Wednesday, August 13, 2008
Olympic Gymnastics: A Tale of Two Teams
Men's gymnastics is sometimes kind of overlooked but this year's team competition was just fantastic. The Chinese men were just awesomely untouchable, and the US pulled out a wonderful bronze medal performance. I was so proud of our guys, especially Jonathan Horton for being the picture of consistency, Justin Spring for catching the high bar every time on his crazy release moves, and Sasha Artemev for pulling off that clutch pommel horse routine. And I was so happy for Raj, finally being on the team, and how great was it seeing David Durante, the lone alternate, cheering emotionally from the stands? Just a really great feel-good moment for everyone. NBC's coverage could have been better...we barely saw the Japanese, who yes, won silver, and any of the teams that were supposedly in contention for the bronze. And they cut away for swimming semi-finals. Semi-finals! But overall, it was just a really great night.
But then we got to the women's competition, and last night just made me realize how sucky NBC's commentators and reporters are, and how unforgiving the media in general can be, and how they focus on the wrong things.
First, the coverage. I understand that NBC wants to air as much as possible live, and that China vs. USA was the big story, but would it have killed them to show some other countries instead of all the shots of people just standing around and waiting? We saw one Russian athlete, and one Romanian, and at the end of the broadcast they didn't even bother telling who won the bronze. (It was Romania.)
And the commentators are just terrible. I don't know what is up with Tim and Elfi criticizing the other teams for chatting around the chalk bin and coaches hugging athletes after mistakes and taking pictures and random crap like that when we're not even seeing their routines. And Al Trautwig keeps mentioning the same things over and over again, about Shawn's coach being from Beijing, and Cheng Fei wanting to quit and her parents not letting her and blah blah blah. Then there's Andrea Joyce, who poor Alicia Sacramone had to deal with right afterward. I mean, she's just had maybe the worst day of her life, and there are the reporters, rubbing salt in her wounds by asking inane questions. And the media in general, making it seem like the American team just totally fell apart.
I mean, yes, they had two costly mistakes and few other minor ones. But they won the frickin silver! There were some beautiful routines there, especially Nastia on bars, and in no way was this a disaster. The Chinese team was really excellent. They had an edge with their level of difficulty, especially on bars, and they made fewer mistakes. It wasn't that close but it wasn't a blowout either.
And then there's all the chatter about the Chinese gymnasts being underage. I don't know what to believe--Asians look young in general, and these girls were handpicked at an early age partly because of their size, but some of them do look awfully young and newspapers have found evidence of their ages being reported differently in different places. But does it really matter? And the Karolyis griping about it constantly is really not helping at all. I don't doubt their contribution to American gymnastics, but they really need to shut up at times like these. They're making the US seem like poor sports when the girls haven't been anything but gracious.
I'm hoping the all-around and event finals erase some of this bad press...I'm rooting for Nastia and Shawn take home the gold and silver. They'll both be in event finals as well, and Alicia has a chance at redemption during the vault finals.
But tonight is the men's all-around. It looks like China's going to take another gold, deservedly so because Yang Wei is awesome, but I'm looking out for Jonathan Horton. He was 4th in last year's worlds and must be riding a high from his team medal. Go Jonathan Horton!