Will He Run A Full Lap?
Did you see 38-year-old Alexander Vinokurov win the road cycling Olympic gold medal in the final 300 meters on Saturday? The men’s team archery go down to the final arrow, won in dramatic fashion by South Korea over the United States? See Michael Phelps finish fourth in the 400 IM in real time? See the USA women struggle to defeat Croatia in basketball, and win 3 sets to 1 over the Koreans in volleyball, or see France play Norway in team handball?
I saw all this and more in my living room here on the west coast in just a few hours, and none of it came by way of the primary NBC channel. Rather, they were on the auxiliary outlets — NBCSN (NBC Sports Network, formerly NBC Universal, before that Versus, Ch. 603 here on DirecTV); MSNBC (Ch. 356); CNBC (Ch. 355); tennis on Bravo (Ch. 237), and live video on www.nbcsports.com, if you can keep your screen from buffering, or whatever it is. There is also a debate over that technology. One version is that the online access point you use for getting online — Google Chrome, Firefox, IE etc. — may determine your ability to watch.
The hard part was figuring out exactly what time it was. Did London time matter (eight hours away), or only East Coast time (three hours ahead of me, five hours past London)?
Friday’s Opening Ceremony, for example, was broadcast by NBC delayed to everyone, but not at the same time. One can only imagine the nightmarish decisions made minute by minute in the countless control booths NBC has in London and New York.
For us viewers, there are plenty of decisions to be made. Watch that IM in real time, or wait until the evening NBC broadcast, when it will be accompanied by helpful preliminary bios and immediate post-swim interviews?
Track & field
For those of us who are track fans (a number that is dwindling, according to the latest viewership figures, surpassed now by those suburban darlings, swimming and gymnastics), this is a dry run with a week to go before Athletics begins Aug. 3. Should you watch live on the balky website, or wait a few hours for the more dressed-up network version? (If you do both, does it spoil it knowing the outcome?)
Much of the TF preliminaries will probably be available on NBCSN, so that’s an excellent option, especially if they’re shown there live. After all, NBC has reduced its coverage of the sport primarily to flag-waving — the US and Team Bolt — anyway. The network versions of the 5k and 10k finals, for example, are sure to be cut into pieces by advertising breaks. Want to see those races in their entirety? This may be possible in 2012.
Meantime, there are plenty of lineup changes to the American roster, so get your scorecards out:
• Michael Rodgers, in case you missed it, has been removed from the 4x100 relay pool because of an injury and replaced by the seventh-place finisher at the U.S. Trials, Jeff Demps of Florida, Demps himself has been injured this spring, missing the NCAA meet because of it and finishing far back in 10.27 at the Trials, but he has been deemed a better man for the relay prelims than Rodgers — who, after his removal, has now loudly protested that the injury wasn’t that bad after all, and he wants back in. Does anyone expect this team to finish a prelim and a final?
A week ago in Monaco, the U.S. team of Trell Kimmons, Justin Gatlin, Tyson Gay and Ryan Bailey ran an excellent 37.61, the fastest time in the world this season. Jamaica is nevertheless a heavy favorite to win this event. As a result, the opinion in this corner is that the U.S. sprinters would prefer dropping the baton again — in a 'valiant effort to beat Jamaica' — than winning silver. They don’t want to finish second.
And how about the men’s 4x4? LaShawn Merritt is now being treated for a sore hamstring after “cramping” in Monaco. With Merritt uncertain and Jeremy Wariner nearing the end of his career, the baton has, literally, been passed to the next generation of American quarter-milers, meaning the U.S. Olympic 4x4 team will be mostly collegians. Can they win this event, a race dominated by the United States throughout Olympic history? Jamaica — which has won this event only once, in 1952, breaking the world record that day by four seconds and beating the U.S. by a tenth of a second — has a respectable lineup that could be bolstered considerably should they use either Yohan Blake or Usain Bolt, both of whom ran the 400 in their schoolboy days.
• Debbie Dunn, who finished fourth in the Trials women’s 400, is off the team with a quick drug suspension, but according to the official entry lists just released by the IAAF, Dunn was not replaced in the 4x4 relay pool by the next person in line for that squad, Natasha Hastings. There has been no explanation why the United States was quickly able to replace Rodgers with Demps but not able to replace Dunn with Hastings.
Hastings, the New Yorker who was a member of the gold-medal relay team in 2008, finished fourth in the Trials 400. The official U.S. 4x4 women’s relay pool currently includes just five names, one fewer than allowed. But it has always been presumed that Allyson Felix, who ran in the 2008 4x4 final, is a likely member of the 4x4 team in these Games as well, along with the 100, 200 and 4x1. That team is expected to be Sanya Richards-Ross, Francena McCorory, Deedee Trotter and Felix. In the preliminary round, Diamond Dixon and Keshia Baker — fifth and sixth at the Trials — are expected to fill in for Richards-Ross and Felix.
• Desiree Davila, a member of the powerhouse U.S. women’s marathon squad, is injured and has been unable to train the past month. There was a possibility she would scratch from the team, but she has been entered. It would have been difficult to replace her, because the next two finishers in the U.S. marathon Trials — Amy Hastings and Janet Bawcom — are now entered in the track 10,000, and the sixth-place finisher, Deena Kastor, is also injured.
There is a rumor that Andrew Wheating, the Oregon 1,500-meter runner, is injured. Wheating finished third at the Trials and admitted to having a hamstring problem the past year. But he is, as with Davila, now officially entered, so presumably that means the deadline has passed for his being replaced. The next American in line in the 1,500 was Robby Andrews, who finished fifth in the Trials and has the Olympic “A” standard.