Tuesday, July 24, 2012

2012 Olympics Previews: One-on-One Combat


Hey folks, Ian from The Steelers n'at here continuing the Olympics previews. Today, I'll be looking at Boxing, Fencing, Judo, Taekwondo, and Wrestling.


Boxing

Competition Format: 10 weight classes in Men's Boxing, 3 weight classes in Women's Boxing, each with 16-28 participants. There will be preliminary rounds followed by a 16-person bracket to determine the champion of each weight class.

What to Watch For: Of all the sports in the Olympics, Boxing probably has the widest representation from different nations. In total, 79 different nations have qualified a boxer for the Olympic games. The United States, because we're awesome at beating the snot out of people just for fun, has qualified the most boxers with 12 Americans competing in London. That said, only one American (Flyweight Rau'shee Warren) won a medal at the 2011 World Amateur Championships. The 2011 Worlds were dominated by Ukraine, who medalled in half of the events, taking home 4 Golds and 1 Silver. Cuba, Azerbaijan and Russia also performed well, so I guess there's something about communism and Boxing that goes together.

Adam's Take: I get headaches from just about everything. The few times I got popped playing football, deck hockey or behind the dish catching it resonated with migraines and dizziness for awhile. As a result, I cannot understand how humans get into a sport where they know direct punishment in the form of repeated blows to the head will occur. More aptly, I cannot fathom how bad it would freaking hurt my melon to do so. Of course, the stereotype is that meatheads get into boxing. While there probably is some manifest destiny there (you aren't going to get SMARTER getting beat about the skull), history shows that boxing favors the tactician, not the brawler. And so, while I cannot imagine boxing myself, I do understand how people can look at it as "The Sweetest Science". As for USA, we have a "puncher's chance" if you'll excuse the pun. Rau'shee Warren is in the mix at the Mens Fly weight level, as are Marcus Browne & Michael Hunter at the Light Heavy & Heavy weights, respectively. But, there's little question that Ukrainian boxers are liable to have their anthems ring out more than any others. Favorites in nearly half the events, Ukraine will be chased by historical contenders Cuba and likely a mix of Soviet Bloc nations (Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, Russia & Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan). If you're looking for off-the-beaten-path individuals to cheer for Itally has a dude named Clemente in the mix at the Heavy weight class and there's a Brit named Anthony Joshus who may be the single biggest lock for gold at the Super Heavy (or Casey Hampton) weight class.  Oh yea, Womens Boxing. Go with the British Isles broads. Nicola Adams (GRB), Katie Taylor (IRL) & Savannah Marshall (GRB) are all heavy favorites. I bet they could hand me my ass.


Fencing

Competition Format: There are 10 events. Both men and women compete in Epee, Foil, Team Foil, and Sabre. Women compete in Team Epee and Men compete in Team Sabre. Each tournament is a single-elimination bracket with the top seeds receiving byes. Scores are determined by hits. In Epee, both fencers can score while in Foil and Sabre only one hit can be scored at a time.

What to Watch For: People dress up like beekeepers and swordfight. The different competitions are based on the weight and design of the sword. Italy has some of the top fencers in the world and should perform well in London. Valentina Vezzali of Italy has won gold in the individual foil in the last three Olympics and would be the fourth Olympian ever to win a gold medal in an individual competition in 4 consecutive Olympics. The US has the most fencers in the field, but on the whole are not as strong as Italy, Germany, and Russia. Fencing must have been popular during World War I.

Adam's Take: I'd like to imagine this is a sport where people try to illegally move stolen goods. But that's not the case. My only experience with fencing is the nasty sweat smell fencers apparently leave behind when they workout/practice/fence/eat pudding in my church's fellowship hall every Friday night. If you're into fencing as a tween, you have openings on Friday nights in your social calendar. As for the Olympics, Italy is no joke. They're even money in the foil events both individually and as a team. Italy also has some ladies that can fence. Russia has some serious sabre skills (which is clearly the coolest named event here), also expected to win the team event, though there is an even field for that individual event. China and Romania are also in the mix. USA's best shot at a medal is probably Mariel Zagunis in the Womens Sabre, where I can only imagine she will "run someone through" probably an unsuspecting Lithuanian, because that's what happens in my brain when I close my eyes.


Judo


Competition Format: There are 7 weight classes for Men's and Women's.

What to Watch For: The United States only has 5 competitors in the competition while Brazil, France, Great Britain, Japan, and South Korea have athletes in each competition. Uzbejistan has some high;y ranked competitors on the men's side and could be a sleeper nation to rack up some medals here. On the Women's side, the Japanese are clearly the ones to beat as they have one of the top 3 in each weight class.

Adam's Take: France has this guy named Teddy Riner who is a big deal. He's gonna win the Heavy weight crown/medal/showcase showdown. He has like five world titles and has only lost four times in the last five years. Greece's Ilais Illaidis (dude...Homer fan, much?) will likely pull down the Middle weight title and Uzbekistan has a bunch of dudes that will likely contend for all the other golds. It kind of sucks there won't be a Royal Rumble here...I think we can all agree that's what we'd want. For the ladies, Something Something Megumi Tachimoto. I dunno. I can't find much here. Just bet with your heart. You can't go wrong there. Unless you're literally using your heart as collateral. I can't get behind that.


Taekwondo


Competition Format: 4 weight classes in Men's and Women's. Each class has a 16-person bracketed tournament.

What to Watch For: Did you take karate lessons when you were a kid? Chances are they were Taekwondo. That said, it's likely you'll still have no clue what's going on when these guys throw down. There is an interesting bit of strategy as each nation is only permitted 4 participants in the competition, it will be impossible for one nation to thoroughly dominate. As expected, South Korea has the best chance to dominate as all four of their entrants placed in the top 3during the World Qualification Tournament. Interestingly enough, the World Rankings are determined by the World Taekwondo Federation who actually embraces the WTF acronym.

Adam's Take: Taekwondo is a tough one to figure. There's a bunch of weight classes and a lot of fighters. Adding to that difficulty is the fact that I just watched a ton of international taekwondo youtubes and my head is spinning. I don't get the point system, but from what I can tell the head gear and chest protectors really contain the only possibility of a knockout to headshots...mostly to the nose/face. Case in point. It seems like if a guy gets lucky with one punch he wins. That's sort of like a bar fight so that's cool, I guess.  Let's break it down with the top fighter to watch in each class:
58kg: Joel Gonzalez Bonilla (Spain) seems to be the favorite.
68kg: Servet Tazegul (TUR) awesome name, awesomer Mega Mix.
80kg: Sebastien Michaud (CAN) is atop the list...but it's a long list.
80kg+: Alexandros Nikolaidis (GRE) is the favorite, but he was last olympics...and that didn't yield a Gold.
Womens
49kg: Wu Jingyu (China) is the best. Very little question about that. In fact, I'm pretty sure she beat The Ocean at Taekwondo, guys.
57kg: A lot of fighters from China and Taiwan. Young champion Jade Jones (GBR) is also in there. She seems cool
67kg: Kim Mi-Kyung from Korea is the reigning Olympic Champion and favorite.
67kg+: Anne-Caroline Graffe & Gwladys Epangue are both from France. Good chance one takes gold, the other silver.


Wrestling


Competition Format: Steel Cage, Ladder Match, Money in the Bank, Royal Rumble

Oh, it's not that kind of wrestling?

There are various weight classes in both freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestling.

What to Watch For: The US has some very good wrestlers and should be able to rack up some medals here. Jordan Burroughs won Gold at the World Championships in the 74 kg divison. If you make a point to watch one wrestling competition, check out the Men's 84 kg class as Pittsburgh native Jake Herbert will be representing our country in the competition. Jake attended North Allegheny High School and did a pretty funny spot on the DVE Morning Show a while back, joking about how his family was packing all black and gold clothes to wear in London and would be waving Terrible Towels during the competition. Go Jake. Go America.

Adam's Take: I'm not going to even pretend to understand wrestling in any form. I'm also not going to attempt to break down what is probably the single-most expansive sport in London this year (with Track & Field separated). Some people LOVE wrestling. So, why not take their passion for it and espouse their bordering-on-obsession-and/or-sexual-gratification-level-of-excitement as it pertains to the sport and use that?   USA has a lot of wrestlers in the mix, but few are favored, it's mostly the guys from "Russia & The 'stans".

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