Sunday, August 10, 2008

Love the Olympics, but Still on the Fence About One Sport

I love the Olympics. I only care about most of the events once every four years, but so what? The pageantry, the patriotism, the emotion -- I get sucked in by it all.

Yesterday we watched some fencing, with the Americans ending up sweeping the medals in women's individual sabre. Fencing's something I don't even watch every four years. Frankly, it may have been the first time I ever watched it. Here were some observations from a neophyte:

- I thought fencers wore tight white suits with something that looked like a strainer over their faces. Instead, the competitors yesterday were all wearing silver haz mat gear with beekeeper hats that lit up like Laser Tag vests when they scored a touch.

Most of the time the competitors themselves didn't even know who had scored, because their hats often BOTH lit up and only the first one to touch gets a point. They'd both pump their fists, and then wait to see the judges' ruling.

Here's what was weird. Despite all the wires and sensors, the judges seemed to go to video replay when it was really close to determine who was first. There's really no way for that technology to record that? We can time the swimming races to thousandths of a second, but this is decided by a person looking at a tiny monitor? Just seems odd to me.

- I'm sure fencing takes a lot of skill, but the participants looked like solid contestants for the "least athletic Olympians" award. No significant strength involved, a little bit of speed with their weapons and probably some degree of stamina to move around in those suits. But in contrast to the male gymnasts we watched later, not even close. Based on my preliminary observations, fencing isn't making the cut for me on the sport/not a sport debate. Good old Nike still had a presence, though. Everyone I saw had swooshes on their shoes and socks.

- Speaking of contrasts with the gymnasts, despite all being from the USA the three fencing medalists could not possibly look like they liked each other any less. I swear two of them didn't even acknowledge each other after one of their matches. Granted it was a team competition and not individual, but the gymnasts were rooting for each other, congratulating each other and pumping each other up. The fencers looked like they'd just shown up at a party and seen each other wearing the same dress, or with their ex-boyfriends. Not a lot of camaraderie on display, for sure.

- The three medalists were a Yale graduate, current Notre Dame student and entering freshman at Duke. The lack of camaraderie with each other smelled a little like an air of entitlement, too. Didn't seem to be any heartwarming, inspiring, sacrificial Lopez Lomong stories in the group.

Still and all, it was fun to watch something I don't get a lot of exposure to. Fencing may not have clicked for me, but I still have high hopes for modern pentathlon.


o-hashi said...

Most of the parts of the sport you are annoyed by are specific to Sabre

SteveHarbula said...

Really? Sabre participants are bigger snobs than those from other disciplines? ;)