The first signs of Olympic fever hit the airways this weekend. Olympic trials were held for two of what might be called the "heartland" sports: gymnastics and diving. Earnest young (often very young) faces-some of them competing against siblings or childhood friends-turned out from places like Indiana, Wisconsin and Texas. A reminder of how isolated some of these sports usually are, and then how suddenly they are thrust under an international microscope every four years.
A few words on men's gymnastics... If you're Raj Bhavsar, what do you have to do to make an Olympic team? Seriously. Bhavsar was outstanding this weekend, completing his comeback from disappointment in 2004 when he was overlooked for the Athens squad despite a strong showing at the trials. Again, he was the star in Saturday's live broadcast on NBC, though he missed the almost insurmountable automatic qualification standards by just a few tenths of a point. Surely he would be named to the team. But no, the committee had the final word today and Bhavsar is merely an alternate. He will be able to compete only if Paul Hamm does not recover from an injury sustained two weeks ago. Both Paul Hamm, the defending Olympic champion (controversy anyone?), and his twin brother Morgan were awarded spots on the Olympic team at the selection committee's discretion.
Is it just me or are the speedos getting smaller? Diving showed why it is one of the most watchable Olympic sports. Okay, they're a little young and some of them look a little hungry, but the formula is solid: a dozen fit-looking guys jumping in and out of the pool, flipping and spinning in almost nothing. Troy Dumais sringboarded himself onto the team with a win on Saturday, clearly the best diver among the men in that event.
On the 10 meter platform, David Boudia made the smallest splashes with the biggest dives and earned the first guaranteed spot on the team. His childhood friend and synchro partner (that's a diving term, people), Thomas Finchum, finished second and was right by his side for the awkward best-day-of-my-life vs. I'm-really-disappointed-do-I-really-have-to-do-this poolside interview. Though their story seems like something the Here! Network might have their eye on, NBC's having none of that. They were all over the two on Sunday, building the drama in what is one of the more spectacular Olympic events.
Next week: Swimming and Track & Field hold their trials. --Ryan Quinn