As the Geiger counter of Olympic-mania goes zoink, the second instalment of the Trivial Pursuits Olympics preview picks up, logically, from where with left off. Having faced some mild disappointment in the men’s road race, where Mark Cavendish and team GB seemed to get their tactics all wrong, Sunday brought some more success as Lizzie Armistead and Becky Adlington both performed admirably to secure medals in events where they weren’t the favourite.
This week has been pretty mixed so far. Tommy Daley came a devastating 4th on Monday, while the men’s gymnastics team appeared to be bringing in a silver, only to be relegated to bronze after a scoring error. This was however still a great result for a nation who hasn’t won a gymnastics medal in over 100 years.
Ellen Gandy, who was considered to be a genuine contender in the 200m butterfly lost in the heats yesterday, so won’t even be in today’s final. Hours later, much-fancied C1 canoeist David Florence crashed out before the final. At least he spared us a raft of nauseating “Florence the machine” headlines though…
There was however some cause for celebration amid the gloom, as the eventing team took home a silver medal in the equestrian. But as yet, no golds for the hosts. When will that change…?
Wednesday 1st August
Starting in a similar vein to last installment… We kick off with the Road Cycling, where Bradley “Hammer of the French” Wiggins is in serious contention to secure gold in the Men’s Time Trial at 2:15pm. Despite the disappointment on Saturday, an injury to Swiss rival Fabian Cancellara bodes well for Wiggo. This would top off a corking summer for the sideburned superstar, after he completed the most successful trip into France by a Brit since June 1944. In the Women’s event, Lizzie Armistead’s pace-setter Emma Pooley has a good shot at a gong. Competition comes from German Judith Arndt.
Earlier in the day (11:50am), on the calm waters of Eton-Dorney, the Women’s Coxless Pairs team of Helen Glover and Heather Stanning are about as dominant in their field as any of our athletes. The final takes place today and barring a superhuman effort from USA or Germany, will see a first ever gold medal for GB’s women’s rowing team. The Men’s Eight race is a total lottery, with the home team in the mixer there too.
To finish the day off, after their heroic 3-1 victory over footballing superpower the UAE, the Mens Football team must avoid defeat against Uruguay to progress. The opposition boast a dangerous frontline including Edison Cavani, Abel Hernandez and the biggest twat in football, so it will be no easy task.
Thursday 2nd August
A little less going on today, but still enough lovely Olympic goodness to wallow in. The C2 Mens Canoe Slalom sees Brit pair David Florence and Richard Hounslow’s already reasonable chances improved by the fact that they have spend two years training on the exact waterway that will be used. Not being an experienced canoeist, I have no idea how much advantage that will bring, but if there’s a straw to clutch at, I’m all hands.
Victoria Pendleton takes some time out from posing in lingerie to lead the Women’s Team Sprint Cycling team over at the velodrome, where a medal is certainly possible.
The Cold War may be over, the Berlin Wall down and there may be a McDonalds in Red Square, but the hostility between USA and Russia continues in the war-like atmosphere of the Women’s Team Gymnastics, where the two superpowers will be battling each other all the way for gold.
A few outside bets of medals in the pool again, where Fran Halsall and Ellen Gandy are in with a shout, but the main entertainment will be in the Men’s 200m Individual Medley, where US rivals Phelps and Lochte go head to head. The latter has thus-far looked far better than his older rival, but you don’t win the most Olympic golds ever without having a few tricks in your locker. Should be fascinating.
Friday 3rd August
Head out to Eton on Friday, where if all goes to plan, team GB will be following in the footsteps of many German “film-stars” and bathing in a golden shower… GB boasts favourites in the Women’s Double Scull (Watkins & Grainger), the Men’s Coxless Four (Gregory, Reed, James & Triggs-Hodge) and the Men’s Lightweight Double Scull (Purchase & Hunter), and it would take a cock-up of truly Devon Loch proportions for us to leave the lake without at least one gold here. Watkins & Grainger at 10:30am have the best chance of success, but all will be relatively disappointed with a silver.
Aside from patriotic wishful-thinking though, the real main event of the day is over at the Olympic Stadium where the Athletics finally gets underway. In most people’s minds, this is the ‘real’ Olympics. Sure the other events, from cycling to table tennis, are impressive, but I defy anyone to disagree that the sprit of the games lies in the track and field events. The crux of the day will be heats, however poster girl Jessica Ennis’ charge for Heptathalon gold gets underway with the 100m hurdles, high-jump, shot put and 200m.
Another great medal shot is in swimming (7:45pm), where Becky Adlington is looking to add to her 400m bronze in the 800m Freestyle (why isn’t it just called ‘front crawl’?), her strongest event. She’s the defending champion from Beijing, and goes into the race as favourite.
Is that enough for one day? No, you say? Oh alright then, the Men’s Team Pursuit boys go in defence of their cycling crown at 6pm, while Victoria Pendleton is a medal hope in the Keirin. Gold rush?
Saturday 4th August
The beady eye of optimism swings over to the Olympic stadium for Saturday, as Jess Ennis completes the remaining four events of her Heptathalon bid. If all has gone to plan, she’ll be crowned on Saturday afternoon, before winning Sports Personality of the Year, a damehood and becoming the official new best thing since sliced bread. Russia’s Tatyana Chernova is dangerously placed to piss on her chips though, so Ennis will need to be at her best. GB’s track king Mo Farah should be in the first of what will hopefully be two successful finals when the Men’s 10,000m takes place. Farah’s strongest field is the 5,000m, a week later, but he still has a big chance to chalk up a precious track gold for team GB here.
Back at the velodrome, we are the favourites in the Womens Team Pursuit. While fans of unwatchable endurance events can cheer on Helen Jenkins in the Triathalon, which consists of a 10,000 run, a 1,500m swim and a 40km bike… Sounds a doddle, doesn’t it? Anyhow, she’s among the favourites.
Additional entertainment from the day includes the final swimming races, including the showpiece 4x100m medley events and the sight of “blade runner” Oscar Pistoreus potentially writing a story that will no doubt be made into a film. Probably somehow starring Tom Hanks.
Sunday 5th August
The big one. And I’m not talking about shot-putters. Approximately 10 seconds after 21:50, the fastest man in the world will be crowned. No 100m final in history has had such a strong field. Usain Bolt, Yohan Blake, Justin Gatlin, Asafa Powell, Keston Biedman and Tyson Gay have all run sub-9.8s in the last 18 months. That Bolt is far from assured a victory here is stunning enough, but the fact that he is going to have to be near his best to get a medal at all is terrifying. Young Brit sensation Adam Gemili is in cracking form and could yet make the final, but in such exalted company that must surely be the extent of his hopes. If you watch one sporting event this year, make sure this is it…
Everything else seems to pale into insignificance in comparison to that event, but that’s not to say that it’s not important. Christine Ohuruogu defends her sensational 400m gold from Beijing on the track. Olympic sailing legend and first torch-bearer Ben Ainslee could pick up a fourth career gold medal in the Finn class. Gymnast Louis Smith has a great chance in the Pommel Horse. Which is presumably nothing like a hobby horse, although the sight of someone cantering around a floor mat, riding a painted stick and whinnying is an enduring mental image.
Finally, GB need to decide which of Jason Kenny or Chris Hoy they will be backing to beat merciless Frenchman Gregory Bauge in the Men’s Sprint. With only one entrant per country, the cycling committee are going to have to choose one to compete. It’s moments like this that I’m glad my hardest decisions involve colours of boxer shorts.
Monday 6th August
After the breathless action of the weekend, Monday will see things temporarily calm down, although no Olympic day is shy of a story or two… Today’s main OMFG! moment for you to tweet to your friends and followers about could be the Men’s 400m Hurdles, where GB athletics captain (a fairly token position) Dai Green has a fighting chance. Green won the 2011 World Championships in the event and has posted the 2nd fastest time this year, Puerto Rican favourite Javier Culson is a major threat though.
In other potential fairytale stories, Beth Tweddle takes on her strongest (and last-ever) Olympic event in the Asymmetric Bars. Most bars seem fairly asymmetric after a few Tequilas, so it remains to be seen whether Tweddle can get shitfaced enough to master them. Good luck to her. Along similar levels of (lack of) knowledge on my part, Laura Trott hits the velodrome in something new called the Omnium. From my recollection of Latin at school, it will either consist of a medley of different events or it will involve slaying the Hydra. My memory is a little hazy. Anyhow, it turns out that she’s rather good at it.
That’s your lot for this week then, folks. The London 2012 Olympics has been sensational so far. The excitement, the tension, the joy, the celebration… From the moment that Danny Boyle’s mad, brilliant, acid-infused vision came to life, the euphoria hasn’t died down. Let’s keep it going for the next 12 days.
Citius, Altius, Fortius.
By Harry Harland