The Weirdest Olympic Stories You Probably Missed this Weekend
It's hard to keep track of all the hustle and bustle of the Olympic Games. There are thousands upon thousands of athletes to watch, with new ones conceived in the Village every day. We feel your confusion.
Here's what you need to know about the lesser-publicized, frankly-kind-of-random Olympic events you may have missed this weekend:
Archers are hot right now. With bow-slingers from Hunger Games, Brave, Game of Thrones, and The Avengers stealing shine from the geek culture spotlight lately, it fits that the most talked-about Olympian archers come with a remarkable (and marketable) backstory.
Headlines tumbl'd on Friday about "the blind archer" breaking world marksmanship records before the Games began. The allegedly myopic Im Dong-hyun, a member of the South Korean team, did break his own 72-arrow world record on Friday with a score of 699 (out of a possible 720,) true. But he's not really blind. Im himself describes his eyesight as "an old person's vision."
“It’s really a matter of common sense," Im said in an interview. “If I were legally blind, do you really think I could participate in this Olympics? I’d rather participate in the Paralympics. There, I’d have a much greater chance to win a gold medal."
World records aside, Im's awesome story dissipated when the USA men's team beat South Korea in their preliminary match. The men's Team Archery finals came down to Italy and the USA, pitting athletes Michele Frangilli, Mauri Nespoli, and Marco Galiazzo against America's Brady Ellison, Jacob Wukie, and Jake Kaminski. Ten points down on the final arrow, Frangilli struck a bulls-eye that bumped the score up to 219-218 (the most they could've scored was 240, hitting 24 consecutive bulls-eyes from 70 meters away), earning Italy the gold. Watch the highlights here.
Later, South Korea's women's team of Ki Bo-bae, Lee Sung-Ji and Choi Hyeon-ju earned 210 points from their 24 arrows and took the archery gold for the seventh consecutive time, beating China by a point. Watch that match here. Their cartoon character breast-guards (I obvs don't know archery lingo) are amazing. New fashion trend ahoy!
The pingers are still ponging, but already making a big noise with their tiny balls.
22-year-old British table-master Paul Drinkhall pulled an upset victory on Sunday against Singapore's Zi Yang, who places 53 notches higher than Drinkhall on the International Table Tennis Fedaration's rankings. (Yep, it's real.) He's becoming an early hometown hero at this year's London Games, and justifiably so: We haven't seen a dude this happy post-ping-pong since Uncle Gravy took down all the grandkids at last Thanksgiving's Basement Games, but he was drunk on turkey cider.
UPDATE: Drinkhall just lost his third round match 4-0 to German ponger Dimitrij Ovtcharov. Some dreams are fleeting as plastic balls, eh?
This confusingly-scored martial art expo is a Japanese contribution to the Olympics, and one of the most close-contact competitions in the Games. Like, you get points for tackling the other dude. It's what football should've been all along.
North Korea won its first gold medal of the Games on Sunday, when An Kum Ae earned the women's 52-kilogram judo division title, beating Cuban fighter Acosta Bermoy in an overtime match.
Georgian athlete Lasha Shavdatuashvili beat Hungary's Miklos Ungvari in the men's 66-kilo category.
During a close match for the men's bronze, Cho Jun-ho of South Korea was declared the winner over Japan's Masashi Ebinuma, but a hail of boos and jeers from the crowd eventually prompted the judges to flip the decision. Now both dudes have medals. Awkward.
Speaking of awkwardness, the weekend's big judo headline surrounds Saudi Arabian athlete Wojdan Ali Seraj Abdulrahim Shaherkani, who may have to choose between her Islamic dress code and the International Judo Federation's combat code. Shaherkani is scheduled to compete in the women's +78-kilogram bout on Friday, but her father has threatened to pull her from the Games if she is not allowed to conform to Saudi custom and wear her hijab headscarf through each match. According to the Judo Federation, "The athlete from Saudi Arabia will fight in the spirit of judo and according to the principles of judo without a hijab."
This boils down to one cultural custom versus another, and there won't be an easy solution. While it's unlikely the Judo Fed will start a precedent of bending their rules in the middle of the Olympics, we hope Shaherkani gets a chance to fight for the sake of cultural feel-goodery. More news will come as Friday nears.
Oh, BTW, one Olympic judoka learned the hard way this weekend that those gold medals ain't waterproof.
Keep an eye out for: The Race Walk
This 31-mile, nipple-punishing speed-walk has been a part of the Olympics since 1932, regaling generations of viewers with silly athletes strutting about the streets like caffeinated penguins. It's good fun. Watch it on August 11.