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The Many Olympic Coaching Hugs

I mentioned this over the weekend when discussing judo's Mark Mangino but it bears repeating. There are plenty of emotive athletes here, who cut loose on their courts or in their pools or on top of their horses or whatever. But some of the more compelling viewing options at Olympic venues comes just off the playing surfaces, where coaches behave as if Olympic medals are awarded for spastic synchronized hugging. Makes Bruce Pearl look a prude.

Enthusiastic reunited-with-long-lost-relatives-style hugging is a virtual job requirement for many coaches in many sports, in a way that it isn't in, say, sports journalism. I've worked with a lot of editors at The Washington Post, and never hugged any of them, so far as I can recall. Nor have I hugged any co-workers.

But if you're winning a medal at the Olympics and you don't get a freaky hug from your coach that squeezes the remaining strands of breath out of your lungs, you're doing something wrong. Here are some of the hugs available on the photo wires, ranked in ascending order of enthusiasm, from Bruce Pearl to Richard Simmons, roughly.

Straightforward coach hug! Lisbeth Trickett of Australia hugs coach Stephan Widmer after winning the women's 100m butterfly. Much too traditional for my tastes. (Kai Pfaffenbach - Reuters)

So-happy-I'm-sad coach hug! Zhang Juan Juan of China celebrates with her coach after winning the gold medal in the women's individual archery final. Nice form, nice passion, not enough originality. (Ruben Sprich - Reuters)

So-happy-I'm-terrified coach hug! Feng Tainwei of Singapore hugs her coach Liu Guodong after winning their women's team semifinal table tennis match against South Korea. I mean, I can understand losing emotional balance after the women's team table tennis final, but the semifinals? What do you do for an encore? (Ceerwan Aziz - Reuters)

Up-in-the-air leg-wrap coach hug! Yu Yang (R) of China hugs her coach as her compatriot Du Jing celebrates after winning their women's doubles badminton final against South Korea. I think I saw two people doing this move at Club Bud.

Artistic coach hug! Mariel Zagunis of the United States celebrates her victory for the gold medal in the sabre. This one feels particularly touching, somehow. Bad word choice, given the competition below. (Jed Jacobsohn - Getty)

Look-at-the-cute-toddler coach hug! Deng Linlin of China is congratulated by her coach after her routine in the floor exercise during the women's team artistic gymnastics final. I mean, c'mon. Women's? His arms are showing all the strain of lifting a box of Q-tips. She's a woman like Mike Gundy's a man. (Mike Blake - Reuters)

Preemptive coach hug! Nastia Liukin of the U.S. is congratulated by her coach as teammate Shawn Johnson prepares to start her routine in the floor exercise during the women's individual all-around artistic gymnastics final. Johnson couldn't top it, but the danger of the preemptive coach hug is that you might lose, and the winner might tattoo your hugging image on her biceps. (Dylan Martinez - Reuters)

Menage a trois coach hug! Coach Andrea Magro hugs gold medal winner Maria Valentina Vezzali and bronze medal winner Margherita Granbassi of Italy after the medal ceremony for the women's fencing individual foil. Good thing no Italians took silver. (Alexander Hassenstein - Getty)

Chomp on this coach hug! Zhong Man of China (R) smiles as his coach Christian Bauer bites his gold medal for the men's fencing individual sabre. Zhong has probably bitten the medal himself. Twice bitten, nonce shy. This seems like a Jeff Van Gundy move, somehow. Not technically a hug, but I love it. (By Nick Laham - Getty)

Party-people-get-up coach hug
! Ok, I take it back; this leg-grabbing routine is more Van Gundy's style. Coach Gao Jian of the Chinese women's gymnastics team is lifted up after China won the artistic gymnastics team event. Straight from here to the Virgin Mobile Fest for Gao. (By Al Bello - Getty)

Gaze-deep-into-my-eyes coach hug! Abhinav Bindra of India is congratulated by his coach Gabriele Buhlmann after winning the gold medal in the men's 10m Air Rifle final. Pretty intense, right? As the Times of India put it, "Gabriele Buhlmann did what every Indian wanted to do. She hugged him warmly. Bravo, Abhinav!" Indeed, bravo! Now get a room or something. (By Jeff Gross - Getty)

Too many men on the floor coach hug! Ilya Ilin of Kazakhstan is congratulated by his coach Ni Alexey after his gold medal winning lift in the men's 94kg weightlifting event. The tight pants, the splayed legs, the refusal to leave the center of the stage, the Kazakhstani connection all make it clear. Thus far, this is your top Olympic coach hug. (Photo Jeff Gross - Getty)

By Dan Steinberg  |  August 18, 2008; 1:14 PM ET
Categories:  Olympics  
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Posted by: Andy | August 18, 2008 2:54 PM | Report abuse

But you've hugged Tony Kornheiser right?

Posted by: Ben | August 18, 2008 3:00 PM | Report abuse

I like that you can see where Deng Linlin is missing teeth, as in all her adult teeth haven't shown up yet (pretty obvi. in the TV coverage, too)... don't people get all their adult teeth in by 12?

Also, Nastia Liukin's coach is her Dad, so emotional post-performance hugging is completely allowed there.

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