HPN #Rio2016 – Day 12 preview

Highlight of the day

Athletics – Women’s long jump

We’re on record as pro-long jump in terms of the spectacles and narratives it produces, the drama of foul jumps, the tension of close measurements, and the like.

The biggest point of interest here is that it’s the only competition that will see a Russian competitior, and even her participation was unsure until the last couple of days. Darya Klishina escaped the blanket ban on Russian track and field athletes due to her residency in the US for the last three years, however that nearly wasn’t enough to convince the IAAF that she was clean. Klishina’s lifetime best of 7.05m would have her in contention for the medals, if she can pull it out under immense pressure.

This is easily the highlight of a down day in terms of medal events. Brittney Reese (with the longest jump this year), Tianna Bartoletta (world champion) and Ivana Španović (best in qualifying) are probably the favourites here. Only three athletes have cleared 7m this year, Reese, Brooke Stratton and Sosthene Moguenara, which if they can reproduce it would likely be enough for a medal.

Probably should watch

Athletics – Men’s 3000m steeplechase, Women’s 200m, Women’s 100m hurdles

Kenya has a trio of steeplechase athletes who dominated their heats, have dominated (along with non-Olympian fellow Kenyans) other steeplechase events this year, and will collectively start favourites here. They are Ezekiel Kemboi, Brimin Kipruto, and Conseslus Kipruto. Kenya has every gold since Los Angeles and at least two medals every time since Seoul. Kemboi and Brimin Kipruto collected the last three gold medals. Probably the only serious non-Kenyan chance is Mahiedine Mekhissi-Benabbad who won silver in London and Beijing.

The women’s 100m hurdles is missing defending champion Sally Pearson, but the progress in the event since 2012 would likely have her struggling for a medal. Kendra Harrison has been a revelation in the event since transferring schools to Kentucky in 2013, and broke the 28 year old world record earlier this year. Only seven times under 12.50 have been recorded this year; Harrison has six of them.

Harrison, like Pearson, is not going to Rio.

The remaining time under 12.50 was run by Brianna Rollins, who did qualify for Rio. She will enter the race as the strong favourite.

With the absence of Allyson Felix and elimination of Victoria Campbell-Brown, the 200m shapes as being relatively open. Dafne Schippers has looked extremely impressive so far, but Ahye and Bowie look like they have a lot more in the tank.

Table tennis – Men’s team

The final event in the Table Tennis schedule for 2016. Scoring is a count of match wins, with 3 out of 5 winning. The gold medal match is China vs Japan and you can already guess the overwhelming favourite in that one – they haven’t even dropped a match yet. Bronze is third seed South Korea vs second seed Germany.

Wrestling – Women’s freestyle 58 kg

We wrote about Kaori Icho previously as an athlete with a nearly impregnable long-term record (Yoshida competes tomorrow in the 53 kg event). Much of the interest here is in whether she can win a 4th successive gold and continue to assert her utter dominance. Icho has dropped a weight division this time, competing in the 58kg rather than 63kg class since 2014.

Remember that she simply did not lose between 2003 and earlier this year. Orkhon Purevodorj, the woman who beat her this year, lurks in the bottom half of the draw and would not meet Icho until the gold medal final. Other threats to Icho in her half of the draw include her presumptive QF opponent Elif Jale Yeşilırmak and Petra Olli who is also in the other half of the draw.

Beach volleyball – Women’s finals

The gold medal match is Germany v Brazil.  The German pair of Laura Ludwig and Liera Walkenhorst are ranked number one in the world and will start modest favourites. However, the Brazilians Agatha Bednarczuk and Barbara Seixas just dumped the Americans to the bronze in straight sets so will be full of confidence. Agatha and Barbara lost a round robin match to the Spanish paring of Elsa and Liliana, but since then have been almost flawless in their path to the finals  If they win, it will be through their seamless defensive switches between left and right and back and midcourt. Also helping will be the fanatical and often hostile home crowd support Brazilian competitors have been getting.

In the bronze final is the USA vs more Brazilians. Kerry Walsh Jennings is possibly the best ever in this sport, but will have to settle for a chance at bronze here, having missed a chance at a fourth successive gold medal. She came to Rio with a new partner (April Ross) instead of Misty May-Treanor, and playing the right side rather than the left. After the loss in the semi final they should be favourites against the other Brazilian pair of Larissa França and Talita Antunes.

Watch if it’s on

Taekwondo – Women’s 49 kg, Men’s 58 kg

Aside from the perennial controversy amongst practioners about whether points-based sport versions of traditional martial arts should even be a thing (hello karate!), one thing to look for is that rule-tinkering is ongoing, as it has been ever since Taekwondo became an Olympic sport.

Electronic scoring (on vests in London, now on headgear too in Rio) was introduced after a series of judging debacles at Beijing, and the fallout from that is still ongoing as the governing body attempts to engineer a more exciting spectacle.

In London a conservative, probing, frankly boring, front-leg jab dominated strategy came to dominate as evenly matched competitors sought to gain points with small precise kicks and minimal risk rather than employ the more aggressive and dynamic styles that were favoured before electronics and scoring system changes.

There have been changes for Rio – a smaller mat that is octagon shaped, more points for spinning head kicks, and the aforementioned addition of head sensors. More rule changes are likely after Rio – for example, there is controversy about whether the side foot sensors should be removed to prevent side-foot kicks from automatically scoring.

Top seeds tonight are  Wu Jingyu and Panipak Wongpattanakit in the women’s 49kg and Farzan Ashourzadeh and Kim Tae-hun in the men’s 58kg.

Wrestling – Women’s freestyle 48 kg, Women’s freestyle 69 kg

Along with Icho’s shot at immortality discussed above, the start of the non-Greco-Roman schedule sees two other women’s weight divisions decide their medals tonight. Points are scored based on takedowns and getting opponents into dangerous positions. There’s a knockout through to the finals, then a repechage through to a bronze medal fight.

Eri Tosaka is strong favourite in the 48kg with Feng Zhou and Natalya Vorobieva both chances in the 69kg.

Equestrian – Team jumping

More horsey jumping for some reason. Germany, USA, Netherlands and Brazil all head into the second day without any penalties in the qualifier. Since their horseys did the best at not hitting the cross bars, we assume they would thus be the best gold medal chances.

Badminton – Mixed doubles finals

The bronze medal has been won by China over China, leaving Indonesia vs Malaysia for the gold. The Indonesians would be favourites, having been seeded third, not dropped a single set, and having dispatched the number 1 seeds in the semifinal. The two teams met in the group stage, with Indonesia winning in straight sets.

Don’t bother

Boxing – Men’s welter 69 kg

Punching for points tonight for the title of “best -stan in the welterweight boxing” will be Shakhram Glyasov for Uzbekistan against Daniyar Yeleussinov for Kazakhstan.

Sailing – Women’s 470 (dinghy), Men’s 470 (dinghy)

Fun fact: there are nine kinds of boat used in current sailing events and 43 discontinued event classes because sailing is posh and dumb. Anyway here’s Yacht Rock instead.

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