On the Beijing Beat: Only one winner in name game
Tuesday 12 August 2008
When the Olympian formerly known as Chanpim Kautatian went to see a fortune-telling nun last year the advice she was given was right on the money. "She told me, 'If you change your name, you will win gold'," the Thai weightlifter recalled. In more ways than one, it has transpired.
Now known as Prapawadee Jaroenrattanatarakoon, the former Kautatian set a new Olympic record on her way to victory in the women's 53kg division at the Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics Gymnasium. It earned the 24-year-old not just a gold medal but also 15m baht (£231,830) from the Thai government and 10m baht (£154,535) from the Thailand Weightlifting Association.
It was slightly different for the world's leading 3,000m steeplechaser back in 2004. He changed his name from Stephen Cherono to Saif Saaeed Shaheen and his nationality from Kenyan to Qatari, all for a few dollars more. It might have guaranteed him a lifelong monthly stipend of $1,000 but it cost him almost certain Olympic gold in the Athens games. The Kenyan Olympic Committee refused to waive the three-year qualification period required for athletes who wish to switch nationality. Four years on, the Kenyan Qatari is fully qualified but out of steeplechasing commission with an Achilles tendon injury.
Made a Marion in haste...
Noah Ngeny, a former Kenyan team-mate of Shaheen, celebrated his Olympic 1500m win in 2000 by naming his daughter Marion Sydney, in recognition of the host city and the golden girl of those Games – Marion Jones. Four years on, Jones has handed back the five medals she won by the fraudulent means of chemical assistance and is serving the last few weeks of a six month jail sentence for perjury. Now known as prisoner 84868/054 at Carswell Prison in Fort Worth, Texas, she is due for release on 5 September.
Poor Marion Ngeny must know how Ben Johnson feels. Back in May 1988 he was plain Gary Smith, an 11.5sec 100m sprinter with Wallsend Harriers on Tyneside. His idol was Ben Johnson – not the playwright and poet but the Canadian speed merchant. "I decided to do it after reading in the News of the World about a man who changed his name by deed poll to Linda Lusardi," he said by way of explanation. When the faster Ben Johnson tested positive for the anabolic steroid stanozolol at the Olympic Games in Seoul in September 1988, the slower one remained loyal to the name. "I've grown used to it," he said. "People know me as Ben Johnson."
The only Gay in the village?
There is more than one fight-clubbing Brad Pitt, the Australian of that name being among the boxing contenders. There is also more than one Beijing Olympian with the same surname as America's leading sprinter. Tyson, as it happens, is not the only Gay in the athletes village. Mabel Gay, a Cuban triple jumper, is staying there too.
Word on the street
Given Name Ruben. Age 19.
Occupation University student, studying Information Security. Here for the Olympics.
How much attention have you been paying to the Games?
I love the Olympics, that's why I am here. Firstly, it's great to have this chance for China to be introduced to the world. Secondly, it's a great opportunity for me to see so many sports stars in China.
Which events are you most into? Do you have tickets?
My favourite Olympic sports would have to be the football and basketball. I have only managed to get tickets for tomorrow's archery though.
Apart from China, are there any other teams or sportsmen that you feel strongly about, and why? Although, of course, I love China the most, I have respect for all sportsmen and women. If I had to choose, it would be Argentina for the football and America for the basketball.
What are the best and worst thing about the Games in Beijing? The best thing is the opportunity for China to be introduced to the world. I can't think of a bad thing.
Would London be able to host a Games as well as Beijing? (Laughs). You British must be really feeling the pressure now! I trust you'll be OK.
Has Beijing prepared well for the Olympics? It has prepared fantastically. Beijing is beautiful, the best I have ever seen it. I'm sure it will continue to get better, even after the Olympics.
Have you been following Britain's progress? Have you heard of Tom Daley?
Didn't Britain get a gold medal yesterday? In cycling wasn't it? Tom Daley? No, I haven't heard of him.
Tired of archery? Had enough world records in the pool? Why not take in Monkey King: the Rock Musical. The world premiere of China's first rock musical opened at the Beijing Exhibition Theatre this week. Inspired by the Chinese literary classic A Journey to the West, Monkey King tells the story of half-man half-monkey Sun Wukong and his quest to retrieve sacred Buddhist Sutras.
Many in Britain will already be familiar with the characters in the story as Monkey and his friends have been made the faces of this year's BBC Olympics coverage.
Chinese commentators are often quick to criticise adaptations of Chinese culture. The BBC's animated characters, created by the men behind Gorillaz - Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett, have received mixed responses. For example, many Chinese dislike Monkey's bared teeth and believe that BBC's Sandy appears far more evil than his original character.
It remains to be seen what Chinese audiences will make of this latest rendition of A Journey to the West.
24 Hours In Beijing
12.15 Equestrianism: The three-day event reaches a climax in Hong Kong with the show-jumping competition. Germany, Australia and Great Britain, the latter featuring William Fox-Pitt, occupy the top three places following yesterday's cross-country section and the medals look to be between them, with Italy further adrift in fourth place. The individual final starts at 15.45.
08.40 Canoeing: Campbell Walsh, silver medallist in Athens and European champion this year, competes in the K1 kayak semi-final. The final is at 10.17. David Florence is in the C1 single canoe semi-final at 08.00 (final at 09.47)
08.45 Boxing: Bantamweight Joe Murray, who was the first British fighter to qualify for Beijing, takes on China's Gu Yu.
11.00 Judo: Finals of women's under-63kg, including Sarah Clark, and the men's under 81kg, including Euan Burton.
11.40 Badminton: Gail Emms and Nathan Robertson, silver medal winners in Athens, meet China's Gao Ling and Zheng Bo in the mixed doubles competition.
What you may have missed overnight...
01.30 Women's hockey: Britain played Argentina in a pool match
03.00 Artistic gymnastics: Men's team final
03.16 Swimming: America's Michael Phelps went for his third gold of the Games, this time in the 200m freestyle final
03.31 Swimming: Britain's Liam Tancock tried to overcome the mighty American pair of Aaron Peirsol and Matt Grevers in
the 100m backstroke final
04.04 Swimming: Phelps was back in action in the 200m butterfly semis
04.20 Badminton: Britain's Donna Kellogg and Anthony Clarke met China's He Hanbin and Yu Yang in the mixed doubles
Coming up later today...
08.00: Shooting: Richard Faulds (below), gold medallist four years ago, will hope to be competing in the double trap final following the morning's qualification. Steve Scott also competes
12.02 Swimming: Teenagers Jemma Lowe and Ellen Gandy get Britain's 200m butterfly challenge underway in the heats
12.54 Swimming: The heats of the men's 4x200m freestyle relay, where Britain will be up against the likes of Michael Phelps' America
If you want to stay up late tonight...
03.30 Artistic gymnastics: Women's team final
04.30 Cycling: Emma Pooley and road race winner Nicole Cooke compete in the women's individual time trial. The men's event starts two hours later
All times BST
A hot day is in store with scattered thunderstorms and humidity at 75 per cent.
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