Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Mystery Solved

My contact was inside out...

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

The Critics Agree

The author of this Slate article about the sabre event is clearly more enchanted with the sabre than I, but he also finds this ritual amusing:

"The art of acting victorious can be just as important as good hand-eye coordination. After nearly every point, both fencers go through a hilarious pas de deux—mad celebration, followed by plaintive looks toward the umpire. When they stop screaming bloody murder, one fencer goes trotting happily back to his end of the piste while the other stares incomprehensibly into space, astonished that a blind man would be assigned to referee in the Olympics."

Saturday, August 14, 2004

Chariots o' Fire

I'm not a regular Olympics spectator, but since I'm going to the gym every day it's a good chance to watch some of the more esoteric events. Let me say that most of these sports are given less prime time coverage for a reason. But I've found that every sport has something really fascinating about it. Observe...

Women's Air Riflery
First medal of the games - and one of the most boring events ever. Like watching paint dry. It's really important in air rifles to keep perfectly still so you, the spectator, get to watch a row of women standing perfectly still. They don't even react between shots when the scores are posted. No yell, no smile, nothing.

Yet there's something oddly fetish-y about this sport. The women are all wearing full "leathers" (this helps stabilize them) and have their non-dominant eye taped down. Then they have some sort of visor to further block any further distractions. Here's a picture of the gold medalist, Li Du:

Now imagine 30 of these women all standing in a row in complete silence. Can't you see this in some sort of anime fetish flick? I can.

Honestly, a little disappointing. Not at all the swashbuckling I was expecting. I imagined Athos, Porthos, Aramis and D'artagnan prancing around in those all white, cage-head costumes. Not so much. Fencers are confined to a narrow strip. They lunge at each other trying to score a "touch." As soon as the point is scored, the fencers reset and start all over again. Each touch lasts about 0.67 seconds. If you were expecting some long drawn out sword fight with flourishes and en gardes (i was), prepare to be disappointed.

But here's something tricky about the sport, especially to the untrained eye. You watch a point, it goes by in the blink of an eye, and then you see the guy on the left ecstatically pumping his fist. Yay for him! But wait - the guy on the right is also ecstatically pumping his fist. What just happened?

It turns out that on most points, both players score a touch. It's up to the referee to determine which fencer got the first touch; this player gets the point. (It's also possible for a round to be ruled simultaneous touch, in which case no one gets a point.) Apparently the fencers will both act like they won the point to influence the judges decision in their favor. So a fencing match goes something like this:

Thrust. Parry. Lunge. Yesssssss! Yesssssss!

Over and over again. Pretty amusing.

Women's Beach Volleyball
Ok, this is one of the popular sports (USA! USA! USA! and all that) so I don't want to give it too much time. But I will say this - most amazing uniforms ever. How are those women so comfortable not only running around but jumping up, stretching and whatnot in those itsy bitsy bikinis??? And what sort of magic fabric technology have they come up with for the bikinis? I swear those bottoms just STAY PUT. No riding up or other such nonsense. Note to self, must look into getting one of those suits - do not want another "surfing incident"...