Sunday, August 17, 2008

Olympics (2)

In the previous post, I mentioned that I had judged debates at the camp. One of the possible topics for debate was, "The Olympics do more harm than good" and the students discussed the pros and cons of the event. As a Canadian, memories of the '76 Olympics in Montreal still rankle. Canada is still paying for the stadium, we were the first host country to fail to win a gold and... well, some other first for a negative thing. I love the idea of the Olympics but I understand that others might not.

When I was of an age to really follow the Olympics, Canada was a swimming powerhouse. To allow myself a bit of namedropping, I met Alex Baumann at a few meets and was briefly courted by his coach, the amazing Dr. Tihanyi. At Camp Chikopi, I met Sandy Goss and Mark Tewksbury, both Olympic medalists. I never met Victor Davis, but idolized him as my best stroke was breaststroke. Baumann, Davis and Tewksbury won gold at the Olympics in the same decade and it is hard to recall that Canada hadn't won a gold in swimming since 1912, when Hodgson dominated distance freestyle in a similar way that Phelps is dominating everything now.

I am happy that Canada has finally managed to pick up a few medals; four in a day. If they keep this up, maybe Canadians won't feel so humiliated.

I am so amazed with Phelps' record of 8 gold. The way I see it, competitors in a relatively new sport can manage to dominate the field. That is, swimming is not quite as venerable a sport as track is, but has a longer history than competitive canoeing and kayaking. One would expect track athletes to be tightly focused on one event only and swimmers on two or three and the canoeing events to be a free-for-all.

Canada has a 41 year old kayaker at the Olympics - I don't think you'll find anyone near his age in track events. It is simply too old to be competitive.

I am impressed but not that surprised that Spitz won seven gold while swimming as a sport was maturing. I am knocked-on-the-floor shocked that someone could beat that record thirty years later.

I have to suspect that my knowledge of swimming is becoming obselete - I watched Bak Tae-hwan's 400m Free several times (it was the only thing on) and many of the swimmers seemed to glide on one arm while they breathed. To me, with my background, that looks like bad technique. If Olympic gold medalists are doing it, I can admit that it is me that is out of touch.


Anonymous said...

Good news--the Olympics in Montreal has been paid off:

Mark Rauterkus said...

We went to Chikopi, two years ago. And, we went to Beijing, two months ago.

Yes, there are some strange swimming styles with a thump-thump timing of freestyle. I noticed the same. I'm with you on it being less than ideal. But, I'm not sure of any hindrance. Being LONG in the water is better.

The USA got bashed by Canada in trying to qualify for Beijing in flatwater canoe and kayak. Well done Canada there.

UK is going to soar in the medal hunt in the next years in swimming and did great at 08 too. They got Pursley now.