Tuesday, 17 August 2004

athlete spotlight and other olympic observations

Today's athlete spotlight falls, somewhat controversially perhaps, on an official rather than athlete. While he may trail yesterday's standout in A's, basketball official Mario Jaime Hopenhaym Kaplansky gives nothing away in the "that-can't-seriously-be-a-real-name" stakes, and at 78 years of age is doing yeoman work in Athens, although we all wish he had filled out the "nickname" field of the profile page. Nonetheless, hats off to super Mario!

The unlucky runner-up today is this year's winner of the Eric Moussambini commemorative award for the slowest swimmer in the 100m freestyle. 20-year old Burundian Emery Nziyunvira clocked in at 1:09.40, just a shade over 20 seconds behind top qualifier Pieter van den Hoogenband's 48.70, but well off Eric Moussambini's 1:52.72 from Sydney.

"The Eel" himself was unfortunately unable to defend his title, by way of a bureaucratic bungle involving an identity photo. In truth, reports indicate that Eric would likely have been well ahead of the running in any case, having reportedly almost halved his personal best since Sydney.

As a footnote, props are also due to Ian Thorpe, who in the 200m freestyle blockbuster last night threw aside the "evil empire" stigma and defeated the aforementioned van den Hoogenband, as well as American Michael Phelps to claim his 2nd individual gold of these games. In so doing, he avenged his defeat in the same event 4 years ago in Sydney, put paid to the absurd notion that Phelps would better Spitz's gold haul from the '72 games, and cemented his place as, statistically, the most successful Australian Olympian in history.

As the above-referenced article suggests, the evil empire tag sits uncomfortably upon Australia, but it is nevertheless always comforting to see the yanks get beaten. It would be nice to imagine that we might maintain our gold-medal lead in the Athens pool, although in reality it is unlikely.

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