LONDON – The Aquatics Centre was not sold out to capacity on Saturday morning. There were dozens of empty seats, but those in attendance let their presence be known.
They screamed. They clapped. They shouted, especially when Great Britain’s swimmers were at the front of the pack. Anyone who was sleepy after a late night of partying — Friday was the Opening Ceremony festivities, after all — had trouble catching a few minutes of shut-eye in the colorful venue.
Briton Hannah Miley’s first-place finish in the fourth heat in the women’s 400-meter individual medley (4 minutes, 34.98 seconds) electrified the crowd. There were bursts of eardrum-shattering roars.
A break from the norm: Buddhist monk Kenki Sato, 27, is away from his regular work at Myoshoji Temple near Nagano.
He does, however, continue his family tradition of competing as an equestrian on the global stage. Sato’s father, Shodo, was selected for Japan’s 1980 Olympic team but Japan’s boycott of the Moscow Games took away that opportunity.
Sato’s sister, Tae, is a five-time national champion in showjumping, and his younger brother, Eiken, participated in the 2008 Summer Games.
In London, Sato, who attended Meiji University to study law, will take part in the individual and team eventing. His horse is named Chippieh (breed: Verband der Züchter des Holsteiner Pferdes e.V.), a gelding born in 2002.
Sato won golds in team and individual competitions in the 2010 Asian Games. His humble persona is one of his most endearing attributes.
“In principle, my sect doesn’t recommend reliance on others,” Sato told reporters. “But for a moment when the competition is over, I think it is very important to give thanks to my horse, groom and family.”
Did you know? Argentine basketball star Manu Ginobili (San Antonio Spurs) celebrated his 35th birthday on Saturday. He helped the South American nation win the Athens Olympics gold medal in 2004 and a bronze at the Beijing Games four years later. . . . Also on the Olympic birthday calendar on Saturday: Nadeshiko Japan forward Ami Otaki, now 23.
Overheard: Over the P.A. system in the Aquatics Centre, one of the announcers declared, “I’m still trying to spell smorgasbord.”