Monday, August 13, 2012

LONDON 2012: Day 16: Olympic heroes of the day - Stephen Kiprotich and Kevin Durant

Before I forget.. one last Olympic hero of the day: Uganda's Stephen Kiprotich got his moment on the grandest stage of all. He won the marathon earlier today beating out Ethiopian and Kenyan favorites to win his country their second ever gold medal and first in 40 years. His time of 2:08:11 was 26 seconds clear of Abel Kirui in second, with Wilson Kipsang a further 70 seconds back. Can't imagine how Kiprotich felt when he listened to the Ugandan national anthem at the closing ceremony, where he received his medal. A well-deserved recognition!

After he won he said: "If I die now, I die an Olympic champion; I'm so happy!"

Special mention to the Dream Team 2.0 - USA who put to bed an inspired assault from Spain to win 107-100 and take the gold in basketball for a second straight Olympics. Kevin Durant deserves an honorable mention.. He sunk down 30 points today and in the process scored more points in an Olympics than anyone else in US history. He set a Summer Games record with 34 three-pointers, shooting 52% from beyond the arc in London. It was an awesome final, Spain tried their hardest and Kobe Bryant's moment consoling his fellow Laker Pau Gasol was the cherry on the top.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

LONDON 2012: Five things I learned from tennis at the Olympics

1. The 4 hour 26 minute semi-final between Roger Federer and Juan Martin del Potro seemed to have had opposite effects on them. Federer, who came out victorious 19-17 in the decider, was emotionally spent and couldn’t give Andy Murray a run for his money while del Potro, who said he cried till 3:00am after his loss, pulled himself together and beat Novak Djokovic for the bronze medal. I couldn’t be happier for the tall and friendly Tower of Tandil, who is ever so close to recovering his brutal pre-wrist-surgery form that saw him win the 2009 US Open.

2. I think it’s time we really believe Andy Murray when he says he feels no pressure when playing at Wimbledon and that the crowd actually helps him. For those who didn’t find his very consistent Wimbledon results as proof enough (3 semis and a final in his last 4 appearances), his gold medal showing at the All England Club should suffice. What a tremendous week for the Scot, who was finally officially declared 99% British by the very accurate AndyMurrayometer. It took the rare feat of winning the gold and silver (in mixed doubles) at a home Olympics but I believe the Brits have fully embraced Andy Murray. As Boris Becker suggested, should we expect to call him "Sir Andy Murray" soon?

3. Malek Jaziri and Ons Jabeur’s Olympic debuts were historic for Tunisia and more importantly showcased the kind of talent they both have. Jaziri became the first Tunisian to win a match at the Olympics, while the feisty 17-year-old Jabeur pushed two-time Wimbledon semi-finalist Sabine Lisicki to three sets, 7-5 in the third. One thing that would’ve made their bow at the Games sweeter would have been a mixed doubles entry for them but sadly they didn’t make it into the ridiculously tiny draw.

4. Serena Williams made a mockery of the entire women’s field when she dropped only 17 games in six matches en route to her first gold in Olympic singles. She beat the last three women who occupied the No1 spot in the WTA 6-0, 6-3 (against Caroline Wozniacki), 6-1, 6-2 (against Victoria Azarenka) and 6-1, 6-0 (against Maria Sharapova in the final). It’s like the WTA got Punk’d and I was half-expecting Ashton Kutcher to appear from the Royal Box. Of course she got the gold in doubles too with her sister Venus so that the Williams family now have eight Olympic gold medals in their vault. I say vault because no cabinet can hold the trophies and medals won by those two phenoms.

5. Roger Federer finally got his medal in singles. The Swiss said it best himself. “For me, it's been a great month. I won Wimbledon, became world number one again, and I got silver. Don't feel too bad for me.” It would’ve been weird had Federer finished his career without a medal in Olympic singles especially after competing in four of them. But the silver he won will stop us from going there and I’m glad it’s one more thing the 31-year-old can check off his list, right under the entry: become the greatest of all time.

Completely random, but did you know that:

- Morocco’s Karim Alami (pictured) made it to the quarterfinals of the Sydney 2000 Olympics before losing to Roger Federer 7-6, 6-1.
- In Athens 2004, there were three Arabs in the men’s singles draw – Morocco’s Hicham Arazi and Younes El Aynaoui as well as Algeria’s Lamine Ouahab.
- After all the drama from the Indian tennis federation and all the fighting over the doubles pairings, the Indians left the tennis in London empty-handed.
- GB's Heather Watson was upset she didn't get picked to play with Andy Murray in mixed doubles even though she is a higher-ranked doubles player than Laura Robson and had won a doubles title recently. It appears the choice wasn't that bad after all since Murray/Robson won a silver medal. You think Watson would've made it gold? I'm sure she's wondered about that herself.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

LONDON 2012: Day 15: Olympic heroes of the day - Mo Farah, Team Jamaica & Tom Daley

Mohammed Farah... I've never heard a crowd roar this loud at an Athletics meet. But what Mo Farah has done on back-to-back Saturdays at the Olympic Stadium is SO WORTHY OF IT. The Somali-born Brit has pulled off the impressive double winning gold in the 5k today and the 10k last week to become only the sixth athlete to achieve that double (in the same Games) in the history of the Olympics. 

Usain Bolt ended his London 2012 Olympics anchoring Team Jamaica to a sensational gold in the 4x100m relay where they broke the world record to go sub-37 seconds clocking a stunning 36.84s, proving once again that the Jamaicans are the coolest people on the planet. Bolt has now won the 100m, 200m & 4x100m golds in Beijing and in London.. what do you call that?? A triple-double?!? double-triple?!?! Whatever it is.. he's a legend!! Big shout-out to his teammates Nesta Carter, Michael Frater and Yohan Blake. Mabrook Jamaica!

At 14 years old, Tom Daley came 7th in Beijing in the individual 10m platform. In 2009, he became a world champion in that event. And since then, the Brits have been piling expectation on him like mad. He was also heavily criticized for allegedly giving too much time to the media rather than training.

Over the past year, his father died of cancer, he aced his A-Levels and has now managed to win an Olympic bronze medal. This medal is particularly awesome because he came a disappointing 4th in the synchro 10m platform with Waterfield last week to miss out on the podium. After the synchro, he had received a vicious tweet from a random stranger telling him "You let your dad down i hope you know that." (seriously this world is full of sick heartless pieces of ****).

After five dives tonight, he was leading America's David Boudia and China's incredible Qiu Bo by less than a point. The sixth dive was like a round of sudden death and the American ended up with the gold but Daley did what he needed to, to get on that podium. The whole Aquatic Centre went ballistic, David Beckham was on his feet high-fiving his kids and Daley's friends carried him and they all jumped together in the pool. It was the sight of one of the happiest bronze medalist I've ever seen and I couldn't be happier for him.

LONDON 2012: Day 14: Olympic hero of the day - Oussama El Mellouli

Tunisian Ous Mellouli becomes the first swimmer to win an Olympic gold in the pool (1500m in Beijing) and in open water. In fact he was the first to even qualify to the Games in both disciplines, let alone win. He's been struggling with shoulder and back problems but he's managed to win a bronze (1500m) and a gold (10km marathon swim) in London. All I can say is WOW!

A shoutout to Bahrain's former double world champion Maryam Jamal who won the 1500m on the track clocking 4:10.74.

Friday, August 10, 2012

LONDON 2012: Day 13: Olympic hero of the day - David Rudisha

Without a doubt it's Kenya's David Rudisha who shattered the world record with a lightning fast run in the 800m to win by such a big margin that most of the other runners were outside the camera frame when he was c
rossing the finish line. And those other runners ran REALLY fast times, all clocking personal or seasonal bests, or national records. The time run by Britain's Andrew Osagie, who was last to cross the line, would have been good enough for gold at the last three Games.

Rudisha ran 1:40.91 to break the record he had set two years ago which was 1:41.01. The 23-year-old has set the three fastest 800m times of all time. The 800m world record is the first record in the track to be broken in the London Games.

Oh and did I mention that was his Olympic final debut? He's unbelievable!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

LONDON 2012: Day 11: Olympic heroes of the day - Taoufik Makhloufi, Mutaz Barshim, Abdalaati Iguider

The best way to respond to the controversy of getting disqualified then reinstated to the Olympic Games is to go on and win the Gold in your signature event. That's exactly what Algerian Taoufik Makhloufi did in the 1500m which he won in 3:34.08 in dominating fashion. The 24-year-old Makhloufi was disqualified yesterday for "not trying hard enough" in the 800m heats but was reinstated after he provided medical evidence to a knee injury which he says he managed with massages to get ready for the 1500m.

Even if he "missed the withdrawal" deadline like they speculated on BBC, his error in judgement in the 800m does not take away from the months of training he has put in, and his achievement in the 1500m. People make mistakes and the officials decided to reinstate him, so people should really give the guy a break and not rain on his parade.

Some articles about his win are so annoying - implying that his surge this year (which saw him shave 2.5s off his time) is due to doping but I am so sick of the constant cynicism from the media. Unless someone fails a doping test, the media should not be allowed to speculate, like they did to the poor 16 year old swimmer Ye Shiwen. Anyways, mabrook Algeria, the first Arab country to win gold in London 2012.

Makhloufi was joined on the podium by Abdalaati Iguider of Morocco who won the bronze. Iguider won the gold in this year's World Indoor Championships in Istanbul and following that up with a bronze in the Olympics is a great effort from the 25-year-old.

(PS I understand that 2 Moroccans have failed doping tests in these few weeks but that doesn't mean that every North African runner is a cheat!)

Qatar's Mutaz Barshim won the bronze (tied with 2 other athletes) after clearing 2.29m in the high jump competition. He's 21 and guess what?!?! He's actually Qatari, born in Doha. He's a product of the Aspire Academy and clearly they know what they're doing over there. No surprise! Mabrook Barshim, Mabrook Qatar!

Also a quick shoutout to Iran who are picking up golds left, right & center. They have 8 medals in total, 4 golds (3 wrestling & 1 weightlifting), 3 silvers (2 weightlifting, 1 discus) and a bronze in weightlifting. They know their niche, are playing to their strengths & are delivering. Bravo!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

LONDON 2012: Day 10: Olympic heroes of the day - Karam Gaber, Habiba Ghribi, Fehaid Al Deehani, Saudi equestrian team

Egyptian wrestler Karam Gaber proved Egyptians are no one-hit wonders when he fought his way to the silver medal in the 84kg Greco-Roman to become the third Egyptian and first since 1948 to win multiple medals at the Olympics. Since he won the gold in Athens 2004 Gaber had faced many problems, some were of his doing and some were not. He finished a disappointing 12th in Beijing and he wanted to retire saying "El reyada fi masr w khosoosan fel al3ab el fardeya mabet2akilsh 3eish". He said he was neglected from our Wrestling Federation and he says after his family and friends pressured him to compete in London he realized it's the best way to silence his critics. And indeed he came back, 12 kg lighter but just as powerful, to earn Egypt its second silver medal of London 2012. You could tell from his reaction on the podium that he really wanted gold and that the silver is not enough for him. He really has the heart of a champion.

Tunisia's Habiba Ghribi made history for her country and proved her silver medal in the World Championships in Daegu was no fluke when she won the silver in the 3000m steeplechase to become the first female Olympian to win a medal for Tunisia. She ran a great race, pushing the Russian winner Yuliya Zaripova as much as she could and ended up recording a national record of 9:08.37.

Kuwait's Fehaid Al Deehani got over his bronze shootoff heartbreak in the double trap shooting competition a few days ago by prevailing in his shootoff with two-time Olympic champion Michael Diamond to win the bronze medal in the trap competition. Instead of being discouraged from his near-miss in double trap, he stepped up and insisted on winning a medal in London. This is his second Olympic medal having won the double trap bronze in Sydney 2000.

Saudi Arabia's equestrian team clinched the bronze in the team jumping competition headlined by HRH Prince Abdullah Al Saoud, Kamal Bahamdan, Abdullah Al Sharbatli & Ramzy Al Duhami. The Saudis were ranked No1 after the first day of qualifying but even though they slipped to third, they were still ahead of heavyweights like US and Switzerland. The Saudi team had several setbacks before the Olympics first when Sharbatli & Khaled Al Eid got a suspension that was later overturned by the Court of Arbitration and then when Al Eid's horse got ill which ruled out the former bronze medalist from competing. But still they managed to win their first medal as a team to justify the multi-million investment done by the country in the sport.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Bolt, Phelps and Federer... How did we ever question them?

Usain Bolt needed only 9.63s to remind the world how staggeringly superior he is.

Michael Phelps needed 1min54.27s to claim victory over Ryan Lochte in the 200m IM to silence his doubters and sign off his Olympic career in a profound manner.

Roger Federer had to go through two weeks, seven matches and 26 sets to return to the summit of men's tennis and win that one Wimbledon that took him to the record-equaling magic number 7.

It had been two and a half years since Federer had won a Grand Slam and he was one week shy of Pete Sampras' record of total weeks at the world No1 spot. So when he beat Andy Murray in four sets a few weeks ago to claim his seventh Wimbledon and achieve all of the above, people retraced their steps back to Federer-praising land and have gone from writing him off with speculative retirement talk to discussing his next Olympics in Rio 2016.

It's funny how harsh we tend to be on the greatest athletes of our time and it seems that the greater they are, the harsher we get!

Federer did not need a 17th Grand Slam to shut anyone up, just like Phelps did not need four more gold medals to his original 14 to prove he was a legendary swimmer. Nor did Bolt need to shatter his own ludicrously fast Olympic record in the 100m to claim he is once again the fastest man on the planet.

While I'm absolutely glad that they have gone those extra lengths to magnify their supremacy, since it only means we've witnessed some of the most astounding moments in sports history, I wonder how long it will take us to doubt them once again?

I'm not sure if it is the fact that our memory fails us, or if it's just a matter of asking too much of our own heroes but I find it shocking that we ever put such characters like Bolt, Phelps and Federer into question.

Just when I thought the Federer speculation would die down I encountered numerous tweets on my timeline today saying things like: 'But Federer still doesn't have a golden career slam and Nadal does'. My initial reaction was 'what exactly is wrong with those people?' and my second thought was 'will it ever be enough?'

If only we held ourselves to such high standards, the world would probably be infinitely classier.

If we just open our eyes and look at one of those guys' exceptional performances we'd see that their legend speaks for itself. Who am I kidding? The human race lives to judge and as I type these words, millions of people are probably waiting to see if Bolt will win the 200m so he can "REALLY" prove that he's faster than superman.  

Bolt said it best after his 100m win Sunday night:

"I said it on the track... People can talk, all they can do is talk. When it comes to championships I bring it."

LONDON 2012: Day 9: Olympic heroes of the day - Usain Bolt and Andy Murray

Usain Bolt proved once again that he is the fastest man on the planet by shutting up the doubters and the naysayers to defend his 100m title clocking a new Olympic record (which was also set by him in Beijing) of

9.63s. In doing so, he joined Carl Lewis (1988) as the only men to win back-to-back 100m Olympic titles. If he wins the 200m he'll be the first to win four gold medals in the 100m & 200m combined.

"I said it on the track, people can talk, all they can do is talk. When it comes to championships I bring it." -- Usain Bolt after winning his second 100m gold medal.

Andy Murray cruised past Roger Federer 6-2, 6-1, 6-4 to avenge his loss to the Swiss in the Wimbledon final a few weeks ago. It was Federer's first straight sets loss on Centre Court at Wimbledon in 10 years (to Mario Ancic in 2002). Murray leaves the Olympics with two medals, a gold in singles and a silver in mixed doubles (with Laura Robson). Meanwhile Serena and Venus Williams won a record third gold medal in doubles to take the Williams family's total Olympic medal tally to 8 golds.

Honorable mention to: the Saudi Arabian showjumping team who are currently ranked #1 after the first team qualification round. In the individual rankings (after 2 days of qualifying), HRH Prince Abdullah bin Meteb bin Saud is ranked 1st with no penalties, Kamal Bahamdan and Ramzy Al Duhami are ranked 15th with only 2 time penalties. Only one more day of qualifying before Wednesday's final rounds. (photo via @SaudiEquestrian)

Saturday, August 4, 2012

LONDON 2012: Day 8: Olympic heroes of the day - Ennis, Farah, Mellouli, Williams, Murray

Too many heroes today. First of all British athletes Jessica Ennis and Mo Farah both delivered under the pressure of a home crowd to bring home the gold in the heptathlon and 10,000m race (respectively).

Ous Mellouli won the bronze in the 1500m freestyle race to give Tunisia their first medal of London 2012. He's been battling a nagging shoulder injury but still managed to get on that podium four years after he own the gold in Beijing. He's got the 10km marathon open water race on Friday. Double up, Ous!

Serena Williams played a monster final against Maria Sharapova. She completely thrashed the Russian four-time Grand Slam champion 6-0, 6-1 to win the gold in singles, the only accolade in women's tennis she had not won. Serena now has a golden career slam in singles and doubles. She played with her sister Venus the doubles semis after that and made the final. She could make it 2 golds on Sunday.

Andy Murray made the mixed doubles final with Laura Robson and is guaranteed 2 medals. They could be two golds but he'll have to beat Roger Federer in Sunday's final and I don't really see him doing that.

Tunisia's Habiba Ghribi (silver medalist in World Champs in Daegu last year) qualified to the 3000m steeplechase final, Egypt's Karim El Zoghby dropped one rail and had 1 time penalty in showjumping but advanced to the next round.

The photo above is not from London 2012 but from the 200m heats in Beijing 2008

Honorable mention: Egypt's Amr Seoud, the fastest man in Africa, was extremely unlucky in not being able to make it to the 100m semifinals. He raced in the same heat as Usain Bolt. He came fourth clocking 10.22s. Unfortunately only the top 3 advance automatically, and the best three losers are chosen to move on as well. His timing is amongst the top three losers but Antoine Adams was picked instead (he also clocked 10.22s) but based on his faster reaction time. SO UNLUCKY especially that Amr had a very good run.He still has a chance to do better in the 200m on Tuesday.

Friday, August 3, 2012

LONDON 2012: Day 7: Olympic hero of the day - Tirunesh Dibaba

Ethiopia's Tirunesh Dibaba defended her gold medal in the 10,000m race with a stunning last lap where she blew away her competition. It was a no contest really in the end and the 27-year-old has captured the first running medal of London 2012.

Honorable mention: Egypt's Tarek Abdelazim who was one lift away from the bronze but had to settle for 4th place after lifting a total of 380kg. He came agonizingly close to lifting 216kg in his final try to eclipse the Iranian in third place but it wasn't meant to be. He did us proud though with his amazing fighting spirit.

Special mention to Michael Phelps who ended his individual Olympic career with a gold medal in the 100m fly, beating Chad le Clos who had beaten in him in the 200m fly. It was Phelp's second threepeat of London 2012. What a way to end a monster career!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

LONDON 2012: Day 6: Olympic heroes of the day - Michael Phelps and Rebecca Soni

Michael Phelps showed everyone who's boss by winning gold in the 200m IM relegating world champion Ryan Lochte to silver. In doing so, he became the first male swimmer to win the same event in three consecutive Olympics. It was also his record 20th career Olympic medal and 16th gold. The term "legend" is not suffice, I must say. Oh and he also jumped into the pool a few minutes later for his 100m butterfly semi-final and qualified to the final with the fastest time of the night.

Rebecca Soni smashed her own world record which she had set in the semifinals to win gold in the 200m breaststroke and retain her title from Beijing 2008. She won it in a stunning 2:19.59 to become the first woman to go under 2:20.00 in this event. She says her coach used to always tell her, 'You're going to be the first woman to go under 2:20' and he was right. It was her dream since she was a girl she says to break the 2:20 barrier and now she's done it.

LONDON 2012: Day 5: Olympic hero of the day - Bradley Wiggins

British cyclist Bradley Wiggins became only the second man in history to win the Tour de France as well as the Olympics time trial gold. Credit to Wiggins though for handling the pressure like the pro that he is. GB were waiting for their first gold and no one piles pressure the way the Brits do on their own athletes. Oh and did I mention he won by 42 seconds beating the reigning champion Tony Martin? And doing that only weeks after becoming Britain's first ever Tour de France champion is incredible! Massive props to him.

Honorable mention: Egyptian weightlifter Ibrahim Ramadan who missed out on the bronze medal in the 77 kg class in the very last lift to settle for 5th. Good effort from the 24-year-old Fayoumi :)

Special mention to: Egypt's Olympic football team forward Mohamed Salah who gave yet another great performance to help book our team a quarter-final spot against Japan. For the record, Egypt is in the Olympics quarter-finals for the first time in 28 years. It was Salah's third goal in as many games. Let's hope we can keep this up with a win on Saturday.