This is one of the world's most elite athletes. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
During these Olympics, Poseur will spend each day watching and reviewing one sport. He also promises to stop referring to himself in the third person.
Today's Sport: Equestrian
Equestrian is both the most egalitarian and the most elitist sport at the Olympics. Let's take the egalitarian side first, because this is the first and last time anyone will describe equestrian this way. Equestrian is the only sport in which men and women compete against each other in the same event on a level playing field. Now, in most sports, it makes perfect sense to divide the men and women, but not in all of them. Really, do we need a gender divide in shooting? Or archery? Equestrian has the good sense to realize that there is no inherent advantage to either sex in the sport, and they can compete head to head. That's pretty cool.
But yeah, the sport is pretty damn elitist. When step one is "buy a horse", you know there isn't going to be a whole lot of ragged underdogs. This is a sport for really rich people to try and win Olympic medals. It's not that equestrian is unathletic, it certainly is athletic, but the best athletes aren't going to go into this sport because all you need is several million dollars and a dream. Any sport that has the granddaughter of the queen in the field is not one that screams "the people's sport."
That's fine, but it's not really a sport that speaks to me. Horses scare the crap out of me and I'm proud of America's anti-oligarchy tradition. I wanted to throw tea at the competitors, just to kick it old school. And the course, oh my God the course, reminded me of a rejected Spinal Tap stage show. Really? A jump shaped like Stonehenge? That didn't set off anybody's Tacky Alarm?
I could be down with a straight horse race, and I rather enjoyed the cross country portion of the event, but dressage is essentially a glorified dog show, only with horses. Jumping looks difficult, but honestly, it just seems like a throwback to a bygone era. Maybe that's the appeal, but I couldn't help thinking that the IOC cut baseball for lack of interest (meaning that Europe didn't care) but kept a sport designed for the royals to rub shoulders with Usain Bolt.
The Favorites: Great Britain
Germany is the defending gold medalist, but Great Britain has the home field advantage and pretty stacked team full of Olympic experience. Team Great Britain is having a miserable Games so far, and they could really use some of the snooty sports to pad the medal count. I mean, how many rowing medals can they conceivably win?
The Gold Medal: Germany
The winning horse's name was Sam. You have no idea how happy this made me. Well, that and the fact there was another horse named Coolio. But in a sport that has its share of elitism, it was nice to see a good, solid horse with a plain Jane name winning the gold. Great Britain's Olympics continued pretty much how they had been going, and they finished with three riders in the top ten... and all out of the medals.
The British fared better in the team event, winning silver, but still behind the Germans. Zara Phillips, the queen's grand-daughter, incurred a four-point penalty on her jumping ride, added together with her time penalty was the margin between the Brits and the gold medal. The crowd went wild anyway because the penalty was early in the ride, she recovered well, and let's face it, she stands 14th in royal succession. That probably doesn't hurt your chances to get wild applause with the royal family in attendance.
Poseur's Enjoyment Level: Meh
If I wanted to go back in time on a giant Putt Putt course, then show jumping would've been my sport. The internal combustion engine is a pretty cool invention, and it's kind of phased out the utility of the horse. This is a throwback to a time when royal families actually mattered and cavalry didn't involve air support. Not my cup of tea. This does strike me as the sort of sport that has its incredibly intense partisans, so I'm glad y'all enjoy it. I'll be watching judo again.
Tsonga beat Raonic in a three set tennis match. Personally, I'm against tennis being in the Olympics, as it already has its international events that matter more than Olympic gold, but I will always salute a 25-23 marathon final set.
Also, after the mild controversy in gymnastics, Jordyn Wieber laid the hammer down in the team competition. She was the top performer on the top team, and that team gold will have to serve as her individual triumph. She was unbelievable. That's how you respond to adversity... by going out and being even more awesome.
Swimming & Track Update
There's been some talk that these Olympics have been disappointing for Michael Phelps. OK, they certainly aren't his Beijing Games which was only the greatest Olympic performance ever, so perhaps that's a slightly unrealistic standard. Phelps has won 2 silvers and a gold... and his gold medal made him the most accomplished Olympic athlete in history. He swam the anchor leg of the relay and held off the best male swimmer of these games, Yannick Agnel. So it's not like he's been some chump.
Sure, he's not quite as dominant at age 27 now that he is accomplished what no other person in any sport has ever accomplished before. How about we just appreciate the greatest Olympic athlete in history and not nitpick that he isn't as absurdly great in his fourth Olympics and is now merely great? You know who has more swimming medals than he does in these Olympics? No one. He's tied at 3 with Agnel, Lochte, Sun, and Schmitt. And only Agnel and Lochte of that group have two gold medals. What I'm saying is, and I can't believe I'm saying this, but Michael Phelps is now being underrated by casual fans. Get off his case. Sorry his achievement of "best Olympic athlete ever" isn't even better.
Next Up: Table Tennis