Hassan Ammar, File, Associated Press
NEW YORK — It should come as no surprise that much of the Olympics coverage in the U.S. is focused on American athletes and top performers from other countries. You're not going to hear much about the swimmer from Albania who won a preliminary heat or the Benin athlete who failed to advance in judo.
But in this land of immigrants, every athlete has a fan somewhere, no matter how obscure the sport or how slim the chances of medaling.
I still remember the interest I had in cross-country skier Prawat Nagvajara from Thailand during the 2002 Winter Games. He had little chance given that his tropical country lacks snow, but it happened to be the country my parents called home many decades ago.
Among the dozens of hours of television coverage I absorbed, I saw no more than a few seconds of Nagvajara competing. NBC showed him falling as part of a feature on countries that sent just one athlete. (He did manage to get up and continue, before suffering from cramps, nearly throwing up and withdrawing short of the halfway mark of the 30-kilometer race.)
With a lot more Olympics coverage online a decade later, I figured I could do a better job of following Thai athletes, even as NBC and its cable channels focus on competitors with larger followings.
Although it wasn't as easy as I had hoped, I did find a way to do so. Most of these techniques apply no matter what countries your ancestors may have come from.
Keep in mind that video offerings online will be limited because of the way broadcast rights are sold. You won't get a Swiss broadcast in the U.S., for instance, even if you're more interested in Swiss athletes than Americans. Instead, you may be able to catch a glimpse of Swiss competitors as part of NBC's online streaming offerings.
It will take work.
As I mentioned in last week's review of NBC's online offerings, I believe the NBCOlympics.com site could have used a better search tool. I typed the name of a Thai swimmer, Natthanan Junkrajang, into the main search box and got nothing — not even her bio or the results of her events.
I had to go elsewhere on the site to find out the two events she had entered. Then, I had to browse through the results of those events, making sure to first hit the tab for preliminary heats. Because video wasn't indexed well, I had to sift through a lot of footage to find the few minutes of her swimming. She won one of her heats, by the way.
I fared worse with shooter Sutiya Jiewchaloemmit. It turns out NBC's pledge to cover every event online doesn't necessarily mean coverage from start to finish. She didn't make it past the qualification round, and for that event NBC had only the finals online.
Fortunately, I found these gems elsewhere:
— British Broadcasting Corp. at http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/olympics/2012/
You won't get the BBC's rich trove of video in the U.S., but you will have access to the rest of its site.
I like that each country has its own page, summarizing athletes competing and medals won. There's a small medal under Pimsiri Sirikaew's photo for her silver in weightlifting.
Although NBC has pages for each country, too, I found no good way to get to them from the home page. Plus, clicking on "Athletes" from that profile page on NBC told me there's no one from Thailand competing, missing the 37 that were. And surely there are more relevant tidbits than what NBC found on Thailand: It lost to the U.S. in 1956 in a lopsided basketball game.
At the BBC site, you can click on any athlete to find out the events entered. The results are right there, in a single place for each athlete. NBC makes you fish around for those details.
- High school football: Reigning Mr. Football...
- Quinton Pedroza dismissed from Utah Utes...
- Ryan Teeples: BYU sports is for BYUtv, not...
- Brad Rock: If the NFL could add a team in...
- Dick Harmon: Bronco Mendenhall and Cecil O....
- Twitter reaction: U.S. men's soccer team...
- Utah Jazz: Possible Jazz draftee Michael...
- More than just football: Alema Te'o promotes...
- BYU football: Cougars must secure their... 184
- High school football: Reigning Mr.... 67
- Quinton Pedroza dismissed from Utah... 43
- Dick Harmon: Bronco Mendenhall and... 36
- Utes basketball: Utah conducting... 33
- Ryan Teeples: BYU sports is for BYUtv,... 13
- Brad Rock: USU coach Matt Wells has... 11
- University of Utah 'restructures'... 11