Field Theory by Hadyn Green


Disco Tom

As Tom Ashley crossed the finish line to win New Zealand's first yachting gold medal (vid) in 16 years, TVNZ were crossing live to an ad break.

But let's not be petty. Ashley's medal gives us one of our best Olympic medal hauls in a long time. And if our BMX riders do well that could be extended. Although I feel a little stink for Ashley (also known as "Disco Tom"), because he won gold in what may be the ugliest hat I have ever seen.

Yesterday I mentioned how it was great that we were getting a lot of good coverage about the bronze medalists and how no one was complaining that they should've done better. But that has gone a little too far now.

It is now at the point where, somehow, bronze is better than gold.

Take nothing away from Vili, who bestrode the shotput circle like a colossus from her first throw…

It is hard to beat those terrific twins Caroline and Georgina Evers-Swindell's photo-finish first in the women's double sculls.

We should also hail Hayden Roulston for his silver and bronze on the cycling track…

But the bauble placed around Willis' neck early today (NZ time) is a much more valuable metal than most.

Willis is our athlete of the Beijing Olympic Games because the men's 1500m track final is a bona fide blue riband Olympic event.

I don't want to get all "Rick Suhr" on this but a gold medal is always better than a bronze medal. No exceptions, and especially in this situation.

The twins overcame a form slump and retained their gold medal. Valerie Vili beat the world record holder and the rest of the field with four of her five throws. The world champion for the 1500m wasn't even in the final.

Take a look at the today's poll on Stuff on "Which medal won by New Zealand's athletes at the Beijing Olympics rates as the more valuable metal?" Willis' bronze is (at time of writing) currently leading Vili's gold by 77 votes. In fact Vili is only two votes ahead of Mahe Drysdale.

I'm not bashing Nick Willis, his bronze is awesome, but it is just not better than any of the three golds we've won.

And also there seems to be an "us against the Africans" vibe to this post about Willis' win, that just doesn't sit right.

Meanwhile the Bad Astronomy blog has uncovered the secret to the Chinese success in these games. No it's not eight years of grueling discipline and training of adept children into fantastic athletes; it's astrology:

Explaining his eureka moment with all the zeal of a statistical crusader, he concluded: "Did you know that the distribution of Olympic swimming medalists against the tropical astrological zodiac signs can be almost exactly mapped by a polynomial function of the third degree?"

…whether or not astrology is correct (and it ain't), if you plot the birth signs of the athletes, you are very apt to find a third-degree polynomial that'll fit the points. You can swap around the dates, pick the losers instead of winners, or measure the athlete's hair length and still find some polynomial that describes them pretty well.

If only being born on a particular day could somehow have an effect on your athletic ability.

Usain Bolt had better not be on any performance enhancers because he is just too cool. And the best quote leading up to the men's 200m final (vid) has to be: [the American coaches looked] "as pleased as a Primary School teacher who has just seen one of the kids take a tinkle in the Lego box". 19.30 seconds over 200m is insane by the way.

And for those who can't be there, here's the next best thing (sort of): a panoramic shot inside the Bird's Nest, half an hour before the men's 100m final.

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