Saturday, August 11, 2012

Nice Horsie, Nice, Slow Horsie

We're in the medal rounds of every remaining event, or at least we' essentially are. It doesn't matter how unheralded you were coming in. When you show up at the Olympics, you have a chance, however slim, at gold, at hearing your national anthem. The chances may be almost nil, but even if you come in seeded dead last and staring down the defending gold medalist, you can't tell me there isn't at least the germ of a dream in there somewhere. They've still at least laid out a path to gold for you, if you're able to traverse it.

In Berlin 1936, though, that was not entirely the case.

In the last-ever appearance of polo, five nations entered: defending gold medalist Argentina (from Paris 1924, the last previous appearance of polo), Germany, Great Britain, Hungary and Mexico. (India and the United States were invited but declined.) Only three of them were deemed to have any real shot at winning: Argentina, Great Britain and Mexico. Normally, that would just be allowed to play out. Here, though, not so much. Germany and Hungary, neither of which had entered a previous Olympic polo tournament, were considered so far back on the other three that the tournament was structured so that they literally could not win. Argentina, Great Britain and Mexico were tossed into a three-team round robin. The top two got gold and silver. Meanwhile, Germany played Hungary for the right to play the loser of the Argentina/Great Britain/Mexico pool in a bronze medal match.

Argentina took gold and Great Britain claimed silver while Germany and Hungary played, as it would happen, two games, because the first one ended in an 8-8 tie. In the rematch, Hungary won 16-6, for the right to play Mexico for the bronze.

Mexico duly brushed them aside 16-2.

Maybe Hungary and Germany were terrible at polo. It would have been nice to at least be given a shot like everyone else, though.

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