Monthly Archives: July 2012

London 2012: Just Ten More

Okay I know I already wrote articles about athletes at the London Olympics from around the world and Canada that are worth watching. The thing is when it gets closer and closer to the Olympic Games, there become more and more that are worth keeping an eye on. Here in this article are another ten that I feel are worth keeping an eye on. So without further ado:

-Ryan Lochte/USA – Swimming: A lot of attention is focused on Michael Phelps ending his legendary Olympic career with a bang. However Ryan Lochte is one swimmer that could steal the show from Phelps. Like Phelps, he also qualified for four individual events. Unlink Phelps, he’s the one this time around with his face on more magazine covers than any Olympic athlete. Here in London, he will attempt to defend his 200m backstroke title and rival Phelps in both individual medley events. Actually Lochte has an advantage over Phelps as he holds the world record in the 200 and finished ahead of Phelps in the 400 at the Olympic Trials. Looks as though London may not only be the last hurrah for Phelps but also a possible changing of the guard with Lochte. It will all be decided in the London Aquatics Centre.

-Kosuke Kitajima/Japan – Swimming: There’s a lot of talk of Michael Phelps threepeating in four events. The thing is he may not become the first male swimmer to do so. That could be Japan’s breaststroker Kosuke Kitajima. Kitajima has already won both the 100m and 200m breaststroke events in both 2004 and 2008, making him one of only six swimmers to achieve a ‘double-double’ in swimming. 2011 was a difficult year for Kitajima as he only won a single bronze medal at last year’s Worlds. Nevertheless this year has seen him return to his winning form as he has the world’s fastest time in both the 100 and 200. But don’t think another double here is going to be easy for him. The 200 will be his toughest challenge as he will face the rivalry of Hungary’s Daniel Gyurta and his teammate Ryo Tateishi who’s best time of the year is just .17 seconds behind Kitajima’s. Nevertheless Kitajima trying to be the first to achieve a ‘triple-double’ in swimming should prove to be exciting.

-Kenenisa Bekele/Ethiopia – Track and Field: This Olympics seems like to be one where a lot of events have a chance of a threepeat happening. Track and field also has the potential of some threepeats: Jamaica’s Veronica Campbell in the women’s 200m, Isinbaeva in women’s pole vault, Norway’s Andreas Thorkildsen in men’s javelin and Ethiopia’s Kenenisa Bekele in the men’s 10000m. Bekele has had a stellar running career ever since he burst on the scene back in 2003. He holds the world records in both the 5000m and 10000m, has won a total of five World Championships and has won three Olympic gold and one silver. Beijing was especially stellar as he performed the 5000-10000 double. However 2011 was not a kind year for Bekele as he sat the year out with injuries. He has since regained his old form and has posted the third-fastest 10000 time in the world this year only less than a second behind the fastest. Will a threepeat happen here? Mark your calendars August 4th and tune in.

-Allyson Felix/USA – Track and Field: Allyson Felix is one of the best 200m runners ever but she’s still missing that Olympic gold in that event. She first burst onto the scene back at the 2004 when she won a silver medal in the 200 at the age of 18. She also set a world junior record upon winning that medal. The following year she won the 200m at the World Championships becoming the youngest sprinter ever to do so. She repeated as World Champion in the 200 in 2007. However she again won Olympic silver in 2008 finishing second again to Jamaica’s Veronica Campbell-Brown. She did however win a gold as part of the USA’s 4*400m relay. Nevertheless she’s still chasing down that elusive 200m gold here in London. Last year was a bit of a shock for her as it was the first World Championships since 2003 where she didn’t win the 200m, finishing 3rd. However she’s run the world’s fastest 200m time this year–4/10 of a second faster than the second-fastest–and she’s the heavy favorite to win that event. She also will compete in the 100m here in London where she actually finished in a tie for third at the Olympic trials with Jeneba Tarmoh. Although Felix was the one who got the birth, both will compete in the 4*100 relay. Nevertheless it’s the 200m that will be the big focus for her. Will her time finally have come? Her fate will be decided August 8th.

-Kerri Walsh and Misty May-Treanor/USA – Beach Volleyball: It’s not just individual events where threepeats could happen here in London. There are some team events too. The beach volleyball duo of Walsh and May-Treanor could do just that. Both women started as indoor volleyball players. May-Treanor switched to beach volleyball in 1999 she teamed up with Holly McPeak and finished 5th at the 2000 Olympics. At those same games Walsh was part of the USA’s indoor volleyball team where the US finished 4th. Soon after Walsh switched to beach volleyball, was paired to May-Treanor, and the rest is history. Actually it started slow with a 9th place finish at the 2001 World Championships. Since then it was a legendary pair in the making with three world Championships and Olympic victories in 2004 and 2008. Since Beijing they’ve had their difficulties. They lost their competitive edge in 2009 losing early in tournaments and May-Treanor badly injured her Achilles tendon not by playing or training but as a contestant on Dancing With The Stars. 2011 saw the two return to competition where they finished second at the World Championships to Brazilian pair Larissa and Julianna. They’re confident they can win in London. Will they do it or will it be a changing of the guard? It will all be decided at the Horse Guards Palace.

TWO MORE CANADIANS:

-Karen Cockburn – Trampolining: The trampolining event for both men and women have only been contested at the past three Olympics and Karen Cockburn has won a medal in all three: bonze in 2000, silver in 2004 and silver again in 2008. In 2011 she had to deal with both injury and illness which left her out of major competitions. She would finish fourth at the Worlds that year. Nevertheless she looks strong for London and is a medal favorite once again. Also keep an eye on another Canadian, Rosie MacLennan, as she won a silver at last year’s Worlds. London could be another triumph for Karen or a passing of the torch to Rosie. August 4th’s the date to decide it.

-Clara Hughes – Cycling: There are two Canadians that will have two of the most illustrious sports careers of the whole team. One is equestrian rider Ian Millar competing in his record-setting tenth Olympics. The other is Clara Hughes, competing in her sixth Olympic Games. She has won a Canadian record total of six medals in both cycling and speed skating. Her Olympic success in cycling came at the 1996 Atlanta games winning two bronzes. Her last Olympic appearance in cycling was in 2000 as she retired years later to focus on speed skating where she has won four Olympic medals including a gold in the 5000m in 2006. She was also selected to be Canada’s flag bearer at the opening ceremonies of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics where she won her last speed skating medal, a bronze in the 5000m. Shortly after retiring from speed skating she made a return to cycling in November 2010. She will compete in the road race and the time trial. She is not favored in either event but both are events where even a non-favorite can be a winner. Whatever the results, it will make for another exciting moment for the 39 year-old’s exciting career.

TWO MORE FROM THE HOST COUNTRY:

-Paula Radcliffe – Marathon: Paula is one of the most respected British women in track and field competing here in London. However she is still searching for her first Olympic medal. Her first Olympic appearance was at the Atlanta Games in 1996 where she finished 5th in the 5000. She won her first World Championships medal in 1999 with a silver in the 10000. She would finish 4th in that event at the Sydney Games in 2000. After the 2000 Olympics she would have an incredible career in Marathon running winning both the London Marathon and the New York Marathon three times, winning the Chicago Marathon in 2002 and the World Championships Marathon in 2005. She also holds the world record in the marathon with her winning time at the 2003 London Marathon of 2:15:25. Olympic marathons have been bad luck for her as she competed in 2004 as the heavy favorite but dropped out because of injury. The injury also caused her to drop out of the 10000m. She competed in Beijing finishing 23rd in the marathon. Now 38, she has qualified for the Olympic marathon with a qualifying time at last year’s Berlin Marathon where she finished 3rd. This may be her last Olympics in an illustrious career. She has made mention that she’s trying to heal a foot injury. Win or lose, the whole nation will be behind her.

-Bradley Wiggins – Cycling: British cyclists have some of the biggest Olympic feats ever. Chris Hoy, who will be the flagbearer for Britain at the Opening Ceremonies, is one of two cyclists to win four golds. The other being Dutchwoman Leontien van Moorsel. Bradley Wiggins is the only other cyclist besides van Moorsel to win six Olympic medals. He’s also the second British athlete besides rower Steven Redgrave to win six Olympic medals. All of Wiggins’ previous medals have been in track cycling. Here in London he will compete in the two road events: the road race and the time trial. He has a lot of potential to set new medal-winning records there especially after he just won the Tour de France last week. A lot of excitement awaits. Oh, as for Hoy, he will be competing in one event: the team sprint.

AND ONE MORE TEAM:

-Great Britain Men’s Soccer Team: Interesting to know that FIFA recognizes England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland as their own nations and can field their own ‘national’ team for events like the World Cup. The International Olympic Committee thinks otherwise and will only recognize Great Britain as a nation. Great Britain has qualified a soccer team in eight previous Olympic Games, winning gold in 1908 and 1912. The last time the British soccer team appeared at the Olympics was in 1960. With Great Britain hosting the 2012 Olympics, there was to be a British team in the soccer tournament as host nation. Even Prime Minister Gordon Brown suggested in 2008 that a Great Britain team was ‘vital’. However the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish football associations first refused feeling it might affect their status with FIFA. FIFA gave a May 2009 deadline to settle the row. The three dissenting associations said they would not participate in a unified UK team but would not prevent England form fielding a team under that banner. Jim Boyce, vice-president of FIFA and Englishman, steeped in and said non-English players have the legal right to be considered for Team GB. Anyways after years of association politicking, public opinion polls and words from politicians from all four countries, there is a Team GB in Olympic football. All but five of the players are English–the five that aren’t are Welsh– and they come from some of the UK’s best clubs like two from Manchester United, two from Tottenham Hotspur, two from Chelsea, one each from Arsenal and Liverpool, and three from Swansea City. Sports Illustrated predict them to win bronze. After all that politics, it’s time for them to play.

And there you have it. One last set of Olympians to watch in London. I wish I could tell you more how like Zara Phillips is following in the footsteps of her mother, Princess Anne, by competing in equestrian or Canadian canoer Mark Oldershaw who’s the fifth Oldershaw in three generations to paddle at the Olympics. However I better call it quits before I get the urge to write about any more Olympians to watch. In the meantime, let the seventeen days of drama, excitement and glory begin!

London 2012: Seven Canadians To Watch

 
Yesterday I gave a look at some Olympians to watch from around the world. Today I focus on Canadians. Canada ranks seventeenth on the all-time list of total Summer Olympic Medals with a total of 260 including 58 gold. Our most medaled Summer Olympics, both in golds and total, is the 1984 Los Angeles Games which was boosted by the boycott of Soviet-allied nations and allowed the team to take home 44 medals including 10 gold. In terms of fully-contested Olympics, our most medaled are the 1996 Atlanta Games with 22 and our most golden are the 1992 Barcelona Games with 7. Here in London, Canada has sent a team of 277 athletes in 24 sports. Canada has strong expectations for the team in London and the athletes have their own personal expectations. Sports Illustrated even predicted for Canada to win seventeen medals including two golds. Here are six Canadian athletes and one team to keep an eye on in London:
 
 -Adam van Koeverden – Canoeing: Kayakers are not necessarily Canada’s most celebrated athletes. Adam van Koeverden is one of the few. Interestingly enough he trains at a retreat with no plumbing or electricity. It must be doing something right. Back at the 2004 Olympics nothing was expected of him but he came away with a gold and a bronze. His medal wins were an upper for the Canadian team as they experienced a lot of disappointment in Athens. By 2008 he was the reigning 500m World Championships and was heavily favored to win both solo kayaking events for men. He was even Canada’s flag bearer for the opening ceremonies. The pressure must have got to him because he finished 8th in the 1000m and won silver in the 500m. 2011 saw him return to the title of World Champion, in the 1000m. Will he be all there at Dorney Lake? It will all be decided August 8th.
-Alexandre Despatie – Diving: Seems like just yesterday he was the 13 year-old prodigy that won the tower event at the 1998 Commonwealth Games or the 15 year-old from Sydney 2000 who finished fourth. Twelve years later he’s now a three-time World Champion, a two-time Olympic silver medalist and nearing the twilight of his career. However things took a turn for the scarier in June as he hit his head on the springboard while practicing an inward 3 1/2. He has since healed up and even reattempted that dive in practice two weeks ago with success. Already Sports Illustrated has him as diving’s underdog story. Does he have one last hurrah for us in London? Stay tuned.
-Jennifer Abel – Diving: As one Canadian diver’s legacy appears to be coming to an end, another appears to be starting. Jennifer Abel actually made her Olympic debut in Beijing just before her 17th birthday but her diving career has taken off greatly. She won two golds and a silver in the springboard events at the 2010 Commonwealth Games. She also won silver in 3m synchro teamed up with Canadian vet Emilie Heymans and bronze in 3m solo at the 2011 World Championships. Come London she will face challenges from China’s diver He Zi and Wu Minxia who both finished ahead of her in both events. But no matter where she finishes in London, it will all be to her advantage as the best of her is still yet to come.
-Mary Spencer – Boxing: Women’s boxing has gone from the sleazy novelty of ‘foxy boxing’ to a serious sport in the last decade. Here in London will be the first time women boxers will compete for Olympic medals. Canada’s best hopes rest on former World Champion Mary Spencer. The 27 year-old southpaw who’s of Ojibway heritage won her first World Middleweight Championship in 2005 at the age of 20. She has since won the World Champion title twice again in 2008 and 2010. However she lost in the Round of 32 at this year’s Worlds. London is the best place for her to regain her supremacy. Will she do it? Only time will tell.
-Catharine Pendrel – Mountain Biking: It seems like ever since Mountain Biking has been added to the Olympic program back in 1996, there’s always been one Canadian woman after another amongst the best in the world. It all started with Allison Sydor winning silver in 1996, then Marie-Helene Premont winning silver in 2004. Now the torch has been passed to Catharine Pendrel and she has quite a resume. She finished 4th back in Beijing but her career has taken off ever since with winning the 2010 World Cup series and last year’s World Championships. She recently won the Olympic test event at Essex’s Hadleigh Farm. Sports Illustrated even predicted her as the one to win the Olympic Mountain Biking event. Will she do it? August 11th is the day for her to deliver.
-Carol Huynh – Wrestling: Carol was the first Canadian to win gold at the Beijing Olympics and she could do it again here. She has won World Championship medals since 2000 and she has won gold at the Commonwealth and Pan Am Games. However she missed out on the medals at last year’s Worlds. Nevertheless she has been preparing well and is confident her knee injury has healed. Sports Illustrated preditcted three Canadian women to win medals in wrestling and she’s one of them. Mark your calendar August 8th.
-Canada’s Track and Field team: Canada is not known as a track and field country. In fact it was even pointed in a recent news article that there are many third world countries that have bigger fanfare and a bigger investment in the sport than Canada and even better overall showings at World Championships. Nevertheless Canada has consistently produced Olympic medalists, Olympic champions and even greats like sprinters Percy Williams and Donovan Bailey. Who does Canada have for this year? Canada’s best chances for the men come from shot putter Dylan Armstrong who won the silver at last year’s Worlds. However his best put this season has been surpassed by seven other putters. He will have to throw a seasonal best if he wants to win a medal. Canada’s best chances for the women come from heptathlete Jessica Zelinka. She has also qualified for the 100m hurdles event but it’s the heptathlon that she specializes in. She finished 5thback in Beijing and at this year’s Olympic trials she delivered a personal best total that’s currently the 4th best in the World. If she’s on the ball in London, she could win a medal. And don’t count out any of the lesser-favored Canadians. Anything can happen in the heat of Olympic competition.
 
And there you have it. Six athletes and one team from Canada to look out for in London. When the Games begin the night of Friday July 27th, there will be seventeen days of thrilling moments, national pride and history in the making. An event like this that only comes around every four years is definitely worth being a part of.
 

London 2012: Fourteen To Watch

On the evening of Friday July 27, 2012, the cauldron of the London Olympics, the Games of the XXX Olympiad, will be lit and over ten thousand athletes from over 200 countries will compete for glory in their respective sport over these seventeen days. London will become the first city ever to host three Olympic Games: the first two being in 1908 and 1948. Here are ten athletes from around the world, two from the host country and two teams of these Games who are worth keeping a close eye on:

-Michael Phelps/USA – Swimming: Talk about a legendary career. Olympic debut in 2000 at the age of 15. Six golds and two bronzes in 2004. A record eight golds in 2008. Now London is the big finale. He’s just three medals away from breaking the record for most total Olympic medals. He also has four chances to become the first male swimmer to threepeat in an individual swimming event. Unstoppable? Maybe not. Teammate Ryan Lochte broke Phelps’ 400 IM record last year and even beat him in that event at Olympic trials. Plus there could be other younger swimmers from around the world chasing him down. It will all be decided in the London Aquatic Centre.

-Usain Bolt/Jamaica – Track and Field: Remember back in Beijing Usain was the sprinting star winning the 100, 200 and anchoring Jamaica’s 4*100 relay? All in world record time? Incredibly Usain has since broke them all. No kidding he’s been the most exciting thing in track and field since Carl Lewis. He could do it again in London. But he faces a formidable challenge from his own younger teammate Yohan Blake who currently has the year’s fastest 100 and 200 times. Plus don’t count Americans Justin Gatlin and Tyson Gay out, nor sprinters from Trinidad or St. Kitts.

-Amantle Montsho/Botswana – Track and Field: One of my favorite Olympic moments is when an athlete wins their country’s first ever Olympic medal. There are eighty countries competing in London that have never won an Olympic medal. Botswana is one of them but that could change. This will be Montsho’s third Olympics and she has progressed from the 400m heats in 2004 to 8th in the 400 final in 2008 to being crowned World 400m Champion last year. She still appears strong in the 400 this year as she has run the 400 four times under 50 seconds and even set a personal best a month ago. Winning a medal will not come easy as three other runners–two Russians and American Sanya Richards–have run faster times this year. Nevertheless if she’s all there in London, she could just make Botswanian Olympic history.

-Elena Isinbaeva/Russia: Track And Field: She has established herself as possibly the greatest female pole vaulter ever. She has won two gold medals and has set 30 world records including two at the Olympics. Nevertheless her career since Beijing has had some noticeable chokes: no-heighting at the 2009 world Championships final, fourth at the 2010 World Indoor championships, sixth at last year’s Worlds. 2012 has seen a return to her winning ways as she won the World Indoor Championships in March and even set a new world indoor record of 5.01m. She has only competed in one outdoor competition this year but it was two weeks ago and she won with an impressive 4.75m. It’s clear that in London the only person that can defeat Elena is Elena. It will all be decided in Olympic Stadium whether she threepeats or if she defeats herself.

-Caster Semenya/South Africa – Track and Field: She burst on the scene in 2009 at 18 showing the world her athletic talent in the 800m including a World Championship win. However she received more attention that year over her gender being questioned to the point the IAAF, athletics’ governing body, had to conduct gender tests on her. Caster found them both humiliating and invasive. She was eventually cleared by the IAAF but wasn’t allowed to resume competition until July 2010. The controversy has since died and Caster has continued running and even finished 2nd at last year’s Worlds. Nevertheless her country of South Africa has always stood beside her even during the heaviest of controversy and she has even been designated as South Africa’s flagbearer for the opening ceremonies. Many track experts believe she has what it takes to win but the 800m has a tough field. Could she prevail? Only time will tell.

-Carmelita Jeter/USA – Track and Field: Usually 32 is seen as the age when it’s time for a sprinter to retire. For Carmelita, it’s the age in which her sprinting career is finally taking off and could just reach her peak. Already she qualified for her first ever Olympic team. She has had world-class talent for years even finishing third in the 100m at the 2007 Worlds but she had a disastrous Olympic trials the following year filing to make the team despite being one of the favorites. In the four years since she’s become a faster runner and a better competitor. She would win bronze again at the 2009 Worlds and the 2011 Worlds gave her 100m gold, 200m silver and 4*100 relay gold. This year’s Olympic trials were better as she won the 100 and finished second in the 200. She already has the second-fastest 100m time in the world this year with defending Olympic champion Shelly-Anne Fraser the only other runner with a faster time. Jeter not only faces rivalry from her in both events but Jamaican triple Olympic champion Veronica Campbell-Brown who won the 200m at last year’s Worlds and her teammate Allyson Felix who has won 200m silver in 2004 and 2008. Whatever the situation, London will be now more than ever for her.

-Ashton Eaton/USA – Track and Field: The United States has consistently turned out decathlon champion after decathlon champion at the Olympics: eleven in total. At first it appeared Trey Hardee would become the next American to win Olympic gold in decathlon after winning the 2009 and 2011 world Championships. However teammate Ashton Eaton, who finished second to Hardee at the 2011 Worlds, had a surprise for him at the Olympic Trials. He won the Trials and broke the world record by 13 points. The Eaton/Hardee rivalry should prove to be exciting as two teammates being the two best in the world competing for gold. The winner will be decided two weeks from now.

 -Mariel Zagunis/USA – Fencing: When you think of fencing and the USA, you don’t think of any greats, do you? Well Mariel could be just that. She’s already only the second American fencer ever to win Olympic gold and she did it in the saber category twice in 2004 and 2008. Both times she was not the favorite. This time she is the favorite being ranked #1 in the world but she’s not invincible. Since Beijing she has won her first World Championship medals: saber gold in both 2009 and 2010. She however lost her title at the 2011 Worlds to Russian Sofiya Velikaya. She also faces challenges in London from other Russian fencers and Ukrainians like Olha Kharlan. If she does win in London, she will make history by becoming only the second fencer to achieve an Olympic threepeat in an individual event. History in the making? It’s all in Mariel’s hands.

-Marta/Brazil – Soccer: It’s interesting how women’s soccer has been growing only in the last ten years or so. Women didn’t get their own World Cup until 1991. women didn’t compete in the Olympics until 1996. Since then the improvements have been made not just in North America and Europe but South America too. Even Brazil has a star that has been called the ‘female Pele’ and her name is Marta. She showed huge promise in football at a young age but would come of age at 16 in 2002 when she was selected to be on Brazil’s national team. Since then she has received major accolades such as two Olympic silver medals, runner-up at the 2007 World Cup and crowned FIFA World Female Footballer of the year for five years straight. She and the Brazilian team want to win and London but they face stiff challenges from Japan, Sweden and the USA who want to win their third-straight Olympic title. nevertheless they want to improve from their quarterfinal ouster at last year’s World Cup. The game’s the thing in London.

-Daba Keita/Mali – Taekwondo: Another country that has never won an Olympic medal is Mali. Daba Kaita looked like the one to win Mali’s first ever medal after winning the heavyweight title at the 2007 World Championships. However he was eliminated in the quarterfinals in Beijing and the president of Mali went as far as calling it a ‘painful day for Mali.’ Since Beijing the 6’8″ Keita successfully defended his World title in 2009. He was dealing with a knee injury in 2011 and couldn’t compete at the Worlds that year. Nevertheless Keita believes he is ready. He considers himself a smarter fighter than he was at Beijing. He has been coached in the United States since 2006 through an Olympic Solidarity program and he hopes for it to pay off in London. Even though he hasn’t been too active on the taekwondo scene in the past year, Keita could surprise his opponents and make Olympic history for Mali in London.

 TWO FOR THE HOST COUNTRY:

-Tom Daley/Great Britain – Diving: For the record Great Britain has never won a diving gold medal at the Olympics. Six medals but never gold. Tom Daley burst on the world scene in 2008 by winning the tower event at the 2008 European Championships just before turning 14. He would be the ‘teddy bear’ of the British team of the Beijing Olympics and would go on to finish 7th in individual tower and 8th in synchro tower. Since then the precocious diving prodigy has had his ups and downs. He had a stellar 2009 that included a World Championship win in tower at the age of 15. An injurious 2010 ended on a good note as he won two golds at the Commonwealth Games. 2011 however was the hardest year. He had to deal with injury, learning new dives and the death of his father. The difficulties he faced showed at the World Championships that year as he lost his World tower title finishing 5th. 2012 has seen a new Tom Daley as he has been performing consistently even winning a World Cup meet and returning as European Champion. All eyes of Britain will be on him as he has beenone of the most iconic advertized images leading up to the London Games. He could lift the hearts of the nation like Cathy Freeman in 2000, Enrico Fabris in 2006 and the Canadian hockey teams of 2010. Or he could break their hearts like Konstandinos Kenteris in 2004 or Liu Xiang in 2008. It’s an awful big gamble for an 18 year-old. Nevertheless it will all be decided August 11th.

-Beth Tweddle/Great Britain – Gymnastics: Diving isn’t the only sport where Britain wants to win its first gold here. Gymnastics is another sport and Britain’s only women’s medal is a team bronze back in 1928 when women’s gymnastics was contested for the first time. Beth Tweddle looks like just the one to change that. She has been winning World Championship medals since 2003 but Olympic glory has always seemed elusive to her. 2004 was a disappointment. 2008 she finished fourth in the uneven bars but the two Chinese gymnasts who finished ahead of her have been under suspicion of being under the age limit and still remains unsolved. Since Beijing she has become a tougher competitor. She won the floor gold at the 2009 Worlds and won uneven bars gold at the 2010 Worlds. The 2011 Worlds were a tough event for her as she fell off the bars in qualifying and went out of bounds during the floor finals. Nevertheless she has proved she is ready for London as she won the uneven bars at a key international gymnastics meet and even increased the difficulty on her dismount with an extra full twist. Will she finally do it in London? It will all be decided in the Millennium Dome.

 AND TWO TEAMS TOO:

-Romanian Women’s Gymnastics Team: This could be the triumph of the underdogs. Now I know what you’re thinking: “Underdogs? Romania’s gymnasts?” Yes. The 2011 World Championships were the first since 1974 in which the Romanian women failed to win even a single medal. That’s awfully odd coming from a country that introduced Nadia to the world and has shelled out countless world and Olympic Champions. Since then Romania has worked to get their gymnasts into winning ways. They field a team that includes 2004 three-time Olympic Champion Catalina Ponor coming out of retirement, 2008 Olympic floor champion Sandra Izbasa and 2010 World beam champion Ana Porgras. The plan has worked well as the team won the European Championships over 2011 Worlds silver-medalists Russia by less than a point. They even won three of the four individual event. No doubt they’re doing everything right in their comeback but they still will face challenges from Russia, host country Great Britain with possibly their best team ever, and the 2011 World Champions the United States featuring top competitors like Jordyn Wieber, Ali Reisman and Gabby Douglas. Winning will come with a fight in London.

-Cuban Boxing Team: No kidding Cuba wants to rebound after not winning a single boxing gold in Beijing 2008. Yeah, you’re probably thinking what I thought: “Cuba? No boxing golds? How can that be?” Ever since amateur boxing has gone from three three-minute round to four two-minute rounds, the Europeans have excelled while the American countries have struggled. Since Beijing amateur boxing has made a return to three three-minute rounds and Cuba is on a comeback trail. Boxers Lazaro Alvarez and Julio Cesar la Cruz won at the 2011 World Championships. Cuba’s hoping to return back to their Olympic glory days of the 70’s and 90’s and London could lead them on the right path.

 And there you have it. Twelve athletes and two teams to keep a close eye on in London. My list of Canadians to watch will come tomorrow.In the meantime check this out below. This is my one and only souvenir of the London Games. I spent so much on souvenirs of the Vancouver 2010 Games I decided only one of London.

 

UPDATE: I did ten more to watch.

Movie Review: Prometheus

Prometheus is a movie many would compare to 1979 Alien, and tightly so. It’s intended to be a prequel to the Alien series despite being released 33 years after and directed by Alien director Ridley Scott. But does it succeed both on its own and as a prequel?

The movie begins with an alien disintegrating after drinking a liquid. A biogenetic reaction occurs as his remains fall into a waterfall. In the meantime a trip to a distant moon is planned after an archeological discovery in Scotland of a star map connecting several unconnected ancient cultures. The archeologists, Elizabeth Shaw and Charlie Holloway, interpret it as humanity’s ‘forerunners’ or ‘engineers’. The trip to that moon is a four-year trip via a spacecraft called ‘The Prometheus’ though Weyland Corporations monitored by a human-like android named David and instructed to find and study ‘the Engineers’.

Upon arriving on the moon they find many key artifacts as well as alien bodies and assume the alien Engineers are extinct. One of the artifacts, cylinders, leaks a dark liquid which David and Holloway later drink. Meanwhile a storm causes many to return to the stranded ship and Millburn and Fifield stranded in the structure the ship is resting by. Meanwhile in the structure, snake-like creatures start acting up, killing Millburn and melting Fifield’s helmet. After the others discover Fifield and Millburn’s body, David finds a control room with evidence of a surviving Engineer and a star map highlighting Earth. The black liquid Holloway drank now starts to attack his body badly enough for mission director Vickers to refuse him back on the ship and has his body burned. Shaw discovers she’s pregnant with an alien baby and attempts to abort it herself.

As the elder Weyland prepares to depart the planet on his craft, a mutated Fifield attacks and kills several crew members before he himself is killed. We learn the structure was part of a base that lost control because of the dark liquid. After learning the structure is part of a spacecraft, the crew run to an Engineer for help only for the Engineer to kill crew members, decapitate David and take control of the spaceship only to crash it. The crash prevents the Engineer from releasing any of the liquid on Earth. Even as Shaw gets away in a lifeboat, she learns that the Engineer survived the crash and her aborted alien baby is alive and grew to full-size. The departure of Shaw and David, whose head is still active after decapitation, won’t come without a fight and it leaves an ending that either sets up for a prequel or sets up for the actual Alien.

What should be noted is that Scott had planned as far back as 2002 in creating a prequel to Alien. However it was sidelined as Alien vs. Predator came up and would be released in 2004. Interest in this wouldn’t resume until 2009. One of the risks of prequels is that those who are familiar with the movie series will have expectations of it. Also there are those moviegoers who are unfamiliar with the series and just see the movie for what it is. Prometheus won’t answer all the big questions Alien fans will give but it will give some satisfaction to fans of Alien as well as thrill the unfamiliar moviegoers. Ridley Scott had a big task on his hand when he was to make a prequel to his famous Alien movie. He may not have succeeded completely but he did a respectable job of his own in this project.

Although the acting was mostly unspectacular as is to be expected in a SciFi movie, it was Michael Fassbender’s performance of android David that stood out as the best effort. Noomi Rapace may have given a good acting performance, if not great, but gave a good job at delivering a strong and determined, albeit vulnerable, heroine. The script was good but it still had a lot of predictable and unresolved plot elements and as I said before, it still leaves a lot of questions unanswered to fans of Alien. As expected in a SciFi movie, its best qualities were the visual effects and the set designs. It did an excellent job of recreating a fictional planet with excellent special effects, especially the alien effects. The score by Marc Streitenfeld also added to the drama of the movie.

Prometheus did have a lot of expectations put on it. Although it didn’t succeed at achieving them all, it still made for a good thriller of a movie. Whether there will be another prequel or not still remains in question.

2012 Box Office: May and June Make For A Good End To First-Half

The first half of 2012 has passed already. A lot of movies have been released. A lot of hits and a lot of flops have been decided. But the success of the first six months of the movie year has also been decided. There was a lot of yo-yoing but its success has been determined and has allowed for studios to set goals to make 2012 a record-breaking year for them and for the movie year as a whole.

As some of you may know, the box office of 2012 is an interest of mine ever since the box office slump of 2011. 2009 still remains the highest-grossing box office year ever. Since I’ve been writing and paying attention, January and February showed big signs of improvement while March and April had a bit of a yo-yo.

May is usually seen as a month of excitement as it’s the month when the summer movie season opens. This May opened full of excitement as The Avengers broke box office opening records left, right and center and continues to draw audiences to this day. It reigned supreme over the first three weekends of May only to be dethroned in the last weekend by Men In Black 3. Even strong debuts from movies that didn’t open at #1 like Dark Shadows, Battleship and The Dictator as well as continued success of The Hunger Games helped May 2012 in ending with a strong total of  $1.141 billion. It wasn’t has high as last May but didn’t go under by that much: only $52 million. This year’s May is actually the sixth-highest grossing May ever. 2003 is the highest grossing ever with $1.4 billion.

June opened well in its first weekend with Snow White And The Huntsman debuting on top along with continued strong showings with MIB 3 and The Avengers. The following weekend was also strong with the debuts of Madagascar 3 and Prometheus both grossing over $50 million that weekend. Its successes in the Top 2 continued the following weekend with the debuts of Rock Of Ages and That’s My Boy lacking muscle. The following weekend saw Disney/Pixar’s latest picture Brave opening strong with $66 million. Nevertheless it was the final weekend of June leading into July 1st that saw strong debuts for Ted and Magic Mike. They don’t call the summer movie season a tight competition for nothing. June 2012 ended with a total gross of $1.169 billion: $27 million more than June 2011 and the third highest-grossing June ever. Only two other Junes have had higher total grosses: 2004 with $1.376 billion and 2010 with $1.41 billion.

Now that the months have all been looked at, it’s now time to look at the first half as a whole. And upon looking at the first half of the year, it appears that 2012 is on a record-setting pace. The first six months of 2012 have grossed a total of $5.184 billion. This makes it the first time the first six months have grossed a total more than $5 billon. Its total is $320 million more than the first six months of last year and $255 million more than the first six months of 2009, the year that holds the total-gross record.

So for those who are also keeping track of this year’s box office stats, remember that 2012 has $5.41 billion dollars to go in order to break 2009’s record. July opened well with continued success of Ted and an impressive debut for The Amazing Spider-Man. A strong chart-topping debut of Ice Age: Continental Drift also continued the success the following weekend.

However it was this weekend that has been hit hard. The Dark Knight Rises was expected to open phenomenally this weekend. Instead it opened with tragedy in Aurora, Colorado on Thursday as a crazed gunman named James Holmes opened fire in a theatre killing 12 people and injuring more than 50 of others. This incident has sent shockwaves in the US, around the world and in the entertainment industry. Warner Brothers was saddened by the shootings and cancelled premieres in Paris, Mexico and Japan, suspended marketing in Finland and won’t release box-office figures until Monday the 23rd. Director Christopher Nolan spoke on behalf of the film’s cast and crew and called the incident ‘devastating’. Many moviegoers remained undeterred by the incident and continued to show up. I myself plan on seeing this knowing that the shooting is a one-in-a trillion incident. The last time I ever heard of a shooting in a theatre was when Boyz ‘N Tha Hood opened back in 1991.

The second half of 2012 opened on an exciting note however currently stands on a tragic and nervous note. Will there be any changes in terms of cinema admittance in the future? Will the showings of movie trailers be changed or altered? Will this year’s box office be affected in the long run? Only time will tell.

WORKS CITED:

 “Monthly Box Office Chart” BoxOfficeMojo.com. 2012. Box Office Mojo. Owned by IMDB.com. http://www.boxofficemojo.com/monthly/

“Quarterly Box Office Chart” BoxOfficeMojo.com. 2012. Box Office Mojo. Owned by IMDB.com. http://www.boxofficemojo.com/quarterly/

WIKIPEDIA: 2012 Aurora Shooting. Wikipedia.com. 2012. Wikimedia Foundation Inc.  <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2012_Aurora_shooting&gt;

Movie Review: Brave

Brave is the latest movie from the creation of the Disney/Pixar team. Disney/Pixar already has quite a stellar reputation of churning out first-rate animated movies since 1995 and they promise Brave to be another story with a top quality cast, top-notch animation and a story that’s thrillingly entertaining. The question is do they deliver well enough to keep the Disney/Pixar legacy happening?

The story revolves around Merida: a young Scottish princess who’s first-born of King Fergus of Clan DunBroch and Queen Elinor. Merida is an energetic princess from the start as she gets a bow and arrow for her birthday and her passion for archery grows. Her pursuits include encounters with a will-o’-the-wisp to the demon bear Mor’Du. The bear is successfully fought off at the expense of the king’s leg. Years would pass. Elinor would have triplet boys who are totally mischievous. Merida would grow up to be a free-spirited teenager who has a passion for archery and sword fighting. This charms her father but doesn’t go well with the mother as she wants Merida to grow up to be a traditional princess. Merida doesn’t look forward to the traditional life of the princess. She wants more to be the hero and the fighter instead.

Then the day comes. Merida learns that she is to be betrothed to a first-born son from one of her father’s allied clans. Even though Merida is disappointed, Elinor tells Merida the story of a boy who did his own thing and it led the kingdom to ruin. Even though Merida is still unhappy, she decides for archery at the Highland Games to be the decider for her future husband. Disappointed with the contest Merida openly declares open to compete for her own hand and devastates the efforts of the other boys. This disappoints Elinor greatly and the two have a falling out as Merida goes into the woods.

In the woods she’s led by will-o’-the-wisps to a witch disguised as a wood carver. The witch agrees to give Merida a spell to change her mother but in the form of a cake. To both of their surprise, Elinor turns into a bear after eating the cake. Merida heads back to the witch’s cottage only to find the witch gone. The potion in the cottage contains an automated message from the witch that the spell will be permanent unless undone by the second sunrise. She also leaves a riddle to undo the spell: “mend the bond torn by pride.” As Merida attempts to patch things up with the mother, she sees how her mother has become more bear-like. She also flees an attack form Mor’Du and learns that Mor’Du received the same spell from the witch many years ago. She learns she has to mend a family bond to prevent her mother from being like Mor’Du. To make things crazier, her brothers discovered the cake, ate it, and turned into cubs.

Meanwhile tensions grow at the castle as the clans fight over Merida’s behavior. Merida quells the fighting by declaring that children should get married in their own time. The suitors and the lords all agree. Meanwhile the time for Merida to restore Elinor into a human is running out. Merida and Elinor try to head out of the castle only to be stopped by Fergus who mistakes her for Mor’Du. Fergus pursues Elinor while Merida has to free herself to stop them both. It isn’t until all are confronted by Mor’Du that something has to happen. Elinor lures Mor’Du to a falling menhir which kills him. It isn’t until one final professing from Merida that the spell can be cast free and peace can be restored amongst the clans.

Overall Brave does not rank as one of the best Disney/Pixar movies ever nor does it have one of its best-ever storylines. In fact it was Pixar’s goal to make a more mature movie as compared to their mostly kid-friendly movies like Cars, Up, Ratatouille and Toy Story. That could be why many may feel the typical Disney/Pixar magic is lacking here. What it does do is live up to the promise of a story entertaining for any movie audient of any age even with its darkness at times. It also delivers in bringing charming characters to the table and a heroine that succeeds in making the audience want her to win in the end. That is reason enough to consider Brave an excellent movie in its own rite. The unique thing about Merida is that she’s Pixar’s first ever female protagonist in a feature-length film.

The story itself was even written by a woman: Brenda Chapman. She wrote the story to have it in the same tradition as Hans Christian Andersen and the Brothers Grimm. She was also to be Pixar’s first female director but was replaced by Mark Andrews following creative disagreements. The presentation of Merida as a strong young woman who defies traditional convention but has a heart of her own also gives a positive female role model for young girls. Good to have since reality show bimbos seem to be the popularity contest winners right now.

The voice acting had excellent choices in terms of picking some of the biggest names to come from Scotland: Kelly MacDonald, Billy Connolly, Craig Ferguson and Kevin McKidd. The addition of English actors Emma Thompson, Robbie Coltrane and Julie Walters also added to the charm of the story. John Ratzenberger, a favorite of Disney/Pixar, again makes a return appearance. The animation was top notch as one would expect from the Pixar team. Once again detail and accuracy pay off. The music, composed by Patrick Doyle, was meant to have the Celtic feel of being in Scotland and included many authentic Scottish instruments and Scottish rhythms in the score’s mix.

Brave is not amongst the best Disney/Pixar movies ever made. Nevertheless it does take the Pixar team in new directions in terms of storytelling and it succeeds in being entertaining to the audience. That should keep the Disney/Pixar continuing on their positive streak.

A Tale of Two Snow Whites: Seven Dwarfs vs. Huntsman

Most of the time I do reviews of movies. This article is different as I do a side-by-side comparison of two versions of the same story. There’s Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs that generations of moviegoers are familiar with. There’s now Snow White And The Huntsmen that aims to be a modern version of the famous fairy tale character. The question is how do they compare side to side?

First off, let’s run down the first nitty gritty factors of the movies. Snow White And The Seven Dwarfsis more than just a delightful animated

Some present moviegoers would view Disney’s Snow White as too naive.

movie. It’s a part of filmmaking history. It’s the first ever feature-length animated movie. And it was made against incredible odds. Walt Disney took five years to make this movie as it involved a lot of drawings and a lot of effort. It was expensive for its time at $1.5 million and Walt had to take out a lot of loans for this movie. And during the Great Depression to boot. In the end, it became a huge hit in 1937 grossing $8 million worldwide and world propel further animated movies in the future. To this day the American Film Institute still ranks it as the Best Animated Movie ever.

Now Snow White And The Huntsmen isn’t really much of a filmmaking breakthrough. It’s a life-action version of the Snow White story, which has been done before. It features familiar actors Kristen Stewart, Charlize Theron, Chris Hemsworth and Sam Claflin. While this film is not much of a cinematic breakthrough, it is a personal breakthrough for director Rupert Sanders. He has directed commercials and TV episodes in the past. This is his first direction of a feature-length film and it cost $170 million to make. It has so far grossed $152 million at the North American box office: $370 million worldwide.

To compare the actual Snow White character, let’s give a bit of a rundown in terms of the times. First off Snow White And The Huntsmen is done in the present by modern-day director. Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs was released in 1937 and done by Walt Disney. You can be sure both films would be reflective of the ideal female roles for the two main female characters and both would reflect the directors’ visions at the time. The Disney Snow White has a very happy and cheerful attitude but is very naive to the threats that surround her. She lost her parents and is exiled in the woods but still holds her spirits high even after the queen’s assassin tells her to flee. The modern Snow White, played by Kristen Stewart, is a girl scorned. She has had enough of the imprisonment and wants out. However she feels there’s no way out. It isn’t until after she sees an opportunity escape and seizes it that it’s revealed she has a determination in her to fight to be free, even if it means walking through castle sewage to get it.

The reflections of the different types of Snow White characters is also reflective in their biggest desires. Disney’s Snow White wants to be free but she feels she found it in living with the seven dwarfs. Her biggest desire is to find her ‘prince’ as evident in the song ‘Someday My Prince Will Come’. Modern Snow White wants love too but she wants her freedom more. She knows she has to continue fighting even after she is free from the prison. She knows the queen and her men and she knows the threats will continue as long as the queen is alive.

The Snow White of Kristen Stewart could be seen by some as too much of a ‘warrior princess.’

Both Snow Whites are subject to negative opinions from some about the way they’re depicted. First off modern audience goers would find the Disney Snow White, voiced by Adriana Caselotti, as too naive for the present and very lacking in ‘street smarts’. Kristen Stewart’s Snow White could also be subject to negative opinions as Disney fans may feel she lacks the cheerfulness and many other moviegoers could think she makes Snow White into Xena: Warrior Princess.

The character of the queen has a common similarity: beauty. Walt Disney wanted a beautiful queen in his film as part of the reflection of the queen’s desire to be the ‘fairest of all’ and her evil envy of Snow White. We shouldn’t forget that sometimes evil can be disguised as something beautiful. The modern evil queen is given a name, Ravenna, and is played by Charlize Theron who is renowned for her beauty. The dissimilarity between the two evil queens is that the Disney queen is seen as very stockish in her desire to see Snow White dead because of her envy, and only because of that. Ravenna is shown as the killer of Snow White’s father, whom she killed on her wedding day and had Snow White imprisoned. It’s the familiar evil stepmother role in fairy tales. Ravenna is shown not only as a queen of envy over Snow White but as a victim herself. She learns from the mirror that has to destroy Snow White for the sake of her immortality or she will be the mortal one. Even giving Snow White the poisonous apple would show two differing means of disguises. The Disney queen would take a potion to tune her into an old lady. Ravenna would metamorphose into William, son of Duke Hammond, to give Snow White the fatal apple.

The other notable difference of the two Snow Whites is the differing their main supporting character, or characters. In Disney’s Snow White, it was the seven dwarfs. All seven were cute with cute names and charming personalities. They worked hard but they sang, danced and lived cheerfully. They were first surprised to see Snow White and thought of her as an intruder but would come to welcome her, love her, and even avenge her against the queen after she gave Snow White the poisonous apple. In the modern Snow White, the dwarves are seen as a minor supporting character in the movie who assist with the Huntsman in her well-being and warriors with Snow White and the Huntsman against the queen. It’s the Huntsman in the modern Snow White who’s the main supporting character now.

The Huntsman in the modern Snow White is under command from the queen to kill and receive the hand of her brother’s deceased wife in marriage. He learns from Finn, the brother, that it was a false promise and then becomes Snow White’s ally helping her escape with the help of women disfigured by Ravenna and the help of the seven dwarves. The Huntsman is the man who kisses Snow White back to life but it’s not happily ever after yet as they must battle Ravenna before Snow White can be married to the Hunstman. In Disney’s Snow White it is the prince whose kiss revives Snow White and marries her. The Huntsman is only seen at the beginning as the one who tries to kill Snow White but can’t and gives the queen a pig’s heart to trick her into thinking Snow White is dead.

It’s not just the characters themselves that make the two Snow White movies different but also the stories themselves. The beginning especially. In the Disney movie we’re given a storybook narration of what has happened in the past and leads to the beginning with the queen at the mirror saying “Mirror, mirror on the wall…” Snow White and the Huntsman goes back to when Snow White is a young girl and her favorite playmate is the Duke’s son William. Ravenna is prisoner of the Dark Army rescued by the recently widowed King Magnus, father of Snow White. King Magnus is actually killed by Ravenna after he marries her, imprisons Snow White and seized control of the kingdom leaving it lifeless and full of sadness. Even the setting of the forest is different as Disney shows a charming forest full of happy creatures while the modern Snow White shows a nice forest that’s not immune by threats like insects and other dangers.

Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs and Snow White And The Huntsman are two differing movies of the same story. As for which is the best depiction, I can’t say because I have not read the original Snow White story by the Brothers Grimm. Nevertheless both have their entertainment values and one would appeal over another depending on their movie preferences.