The Olympics got underway in the wee morning hours of Saturday, so we're a full 3 days into the swing of things and it's been a lot of fun to watch. I've been watching sports that otherwise I would never be able to see, including handball, archery, and field hockey. Here are 10 things that I've learned from the first weekend of the Olympics:
- Archery is surprisingly entertaining. You would never think that watching people shoot at targets would be fun, but it actually is, especially in the team competitions. In the men's team archery competition final, the US and Italy were neck and neck for much of the match, the US finally losing by one point. I was on my heels, praying that the last Italian would get an 8, which would have given the US the victory. It was compelling.
- All gymnastics events are not created equal. The women's floor exercise is by far the least interesting and the uneven bars is by far the most. On the men's side, parallel bars is the most painful to watch because they keep bruising up their arms. I feel like telling them to stop hurting themselves. The rings are a display of pure strength and it is truly spectacular to see the men hold themselves up in that manner, with no rigid supports.
- Best sport that no one in America knows about: Handball. I think I found a gem in handball, a sport I had never previously watched, but was forced to during NBC's daytime coverage. And I found it extremely awesome. It's captivating to see how the players contort their bodies to try to throw a ball into a goal. And you really know that the sport has no footing in this country when the commentator admits he's a newbie to the sport. I wish they played it here in the US because it really isn't that difficult to figure out yet on the highest level, is a very demanding sport.
- Michael Phelps has lost his edge. We all saw how Phelps barely qualified for the 400 IM, then struggled mightily in the final while watching fellow American Ryan Lochte win in dramatic fashion. Then, the next day we saw how Phelps was relegated to the second leg of the men's 4x100m freestyle relay. The fact is, Michael Phelps is not the same swimmer as he was in Beijing. Ryan Lochte is the new American star.
- NBC needs to cut back on coverage of the lengthier events. I endured about 1 hour of the men's cycling road race waiting for other events before I quit and moved to online perusing. NBC needs to realize that the only important part of the race is the last mile or so.
- Kazakhstan is an Olympic powerhouse. Two of the events I watched, women's weightlifting and the men's road race, turned out to be events in which Kazakh athletes emerged with the gold. That's one of the joys of the Olympics: watching the nations that many do not even know exist beat the athletic powerhouses of the world and gain a bit of glory for their country.
- Whitewater rafting is intense. I was watching some of the prelims this morning on MSNBC and I highly recommend it. It's one of those events where you say to yourself, "This is cool because there's no way I can ever do that." I think the finals are tomorrow. That should be fun.
- Some events definitely do not belong in the Olympics (cough, cough horseriding). Aren't the Olympics supposed to be an athletic competition for humans? Horseriding, at least to my knowledge, is more strenuous for the horse than it is for the human. This is one of those events that should have been removed a while back.
- Badminton and table tennis are more than just what you play in high school physical education. The birdie and ball move at blazing fast speeds and the expressions of the athletes are ones of intense focus and determination. Here, we tend to consider these sports recreational, but from what I saw in the Olympics, they're definitely more than just that.
- My sports lexicon has increased tenfold. I've learned that weightlifting is not simply lifting a weight; there are two elements, the clean and the jerk. I've learned that in field hockey, instead of penalty kicks and corner kicks, they combine the elements into something called a penalty corner. I've learned that people dig and kill in volleyball, except that is considered good. I know that in rowing, the coxswain sits at the front and does something.
As you can tell from my enlightening compilation of lessons I've learned from the Olympics, I am now a much more knowledgeable person than I was before. And I certainly hope to learn and absorb more throughout the course of these Games.
I hope you get a chance to do the same.