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I've been out of town and unable to contribute, so while I recognize that this is late, I wanted to explain, as a serious gymnastics fan, why we were so ready to crown McKayla Maroney before she actually competed in vault finals.
I had never seen Maroney fall while vaulting in competition. I fully expected her to do what she always did: land her two vaults and win. It never occurred to any of my gymnastics friends that she might fall, because they'd never seen it either. Neither had the dopes at NBC, who had also seen her land safely in meet after meet. I think the last time she fell was as a junior.
Someone estimated that her fall broke a streak of 33 vaults landed safely (in other words, 33 "hit" vaults in a row in competition). Broken down per meet, she generally does two vaults in team preliminaries (to qualify for vault finals), one in team finals, and two in vault finals, for a total of five vaults per competition if the meet includes a team event (not all meets do). That's a very long run of successful vaults over multiple meets.
Maroney has cleaner form and better execution than any other current vaulters. I've never seen anyone argue about this; it's treated as fact. You can hear the difference when her hands hit the vaulting table; her "block" (propulsion off the table) is louder and results in more height, which gives her more time to complete the twists and flips. She gets more height from her block than the men's all-around winner, Kohei Uchimura. Her legs stay straight and together and don't cross as she twists; she doesn't bend her knees or her hips in the air; her toes are pointed (crossed legs, bent knees/hips, unpointed toes: all form errors = deductions). She's the best current vaulter in the world. For what it's worth, I would say the same if she weren't an American; gym fans have much more affection for foreign gymnasts than the media seems to think.
Let's go to the video: Maroney's slow-motion Amanar (2.5 twist) vault from team finals (YouTube). The only deductions I could find, and only in slow motion, were a slight leg separation during the back handspring onto the vault table and, near the apex of the vault, a slight knee and hip bend in her right leg.
Comparison: bronze medalist Maria Paseka's (RUS) first vault is the Amanar (NBC Olympics video). Paseka's form is not terrible, but she has significant leg separation in her back handspring and up into the air, then loose legs, knees, and hips, slight leg cross, and not enough air time to complete her twists before landing. (I couldn't find a YouTube of her Amanar with slow motion.)
Obviously I'm not arguing with the results. It may have been unthinkable, but Maroney fell. I'm fond of Sandra Izbasa and I'm happy for her. But I wanted to explain why we expected Maroney to win. It wasn't just because she's good or because we like her. It's because she always has before, over and over, and none of us could have imagined what actually happened.
posted by swerve at 05:08 PM on August 08
I've watched a fair amount of Nadal and I've never actually noticed him shrieking.
posted by swerve at 09:34 PM on July 05
Shrieking != grunting. I can't watch women's tennis anymore. I don't believe that extended howling is necessary or uncontrollable. It's gamesmanship and it's obnoxious.
posted by swerve at 12:59 PM on July 05
For a number of reasons, chief among them my inability to run*, I participated mostly in individual sports like skiing and horseback riding. Like with wrestling, I had only myself to rely on when competing, despite training and attending competitions with friends. I think it helped me believe in my ability to learn, solve problems without help, and trust myself in a crisis. That confidence made me a more confident kid in other areas of my life, and eventually a reasonably confident adult.
I've often wondered if I would be more of a team player if I'd had more opportunities to play on a team, or whether my somewhat solitary nature was fixed from the start. Either way, I learned great lessons from years of sports, I loved what I did, and I'm grateful for the experiences I had.
* I could and did run laps on a track, carefully. I couldn't run on a field or while doing anything else, like watching a ball, or my ankles would collapse and I would fall. During my one year of youth soccer, I ended up in goal because I couldn't run. I avoided running sports after that. It was eventually found to be a medical problem.
posted by swerve at 12:44 AM on January 23
It's actually Friday, but there isn't a thread. Still feels like Thursday, anyway.
Veteran alpine skier Sarah Schleper of the USA took her final race today (Thursday) wearing a dress and, for half the route, carrying her toddler son. Nothing's better than the video, but here's some background. Congratulations on an inspiring career, Sarah.
posted by swerve at 03:19 AM on December 30
Wow, Atheist. Hockey play doesn't cause blunt force trauma and concussions without fighting? Who knew? And the two-line pass has been legal since the lockout. Have you watched hockey in the last decade?
It's very frustrating to discuss hockey's problems with people who don't actually watch hockey regularly.
posted by swerve at 02:45 PM on December 10
Scott should stick to talking about baseball.
posted by swerve at 05:51 PM on December 08
It was hilarious and awesome and reminded me of why I love baseball. The Boston announcers were just stunned. I instant-messaged my BF about it and he wrote back, "What happened? Did an outfielder die?"
Heal fast, Bengie.
(Why are backslashes inserting themselves into my text? Only on preview?)
posted by swerve at 11:14 AM on July 17
Katerina Thanou has been banned from the Olympics without a failed drug test. The IOC felt that she had "[brought] the Olympic Games into disrepute."
The IOC said the move to use this power signalled the strength of its feeling against Thanou's behaviour that was of "very serious prejudice to the Olympic Movement" and raise "significant moral considerations".
posted by swerve at 05:11 PM on August 23
I follow gymnastics regularly. The first time I saw He Kexin was at 2007 Chinese Nationals. The information available said that she had a 1994 birthdate and would not be eligible for Beijing. Imagine my surprise when she showed up on the Olympic training team.
If this much circumstancial evidence piled up around an athlete suspected of doping, the IOC would disqualify him or her immediately. This shouldn't be different.
posted by swerve at 04:04 PM on August 23
"According to Francona, the coaching staffs of previous MLB trips to Japan all were paid the same stipend as the players. The Sox manager was scheduled to join the Oakland Aís coaching staff in its teamís trip to Japan in 2003 and said it was agreed on that the coaches were to be paid. The trip was ultimately cancelled." Boston Herald I'm proud of the Sox for standing up for the staff, and I'm baffled as to why MLB thought it could get away with this.
posted by swerve at 12:50 PM on March 19
THX, from what I've heard, and I admit I'm guessing here, is that in these international endeavors that MLB has taken before (other sports too?), the coaches and staff for all teams involved have never been paid before now. I'm told that all coaches and staff were paid on the Yankees/Devil Rays trip to Japan in 2004. I'm looking for a source.
posted by swerve at 12:34 PM on March 19
I don't think men have the right to decide what is or isn't intimidating to women.
posted by swerve at 05:21 PM on November 22
It's hard for me to believe that Hank Aaron never took anything to enhance his performance. As I understand it, amphetamines were a common fact of baseball life for a long time (and perhaps still are). So, as before he tied the record, I'm conflicted.
posted by swerve at 01:48 PM on August 05
Disclaimer: I'm a horse person. Opinion: this just isn't a big deal. It was stupid and wrong and I'm sure the jockey regrets it, but yes, everyone I know who's worked with horses has lost his or her temper at some point and done something similarly stupid, wrong, and regrettable. I once smacked a show pony I was training when he bit me. I was seen and reported to the owners, who fired me. I understood, but so did other horse people, and I was on a new one two months later. Did I hit her? No. People who knew me knew that what had happened was out of character and not likely to recur. I've seen abuse. I've seen sores around the ankles of gaited horses from unpadded chains used to increase step height. I've seen ginger inserted into a horse's anus to lift his tail. I've seen a tired jumper beaten when he knocks down a rail in practice. A kick from a hundred-pound (and respected) jockey just doesn't set off my alarm bells. Give him a fine or a suspension and let him get back to his career. His longevity speaks, to a degree, to a gentle nature; it's very hard to have a career riding other people's horses unless you're widely regarded to be trustworthy.
posted by swerve at 05:34 PM on June 21
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