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Sports | Zooming In

July 30, 2012

Zooming In: Olympics Day Four

Bringing you the top Olympic stories that aren't covered in the USA! USA! USA!

Justin Adler

Zooming In London Olympics 2012

If hyperlocal was the journalism trend of 2011, then hyperinternational is today's hotness. (It's also possible we just made it up.) That's why Gelf Magazine and Deadspin have decided to showcase the best—or at least the most interesting—foreign-produced journalism with our new feature—Zooming In: The Olympic Edition.

Throughout the Games, we’ll comb through hundreds of international news publications to bring you stories and local perspectives that can’t be found stateside. Each day, we'll give you our top five finds, giving you the chance to be as globally cultured as foreign-government-controlled papers permit.

Think of it as Doctors Without Borders, except that instead of saving people's lives overseas, we're giving you snippy recaps of their articles.

After the first full weekend, we're looking at who the Israelis are looking at, the unheralded sport of olive-pit-spitting, and an equestrian monk.

Spanish Olive-Pit-Spitting Medals: 2, Other Spanish Medals: 0 | Spain

Reasons Spain should not care that they were eliminated from the Olympic soccer tournament: 1) It’s Olympic soccer 2) Spain won the 2010 World Cup and 2008 & 2012 Euro Cups 3) The Spaniards are olive-pit-spitting champions.

Barcelona’s La Vanguardia (thanks to ThinkSpain for the English version) reports that Spain’s Ricardo Legidos and Daniel Lozano took home gold and silver, respectively, in Sunday’s olive pit spitting competition, which took place off Olympic grounds in London’s Notting Hill. Britain's Gabriel Buttimore earned his homeland the bronze medal.

On top of dominating the event with a spit of 13.15 meters (43.143 feet), Legidos is covering the Games for the EFE (the Spanish equivalent to the Associated Press). According to the event organizer, the world record for olive pit spitting is 21.43 meters (70.308 feet).

In 2007 the Asociación Amigos de las Oliveras de Cieza (Association of Friends of Olive-Growers of Cieza) petitioned the IOC to recognize olive pit spitting as an Olympic sport. They argued that not only does the practice date back to the Stone Age, it’s also environmentally friendly doesn’t discriminate in terms of gender, race, nationality, age, or ideology.

The IOC still refuses to credit the sport, which is reason 4,296 why nobody likes the IOC.

Searching for Graceland in London via Manitoba | Canada

Few of us know what it’s like to push our bodies to a point of transcendent exhaustion. Canada’s Clara Hughes knows that feeling quite well. When she gets there, she sees Elvis, according to Montreal’s The Gazette.

With a training mandate of, “Ride until you see Elvis,” Hughes is one of those rare athletes to not only compete, but win medals in both the summer and winter Games. She won two bronzes in road cycling in 1996, and scored four more medals in speed skater. After winning bronze in the 5,000 meters at the Vancouver Games in 2010, Hughes announced her retirement, but she decided to give it one last try at these Olympics.

While she didn’t place in Sunday’s women’s cycling road race, the 39-year-old Hughes has one more shot to win her seventh Olympic medal in a cycling time trial this week. In other words, “It’s now or never.”

“A Nice Jewish Girl From Massachusetts” | Israel

That's how Israeli newspaper Haaretz describes Aly Raisman (sign-up req'd, but free), the US gymnast that stole the show yesterday by qualifying for one of the two spots reserved for the American squad in the all-around individual finals.

Jewish sports fans have a long history of living vicariously through prominent Jewish athletes, and prior to the era in which a little Googling could turn up a site which claims authority on the subject, it was a popular pastime to debate the all-around Jewishness of athletes whose religious affiliations were ambiguous (David Cone, anybody?). Well, on the off-chance that video of Aly Raisman's parents watching her bar routine left any doubt, Haaretz clears it up: they're claiming Raisman for the tribe. [Haaretz actually notes that Gawker posted the video—"mocked on the website Gawker," is how they put it—and describes the scene as "a classic illustration of what any nervous Jewish parents look like when their kid competes in the Olympics."]

The Israelis, the article notes, had reason to gravitate toward an American in this year's games: during the first weekend of competition, their sole gymnastic competitor, Valeria Maksyuta, turned in "one of the worst performances of an Israeli gymnast since Limor Fridman at the 1984 Los Angeles Games."

Raisman proved to be a good alternative for Israeli gymnastics fans. She did her floor routine to "Hava Nagila," and, like a proud grandparent, Haaretz kvelled over Raisman's many laurels, including the "Pearl D. Mazor Outstanding Female Jewish High School Scholar-Athlete of the Year Award given out by the Jewish Sports Hall of Fame in New York."

Nigerians are Bummed that the Olympics Feature No Nigerian Soccer | Nigeria

Many sports fans prefer the safe cocoon offered by their favorite sports over the pageantry and spirit of the Olympic games. (Perhaps that's why one of the top articles on ESPN is about Tebow's shirtless run in the rain.) In Nigeria, passion for the summer Olympics is running low because the country's powerful soccer team—which took home the silver in Beijing—failed to qualify for this Olympics this time around.

The Vanguard newspaper talked to many folks affected by the failure of what Nigerians call the "Dream Team" to make it to London. Chidi Mbah, a soccer viewing center operator, told the paper that soccer fans won't even tune in to watch the other nations play, preferring to watch European friendlies instead. [Editor's Note: you know your country is crazy about soccer when you have soccer viewing centers].

Nigerian newspapers are suffering as well, as they had hoped for a boost in sales during the Olympics from people eager for updates on the soccer team's exploits and debates over strategy. With the team not qualifying, though, the papers have been unable to sell much of their coverage featuring other teams in the Olympics.

Buddhist Monk Seeks Enlightenment Through Olympic Gold | Japan

Four years ago, most current Olympians were practicing their craft. Japan’s current equestrian show-jumper, Kenki Sato, though, spent 2008 secluded in a Buddhist temple, forced to secretly follow the Beijing Games as Monks are not supposed to interact with the outside world.

China Daily reports that Sato, 28, is on extended leave from his temple to compete in the London Games, where he hopes to win Japan its first equestrian medal after an 80-year drought.

The 460-year-old temple and the equestrian club are more related than you might think, though. In fact, they're next door to each other and Sato's father, Shodo, heads both of them. Shodo was also a show jumper; his Olympic dreams were dashed in 1980 when Japan boycotted the Olympics to protest the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

Kenki said that his father's past motivated his efforts to be an Olympian, but unlike most stars seeking endorsement deals and the covers of Wheaties boxes, Sato is pursuing a higher path.

"I may learn something as a human being when I encounter various people with different religions and languages abroad," Sato said. "I want to feed it back into my path to Buddhist enlightenment."

Kate Bennert, Isaac Rauch, Dan Gartland, and Tom Ley contributed to this article.

Justin Adler

Justin Adler is a graduate of the University of Arizona. He blogs here.

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Article by Justin Adler

Justin Adler is a graduate of the University of Arizona. He blogs here.

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