Day 11: Is Eight Enough?

As of midnight last night, I was going to have to watch this morning’s swimming session on a TV in the media center. Swimming is such a tough ticket that even members of the credentialed media have to have a ticket. And the IOC is only offering so many. (We could only score one.) So, since Luke hadn’t seen a swimming event yet, today’s ticket was his. BUT, around 1 a.m. last night, after we got back from the 100 meter finals, Luke talked his way to a second ticket. Score!

What a fun couple of hours. First, we watched Dara Torres take silver in the 50 meters by .001, the same margin Phelps won by on Saturday morning. In the medal ceremony, she cried. I think they were tears of joy, and relef. Honestly, she looked pretty content with silver.

Then, we watched the 4×100 medley relay, Phelps and Co.’s final race. His coaches said it was fitting he won his final gold medal on a team event. They were right. Besides, he had three friends to celebrate with after Jason Lezak touched the wall first and the eighth gold was no longer just a story (fairy tale) he talked about. After Lezak’s performances in these relays, I’m dying to know what Phelps plans to buy him as a thank-you present. Hey, he’s got that $1 million Speedo bonus to burn.

One of the coolest things about the morning was how many athletes turned out to watch Phelps break Spitz’s record. The entire U.S. swim team was there, as well as the Australian team and athletes from Brazil, Uganda, Spain, Canada …

But the loudest cheering section of all was the Speedo section. At the center of the group was a few of the folks who developed “the suit” and Kobe, LeBron and Jason Kidd. The U.S. basketball team cancelled practice so those guys could attend the event. It was cool to see them snapping shots and hooting and hollering for a fellow athelte. Check out my piece for more details.

This evening, I met up with the U.S. BMX team and watched some gymnastics with them. It’s cool to see Kyle, Donny, Mike and Jill finally here in Beijing. They’re all super excited, but totally overwhelmed. Right now, few people recognize them. A lot of folks, athletes included, don’t even know BMX was added to the Olympics. But I think after they start competing on Wednesday, that all will change.

As for gymnastics, not to harp on the new scoring system, but it is broken, and something must be done to fix it. Tonight, three athletes medaled on vault who fell (bronze), had split legs and sloppy landings (silver) and stepped out of bounds (gold). It was a shame. I spoke with the queen of the Perfect 10, Nadia Comaneci and her husband Bart Connor to find out what they think about this new system. In a word: It blows.

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