Olympic Preview: Aquatics

The Aquatic events in the Olympics represent some of the most popular sports in the Summer Olympics. They are probably second only to the Athletic events as people watch these sports in the thousands. One of the big reasons they are so popular is that they have the drama that sports fans love and are all simple enough to understand. Many sports in the Olympics do have this match up but not to the same level as Aquatics. All of these sports have a dedicated following but also add to that the interest of many people around the world. Whether you participate in the sport or not many of them in this group bring in some of the biggest crowds to the Olympics. These sports have a way of grabbing people and creating heroes for many countries. This is what makes these sports so popular because many of the countries have someone who could be a medal hope. The more countries that can be involved at a high level means the more popularity that the sport brings to the Olympics. The origins are also a big reason to why they are so popular as there is no true one country that can take ownership of any of these sports. There are some countries that are better than others in the sports but there is almost no way to trace when the sports started as they are basic forms of exercise that have been around forever. With water came people trying to navigate through it leading to the rise of many of these sports. The more comfortable people got the more they attempted to challenge themselves creating new ways to use water for fun. These are sports that many people can relate to and this is why they will again be popular at London.

 

Diving:

 

 

 

 

First Year: 1904

Most Medals: USA, 131 (48 Gold)

 

Anyone who knows how to swim has learned how to dive and those who really enjoy the thrill of jumping into water have taken it to another level. It takes a lot of control for these athletes to do what they do and also takes a lot of fortitude to jump from high distances into water that can sometimes feel like landing on cement if you do it wrong. The diving competition involves divers jumping from different heights while completing twists and flips in the air while attempting to land straight into the water. There two different disciplines in the Olympics for both men and women including the 3 metre springboard and 10 metre platform. In the springboard divers use the flexibility of diving board to propel themselves into the air and complete turns and flips before landing in the water. In the platform there is no spring as the athletes must simply jump off of the concrete platform and into the water while complete tricks in the air. Within these two disciplines there are also divisions as there is the individual dives and the synchronized dives. In the individual dives a single athlete completes a dive that is judged by a panel of 7 judges with the top and bottom two scores being dropped. The athlete with the best medium scores is the winner and moves on as the individual dives go through the preliminary, semi-final, and final rounds. In the synchronized competition two divers complete the same dive at the same time from the same distance. The dive is judged with by a panel of 7 judges with the top score winning the gold medal. Judges in both events mark dives out of 10 and base their score on technique and grace along with taking into consideration the run-up, take-off, air-time, and the entry into the water. The one major difference between the synchro dives and the individual dives is that judges may also take into account the togetherness of the two athletes into the score. In the end every dive is based on the difficulty and execution of the dive with the landing of the utmost importance. Landing in diving must produce the least amount of splash possible to be successful. It is a sport that is easy to follow despite being a judged event and will be another event that gains a lot of exposure this year at London.

 

Who to Watch:

He Chong (China)

– He has been the strongest athlete in the 3m springboard for years winning gold in every major competition in the last four years including the 2008 Olympic Gold and the 2011 World Championships

 

Tom Daley (Great Britain)

– He was one of the youngest competitors in Beijing and will return in London as one of the biggest names on the British team as he looks to win the first ever diving gold medal for Britain and repeat his world championship performance from 2009

 

Qiu Bo (China)

– He will be making his first appearance at the Olympics but he has already made his impact in the sport winning the 2011 World Championship in the 10m platform and the 10m synchro platform by massive scores

 

Canadian Content:

Alexandre Despatie (Laval, QC)

– He has been one of the faces of Canadian Olympics for years as a top diver and is the only Canadian male to win medals in the diving, two silver medals, as he looks to come back from a terrible injury before the Olympics that caused a concussion

 

Jennifer Abel (Laval, QC)

– She is one of the most daring Olympic divers in the women’s competition as the only female to attempt a 2 ½ somersaults with 2 twists in the 3m springboard as she looks to push the envelope in London to win an Olympic Gold

 

Roseline Filion (Laval, QC) and Meaghan Benfeito (Montreal, QC)

– The medal hope for Canada in the women’s 10m platform synchronized as they both look to improve on their showing at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, where they finished 7th, as they hope to earn a medal

 

Emilie Heymans (St. Lambert, QC)

– She is the most decorated Canadian Olympic Diver after winning three medals, 2 silver and 1 bronze, as she has won a medal in three consecutive Olympic Games and looks to make it four to become the only Canadian athlete to win medals in four consecutive games

 

Swimming:

 

 

 

 

First Year: 1896

Most Medals: USA, 489 (214 Gold)

 

Along with the track events the swimming events are easily the most popular events in the Olympics. A large part of this is the fact that swimming is on of the simplest of sports to follow in the Olympics. Olympic swimming has a number of different disciplines with many swimmers competing in multiple ones. The first division is the distance of the swim as there are 6 different distances that swimmers compete in. There is the 50 metre sprint (only freestyle), the 100 metre, 200 metre, 400 metre, 1500 metre, and the 10k event. Along with the distances there are divisions among the style of swimming. There is the breaststroke (arms pushing out and circular kick), backstroke (on the back arm over-arm), butterfly (Arms in circular motion), and freestyle (arm over-arm much like a regular stroke). There are also medley events where each athlete uses all four styles on each lap of the pool, usually reserved for the 400 metre events. There are also two relay events in the 4 x 100 metre relay, both medley and freestyle, and the 4 x 200 metre relay, just freestyle. Each style and discipline has its own challenges as the smaller distances are for the quickest swimmers while the longer distances highlight the swimmers with stamina. This is especially true for the 10k event that was added only recently and features and open swim in a pond with no lanes that is essentially the beginning of a triathlon. Meanwhile on the opposite end of the spectrum the 50 metre event sees athletes get out to a quick start and go only one lap of the pool until the finish. Swimming in the Olympics is one of the most popular events because it is so simple to understand as 8 swimmers line up on the platform, or in the pool if they are doing the backstroke, and take off on the sound of the gun. Each swimmer must stay in their lane, marked by floaters, and the first person to touch the wall after the certain amount of laps, each lap is 50 metres, wins the race. There will be plenty to watch this year in the swimming events as the popularity of the sport will be high once again especially with some of the biggest names in the Olympics participating in these events.

 

Who to Watch:

James Magnussen (Australia)

– The Aussies have always been one of the strongest swimmers in the Olympics and Magnussen looks to carry the torch from the Thorpedo as a world champion in the 4×100 relay and the men’s 100m Freestyle

 

Michael Phelps (USA)

– The greatest swimmer to ever enter the Olympics Phelps is the defending Olympic champion in five events from last year and is one a quest to become the most decorated athlete in the history of the Olympics with another full program of races in 2012

 

Ryan Lochte (USA)

– He has become one of the biggest stories in the Olympics as one of the few people able to beat Michael Phelps in the pool he will try to take over from Michael Phelps and create his own legend in London

 

Canadian Content:

Brent Hayden (Mission, BC)

– he has been one of the mainstays of  the Canadian Olympic swimming team Hayden will enter his last Olympics in London as a reigning World medalist in the 100m Freestyle and will be looking to end his career with a medal, preferably gold

 

Richard Weinberger (Victoria, BC)

– He will be making his Olympic debut and will be participating in the toughest swimming competition in the Olympics in the 10k open water race as he looks for Gold after winning the Olympic test event and the 2011 Pan-Am gold medal

 

Martha McCabe (Toronto, ON)

– She may not be the best known Canadian swimmer but she has flown under the radar as a constant hope for a medal and will go into London as the World championship silver medalist in the women’s 200m breaststroke as she looks to improve on that performance

 

Ryan Cochrane (Victoria, BC)

– He is one of the best Canadian swimmers as he holds the Canadian record in the 400m, 800m, and 1500m and will be the defending bronze medalist in the men’s 1500m freestyle as he looks to win another medal in London

 

Synchronized Swimming:

 

 

 

 

First Year: 1984

Most Medals: Japan, 12 (0 Gold)

 

The Synchronized swimming events in the Olympics are a showcase of the grace that can be seen in swimming. Many of the other sports in the aquatics sport grouping are about the power and the chaos of races or games. Synchro does the exact opposite as it highlights the calmness and grace of the water. Water is calm and calming to many people and the synchronized swimming is an exact reflection of this. The beauty and grace of groups of athletes performing the same move at the same time is what makes this sport a special one. Teams of women, there are no men in synchro swimming, compete by putting together routines of moves under water and above water all done to music. The Olympic competition is divided into two disciplines as there is the team, eight swimmers, and the duet competitions. In each competition athletes are required to complete two routines that are judged by a panel of 10 judges. The first routine is a technical routine that is made up of specific moves in a specific order within a 2 minute 50 second time limit, 2 minutes and 20 seconds for the duet routine. The next routine is a free routine where the teams can create any set of moves they wish to be completed within a 4 minute time limit, 3 minutes for duets. Each routine is judged by a panel of 10 judges with half of the judges looking at the technical merit and the other half looking at the artistic impression. The biggest part of these performances is that all members of the team or duet are in synch with their moves. Athletes can use the pool to the best of their imagination as they are allowed to turn upside down in the pool as long as their legs are out of the pool. There are no goggles allowed and athletes cannot touch the bottom of the pool as these violations could cost a team 2 points. The Synchronized swimming event in the Olympics is the calmest of all the aquatics events but takes just as much skill to be able to perform all at once. It is a difficult sport but one that is beautiful to see as teams and duets look to win gold for their countries in London.

 

Who to Watch:

Natalia Ischenko and Svetlana Romashina (Russia)

– They are a big part of a great Russian Synchro teams as they will enter London as the reigning World and European Champions and will look to be one half of a dominant performance by the Russians this year

 

Russian Team

– The Russian team is the team to beat in London as they are in almost every Summer Olympics as they have won 6 Olympic gold medals in the team event and will be looking to add another gold to their collection as the favorites this year

 

Canadian Content:

Marie-Pier Boudreau Gagnon (Riviere-du-Loup, QC) and Elise Marcotte (L’Anncienne-Lorrette, QC)

– Gagnon is the veteran of the synchro team in Canada and she will partner with second time Olympian Marcotte as they both look to podium but will be up against some very stiff competition in London

 

Team Canada

– The Canadian team is not expected to do all too much in the Olympics this year but they did qualify and will look to surprise many people by earning a spot on the podium no matter how unlikely it may seem

 

Water Polo:

 

 

 

 

First Year: 1900

Most Medals: Hungary, 15 (9 Gold)

 

Water Polo is a direct reflection of another sport in handball except this sport is done in a pool and can be one of the roughest sports in the Olympics. It may not look like it on the surface of the water as players swim up and down the pool with the ball looking to score. Underneath the water is an entirely different story as legs get tangled and players get dunked under the water. It is one of the roughest sports in the Olympics as athletes must overcome the tugging and pulling and the dunking of each player under water to get to the other end. The rough play is not technically allowed as there are major fouls that force the player to sit out for 20 seconds, three major fouls results in ejection. The penalties are called but they can be hidden pretty easily when players time their moves right. The sport is an entertaining one and takes extreme power and stamina as players are not allowed to touch any part of the pool. They are not allowed to touch the bottom or the side of the pool while playing as they are required to tread water throughout the game. It is a simple sport as well making it a spectator friendly sport as it can be picked up easily. Teams of 7, a goaltender and six outfield players, face off in a match were the most points at the end of the game wins. Each team has 30 seconds from when they get the ball to score and can only maneuver the ball with one hand. The game is not a complicated one making it an easy game to follow and that has resulted in many places taking a liking to the sport. Many Europeans countries have been the leaders in this sport as they have taken a particular interest in the fast paced sport. In London many of these countries will be back as they look to win gold for their country. Many times it will be some of these countries only shot at an Olympic medal making them the biggest hope for their countries. They will all look to London to make their countries proud as they fight it out in the pool for an Olympic medal.

 

Who to Watch:

Serbian Men’s Team

– They are the team to beat in the men’s competition as they have dominated in the past year winning every major tournament as they go in to the Olympics as the defending World League, World Cup, and European Champions

 

Hungarian Men’s Team

– This has been a sport that Hungary has been at the top of for decades as they have the most medals out of any country in the event and have won three straight Olympics gold medals and will look to add another one in London

 

Dutch Women’s Team

– There is no clear favorite in the women’s competition but Netherlands have had a history of success in the Olympics and will go into London as the defending champions from Beijing and could be back on top of the podium this year

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