I watch the Olympics. And when I say I watch the Olympics, I mean I watch all of the Olympics. As much as my Tivo can hold. I may go back and rewatch parts of it. It may take me six months. But it will be done. I am a self-confessed junkie. I did not do a recap for the Vancouver Olympics. When they came on, I was unemployed. I had credit and deals at snapfish. I now have two scrapbooks of the Vancouver Olympic moments that stood out for me in each sport and the stories that were cool for me.
- I didn’t remember some of the stories. When I tried to find video on YouTube on Jennifer Stuczynski’s coach acting like an ass, I not only found the video, but also discovered that two years later she married the guy. No accounting for taste.
- Kobe Bryant is still classy when it comes to international sport. He might not be faithful in his marriage, he may be a conceited pig in person, I don’t know. But at the Olympics, he is a class act. Enjoying every moment of the games. He had his first experience at Wimbledon this year . . . and it was the longest men’s three-set match in the open era. Switzerland’s Roger Federer defeated Argentina’s Juan Martin Del Podro 3-6, 7-6, 19-17. Kobe was there, with his daughter, to see Phelps win the gold medal. He was at the volleyball venue, watching the women run for gold–and the gobsmacked “WHAT?!” he mouthed after a spectacular save cracked me up. Here is a man that knows his opportunity, and is taking it all in. Every blasted moment.
But this year, London (in my opinion) did a fantastic job with the games. They may have had empty seats, they may have had a few things going on that the locals didn’t care about, but I had a great amount of fun watching and enjoying the spectacle. So without further ado, here are my favorite moments of the 2012 London games:
- Ashton Eaton. Who knows who this man is? If I asked you if you had ever heard of Bruce Jenner, could you answer? Could you answer before the age of the Kardashians? Jenner won the Decathlon in 1976 in Montreal. The worlds greatest athlete at that time. The greatest track and field athlete in the world. That is what Ashton Eaton is in 2012. In 24 hours over two days he managed to out jump, out throw, and out run his way into a first place finish, keeping the title with the USA.
- Fourth place has to be the hardest place of all. You don’t get a medal of any color to prove you did an exceptional job, you in fact get the same as the one in last place. Nada. Zip. Zilch. Meb Keflezighi knows this personally. Watching him run the marathon this year was just inspiring. The only American to finish the race, he came in fourth. And he did it with a smile. An Eritrean refugee, he won the New York City marathon in 2009–the first American to win in 27 years. He won the silver medal in the 2004 in Athens. He was hurt, and won the Olympic trials in a personal best. He was slighted by the committee and not announced to the crowd, and he carried that anger to the finish line in fourth place. And smiled doing it, because he knew that he was defying all odds and having a ball.
- Gymnastics. Oooooh, gymnastics. Gabby Douglas was awesome, McKayla is not impressed, Danell Leyva, and the men’s vault. Amazing. What I loved more than anything was seeing Oksana Chusovitina back again, competing for Germany on the vault in her fifth Olympic games. Jordan Jovtchev, the 39-year-old Bulgarian, who competed with a torn bicep and a halfway broken wrist on the still rings sat down after the rotation thinking that his sixth (yes, sixth) Olympic games were over. To his surprise he qualified for a spot competing for the individual medal, and got back on the rings again. That man is amazing. His arms should be bronzed. Unreal. And Beth Tweddle can release and catch on the uneven bars like no one’s business. I know she only won bronze, but if she had been able to stick the landing, that child would have gold. Amazing.
- Rhythmic gymnastics. Seriously. Have you ever watched these girls? Seen how they twist and move and get around? Incredibly talented.
- Kerry Walsh Jennings and Misty May-Treanor. Three consecutive Olympic Gold medals in beach volleyball. ‘Nuff said, but just in case you need more, how’s this: Kerry was five weeks preggers when she won.
- The men were no less spectacular in the sand. Watching the German team win one of their matches on the way to gold I was struck by how much they seemed to enjoy the game. They weren’t expected to win, they were expected to go out early. And dang it, while they were having fun, Julius Brink and Jonas Reckermann managed to win gold–beating the Brazilian world champs to do so. And the bronze? Also went to a surprise team. Also German.
- Kerry Walsh Jennings may have been 5 weeks pregnant, but Nur Suryani Mohamed Taibi of Malaysia was eight months pregnant. She had to get special permission to attend, and said she simply asked the baby not to kick during her 10m air rifle competition.
- Saudi Arabia caved to pressure and had American-born Sarah Attar compete under their flag as the first female to represent their country. A dual citizen, Attar competed in the 800m. Attar had not competed in this distance since high school, but chose to run to make a point that the women should be allowed to compete. She finished more than a half minute behind the closest competitor in her heat, and never made it out of the prelims. She was forced to walk behind the male members of the Saudi delegation in the parade of nations, and to wear a head covering while attending the Olympics. And when she crossed the finish line, she received a standing ovation from the stadium as everyone knew the monumental milestone that had just been achieved. It may have been because of peer pressure, it may have been because of sanctions. But it is a baby step nonetheless.
- Wrestling is not my favorite sport to watch. Yet somehow I was oddly drawn into it watching Jake Varner win gold for the USA. Boxing is another that wasn’t on my radar. And there was a 17 year old girl from Michigan named Claressa Shields that beat someone twice her age to win gold.
- Weightlifting competitor Matthias Steiner of Germany was lifting 432 pounds–and dropped the bar on his neck. More importantly, he got up and walked away.
- David Boudia snuck into the men’s platform final by the skin of his teeth. Tommy Daley had the whole of Great Britain pushing him there. And both of them had a pair of Chinamen trying to block their way. Watching these men twist at 35 miles per hour as they drop from a four story building was unreal, and to see Boudia win the gold and Daley the bronze was truly entertaining.
- Ryan Lochte is an egomaniac and Michael Phelps is undisputed king. Both are geniuses in the pool, but on land? Notsomuch. I don’t know what it is, but Lochte especially rubs me the wrong way. I realize that to be an athlete at this level you have to have a bit of a sense of entitlement, but Lochte is a bit much.
- My family has always hunted. I have grown up around guns. Nothing my family has ever done is what they do in the Olympics. Watching the shootoff between the returning Olympian from Georgia and the gentleman from Qatar was amazing. And again, the Georgian won for the USA.
- US women rule. Water polo, soccer, gymnastics, volleyball, basketball, etc. Watching them compete on this level is amazing.
- Usain Bolt is still an egomaniac. But holy cow can that boy run fast. Unreal.
- Watching the story of Kirani James was another warm fuzzy moment. A teenager from Granada who was an amazing racer. He was competing in the same heat as Oscar Pistorious, the first paralympian that was competing with able-bodied athletes, he made it out of the heats and into the quarterfinals. But James was so honored to run with him that after the race he asked if he could have Pistorious’s racing bib as a souvenir of the moment.
- Royals were everywhere. From competitors in equestrian matches (Zara Phillips) to the stands everywhere, it was nice to see the royal family so involved.
- UK wins in boxing, crewing, tennis, and so on. For a nation that does not have a typically strong showing, it was a Brit’s Olympics. Mo Farah winning the 5K and 10K gold, Andy Murray winning the men’s singles in tennis, and so on.
- David Rashida from Kenya’s Massai tribe won the 800m world record time, becoming only the second person to lead at the 200 mark and then win. And he doesn’t practice in a million dollar facility, he has a dirt track run at home.
- German discus thrower Robert Harting, after winning the gold, took off over 100m hurdles in jubilation. There is a reason he was not a hurdler. There is also a reason why enthusiasm can carry you far.
- I guess you can’t get around it. There will be cheating in sports. There were teams eliminated for cheating in badminton, swimming stars admitted after the fact that they had taken extra (illegal) kicks, and so on. Shame, really.
- There was also fencing’s 15 minutes of Olympic fame when South Korea’s Shin A-lam staged a sit-down following her last-second loss in the women’s epee. After 75 long minutes she left the piste but still protested, unsuccessfully, that Britta Heidemann semi-final win should be reversed as she had made two attempts to strike without the clock changing.
- Yes, sailing is an Olympic sport. But sailing is really windsurfing! Hang loose, brah!
- Shooting also provided one of the early stories of the Games, the appearance of eight-month pregnant Malaysian shooter Nur Suryani Mohamed Taibi, the first Olympian to compete in such an advanced state of incubation (she finished 34th). The medals were shared mainly between South Korea, USA, China and Italy but there were also medals here for Kuwait, Qatar and billion-strong Olympic minnows India, not to mention a gold for Team GB’s shooting farmer Peter Wilson in the double-trap.
- 2004 Gold Medal Winner in the 100 hurdles Liu Xiang, after pulling up in the 2008 games in his home country of China, failed in his heat to make it over the first hurdle. His right Achilles kept him from finishing, hopped off the track before returning to hop the 100 meters, stopping at the last hurdle in lane 4, hopping over to kiss his hurdle in a symbolic goodbye, and then returning to the edge of the track to hop to the end before being assisted off the track.
Okay, at this point I am almost done watching the events. I have the closing ceremony left to watch but the competition is over. And I cannot wait for Sochi–less than two years to go!!!