Posts Tagged ‘olympics’

2018 Winter Olympics

Monday, March 5th, 2018 | Sport

A record haul for Team GB this year, but that is a total of five medals. There is one big question we’re all asking, though: how exactly do you train for the skeleton? I mean, I don’t know anywhere that has a skeleton track.

An ode to Elizabeth Marian Swaney

Sunday, March 4th, 2018 | Sport

The 2018 Winter Olympics featured 2,921 of the world’s best Olympians. And an American skier sporting a Hungarian flag named Elizabeth Marian Swaney.

She competed in the half-pipe for Hungary. There wasn’t much in the way of tricks. She did grab her skies at one point. That was about it. You can watch her run on the BBC website.

The reason she was competing for Hungary is that they have no selection criteria. Unlike the first two nations, she tried to compete for. But, having enough of a varied lineage, is eligible to compete for three.

There is much debate as to whether she was the best, or worst, Olympian.

The answer is “the worst”, of course, but I still like her. Like many others have commented, she gives the rest of us hope. I’ve been running for 25 years. My vo2 max is 45. That’s what an average man of my age would have as standard. Some athletes have double that. I’m never going to be Mo Farah because I don’t have the innate ability.

But I could be Elizabeth Marian Swaney, because she doesn’t have any innate ability, either.

How does track cycling work?

Tuesday, March 7th, 2017 | Sport

Did you experience a little confusion when watching the Olympic action at the velodrome last year? I certainly did. So I looked it up. Here are the ins and outs of track cycling.

Road cycling is pretty straight forward. People start at one point and then try and ride to the other point as fast as they can. The one who gets there first is the winner. Things get slightly more complex when there are stages and time trials, but the basic idea remains the same.

This is not so with track cycling. There are different disciplines and whole new skills to be learned with each one. This guide takes you through the most popular.

It’s all about the slipstream

Much like road cycling, being at the front is hard work. You have to move all of the air out of the way. In comparison, if you are sat behind another rider, it is much easier because you can cruise behind in their slipstream. This is critical throughout track cycling.

Team pursuit

In team pursuit, each team has four riders that have to complete a distance of 3km. Each member of the team will take it in turns to ride at the front, doing most of the work, before falling to the back and allowing the next member to take up the strain.

Only three riders need to finish the race. In theory, the team could go the entire race with all four riders. However, often one rider simply cannot keep up with the pace. Or, more often, the team will work tactically so that one rider does an extended spell at the front, burning all of their energy, before allowing the remaining three to finish the race.

Sprint

Spring is a competition between two individual riders. Distances vary but is often three laps of the track. In sprint races, you will often find the riders going very slowly for the first lap or two. The reason is that if the riders went off fast, the rider at the back would tuck into the front rider’s slipstream, save their energy, and then pass them on the final lap.

To prevent this, the front rider will cruise around at a walking pace, waiting for the perfect moment to strike. They will then suddenly rush off, hoping to catch the other ride unprepared. The other ride attempts to keep close enough to perform the undertake, often riding around the top of the track so they can rush down for a sudden gain of speed.

Keirin

Kieran is a race of 2km. However, for the first three-quarters of the race, the riders follow an electric bike around the track and must keep behind. The bike gradually increases in speed before pulling off the track near the end of the race, at which point it is a free-for-all.

Omnium

Omnium is the heptathlon of the track cycling world. Riders compete in a series of different races including pursuits, elimination races and time trials. An elimination race is a simple race around the track where the rider at the back is eliminated each lap until a winner is found. Omniums will typically end in a points race. This could be over 100 laps, with points given every 10 for the first four riders.

Immigration levels compared with Olympic medals

Sunday, August 28th, 2016 | Religion & Politics, Sport

Nothing to see here. Correlation does not imply causation.

immigrants-to-medals
Number of immigrants (millions), number of Rio 2016 Olympic medals at 1/4 scale

In fairness, if you line the countries up in population size, they come out in a pretty similar way. But it doesn’t fit quite as well as these figures do.

Caster Semenya, and hyperandrogenism

Saturday, August 27th, 2016 | Sport

Caster_Semenya_2010_Memorial_Van_Damme

Caster Semenya is a South African athlete who recently won gold in the women’s 800m at the Rio 2016 Olympics. That should not be controversial, but it is, because she has hyperandrogenism.

Hyperandrogenism is a medical condition where you have an excess of testosterone in your body. Because testosterone helps you train harder and recover faster, it is on the banned substance list in athletics. If you get caught taking it, you will be banned from competing (unless you are Russian, of course).

Caster Semenya hasn’t been taking it: she just has incredibly high levels of it in her body. But other athletes claim it is unfair: they say no matter how hard they train, they can never compete with someone who has so much testosterone.

My view, is that that is tough luck.

Caster Semenya isn’t cheating. She is just naturally bigger, stronger and faster than other athletes. That is just how sport is. It has never been a meritocracy. You can train as hard as you want, you are never going to beat Usain Bolt in a sprint. When we take the top athletes in the entire world, of course, they are both hardworking and physically gifted.

I have been running for 25 years and I still can’t get my 5k time to within a few minutes of Mo Farah’s 10k time. No amount of training is going to make me faster than he is. However, for consideration, I have laid out the possible paths we could take.

Let Caster Semenya compete

This is the obvious one, and the one I favour, as outlined above.

Not let Caster Semenya complete

So now we’re banning anyone with hyperandrogenism competing because we’re confused about their gender? That’s obviously discriminatory.

Make Caster Semenya take medication

You know, like we did with Alan Turing to try and cure his homosexuality. We could give her pills to reduce her testosterone levels to a “reasonable” level.

This sounds like Kurt Vonnegut’s distopian short story Harrison Bergeron in which ballet dancers must wear weights, newsreaders must have stutters and smart people must be dumbed down. We will be giving Usain Bolt a drag parachute and removing large segments of basketball players legs so that I can compete in the NBA?

Do away with gendered sport

Instead of diving everyone into men and women, we could just allow everyone to compete in the same competition. Do away with discrimination and give everyone an equal opportunity.

Make Caster Semenya compete with the men

Which would be totally unfair, because she is a woman.

Have a new “we’re not sure” category

As well as having a men’s race and a women’s race, we could introduce a new intersex category that would allow the IAAF to parade around anyone who doesn’t exactly fit into their nice gender boxes.

Conclusion

Personally, I find all other possible routes out of this situation either ridiculous, or offensive, or in some cases both. Caster Semenya is a wonderful athlete and should be allowed to compete.

Rio 2016 Olympics: a review

Wednesday, August 24th, 2016 | Sport

rio-2016

I have really enjoyed the Rio 2016 Olympics. London 2012 was pretty good: a spent a lot of time watching that too, but no where near as much as I spent watching Rio. My love of sport has grown over the past four years. This time I was watching it from 9am to midnight most days. I am exhausted from sitting around watching sport.

It helps that Team GB has completely nailed it. Without home advantage I assumed we would be unable to hold on to third place in the medals table. The predictions said we would match last time. But as things progressed, people asked question. Could we beat China? The answer was yes. We finished in second, our best performance for over one hundred years. The only time we have ever done better than third was when we came first at the 1908 London Olympics. We have never matched that away from home before.

Brazil did a good job overall, in my opinion. Their opening ceremony was okay, but if we have learned anything from Bejing and London, you probably do need to spend an obscene amount of money to make it mind-blowing. Despite the odd technical glitch, Rio did a wonderful job though. Compare this to #SochiProblems at the Winter Olympics two years ago, or the absolute disaster that was India’s attempt at hosting the 2010 Commonwealth Games. Things were not perfect, but isn’t it better to give a developing country a chance and accept it isn’t going to be London?

Brazil’s support for the Paralympics has clearly fallen short of the mark, and I will not defend them on that count.

In some ways, the Olympics has also been depressing. I remember spending an afternoon watching dressage. I lay on my sofa, wishing I had the motivation to get up and sort my life out and get things done. But all I could do was lie there and watch more dressage, a sport I have very little interest in.

But for the most part it was just sport, amazing sport, and the Union Jack being hoisted up a flag pole again, and again, and again.

Team GB to finish second in Rio 2016

Saturday, August 20th, 2016 | News, Sport

silver-in-rio

It’s official! Team GB will finish second in the Rio 2016 Olympics medal table. Nicola Adams’s gold in the women’s boxing moves us up to 26 gold medals. China have 23 and only have medal hopes in three remaining disciplines (men’s 10m diving, team volleyball and taekwondo). Given they are so far behind in the silver medals, they can no longer overtake Team GB.

Can Team GB beat China in the Olympic medal table?

Friday, August 19th, 2016 | Sport

union-jack-and-chinese-flag

I remember London 2012. It was magic. We smashed our medal predicts and earned ourselves third in the medals table. It was brilliant. Coming into Rio 2016, this made for a bit of a downer though. Without the home crowd, how could we hope to hold on to our spot as third in the world?

That all seems silly now. We’re smashing our medals target in Brazil as well. In fact, we were predicted to come third with 20 gold medals, just behind China who were predicted to score 22. Both of those targets have now been revised by Gracenote Sports who are now predicting Team GB to finish neck and neck with China.

They are predicting both countries will now finish on 25 gold medals.

Country Britain China
Gold medals so far 22 20
Predicted golds Mo Farah (5,000m)
Nicola Adams (boxing)
Bianca Walkden (taekwando)
Liu Hong (20km walk)
Fu H F/Zhang N (badminton)
Chen Long (badminton)
Qiu Bo (diving)
women’s volleyball
Predicted total 25 25

China took their predicted gold in the badminton so they remain on track for their predicted totals.

Team GB is now exceeding these predictions however. Nick Skelton’s gold in the individual show jumping today was an unexpected result: Britain was not predicted to win any medal in that competition. Joe Joyce, predicted bronze in the boxing, has just won through to the final too.

Of course one defeat for a British athlete expected to win, or one win from a Chinese athlete expected to take silver, could change everything around. It is going to be a nail biting finish.

I’ll keep this page updated as we go, if I can be bothered.

Day 14

19:31 China continue to follow their predictions: Liu Hong wins the women’s 20km walk by just two seconds, while Yin Junhua takes silver in the boxing, also as predicted.

21:56 Lutalo Muhammad was predicted to lose his semi-final taekwondo fight. He won, and so is through into the gold medal match.

22:46 Well blow me down, England have won a penalty shoot-out! Maybe we should play football as Team GB. Our women coming good in the hockey final mean we move two golds ahead of our predicted total.

Overnight We have teams running in both the men’s and women’s 4x100m relays: bronze predicted in each. China’s other medal hope for today was synchronised swimming, which they hit their silver in.

Day 15

Absolutely heartbreaking for Lutalo Muhammad in the taekwondo final, losing the gold in the very last second. Still, silver is better than his predicted bronze. Our women took bronze in the relay, unfortunately our men could not.

Today, both GB and China are predicted three golds each. We also have Joe Joyce (predicted bronze) in the boxing final and Liam Heath being the fastest qualifier in the K1 final (predicted not to place).

13:08 Liam Heath wins in the 100m kayak! Another unpredicted medal means we are now on 25: giving us three clear over China. We’re four silvers ahead too, so China would need four to catch up. With three predicted goals each for today, that is a tough ask.

15:58 China clean up in the badminton, keeping them on target for 25 with two golds and two more silvers predicted.

16:16 Here is the schedule for our remaining medal hopes today:

18:00 Nicola Adams
01:30 Mo Farah
02:00 Bianca Walkden (if she qualifies, China’s Zheng Shuyin also in contention)

Tom Daley is also fighting for a place in the men’s 10m diving final. He is predicted to make the final and earn a bronze, finishing behind China’s Qiu Bo and Chen Aisen. That starts at 20:30.

No predicted medals for Team GB tomorrow. That’s now impossible though as Joe Joyce is through to the men’s boxing final, and therefore guaranteed one. That starts at 19:15.

16:26 It is looking good for Team GB. Here are the remaining predicted medals for Team GB and China:

Gold: Nicola Adams, Mo Farah, Bianca Walkden
Silver: Joe Joyce
Bronze: Tom Daily, women’s 4×400 relay

Gold: Qiu Bo, women’s volleyball
Silver: Chen Aisen, Zheng Shuyin

We’re currently two golds and four silvers ahead. Given the gap in silvers, China can only overtake us by winning more golds, which would mean three. This is the maximum they can win: Qui Bo and Chen Aisen are both in the same diving competition, so they would need to take gold in all three events to overtake us.

Even if that happened, we would only need a single gold to seal the deal.

16:59 Well done Vicky Holland for taking bronze in the women’s triathlon. Bianca Walkden easily through the round of 16. Unfortunately Tom Daley failed to get into the 10m diving final. China finished one and two in that the semi-final.

We can wrap up second place with a gold for Nicola Adams in the boxing. Just over an hour to go for that.

The best pitches for Olympic sports

Friday, August 19th, 2016 | Sport

Some people are simply brilliant salespeople. They have a gift for persuasion. I have always thought physicists must be some of them. They persuaded grant funders that the only place they could put observatories was in the tropical paradise of Hawaii.

Watching the Olympics, I think even they have been outdone though. Consider the successful pitches that must have been made in order to secure our current line-up of events.

dressage

“We are going to train horses to dance.”
“Hmm. Jousting? That’s a sport?”
“No, we just want the dancing included. Maybe a bit of jumping.”

nicola-adams

“Well, it’s just hitting each other really.”

keirin

“It’s an eight-lap cycle race. But for the first five laps, the cyclists will queue up behind a motorbike.”

triple-jump

“It’s like the long jump, but the athlete will do a hop and a skip beforehand.”

hammer-throw

“Well, it’s not quite a javelin and it’s not quite a shot put, but man, will they be able to throw that hammer a long way.”

diving

“Yes, it’s diving. But there will be two of them. Doing exactly the same thing.”

beach-volleyball

“Exactly, it’s volleyball. Except with a lot of sand, and the women will be in bikinis.”

10 sports that should be added to the Olympics

Tuesday, August 16th, 2016 | Sport

I’m very much enjoying the Olympics. I have no idea how I managed to fit the rest of life in before it started. However, it is clear that it is lacking some of the most fun sports on the planet. Below, I have highlighted some I think are worth including for Tokyo 2020.

Kabaddi

Kabaddi is a massive sport in South Asia. It’s the national sport of Bangladesh and India loves it too. If you haven’t heard of it, you might think it sounds odd. The idea is to go into your opponents half, tag them and run back, all while holding your breath. So the referee can see you are not taking a breath, players chant “kabaddi” the whole time they are doing it. You can watch some on Sky Sports and England’s women’s team want it included in the Olympics.

kabaddi

Flag football

What would American football look like if it was replaced by a far less dangerous non-contact version? The answer is flag football. All the fun of the NFL without the inevitable season-ending injury.

flag-football

Wife-carrying

One of the traditional sports of Finland, the rules are now relaxed so you can carry any “wife” as long as they are 17 years old and weigh at least 49 kilograms. The heavier the better because the prize is your wife’s weight in beer. Traditionally the piggyback was the lift of choice but Estonian-style has now become the dominant technique.

wife-carrying

Bog snorkelling

It’s like regular snorkelling, but in a bog. The annual championships take place in Llanwrtyd Wells, Wales. It is a straight race that you must complete just using the propulsion of your flippers.

Wereldkampieonschappen Moeras snorkelen (Bog Snokling)

Dodgeball

Dodgeball teaches children a lot of important skills. If you can dodge a wrench, you can dodge a ball. Despite extensive coverage by ESPN-8 of the American Dodgeball Association of America’s tournaments, dodgeball has not yet managed to make the Olympic roster.

dodgeball

Cheese-rolling

This isn’t really a sport, but would still make a fun show. The rules are simple: someone starts a cheese rolling down a hill and everyone has to chase it. The winner is the first one to the bottom as nobody ever actually catches the cheese. Several people usually end up in hospital though.

cheese-rolling

Air guitar

Every year the town of Oulu in Finland welcomes music lovers for the air guitar world championships. Each contestant faces two one-minute routes, one of their own music and one chosen by the organisers. They are then scored by a panel of judges on a series of criteria including technical skill and stage presence.

air-guitar

Baking

With Great British Bake Off about to start, the competitive baking season in the UK is literally heating up. Some people would argue it is not a sport. Not so. Whisking a sauce for ten minutes takes incredible arm strength and has Bake Off shows there is a competitive element., thus fulfilling the definition of sport.

At very least, it is more of a sport than wrestling, which enjoys a large section on Sky Sports.

great-british-bake-off

Quidditch

In real life quidditch is far less amazing than it is described in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series. But it’s still a fun game to watch. Players are mounted on brooms and the snitch is moved by an impartial player who runs around with it. Since 2009 the sport has even had an international governing body: International Quidditch Association.

quidditch

Ultimate frisbee

Ultimate is a form of competitive frisbee throwing that in practice is a lot like netball. The score you have to catch the frisbee in the opponent’s end-zone, similar to American football. The game is usually self-refereed with people just being honest when they commit a foul.

ultimate