As we speedwalk our way through the final days of the Tokyo Olympics, here are some of the Olympians and events that have caught my attention over the last few days.
Canadian Women’s Soccer Team
I love this team. As I’m writing this, the gold medal game between Canada and Sweden hasn’t happened yet. It will take place on Friday at 8AM ET. It just feels like this is their time. This is their moment.
After a bronze in 2012 and another bronze in 2016, they’ve changed the colour of the medal they’re going to receive this time. Hopefully, it’s gold.
I, and millions of others, really want this gold medal for Christine Sinclair. No man, or woman, has scored more goals at the international level. She has been at the forefront of Canada Soccer for over 20 years. This could be her last Olympics. It has to happen. It just has to.
It was probably 2002, when I first discovered Christine Sinclair. I found women’s soccer on TV and it was Sinclair and Kara Lang dominating the opponent.
I just looked it up and, indeed, in 2002 the U-19 Women’s World Championship was held in Edmonton at Commonwealth Stadium. I had remembered it was in Edmonton, but I didn’t know what the tournament was.
Sinclair scored 10 goals in that tournament, including 5(!) in the quarterfinals against England.
A gold medal at the Olympics would be the cherry on top of her legendary career. For Sinclair and all the women who have gotten the program to this point, I hope they get the moment they so rightfully deserve.
UPDATE: CANADA WON GOLD
Race Walking is Brutal
Throughout the Olympics, I’ve thought to myself, “Hmm, what sport would I compete in if I had to choose?” I think Race Walking would be an option. That being said, it’s no joke.
I can sit here and say I speedwalk past slow mall walkers all the time, but in Tokyo, the men just walked 50 kilometres in just under four hours. Canadian, Evan Dunfee, won bronze.
People will laugh and ask, “How is that a sport?” but it’s extremely gruelling.
I caught a recap of the race and 30 minutes in, one competitor was looking for a toilet. Those are the commentator’s words, not mine. Later in the race, that competitor dropped out of the race after a long break at one of the refreshment stands.
That was the final 50-kilometre race at the Olympics as the Olympic committee decided that it didn’t fit with their mission of gender equality. The men and women each have a 20-kilometre race, but the men have an additional 50-kilometre race.
Instead of adding one for women, they are scrapping the men’s and instituting a mixed-team race walking event at the next Olympics. As I said in a previous post, I like the mixed team events that are popping up.
Artistic Swimming is Tough
I just found out that Synchronized Swimming rebranded itself as Artistic Swimming after the 2016 Olympics.
I caught the Canadian women’s duet performance and my God, it was mind-blowing.
First of all, they were in unison from the moment they were introduced from the backstage area, to the end of their routine. One team came out to an “evil dolls” theme and acted like evil dolls before even getting into the pool.
Once in the pool, the Canadians were in sync for what felt like a five-minute routine. It was nuts. You almost forget that they’re doing their routine while in water.
They were upside down, kicking their legs out of the water in the same direction, at the same height, despite one member being taller than the other. The commentators pointed out that the shorter member had to work harder to maintain the same height.
Everything was spot-on. One long expression of, “Howwwwwww” with never-ending w’s filled my mind.
Other than being submerged under water and being in perfect unison with their partner, I was impressed by the fact that every time they came out of the water, their eyes were wide open. Heck, even under water, their eyes were open.
Every time I dunk my head in a pool, I feel like it takes me a minute to reopen my eyes all the way.
I’m certain some sorcery was involved, or maybe just water-proof eyelashes acting as windshield wipers (if that’s a thing?). Perhaps they just have a really strong tolerance for chlorine in their eyes? I was impressed, nonetheless.
The Canadians placed 5th.
Water Polo is the Original XFL
No one told me a Water Polo game started with a swim-off to retrieve the ball, which is basically what the original XFL did to see which team would have first possession.
The ball is placed in the middle of the pool and teams swim to it. I guess it’s like the start of dodgeball match, too.
In the XFL, the football was placed on the 50-yard line and one player from each team would sprint from their own goal line to retrieve it. They had to get rid of the concept because players were getting hurt from running into each other.
Andre De Grasse is Golden
In 2016, we thought he was the heir-apparent to Usian Bolt in the world of sprinting. And now, De Grasse finally has his first gold medal in the 200m.
It’s the first gold medal for Canada in the 200m since Percy Williams in 1928. Williams’ victory was such a surprise that the officials didn’t have a Canadian flag, or anthem, on-hand for the medal ceremony.
They definitely had both ready for De Grasse.
De Grasse goes for another gold in the 4×100 relay on Friday.
UPDATE: DE GRASE ET AL. WON BRONZE
Decathlon or Dehydration?
Canadian Damian Warner won the Decathlon and broke the 9000-point barrier for the first time in Olympic history.
I’ll be honest, I don’t know how points are awarded for each of the ten events. I need to look it up. But to do something that has never been done before at the Olympics is always impressive.
His four-month old son was watching at home wearing a, “I’m Daddy’s gold medal” shirt.
Sifan Hassan Fell Down And Still Won
Sifan Hassan is a distance runner from the Netherlands. She won gold in the 5000m race, but almost didn’t qualify for the final.
In the qualification heat, she got tripped up at the start of the final lap and fell. When she stood up, she was in last place. When she crossed the finish line, she was in first. FIRST.
I have never seen anything like it.
Her race strategy is to stay at the back for most of the race and avoid trouble. But when trouble struck, she still won.
She’s going for gold in the 1500m today and in the 10,000m tomorrow. I wouldn’t be surprised if she wins both and goes home with three gold medals. She is that good.
Great Britain’s Laura Muir and Canada’s Gabriela DeBues-Stafford will be in contention for the 1500m.
I’m not as familiar with the field for the 10,000m, but my sentimental pick is Emily Sisson of the United States, only because I saw her dominate at the U.S. trials.
UPDATE: SIFAN HASSAN WON SILVER, LAURA MUIR WON BRONZE, GABRIELA DEBUES-STAFFORD FINISHED 5TH.
Sports Look Easy But Aren’t
I think we take for granted just how hard some of these Olympic sports are because the athletes make them look so easy.
Every time I watch rowing, or one of the paddle sports, every boat is going in a straight line, as fast as possible. They keep up with their repetitive motion the entire time, picking up the pace when they need to make up ground. And at the end, they are absolutely exhausted.
I did see one race where a boat flipped over and two people fell in the water. Not sure what happened there. The commentator blamed the wind.
Besides that one outlier, the athletes make it look easy. That’s a testament to the training they put themselves through, knowing their Olympic dream can be shattered by being tenths of a second slower than someone else.
Imagine that, for a moment. You train for four years and then miss out on advancing, or miss out on a medal, by less than half a second.
Sometimes, a boat will finish the race about 7 seconds slower than everyone else and as a viewer you sit there like, “Wow, they were so slow.” When really, they were incredibly fast. It’s just everyone else was even faster.
Same with the men’s 100m race on the track. The gap between the gold medallist and the 6th place finisher was 0.18 seconds. These athletes live and die within tenths, sometimes hundredths, or thousandths of a second.
And we watch from our couch.
That’s all I have to say for now.
I’m sure I’ll be back for at least one more post to wrap up the Olympics.