Put the Olympic Trials on Trial

Olympic Trials.  Why even have them?  The U.S. swimming, gymnastic, diving, and track and field federations surely know who the best athletes are; if they don’t they are incompetent.  I know nothing about swimming, but even I know that Michael Phelps is the fastest swimmer in the world and the holder of 12 gold medals.  Why does he even have to qualify?  What is he doing wasting his time at the trials and risking injury?  He might stub a toe, or get swimmer’s ear.  He should be in London already acclimating to the European chlorine.

And Allyson Felix, the goddess of American track.  She also should have been sent straight to London.  Instead she faced a runoff.  What a insult.  I just say send the fastest people to London.  They’ve all been running, jumping, diving, tumbling and throwing in track meets all year.  The top athletes have already proven themselves.  Whoever has thrown the discus, shot put, javelin and the hammer the farthest this year should represent the U.S. in London.  There’s simply no need for another track meet.  The athletes should be training and saving their energy and strength for the real deal.  It’s true.

I was watching the women’s gymnastics trials last night.  The coaches in the sport know who the best gymnasts are – one of them is Nastia Liukin the reigning all around gold medalist from 2008 who shouldn’t have to qualify.  She still has the right stuff, but fell off the uneven bars and lost her chance to defend her title and bring glory to the team. Like Michael Phelps, she shouldn’t have been put in a position to have to prove herself again.  Which is just as well because now she won’t have to humiliate herself to bad musical accompaniment on the floor exercise.  Warning, this is a rant:

Memo to the U.S. Gymnastics federation:  hire a musical consultant.  The musical accompaniments to the floor routines have been utterly embarrassing.  One routine is set to music that must have been sampled from some sketchy 70’s carnival ride.  Another was pure 80’s German techno pop – it actually may have been a Kraftwerk instrumental.  Each time the gymnast tumbled, I was reminded of the SNL Sprockets skit featuring Mike Myers as Dieter.

On the subject of music, here is a playlist I put together of summer Olympic themed songs, some with explanations.

The Longest Summer – Pat Metheny.  The Olympic games really do seem to go on for three months with a few events too many.  Can’t we do without the steeplechase, an event that is just patently silly?  On the musical side of things, the Longest Summer is an absolutely gorgeous song.

Ring of Life – Pat Metheny/Brad Mehldau.  Ring, as in Olympic rings, but also boxing ring, and the gymnastic rings.  The song itself is brilliantly fresh and awe inspiring, like some of the great athletes of the Olympics.

London Blues – Brad Mehldau Trio.  Man what a great sound!  At the Olympics, not everyone wins and many will be singing the London Blues long before the flame dies out, but this blues grooves.

Free Fallin’ – Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.  Great diving song for the younger competitors anyway.

Even the Losers (get lucky some time) – Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

Jump – Van Halen.  I hate this song, I really do, but it’s got Olympic energy and there’s a lot of jumping going on – diving, triple jump, hurdles, gymnastics.  Madonna also has a song called Jump, but it’s surprisingly subdued and not Olympic material.

Born to Run – Bruce Springsteen.

Swimming Horses – Siouxsie and the Banshees.  This is a nod to the sport I’d like to see:  Water Polo on Horses.

Driver 8 – REM.  Just pretend Michael Stipe is mumbling, diver 8.

If I Had a Hammer – Peter Paul and Mary.  If I had a hammer, I’d throw it.

Hammer – Bob Marley and the Wailers.  What a great song!  Don’t mess with a hammer thrower.

Chemical Chords – Stereolab.  I don’t like to think about this, but let’s hope no athlete has a competitive chemical advantage.  Folks, this is a gloriously good song.  You’ll love it. Promise.

Olympic Cliff Diving Trials

Diving for Gold

Diving is a pretty crazy sport; it is.   I watched some of the Olympic Trials this afternoon and wondered what would possess someone to jump off a platform and do four and half flips.  That’s complete lunacy.  And the handstand into a four twisting double reverse inward triple in the pike position – come on, the name for these stunts, and they are stunts, are difficult enough.  The divers who don’t make the Olympic team I think could make a good living in the circus, the best of these might even get a gig with Cirque du Soleil some day.

Photo by Bjorn Christian Torrissen

I want to know what happened to the cliff divers?  I was hoping to watch the Olympic Cliff Diving Trials, but was deeply disturbed to find out there are none.  Now that’s a sport, both entertaining and dangerous – Close to the Edge – I guess you’d have to be a little edgy to jump off one too.  Not sure where the event will be at the London Olympics, maybe the Cliffs of Moher; careful on those jaggedy rocks, Eugene.  Though the Irish might have the home cliff advantage in the Olympics, I think the flying Dutchmen might just have the edge.