LONDON -- Welcome to Day 11 of competition, in which we'll bid farewell to one of the Summer Games's signature sports, gymnastics, while another, athletics, continues to roll along with four medal events, including the highly anticipated women's 100-meter hurdles final.
Tuesday's must-see event: The individual competitions -- balance beam and floor exercise -- should put the coda on a very successful trip to London for the US women's gymnastics team, which won its first team gold medal since 1996 and saw the electrifying Gabby Douglas win the all-around. Douglas, on the short list of true breakout stars from these Olympics, has a chance to add another medal to her collection during the balance beam, for which she qualified third.
But the gymnast with the best medal hopes for the US Tuesday is one who just missed out on one the last time we saw her compete. I'm talking of course about Needham's Aly Raisman, who tied for third in the all-around but missed out on the bronze because of a tiebreaker. Raisman qualified first in the floor exercise (teammate Jordyn Wieber is also in the mix in that event) and is considered the gold-medal favorite, and she'll also compete in the balance beam. For the men, medals in the high bar and parallel bars are also up for grabs.
Also worth watching: The four medal events in athletics Tuesday are the men's 1,500, high jump and discus, and the women's 100-meter hurdles. It's the latter that is drawing the most buzz, not just because of a deep field. Lolo Jones, the charismatic American who qualified first in her heat this morning, has been the target of recent backlash because her fame probably exceeds her success to some degree. Most notably during a recent piece in The New York Times in which Jere Longman wrote:
"Jones has received far greater publicity than any other American track and field athlete competing in the London Games. This was based not on achievement but on her exotic beauty and on a sad and cynical marketing campaign. Essentially, Jones has decided she will be whatever anyone wants her to be — vixen, virgin, victim — to draw attention to herself and the many products she endorses."
The perspective there is tough to fathom; it's as if he's saying Jones should be deducted points for her accessibility and honesty. The most clear-eyed explanation I've read regarding why Jones is compelling and justified in her approach was written by Sports Illustrated's Sarah Kwak:
"In a landscape where we complain that athletes have become so cookie-cutter, rehearsed, cliché and protected, Jones is being lambasted for trying to have a sense of humor and a personality. She's being criticized for sharing her compelling life story. However well-publicized her family's struggles may be, that doesn't make them any less true. Track was always her ticket out, and she's not the first athlete to see sports that way. Can you really blame her for taking advantage of an opportunity that only comes around once every four years?"
Exactly. There are plenty of reasons for cynicism in sports. Lolo Jones is pretty far down that list.
Monday's big story: To apply a hockey term to soccer, Alex Morgan's hat trick. No, she didn't have three goals in the US women's soccer team's thrilling, controversial 4-3 come-from-behind victory over Canada in the semifinals. That distinction belonged to Canada's Christine Sinclair. But Morgan did have a hat trick of a quirkier sort, scoring the winning goal on a header from six yards out in the final minute of injury time, while also providing us with the quote of the day following her goal ("I've said the whole time I don't care who scores as long as we friggin' score") and, before the game, a very prescient ...
Tweet of the day: LIVE IN THE MOMENT -- Alex Morgan (@alexmorgan13), a couple hours before scoring the winning goal Team USA's 4-3 victory over Canada in the women's soccer semifinals.
Little did she know how good her instincts were.
Mind the gap, and stick around for further updates from gymnastics and track, as well as a column on USA basketball from yours truly.