20 August 2008

Meddling at the games

The Olympic Games in Beijing has seen a new intransitive verb creep into the English language: to medal, meaning to finish in the top three places in an Olympic final. So when an unfancied Lithuanian takes bronze in the syncronised underwater hurdles, Gabby Logan turns to Michael Johnson and says: "a surprise there in third place - she wasn't expected to medal in that event".

It certainly confused me when I first heard it, as the idea of "medaling" in anything sounded very rum, as a homophone for illegal interference. To my traditional ear, for example, medaling with the Women's Beach Volleyball Team would earn a slap.

Someone else earning a slap, at least metaphorically, for the other form of meddling was Liudmyla Blonska, a Ukranian Heptathlon silver medalist who tested positive for banned substances. This brings the total of doping cheats caught at this games to five. Amid the usual cyclists and weight lifters was a North Korean shooter, Kim Jong Su. Quite what competitive advantage a shooter would gain from a dose of anabolic steroids I can't quite imagine.

Unless the North Korean food shortage has reached such heights they are feeding people on steroids to keep them going. It would certainly make for an original explanation amongst the litany of excuses usually offered by offenders.

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