I do say so myself, there are some awfully good entries in DFL's archives. You could do worse than reread some of them. (See the sidebar for some featured entries and archived entries by date.)

Thank you for your interest in this site, and in the gutsy athletes who finish at the back of the pack -- but still finish.

Labels: ,

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Stories from the Back of the Pack

Every last-place finish has a story. Here are a few from the Beijing Games:

Brazilian cyclist Luciano Pagliarini was suffering from kidney stones.

British diver Blake Aldridge blamed his synchronized diving partner, 14-year-old Tom Daley, for their last-place finish after Daley "popped off" on Aldridge for talking to his mother on his cellphone during the competition.

South African kayaker Sibonso Cele capsized his canoe and missed a gate in his first run, but put in a clean run the second time around.

Hiroshi Hoketsu's horse was apparently discombobulated by a passing airplane.

Italian cyclist Roberto Chiappa was relegated for elbowing Japan's Kiyofumi Nagai during the race.

Homa Hosseini, last in women's single sculls, is one of several groundbreaking female athletes from Iran.

Colin Jenkins acted as fellow Canadian (and eventual silver medallist) Simon Whitfield's "bodyguard" in the men's triathlon.

If you haven't heard any of these stories, I'm not surprised. Last-place finishers only make the news in their home countries, their hometown papers expressing their sympathy while their national media whines about lost medals. Sometimes not even then.

The only times a last-place finish generates international attention is when it's relevant to a national team's chances ("We would have lost except for ...") or truly spectacular in its own right. Usually that's the kind of media coverage no one wants.

It's part of a larger problem: media coverage can be so overwhelmingly focused on the home team that the big picture is missed. Events in which your country has no chance are ignored. Gold medallists from other countries are only shown to explain why your country's competitor came in 12th (this actually happened with the CBC's coverage of the men's hammer throw). And you'll almost never hear someone else's anthem played at the podium.

I was surprised to spend so much time blogging about the ugly nationalistic side of the Olympics in this round of DFL. The 2008 version of this blog has been the angry DFL, wherein I fulminate against the media, national Olympic committees, the IOC, and the general public for their obsession with medals and their tendency to blame athletes for failing to bring back the shiny knick-knacks and making their whole country look bad.

Each edition of DFL has been different: the 2004 version was the funny DFL, in which I navigated a narrow course between cracking wise and not doing so at the athletes' expense; the 2006 version was the earnest DFL, where I focused on injury, grit and character, and how hard it was to get to the Games. By the end of this run, I'm running out of things to say. Apart from reporting the results, I find myself more or less filling in the corners.

And fewer of you are reading it each time. Only half as many of you have visited this time around as you did during the 2006 Torino Games, and one-tenth as many as during the 2004 Athens Games. I'm not bothered; I ought to have done something to, you know, promote this site if I were. The fact that the media ignored DFL this time around -- which made my life a little less crazy, despite some health problems I've had during this run -- means two things: one, my point has been made -- though if the case of Stany the Stingray is any indication, the media has largely ignored that point. And two, my 15 minutes are up. I'm content.

Labels: , ,

'Stany the Stingray'

I was right, and I should have looked into it sooner. There was a media frenzy about Stany Kempompo Ngangola, the 34-year-old swimmer from the Democratic Republic of Congo who had the slowest time in the men's 50-metre freestyle. In fact, they were waiting for him, like vultures, before he had even swam; this Australian columnist proclaimed him a friend of Eric the Eel and drew attention to his extremely slow qualifying time. It turns out that that qualifying time was a typo, that he'd never even met Eric Moussambani, and that his result wasn't that bad. I mean, it wasn't good -- 35.19 seconds, 13.89 seconds behind the gold medallist in the final -- but it wasn't Moussambani-class drown-in-the-pool awful. The only ones looking ridiculous here are the media who were fishing for an easy mark -- hoping to find yet another central African to make fun of for a good wacky-Olympics story. I'm delighted that they were disappointed.

Labels: , ,

The Final Tally

As Greece did when it hosted the 2004 Olympics, China has won the DFL race. With 14 last-place finishes in the sports I was able to award them in,1 they had six more than the nearest competition, Canada. This is the post in which I explain what this all means.

First, it means nothing. Despite what I predicted, the DFL race has nothing to do with a country's athletic strength. China may have had more last-place finishes than anyone else, but, with 51 gold medals, they also had more first-place finishes than anyone else.

Which brings me to my second point: large delegations lead the last-place standings. With the top 13 countries having at least four last-place finishes, a country with only three athletes will obviously not crack the top 10. The smallest delegation in the top 10 was Egypt's, with 104 athletes; the smallest in the top 20 was Honduras's, with 28. But the top five were either above 300 athletes or within 20 of that number. Small delegations did have some interesting results, though: São Tomé and Príncipe had three athletes and two DFLs; the Cook Islands, San Marino, the British Virgin Islands and Somalia had a 50 percent DFL rate with only two or three athletes. But, as I argued four years ago, better that these countries send athletes to come in last than not send any athletes at all.

Then there's the African team disadvantage: in team sports with continental qualifiers, there will usually be a spot reserved for Africa, which for any number of reasons is not as competitive. The end result is that countries like Angola, Egypt or Mali just get killed in competitions like basketball, field hockey, water polo, and the relay events in swimming and track -- and that runs up the numbers at the end.

Finally, the most significant factor: the home team disadvantage. It didn't occur in the 2006 Winter Games, but they're different. But in the Summer Games it's as close to an iron law as you can get. Greece got 13 DFLs in 2004, but only one this time around. Their team was also less than one-third the size. China's team, on the other hand, went from six to 14 DFLs, and its team grew by half. This is because the home team gets a berth in every event, including events for which that country would not normally qualify. Because they wouldn't normally qualify, they get clobbered.

China didn't put away the DFL title until this weekend, when it DFLed in men's handball, baseball, the men's 4×400 relay, and two kayaking events. The following graph shows the progression of last-place finishes over the course of the Olympics for the top five countries:

Now for some more visualizations. Google Spreadsheets does heat maps. Here's a heat map of the last-place finishes by country:

This is an imperfect representation, of course: it doesn't take into account population, GDP or size of athletic delegation, all of which would be useful in evaluating the meaningfulness of a big pile of last-place finishes. Maybe someone can do some math. But the biggest problem is that this map is too darn small. Fortunately, Google Spreadsheets's map widget can zoom in a bit as well.




The Middle East:

South America:

(Something's not right, because Britain should be the same colour as Italy and Japan. Oh well.)

But, as I've said before (2004, 2006), with limited success, none of this actually means anything. Which is precisely my point about the medal race.

1 Sports not covered: badminton, beach volleyball, boxing, fencing, gymnastics (individual events), judo, table tennis, taekwondo, tennis, and wrestling.

Labels: ,

Results for Sunday, August 24

Athletics: No doubt 30-year-old Atsushi Sato of Japan will be the subject of many an attempted human interest story, now that he's finished dead last in the men's marathon. He finished 76th with a time of 2:41:08, which was 34:36 behind the gold medallist. Hardly A Baser Wasiqi territory, but that won't stop the media. There were 19 DNFs and three DNSes.

Basketball: Angola was 0–5 in the preliminaries of men's basketball and, with fewer points for and more points against than Iran, finished 12th.

Handball: In men's handball, China was 0–5 and finished 12th.

Rhythmic Gymnastics: In the qualification round for the group all-around event, the team from Brazil finished 12th with a score of 29.125; it would have taken 31.45 or better to qualify.

Volleyball: In men's volleyball, both Egypt and Japan were 0–5, but Egypt won no sets, whereas Japan won four. Therefore, the DFL goes to Egypt.

Water Polo: In men's water polo, China lost its classification match with Canada on Friday to finish 12th.

Final standings: China finishes with 14 DFLs; Egypt moves into sixth place, Japan moves into ninth, and Angola and Brazil, at the last moment, jump into the top 20. Stand by for an analysis of the final standings.

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Late Results for Saturday, August 23

Athletics: Women's high jump: Two competitors had an identical score of 1.8 metres, in the same number of jumps; no DFL will be awarded in this event as a result. Two athletes had no mark; the gold medallist cleared 2.05 metres. Men's javelin: Menik Janoyan of Armenia, 23, with a best throw of 64.47 metres in group B. One athlete had no mark; the gold medallist's best was 90.57 metres. Men's 800 metre: Heat four saw the slowest time in the preliminaries: 1:57.48 by 21-year-old Derek Mandell of Guam. The gold medallist's final time was 1:44.65. There were three DNSes. Women's 1,500 metre: 27-year-old Domingas Togna of Guinea-Bissau was, at 5:05.76 in heat two, substantially slower than the rest of the field: the next-to-slowest time was 45 seconds faster. And the gold medallist's time in the final was faster still: 4:00.23. Men's 5,000 metre: In heat one, Min Thu Soe of Burma (Myanmar), 19 years old, was, at 15:50.56, much slower than the rest of the field -- by more than a minute. There was one DNS in the heats. The gold medallist finished in 12:57.82 in the final. Women's 4×400-metre relay: China had the slowest time in the preliminaries (heat two); compare their time of 3:30.77 to the gold medallists' final time of 3:18.54. Men's 4×400-metre relay: In heat two, the Dominican Republic had the slowest preliminary time: 3:04.31. Compare that to the gold medallists' final time of 2:55.39.

Diving: In the men's 10-metre platform, 20-year-old North Korean diver Kim Chon Man will incur the Dear Leader's wrath with a 30th-place finish; his score of 328.85 was about 90 points lower than he would have needed to qualify for the next round.

Baseball: Two teams finished the competition with 1–6 records; with some reluctance, I'm awarding the DFL to the team with the most runs against: China.

Basketball: Mali finished 12th in women's basketball with a record of 0–5.

Field Hockey: In the men's event, the team from South Africa lost its classification match and finished 12th.

Rhythmic Gymnastics: Wania Monteiro of Cape Verde repeats her 2004 DFL in the individual all-around event. Now 22, she finished 24th (again) in the qualifying round with a score of 49.050. The lowest qualifying score was 66.825.

Volleyball: Both Algeria and Venezuela are ranked 11th in women's volleyball, but using the win-loss ratio from the preliminary round to break the tie, I'll award the DFL to Algeria.

Standings to date: As the results for the team sports and events come in, two trends occur. First, the host country, which might not otherwise qualify for events but enters them anyway as the host, racks up a few DFLs, as China has with a total of four today. Its hold on first place is unassailable: Canada simply can't catch up. Second, you also see a few last-place finishes from African countries, who qualify on a continental basis (i.e., they're the best African team) but go on to get slaughtered at the Olympics. (Note that Egypt and South Africa are now both in the top 10.)

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Getting to the Games: A Reality Check

A common misconception -- a result, no doubt, of the countless stories about Eddie the Eagle and Eric the Eel -- is that it's not that hard to qualify for the Olympics, if you pick your sports and countries shrewdly. Consider, for example, Melody's naïve question on Ask Metafilter:
I'm 24. Let's say I wanted to have a shot at the Olympics, in any sport, at some point in the future. Are my chances over? Is there a sport I could start now, dedicate the next few years to, and become good enough to be a contender? What sport should that be? (I'm not picky.)

I was thinking about this. I don't have a sports preference. I like to rollerblade and hula-hoop. I can train a decent amount. I'd put in a heck of a lot of time. But are my Olympic dreams dashed, because I'm too late?
The short answer is, yes, it is too late, but let's not be too hard on Melody. Most of us, who tend to ignore the Olympic sports except when the Olympics are on, don't realize what goes into training for them. Adam van Koeverden, the Canadian who won silver in the men's 500-metre K1, was asked in a CBC interview whether he'd be back for 2012; his response -- that he'd be back for international competitions in 2009, 2010 and 2011, too -- was a good one. Olympic athletes don't go back into the freezer when they're done.

During the 2006 Winter Games, I embarked on a study of the qualifying rules -- how hard, I wanted to know, was it to qualify in each sport? As it turned out, very hard. Quotas on the total number of competitors per event. Minimum standards, including a certain number of points earned in international competition. And, even in the more open events, a basic requirement that you be a bona fide competitor with a record of participation. (I didn't have time to check the summer events this time around, but I imagine the situation would be similar; apart from the wild card lottery, which is very limited in scope, it's very very hard to get to the Olympics.)

Part of the problem is that it's hard to recognize something as hard when the athletes make it look effortless. A reality check is clearly in order. Here's a good one: Five Projects in Five Days decided to compare the results of "average Joes" with Olympic athletes in five events: 100-metre freestyle swimming, long jump, 100-metre dash, 110-metre hurdles, and gymnastic rings. The results are absolutely enlightening: they were twice as slow, jumped half the distance, and only one of them could even get up on the rings.

The other part of the problem is that the Olympics are like an iceberg: nine-tenths of it is invisible. What people don't see is the gruelling, lifelong training -- the hard slog just to qualify. So You Wanna Be an Olympian? by Kathryn Bertine is instructive. She's a former figure skater and triathlete. She spent two years trying to qualify in cycling (which ESPN followed), even taking out dual citizenship when she couldn't qualify for the U.S. team. In the end, she couldn't. You'll want to read this one.
I am not upset. I am not sad. I am not angry. I do not have the impulse to kick or throw anything. I did not make the Olympics ... and honestly, I think that's awesome.

No one, myself included, should be able to make an Olympic team with less than two years of experience. If that starts happening, we need a new Olympics. Maybe 20 years ago a few "fringe" sports had so few competitors it was "easier" to qualify for the Olympics. But not today. There is not one sport on the Olympic roster that is easy -- trust me, I've tried them all -- nor underpopulated. Even if there were, it still wouldn't matter. Sports, especially women's sports, have progressed on such a worldwide basis that making any national team no longer ensures an athlete a berth in the Olympics. A common misconception: Because I received dual citizenship from St. Kitts and Nevis, I would automatically go to the Olympics. But with 161 nations and more than 700 female riders registered with the Union Cycliste International, there is no way to get to the Games without experience, hard work, dedication, qualifying points and what Coach Gord perfectly summarized as "paying your dues."

At El Salvador's airport, I ask Marianne Vos, the 21-year-old world champion, when she started racing. "When I was 5," she says, "I have been doing this for 16 years." That is one year for every month of my experience. Those are some well-paid dues. Look for her on the podium in Beijing.
(Vos finished sixth in the road race, 14th in the time trial, and won the gold medal in the points race.)

That's what you're up against.

Via Kottke. (I've been saving this one.)


Early Results for Saturday, August 23

Canoe/Kayak (Flatwater Racing): Men's 500-metre K1: Koutoua Francis Abia, 43, Côte d'Ivoire, 9th in heat three with a time of 2:00.716. Men's 500-metre C1: Fortunato Luis Pacavira, 30, Angola, 8th in heat one with a time of 2:13.265. Women's 500-metre K1: Khathia Ba, 17, Senegal, 9th in heat one with a time of 2:17.74. Men's 500-metre K2: Shen Je, 21, and Huang Zhipeng, 24, China, eighth in heat one with a time of 1:34.432. Men's 500-metre C2: José Everardo Cristobal, 22, and Dimas Camilo, 18, Mexico, 9th in the semifinal with a time of 1:48.853. This is this team's second DFL of these Games. Women's 500-metre K2: Xu Linbei, 24, and Wang Feng, 22, China, eighth in heat two with a time of 1:47.645.

Cycling (Mountain Bike): On the women's side, Dellys Starr of Australia, 31, was lapped with two laps remaining; on the men's side, Antipass Kwari of Zimbabwe, 33, was lapped with six laps remaining. Four women and two men did not finish; a total of eight women and 20 men finished their races by being lapped; they were still ranked.

Football (Soccer): With an 0–3 record and five goals against, Honduras finished 16th in men's football.

Handball: With a record of 0–1–4 and one point, Angola finished 12th in women's handball.

Synchronized Swimming: Egypt sweeps this sport with a DFL in the team event; their nine swimmers finished with 80.833 points, 18.667 behind the gold medallists. And before these Games I bet you didn't even know Egypt had a synchronized swimming team.

Standings to date: African countries are making a strong showing so far today, thanks to canoe/kayak and team sports: four countries make their first appearance, and Egypt moves into the top 10 with its 4th last-place finish. China adds two DFLs to take the lead with 10 -- as the host country, this is very nearly expected. Australia adds a seventh to move into third place. Honduras and Mexico add their third each to move into 12th and 15th place, respectively.

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Friday, August 22, 2008

Results for Friday, August 22

Athletics: Men's 50-km walk: 36-year-old Kazimir Verkin of Slovakia finished 47th; his time of 4:21:26 was 44:17 behind the gold medallist. There were seven DNFs, five disqualifications, and two DNSes. Women's long jump: In qualifying Tuesday, Tricia Flores of Belize, 28, had the shortest best jump: 5.25 metres in group A; the gold medallist got 7.04 metres in the final. Three athletes had no mark; one was disqualified for being bad. Women's 5,000 metre: 30-year-old Celma da Graca Soares Bonfim of São Tomé and Príncipe finished heat one with a time of 17:25.99 on Tuesday; the gold medallist's time was 15:41.40. One DNF and one DNS apiece in the heats. Women's 4×100-metre relay: Never mind the final, the heats Thursday saw three disqualifications and two DNFs, leaving the team from Thailand with the slowest finishing time of 44.38 seconds. The gold medal time in the final was 42.31 seconds. Men's 4×100-metre relay: The men's side saw two disqualifications and four DNFs; the slowest team left standing was that of France, with 39.53 seconds. The gold medallists in the final did it in 37.1 seconds. Men's pole vault: Three athletes cleared 5.3 metres (the gold medallist did 5.96 metres); I'm unable to break the tie. No DFL will be awarded. Men's decathlon: There were 14 DNFs in this event -- 35 percent of all athletes entered. Of the 26 capable of attempting all 10 events, Mikko Halvari of Finland, 25, was 26th with a score of 6,486 -- 2,305 points behind the gold medallist. Mikko got zero in the pole vault; he and one other athlete continued nonetheless, while two athletes did not start the following event. I don't know the circumstances for all 14 DNFs; I wonder how many were the result of giving up when zeroing out on a specific discipline.

Canoe/Kayak (Flatwater Racing): Men's 1,000-metre kayak single (K1): Alcino Gomes da Silva, 17, São Tomé and Príncipe, 9th in heat two with a time of 4:28.057. Men's 1,000-metre canoe single (C1): Sean Pangelinan, 21, Guam, 8th in heat two with a time of 4:49.284. Women's 500-metre kayak four (K4): Canada, fourth in the semifinal with a time of 1:38.366. Men's 1,000-metre K2: José Ramos, 25, and Gabriel Rodriguez, 29, Venezuela, seventh in the semifinal with a time of 3:27.423. Men's 1,000-metre C2: José Everardo Cristobal, 22, and Dimas Camilo, 18, Mexico, seventh in the semifinal with a time of 3:49.695. Men's 1,000-metre K4: Australia, fourth in the semifinal with a time of 3:02.743.

Cycling (BMX): In the men's BMX event, Latvian Ivo Lakucs, 29, had the lowest score of the four heats of the quarterfinal round. On the women's side, Australian Tanya Bailey, 27, had the worst score in the semifinals.

Field Hockey: New Zealand lost its classification match in women's field hockey to finish 12th.

Modern Pentathlon: All the female athletes in the modern pentathlon were able to complete the equestrian portion; insert cliché about women and horses here. Lada Jienbalanova of Kazakhstan, 38, was already 36th after the equestrian portion and did not start the final 3,000-metre cross country run. Her final score was 3,736 points; the gold medallist's score was 5,792.

Standings to date: Canada retakes the lead with its eighth DFL; Australia moves into fifth place with its sixth last-place finish. With their third DFLs each, Venezuela, Kazakhstan, New Zealand and France move into 14th, 15th, 18th and 23rd places, respectively. With two last-place finishes and only three athletes, São Tomé and Príncipe jumps into 24th place.

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Rogge vs. Bolt

DFL is, at its most basic, a call for people to lay off the athletes. So, even though it has nothing to do with last-place finishes, I thoroughly enjoyed Dan Wetzel's tear into IOC president Jacques Rogge for Rogge's criticism of Usain Bolt's behaviour after winning his medals. He, ah, doesn't pull any punches. "Jacques Rogge is so bought, so compromised, the president of the IOC doesn’t have the courage to criticize China for telling a decade of lies to land itself these Olympic Games," Dan writes. "Instead, he has flexed his muscles by unloading on a powerless sprinter from a small island nation. ... Oh, this is richer than those bribes and kickbacks the IOC got caught taking." In a nutshell: neither Rogge nor the IOC has any business being this patronizing.


Late Results for Thursday, August 21

Athletics: Women's javelin: Rumyana Karapetrova of Bulgaria, 26, had the shortest best throw in the qualifying round; she finished last in group B with 40.15 metres. Two competitors in the qualifying round had no mark. The gold medallist's final score was 71.42 metres. Women's 200 metre: Samia Yusuf Omar of Somalia, 17, was considerably behind the rest of the field with her time, in heat five, of 32.16 seconds. The gold medallist's time in the final was 21.74 seconds. There were two DNSes in the heats. Men's triple jump: In group B of the qualifying round, Indian Renjith Maheswary, 22, had a best jump of 15.77 metres; the gold medallist's best in the final was 17.67 metres. Two athletes had no mark in the qualifying round. Men's 400 metre: 20-year-old Liu Xiaosheng of China put in the only plus-50-second time in the heats; his time in heat two was 53.11 seconds. The gold medallist's final time was 43.75 seconds. There was one DNS in the heats. Men's 110-metre hurdles: Heat three saw Pakistani hurdler Abdul Rashid, 29, finish with a time of 14.52 seconds; the gold medallist's final time was 12.93 seconds. There were two DNFs and one DNS in the heats.

Diving: In the women's 10-metre platform event, Annette Gamm of Germany, 31, finished 29th in the preliminary round with a score of 234.3; the lowest score to advance was 291.9.

Equestrian: In individual jumping, John Whitaker, 58, riding Peppersteak Peppermill for Great Britain, was 77th in the qualifying round and did not advance.

Upper-Class Twit of the Year Modern Pentathlon: Most competitors at the back of the field in this event can blame a DNF in the equestrian leg, giving them zero points. Horses is difficult. Such was the case in the men's event run today, in which Jaime Lopez of Spain, 22, was 36th with 4,196 points and 5:59 behind the gold medallist, who had 5,632 points.

Standings to date: China adds its eighth last-place finish and its third today, taking first place from Canada, which falls to second. Germany adds a seventh to move into third, and Britain adds a fifth to move into fifth position, oddly enough. Spain's third DFL is good for 19th place, Pakistan's second for 29th.

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Early Results for Thursday, August 21

Athletics: 37-year-old Evelyn Nunez of Guatemala finished 43rd in the women's 20-km race walk. Her time of 1:44:13 was 17:42 behind the gold medallist, a bit more than three minutes behind the next-to-last-place finisher, and about six hours faster than I hike a 20-km mountain trail. There were three disqualifications and two DNFs.

Football (Soccer): An unresolvable two-way tie for 11th place in women's soccer; accordingly, no DFL will be awarded in this event. You can't come dead last if you're tied with somebody else.

Sailing: Star: Chinese sailors Li Hongquan and Wang He finished 16th. Tornado: American sailors Johnny Lovell and Charlie Ogletree were 15th.

Softball: The Netherlands finished the women's softball tournament in eighth place, with a record of 1–6.

Swimming: In the men's 10-km marathon, which was limited to 25 competitors, 21-year-old Chinese swimmer Xin Tong was 23rd; there was one disqualification and one DNF (did not float). His time of 2:09:13.4 was 17:21.8 behind the gold medallist.

Water Polo: In women's water polo, Greece lost its classification match 12–6 and finished eighth; they had been 0–3 in the preliminary round.

Standings to date: China moves into second place with its sixth and seventh DFL, behind Canada, which has seven but a smaller delegation. The U.S. moves into the top 10. Greece, which won the DFL race in 2004 with 13 last-place finishes, gets only its first DFL of these Games. Note, however, that Greece's delegation is only 30 percent of what it was in Athens, when it was the host country. Your delegation's a lot smaller when your athletes actually have to qualify, but you have fewer last places.

Later today: More athletics, diving, equestrian, and modern pentathlon.

Labels: , , , , , , , , , ,

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Results for Wednesday, August 20

A comparatively quiet day, medals-wise.

Athletics: In the women's hammer throw qualifying round on Monday, 17-year-old Galina Mityaeva of Tajikistan met her Dr. Horrible in group A, with a best throw of 51.38 metres. Only one other competitor was under 60 metres; the gold medallist's best result in the final was 76.34. Three athletes had no mark. In round one of the men's 200 metre, the slowest time came in heat five: Juan Zeledon of Nicaragua, 22, had a time of 23.39 seconds; the gold medallist's freaky-fast record time in the final was 19.3 seconds. There were three DNSes and one DNF in the heats. The first round of the women's 400-metre hurdles was held on Sunday. Galina Pedan had the only time in excess of a minute; the 25-year-old Krygyz athlete's time was 1:00.31, compared to the 52.64 second-time put in by the gold medallist in the final.

Sailing: In the men's RS:X, Colombian sailor Santiago Grillo, 21, was 35th. In the women's RS:X, 34-year-old Sedef Koktenturk of Turkey was 27th.

Swimming: In the women's 10-km marathon, 16-year-old Antonella Bogarin of Argentina finished 24th. Her time of 2:11:35.9 was 12:08.2 behind the gold medallist; she and one other swimmer were considerably behind the main pack. There was also one DNF, who I really hope was fished out.

Synchronized swimming: In the duet event, the Egyptian team of Dalia El Gebaly, 26, and Reem Abdalazem, 25, was 24th in both the preliminary and technical rounds, and did not advance to the final.

Standings to date: Colombia, Turkey, Egypt and Argentina add their third DFLs, Nicaragua and Tajikistan their second.

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Berzerkistan's DFL

Yesterday's Doonesbury is somewhat on-topic.

'A Tedious Exercise in Petty Nationalism'

George Orwell, "The Sporting Spirit" (1945):
I am always amazed when I hear people saying that sport creates goodwill between the nations, and that if only the common peoples of the world could meet one another at football or cricket, they would have no inclination to meet on the battlefield. Even if one didn't know from concrete examples (the 1936 Olympic Games, for instance) that international sporting contests lead to orgies of hatred, one could deduce it from general principles.

Nearly all the sports practised nowadays are competitive. You play to win, and the game has little meaning unless you do your utmost to win. On the village green, where you pick up sides and no feeling of local patriotism is involved. it is possible to play simply for the fun and exercise: but as soon as the question of prestige arises, as soon as you feel that you and some larger unit will be disgraced if you lose, the most savage combative instincts are aroused. Anyone who has played even in a school football match knows this. At the international level sport is frankly mimic warfare. But the significant thing is not the behaviour of the players but the attitude of the spectators: and, behind the spectators, of the nations who work themselves into furies over these absurd contests, and seriously believe -- at any rate for short periods -- that running, jumping and kicking a ball are tests of national virtue.
The National Post's Jonathan Kay, on Orwell's essay and the Olympics:
This helps explain why the Olympics continue to be such a farce. Look behind the flim-flam about building global harmony through wholesome sports competition and you will find a giant exercise in petty nationalism.

In the democratic West, this means a childish (if harmless) obsession with tracking one’s nation in the "medal count." ... Winning Olympic gold has always been such an obsession among dictatorships -- from Nazi Germany, to the USSR, to the freakish gender-benders set loose upon the world by Warsaw Pact gymnast programs. As a species of "mimic warfare" (Orwell's term), the Olympic Games allow dictators and ethnic supremacists to stir up nationalistic bloodlust without actually going through the bother of military combat.

Even in the West, there is always a great wringing of hands if our Olympiads fail to deliver the expected haul of medals -- with newspaper editors and columnists (including purported conservatives) invariably proposing Soviet-style sports programs to rectify matters four years hence, as if it somehow were a matter of national importance that our Pommel Horse Men were screwing up their dismounts.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Late Results for Tuesday, August 19

Athletics: In the men's high jump, three athletes jumped the minimum 2.1 metres in the preliminary round on Sunday, but, as I did with the women's high jump, I'll award the DFL to the one athlete who needed three attempts rather than two: Oleksandr Nartov, 20, representing Ukraine, who did so in group A. The gold medallist cleared 2.36 metres. One jumper had no mark. In the men's discus, British Virgin Islander Eric Matthias, 24, had a best throw -- is that what you call it? -- of 53.11 metres in group B of the qualifying round on Saturday. The gold medallist's best in the final was 68.82 metres. In the women's 400 metre, 19-year-old Ghada Ali of Libya finished heat four on Saturday with a time of 1:06.19; the gold medallist's time in the final was 49.62 seconds. In heat four of the women's 100-metre hurdles, held Sunday, Honduran Jeimmy Julissa Bernardez, 21, finished in 14.29 seconds; the gold medallist's time was 12.54 seconds. There was one DNF in the heats. Heats for the men's 1,500 metre were held last Friday, which seems like forever now. The slowest time came in heat four: 21-year-old Jeffrey Riseley of Australia finished in 3:53.95. The gold medallist's time was 3:32.94; there were two DNSes in the heats.

Diving: In the preliminary round of the men's three-metre springboard, South Korean diver Son Seongchel, 21, finished 29th with a score of 353.35, 70.55 points behind the lowest qualifying score.

Equestrian: Choi Junsang, 20, also representing South Korea and riding Cinque Cento (which is Korean for "delicious with kimchi") finished 46th in the first round of the individual dressage event, with a score of 57.333 percent. There was one withdrawal and one retirement in this event.

Gymnastics: 27-year-old Henrik Stehlik of Germany finished 16th in the qualification round of the men's trampoline event. His score of 67.6 was 5.1 points behind the lowest qualifying score.

Weightlifting: The final event in this sport was the men's +105 kg, where Tongan weightlifter Maama Lolohea, 40, finished 13th with a combined total of 313 kg. The weakling. The gold medallist's score was 461, and there was one DNF.

Standings to date: South Korea and Germany move into second and third place with six last-place finishes each; Australia's fourth DFL moves it into 9th; with three, Ukraine moves into 11th. Honduras and Libya add their second last-place finishes and now sit 22nd and 17th, respectively.

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Early Results for Tuesday, August 19

Cycling: In the men's madison, the U.S. team of Michael Friedman, 25, and Bobby Lea, 24, finished 16th with four laps down and three points. In the women's sprint, Sakie Tsukuda of Japan, 22, was last in the final for 9th–12th places. In the men's sprint, Estonian Daniel Novikov, 19, was 21st in the qualifying round and did not advance.

Sailing: In the laser radial, 20-year-old Cathrine Margrethe Gjerpen of Norway was 28th. In the laser, Gregory Douglas, 18, sailing for Barbados, was 43rd.

Triathlon: In the men's triathlon, Canadian Colin Jenkins, 25, finished 50th with a time of 1:56:50.85 -- nearly eight minutes behind the winner. Don't feel too bad for my country; a Canadian made it to the podium, too. There were three lapped competitors and two DNFs.

Standings to date: Canada adds its seventh DFL to solidify its lead. Japan adds its fourth to move into eighth place; the U.S. adds its third to move into 12th; Estonia adds its second to move into 20th.

Labels: , , , , , , , , ,

Monday, August 18, 2008

Late Results for Monday, August 18

Athletics: The qualifying rounds for the women's discus were held Friday evening; in group A, 24-year-old Tereapii Tapoki of the Cook Islands had a best distance of 48.35 metres. She was the only competitor under 50 metres. The gold medallist's final result tonight was 64.74 metres. One competitor had no mark in the heats. Next, women's pole vault, where the Friday qualifying rounds saw three women clear only four metres; two others weren't able to do even that, and had no mark. (The gold medallist cleared 5.05 metres.) To break the tie, I'm going to assign the DFL to the woman who took the most attempts to clear four metres: Cypriot Anna Foitidou, 31, who did so in group B. Qualifying for the men's long jump was held Saturday evening: 29-year-old American Miguel Pate's best jump was 7.34 metres, exactly a metre behind the gold medallist's best in the final. There were two DNSes in the qualifying round, and one athlete had no mark. Also on Saturday, heats for the men's 3,000-metre steeplechase; 23-year-old Ali Ahmad Al-Amri of Saudi Arabia finished in 9:09.73 in heat two. The gold medallist's time in the final was 8:10.34. There was one DNF and one DNS in the heats. In heat five of round one of the women's 800 metre, which was held on Friday, Aishath Reesha, 19, running for the Maldives, had a time of 2:30.14. There was one DNF and one disqualification in the heats; the gold medallist's time in the final was 1:54.87. And finally, the men's 400-metre hurdles. 22-year-old Harouna Garba of Niger ran a time of 55.14 seconds in heat one on Friday. The Monday night time put in by the gold medallist was 47.25 seconds. There was one DNF in the heats.

Equestrian: With a total of 65 penalties, New Zealand's equestrian team was 16th in the first round of team show jumping, and did not advance to the second round.

Gymnastics: Ana Rente of Portugal, 20, finished 16th in the women's trampoline qualification round; only the top eight advanced to the final. Very low marks on her second routine led to a final score of 31.60 -- something must have happened. The next-to-last competitor's score was 57.60, and the lowest score to qualify for the final was 63.90.

Weightlifting: In the men's 105 kg, 31-year-old Moreno Boer of Italy finished 18th, with a combined weight of 330 kg; the gold medallist's score was 436. There was one DNS and one DNF.

Standings to date: Italy adds its fifth last-place finish to move into second; the Cook Islands (!), Niger, New Zealand and the U.S. add their second DFLs.

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Early Results for Monday, August 18

Cycling: Lee Minhye of South Korea, 23, finished 19th in the women's points race with a score of –40; there were three DNFs. In the men's team pursuit, the Colombian team of Juan Esteban Arango, 21, Arles Castro, 29, Juan Pablo Forero, 25, and Jairo Perez, 35, was 10th in the qualifying round and did not advance.

Sailing: 470 women: Toh Liying, 23, and Deborah Huimin Ong, 18, representing Singapore, finished 19th. 470 men: Canadians Stéphane Locas and Oliver Bone, both 27, finished 29th.

Triathlon: In the women's triathlon, Lisa Mensink of the Netherlands, 31, was 29th after the 1.5-km swim, but fell to 45th place during the 40-km race. She ended up finishing 45th with a total time of 2:10:18.98 -- 11:51.32 behind the gold medallist. Five triathletes were lapped, and there were five DNFs, all during the bike portion of the race.

Standings to date: Colombia and the Netherlands add their second DFLs; South Korea's fourth moves it into fifth place; Canada's sixth solidifies its hold on first place in a non-tie-breaking manner.

Labels: , , , , , , , ,

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Late Results for Sunday, August 17

Athletics: In Friday's qualifying round for the men's hammer throw, Juan Ignacio Cerra of Argentina, 31, had the shortest final distance in group B: 70.16 metres. Compare with the gold medallist's best in the final Sunday night: 82.02 metres. Three athletes had no mark. In heat two of the women's 3,000-metre steeplechase on Friday, China's Zhao Yanni, 21, put in a time of 10:18.60. The gold medallist's time in the final Sunday night was a world-record 8:58.81. There were four DNFs in the heats and one in the final. The lowest score in the women's triple jump came in group B of the qualifying round Friday: Irina Litvinenko of Kazakhstan, 21, had a best jump of 12.92 metres -- nearly 2½ metres shorter than the gold medallist's best jump Sunday night. Four athletes had no mark in the qualifying round. The slowest heat time in the women's 100 metre was less than a second behind the gold medallist's time of 10.78 Sunday night; that time, 11.71 seconds, was put in by 30-year-old Sasha Springer-Jones of Trinidad and Tobago in heat five. It was a competitive field: several other sprinters were within a few hundredths of a second of this last-place time. And finally, the men's 10,000 metre, where 27-year-old Alejandro Suarez of Mexico finished 35th with a time of 29:24.78 -- 2:23.61 behind the gold medallist. There were three DNFs and one DNS.

Cycling: With an average speed of 45.598 km/h, El Salvadoran cyclist Evelyn Garcia, 25, was 13th in the qualifying round of the women's individual pursuit and did not advance.

Diving: Spanish diver Jenifer Benitez, 19, finished 30th in the preliminary round of the women's three-metre springboard; her score of 194.05 was 179.85 points behind the leader.

Rowing: Women's double sculls: Ko Youngeun, 21, and Ji Yoojin, 20, South Korea, fifth in the C final. Lightweight men's double sculls: Mohamed Ryad Garidi, 30, and Kamel Ait Daoud, 23, Algeria, second in the D final. Lightweight men's four: Mike Altman, 33, Patrick Todd, 28, Will Daly, 25, and Tom Paradiso, 28, USA, fifth in the B final. Women's quadruple sculls: Rachelle de Jong, 29, Anna-Marie de Zwager, 31, Janine Hanson, 25, and Krista Guloien, 28, Canada, second in the B final. Men's quadruple sculls: the young Slovenian team of Janez Zupanc, 21, Jurnej Jurse, 20, Janez Jurse, 19, and Gaspar Fistravec, 21, did not make it out of the repechage. Women's eight: the German team did not make it out of the repechage. Men's eight: Germany was second in the B final.

Sailing: Yngling: the Italian team of Chiara Calligaris, 36, Francesca Scognamillo, 26, and Giulia Pignolo, 28, finished 15th. Finn: Venezuelan Jhonny Senen Bilbao Bande, 33, finished 26th. 49er: Li Fei, 25, and Hu Xianqiang, 26, finished 19th.

Weightlifting: 26-year-old Ravi Bhollah of Mauritius lifted a total of 275 kg in the men's 94 kg and finished 16th; the gold medallist's score was 406. There were two DNFs.

Standings to date: Canada, Germany and China move into first, second and third with five last-place finishes each. Italy adds its fourth to stand in sixth place, and South Korea its third to stand eighth. Argentina, Kazakhstan, Mauritius, Spain and Venezuela each add their second DFLs; the U.S. finally has its first.

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,