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Olympic Poseur: Weightlifting

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Superheroes come to Rio

Weightlifting - Olympics: Day 11
Absurd.
Photo by Stoyan Nenov-Pool/Getty Images

One man’s quest to immerse himself in the Olympic spirit. Today’s sport: Weightlifting

Some sports have athletes, weightlifting has superheroes. I’m not kidding, the sheer amount of weight these men can lift is beyond my capacity for understanding. It’s much easier to imagine that they have been transported from a comic book and are using their super powers in the most frivolous way possible.

And I’m not the first to have this idea. Twitter to the rescue…

Eat your heart out, Brie Larson.

I will admit that it’s more impressive in the smaller weight classes, as we have the contrast of a normal sized person lifting an obscene amount of weight. By the time we got to this competition, the men’s super heavyweights, well… they looked like they could lift a city bus.

Weightlifting used to be dominated by the old Soviet Union, and while we’ve seen their stranglehold on the medals slip in the other weight classes, particularly the women’s groups (which are now dominated by the Far East), the old influence lingers in the heaviest weight classes.

Lasha Talakhadze of Georgia (not that one, the country) dominating the event, robbing it of drama. Heck, he won things on his first lift, as his 242 clean and jerk on his first attempt beat the silver medalist’s final lift by a kg. (Gor Minasyan of Armenia).

His other two lifts were dedicating to showing off. Talakhadze bumped it up to 247 kg on his second lift, and after clearing that, he went hog wild on his third lift, clean and jerking 258 kg. He won the gold medal by 22 kilos. That’s about 48.5 pounds.

I don’t lift things that weigh 50 pounds if I can in any way help it, and that was simply the margin of his gold medal victory. Like I said, super heroes. If the Skrulls ever invade the Earth, I know who my first phone call is.

Gym (or Why NBC TV Coverage Sucks)

Simone Biles won her fifth medal and fourth gold of these Olympics, putting her in the conversation of greatest Olympic gymnast ever which, incidentally, would put her in the conversation for greatest Olympic athlete. I know we want to reduce that to Phelps and Bolt, but the sheer number of athletes at these Games who are staking a claim at being an all-timer is fairly awe inspiring. The debate should be far more diverse and interesting than just two guys.

But it’s hard for casual fans to think of Biles as an athlete because of how NBC packages their gym coverage. It in no way resembles sports coverage. It is a reality show, and a simple entertainment package that does everything to highlight the likability of the American gymnasts while simultaneously pretending there is no competition going on. It's all America, all the time. And without the feel of an actual sporting event, gym on TV feels like a TV show and not the amazing sport that it is.

This is not about tape delaying coverage. I’ll give NBC a total pass on that. They pay a lot of money for the Games, and they logically want to show the biggest stars in prime time. I’ve got no problem with them holding on to their gym coverage until they can get the maximum number of eyeballs.

It’s not like we can’t watch online or stream it on TV through a Roku. Hell, that’s how I watch most TV shows anyway. There’s no difference between streaming Orange is the New Black or NBC Olympics coverage, and as a guy who has watched his share (and probably a few other people’s) of Olympic coverage, the online streams are near uniformly terrific. If you wanted to watch it live, you could. Stop bitching about that.

No, the problem is that they delay the coverage to create a terrible, terrible package that drains the sport of all of its insanity and inherent drama. NBC claims that it is too hard to broadcast a gym event in all of its complexity, but tell that to ESPN, who knocked it out of the park with their NCAA Super Six coverage. I’m willing to be they did that on a smaller budget, too.

Stop treating the audience like idiots. As a general rule, people know when they are being pandered to, and here’s the thing, I think people WANT to know more about gymnastics. The Posette kept peppering me with questions about the different scoring systems, as she’s used to the 10-point scale still used in college. She wanted to know WHY certain gymnasts scored higher or lower, but no one could tell her. Well, NBC has the experts that could tell her, but they inexplicably muzzle them to dumb down their coverage.

Gym fans are sports fans, too. It’s time to treat them as such. It does a disservice not just to the audience, but to the gymnasts to treat this all like pretty All-American gals doing the All-American kabuki. I get so mad watching NBC’s horrid gym coverage that I flipped on the internet feed to watch anything else. What I found was volleyball.

Team Sports

Volleyball. OK, the best thing about NBC’s awful gym coverage is that it pushed me online to watch the only sport that was actually going on at the time: indoor volleyball. Brazil is the two-time defending gold medal champ, and they were yet to drop a set in these Olympics. China struggled in pool play and finished fourth. But, in an Olympics highlighted by big upsets in the team sports (US women’s soccer, Hungary in water polo, US in beach), Brazil found itself in an unexpected dogfight. Just as their women’s beach team wrapped up their first set in a huge upset of Kerri Walsh-Jennings, the Brazilian indoor team fell in the fifth set, 15-13. No medal for the hometown favorites in what might be the biggest upset of the Olympic team sports.

Oh yeah, every team which advanced to the semis was from Pool B, which the US won without a loss. This is what we like to refer to as an open path to the gold medal.

Water Polo. After three consecutive gold medals, Hungary shockingly went home empty handed in London. Well, history repeated itself as Hungary, after winning its group, lost in a penalty shootout to Montenegro, the lowest remaining seed. That would open things up for the Group B winner, Spain, except for the fact that Spain lost to Serbia in their quarterfinal match, 10-7. Greece, the 2nd place finisher in Group A, then dropped its game to Italy. Only Croatia’s 10-6 win over Brazil preventing a clean sweep of the top four finishers in Group play. Seriously, this is awesome yet crushingly unfair. The whole first week of men’s water polo in the Olympics were just invalidated in a day.

Boxing. I have nowhere else to put it, and I’m not following boxing at all because it is the only Olympic sport more hopelessly corrupt than figure skating. But it is always worth pointing out when something great happens. An Irish boxer lost on decision and he responded by flipping of the judges from the ring, and then giving the best post-fight interview in the history of the sport.

He’s not wrong.

Track/Swimming

The US took the top two spots on the podium in men’s triple jump. The high jump competition lacked the drama of the pole vault, and Canada’s Derek Drouin took home the gold. I guess we can be happy for America’s Hat.

But the big race of the night was the men’s 110m hurdles, in which Oregon Duck football standout Devon Allen failed to medal. That noise you hear is Erik of Roll Bama Roll cackling in glee. Jamaica’s Omar McLeod took the race from start to finish and it seems that Jamaica’s pretty good at these sprinting events.

Oh, decathlon starts today, so get online and watch some greatness. Ashton Eaton has something to say about Usain Bolt being the greatest track athlete on earth.