Archive for Thursday, August 28, 2008

Olympics mesmerize world-wide audience

August 28, 2008

It was ignited in style. It ended with spirit.

We were left wanting more. Yet we have to wait until 2012 for its next appearance.

Although there is a 2010 version in Vancouver, it's not quite of the magnitude, nor does it capture our hearts as much. Every four years, we come together as a planet and watch the best in the world compete.

Each version has its own highlights and controversies - Beijing's 2008 games didn't disappoint.

While there were protesters, disqualifications, dropped batons and questionable gymnastics judging; there were also plenty of U.S. medals, a basketball team redemption, Usain 'lightning' Bolt and of course :

Michael Phelps.

It's hard not to forget the disappointments by the U.S. track team in the 400-meter relays. It's also hard not to forget some of the gymnastics judging. We could also dwell on the questionable ages of several Chinese gymnasts.

Instead, I prefer to remember the great performances and phenomenal athletes that made the Beijing Olympic Games one of the most memorable for me.

Only being 26, I do have limited memories of Olympic Games. My fondest memories come from the 1996 Games in Atlanta. I hardly watched any of the Sydney or Athens Games because of work conflicts and poor television scheduling.

I was pleased with the NBC coverage this year. They showed many events live from China, especially during the early days. However, I got lazy and anxious when it came to track and field, so I cheated and found the results before they were shown on television.

The track events are always a highlight for yours truly. Watching the steeplechase made me miss my competitive days at Baker University. I even watched most of the men's marathon. I watched to see a friend I met at running camp here in Baldwin City many years ago. He went on to run for Stanford and finished 10th in the marathon in Beijing.

While those were enjoyable, the jaw-dropping performance in the 'Birds' Nest' came from Mr. Bolt. He set a new world record in the 100-meter dash, despite easing up at the end to showboat.

The taunting and celebrating before the race's finish bothered me as a former racer. I can't blame him for celebrating : but wait until the race is over. He took plenty of heat for his showboating and came back to make a better sportsman of himself a few days later.

That was in the 200-meter finals. He ran the entire race hard and just edged Michael Johnson's world record. I was sad to see Johnson's record fall, as he was a highlight of mine from the 1996 Games. However, I tip my hat to Bolt for his extraordinary talent. He's only 21 so his days are far from over.

The track races were exciting and fast, but, then again, so were many of the televised events. The table tennis might be the quickest event of them all. It's strange to watch but, boy, aren't they talented?

Other personal highlights included watching the men's basketball team redeem itself and win gold for the first time since 2000. The Americans finally played like a real team and brought gold back to the U.S.

It was hard not to forget the wonderful performances of Shawn Johnson and Nastia Liukin in gymnastics. Johnson was the favorite and face of the sport in all of the commercials, until Liukin stole the spotlight.

Liukin won the all-around gold medal while Johnson took silver. They each went on to win a few other individual event medals. I was happy to see Johnson win her gold medal on the balance beam. She always smiled and gave the impression she is a joyful teenager.

As the gymnastics finished up, it was time for the beach volleyball teams to win gold in both the men's and women's. The women's team of Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh have been incredible to watch over the past few months.

They have won more than 100 straight matches and back-to-back gold medals in beach volleyball. They're fun to watch, so let's hope they return in four years to London.

It seems like I've covered most of the highlights of the Olympic Games. Oh yeah, I guess there is one more. That one swimmer who won a few gold medals and may have set some world records.

That's right, Phelps is his name. He's the new face of American sports, at least for right now. I guess winning eight gold medals and setting seven world records in the process might earn you that right.

Despite his incredible success, he remained humble in his interviews and he was so thankful for his mother and sisters. If America's youth need a role model, Phelps would be the one I'd choose.

I'm not entirely convinced he's not part fish, because he makes swimming any race look effortless. Let's just hope he returns in four years to London also.

I'm sure proud to be an American.


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