The NFL Joins the Olympics

American football isn’t likely to become an Olympic event anytime soon, but the WSJ wondered what would NFL players excel in if they did participate in the Olympics. Meet Tim Tebow in judo and Michael Vick in javelin throw:

Javelin: Michael Vick, QB, Philadelphia Eagles.Vick’s combination of linear speed and arm strength makes him one of the NFL athletes that track and field coaches dream about. “We would always wonder how far Michael Vick would throw the Javelin if he were a track athlete,” said Rob Lasorsa of the National Throws Coaches Association. The real question is how much farther the Philadelphia quarterback could throw than NFL Hall-of-Famer Terry Bradshaw, a former high school javelin record holder.

Springboard Diving: Ray Rice, RB, Baltimore Ravens. Good divers are usually somewhere between 5-foot-5 and 5-foot-10 so Rice, a 5-foot-8 running back, fits the bill. He also makes adjustments at the line of scrimmage better than almost any other NFL running back. He excels in a role that requires explosiveness and extreme body control—all executed within the space of less than two seconds, said USA Diving’s Steve Foley.

Judo: Tim Tebow, QB, New York Jets. The most logical place one might see backup quarterback Tim Tebow strike his now-famous “Tebowing” pose is the middle of a Judo mat. Jiu Jitsu is the predecessor of Judo. This off-season, Tebow practiced a version of the sport with the famous Gracie Family, the founders of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. While Jiu Jitsu relies more on upright grappling and maneuvers than Judo, Tebow does seem to have one thing down: the mental side. “First you need to be a fighter in your mind,” said former French national judo competitor Sauveur Soriano, “and you need to be able to control yourself.”

Fun food for thought.

Comparing Usain Bolt’s Record to 116 Years of Olympic History

Usain Bolt set an Olympic record last night after he ran the 100 meter race in 9.63 seconds. The New York Times has a brilliant interactive showing how Bolt’s performance compares to other Olympic runners in history:

Usain Bolt interactive shows how his 9.63 seconds in the 100m dash compares historically. Click on the photo to watch the video.

Based on the athletes’ average speeds, if every Olympic medalist raced each other, Usain Bolt (the London version) would win, with a wide distribution of Olympians behind him. Jesse Owens raced the 100m in 10.3 seconds in 1934. Carl Lewis did it in 9.92 seconds in 1988.

The question is: when will we see a sub-9.5 second time for the 100m sprint? And will we ever see a sub-9 second time in the 100 meter race?

Update (8/8/12): You can watch the video below:


Note: while you’re at it, you should also check out the NYT interactives on the 100 meter swim and the long jump.

Usain Bolt Repeats as 100 Meter Gold Medalist at the London Olympics

What a race in the men’s 100m final today at the London 2012 Olympics! I stayed away from Twitter and the Internet because I wanted to watch the race on NBC in primetime without seeing any spoilers. Usain Bolt did not disappoint and repeated as the 100m gold medalist from four years ago in Beijing. Here is Michael Wilbon on the historic race:

The race had everything except a world record, and that’s something Bolt simply doesn’t seem interested in at the moment. He still didn’t explode through the finish tape. He looked right, then left, to see who was on him. When the answer was “no one,” Bolt pulled up for a step. One step, when you consider his stride at 6-foot-5, is the difference between 9.63 and 9.53, which would have been a world record.

What seems to please him more than a world record is the drama he can create. Bolt could have come out and pronounced himself fit before the Games began, but didn’t. He probably could have beaten Blake if he’d wanted to, but why when you love the attention, perhaps even crave it? How many world-class athletes admit, as Bolt did Sunday night, to needing the crowd’s adoration before a race to take away the jitters? Having heard the ovation, bigger than what any British sprinter received all night, Bolt said to himself, “Game time!”

He had plantains, hash browns and fruit for breakfast, then chicken and rice, pork, “a chicken wrap from McDonald’s for lunch. … It had some vegetables, so don’t judge me,” he said.

You can hang on every utterance with Bolt, even when he says he might take on the 400 after these Olympics, because Bolt’s the biggest star in the Olympic universe. Michael Phelps is more decorated, but Phelps has no interest in entertaining, which is what stars do. Bolt doesn’t have to try, he just does it. He is, as Richard Pryor would have said, “a natural born star.” It requires nothing extra in his day. Bolt opens his mouth and a star comes out.

Bolt’s (in)famous celebration tonight:

Jamaica’s Usain Bolt celebrates his 100m gold medal at the London 2012 Olympic Games. Photo credit: Robert Deutsch, USA TODAY Sports.

Racing Against History in the 100-Meter Freestyle

The New York Times has a really good interactive comparing the various milestones in the men’s 100-meter freestyle swim. Based on the athletes’ average speeds, if every Olympic medalist ever raced each other, France’s Alain Bernard (from the 2008 Olympic Games, with a time of 47.21 seconds) would win, with a wide distribution of Olympians behind him, including the 2012 London Olympics winner, Nathan Adrian, with a time of 47.52 seconds.

Other swimmers profiled in the interactive:

Alfréd Hajós: Hungary’s first Olympic gold medalist, Hajós swam in 55-degree open water, in the Bay of Zea outside Piraeus, Greece. He also won the 1,200-meter swim.

Johnny Weissmuller (United States): The first swimmer to break a minute in the Olympics. Later went on to play Tarzan in “Tarzan the Ape Man,” which made him internationally famous.

Mark Spitz (United States): Won seven gold medals in the 1972 Games in Munich; nearly withdrew from the 100-meter event because he wasn’t sure if he would win. (He did, setting a world record.)

Alexander Popov (Russia): One of only three athletes with three medals in this event; the first person in 68 years to win back-to-back golds after Weissmuller did it in 1928.

The two and a half minute video is worth seeing in entirety.

The Swimming Photographers at the Olympic Games

The New York Times has a nice profile of the photographers at the Olympic Games who bring us the underwater images. I had no idea they were certified scuba divers!

Sports photographers who shoot underwater used to free-dive to make these adjustments; now many, including Bello, Rose and Pretty, are certified scuba divers. That has given them the comfort of extended time underwater to perfect the art of capturing the world’s best swimmers from below. But it also leads to an odd sight every night at the London Aquatics Centre: a glass-and-plastic reef composed of 10 cameras and a platoon of frogmen who enter the pool soon after the last race to tend to them.

Preparation is everything:

Preparation is everything. Each camera has to be set up to focus on a specific race, or perhaps two lanes where a close finish is expected. Sometimes a camera will wait all day for a specific swimmer to splash into frame.

They use a handheld trigger to operate the shutter. It’s connected, via cable, to the camera at the bottom of the pool. Now that cameras are all digital, almost as soon as they are taken, the images can be viewed on a laptop.

Also worth reading is this post on Rob Galbraith’s blog, who interviewed Clive Rose before the Olympics on his camera equipment and set-up:

We [Getty Images] have been working with Canon on an underwater photography solution for the London Olympics for some time now, so we were lucky enough to be able to use a pre-production EOS-1D X with the new EF 8-15mm f/4L Fisheye USM lens during the test event. This was packed inside a prototype custom built waterproof housing. 

The EOS-1D X isn’t even available yet (or wasn’t then), so getting a housing to fit was one of the many challenges that we’ve had to deal with. The housing is connected via hardwire cables that run from the back of the housing along the pool floor to a laptop at poolside. There, we can use Live View to adjust the camera settings to suit which kind of shot we want. The camera is powered (always on) and connected to an Ethernet cable to allow us to draw the images up in real time. We can fire the camera either via the laptop through the Live View software, or hook the camera up to a trigger cable and attach the end of that to a PocketWizard, much the same way as you would for any other remote camera.


The Teenage Swimmers at the London 2012 Olympics

One of the amazing stories unfolding in the London Olympic Games are the young swimmers shattering world records. Chinese swimmer Ye Shiwen last night became a double Olympic gold medalist at 16. She’s predicting the stars of the future could be even younger.

Ye broke the Olympic 200-meter medley record in 2 minutes, 07.57 seconds in a race she led from start to finish. In the 400-meter medley on July 28, Ye swam her final 50- meter freestyle leg in 28.93 seconds. That same night, U.S. swimmer Ryan Lochte recorded a final leg of 29.10 while winning gold in the men’s 400 medley. According to Bloomberg, Lochte suggested Ye might have beaten him had they raced together.


Ye’s not the youngest winner in the pool. Two days ago, Lithuania’s Ruta Meilutyte, a 15-year-old who trains in Plymouth, England, captured the 100-meter women’s breaststroke title. Their successes make Missy Franklin, a 17-year-old U.S. high school student who took the 100-meter backstroke gold, seem like a relative veteran.

It’s quite interesting to see these world records being shattered by teenagers.

London 2012: Social Media Olympics

With less than 100 days to go until the London 2012 Summer Olympics, The Wall Street Journal reports:

This year promises to be the first truly social Olympic Games. Television networks are planning to incorporate athletes’ Twitter posts into broadcast spots, and marketers are planning a flood of Facebook marketing tied to the Games.

For the IOC’s part, it is trying to strike a balance between allowing athletes and fans to post messages, photos and reactions online, but also protecting the sanctity of events and the stream of money from TV rights around the world.

The Olympic Athletes’ Hub collects in a single directory the existing Facebook and Twitter profiles from athletes around the world.