The Rio Olympics: A Dog In Heats

It the best of the times, it was the most boring of times. Last night’s Olympic coverage was a mixed bag, at best. There were a few thrilling moments in the pool, but then, good God, did we spend a lot of time watching track and field HEATS. Not even semifinals! Semi-semi finals. Do you even care about that? Will you even remember? Even the athletes looked bored!

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I will not go through heat by heat, because they were so, so boring. Some notable names to keep in mind for more exciting times to come: American Gil Roberts (from Texas Tech), Bralon Taplin (from Texas A&M, racing for Granada), Jamaican(me crazy) Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce (defending her 100m gold). Hopefully you can watch them do something interesting for actual medals at some point. There’s also Mississippi’s own Tori Bowie, whom we see cook up a plate of food with her family and revisit her high school and cry and cry and cry, and it’s all very sweet. Maybe she’ll win a medal. I guess we’ll find out another day!

Meanwhile, we see glimpses of other seemingly much more interesting events. Like when Molly Huddle set a new American record in the women’s 10,000m, which, even though that sounds like a lot of boring running to watch for a very long time, would’ve ended with a medal, had we seen it. There’s also a few clips from day one of the women’s heptathalon, which also seems more interesting than the heats we saw because in addition to running, they are also throwing things. Much like I am, at my television, when they announce another running heat.
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Oh, there was also Michelle Carter winning the first ever gold in shot put for the U.S. We only see her final, winning throw, but it’s still enough to be seriously impressive. Not only does this make Carter the first U.S. woman to win shot put gold, it also makes her part of the first father-daughter combo to win Olympic medals. (Her father won the silver in shot put in the 1984 Los Angeles games.) Boy, would I have rather watched more shot putting than these track heats!
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Luckily we do get some genuine excitement in the pool. It’s time for the women’s 200m backstroke, which Missy Franklin won in London. Except! Now! Franklin didn’t qualify for the final. Oh, jeez, is this another snoozer? Even the announcers seem disinterested. There is another American, some Maya Dirando, but the announcers want us to know this is not her best event, so don’t get your hopes up or anything. Swim swim swim, and, wait, what’s that?! Is that Maya Dirado rocketing toward the wall at the end?!!! It is! Even she seems surprised to win the gold when she pops up from under the water. Well, damn. Don’t tell Maya Dirado what she can’t do.

Michael Phelps surprised everyone by NOT winning a gold medal in his final individual swim in Rio, losing the 100m butterfly to Singapore’s Joseph Schooling. Fun facts about that: This is Singapore’s first Olympic gold, and Phelps was actually Schooling’s childhood hero. There’s even an awkward photo of 13-year-old Schooling posing with Phelps when Phelps was in that sort of gross/sexy pornstache phase.

Then it’s time for Katie Ledecky, the human fish (not this one, this one) to get back in the pool for the 800m freestyle and what happens next is actually bonkers. Not only did she win gold, not only did she break her own world record, she beat the person who came in second place by more than 11 seconds. Put another way, Usain Bolt could have run 100 meters in the time between Katie’s finish and the silver medalist’s. It’s nearly twice the margin of victory of every single men’s race in Rio COMBINED. These things usually come down to hundredths of a second. Eleven seconds by comparison is a downright uncomfortable amount of time to be waiting for a SILVER MEDAL WINNING ATHLETE. Do you think Katie got lonely? Was she bored? I can’t even sit on the toilet without my cell phone. I bet she wishes she was playing Pokemon Go until the other swimmers arrived. She could’ve caught a Magikarp.

Here she is SO FAR AHEAD the other swimmers are going the opposite direction:
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That wasn’t the only U.S. gold in the pool Friday night. Anthony Ervin won gold in the 50m freestyle. It’s such a short, explosive race, I can’t tell what’s going in all the splashing the whole way across the pool. I also can’t tell if Ervin is either a sexy swim daddy or someone who was definitely in a pop-punk band in the early-aughts, or maybe both! Fellow American Nathan Adrian takes bronze.

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My new favorite Olympian Simone Manuel earned a spot in the 50m freestyle final, which is great, I’m for sure still rooting for her. The semifinal was actually rescheduled to later in the evening because a van full of swimmers were definitely not abducted or robbed on the streets of Rio, but their Uber driver or whatever just happened to take them to the wrong venue.
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Kerry Walsh Jennings and April Ross won another match on their road to obvious gold. Cool. Kerry wrote “Joy” on her hand, which for some reason makes me so mad! Her joy is causing me rage.

We got caught up on the soccer dramz too, where apparently the U.S. goalie Hope Solo — known to be a bit of a troublemaker — called the Swedes “cowards” after losing to them in the quarterfinals. Then she said the game was rigged, accused the Swedes of founding ISIS and tweeted: “Failing media claims I called Swedes cowards, NOT TRUE. Don’t they get sarcasm? Actually called them losers. SAD.” [Ed. Note: Almost none of this actually happened.]

At least the night ended on a high note. We followed Johnny Weir and Tara Lipinski as they prepared for Carnival. First it’s Tara and Johnny stomping around Rio in caftans as Lipinski — obviously and awkwardly reading in voiceover — says: “in Rio, it’s about the parties, not the panoramics.” Yeah, sure. Ok! Very natural thing humans say all the time. But whatever! If it means we get these two decked out in sequins and awkwardly shimmying on a giant light-up float, I am in. Even Weir describes the whole things as “an entire salad bar of crazy.”

Truly, these two are the crunchy bacon bits on top of the boring bed of running heats iceberg lettuce I choked down earlier.

Tonight, Therese picks up the baton for men’s long jump, more running, and the last night of swimming.

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