HPN #Rio2016 – Day 15 Preview

Highlight of the day

Handball – Women’s

Of all the Olympic sports, handball might be the most neglected. Handball has the speed of basketball, the tactics of water polo and the scoring of volleyball.

Two time defending champions Norway were knocked out in the semi-finals in overtime, by a plucky Russian squad. Russia topped Pool B, and have the best chance in their history of securing a gold medal. Between 2001 and 2009 Russia won 4 world championships, but failed to break through at Olympic level. Russia got through the pool stage undefeated but face a redux of their toughest challenge to date in the final.

France lost to Russia by a single point in the round robin stage, after surrendering five extra shots on goal during their game. France weren’t considered medal threats going into the games, but have performed extremely well to date. Russia probably goes in as a slight favourite, but a French victory would be a great underdogs story in an Olympics full of them.

The aforementioned Norway will face off against the second ranked Netherlands squad in the bronze medal playoff.

Probably should watch

Basketball – Women’s

This should be a close…

HAHAHAHAHA no the USA will dominate Spain here, like they do to every other nation every four years. The real competition to the USA here were Australia, and specifically Liz Cambage, but they were knocked out by Serbia (by only 2 points) in the quarterfinals. The US have a phenomenal amount of depth, and beat Spain by 40 points in the round robin stage. There’s no reason to believe that the tide has turned that much in the course of a week or so.

Water polo – men’s

The gold medal match is between reigning world champions and World Cup winners (those are different things) Serbia and reigning Olympic champions Croatia. With any luck we’ll get a match best described as “spiteful” between the two Balkan rivals. The Serbs struggled a bit in the group stage before hitting their stride (stroke?) but are the more recently high-credentialed team. Bronze will be between Montenegro and Italy.

Soccer – Men’s

The Olympic men’s soccer tournament can be a bit lacklustre due to its subordinate billing as an under-23 tournament compared to continental championships and World Cups. However in this particular case we get the intrigue of Brazil vs Germany for gold. That means all the fervent hopes of the host nation are for an under-23 squad to avenge the humiliation inflicted on their open age World Cup team in a forum that fundamentally doesn’t matter much to world football.

Bronze is between the far more interesting Honduras and Nigeria with Nigeria favoured strongly to win.

Golf – Women’s

This has been a surprisingly good competition, full of flows and ebbs with a top quality field. Former world number 1 Inbee Park has a two stroke lead heading into the final round, with current number one, Kiwi Lydia Ko, breathing down her neck.

Triathlon – Women’s

Triathlon is a strange watch, as each athlete seems to have a different skill set and abilities to exploit. Gwen Jorgensen is the two-time defending ITU World Series Champion, and will start as favourite. Flora Duffy has had a very strong year to date, and could be a very good news story for a small nation.

Athletics – Women’s 800m, High Jump, Women’s 4x400m; Men’s 1500m, 5000m, Javelin, 4x400m

Caster Semenya is phenomenal as an athlete, and anyone who wants to argue with this can stop reading this blog right here. Semenya will win the 800m and it will be brilliant.

The 1500m is a classic Olympic event – harking back to the old school mile. Times have moved on from the 4 minute mark, with Ronald Kwemoi qualifying fastest for the final in 3:39mins. Asbel Kiprop has the fastest time of the year and is a quality closer, with Ayanleh Souleiman a fair chance of getting a rare medal for Djibouti.

Chaunté Lowe might be the favourite in the high jump, but Inika McPherson might have the best story of the event. It’s very likely that no-one jumps higher for their height than McPherson, who stands a mere 5ft 4inches. Coming off a recent 21 month ban for cocaine use, McPherson is must-watch TV.

Mo Farah is an absolute beast, doping question marks aside. He should be the favourite here, as long as he doesn’t fall. Thomas Röhler comes in as a strong favourite in the javelin, but Keshorn Walcott uncorked a massive throw in qualifying. And both the male and female 4x400m should be fought out between the Jamaica and the USA.

Watch if it’s on

Modern Pentathlon – Men’s

The final event in the Modern Pentathlon is called the “Run & Shoot”, and it’s kind of as badass as it sounds. The format opens the door for the kinds of upset that Chloe Esposito was able to pull off last night, rising from seventh after three legs to win in the final 800m.

Unfortunately the first three legs are pretty boring. Fencing is a dull watch at the best of times, let alone outdoors with non-full time pros. The horse jumps can be interesting, but this isn’t the best of the best here. And slow swimming reminds us of the last time we tried to exercise.

But that last leg is dope. Aleksander Lesun set an Olympic record in the fencing leg, with world champ Valentin Belaud bound to provide a challenge.

Diving – Men’s 10m platform

Heading into the morning semifinals, Tom Daley had the best dives, slightly ahead of Qiu Bo and Chen Aisen and reigning gold medallist David Boudia. Aisen, Boudia and Daley were part of the gold, silver and bronze synchronised teams (China, USA, Britain respectively). Those preliminary scores get reset but anyone else winning other than those four would be a bit of a shock and the Chinese would be favourites within that grouping.

Wrestling – Men’s freestyle 86kg, 125kg

Today sees the hugest men wrestling for gold in the 125kg division. Two-time reigning world champion Taha Agkul will be favourite, and Geno Petriashvili is a rising 22 year old and probably the best comeptition to him. Jamaladdin Magomedov is slightly older and Biyal Makhov is ranked 2 in the woeld. Those four should be your gold threats.

In the lighter 86kg division Abdulrashid Sadulaev is the most dominant favourite in men’s freestyle wrestling, having essentially not lost for three years. Selim Yasar is considered the only one likely to last the distance with him.

Badminton – men’s singles

The two top seeds, Lee Chong Wei and Chen Long, won through to the gold medal match and the third and fourth seeds, Lin Dan and Viktor Axels, play for bronze. So that’s rather neat. Well done seeders.

Volleyball – women’s indoor

2nd ranked in the world China meet 6th ranked Serbia in a bit of a shock turnup for this tournament. Out of the group stage these teams collectively won 5 of their ten games and finished 3rd and 4th, with China winning 2 and losing 3. In the knockouts the Chinese rallied to get through 3rd-ranked Brazil and 14th-ranked Netherlands but the Serbians had to upset the 1st and 4th ranked Americans and Russians to get here.

Bronze is the Netherlands versus the USA.

Canoe Sprint – Men’s canoe doubles 1000m, Men’s kayak single 200m, Men’s kayak four 1000m, Women’s kayak four 500 m

The last day of paddling boats unless something funky happens in the sailing or the weather isn’t right.

The FREAKING NORSE GODS ARE COMING TO SAVE THE FREAKING DAY canoe doubles is the only time you can see two men standing atop their boats, knee up, paddling the same boat stoically with a single oar. OBSERVE HOW AWESOME THEY LOOK WHILE DOING SO. Brazil and Germany auto-qualified and are favourites while Ukraine qualified fastest through the semi-finals.

The 200m kayak is a mad dumb sprint and the two fastest qualifiers, Liam Heath and Maxime Beaumont came through in the identical times of 34.32 seconds but we assume in a race this short a bunch of other guys might jag it through the tiny viccissitudes of short term fate instead.

In the fours, the Hungary and Belarus women were autoqualifiers and in the men’s Czechia and Germany both got home in the two heats well ahead of any rivals.

Don’t bother

Boxing – Men’s 56kg, 75kg; Women’s 51kg

OK, we’ve stopped caring about boxing now. It’s both fixed and pretty damn sexist. We suggest you stop caring too. We appreciate the effort the athletes are putting in, and aren’t trying to demean them, but Olympic boxing needs to be reformed.

Taekwondo – Men’s 80+kg, Women’s 67+kg

The more Taekwondo  we watch, the less of it we want to watch. If there’s one Olympic sport that should get the axe, this is it. BRING BACK PANKRATION!!!

Favourites are Espinoza and Galloway in the 67+kg, and Shokin and Mardani in the 80+kg

Rhythmic Gymastics – Women’s individual

One of the more bizarre showings and we suspect its existence at the Olympics is, historically, a sop to the communist world. There’s no men’s rhythmic and the gender role enforcement is strong enough that men’s floor routines in the normal artistic gymnastics don’t even use music.

Explainer: The sport involves dancing and doing flexibility and balance things while using the weapon specified in each event (clubs, ribbon, ball, and hoop) and then at the end the Russians win.

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