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Not Impressed

LONDON -- Found this funny item on McKayla Maroney, who apparently was not not impressed with her silver medal in the vault this past Sunday. Maroney was a joy after the U.S. women won the team title a week ago. But she showed a more snarky side after finishing second in the individual vault competition, in which she was favored.

Someone put together a hilarious series of photos, inserting Maroney in "Forrest Gump" fashion to register her lack of zeal for various events. Maybe I've been here too long, but it cracked me up.

 

 

Hammer Falls

LONDON -- American cyclist Sarah Hammer, who had led the women's omnium event entering the last of the six events, settled for silver Tuesday when defending gold medalist Laura Trott of Great Britain won the 500-meter time trial in a blistering 35.11 seconds to win the gold.

It was still a redeeming Games for Hammer, who was one of a handful of U.S. athletes who arrived in China four years ago wearing face masks because they were concerned about high levels of pollution in Beijing.

The athletes who wore the masks were excoriated by a USOC officials, termed a "disgrace" and ordered to apologize to the Chinese.

Hammer finished fourth in the time trial, giving her a total of 19 points in the omnium, based on her finish in each of the six events. She had a 15-17 lead entering the final race. But by winning the time trial, Trott ended up winning gold by one point, 18-19.

Hoy Advances

LONDON -- Sir Chris Hoy of Great Britain won his heat in the keirin competition, which is six riders in a two and a half-lap sprint to the finish. It's actually eight laps, but for the first five and a half laps, the riders go around single file behind a guy on a motorized bike. The motorized bike pulls away with two and a half left and the racers go for it. Why five and a half laps? Heck if I know.

Hammer Time

LONDON -- The British rule cycling, but an American woman is threatening to take the gold medal in the Omnium, a six-event competition that is akin to a track pentahlon (which has seven). Hammer finished second in the 40-lap scratch race, holding on to her overall lead after five events.

Racers get points based on their finish. Hammer was second in the scratch race, which gives her two points and an overall total of 15. Lowest score is the better, of course. Laura Trott of Great Britain, who won a gold in team pursuit, was third in the scratch and has 17 points in the Omnium, good for second heading into the final event. Australia's Annette Edmonson won the scratch race and stands third overall with 22 points.

The final event is the time trial.

Queen Victoria

LONDON -- Victoria Pendleton will race in the semifinals of the women's individual sprint in a few minutes. Pendleton has already won one gold in these Games, in keirin.

Keirin, pronounced "kay-rin", is an eight-lap race. For the first five and a half laps, the riders are paced by a motorbike. The motorbike begins at a speed of 25 kilometers an hour and works up to 45kph before leaving the track with two and a half laps left. Then the riders sprint to the finish.

Pendleton was just announced to the crowd, to a rousing ovation. She is racing Germany's Kristina Vogel in this semifinal. She won her semi. I'm still trying to figure out exactly how it works.

Vicious Cycle

LONDON -- I'm at the Velodrome, where the Olympic cycling will conclude today. This 6,000-seat arena should be absolutely bonkers. This is the best sport for the British, who dominated in Beijing and are having another great Games with six cycling medals here, five gold.

After three days at track and field, I needed a diversion. I thought it would be good to get a feeling for the Brits' national zeal at these Games. It's been clear at other events, particularly at the Olympic Stadium, but it should be even more raucous in an intimate setting like this. I'm already getting a sense of what it will be like. The PA announcer has been warming the crowd up, and they're wired for the competition.

The announcers have been a treat at the Games. They entertain and inform the crowd and even toss gentle jibes at the athletes in some cases. I noticed it first in the archery -- when was that, five years ago? -- and it's continued in other events. It's a little jingoistic and goofy at times, but hey, if you can't get patriotic when you're the host of an Olympics, when can you do it? The acoustics are generally terrific at the venues. It made covering the pole vault a pleasure.

Sir Chris Hoy will compete in the second round of the men's Keirin in about half an hour. Hoy has five career cycling golds. He needs one more to pass Sir Steve Redgrave for the most ever by a British athlete. Hoy is a Scot, same as Andy Murray, who won gold in the tennis. I'm going to Scotland for a little vacation after the Games. Should hear a bit about those two blokes while I'm up North.

 

Fredonia's Suhr wins gold medal in pole vault

London Olympics Athletics Women1
Photo by Associated Press

LONDON (AP) -- Fredonia's Jenn Suhr won the gold medal in the women's pole vault today, ending Russian Yelena Isinbayeva's bid for a third straight Olympic title.

Suhr won after clearing 4.75 meters at her second attempt, and missed every attempt at 4.80.

Yarisley Silva also cleared 4.75 on her second attempt for a Cuban national record, but lost on a countback and took silver.

Isinbayeva finished with bronze at 4.70. She had been aiming to be the first woman in track and field to win the same individual event in three straight Olympics.

News Senior Sports Columnist Jerry Sullivan tweets from London appear below.

London Olympics Athletics Womens
Photo by Associated Press

Trash Talk

LONDON -- Jenn Suhr learned four years ago not to say anything that might offend Yelena Isinbayeva. Nowadays, she basically ignores her. Not so for Holly Bleasdale, the rising 20-year-old pole vault star from Great Britain. Here's what Bleasdale had to say about Isinbayeva's custom of covering her head with a towel and napping during the heats:

"I've seen Isinbayeva do that, looks like a tramp on a street corner," Bleasdale said. "I do think it's disrespectful to us. It is a bit weird."

Isinbayeva has described herself as an "actress" when she competes. She put on quite a show in Beijing, when she held her hands over her head to lead the crowd applause when she went for a new world record. It's be interesting to see what happens if she and Bleasdale wind up together in the press conference after the event.

Jenn Goes For Gold

LONDON -- Back at the Olympic Stadium for another night of track and field. There's not nearly the buzz there was a night ago, when Usain Bolt won the 100-meter dash. But for Western New York fans, this is a big night. Fredonia's Jenn Suhr will compete in the women's pole vault final, which begins in about eight minutes.

When Suhr first began pole vaulting in 2005, she put together a list. On it were the names and heights of all the best vaulters in the country. Whenever she surpassed a woman's height, she crossed her name off the list. Then she went on to the international vaulters and did the same. For the last four years, there has been just one name not crossed off the list: Russia's Yelena Isinbayeva.

Suhr doesn't need to beat Isinbayeva's world record of 5.06 meters tonight. She merely needs to jump higher to dethrone the long-time queen of women's pole vaulting. Isinbayeva has won two straight Olympic gold medals. Suhr, who finished second to her in Beijing four years ago, is attempting to win her first. Suhr's career best is 4.92 meters (16 feet, 1 3-4 inches).

It's not necessarily a two-woman race, though. England's 20-year-old Holly Bleasdale has jumped 4.87 meters indoors. Only Suhr and Isinbayeva have jumped higher. Bleasdale should get a jolt from the enthusiastic home crowd here, which has lifted British athletes to 16 golds so far. Silke Spiegelburg of Germany could be a big factor. Anna Rogowska of Poland has jumped 4.85 meters.

The starting height is 4.30 meters. Only four of the vaulters will attempt it. The rest will pass. Suhr passed all the way to 4.55 meters in the qualifying round.

 

Steeplechase

LONDON -- Watching the 3,000-meter steeplechase here in the Olympic Stadium, a breezy preliminary to the big event, the 100 meters. The steeplechase got its start here in Britain. They ran from the steeple of one town to another. The steeples were visible from a long ways off, so they were used as markers. According to Wikipedia, the runners had to jump over streams and stone walls between estates. The modern steeplechase traces its roots to a race at Oxford University.

There's a water jump before the final stretch run. The winner was Kenya's Ezekiel Kemboi in a time of 8:18.56, well off the world record. Kemboi won the gold in 2004, but finished seventh in Beijing in a race won by his countryman, Brimin Kipruto. That makes eight straight wins for the Kenyans in the steeplechase, going back to the LA Games in 1984.

What we need is more travel steeplechase leagues in the United States.  

 

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