Volleyball & Men's Trampoline: 23 September 2000
Evidently, they started the Olympics in earnest while we were gone and
the crowds at the train station have grown accordingly. Our path
through Central Station to the train has typically been about a 50 meter
walk. Today, we went in the usual way but found ourselves routed
through a looong exit tunnel that eventually took us outdoors on the rear
side of the station. Then (with cheerful Official Volunteers urging
us on every step of the way) we walked around the whole building, came
back in another door, and finally made our way to the platform with
the trains to Olympic Park. At one point as we schlepped along the
back side of the building, a volunteer was cheerfully calling "Smile, only
200 meters to go!" There was even a band playing along the
way to entertain the crowd as it filed past. Had to have been over
600m altogether. But despite the long walk and the crowds, everyone
seemed to be in a pretty good mood.
|Out at the Park, we made our way into Pavillion 4 for men's volleyball.
Some Things You Never Wanted to Know: 752 volleyballs will be used
for volleyball matches in these Olympics, and it's estimated that players
will hit the ball 111,200 times during the tournament.
The first match featured defending Olympic champion Netherlands (orange)
vs Egypt (white). Egypt jumped out to an early 8-6 lead, but Netherlands
came back to put them away 25-21, then easily won the second set 25-11.
"Wait," I can hear you asking, "what's the deal with 25 point games?"
Well, FIVB (the international volleyball federation) recently changed to
rally scoring (a point scored on every rally regardless of who serves)
and the 25 point winning score came with the change. And because
White Is Stodgy, the game also now uses a tri-colored ball (white, yellow,
||During timeouts and other stoppages of play, we enjoyed the artful
broomwork of the kids from South Adelaide High School who tried to make
synchronized mopping into an Olympic event (left) and admired the stylized
tulips on the warm-up jackets of the Netherlands subs (right).
||While some players hit "floater" (knuckleball) serves, others launched
powerful jump serves at speeds up to 114 km/h or 69 mph (left) -- which
we knew because the speed of each serve was posted immediately after it
happened. Egypt fought back despite being pretty outclassed and won
a hard-fought third set 33-31. At right, you can see one of the other recent
changes in international volleyball: the libero player, who
wears a different color jersey and can substitute at will in the back row.
Egypt also threatened in the fourth set, trailing only 16-15, but Netherlands
finally closed them out at 25-20.
|The second match featured Argentina (bronze medalists from the Atlanta
Games in 1996) and Yugoslavia. Argentina (in the light blue and white
on left side of net) took the opening set 25-21 as expected, but then folded
as Yugoslavia (red jerseys) went on to win the next three sets and the
match in a bit of an upset 25-15, 25-23, 25-22.
|The evening's entertainment was the first-ever gymnastics competition
in Men's Trampoline. We had great seats for this one: Front
row, right behind the area where the gymnasts awaited their turn to compete.
||A few minutes later, the stirring Fanfare broke out that heralds the
beginning of each competition and medals ceremony, and the athletes came
into the arena. It's actually a terrific fanfare; we've taken to
singing along with it; my self-assigned part is the horn rips (BRRR-UP!
||And then they were off (or rather, up!). These photos don't show
the full height that the gymnasts soared to because they were shot in the
middle of various tricks, but believe me they caught some big air!
The colorful costumes made guys like Markus Wiesner (Switzerland, left)
and Daisuke Nakata (Japan, right) look like superheroes. (Nakata
unfortunately came down to earth in the finals, getting too near the edge
during his routine and wiping out.)
To root on favorite son (and eventual bronze medalist) Mathieu Turgeon,
the Canadian contingent picked up on the "Aussie, Aussie, Aussie -- Oi,
Oi, Oi" cheer with a twist, yelling "Canada, Canada, Canada -- Eh, Eh,
The first round was used to weed the field down from twelve competitors
to eight. Scoring is the usual gymnastics-style "drop the high and
low execution scores" combined with a "degree of difficulty" score determined
jointly by two separate judges. Degree of difficulty for most routines
ranged from 12.5 to 13.5.
|Unsurprisingly, the crowd favorite was native son Ji Wallace from Australia.
While most of the competitors had their Serious Game Faces on, Wallace
was ear-to-ear grins all night long from the time he walked into the arena.
We've seen the look before -- it's basically the same I-can't-believe-they're-letting-me-do-this
look that most of the One More Time Around
Again Marching Band gets on parade days.
Order of competition in the preliminaries was randomly determined,
but the finals were contested in reverse order of the standings after the
prelims. Mathieu Turgeon of Canada, who finished fifth in the prelims,
led after completing his routine in the finals. Ji Wallace, who had
finished fourth, then did a great routine (left) with a difficulty in the
high 13's that left him in the lead. Now he had to sweat out the
three remaining competitors, two of whom (best friends Dmitri Polyarush
of Belarus and Alexandre Moskalenko of Russian Federation) had unretired
just to be in this competition when trampolining became an Olympic medal
Polyarush did a nice routine ... but with lower degree of difficulty.
Not enough to get past Turgeon or Wallace, whose grin threatened to meet
in the back of his head as he embraced his coach knowing he had won a medal
(right). The question now: Which color?
||David Martin (France) followed with another fine effort that didn't
hit medal territory. Wallace is now guaranteed at least a silver
medal, and "Oi Oi Oi"s are raising the rafters in the Superdome.
Only Moskalenko is left ... and he comes through like a true Olympic champion
under pressure, scoring 9.4's with an incredible 14.0 degree of difficulty
(left). A clear winner, he took a well-deserved victory lap (right).
Wallace gets the silver, and Turgeon nabs the bronze.
||We were kept occupied while they set up for the medal ceremony but
an exhibition of women's synchronized trampolining. I had two reactions:
(1) the precision of these athletes overcoming the implacable pull of gravity
is really impressive; (2) please God don't let them make this a medal sport.
Sorry -- difficulty does not an Olympic sport make. (Although to
be fair, it's a much better idea than ballroom dancing, which is
also angling for Olympic inclusion and starts making you long nostalgically
for the croquet medals bestowed in the 1904 Games.)
||Eventually, they hauled out the medal podiums, blared out the fanfare
(Janet: "Duh-duh-dat-dat-dat-daaaaah!" Steve: "BRRR-UP!
BRRR-AAAHHHH!"), awarded the medals, and raised the flags of the winners.
||A highly satisfactory inauguration to Olympic Trampolining, especially
since all three winners seemed pretty darned pleased with their showing.
|We joined the rest of the crowd pouring down Olympic Promenade.
News reports estimated that half a million people moved through the park
today, and from the crush of the crowd we had no trouble believing it.
Still, everyone is in a pretty good mood, so even the long shuffle back
to the train station isn't unbearable. We even collected a new variant
on the "Aussie" cheer -- three happy fellows wrapped in their national
flag chanting "Kozzie, Kozzie, Kozzie -- Kazakhstan!"
Finally back at the hotel around midnight, we headed for our separate
rooms and opted for room service for a long-delayed dinner. We actually
tried stopping into the pub across the street, but they had given up on
food for the evening. Besides, room service had two other attractions
going for it. First, it was basically free. As part of the
hotel package, Cartan Tours evidently arranged for a food credit with the
hotel of AU$20 per person per day. This would have been a better
idea if we were ever actually at the hotel at mealtime (most days we were
at the Park), but this was one opportunity to whittle away at the credit.
(Besides, we got to see the disgusted look on Ken's face the next day when
he described his surprise at discovering that his hamburger came plastered
not only with six slices of tomato, but a fried egg to boot!)
Room service also gave us the chance to watch this evening's edition
of The Dream while we waited for food and then ate. Roy (Slaven)
and H.G. (Nelson) host The Dream each night starting around 11PM
on Channel Seven (the Australian Olympics broadcaster). The show
is part daily recap, part Jay Leno, part Saturday Night Live, and part
Monty Python's Flying Circus -- and the best thing we've seen on Australian
television. Most of it is highly irreverent: Bantering interviews
with actual Games athletes ("So how exactly did you get to be interested
in jumping over tall things?"); footage of Lowlights (tonight's included
both a weightlifter dropping a weight back over his head and poor Daisuke
Nakata from the trampolining); hushed but twisted commentary of events
(a long table tennis rally described “Ping -- Pong -- Ping -- Pong”, completely
made-up names like "Crazy Day" for gymnastics moves); and lots of Other
Stuff You Don't Usually See on Television like: full-frontal footage (un)coverage
of a male streaker, underwater shots of waterpolo players gaining an advantage
by grabbing each other's trunks and Delicate Parts ("I believe that's the
Squirrel Grip, H.G."), two wrestlers on the floor sweating and riding each
other to Barry White singing "Can't Get Enough of Your Love, Babe".
Our cuppa tea!