Saturday, 18 August 2012

Top 5 Performances of London 2012

In the second of the two posts looking back at the London Olympics, this post will look at the 5 great performances of these games.

Before I go on there are a couple of things to mention.  Firstly there should be an honourable mention to the BBC’s coverage, which has been exemplary.  I am somewhat bemused at all the sudden attention to Clare Balding.  She (alongside fellow Radio 5 Live “graduate” John Inverdale) have been excellent for years without acclaim.  In sharp contrast, the American broadcaster NBC has been receiving nothing but brickbats for it’s decision not to show the Olympics live, spawning the Twitter hashtag #nbcfail.

The other thing I was going to mention is that the one blight on the British team’s effort was the Swimming team.  One silver, and two bronzes was quite clearly the one low point of Britain’s performance – considering we had several “medal prospects” too.  There is the suggestion that maybe some of the swimmers were not mentally prepared, which shows that charged with coaching our swimmers had not perhaps covered all bases.

However, that debate is for another time.  This post is about the best performances of the games.  Those performances that might not have been as memorable but deserve to be recognised.

1) Ye Shiwen (Womens 400m Medely – Swimming)
In the opening days of the games, Shiwen was the most controversial figure of the games.  Her record breaking performance (winning in 4:28.43, a second inside the previous record) started a debate about where the startling improvement in her performance came from.  One of the American coaches went so far as to hint that there were performance enhancing drug’s involved.  As it is, the “debate” somewhat took the gloss of a very fine performance.

2) Ruta Meilutyte (Women’s 100m Breaststroke - Swimming)
In sharp contrast to Shiwen, Meilutyte’s performance came from a similar left field position yet garnered none of the loud whispering campaign that accompanied Shiwen’s victory.  Meilutyte was also a similar age to Shiwen so gave her defenders positive arguments to counter the spin.

Meilutyte’s performance didn’t quite come from leftfield.  For starters, she showed similar form during the heats.  It was however as noteworthy as Shiwen’s performance and also, considering she was coached in Plymouth, that there’s not really that much wrong with British Swimming.

3) Andy Murray (Mens Single’s – Tennis)
Murray’s finest moment on the tennis court.  Murray completely outclassed not just the former No#1 Novak Djokavic in the semi final, but also the man who beat him in the Wimbledon final four weeks previously.  In the style of “Fever Pitch”, you could have billed the final as Murray V Federer IV – The Catharsis.

After dispatching Wawrinka and Niemenen, Murray then faced Baghdadis in the first repeat of his Wimbledon campaign from weeks earlier.  In the quarters Murray beat Almagro to set up a semi with Djokavic, which he won 7-5 7-5.

In the final, Murray produced his best performance in a “Slam” final – and arguably his best performance ever - to beat Federer 6-2, 6-1, 6-4.  All of which bode’s well gong into the US hard court season leading up to the US Open at the end of the month.

4) David Rudisha (Men’s 800m – Athletics)
The man who nabbed the headlines from Usian Bolt’s 200m win (which took place after the 800m final).  The World champion at this distance went after a world record and got it winning in 1:40.91.  While Rudisha won by a large margin, none of the other finalists were slouches – all the other seven finalists posted either personal bests or season bests in this race.

However, Rudisha’s performance arguably was the performance of the Olympic track meeting alongside Usain Bolt and…

5) Mo Farrah (Men’s 5000m – Athletics)
Farrah had won the men’s 10,000m title the previous Saturday and was now going for the double, aiming to join Kolehmainen (1912), Zatopek (1952), Kuts (1956), Viren (1972 & ’76), Yifter (1980) & Bekele (2008) in that list of “double” winners.

Farrah managed to win by his clever positioning and his ability to begin his wind up at the optimum moment, remember that the 1,500m, the 5,000m and the 10,000m races can be tactical races.  Despite his 10,000m win being a close race, I have gone with the 5,000m win because of the occasion and because of the quality of athletes that Farrah outwitted to win.  That and the 5,000m was the race I saw live (as opposed to glancing at in the pub).

The highest profile events of the Olympics is the Athletics meet, the London Olympics was blessed with such a great meet.  On top of Rudisha and Farrah, you could also add the Bolt and Blake duel’s and the performances of Allyson Felix, Felix Sanchez and Kirani James.  While the organisation was superbe, London 2012 will go down as a vintage games because of the moments and the performances.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Top 5 Moments From London 2012

So, the games of the thirtieth Olympiad are over, with the Paralympics still to come.  In more than one sense, all roads lead to Rio de Janeiro over the next four years as first the next Football World Cup concludes in that city on July 13th 2014, followed by the next Olympics on 5th August 2016. 

Everyone will have their moments of the games, and this blog is no exception.  In a couple of day’s I will be posting my performances of the games, but first (in no particular order) here are my five moments of the games…

1) Glover & Stanning win Britain’s first Gold in the Woman’s Pair.

By the fourth day of the games we were all beginning to get a bit itchy as Britain had not bagged a Gold Medal.  Mark Cavendish had finished down the field in the Men’s Cycling road race, while Rebecca Adlington took bronze in her 400 metre’s Freestyle race.

Helen Glover and Heather Stanning were unbeaten in the Women’s Pair since being pipped to gold in last years World Cup by New Zealand.  They carried that form through the heats for this event, and controlled the final to take Britain’s first gold of these games – becoming the first British women to win gold at the Olympic regatta.  Glover and Stanning also set the template for these games as much of Britain’s top performers were women – not just Jessica Ennis but Grainger/Watkins (in the Double Sculls), Copeland/Hosking (in the Lightweight Double Sculls) and of course Nicola Adams in the inaugural Woman’s boxing competition.

2) Phelps Become’s the Most Decorated Olympian ever
The Olympic Swimming meet was billed as the greatest swimmer ever, Michael Phelps, versus the pretender to the throne, Ryan Lochte.  Phelp’s motivation was that he needed three medals’s to become the Olympic’s most decorated athlete.

Thing’s did not start well for Phelps as he finished fourth in the 400m individual medley, well behind Lochte.  Phelps fortunes picked up as he picked up a silver in the 4x100m freestyle relay.  He equalled the record by finishing an agonising 0.05 seconds behind South African Chad de Clos in the 200m butterfly, however he broke the record by being part of the US team that won the 4x200m Freestyle relay.  Astonishingly Phelps went on to add three more medals, two relay golds and the 200m Individual Medley title to his haul – which takes his all time total to 22 medals.

3) Britain’s “Golden Hour”

If Sydney 2000 had “Magic Monday” – the night Kathy Freeman won the 400m title on the Athletics track, then London 2012 scheduled “Super Saturday” which was the busiest day of the games.  “Super Saturday” was also Britain’s most successful day ever in Olympic History, with gold coming from Katherine Copeland & Sophie Hosking in the Lightweight Double Sculls, the Mens Foursome’s and the Women’s Team Pursuit at the Velodrome,  The climax of this day was from 9pm to 10pm when Jessica Ennis won her 800m race to confirm her place as Olympic Champion in the heptathlon, Britain's third Gold medal in the heptathlon after Peters in 1972 and Lewis in 2000.  That was about 40 minutes after Greg Rutherford jumped 8.21m, who an hour later was confirmed as Britain’s first Olympic champion in the Long Jump since 1964m as he extended his jump to 8.31m.  Completing the triumphervate of track and field gold’s was Mo Farrah, who took the Men’s 10,000m title with an excellent run that showed awareness & timing.  Abilities Farrah would show again the following week in the 5,000m.

4) Bolt
There doesn’t need to be anything else to be said about this man.  Suffice to say we kind of wondered if he was coming into these games in top form and was able to hold off the challenge from the pretender to the throne, Johann Blake.

After retaining all of the titles he won in Beijing, I suspect that he was closer to top form than we thought…

5) Hoy takes his sixth Gold
While Steve Redgrave remains for some the British Olympic athlete, his record as Britain’s most decorated Olympian came under threat from two fronts.  Britain’s Tour De France winner Bradley Wiggins drew level with Redgrave with 6 Olympic medals with his victory in the Men’s time trial, but it was Chris Hoy that overhauled Redgrave’s Gold tally. 

Hoy drew level by being part of the Men’s Team Sprint victory.  His remaining chance to overhaul Redgrave came in the Keirin  Leading most of the way, he was overtaken by Levy in the back straight, but held his line to take back the lead and win his sixth Olympic gold..

Friday, 3 August 2012

It Starts Again...

(sigh) Football, here we go…

It doesn’t feel as if it has been 10 weeks since Hearts put Hib’s to the sword in the 127th Scottish Cup final to put the top hat and tails on a memorable end to a poor season.  Part of that is down to the implosion that has seen Rangers liquidated and the company set up from its ashes rightly forced to start life at the bottom of the “professional” food chain.  The consequences of this has filled the front and back pages of the Scottish Media while Euro 2012, The Tour de France, Wimbledon and now the Olympics have been going on. 

The fight to ensure credibility for Scottish Football (no sporting integrity here in this blog) seems to have been going on for most of that period with Regan & Doncaster intent in ensuring that Newco Rangers start as high up the chain as possible, but for only “altruistic” purposes (ie retaining as much filthy lucre from sponsors as possible).  Since the clubs (it has to be said pushed by the various fans groups) voted for Newco Rangers to start in the Third Division, the sky has not fallen in.  Oh and both the SPL and the SFL have voted to keep taking the Murdoch shilling with yet another reduced television deal with BSkyB (and ESPN), despite it being shown that the SPL are not getting value for money from their television deals.

In the meantime, the on pitch business is about to get back into the centre stage…  in so much as the start of the SPL season can be centre stage in the middle of the Olympics.  The collapse of Rangers leaves Celtic as the biggest team left in the SPL.  They will start as huge favourites to collect the Scottish Championship in May next year.  For the first time in about 20 years though, the big question will be who will finish second.  Motherwell finished third last season and have only added Ramsden from Bradford, however they look as if they have kept most of their first team from last season. 

With the exception of St Mirren, Motherwell are the only side not to have lost players who performed for them last season.  Dundee United have lost Kenneth, Swanson & Robertson, but have brought in Millar from Falkirk.  In sharp contrast, Hearts have lost pretty much half of their Scottish Cup winning side and their manager Paolo Sergio.  Coming into the top six could well be Aberdeen, who have added Hayes (from Inverness) McGinn (from Celtic) as well as the experienced Gary Naysmith.  With the experienced Brown/Knox partnership at the helm, Aberdeen could find themselves pushing up the table.

Tactical genius Billy Dodds seems to think that St Mirren will finish ninth, If we can get scoring, I suspect that we will finish a good deal higher than that.  I kind of think that our lack of firepower at key moments will see us finish just outside the top six, and well out of trouble.  There are others that will be less fortunate.

Dundee probably start as favourites for the drop, due in no small part to this summer’s outbreak of boardroom politics.  Three weeks is not a long time to prepare for a season, and this will count against them.  Ross County’s relative inexperience may well count against them, but unlike Dundee they have had time to prepare and do have momentum in the shape of last season’s form to take them away from any immediate danger of relegation.  Inverness, Hibernian and Hearts also should be too savvy for the drop.

It is possible that Celtic could be Champions elect by Christmas and that Dundee be dead men walking by the same timescale.  I suspect that while Dundee could well be adrift at the turn of the year, I think that Celtic will not be out of sight until the spring.  While the off the field politics will of course rumble on, the resumption of play will be a welcome relief from that politicking for fans of Scottish Football.  Whether Scottish Football has reached rock bottom is another matter, and one that will be answered in time.