One man’s quest to immerse himself in the Olympic spirit. Today’s sport: Equestrian
How does a sport designed for rich people look so cheap? I settled in for the team eventing finals, which turned out to be day three of three, incorporating the scores of the incredibly silly dressage and pretty darn cool cross-country.
It’s not like the sport lacked for drama. Australia and New Zealand came into the day with the lead, but two perfect rounds by Germany and France vaulted them up the standings and into gold and silver.
But honestly, it never truly engaged me. The course looks like giant tinker toys scattered across a play pen by an unseen, giant toddler. There’s cute little amusement park designs on the jumps, as if the horses give the slightest bit of a damn.
Or maybe they do, as one of the highlights of the day was a horse refusing to jump an obstacle and throwing his rider. You go, horse. You’re the true winner. I mean, those French horses that did all of the work didn’t even get a gold medal. That’s just horse-ism.
I will give equestrian points for being one of the few sports that doesn’t have a gender divide. If you’ve got the money to afford to buy and care for a horse, the Olympics don’t care if you are a man or a woman. If the horse can jump, you’re in.
Now, in certain sports, the gender split is necessary and rather obvious. I mean, even the top women swimmers and runners can’t compete with the elite men. A combo field would just lead to the men winning all of the medals. But I’ not so sure that would be the case in sports such as archery or shooting. And I think our women’s gymnastics team could beat anyone, even though men and women compete on different events.
The overall impression I got from equestrian is that it’s just silly, and a vestige of the Olympics true beginnings as a lark of the English aristocracy. That said, their existence doesn’t offend me, and I’m sure plenty of people enjoy watching the horses. This isn’t a vital event by any means, but it is at least a nice throwback to another era. That was at least worth the investment of a few hours.
Before we had to team sports, a quick note about the women’s gymnastics team: they are absurdly great. In fact, their greatness was far more apparent on the OBC online feed than the tape delayed NBC coverage. The announcing pair spent the later half of the event apologizing to the audience for how boring the event was, because the Americans were too dominant. This half-shrugged apology made the performance seem even more impressive than the triumphant NBC coverage, which mostly ignored anyone who wasn’t American.
It was like they were calling play by play on a hurricane. There’s only so many times you can say the high winds are devastating. The American women are so absurdly dominant, I think they broke the international commentary duo. They certainly broke the scoreboard, too.
Handball. As many have already noted, team handball is the greatest sport on earth and we should make an effort to get good at it to destroy the rest of the world. We’ve got enough former college basketball players and mobile quarterbacks who aren’t go to the NFL or CFL to stock one national handball team. Come on, NBA. You have a gazillion dollars, throw a few million at forming an Olympic handball team to assert our national dominance over another sport. This is totally doable.
The drawback is that I’m pretty sure the results are totally random. Take the men’s bracket right now. No game in Group B has been decided more than 3 points in a sport in which teams routinely score about 30. Every game has been a dogfight, and even a matchup of first place Germany and last place Poland was a back and forth affair. In Group B, France struggled to beat Tunisia and then blew out Qatar by 15. Qatar, by the way, opened up the Olympics with a 7-point win over Croatia, who then beat Argentina. I give up trying to figure this out.
Volleyball. The American women are pulling their weight, having won their first two matches despite a little bit of a struggle against the Netherlands. No complaints there. But the men? What the hell, guys?
The US came into the Games as a medal favorite, but they have dropped their first two matches, including their opening match against Little Brother, Canada 3-0. The US has been competitive, but they keep dropping close sets. They lost two sets to Canada 25-23 and another two to Italy by the same score, as well as a 28-26 set. If clutch is a skill, they better find it and quick. Backs are against the wall now, and the USA’s next match is against the home Brazil team, which has won their first two matches.
If you come at the King, you best not miss. Chad Le Clos pulled an inverse Lilly King last night, running a line of smack that instead blew up in his face horribly. Michael Phelps made it his personal mission to destroy Le Clos, and now he has more Olympic medals than most countries on earth. He’s pretty good at this, so maybe the next time you should keep your mouth shut.
Katinka Hosszu added her third gold of the Olympics, this one in the 200m IM. Siobhan-Marie O’Connor of Great Britain gave her a great run, and Madeline Dirado is pretty much thrilled to just medal. It was the race that went exactly to form.
But the big event of the night could be the best event of the entire Olympics. Katie Ledecky is more of a distance swimmer and Sarah Sjostrom is the best sprinter in the pool. The 200m free is the middle ground between the two styles, and they both put on an absolute show. Sjostrom came from behind in the final 50 to overtake Ledecky, who then found enough gas in the tank to surge past her to the touch. It was one of those much anticipated races that lived up to every inch of the hype. Katie f’n Ledecky. It wasn’t as dramatic as her blowout win in the 400, but this was an even more impressive win.