The guy who carried the torch? Five golds in five different Olympics. He was pretty good. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)
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: Rowing
Today was perhaps the most successful day in Olympic history for Great Britain, so it's fitting that our Olympic tour stops at arguably the most popular sport in the Olympics for the host nation. The British love rowing like nothing else in the Olympics. They love Sir Steve Redgrave like no other Olympian in their history. And they love no Olympian in these Games like they love Katherine Grainger.
And you've never heard of either of them.
How great is that? I've been reviewing the "minor" sports of these Games, but it's important to note that they are only minor to me because of my American perspective. Depending on where you're from, these are the premier events. Americans obsess over basketball and the rest of the world barely cares. Sure, they like seeing big NBA stars and they would like to win the gold medal, but if Spain only wins silver, the Spanish will be as crushed as we will be if the US volleyball team fails to win gold. Which is to say, not very.
South Korea love archery. Italy loves fencing. France loves judo. We love basketball. Romania loves gymnastics. Hungary loves water polo. Australia loves swimming. China loves table tennis. And so on.
Britain obsesses over rowing. Steve Redgrave is sort of like the Carl Lewis of England, if people actually liked Carl Lewis. He won a rowing gold medal in five consecutive Olympics, which puts him in the conversation of greatest Olympian ever. Sure, Phelps has more medals, but he gets to compete in multiple events. Redgrave got one shot per Olympics (except 1988), and he came through. For five consecutive Olympics. Not even Al Oerter pulled that off.
Redgrave was on hand yesterday to present the gold medal to Grainger, who had won three consecutive silver medals in the Olympics. Medaling in three consecutive Olympics is an amazing accomplishment that anyone would be proud to have, but three straight silvers? That's a bit of a dubious honor. Well, she came through and finally won that elusive gold, and a collective weight was lifted off of England's shoulders.
Let's face it, Great Britain's athletic history is one that is defined not by its successes, but by its disappointments. It is a nation that almost seems to dread winning. They are Philadelphia Phillies of the Olympics. Sure, they've won before, but they are just waiting for the other shoe to drop. Under brilliant blue skies, Britain breathed a sigh of relief and actually went into the final day of rowing, and the second day of athletics, feeling positive. Which is distinctly un-British.
The British four man team is the best in the world, and they were supposed to win. As a general rule, when the British are expected to win a sporting event, you can never go wrong by betting on calamity. The British like to think of themselves as underdogs, and their greatest successes are underdog stories. Hell, we're talking about a nation that glorifies the Battle of Dunkirk in World War II... and that was a loss.
The Gold Medal: Great Britain
The British rowers came through, in a fairly convincing win over the Aussies and Americans. The crowd erupted in cheers, as if they expected victory. Perhaps Great Britain is turning over a new athletic leaf. They rose to the occasion and won when they were favored to win. Then again, the soccer team still lost on penalty kicks.
Poseur's Enjoyment Level: Rule Britannia!
I don't like rowing as much as I like kayaking, mainly because I like how kayakers have to steer over unpredictable waters and rowers just go straight. But if you could not enjoy Great Britain winning gold and utterly dominating the sport that they care most about... then you have no soul. I like for the host country to do well, especially in the events they care most about. This just started the greatest day in British Olympic history.
Swimming & Track Update
I hate to give short shrift to the last day of swimming, but this was really Britain's day, so I don't want to detour too much on the Americans in the pool. The US 4x100 relay teams both won gold, securing the US precisely half of the gold medals handed out in the pool, one of our best performances ever. This turned out to be a dominant Games of the US swim team.
Great Britain won three track golds on the night, and I think you'd have to go back a long time to find the last time Britain won three track gold medals in one day. In Beijing, they only won one track gold total.
Jessica Ennis winning the heptathlon was expected, but rarely do things go as expected for Britain. Meeting expectations was another sigh of relief for the hosts. And then, the gold medals just kept coming. Greg Rutherford jumped 8.31m on his fourth jump, a distance which held up. Suddenly, Britain had its first long jump gold medal since 1964.
Then came the most unlikely of all gold medals. If you pay only scant attention to track, like me, you still know that the African nations dominate the distance events. This held to form for most of the 10,000k, as the Ethiopians, Eritreans, and Kenyans set the early pace at the front of the pack. With about 200 meters to go, Mo Farah worked his way the front, started his kick before anyone else, and then held off all comers, including eventual silver medalist Galen Rupp (USA) to win the gold medal.
The greatest day in British Olympic history closed on this note. Three gold medals in track, and six overall. The Brits moved into third in the overall medal count (29 total) and also third in gold medals with 14. Great Britain doesn't sit atop the medal table, and they won't at the end of these Games, but for this day, they were the undeniable champions of these London Games.
PodKATT's LSU Olympic Update
Richard Thompson, running for Trinidad & Tobago, came in 2nd in his heat in the Men's 100m dash, but has the bad luck to be paired in Semi-final Heat 2 tomorrow with none other than Usain Bolt at 1:45pm. The Final of the event is a few hours later.
Note here for Monday: Lolo Jones opens the Women's 100m hurdles at 4:00am
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