Thursday, August 21, 2008

Boudia, Finchum Both Want To Be The Top

U.S. Olympic divers David Boudia and Thomas Finchum are partners in synchronized 10m platform, but in the individual 10m, they strive to beat each other and everyone else to win the gold. However, as good friends who both live and train in the Indianapolis, Indiana area, they each make it clear that if one doesn't win they hope the other one does. They are very supportive of one another and have only good things to say. You can tell it's all genuine because they are just so sweet and wholesome like all Hoosiers are.

David Boudia and Thomas Finchum have gotten a lot of attention during the 2008 Beijing games. Early on they only finished fifth in the synchronized event, but their time on air has made a lot of people take notice of the Olympian's talent and boyish good looks. Many favorable comments have been made on the internet by their new admirers. NBC appears to be aware of the interest in them as it frequently shows the pair in the stands watching their fellow divers in the other diving competitions.

David BoudiaDavid Boudia started out at age 5 as a gymnast. He did that for five years but then turned to diving. It was during his gymnastics phase that he first thought about being an Olympian. His earliest memory from watching the Olympics was when he saw the U.S. girls of "The Magnificent Seven" winning the team gold in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. Boudia remembers feeling the excitement with them and knowing that's what he wanted to do also.

While in high school, David Boudia left his public school to be be home schooled. Boudia said, "I definitely think since I've left Noblesville [High School], it's been harder to have a social life, but I am able to have one after practice because when my friends are at school, I'm training. When I'm done with training, I'm able to go and have a good time. It's definitely good to have a social life, and after the Olympics, I'll have even a bigger one when I go to Purdue." Boudia is very excited about being a Boilermaker after Beijing. "Really, right when I get off the plane, I'll be packing up and going to school at Purdue," Boudia said.

When David Boudia prepares himself at Beijing for diving off of the platform, he'll likely find a secluded spot and watch the movie Miracle about the U.S. Olympic hockey team winning a gold medal at 1980 winter games. It's been an essential part of his ritual since 2007. Another thing he does is listen to "Thunderstruck" by AC/DC before his first dive and then listen to more upbeat music to keep his energy up as the competition progresses.

Thomas FinchumThomas Finchum got his start in diving when his grandmother noticed him jumping off houseboats on family trips and gave him some pointers and encouraged the family to sign him up for formal diving lessons. The rest is history as Thomas Finchum has become one of the best divers in the world. He trains six hours a day, six days a week, but does find time to enjoy other interests like music, computers and movies.

One of the interesting things about Thomas Finchum is the growth spurt he experienced. At the 2004 U.S. Olympic he was a skinny little kid, 5'3" and 92 pounds. Four years later he had grown to be 6'1" and 150 pounds, enduring aches to his back, wrist and knees along the way. David Boudia is a muscular 5'9" and his size, strength and quickness allow him to do a more difficult dives than the taller Finchum. Thomas Finchum is now long and lean and he can't twist and flip as easily as Boudia. Instead, Finchum adds polish and artistry to his dives.

What I will miss about David Boudia and Thomas Finchum after the Olympics.

David Boudia video

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Jonathan Horton Is A Star On The Bar

Jonathan Horton, the star of the 2008 U.S. men's gymnastics team, went big for his last routine in Beijing and it paid off with an individual silver medal on the high bar. At 5'1", Horton disproves the claim that everything's bigger in Texas, but making up for it with great skill, big personality, and effusive language, he showed that American spunk could triumph even while the Chinese men were dominating the sport.

Going into the event Horton knew that his usual high bar routine would not score high enough for a medal, so in the three days preceding the competition, he planned on how to add the extra difficulty that would give him the added points that he felt he needed to make it to the medals stand. Amazingly, when he did his more difficult routine he did it superbly and actually received higher scores from every judge than the gold medalist did. Unfortunately, the difficulty of the gold medalist's routine was still .3 higher and that was enough to give him an overall .025 edge over Horton.

Earlier, in the all-around competition, Horton placed 9th, but was only 4/10 of a point from the silver medal.

Zou KaiThe gold medal on the high bar went to Chinese gymnast Zou Kai (left), who had previously also won the gold for the floor exercise. Zou is a very fresh-faced 20 year old. He's cute but I don't think I find him attractive enough to say I really want his wonton.

The stud of the event was of course Jonathan Horton. The Olympics coverage has made him a popular figure with the television viewers, who have admired his big muscles and his little baby maker bump. He looked pretty good in both the white and the red team shirts, although I really like the blue one he wore for the high bar. On the other hand, it does kind of make him look a little less like a junior Super Friend and more like someone who is just ready to crawl into their race car shaped bed.

Fabian HambuechenThe third man on note is bronze medalist Fabian Hambuechen of Germany. I wouldn't have minded if he had won the gold, but that would be just so the Aryan in me could hear and sing along with "Das Lied der Deutschen". The thing I have no explanation for is why Fabian Hamb├╝chen kept embracing and touching Jonathan. Fabian apparently wanted to get close but Jonathan's attitude seemed to be more "Can't we just be friends?"

*** I want to add a statement here that I don't understand why people on the internet are so critical of Tim Daggett. Sometimes he has to be the messenger of news that viewers don't want to hear, but he's just giving an honest assessment. He's a sweetheart and I like him.

Inexplicable reference to being gay and shirtless inserted here.

Jonathan HortonJonathan Horton enjoying the afterglow (of winning the medal, not from being with Fabian)

Jonathan HortonJonathan ritualistically praying to the chalk bucket

Jonathan HortonJonathan ready to be disappointed again from finding a "You must be this tall to use this apparatus" sign

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Olympian Raj Bhavsar

The news media presents Michael Phelps' gold medals as the highlight of the Beijing Olympics, but for me the highlight is the triumph of Raj Bhavsar and the U.S. men's gymnastics team in earning the bronze medal in the team competition. My heart sings, "O joy! O glorious rapture!"

I had admired Raj for his ability going back to the beginning of the decade and was disappointed when I found out he wasn't going to be on the 2004 Athens Olympic team. For whatever reason, I hadn't seen or paid attention to whatever happened prior to the start of the games and was just surprised when I watched the competition and saw Raj, who I at least knew was one of our star gymnasts, not on the arena floor with our American team. Then I found out the circumstances of how he had deserved to be on the team but had been passed over so that someone else could be included. This really bothered my sense of right and wrong. My hope was that if Raj could, that he would come back in 2008 and get a second chance.

I watched the nationals and the trials this year and felt good that Raj would comfortably be put in the middle of our six member team, no problem. When I heard that Raj had been cheated a second time and denied inclusion, I felt sick to my stomach. For someone to come back after four years and at his age do better than almost all of the other entrants and then be robbed again, I felt terrible for the injustice that was being done in my country's name. It is my belief and I have no doubt in my mind, that the basis for his exclusion was blatant discrimination. That conclusion is not based on emotion; it is based on deductive reasoning. There is no other rational explanation, although pretexts have been referred to such as some mysterious, complex formula that determined third in trials wasn't really third.

I've never met the man, although I did once get his autograph at an exhibition in Indianapolis, and I don't know any more about him that what is generally known by the public. What I do know about him from what I have seen, is that this is a man that embodies all that I have been told that the Olympics is all about. He's a fighter, he's a champion, he's a role model, and happily he's all-American.

So I celebrate the victory of our American team and in particular the ability of one of its members to overcome adversity and to win not only for himself but for everyone that has ever earned something by great endeavor and then had it stolen away. Huzzah!

Photo of U.S. men's gymnastics team

I had though about titling this post "Little Raj, Happy at Last", as a too cute reuse of the title of the Gloria Vanderbilt bio-pic, but I realized that with Raj's amazing attitude he was and would be happy no matter what, and the most important thing is to acknowledge that Raj has taken the rightful title that no one else can take from him again.