Monday, July 23, 2012

2012 Summer Olympics Preview: Sports You Rarely See


The Games kick off on July 27 in London, so over the next week we'll be giving yinz the rundown on what you need to know in preparation for the greatest international competition in existence. We also have Adam dropping some knowledge on us about athletes and teams you can expect to see on the medal stand. Since there are 31 different events in the Summer Games, we've condensed them down and combined them so we don't have to write 31 different posts. Today, I'll be looking at Equestrian, Field Hockey, Handball, and Water Polo.


Equestrian

You like the Kentucky Derby? Was the triple crown race this year exhilarating until I'll Have Another dropped out of the Belmont? Good for you. Equestrian is nothing like that. Yes, there are horses, but that's about it. There are 3 events in Equestrian - Dressage, Jumping, and Eventing. Since the Olympics are in England I'm using the Oxford comma. Deal with it.

Dressage is basically walking a horse around and making it look good. If you can't figure out what Jumping is you should probably stop reading now. Eventing is the Triathlon of Equestrian events. It involves Dressage, Eventing, and Cross Country which is basically like riding your horse through an Old West town where there is crap all over the ground for it to jump over and possible ponds/streams to wade through.

Competition Format: There are Individual and Team events for each of the 3 categories.

How We Might Fare: Was your country once part of the British Empire? If not, do you have a buttload of money? If you answered yes to either one of these questions, chances are you'll be good at Equestrian Events. In Beijing Germany, the US, Canada, and the Netherlands all won Golds in Equestrian with Germany winning 5 of the 18 medals. The US won a gold in Team Jumping, silver in Individual Eventing, and bronze in Individual Jumping.

Adam's Take: All England all the thyme, which is an herb...use silent h's in pronouncing both of those your they'll tax your Yankee asses. Semi-seriously, though, Great Britain is a threat here (especially in Dressage). But, the single biggest lock is Michael Jung from Germany in the individual event...actually, it's really Germany & Great Britain out in front for events both individual and team with The Netherlands & Denmark knocking on the fjord, I mean doors.

Field Hockey

There's really nothing about this event that says "Field" or "Hockey." It's played indoors on a hard surface with the players running around. It's basically High School Gym Hockey with everyone using sticks with the blades broken off.

Competition Format: There are two groups of 6 with the top 2 in each group qualifying for a bracketed tournament. Both Men's and Women's events.

How We Might Fare: To call this "Hockey" is an insult to anyone from the North American continent. Argentina is the only team from the Western Hemisphere in the Men's competition. The United States Women's team did qualify. The US women finished 4th in their group in Beijing. I guess the qualifier to be good at Field Hockey is to not be good at actual hockey, as Germany, Spain, and Australia medaled in the Men's competition in Beijing and the Netherlands, China, and Argentina medaled in the Women's tournament.

Adam's Take: It's time for me to reveal that I went to the University of Maryland, where Field Hockey is an actual thing, complete with it's own stadium/field/mud pitt/sumo mat/whatever they do it on. The Netherlands are (which you should pronounce NEEEEETHER-lands, because it's awesome and not annoying at all, are the prohibitive favorite for the ladies with Argentina, Great Britain & Germany nipping at their heels or hooves or whatever. For the men, USA has a legit shot...despite me not understanding how this is the case. Maybe some underground field hockey training facility that is run by the field hockey mob (See me for the movie script rights, Jerry Bruckheimer)? But, South Korea are the far and away favorite to win it all. Those bastards.


Handball

Never heard of Handball? It's because the US hasn't qualified a team in either the Men's or Women's competition since 1996 when we hosted the Games. Handball is basically a combination of soccer and basketball.

Competition Format: Two groups of 6 teams with the top 4 from each group qualifying for the bracket stage.

How We Might Fare? The US didn't qualify once again. Apparently we can only handle so many deviations on soccer.

Does it snow in your country? A lot? Then chances are, you'll be good at Handball. In Beijing France beat Iceland in the Men's Championship and Norway beat Russia in the women's. Iceland is apparently pretty good at this game. Maybe after the disaster at the Junior Goodwill Games when they got embarrassed by a team wearing purple and teal they decided to give up hockey and switch to handball. No confirmation on if Wolf Stansson is their coach.

Adam's Take: Handball is a sport whose name you should never make the mistake of saying as a directive to someone. At least if you are a male. Speaking of males, France, Denmark, Spain & Croatia are apparently really good at it on the mens side...I am certain of this from looking at the odds listed on the imaginary gambling site I have pretend bookmarked in my browser. For the ladies, Norway, Russia, France & MONTENEGRO??!?! well then...you should for sure put all of your pretend money on a Montenegro womens handball gold. That's like, a great tip for your developing portfolio. My treat.


Water Polo

Once upon a time someone had the brilliant idea to try to combine hockey and soccer and play it in a pool. On the surface the game is pretty simple - try to score goals while not being able to stand or touch the bottom of the pool.

Competition Format: Men's Tournament has 2 groups of 6 with the top 4 in each group advancing to an 8-team bracket. The Women's Tournament has 2 groups of 4 with everyone advancing into an 8-team bracket.

Defending Champions: Hungary (Men's), Netherlands (Women's)

How We Might Fare: The US took Silver in both the Men's and Women's competitions in Beijing. The Men are in a stacked Group B that features all 3 medalists from the Beijing games. The Netherlands women's team did not qualify but the US women will have to navigate through a group that includes Hungary (4th place in Beijing, won Group Play) and China (5th place Beijing, all 3 losses by only 1 goal). Looking at the tournament, the only conclusion one can make is that small Eastern European countries have nothing better to do than be good at Water Polo (Hungary, Montenegro, Romania, Croatia, Serbia, and Greece are all competing). Man, the Ottoman Empire would've been awesome at Water Polo.

Adam's Take: The US Mens team has an outside shot at a medal here. But, their grouping really hampers their chances. What you should do is play a game of Castle Risk (which someone totally wrote a wiki guide for that I'm 78% sure is serious) to gain a better level of understanding of the teams liable to dominate in this sport. Basically it's Serbia, Hungary, Croatio or GTFO. For the Womens side of things, we are FAVORED...so shoot off some fireworks, go to McDonalds and go play Marco Polo at your buddy's pool...I guess...maybe pee in the pool (it's cool, they don't have that dye that will turn it purple). Oh, wait, that's what I did on the 4th. Whatever.

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