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Medals And Scandals: An Olympic Update


On day seven of the Summer Olympics, another big moment ahead today for American swimmers Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte, plus a great Olympic story in judo and a scandal in badminton, something that's battered its image - although it brings up the question: Does badminton have an image? Joining us to discuss these things is NPR's sports correspondent, Tom Goldman. Good morning.


MONTAGNE: So, let's look at Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte, and talk to us about today's showdown and how it actually might be different from how it all felt going into these Olympics.

GOLDMAN: Yeah, you're right. They were the invincible ones who would define men's swimming going in. And for sure, they've had some big moments. Phelps set the all-time record for medals won at an Olympics. Lochte's won three medals. But they haven't been the invincible pair they were expected to be, and these games have proved there's a lot of talent in the swimming lanes around these guys.

That said, Lochte is the world record holder in this event today. He had the fastest in qualifying. You could see him uncorking one, here. And this is also Phelps's last chance against his friend/rival. Phelps has the record, nothing left to do but swim fast and try to remind everyone he's the guy who won eight gold medals at the last Olympics.

MONTAGNE: And let's turn to a sport we don't often talk about, Tom, women's judo. There is an American of note competing in a final today. What can you tell us about Kayla Harrison?

GOLDMAN: Yeah, she had a sad story at the beginning of her life: a victim of sexual abuse as a young teenager by a judo coach. But then she moved to the Pedro Judo Center in Massachusetts, and it really helped her overcome the personal trauma that she'd been through, helped her become a champion. She won the 2010 World Championship, and now she could become the first judo competitor from the U.S. to win an Olympic gold medal.

MONTAGNE: And badminton was in the news yesterday, big time, with a scandal about women's doubles teams trying to lose. Give us a quick look at what that was all about.

GOLDMAN: Yeah, eight players disqualified in the games. And essentially, they were losing so they could win. They were trying to position themselves in a round-robin competition to do better. One of the eight Chinese - a badminton player named Yu Yang - she quit the sport and announced via social media that she's leaving her beloved badminton. It has prompted an interesting debate about competition and whether not trying your hardest to ultimately win constitutes cheating or a breach of sporting ethics.

MONTAGNE: Tom, thanks very much.

GOLDMAN: You're welcome.

MONTAGNE: NPR's sports correspondent Tom Goldman, joining us from the London Summer Olympics. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.