[The following post comes from guest blogger MeanGene; my brother]
Michael Phelps, who tied Paavo Nurmi (among others) in 9 gold medals, has this in common with the Finnish runner - the ability to bounce back quickly and do it again. Paavo Nurmi, in 1920's, won gold and set world records in the 1500m and 3000m races in one day. But "one day" is misleading. He had only 26 minutes to rest between these races. He won 3 other golds in the same Olympics with 1500m as his shortest run.
Another athlete with this remarkable ability to bounce back is Lance Armstrong. We don't know about Paavo Nurmi, because he died in the 70's, but Lance and Michael Phelps have an ability to remove lactic acid from their bodies at a rate seen in almost no other athletes. In fact, a scientist studying lactic acid in swimmers has tested 5000 other swimmers and always found a lactic acid level, post-competition, from 10-15 millimoles/liter, whereas Phelps level is about 5. Last night they showed Phelp's schedule for a day in which he got 2 more golds and 2 more world records and it included total swimming (including competition, warm up, training) of 5 miles. --Check this story for more freak of nature Olympians.
The best display of team camaraderie - the Croatian water polo team (men's) have all grown moustaches. (I can't find a picture, wish I could).
Synchronized Diving (the Chinese are like mirrors) has made me think of synchronized swimming, which reminded me of this Saturday Night Live skit.
Even the Chinese guys in my office think their gymnasts are underage. There is much discussion on the web about Deng Linlin who some think is missing a tooth, meaning one of her adult teeth has not grown in yet. The story is that a Korean gymnast a few years ago got busted for that when she gave a big smile on the podium. It later came out that she was listed as being 15 years old three years in a row. At the very least, the Olympic committee should call the event "Girls Gymnastics" instead of womens. The more I hear about all the hell they go through at a young age, (from a neighbor who is a former gymnast), the more I don't want to watch.
While there have always been athletes on the US team who were born elsewhere, historically it has been immigration. Increasingly it looks like people try out for their own team, and if they don't make it, hustle to another country where they can. In a very timely match, the Georgian women's beach volleyball played the Russian women's beach volleyball today. The Georgians won, of course, the two woman team were both from Brazil.