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Olympics: What's your WTF sport? And don't say rhythmic gymnastics!

Every Olympics, there are inevitable debates about why certain events are deemed a sport, let alone one worthy of medals. I was at a beach house with friends last week and watched person after person come into the room where handball was on the television and ask, “What is this?” It’s not that it’s not athletic, it just seems… unnecessary. (I don’t judge sports, mind you. The only time my heart rate is raised is when I’m trying to beat a pack of tourists or businessmen to the door of a Starbucks, so anyone who does anything is golden in my book.)

Today, I pitched my blog editors a quick item after fast-forwarding through a replay online of this morning’s rhythmic gymnastics qualification rounds and seeing that Azerbaijan’s Aliya Garayeva used an instrumental version of “You Can Leave Your Hat On” — complete with heavy breathing — for her ball routine. That is noteworthy in my world. (Watch her at the World Cup below.) Their responses: “What qualifies as a sport? The Olympics has some doozies. Why isn’t ballet an Olympic sport? What about ballroom dancing? Both seem to be on par with rhythmic gymnastics.” “That whole ‘sport’ is a huge ‘WTF’ for me.” And, “Rhythmic gymnastics is the ice dancing of the Summer Olympics. Also hardest sport to spell next to heptathlon.” READ FULL STORY

Ryan Lochte pool etiquette gets him in warm water, Patrick Stewart scalps Olympic tix for Funny or Die -- VIDEO

Is this Ryan Lochte’s audition for hosting SNL? He’s made a video for Funny or Die that’s almost a public service announcement for peeing in pools. He also appears in Funny or Die’s “The Olympic Ticket Scalper with Patrick Stewart, Ryan Lochte, Simon Pegg & Maisie Williams.” He’s less convincing there… so we’re thinking maybe just an SNL cameo is warranted.

Watch both clips below. READ FULL STORY

Olympics recap, Day 12: Misty sandy-colored memories of the way we won

That sand looks super spongey, right? Like long jump gold medalist Brittney Reese is landing in a big cake? It’s tea time, fellow armchair Olympians. Let’s dig deep and dive right in.

Day 12 brought a gold-medal U.S. vs. U.S. beach volleyball match, a charmed third time for sprinter Allyson Felix, and my sneaking suspicion that I would willingly watch random track and field events in prime time any night. These athletes, man. They’re getting to me. I don’t know if I can go back to regular old humans again. Couldn’t NBC just keep showing more Olympics instead of America’s Got Talent? They could still call it that! READ FULL STORY

Olympics recap, Day 11: Aly Raisman needs to thank the Karolyis, plus happiness and heartbreak in track and field

You know it was a packed day at the Olympics on Tuesday if NBC didn’t even try to squeeze a Mary Carillo anthropological adventure into primetime. Let’s break the broadcast down. (Click on links for videos.)

WOMEN’S GYMNASTICS Perhaps now that the event finals are over, we’ll see Gabby Douglas smile again. We got a small grin at the end of her beam routine — which drew gasps when she fell off on a leap – because the stress was finally over. For her. Aly Raisman, on the other hand, found herself in the middle of a U.S. protest after her score placed her in fourth. Kathy Kelly, vice president of the U.S. women’s program, and Marta and Bela Karolyi, quickly pantomimed for her coach to file an inquiry. “For what?” Aly’s coach asked. They thought the judges hadn’t calculated the difficulty value of Aly’s routine correctly. READ FULL STORY

Olympic Stud of the Day: High bar gold medalist Epke Zonderland -- VIDEO

Okay, okay. Perhaps I should have picked Aly Raisman as today’s Stud after she nailed that first tumbling pass to win gold in the floor final and took bronze on beam following a scoring controversy. But two things worked against her: That painful studio sitdown with Bob Costas in which she kept insisting she was so excited but never actually looked it (maybe she was understandably exhausted, maybe she’s been media-trained to be that boring), and the fact that there’s just too much stress in women’s gymnastics for anyone to look like she’s actually enjoying herself while competing in the event finals. They’ve all worked years for those few moments and one tiny misstep can cost them their dreams. I get it. But after experiencing the weight of that insane pressure for days as a viewer, I just wanted someone to remind me gymnastics is fun. Enter the Netherlands’ Epke Zonderland.

He’s the first Dutch athlete to ever medal in gymnastics, and it was gold on the high bar. Watch his routine, which had the highest difficulty of any gymnastics routine performed in London (male or female), below. The spectator-shot video not only gives you a great view of his epic three release moves in a row but also of his competitors watching him. Look for Danell Leyva in his gray U.S.A. track jacket on the left… READ FULL STORY

Olympics: Nina Dobrev is as obsessed with gymnastics and Gabby Douglas as you are (maybe more)

After hearing that 16-year-old U.S. gymnast Gabby Douglas is a huge fan of their show, the cast of The Vampire Diaries made her a video congratulating her on her team and individual all-around golds and wishing her and her teammate, Aly Raisman, good luck in today’s event finals. Watch it below. (No spoilers in the comments, please!)

Nina Dobrev, a former artistic and rhythmic gymnast, was behind the group effort. “Forget sleep. It’s all about the Olympics right now. I’m obsessed. Like, it’s actually a problem. They’re starting to tell me I’m looking tired on set, and it’s because I’m up until, like, two in the morning watching the Olympics and going to work at 5 a.m.,” Dobrev told EW earlier today. “I used to be a gymnast, and I competed internationally, so it’s my favorite time. I even bought a 3D TV so that I could watch them in 3D. When I found out that Gabby liked the show, I was incredibly excited and really happy to make the video. And now we follow each other on Twitter, so we’ve been direct messaging. The 16-year-old in me wishes that I was up there with them. So I’m just so happy for her success. And she’s so cute. She has the most amazing smile.”  READ FULL STORY

Stop asking Michael Phelps if he's really retiring. Really.

olympics-michael-phelps.jpg

Michael Phelps was on Today this morning, once again being asked if he’s really competed at his last Olympics, making Matt Lauer the latest person to refuse to believe Phelps is not going to go to Rio in 2016. How can Phelps make this any clearer? “I’m done,’’ he said. “I’m finished. I’m retired. I’m done. No more.” Yeah, but seriously. “The biggest thing is I can look back at my career and say I’ve done everything exactly the way I wanted to, and if you can say that, I’m happy. I’m satisfied,” Phelps said. Matt, I believe, successfully read between the lines: Phelps hates to lose, and he wants to go out on top. Normally, that notion would be applauded, but someone in the Today crowd actually booed the greatest Olympian of all time after he laughed off Matt’s psychoanalysis and again assured him, “I will not be coming back, we’ll just leave it at that.”

I get it: Enough athletes have come out of retirement to make us skeptical, Phelps is notoriously competitive, everyone loves a comeback story, and he’s only 27. What else is he going to do besides travel (may we suggest The Amazing Race), cage-dive with great whites in South Africa with Chad Le Clos (which better be a Shark Week 2013 special), buy a racehorse (he’s thinking about naming it Schmitty), and perfect his golf game (for a celebrity tournament)? Whatever he wants to! I think that’s the point. I love seeing the smile he gets on his face talking about 15-year-old gold medalist Katie Ledecky. (It’s there again when Lauer brings her up.) When Phelps is ready to return to the pool on a daily basis, maybe it will be as a coach, and one day, we’ll see him tearing up on the deck of an Olympic warmup pool like Bob Bowman did.  READ FULL STORY

Olympics: Aly Raisman loves 'Call Me Maybe' 'Pretty Little Liars' and wants to meet Princess Kate

Aly Raisman is about to get big. Along with the rest of the Fab Five, Raisman (who is Team USA’s gymnastics captain) has already earned a team gold medal, and tonight, you can watch the 18-year-old compete in individual floor exercise and beam. She may not have been the buzziest name pre-Games, but she certainly has won our attention. EW caught up with Raisman earlier, when she told us about her pop-culture favoritesfrom Ringer to Channing Tatum and who she really wants to meet in London.

She’s got “Call Me Maybe” fever. “I just like to listen to music that kind of like pumps me up and gets me ready. I like hip-hop, just kind of like fun music, not slow stuff. I like “Call Me Maybe” a lot! [Laughs]READ FULL STORY

Olympics recap, Day 10: Track stars dash to victory

Man, running is just plain awesome.

I feel like I don’t say that nearly enough — probably because when I’m running, the word “awesome” is the last that comes to mind. “Torture,” maybe. “Pain,” definitely. Never “awesome.” But it really is. Especially when someone else is doing it.

Last night, track and field delivered some really stand-out moments in an Olympics that has largely been dominated by mermen and flying squirrels. (The Olympics are weird.) But for more on all of that, read below for your recap, written — ironically — by one of the least athletic people you’ll ever encounter.

FINALS

Track Cycling — Last night, Jason Kenny claimed a gold for Great Britain in this somewhat baffling sport. (“Why is that man hugging the racer?” “WHY ARE THEY GOING SO SLOW!?!”) And I’ll just add this victory to the ever-growing list of things that the British do better than Americans. Currently No. 1 on that list, by the way? Awesome couples. I’m looking at you, Olympics royal-loyals William and Kate.

Men’s 400m Hurdles — Lashinda Demus stole my heart during the women’s semis, but over on the men’s side you’d have had a hard time finding a dry eye in the arena when Felix Sanchez was winning the Dominican Republic’s first Olympic medal. Sanchez, who ran the race in memory of his late grandma, had pinned a photo of them together beneath his race bib. After he won, Sanchez, who at 34 is the oldest man to win an Olympic sprint race of 400 meters or less, took out the picture and kissed it. Ugh. Racing, you’ve obviously been taking lessons from P&G commercials. READ FULL STORY

Olympic Stud of the Day: Alex Morgan

My Facebook page erupted yesterday afternoon after the US Women’s Soccer team had defeated Canada and won their ticket to the Olympics finals against Japan.

After seeing the celebration, I immediately felt like a spoiled chump. But I still wanted to see the game. (This reaction is perfectly in line with how much of this year’s Olympics has been for me. Spoilers > Anger > I’ll watch anyway.) Of course, I never got a chance to see the game — or even a few extended plays. Instead, there was a pitifully short highlight reel at the beginning of Primetime coverage last night that showed the headline-grabbing final moment. Then it was over.

Sure, maybe there really wasn’t time in NBC’s 40,000 hours of primetime Olympics coverage to show a more than 4 minutes of women’s soccer. Yet, I will point out that they somehow made time for a segment about latitude and longitude last night that was probably twice as long as the soccer highlights. Thanks for nothing, dudes. READ FULL STORY

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