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

Thursday, August 14, 2008

In Defence of Shitty Little Countries

I've done some thinking -- that was unwise, I know -- and I think I finally figured out what the problem is when Canadians, for example, complain that Togo won a bronze medal and Canada hasn't (yet).

They think that their country is entitled to a medal. And that Togo -- and countries like it -- aren't.

Shitty little countries aren't supposed to win medals. They aren't supposed to upstage big countries. They're supposed to know their place. And their place is not the podium. They're supposed to provide comic relief, or colourful costumes during the Opening Ceremonies, not real competition. After all, they don't really deserve to be here, because they only qualified through a wild card draw. They're not real athletes.

Athletes from shitty little countries are supposed to look like Eric the Eel, not Benjamin Boukpeti. The nerve of one of them, winning a medal like that.

I can't figure out this attitude at all. We live in one of the wealthiest countries in the world, with one of the highest standards of living. And when a small west African country, a country with a per capita gross national income of less than $400 per year, wins its first medal ever, we're jealous?

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Results for Thursday, August 14

Archery: In the women's individual event, Khadija Abbouda of Morocco, 40, was ranked 64th: she had the lowest score in the ranking round, and the lowest score in the round of 64, where she and 32 other competitors were eliminated.

Equestrian: Japan finished 10th in team dressage; another team was eliminated. The humans involved were Yuko Kitai, 35, Mieko Yagi, 58, and Hiroshi Hoketsu, 67. Their average score was 60.653 percent, compared to the gold medallists' 72.917 percent; their average age is 53⅓.

Shooting: Two women's events today. In the women's 50-metre air rifle, three positions, Australian Susan McCready, 27, finished 43rd with a score of 550; athletes making the final had scores of 585 or better. In women's skeet shooting, where a score if 69 was needed to advance to the final, Egyptian shooter Mona Elhawary, 46, had a score of 50, and finished 19th.

Swimming: All is right in the world: heat one produces the slowest times in the swimming events. First, to the men's 200-metre breaststroke, where, in heat one, 31-year-old Sergio Andres Ferreyra of Argentina put in a time of 2:20.10 -- nearly 12½ seconds behind the gold medallist's final time. There was one DNS in the heats. Kristina Lennox-Silva of Puerto Rico, 23, finished with a time of 2:17.27 in heat one of the women's 200-metre butterfly; the gold medallist's world-record time in the final was 2:04.18. There were two DNSes in the heats. Heat one of the men's 100-metre freestyle saw 16-year-old Sofyan El Gadi finish with a time of 57.89 seconds, 10.68 seconds behind the gold medallist's time in the final. And, in the women's 4×200-metre freestyle relay, the slowest time in the heats was put in by the Polish team in heat one: compare their time of 8:07.40 to yet another world-record gold medal time in the final of 7:44.31. There was one disqualification in heat two.

Standings to date: A light day to report on. Japan moves into third place with its third DFL; Australia's second moves it into eighth, given its huge team. All countries in the top ten have more than one last-place finish. Meanwhile, three north African countries join the list at once, which is kind of interesting.

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The Great Canadian Choke Story

The Globe and Mail's Christie Blatchford on the Canadian press corps's predictable return to Canada-chokes-at-the-Olympics-because-it's-day-five-and-we-don't-have-a-medal-yet stories, such as this one (as predicted):
When [Benjamin] Boukpeti [of Togo] won the little West African country's first ever Olympic medal [in kayaking], the gleeful cry went up in the Canadian press corps: "Hey, we lost to Togo! Who we going to lose to next?"
Ah! Losing to a shitty little country like Togo means that the size of our national dicks is in peril. George Carlin, looking down from the big electron, is smiling. Blatchford continues:
Then came that low, familiar rumbling, plain in questions to Alexandre Despatie and Arturo Miranda, who missed out on an expected podium appearance in the synchronized three-metre springboard: Boys, what would you say to all those Canadians back home who really want a medal?
Oh, I don't know; how about this: "Hit the gym and win your own goddamn medal, fatass."

But Blatchford's point, and it's a good one, is that the Canadian media tends to jump the gun about the country's lack of medals. Every single Olympics, the medals come -- they just come later in the Games. Hardly any medals have been awarded yet. And the media ends up looking stupid, as Rosie DiManno surely did when she demanded an apology from Cindy Klassen for winning a bronze, shortly before Klassen went and won more medals than any Canadian athlete in history.

The Olympics are a crucible that reveals a nation's insecurities, and Canada -- though it's by no means alone in this regard -- has them in spades.

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DFL MIA: Combat Sports

In 2004, I gave up on trying to figure out last-place finishes in the combat sports -- boxing, fencing, judo, taekwondo and wrestling. At the time, it seemed too difficult to determine which of, say 16 competitors eliminated in a preliminary round was in last place, and the final standings after an event were unclear: were these their world rankings adjusted to reflect the results of Olympic competition, or could I use these rankings for my purposes? As I said, I gave up.

I don't like leaving so many events -- a total of 61 gold medals' worth -- untouched, so if you can help me figure out a way to include some of them, let me know. Otherwise, they'll be absent from DFL's coverage once again.