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So what else did I enjoy? Track cycling. This isn't the Tour de France variety, with its stunning backdrops and herds of cyclists battling it out for the lead. That seems easy to like. What I fell for were the individual cycle-sprinters and teams racing in the velodrome, a steeply banked oval.
The rules can be ridiculously complicated (why, for heaven's sake, do sprinters begin their races moving as slowly as possible?) but it's an astonishing display of strength and grace -- all while moving at more than 35 miles per hour, and often while a cyclist is nearly horizontal and within inches of an opponent.
Sometimes, though, the surprise was that I hadn't been critical enough.
I went to synchronized swimming wondering if the little I'd seen on TV was misleading, and that this odd combination of swimming and gymnastics would turn out to be fascinating.
No such luck.
Yes, it's complicated -- and that upside-down kicking thing must be incredibly difficult -- but it's impossible to ignore the general weirdness: the constant smiling; the hair pulled back so tightly the women look like they've just had facelifts; the accompanying music that often sounds like something played by German tank commanders when they were invading Poland.
And what is with each pair's eerily matching skin tones? Do they sunbathe in sync? Is it makeup? Do I just not want to know what goes into this particular sub-genre of Olympic grooming?
Leaving the swimming stadium, though, I walked through a media lounge where a cleaning woman was leaning on a long-handled dustpan. She was staring at a television screen, enraptured by the synchronized swimming going on just a few feet away.
It made me wonder: Did I miss the point once again?
Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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