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Several thoughts before the Games of the XXIX Olympiad commence tomorrow in Beijing...

 

 

  1. Tyson Gay and his battle against the Jamaican tag team of Usain Bolt and Asafa Powell in the 100-meter dash will be exciting... but don't turn off the track action right there. As was earlier reported by this columnist, three Eugene residents -- Nick Symmonds and Christian Smith of Oregon Track Club Elite and Andrew Wheating of the University of Oregon -- will be looking at a very real chance at challenging for the podium in the 800-meter race. Having bested reigning American champion Khadevis Robinson, the trio head to China with great potential. Symmonds has the best shot at gold; Smith pipped Robinson for the dream chance; and Wheating is the one with the greatest potential for growth, as he continues to get faster with every race. Look for all three after the smoke clears from the sprinting showdown...
  2. The ugly side of weight-class sports was illuminated today when American boxer Gary Russell Jr. collapsed in pre-Olympic training. Russell, a two-time national champion in the bantamweight class (119-pound limit) and one of the United States' biggest hopes for a boxing medal, was struggling to work his weight down to the limit and collapsed due to malnutrition. Sports are a taxing enterprise, and calories are necessary to survive -- especially when so many are being expended. Here's to hoping Russell regains health and decides to either get more safely down to weight in the future or to even move up a class if he is in good enough shape...
  3. South Korea should once again dominate archery competitions. The women have won every team competition since it was first reintroduced after a long absence in 1988 in Seoul. The men have fared nearly as well, though they still have failed to put an archer on the gold-medal podium in the individual competition. Im **** Hyun and Park Kyung Mo headline a strong men's team and will look to place one or both on the individual podium while defending their 2004 team crown. The French and British teams should offer a challenge, but the Koreans will most likely come out victorious once again...
  4. Several American Olympians came to Beijing sporting dust masks upon arrival. The Chinese, offended by the gesture, received an apology from the offending members and from the U.S. Olympic Committee. But why should they have had to apologize in the first place? An athlete has the innate right to do everything they feel necessary to protect his or her health. They weren't doping; they were trying to prevent the ingestion and inhalation of harmful particulates. I have long asserted that the greatest danger to the athletes in these Olympics will not come from extremists -- who continue to threaten the Games, as in a video posted today by a Chinese group -- but from the environment. Much has been made of the clean-up efforts, but athletes have had trouble competing here before; despite the valiant efforts to curb the pollution, the threat still remains as the Chinese tinker with nature's rhythms that an athlete (especially an endurance athlete) will collapse and fall seriously ill from the poor air quality. As I said, it's happened before...
  5. The Olympic soccer tournament has already begun... all the men's teams played their first matches today, and the big winners were traditional powerhouses Argentina (2-1 over Ivory Coast), Brazil (1-0 over Belgium) and Italy (3-0 over Honduras) along with... the United States? The American team took a hard-fought 1-0 victory over Japan, Stuart Holden scoring in the forty-seventh minute to put the Yanks two points up on both the Netherlands and Nigeria, two tough squads that will push the U.S. in the next two contests. This team looks poised, though, no longer in awe of more highly-touted opponents...
  6. Michael Phelps, Michael Phelps, Michael Phelps... we're going to hear a lot of that name as the American swimmer once again challenges Mark Spitz's seven Olympic gold medals in one Games. However, what gets lost in the shuffle is that Phelps is already nearing the OVERALL American record for most Olympic medals won, held by fellow swimmer Jenny Thompson (twelve)... halfway through his races, Phelps could be breaking a significant record even as people are yawning and waiting for the next race to start. What's sad is that we ascribe success to this swimmer as nothing less than record-breaking performances one after another without delay or rest for the weary. In Athens, Phelps fell one gold medal shy of Spitz's record... but he broke the record for most medals in a single Olympics by one individual with eight. Did people make a big stir? Well... about the fact he didn't "seal the deal" with more gold... enjoy the ride for what it is, folks, and gaze in awe -- gold or no gold...
  7. Try on a new sport for size this Olympic Games... you might find something that blows your mind. Sports like badminton and water polo are fast-paced and full of action for fans more accustomed to traditional American ball sports. There's everything from handball to mountain biking... and there's even the modern pentathlon, comprised of target shooting, fencing, a 200-meter swim, equestrian competitions and a three-kilometer run. From the austere to the zany, the Olympics have it from A to Z...

So have a great time watching the Games everyone as the opening ceremonies near. We'll be covering the best action here daily... so come on in and join the fun!

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