One man’s quest to immerse himself in the Olympic spirit. Today’s sport: Archery
As a general rule, I don’t much enjoy sports which are thoroughly dominated by one country. It’s non-competitive, and it sucks out all of the drama for the fans. What’s the point of watching a sport if you know in advance who is going to win?
However, I do make an exception for South Korea’s absolute domination of archery, particularly on the women’s side. The women have won seven consecutive gold medals coming into Rio, and not lost a match in Olympic play since 1988. They have literally won every gold medal ever offered in women’s team archery. What I’m saying is, they are really good.
Instead of being annoyed by this, I’m rather encouraged by it. It’s one thing for a huge sporting nation to invest all of its resources into dominating a sport like the US with basketball or China with table tennis, but for a smaller nation to carve out a niche for itself and then rule the roost in one tiny corner of the Olympics is rather inspiring.
Much like Hungary with water polo or Romania (formerly) of gymnastics, a small minnow can compete with the sharks if they keep a laser like focus on one event. For South Korea, that’s archery. Even better, the South Koreans women’s team is cool as hell. At Poseur HQ, we refer to them as the South Korean hipster archery squad and we cheer like hell for them.
I’m pretty sure they aren’t the country which invented the bucket hat look for its competitors, but they certainly rock the look the best. The team isn’t just great, they are easy to root for. Topping off this sundae of awesome is the ultimate cherry on top: the US doesn’t care at all, so the online feed has foreign announcers (we could never agree if he was Australian or a New Zealander… further research is required).
Archery isn’t the most athletic of sports, as you’re never going to be wowed by some feat that is higher, faster, or stronger. Instead, it works almost like an anti-sport. The way to win is to slow your heartbeat, control your breathing, and not get excited. All of the tension of international competition works against the competitors, as they must fight against the surges of adrenaline and instead slow the heck down.
This makes archery the curling of the Summer Olympics. An incredibly watchable sport that has built in tension while still tricking you into thinking you could do this. By the way, you can’t.
Matches move quickly, as each team of three takes turning having each member shoot an arrow apiece. After two turns through the roster, we add up the scores and the highest cumulative score wins the set, scoring two points. If the score is tied, they split the set and each team gets a point. First to five points win. Throw in a two-minute shot clock for each round and you can match a full match in about twenty minutes. The entire 16 team tourney wrapped up in a day.
Of course, the South Koreans won, and it wasn’t particularly close. No one much made them sweat, and the Russian team only made the finals because the Italian team had a loose arrow in the final frame, scoring a 3. Considering anything less than an 8 is pretty much a disaster in Olympic archery, a 3 was like a Biblical apocalypse for the Italian squad.
There’s still individual medals to contest, so be sure to dial it up on your NBC app. It’s worth the time to sit back and lazily enjoy a sport you learned to play, badly, at summer camp. Heck, maybe the South Koreans won’t win every medal.
I’ll try and check in on one or two team sports every day…
Rugby Sevens. F’n rugby sevens. I’m sure Vinny will jump into the comments to give us the full rundown, but the big shock for me was that teams played multiple matches in a day. The women’s competition started pool play on Friday, and by Sunday had already wrapped up the quarterfinals. They will bang out the semifinals and the medal rounds this afternoon. This is a sport that does not screw around.
One of the big worries when you add a new sport is the level of competition. Usually, there’s just one or two good nations at it, and they run roughshod over the rest of the world. And that was, admittedly, a bit of a problem in pool play. Kenya lost its first two games by a combined score of 92-7, Japan by 85-0, and Colombia by 101-0 . However, by day two, the blowouts largely went away, and the quarterfinals were hotly contested affairs.
The US played well, but doomed by some bad luck in the final seconds much like an LSU defense. They allowed a score on the final play against Australia to cost themselves a favorable seed by creating a draw out of a win. Then, despite controlling play for much of the time against New Zealand, the US allowed a try on the final play of the first half, and then could never break through the defensive shell, losing a hard luck 5-0 quarterfinals.
Soccer. Olympic soccer is not exactly the top tier of international soccer, as age limits make this more of a developmental tournament. Let’s put it like this, Germany plays sloppy defense en route to a 3-3 draw against South Korea in the Olympics, an unimaginable turn of events in the World Cup.
However, Brazil has invested in this soccer tournament given that it is at home and they are Brazil, spiritual home of soccer. Neymar skipped the Copa to play in the Olympics as one of the exempted veterans. And the results have been nothing short of a disaster. Brazil couldn’t break through against Iraq last night, and now have scored zero goals in two games. Brazil likely needs a win over Denmark to advance to the knock out stages. Anything short of that is a total failure for Brazilian soccer.
The US didn’t win a single gold medal on the first night of Olympic swimming. Now, this isn’t a disaster, but it does signal that swimming might no longer be entirely a week of the US racking up gold medal after gold medal. The rest of the world is catching up, and more importantly, Australia bounced back from its dismal 2012 Games with two golds on the first night. Our major rivals are back, and that’s a great thing for the sport. We need tense rivalries to sell drama to fat guys on their couch, like me.
Order was restored a bit on day two, as the US’s big guns took center stage. Michael Phelps broke open the field on the second leg of the 4x100 free, leading the US to a gold. Also, the Katie Ledecky Show got underway, as she crushed the field in the 400m free, winning the gold medal by nearly five seconds. That’s an eternity in swimming.
She wasn’t the only one to break a world record last night, as Sarah Sjostrom of Sweden won the 100m butterfly by a full second and claimed the first world record of the night. This was overshadowed by the even more dominating performance turned in my Adam Peaty of Great Britain. He won the 100m breaststroke by one and half seconds, setting a world record in the process. People don’t win Olympic finals in the 100 meter anything by a second and a half. That’s absurd.
It was a night full of dominant performance and world records, but we of course focused on Katie Ledecky. And she was appropriately awesome. I don’t want to slow down the party, and she’s in line to win a few more golds before the Olympics are out. But the online chatter is putting her on the same level as Phelps or even as the greatest female athlete alongside Venus Williams.
Let’s just slow down on that a little bit. It’s still an open question whether she’s the best female swimmer in these Olympics. On the previous evening, Katinka Hosszu of Hungary set a world record in the 400m IM, and also beat the field by nearly five seconds. She was every bit as dominant as Ledecky, and the general response on twitter to her feat was to speculate on her drug use. If you doubted the legitimacy of Hosszu on one night, and the next night proclaimed Ledecky to the heavens, you might be an asshole.
Having two great swimmers at once is outstanding for those of us watching at home. It is disappointing the two will not swim against each other in any race, so we instead have to watch this as a proxy war. Ledecky is going to dominate the freestyle events, and the more well-rounded Hosszu is going to try and win medals in the backstroke and fly, on top of the additional gold she will likely win in the 200m IM.
Instead of crowning Ledecky before the competition happens, let’s enjoy something even more fun: watching two great athletes each try and one up each other so they can bash the other one’s head in. There can be only one queen of the pool, and right now, it’s still an open competition. Which is outstanding theater, and means the best is yet to come out of these two.
Tomorrow: Diving. And probably a lot more swimming.