Archive for July, 2008

Torch song 25

July 31, 2008

Today’s Olympic moment: a flop the likes of which the world had never seen.

Now, it’s all you see when it comes to the high jump.

But back in Mexico City in 1968, many pooh-poohed or sneered at U.S. jumper Dick fosbury-flop.jpgFosbury’s crazy-looking technique: Instead of running up to the bar and leaping over it in a straddle position the way everyone else did, Fosbury ran up, turned slightly and leapt over the bar backwards, head leading the way, back curved upward and legs following. He could kick his feet up over the bar as he sailed past. He then landed on his shoulders — or his neck — and rolled over backwards.

“Sometimes I see movies,” he said back then, “and I really wonder how I do it.”

With the flop, Fosbury won gold in Mexico City — and revolutionized his sport.

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Torch song 24

July 30, 2008

From the depths of sportsmanship at the 1988 games to the heights: Today’s Olympic moment. It has no video with it but the story should be enough.

On Sept. 24 of that year, several Olympic events were being held off the coast of South Korea — in the ocean. These Olympians manned sailboats.

The wind had risen and the ocean’s swells topped 6 feet.

l-lemieux.gifOn the race course for the Finn class boats, Lawrence Lemieux of Canada was running second when, on a neighboring race course, he spotted a sailor from the 470 class whose boat had capsized and he’d drifted far from it. Given the condition of the seas, the sailor appeared unable to make it back to his boat on his own power.

Lemieux didn’t hesitate. Abandoning his race for a medal, he went to the aid of the Singaporean sailor and hauled the exhausted man onto his own boat. Then he went to help the sailor’s teammate, who was clinging to their boat.

“The very first rule,” Lemieux said later, “is to help people in distress.”

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He didn’t win a gold, silver or bronze at the Olympics but at the closing ceremonies of those games he was awarded the Pierre de Coubertin medal for his selfless act of sportsmanship. It’s a rare honor. Lemieux was inducted this year into the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame.

Torch song 23

July 29, 2008

I don’t see it as slacking off in posting my once-daily Olympic moments. I see it more as having had too many other things to do. Plus: No one complained, which might mean, well, no one cares. Too bad! I do! So I’m going to keep doing it anyway. 🙂

In today’s moment, in a unanimous decision by adults everywhere, South Korea’s boxing coaches are declared Losers (with a capital L) after they pitch a fit during the 1988 games in Seoul and attack a referee. They were mad because their boxer lost the bout. The boxer — himself no champ at fair play — had been penalized two points for repeatedly head-butting his opponent during the match.

The boxer refused to leave the ring and sat in his corner even after the lights were turned out!

In the following clip, the match in question is featured at about 21 seconds in. Then you can see the swirling melee in the ring after the bout and then the boxer sitting there in the dark (while some super-cheery presumably Korean music plays in the background).

In the South Koreans’ sorta defense, they felt they were owed some slack on boxing after dubious decisions during the 1984 games in Los Angeles.

Meanwhile, not for a minute has anyone (outside of South Korea) ever believed that U.S. boxing great Roy Jones Jr. lost his gold-medal fight in ’88.

Torch song 22

July 25, 2008

Gold medals in four consecutive Olympic games?

Nothing to be scoffed at, but what if you won golds in five different Olympics?

You certainly can’t have a row about the greatness of such a person. Or maybe you can — steve-redgrave.jpgliterally — since, for today’s Olympic moment, I’m talking about British rowing great Steve Redgrave. (Thanks to Fay-to-Z‘s Greg Phillips for suggesting his fellow Brit for this series.)

Redgrave won gold in Los Angeles in 1984 (when he was 22), in Seoul in 1988, in Barcelona in 1992, in Atlanta in 1996 and in Sydney in 2000 (when he was 38). He was part of a team of rowers each time but, as some know all too well, every member of a rowing team has to perform their utmost, and Redgrave’s strength as a rower was legendary.

Just look at his arms at the end of this race in Sydney which gave Redgrave his fifth gold. Whew!

Sales tax holiday, shmales tax holiday

July 23, 2008

Yes, yes, I know all too well there’s a big ol’ sales tax holiday coming in a matter of days — in 9 days, to be precise.

sears-from-04.jpgAnd I salute you and wish you well if you choose to get loads of eligible shopping done during that weekend. Not only will you not have to pay sales tax on many items but there will probably be some good sales, too.

All that being said? I went and bought my kids’ back-to-school supplies last night.

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Ya know, there’s just something about me and largely empty aisles that really, really get along, especially when I’m having a hard enough time trying to find nine(!) of those composition books with the black-and-white marblized covers.

Or a particular brand and model number of “slash pocket insertable plastic 5-tab dividers.” Sorry, they had the brand, but not that model number and I went ahead and bought the not-exactly-right kind of slash-pocket insertable plastic 5-tab dividers that I hope are similar enough.

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Or just the right binder — 1 1/2 inch, with a clear pocket in front. And no, pink covers won’t do for two boys.

Multiply that kind of stress by a billion parents looking for the stuff their kids need in a three-day period of time and if I have to pay a little extra to avoid it, I’m glad I am able to do so.

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I still had to go to two different stores (same chain) to find what I needed. Neither had every item but they complemented each other for the most part. I still need to find a light-blue two-pocket folder, though red, dark blue, green, yellow, purple and orange are in hand, as ordered. Grrr. I told my husband his head would explode if he ever had to complete such a task.

For the record, my bill included $7.47 in sales tax though that covered some non-school-supplies purchases, including a couple of boxes of cereal and some shoes.

And… I may well go out during the sales tax holiday anyway to look for other stuff that’s exempt from the tax during that period. If so, maybe I’ll see you in the aisles!

Torch song 21

July 23, 2008

Ow, ow, ow, OWWWW!!!

Today’s Olympic moment features the dive for which diving legend Greg Louganis of the United States is most remembered, for a variety of reasons. It’s from the 1988 games in Seoul.

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One reason it’s a memorable dive: Louganis hits his head on the diving board while performing a 2 1/2 reverse pike. Ow, ow, OWWWW!!! Yikes and ouch and yeesh, all rolled up into a perfect tuck position of horror.

Another: The head whack came during the prelims of the springboard diving competition. Not surprisingly, it caused a concussion in Louganis, the defending gold medalist from ’84. But he continued to compete — and won. Mega wow. He even did that same dive again in the finals and got almost perfect scores for it.

Last, but hardly least: Seven years later, Louganis revealed he was HIV positive — and had been at the time of the accident. This caused an uproar because Louganis had bled a small amount after the accident — and because, at the time, Louganis didn’t tell the doctor who sewed up his wound, bare-handed, about his status.

He told him years later, before he told the world. Dr. James C. Puffer, who tested negative for the disease, said there had been minimal risk and he described Louganis as “a great competitor and a courageous individual.”

Meanwhile, officials said a minuscule amount of blood in chlorinated water posed no threat to anyone else.

Without further ado, but lots of cringing:

Torch song 20

July 22, 2008

I have to be honest: As a rule, I’m not into the sport of weightlifting (though I did appreciate the arm muscles I built up when my kids were very young and I was constantly lifting their weight and then toting it — well, them — as well.)

But I don’t mind watching weightlifting very, very occasionally through the window of the Olympics when national pride is layered in and the storyline is compressed by the reporters into a story that I can sorta understand and afford the time for.

All of which is behind today’s Olympic moment — a 4-minute compilation of many moments from the weightlifting competitions in the 1980 games which I think is pretty interesting and compelling. The maker of the vid set it to music and arranges the moments of various weightlifters in approximately this narrative order:

1. Pre-lift prep. This consists of various psych-up moves (fierce faces, deep breathing, pacing, getting your head rubbed by a trainer twice your size, having someone fan you) and carefully approaching the opponent (the barbell).

2. Assuming the position. That’s getting down to barbell level so you can get ready to try to lift the thing up.

3. Trying to lift the thing up.

4. Agh! Can. Not. Lift. The. Bloody. Thing. Up. At least, not where it should be. Followed by: thud, thud, thud, thud. (Note: How do some of their arms not snap off?!)

5. Hey! Nobody blink! It’s halfway up!

6. Yay! Followed by: Yay! Yay! Yay!

One favorite part: When three workers come out to move a barbell that had previously been lifted by just the one guy.

Another: It includes a couple of shots of that humongous Russian weightlifter who was always featured in the intro montage to ABC’s weekly “Wide World of Sports” program. I remember watching him in the ’72 and ’76 games.

Torch song 19

July 21, 2008

True grit. You just injured your ankle in a rotten vault in the team gymnastics competition and you’re hurting.

But if you don’t perform that exact same vault again right this second — and this time perform it practically perfectly instead of falling down on the landing — the United States might not win its first-ever gold medal in the women’s team competition. Talk about pressure.

In today’s Olympic moment, from the 1996 games in Atlanta, Kerri Strug leaps, twists and grittily lands her way into sports history.

Torch song 18

July 19, 2008

Baron Takeichi Nishi of Japan took Hollywood by storm in 1932.

takeichi-nishi.jpgAfter all, he had money, looks, charm, an actual title — and a gold medal in individual equestrian jumping, won on his horse Uranus at that year’s summer games in Los Angeles.

During his time there, he socialized with Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford and, reportedly, a number of beautiful starlets. He was also  noted for driving powerful convertibles very fast.

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In 2006, Hollywood again took note of Nishi for his part in a much larger drama — the brutal 35-day battle of Iwo Jima in early 1945. Nishi is one of the key characters in the movie “Letters from Iwo Jima,” which portrays the battle from the perspective of the Japanese soldiers on the island. Nishi was a Japanese tank commander on the island.  As did thousands of other men, he died on the island. His beloved horse Uranus, then 25 and stabled in Japan, died a week later.

Below: today’s Olympic moment — some still pictures from Nishi’s life, including his Olympic experience, set to music from “Letters from Iwo Jima.”

You can see a few more pictures of Nishi at this site

G.I. Jo

July 18, 2008

When I saw this obit, I remembered the question about her that I answered for H.P. of Pinehurst back on March 6.

jo-stafford.jpgI also wrote a bit about her on the blog then and included links to a couple of her performances.

So I’m posting all this for H.P. and any other fans of Jo Stafford, who was a popular singer through the World War II and Korean War years. She died of congestive heart failure Wednesday at the age of 90. Go here to listen to her version of “Begin the Beguine.”