It has been just three days since the closing ceremonies of the 2008 Beijing Olympics… and I’m experiencing withdrawal of Olympic proportions.
As I stated in a previous post, I love the Olympics. I love everything they represent – the sport, the heart, and the unity. It all simply astounds and amazes me every time the Games roll around. I love the human stories behind the medals and events. It also reminds me that probably the only sport I would have ever had any hope to compete in would have been archery… standing still, one swift motion, let a piece of equipment do the work… my kind of sport… or really, it may just be my laziness showing through.
But I digress… really, this Olympics was one of the best I can ever remember. I think I watched at least five minutes of nearly every sport… sports that I normally would never even consider to have any interest in otherwise. But every four years I am re-exposed to events that I forget about in between Games. I relearn all the rules and find myself mesmerized by it and overwhelmed by the need to sit and watch until the medals are handed out.
So here are some of my favorite moments of this Olympic games:
- Yao Ming being accompanied by the precious nine-year old boy who was one of the few that survived the devastating earthquake in China several months ago. The heroism he displayed when he helped some of his fellow students is something of a lesson for all of us.
- Watching as underdog Stephanie Brown Tafton became the first U.S. gold medalist in the women’s discus event since 1932. As she carried an American flag that was sent to her from her friend who is a soldier in Iraq, patriotism filled my heart. Her friend sent a note with the flag that stated, “it’s flown in Iraq, now make sure it flies in China.” And as if this couldn’t get any sweeter, the very next day as I watched her in an interview, she wore not only her Olympic gold medal around her neck, but also one made out of construction paper by her young niece. Aaahhh – just makes you feel warm and fuzzy inside…
- Constantina Tomescu’s record breaking marathon run seemed to take all she had. As I watched her last eight miles I just wanted to reach through the screen and help this poor woman out. Her frail body seemed to tremble with each pounding step. I kept waiting for the breakdown. Miraculously though, when it looked like she had nothing left to give, this 38 year old woman crossed the finish line. At that moment, she not only became the oldest person ever to medal, let alone win, an Olympic marathon but it seemed to be just the refreshment she needed because she kept running, and running, and running… as if she were just beginning her 26.5 mile run. With the flag draped around her shoulders she paraded through the Bird’s Nest and gave Forrest Gump a run for his money… literally.
- Jason Lezak’s nailbiting race to the finish line during the men’s 4x100m freestyle relay. It was one of the most exciting swimming events I have ever seen.
- One of the other most exciting swimming events I witnessed belongs to Dara Torres in the women’s individual 50m freestyle. Coming up just short of the gold medal by one 1/100 of a second – the frustration she must have felt. But again, the incredible gratitude, sportsmanship, and grace she displayed proved to be yet another patriotic and sentimental moment for yours truly. And I can’t even begin to tell you how amazed I am at her accomplishments when you pair the fact that she is a 41 year old mother who’s coach is terminally ill and, of course, could not travel for the Games.
- The U.S. domination in volleyball, both indoor and beach versions of the sport. What especially touched my heart was the incredible strength the men’s indoor volleyball coach, Hugh McCutcheon, expressed as he overcame the tragedy of his father-in-law’s senseless murder in Beijing the night after the opening ceremonies. He was with family for the team’s first three matches and then returned to lead the team to a gold medal. He mentioned in an interview that the 17 days had brought him the “lowest of the low and the highest of the high.” When the team won their final match he hugged his fellow coaches and then buried his head in his hands only to walk out of the gym a few moments later. He had to compose himself. He returned to congratulate the team and then stated, “my work here is finished,” and with that was quickly on a plane to return home to grieving family members. What sacrifices these athletes and coaches make…
- The sweet smile of the Spanish rythmic gymnast as she finished her last routine in this, her 7th and final Olympics. At the end, she kneeled down and kissed the mat signifying her retirement and last competition. She was not expected to make the finals, but in a strange turn of events made it through by the small margin. Her final routine was with the ribbon, it was graceful and clean – a wonderful way to finish her career, even if she didn’t medal.
- The U.S. women gymnasts taking both the gold and silver in the individual all-around competition. This was a first for the history books. Nastia Luiken with her graceful moves and long lines and Shawn Johnson with her power and speed dominated the competition from the start.
- And despite all the publicity he’s already received I suppose watching Michael Phelps win each of his eight gold medals was a highlight as well. The man can swim, there’s no doubt about that. Since he seemed to break nearly every swimming record I am anxious to see what he will do at the next Olympic Games in London…
Okay, so these are just a few of my favorites. I have many, many more but I didn’t want to bore to tears – however, you may already be there. I suppose now I’ll have to figure out what to do with all my free time until another couple of years has passed and the Winter Games in Vancouver begin. Alas, my Olympic withdrawal continues…