Happy Hump Day, everyone. This midpoint of the workweek means it’s the perfect opportunity to take another look at the current leading nations in the Olympic medal count.
China has extended their lead over the United States in both gold medals and total medals ever so slightly, but neither country is even close to being knocked out of the top two. The American’s won’t be willing to concede the top spot just yet as a number of their strongest bids have yet to compete in medal events including one match that will GUARANTEE Team USA a gold.
Great Britain is also continuing to thrive as they host the games, but it’s a former British territory that we continue to have our eye on. Through Sunday, Australia had only one gold medal. But in the last two days, the Aussies have added three more in cycling, sailing, and track and field.
But they aren’t the only nations to have made headlines early in the week as evidenced in our Day 11 Olympic Recap.
Stateside Stunner: USA ‘B Team’ Knocks off Top Women’s Beach Volleyball Duo
It was the kind of match Olympic organizers envisioned when they made beach volleyball an Olympic sport for the first time in 1996. In the semifinals of the women’s bracket, the top-ranked Brazilian tandem of Juliana Felisberta Silva and Larissa Franca faced a US team — Jen Kessy and April Ross — that didn’t even qualify for the Beijing Games.
It was scripted like a Hollywood blockbuster, too. Juliana and Larissa, who are actually often referred to by the their first names formally rather than their last, were a brash and confident team that had beaten the Americans nine times in a row. Kessy and Ross were talented, to be sure, but forever existed in the massive shadow cast by all-time greats Misty May-Treanor and Kerry Walsh Jennings.
All three sets between Kessy and Ross and Larissa and Juliana were closely fought. In the first, Juliana and Larissa led by one when two straight serves clipped the net and dribbled over expanding the Brazilian’s lead to three. Kessy and Ross were never able to catch up and eventually lost the 21-15.
Now on the ropes and the rain beginning to fall even harder, Team USA hunkered down and scrapped out a tough 21-19 victory in the second set. By the end of it, the outspoken Larissa was visibly frustrated and took multiple opportunities to verbally assault her teammate Juliana.
In the third, which is only played to 15. The two teams were neck and neck before Kessy and Ross jumped out to a 14-10 match point lead off, of all things, an error-caused ace. But when the Americans failed to convert to straight match points and Larissa and Juliana pulled to within two, Team USA called a time out to settle themselves down. It turns out that’s all they needed because, on the next play, it was over.
Now Kessy and Ross will play their American teammates May-Treanor and Walsh Jennings in an all-USA gold medal match.
Raisman Raises the Hardware
Suffice it to say, Aly Raisman has had a tumultuous Olympics. Just days in, her shining performance in the qualifying round of the individual all-around competition bounced gold medal favorite and fellow teammate Jordan Wieber out of the finals. Then, in said finals, AFTER winning one gold medal with her team in the team finals, Raisman finished third, but lost her chance at another medal on a technicality-based tiebreaker.
But that’s okay. She bounced back on the last day of gymnastics.
Raisman, the Women’s Gymnastics Team captain, started the day by winning bronze in the balance beam. The medal-winning finish came as a surprise to all, including Raisman and teammate Gabby Douglas, who finished seventh in the event due to a fall.
But then Aly REALLY shined. In the finals for floor exercise, Raisman absolutely stole the show as well as the gold medal. Her U.S. partner, who for this event was Jordan Wieber, once again finished seventh. What does that mean? It means Raisman broke through to become the most decorated medalist of the famed ‘Fab Five’ in just one day.
There wasn’t as much hype surrounding Raisman entering the games as there was for juggernauts Douglas and Wieber, but the one thing everyone seemed to know about her was that she was extremely consistent. In a sport where one mistake may be the difference between being first and being the worst (as Gabby Douglas was in one of her individual medal events), that turned out to be the most important attribute of all.
Political Games: Seven Cameroon Athletes Missing, Possibly Seeking Asylum
In an Olympic Games that hasn’t been short on off-the-field happenings, another development has started to take place in the UK, a chilling reminder that the Olympics are only a brief respite from the troubles of the world.
According to Team Cameroon Chief David Ojong in a reported message to his government, seven Cameroonian athletes — five boxers, a swimmer, and a soccer player, left the Olympic Village sometime during the weekend and have not returned.
No one knows the intentions of the athletes just yet and, for now, foul play is not suspected, but there were rumors before the Olympics that some of the Cameroonian delegation might try to stay in Great Britain. Furthermore, according to one radio sportscaster, the athletes had a long list of grievances against their government in relation to their support for competing in these games and would jump at the opportunity to switch their nationalities.
But so far, that really is all that is known at this time. The British Home Office, the country’s immigration body, would not confirm that the seven athletes had applied for asylum and Scotland Yard wouldn’t even confirm that the group is officially listed as missing.
What’s even crazier is this apparently isn’t even the first instance of this at these games. Three Sudanese competitors reportedly left their delegation before the Opening Ceremonies over a week ago and the embassy had confirmed that at least one had definitely applied for asylum.
Weightlifter Nearly Feels ‘That Crushing Feeling’
A scary moment came Tuesday in Men’s Weightlifting when one competitor narrowly missed what could’ve been a harrowing disaster. As if that wasn’t enough drama for you, it involved the defending Olympic gold medalist.
German weightlifter Matthias Steiner attempted to lift and 196-kilogram load (about 432 pounds) in the portion of the competition called the snatch. Steiner shot the weight up to his shoulders without a problem. Then, as he attempted to raise the load above his head, his arms gave out and the barbell came crashing down on his neck.
The whole thing happened so fast, it wasn’t immediately clear whether the bar had hit his neck or even pinned it to the ground. Medical personnel quickly rushed to Steiner’s side as three event steward’s stretched a banner between the platform and the audience to give the athlete and the technicians some privacy. Moments later, Steiner got up and walked off under his own power but did not come back out for his third attempt.
Diehard Olympic fans will remember Steiner for his heroics at the Beijing Games when he completed a lift that equated to something of a ‘Hail Mary’ to steal gold in an emotional victory just a year after losing his wife in a car accident.
NOTE: This story was also published on SportsHead. To read this article and others click here.
When Bryan isn’t writing, he is on Twitter! Make sure you give him a follow @bclienesch for Olympic updates and other shenanigans!