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Our Olympic travels are over

I can’t believe it’s already Saturday! I know it’s been too long since I posted last, but hopefully this will explain why. Essentially, the last few days in Beijing were incredibly busy, then we flew back to London and immediately went back to work. I’m glad that we’ve got Monday off (bank holiday) so I can spend some time catching up!

Sunday Rowing

There were just seven races on the Sunday of the rowing finals. They were the lightweight boats, quad sculls and eights.

Lightweight Mens Double Sculls – GB wins! It was a close race, but GB was ahead pretty much throughout and kept it strong through the end.
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The father of one of the guys in the boat was sitting just a few seats away from us in the bleachers, and he just broke down in happiness when his son won. Annie’s photo is from here.

Women’s Quad Sculls – GB takes silver. This was always going to be a tight race, since the Chinese boat has become incredibly fast in the last few years. The top boat for both GB and China’s women’s squad is the quad.

GB led for most of this race, but China was nipping at their heels the entire time. In the last five hundred or so, China put through a massive push and just got them by the line. The girls in the GB boat were clearly devastated. We managed to say hello to Annie Vernon later that day and it was clear that she was extraordinarily disappointed. I just hope that in the coming weeks and months they realize just how much they accomplished by earning a silver.

Women’s Eight – GB takes fifth, USA wins. The USA boat was simply a rocket, taking a lead and never relinquishing it. The GB girls had a hard time. Two of the girls from the boat got ill and had to have substitutes for the final. So while it’s probably not what they wanted (they got bronze in the 2007 World Championships), it was a good performance considering!

Men’s Eight – Canada takes gold, GB the silver, and USA the bronze. This was always going to be a tight race between Canada and GB, and it was. Both of them won their heats with very fast performances, going straight to this final.

Unfortunately GB couldn’t quite make it in the end, and I know they were very disappointed. (Though they weren’t the flagship boat for the men’s squad, they were convinced that they could win.)

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A friend from Thames Rowing Club has an older brother in the boat, and he swum out to them as soon as they came across the finish line. Unfortunately for him, he had forgotten that he really didn’t know how to swim! It had to be the slowest doggy-paddle I have ever seen

Monday events

Monday was our busiest day by far. We started out with Triathlon, then had Weightlifting, and ended the night with Athletics. We were up at 6:30am and didn’t get home until about midnight.

Triathlon

The venue for triathlon was absolutely beautiful. It was held on and around a reservoir quite a way out from Beijing, and the day was very bright and sunny. It was an interesting event to watch. While the entire swim and both “transitions” happen right in front of you, most of the bike and run portions are out on the roads. The event organizers had a couple of huge TV displays for the crowd, which worked quite well. Monday was the women’s triathlon, which was won in quite convincingly by an Australian woman.

Weightlifting

Unfortunately, we were only able to get tickets to the B final for the 105+ kg men, so it wasn’t quite the drama you have when everyone is competing for medals. That said, the weights these guys were lifting were incredible! While we had “nosebleed” seats, in the weightlifting hall that didn’t really mean anything and we still had a great view.

Athletics

Athletics was fantastic, and I look forward to getting more tickets for this in London in 2012. It kicked off with women’s discus, which was won by the USA!! (On her first throw, by the way.) Shortly after the discus got started, the women’s pole vault kicked off. We also saw Bolt run in the heats of the Men’s 200m, and the semi’s of the women’s 100m hurdles and 400m hurdles. Other finals included men’s long jump, mens 3000m steeplechase, men’s 400m hurdles and womens 800m.

It was difficult to keep track of all the events going on at the same time. Occasionally they interfered with each other a bit. One long jumper was getting the crowd to clap for him as he jumped, but that caused about 2 or 3 false starts in the 200m heats as runners heard the claps as the starter’s gun! (Oops). There was also quite a bit of a kerfluffle in the women’s pole vault, as Brazil couldn’t find her pole. (How does that happen?) The Brazillian woman literally stopped the competition and got all of the judges involved until her pole was found. That couldn’t have been fun for anyone.

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All of the events were great, but the women’s pole vault took the cake for me in the end. It happened right in front of us, and was a great event. The Russian woman who has set the last few world records set a new Olympic record and won the gold. But she decided to keep going and try for a new World record. Her last few jumps actually happened after everything else was done for the night; everyone that stayed was staying just to see if she could do it and on her third try she set a new World Record of 5.05m! (Photo is from Annie here.)

When everything was all over, thousands of people spilled out onto the streets and it was an absolute pain in the ass to find a taxi. But we finally did, and made it home around midnight.

Tuesday – Men’s triathlon

The only event we had on Tuesday was Men’s Triathlon, though it meant that we didn’t get much sleep between a late night on Monday and an early triathlon start on Tuesday.

The conditions were nearly identical to those on Monday: sunny and hot. The men’s race seemed to be quite a bit closer than the women’s. The main pack on the cycle portion included about 50 of the 55 competitors, and there were numerous lead changes on the run. (The women’s lead pack only had about 20 cyclists, and the eventual runner started the run in first and just extended her lead.) At one point a GB competitor was in first on the run, but fell back and finished about 12th or so. But he’s only 20 so will certainly be back and better… In the final straight there were four guys all literally sprinting to the line which was extremely exciting to watch!

After the event was over we headed into town to get a few last shirts and other gifts at the Adidas shop in the center of town and then went back home to pack. And that pretty much wrapped up our Olympic experience.

In closing…

While I may post about the Olympics in the coming days/weeks, it will probably only be to post photos. I think I’ve said just about everything possible about the trip! I just hope it’s been at least a little interesting.