Sunday, August 5, 2012

London 2012: Day Nine

Swimming may have come to an end at these Olympics (pool swimming, that is), but I’ve still got quite a bit to say about the 2012 Olympics. While no other sport gets me quite as excited as swimming, a few other events today have a lot of key storylines surrounding them, and all provided or will provide some highlights for the day. Today, I had or will have my eyes on events in tennis, gymnastics, track, and back in the Aquatic Center for diving.

The day kicked off at Wimbledon with a rematch between Roger Federer and Andy Murray in the gold medal men’s tennis final. Federer beat Murray in four sets at Wimbledon last month as Murray faced huge pressure from his home country to win his first Grand Slam title. While Murray had his eyes on revenge and his first ever win in a best-of-three final, Federer sought to accomplish the Career Golden Slam – wins in all four Grand Slam tournaments and the Olympic gold. Murray, though, dominated the greatest tennis player of all time, winning 6-2, 6-1, 6-4 to the roars of his home crowd.

I predicted that Murray would take the win over Federer; when a great player gets a second chance after losing to the same opponent so recently, he will usually take advantage of that opportunity. Murray finally came through today, and I think that sets him up for a run at his first Grand Slam title at the upcoming U.S. Open. I picked Novak Djokovic to beat Juan Martin del Potro to earn his second-straight Olympic bronze, but del Potro beat the former world number one for his first Olympic medal.

American McKayla Maroney entered the women’s vault event in gymnastics as the heavy gold medal favorite. On her first attempt, Maroney put up the top vault of the day, but she shockingly fell down on her second attempt. Maroney ended up with the silver behind Romania’s Sandra Izbasa after the judges averaged the two scores. For sure, Maroney’s silver medal counts as an upset for the usually-perfect vault specialist. No one expected Maroney to finish anywhere besides the top of the podium, especially after Bela Karolyi marveled that her vault in the team final did not earn perfect marks.

No upsets came in diving today as Wu Minxia earned her sixth Olympic medal and the fifth gold medal in diving for China at these Olympics. With the win, Wu tied Guo Jingjing as the most decorated diver in history. China struck again when He Zi took silver, and Mexico’s Laura Sanchez Soto took bronze. Cassidy Krug from the U.S. stood well within medal contention before the final round, hanging right in with Sanchez Soto and Italy’s Tania Cagnotto before falling to seventh place. Still, the Americans have already won three diving medals, three more than they had in the last two Olympics combined, and they still have more medal chances coming up this week.

Finally, we’ve got a big race coming up in minutes in the men’s 100m dash. Jamaica’s Yohan Blake will start from lane five (the fastest lane), with Americans Tyson Gay and Justin Gatlin on either side of him. Blake won the World title last year after countryman Usain Bolt false started. Bolt, of course, won gold in Beijing and holds the world record at 9.58. Blake beat Bolt and former world record-holder Asafa Powell at Jamaica’s Olympic Trials, but he faces a much deeper field tonight, and a medalist could come from any lane.

After Gay failed to final four years ago, Bolt and Powell entered the final as the favorites, but Powell ended up off the medal podium after Trinidad and Tobago’s Richard Thompson and the U.S.’s Walter Dix overpowered him. Thompson got into the final this time, and he could pull a surprise medal finish from lane two. American Ryan Bailey led the field through the first round, and he’s in the field, along with Powell and Dutchman Churandy Martina. He has some major challengers, but Bolt knows how to come through when the stakes reach their highest. He should take gold.

1. Usain Bolt
2. Yohan Blake
3. Justin Gatlin

I’ve been participating in ESPN’s London Pick’em with very mediocre results. For most sports, I’m guessing on my picks, and most questions involve asking if something will happen or not. For example, one asks if the American men’s basketball team will beat Lithuania by 25 points or if the game will finish in some other result. While the Americans won, Lithuania hung in until the very end and only lost by 5, so I got no credit. Still, I’m enjoying making the picks. So far today, I’m an impressive 7-for-11, though I don’t expect to come close to my record in picking swimming finals, where I finished 21-for-32 (in my original picks).

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