Sunday, August 22, 2004
US wins Game 1 and lead 6-1 in game 2
US women take lead 19-18 - Canada call time out
Canada women lead 16-15 vs USA in Game 1
I just heard it's not on CBC yet
Saturday, August 21, 2004
Heese and Child contemplate Spain in Quarters
They've already eliminated the 7th seeds and now they're gunning for the 15th seeded pair from Spain.
Canada lost their last match against Spain in May of this year and Bosma and Herrer have won four straight matches this week including defeating the highly ranked Laciga brothers.
Mark Heese on the competition: "We beat them in the quarter finals in Atlanta and I'm sure they're thinking about that."
Heese and Child beat Argentina 2-0 to advance to Quarter-final vs Spain
"Our beach philosophy? Win."
Mark Heese was asked that question in reference to the "beach life" at the press conference after their round of 16 victory. Although he didn't offer a response at the time that's my suggestion if it comes up again.
And win they did. The gouchos from Argentina didn't know what hit them after having an easy ride through their pool including wins over two wild card teams who were too low in the seeding to qualify any other way. The Argentines were former World champions but looked anything but today.
Heese and Child faced the do or die situation with their usual stoic demeanour - not too hot and not too cold. But it didn't take long for a few key blocks and a spectacular dig here and there to fire up their killer instinct to finish off the number one seeds from Pool F.
"I thought about that as I wrote in my journal last night. That this could have been my last Olympic match ever"
The victory guaranteed them at least a fifth place finish but a win in their next match against Spain's Bosma/Herrer would put them playing for a medal.
Men's game time is 11pm local on Sunday or 4 eastern. The women play Misty May and Kerri Walsh at 8pm local or 1pm eastern.
VC gang at Oz's Roy and HG show
Heese and Child to test Argentina
Coach John May tells me that Mark and John match up pretty well against this team. They're not physically overwhelming like the Norwegians or Brazilians can be but they're smart players. In John's recollection they've won the last three matches against them with only one loss in recent memory. Tune in at 2pm Eastern time on CBC.
Dumont and Martin Inspire
Annie tried to focus her thoughts as she did her sixth consecutive interview after the win against Cuba. Visibly tired as she spoke with me about the win, she still couldn't suppress the smile that have made her and Guylaine darlings of the Canadian media. Dumont and Martin's heart and energy has driven their game to the next level and apparently driven Canadian fans to do more with their lives.
"One woman told me she felt inspired to go work out and train after she saw us play" laughed Dumont.
Dumont also spoke about her 3 year old (almost 4) daughter at home and how she was using Bell's cell phone and 500 free minutes to the full extent to talk to her family back home in Quebec. Her daughter “sort of” understands that Mom is at the Olympics but now she's asking why she's on TV all the time and why her “nana” has shown up on TV as well. Guylaine's brother arrived today to join a group of a dozen family and friend's of the pair.
You can only imagine how hard it has been for them to compete and travel so far away from their family. The Olympic qualification process has taken 18 months and now top players like Karch Kiraly refuse to take that much time away from their families. I was so thrilled to see my own 10 month old twins via webcam the other night and I haven't been away half as long as these athletes.
Dumont and Martin were invited on Ron Maclean's show again tonight (BTW: We were just over at CBC Ron just told us that he's a subscriber to the magazine) but they declined in order to rest for the match against May/Walsh.
I asked Annie if she had been following May's attempt to come back from the abdominal injury at these Games.
“Perhaps she's not stretching for balls on defence but we're not thinking about that.” She added that they were focusing on their own matches and what they need to do. Annie is certain to be the one they'll go after and she's been holding up both physically and mentally.
Guylaine also spoke about how great it's been that the media coverage has given her so much recognition after many months of toiling in the relative obscurity of qualifiers and events in far off countries. Dumont and Martin are certainly no longer anonymous and will appreciate all Canadians cheering them on Sunday afternoon (they do read your posting and emails!). Exact times will be posted later today.
Friday, August 20, 2004
Dumont / Martin to play Cuba today at 2pm eastern
Heese and Child play Argentina at 2pm eastern on Saturday.
These are decent, "winnable" first matches for both teams in the Round of 16 but the women will have a tougher road through the draw given USA phenom Kerri Walsh will likely be their next match.
The Canadian women could play USA's Walsh/May who hold the world number one ranking but May is just returning after an abdominal injury and that could be a factor as she'll be playing her fifth match of the event.
The men lucked out and won't meet a Brazilian team until the final if they continue to advance. Their next match (if they win the first) would likely be Spain. Argentina and Spain are teams they can beat and have beaten regularly in the recent past.
Go Canada Go!
Thursday, August 19, 2004
Beach vball on front Page of yesterday's WSJ
X-Treme Envy: Olympics Makeover Lures Young Viewers --- `Fuddy-Duddy' Sports Lose To Bikes, Bikinis, Disco; `It's a Big Party Out Here'
By Peter Waldman and Vauhini Vara
18 August 2004
The Wall Street Journal
(Copyright (c) 2004, Dow Jones & Company, Inc.)
ATHENS -- During play on Center Court at the Olympic tennis complex, stadium entrances are sealed by tall metal gates. Battalions of ushers grimly stand guard, and the umpire admonishes the audience: "Quiet, please!"
Across town at the Beach Volleyball Center, the Olympics enter a dimension more akin to the television show "Baywatch." Men play in surfing shorts, women in bikinis. Disco and heavy-metal tunes blare between points. A DJ who sounds like Wolfman Jack with a Greek accent announces the score and goads the audience, "Put your hands together and make some noise!" Between sets in the two-on-two matches, cheerleaders in scanty silver swimsuits prance and gyrate in the sand.
"It's a big party out here," says Holly McPeak, a U.S. beach-volleyball player who has won both of her matches so far in her third Olympics. "The fans go crazy."
And there are lots of them. Unlike at the tennis stadium, where a thin crowd watched Americans Martina Navratilova and Lisa Raymond dispatch two Ukrainians in a first-round doubles match Sunday, evening sessions of beach volleyball have been packed.
"It's the scene, it's the people -- come on, you want to watch people play volleyball on the beach," says NBC's Molly Solomon. She's directing her network's cable coverage of the Athens Games, which includes as many as four beach-volleyball games a day. "Young people gravitate to it; we're trying to cater to that."
The modern Olympics may have been built on idealism and authenticity, but marketing is the key to survival. So the Games, as with most entertainment enterprises, are reaching out to the under-35 crowd coveted by consumer advertisers. Traditional Summer Olympics sports like swimming, gymnastics and track don't cut it with Gen-Xers. They want more action, more risk and more flesh.
Beach volleyball is just one of several new Olympic sports aimed squarely at this crowd. Ms. Solomon attributes ratings improvements during the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City to younger audiences tuning in for snowboarding. Along with beach volleyball, cross-country mountain-biking became an Olympic sport at the Atlanta Games in 1996. Trampoline gymnastics and the triathlon were added in Sydney in 2000, and stunt-heavy BMX bicycle racing is slated to join the 2008 Olympics roster in Beijing.
"The Olympics are considered so fuddy-duddy, so old-school -- and that's not a compliment," says Dave Wiens, team manager for the RLX/Ralph Lauren mountain-biking team, which has an Olympian in Athens.
The Olympics want to steal thunder back from the X Games, its louder, brasher imitator that is wildly popular among teenagers and 20-somethings. Viewership for the X Games, which feature death-defying exploits on skateboards and such crowd pleasers as bicycle high-jumping, has nearly doubled since 1995. But ratings for the Summer Olympics fell 19% for the 2000 Games in Sydney from the 1992 Games in Barcelona, NBC says. Still, the X Games TV audience remains minuscule compared with that of the Olympics.
"The hard thing right now is that everything has to be better than the last -- bigger, stronger, faster, more exciting," says Jane Buckingham, director of Youth Intelligence, a Beverly Hills, Calif., consulting firm that studies young people's interests. She says extreme sports elicit the reaction, " `Hey, we haven't seen this 100 times before, so it feels new,' instead of, `Ah, it's just another baseball game.' "
Todd Wells, a U.S. mountain-biking Olympian, describes the art of pitching his bike down a steep, chalky dirt path strewn with tree branches, roots and rocks. "You're breathing in as hard as you can, and you're sucking in these huge amounts of dust," he says. "You're suffering."
Fellow Olympian mountain-biker Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski says he once caught his front wheel on a rock, slammed into the ground and broke his collarbone -- then went on to finish the race.
U.S. volleyball legend Karch Kiraly places beach volleyball in the middle of today's sports spectrum -- edgier than professional football, baseball and basketball, yet tamer than bicycle high-jumping.
"We're a little of both -- a nice combination of athleticism and sex appeal," says Mr. Kiraly, 43, who won three Olympic gold medals in volleyball -- two indoor and one beach -- but is sitting out these Games to work as a color commentator for NBC. "We encourage people to get up and dance. The last thing we want are people sitting on their hands like at a tennis match."
The U.S. Olympic Committee essentially adopted America's pro beach-volleyball league whole. All four U.S. pairs at the Games -- two women's teams and two men's -- play on the Association of Volleyball Professionals tour. The Olympic team leader, Al Lau, is an AVP executive.
If all four teams advance through the medal rounds, NBC and its cable networks could broadcast as many as 30 beach-volleyball matches, giving the league -- in which the network owns a small stake -- a huge boost.
"We take `Baywatch' to a whole new level, with world-class athletes at the core," says Leonard Armato, a former sports agent who reconstituted the beach-volleyball tour in 2001 and is married to Ms. McPeak. As he speaks, during a break in a tight match pitting two chiseled Greeks against some springy Brazilians, the silver-swimsuit squad teaches the raucous, mostly Greek crowd the wave.
Heese and Child in to Round of 16 after swiss win 2 straight over AUT
Diary for Wed, Aug 18
Web address for email recepients: http://vcmag.blogspot.com
(Note: Almost all of these diary entries get thumbed out on my blackberry as I sit on a media bus from venue to venue so please don't be too hard on my spelling and grammar - that includes my mother who is reading these posts and probably cringes at each spelling mistake).
It's hard to believe I've been here for only 5 days - it seems much longer. Luckily I have a very supportive wife, Kate, back home with my 10 month old twins who I actually saw via webcam last night! It was nice to hear some "Da Das" and "Uh ohs" from my kids before my son tried to eat the camera. Thankfully our families are helping out while I've been away but it's tough I'm sure.
The morning started late after our popular appearance at the Heineken House on Tuesday. I say popular because we were with Claudine who was a duet Canadian synchro silver medallist from Sydney and she has dance moves that rival her performance on the water. Ask her about the "truck driver" dance move if you ever run into her.
I made it to the slalom men's canoe finals for some lunch time shooting and even managed to catch Canadian kayak gold medal hopeful David Ford doing some pratice runs before his Thursday race. It's quite the atmosphere at this venue with crowds sitting on a hill side with their giant flags observing this wonder of an athletic facility.
I hurried over to beach for the 2:30 men's match and assembled my massive 200-400mm long lens that I borrowed from Nikon. It's certainly not the easiest thing to hold with just your hands and I felt a bit like a rank amateur next to the guys with the monopods and even bigger telephotos lenses (most guys have at least two or three cameras with them).
The match against the aussies started out poorly for the Canadians with Julien Prosser (a personal friend of the guys) blocking a ton of balls. Mark Heese looked visibly out of sorts after yet another roof bounced off him. I decided after that game it was time to lose the photo bib and join the Canadian fans in the east stands. A few cheers of OO AH Ca-Na-Da seemed to help as they bounced back in set 2 (a game win that probably guaranteed them a spot in the rounf of 16). The mojo-less game three seemed to feature Canadian weakness than Australian prowess but hopefully the Canadians can go back in time to find that special something before their next playoff match.
The women were a different story coming out strong against the Norwegians (a team they had never beaten) but they'll need to close the match faster when and if they face the top seeded US or Brazilians (Canada had 7 match point chances).
The night was uneventful and I even managed to get to sleep before 3 am!
Dancers and competitors bathing suits: a few more views
My good friend Dana Sanders added some interesting insight here and I'll try to add the link to the WSJ article he refers to when I find it. Bob Graham also added an interesting POV supporting Rosie's role in questioning the jiggle factor at matches and I'll post his note if I get permission.
The latest updated info I have on Guylaine's stance is that she was distracted by the dancers being too close to the court during the match so the FIVB has moved them back for all matches but may have been extra careful to keep them off the court during the technical time outs of her match. In an interview after the match she told a CanWest reporter standing next to me that she wouldn't mind if they would at least throw in a couple of male dancers for the women in the crowd. She's definately being patient with reporters who want to focus on this issue but I find it unfortunate that they're missing some more important angles like her long road back to the top of the sport after the tragic, unsolved murder of her only sister.
I think I'll leave the lost word of this post to Jenna Child (John's 9 year old daughter) who sat next to us watching the female players walk through a throng of dancers as Bridgette Child and I discussed this issue. When asked which should would rather be she responded vigorously "A player!" which brought a smile and a high five from her mom.
From: Dana Sanders <email@example.com>
To: Ted Graham <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Sent: Wed Aug 18 10:02:22 2004
Subject: Re: [Athens Journal and Canadian Volleyblog] Fw: Dimanno trashes beach volleyball
fyi ... There's a front page story in todays wall street journal on
beach volleyball. same angle but different presentation. far more
constructive in their observations. less offensive (i'm speaking here
of ms. dimanno's rhetorical question regarding "when does anybody watch
beach volleyball for the volley" and her demeaning of the sport by
putting brackets around the word "discipline"). But, leave it to a
Canadian to critique the success of a sport where americans are stand
outs, understating the fact that the canadians are just as viable and
have little need for sarcastic defendants whose primary aim is to
attack the very sport that the canadians are making their mark within.
Again, the WSJ article contrasts the bland nature of tennis at the
olympics relative to the crazy success of beach volleyball and cites
the raciness as part of the reason offering helpful social critique
balanced with appropriate acknowledgment of the good it brings to the
have a good one my man.
Director for Leadership and Character Development
Wednesday, August 18, 2004
Diary Catch-Up - corrected picture link
Monday started with another nice morning sipping strong Athenian coffee and munching nutella laden toast while on the terrace of Volleyball Canada house (as people have been calling it). I had been invited to a Speedo photo shoot and BBQ so I headed to the beach bar where they were holding the event and managed to do an interview with a German agent who identifies volleyball athletes for Speedo to sponsor. A former player himself, "Pille" talked about who the game has changed with the new rules and court size and talked about his challenges in finding the new younger players they want to invest in. I met up with Team Canada indoor's John Blacher who was at the event since his wife is Canadian team swimmer and we headed over to the beach match. Tragically the tram we were riding struck and reportedly killed a man as we headed to the venue. John apparently saw what happened and I'm thankful that I didn't. Athens is a dangerous city for pedestrians.
You can read about the matches in some of my other posts but the men played great against the US squad who made a ton of unforced errors throughout. I saw a very sad Nygaard talking to his girlfriend later probably having realized they had no chance of going any further. Although the Canadian women had a chance against the US in their match it was probably not quite their time - the first game was dominated by EY and her back to back to back stuff blocks. Look for Guylaine and Annie to exact their revenge later in the tournament.
More photos at www.msngroups.com/volleyblog
Audio files of past interviews
Annie Martin on Wedneday's win vs NOR http://www.volleyball.ca/files/V013.WAV
John Child on Monday's win vs US (interview done by another reporter) http://www.volleyball.ca/files/V010.WAV
John May after Heese and Child first loss against Swiss: http://www.volleyball.ca/files/v004.WAV
Mark Heese comments after Swiss loss: http://www.volleyball.ca/files/v005.WAV
Justin Trudeau on beach volleyball
Chances look good for Heese and Child plus Athens diary from yest erday
Heese and Child likely to advance if any one of three teams lose on Thursday. It's still to early to tell their exact chances but it looks good since all the current 3rd place teams in pools A - C play the top seeds in their pool tommorow (with the exception of Austria who play the highly rated Laciga brothers from Switzerland). Based on sets won plus a favourable points for/against ratio (thanks to their routing of the US), they're confirmed to be ahead of POR in pool F but behind NOR in Pool D - so they just need to be ahead of one more third place team to secure a spot in the round of 16. A tentative bracket shows that they would play one of the five following (likely) pool winners in the first match of that round:
-Brazil (Benjamin/Marcio Araujo)
The official announcement and draw for single elimination brackets to be made 30 min after the final match on Thursday (probably at 5:30pm Eastern time).
More Diary updates...
Yesterday was an off day for our Canadian beach volleyball players so I went with Suzanne Judd (who does an amazing job organizing all things beach vball for VC) to the Acropolis. SJ seemed a little lost without having to follow up on the million little things she takes care of but it was good for both of us to take some time off to see the city.
We left the apt at noon (this is Greece after all) we stopped by the beach venue picking up some gear and for SJ to sell some extra tickets. She's definately too nice to be a real scalper and the fact that she sells them below face value makes her very unpopular with the local ticket speculators.
After a bus adventure through Piraeus we finally reached the base of the Acropolis and had a bite to eat at a local cafe. With food energy to burn we hiked up to see the Parthenon, Temple Athena and the museum. It wasn't as crowded as I would have thought although you can't quite get a "clean" shot of the buildings without a tourist in the frame.
We then ventured over to the Agora where Socrates (among other philosophers held court). Quite a feeling for a student of Greek philosophy like me!
At that point SJ and I split up so I could head back to the MPC and she could check out COH. I also shot swimming that night (another fun venue) and visited Holland Heineken house with a number of COC folks until about (ahem) 3 am
Orest Stanko responds to Dimanno's article with this letter to the editor
Ted at the acropolis
It takes a team...
Guylaine hits vs Norway
Dancers stay on the sidelines
Quotes post Wed match
Another day of mixed success for the Canadian teams. Heese and Child's coach John May commented that they didn't have their "Mojo" today while the women were positive throughout and finally capitalized on six match point opportunities. Both teams should still advance to the round of 16.
Mark Heese: "It was a struggle from the start. It was frustrating not to get into a groove. We improved in the middle of the match but I'd like to have the beginning and the end back."
Guylaine on their 3 key things to focus on for the match:
"Dynamic, Determined, and Patient - all three came into play today"
Annie on her partnership with Guylaine who is 14 years older and former indoor star: "I remember being nervous about asking her to play but now we're very good friends which is important when you spend so much time together"
Monday, August 16, 2004
Martin and Dumont push US to three sets
After a shaky first game loss of 21-13 Guylaine and Annie were able to pull together an impressive 21-12 victory in the second. The fourth seeded US team of McPeak and Youngs told the media that they felt the "worst game of their year in the second set" - not giving much to the hitting and digging prowess of the Canadians. That quote may come back to haunt them against this team which appears to be peaking at the right time...
Next match will be Wednesday against Norway who were seeded 21st and have lost all matches and all but one of their games so far.
Here's what I look like on the sidelines of these matches... imagine wearing these vests in 45 degree heat
Quotes from Mark and John today after eliminating Blanton and Nygard (former Sydney Gold Medallist) from contention
More Photos at link above
MH on his defence: "I fed off John's blocking success"
"It was great to bounce back from our first loss against the swiss team. When playing against America there is always a great rivalry. We had a lot of supporters here today and John was on fire at the net. "
MH on having more room to improve: "Saturday we were at 50% and today we're at 70% - we have a couple more gears to go."
JC on how they used their experience to recover from losing the first match two straight:
"It can be a nerve wracking situation when your back is against the wall like that so our experience comes in to manage that stress plus the mental training we do to manage that stress"
JC on their outlook in pool standings:
"Winning two straight with a good point ratio should improve our chances"
JP on his advice for Heese and Child about having a level attititude winning or losing: "We talk about emotional capital where you can take those emotions and bank it for when you really need to draw on it"
JC: "it was a very good team that we played against. We knew we would have to play our best. At that point I think if we had lost that game we would have had a real hard time progressing in the tournament. We came out and played our best game and everything worked for us. I had more energy in this game than in the first game, it wasn't quite as hot ou there so I played better."
The lucky loonie is in the beach
I just buried one at centre court here in Athens prior to Mark and John's match
Sunday, August 15, 2004
Canadian women look forward to US after upsetting Swiss
Annie Martin was at Canada Olympic House enjoying a day off today after recording an early victory against the European champion Swiss team. She and coach Vincent Larivee toured Plaka on a steamy afternoon in Athens. They will be off until 11pm local time when they play the US team of McPeak and Youngs in prime time with the match be carried live on CBC and likely on NBC. Pictured above is Guylaine Dumont with one of her many blocks of the match - CBC also mentioned that Guylaine had been voted best server by our magazine (always nice to get a plug even if they didn't know we're not TNV any more but Volleyball Canada magazine).
Interview with Justin Trudeau after he watched Day 1 Cdn Beach VB matches
TG: Have you ever been to an international beach volleyball match before?
JT: This is the first time I saw it live - like a lot of people I discovered it on TV in Atlanta and then watched again in Sydney. But it's been on my list of things to watch since the schedule game out. It has such a great energy live and it's great to see Mark and John play but I'd like to see them win next time! (He just missed the CDN women's match)
TG: Did you ever play?
JT: Only casually. I used to play organized volleyball in high school. I was a solid passer and every now and then pulled off a decent spike. I wasn't a very good blocker though.
TG: What do you think Mark and John need to do to improve ?
JT:Tighten up consistency. The Swiss were really good so they needed to work on the serve percentage and not go for aces as much but I don't really know - I'm no expert. I just want to see a win!
Journalists get free massages!
Annie Martin digs vs. Swiss
Aquatics? Archery? Indoor vball?
These are the choices I'm sifting through today as I sit on a bus from our coastal apt to the main press center (MPC). Swimming would be interesting since I might witness Phelps try to beat Spitz record gold medal haul. Archery is only prelim but it's being held in the historic 1896 Athens Games stadium and reknowned NY Times columnist George Vescey said that was his choice for today when we shared a shuttle bus around Olympic stadium last night. (Amazing to run into people like this - I saw his media badge as he stood in front of me so I commented how much I enjoyed his last Sunday Times column). Men's indoor vball is Italy v USA which should be good competition and a lively crowd (it would be nice to have more full stadiums here so all of you readers should buy tickets and fly over!). I guess I'll just have to see all three...
On a whim I went to see men's synchronized platform diving last night - another Canadian photog had said Quebec's (and Canada's!) Alexandre Despatie (sp?) was competing and could be a medal hope. No such luck but I did get to get a loaner 200mm-400mm lens and a D2H Nikon (digital) to take shots at the event. Conclusion? I'm a better vball photog and bigger isn't always better.
(Just an aside here - as I write this on my Blackberry I'm on an olympic media bus heading to the MPC and the driver has just pulled over to get a coffee at cafe Picolo. This further bolsters the reputation of random decision making by Olympic bus drivers who are definately on their "own" schedule).
Opening ceremonies from Canada Olympic house
I didn't get into the ceremony but we watched the CBC feed projected on a nearby wall of the rooftop patio of Canada Olympic House (COH) which is in Plaka (which also means we had a GREAT view of the Acropolis).
We in this case means JP who is Mark and John's sport psycholgist and Paul who is a producer with CBC sports journal. We sat in front of Justin Trudeau who whooped it up throughout the night including leading us in a loud cheer for the Russians as they marched into the sta(their contingent was also on a rooftop shouting distance away). They seemed to like that and Justin jogged over to do a shot of vodka with them! Turns out Justin was a former vball player in high school so interviewed him at beach vball the next day.
Tomorrow I'm doing on interview at COH with Judoka Amy Cotton who is from the same small town in Cape Breton I grew up.
I'll give you some beach vb pics and audio interviews from today when I get to the main press center tomorrow.