HOW TO TUNE IN
First off, there is a 13-hour time difference between Beijing and Columbia. When it’s 8 a.m. here, it’s 9 p.m. over there — which means the day’s action is nearly over when most of us wake up. NBC will start its telecasts at 4 a.m. some days and run tape-delayed broadcasts of other events. A handy schedule of broadcast times is available at nbcolympics.com.
WHAT TO WATCH
While we can’t tell you who will take home gold in the modern pentathlon, here’s a quick look at some storylines to keep an eye on.
The United States, with a team featuring NBA stars Kobe Bryant and LeBron James, is favored to win its first gold medal in a major event since the 2000 Olympics. The Americans have changed the way they select their team, constructing a national team program with a pool of more than 30 players after settling for a bronze medal in 2004.
The big story is Michael Phelps, who takes another crack at Mark Spitz's record of seven gold medals. Phelps came close in 2004 — six golds and two bronzes — and he’s entered the same eight events in Beijing. Forty-one-year-old Dara Torres of the United States swims in her record fifth Olympics, two years after having a child.
Due to a new scoring system where the 10 no longer is perfection, look for gymnasts to attempt more difficult elements and push their routines to the edge to get higher scores. All-around world champion Shawn Johnson and Nastia Liukin headline a strong and deep U.S. women’s team, with Johnson especially good on the beam and floor.
TRACK AND FIELD
The men’s 100-meter dash is always a big deal at the Olympics, and Beijing could have one of the best fields ever, with U.S.-record holder and reigning world champion Tyson Gay taking on world-record holder Usain Bolt and former world-record holder Asafa Powell. If Gay is healthy, that is — he hurt his hamstring at the U.S. Olympic trials.
Former Missouri standout Christian Cantwell, 27, is a Big 12 Conference Champion for MU and competing in the men’s shot put. He lost his first Olympic bid for the U.S. team in 2004, finishing fourth at the trials. Cantwell competes Aug. 15. The preliminary rounds start at 9:05 a.m. with the finals taking place at 9 p.m. Both are Beijing time.
Ben Askren is a year removed from winning a second NCAA title at Missouri. Askren, 24, is competing in his first Olympics in the men’s 162-pound freestyle wrestling event. The qualifying rounds for his event start at 9:30 a.m. Aug. 20, with the final taking place at 6:15 p.m. Beijing time.