They’ve Cemented Their Olympic Legacy
Canada’s Emilie Heymans won her fourth straight Olympic medal, a Bronze in the womens’ three-metre synchronized diving competition with partner Jennifer Abel (who won her first). Heymans’ is the first woman to achieve that remarkable feat.
Jamaica’s Usain Bolt added three more Gold medals to his collection after winning the mens’ individual 100 and 200 metre finals as well as the 4 X 100 relay final. (He won Gold in the same races in Beijing four years earlier.) He also set a new world record time in the 100 and helped establish another new one in the relay as the anchor. He even got to keep the baton.
The American beach volleyball duo of Misty May-Treanor and Kerry Walsh Jennings won their third consecutive Gold medal in the womens’ tournament. They lost only one set in their last group match against Austria. But even more impressive than that: they went unbeaten throughout their entire Olympic career.
And American swimming sensation Michael Phelps added four more Golds and two more Silvers to his extraordinary collection of Olympic medals. He ends his amateur career with 18 Golds, 4 Silvers and one Bronze, the most overall medals by an individual Olympian. He also became the first man to successfully win two of his races in three consecutive Olympics. Talk about ending on a high note.
Classiest Gesture (tie)
After groundbreaking South African sprinter Oscar Pistorius (the first double amputee to compete in the Olympics) finished last in a semi-final 400 metre heat, that race’s winner, Grenada’s Kirani James, shook his hand, gave him a hug and asked to exchange name tags with him. The remarkable 19-year-old James went on to win the Gold medal.
After Chinese hurdler Liu Xiang re-injured his right Achilles tendon trying to jump the first hurdle in the last 110 metre qualifying heat, he eventually hopped on one leg to the finish line where Hungarian Balazs Baji greeted him and raised his arm. Two other competitors, Spain’s Jackson Quinonez and the heat’s winner, Britain’s Andy Turner, both carefully carried him off the track. By the way, Xiang just finished having surgery on the tendon and is expected to make a full recovery.
Most Inspirational Olympians
Oscar Pistorius wouldn’t even be allowed to compete at all this year were it not for the courts. Once safely permitted to enter the London games, the double amputee better known as Blade Runner made history with his admirable runs in both the mens’ 400 metre and 4 X 400 relay. In the former, he finished second in his heat with his best time of the season but sadly finished last in the semi-final. In the latter, he never got to take the baton in a semi-final because his teammate was tripped by a Kenyan. Thanks to an appeal, Pistorius and company got to race in the final but they were a non-factor by the time the pioneering athlete entered the fray. (He was the anchor.) They finished dead last. Still, he made history and received routinely warm receptions from the media and citizens of the host country. He was most appreciative.
The Canadian womens’ soccer team finished dead last in The World Cup last year and were not expected to hit the podium at the Olympics. But thanks to new coach John Herdman, they transformed themselves into a much more competitive squad in just a year. Despite losing their opening match against Japan, they went undefeated right up until the now infamous semi-final battle with the best team in their sport, the Americans. After scoring two answered goals, Captain Christine Sinclair headed a third giving them a 3-2 lead in the last fifteen minutes or so of the second half. (She scored six overall in the tournament, a new record and the most of any woman this year.) Then, after two questionable calls by the Norweigian ref (a free kick in the box for goalkeeper time wasting and a handball leading to a penalty kick), America tied it up. In the dying seconds of extra time, the fourth and decisive goal gave the US the hard-fought albeit lucky victory they coveted. (They took the Gold over Japan in the final.) Despite the anger and despair in the immediate aftermath of the game, Canada regrouped in a tough Bronze medal match against France, the country that humiliated them 4-0 at the World Cup. This time, it was a different result. The French had way more scoring chances overall, but in the end as the game was coming to a close, Canada eeked out a 1-0 win, thanks to a second half injury time goal by Diana Matheson, their only shot on goal. If you ask me, they really deserved no less than a Silver.
South Korean archer Im Dong-Hyun set an individual world record in Archery as he went on to win Bronze in the team competition. The legally blind athlete had previously won back-to-back Gold medals in 2004 and 2008 in the same event. Show off.
Imagine getting shot in both your legs because two assholes mistook you for a gangbanger they wanted to kill. That was the unfortunate situation American runner Bryshon Nellum found himself in in 2008. Thankfully he survived but it wasn’t easy: multiple surgeries, plenty of pain and a lot of doubt about a full recovery. Despite not making the final of the mens’ 400 metre in London, he was part of the American relay team that won Silver in the 4 X 400 event. As a lovely gesture for all his hard work, he carried the Stars & Stripes at the Closing Ceremonies. As for the two morons who fucked up in more ways than one, they were each sentenced to 15-year prison terms.
Canada’s greatest male diver Alexander Despatie (a two-time Olympic Silver medallist) suffered a terrible head injury during a practice dive in Spain back in June which greatly interfered with his otherwise rigourous training regiment. Despite that horrible setback, he made it all the way to the three-metre springboard finals (after qualifying in the prelims and semi-finals). He may have finished 11th (he had an awful last dive), but the heart and determination it took to even make it that far was mighty impressive. One can only imagine how much better he would’ve performed without the injury.
But that was nothing compared to Chris Mears. The 19-year-old Brit suffered a ruptured spleen three years ago and was told by doctors he had a 5% chance of surviving the surgery needed to correct it. He didn’t medal but by God, getting ninth in the three-metre springboard final was an accomplishment in its own right.
Which brings us to Kayla Harrison. Olympians face enough adversity to first make it to the games and then to attempt to finish in the Top 3, but like Bryshon Nellum the American Judo fighter had to overcome personal trauma on top of everything else. A longtime student of the sport since she was just a 6-year-old, when she was a young teenager her then-29-year-old-coach Daniel Doyle started taking advantage of her sexually. It lasted three years until she told her future fiance who, in turn, told Harrison’s mom. (Doyle was ultimately sentenced to a 10-year prison stint in 2007 and is forever banned from coaching in American Judo.) Enter new coach Jimmy Pedro who re-built her confidence and turned her into the best current American fighter in the sport. (She’s ranked fourth in the world.) At the London games, she made history. She became the first US citizen to win Gold in Judo. The word “hero” is used far too flippantly in modern times, especially in the world of athletics, but in Kayla Harrison’s situation, outspoken advocate against sexual abuse and future firefighter, it’s more than deserved.
Canadian Athletes Most Deserving Of A Hug (four-way tie)
The totally distraught womens’ soccer team after losing to the United States in that heartbreaking semi-final. A tearful Paula Findlay who needlessly apologized for finishing last in the triathlon. (She had a tough year training because of a hip injury.) The absolutely devastated Tiffany Foster who cried through her press conference announcing her disqualification from her equestrian show jumping team because her horse had a minor issue with its left hoof. (The remaining members finished 5th in the team event.) And the mens’ 4 X 100 relay team who thought they won the Bronze in the final but because of a lane violation detected by the judges upon viewing the replay (poor Jared Connaughton had accidentally touched the line of an adjacent lane which is an infraction), they were ultimately disqualified. (To his credit, Connaughton accepted blame for the unintentional mistake.) Trinidad & Tobago took their place on the podium.
Three Bolts Of Lightning & Plenty Of Hilarity In Between
Jamaican sprinting phenom Usain Bolt. In between winning three Gold medals and setting two world records on the track, he was Mr. Entertainment. He did push-ups, did a front somersault, fist bumped with two delighted Olympic volunteers, gave his toque to another, wore his country’s flag like a cape while posing, waved like the Queen, shook and slapped hands with many first row spectators as well as hugging some others, demanded a try-out with the Manchester United football club and, most amusingly of all, grabbed a media photographer’s camera to do an impromptu session with multi-medallist teammate Yohan Blake who gamely posed for several seconds.
Best Original Pose
Blake’s very funny cheetah pose. No wonder they call him “The Beast”.
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Monday, August 13, 2012