I’m sorry to say that over the last two weeks I came face to face with technology and lost. The time difference between London and the east coast was such that every time I switched on my computer, the results of the day’s premier event flashed before my eyes. Prime time brought me little suspense, as I struggled to enjoy what is possibly the world’s premier sporting event. Especially for those who were able to stay isolated from the results, these games left a lifetime of memories.
For some, the opening and closing ceremonies mark the highlight of each Olympiad. Starting with the extravaganza in LA in 1984, the opening ceremonies have been an exercise in outdoing everything that has been done before. Although I see little in the opening that does anything for my preparation in enjoying the competition, I did enjoy the role the Queen played. I don’t think anyone has ever seen a public display like this that showed her humanity. The closing ceremonies I think are far better; more relaxed and less orchestrated.
The games themselves produced great achievement and considerable heartbreak as they always do. Lifetime of preparation for one athletic event tends to bring out both the best and the worst in world class athletes.
As a track coach and a true lover of this pure sport, I am amazed by the performances of Usain Bolt. At 6’5”, his height makes him unusual for a sprinter, but I have never seen anything like him. He has lost races in the last couple years, probably out of boredom, but when the lights of the big stage were shining brightly, Bolt was at his best. He dominated the 100 and 200, racing into history.
Oscar Pistorius will live in our memories for a long time. The South African was born without fibulae, and had his lower legs amputated prior to his first birthday. The bladerunner competed with the fastest men in the world, reaching the semifinals in the 400. I thought it was so cool that none of his fellow competitors even noticed his disability. Pistorius is a true inspiration for all of us.
The U.S. women dazzled in the 4x100, setting a world record that had stood for over a quarter of a century. They were perfect in their exchanges, as well as being blinding fast.
In the pool, many had given up on Michael Phelps after an indifferent fourth place finish in the 400mIM. His training was criticized and there was talk that he was over the hill. The greatest swimmer in history then went on to capture four gold and two silver medals, making him the most decorated Olympian of all time. We are so lucky to have been able to see this great athlete.
Missy Franklin, the 17-year-old from Centennial, Colorado flashed her star power. The “regular kid” with the sweet disposition has all the qualities that Madison Avenue loves. London may have spoiled her dreams of swimming in college. If she chooses, Missy will become a multi-millionaire almost as soon as her plane lands.
Virginia’s own Gabby Douglas was maybe the most exciting athlete at the games. The “Flying Squirrel” (You can bet Parny took notice) became the third American to win the women’s overall title. While not perfect, Gabby was awfully impressive.
It is always nice to see the hometown heroes do well. Chesterfield’s Kellie Wells was the bronze medalist in the 100M hurdles. I have had the good fortune to see Kellie run on many occasions. She is indeed a special athlete and a wonderful young lady. In a broader sense, it was great to see the athletes from Britain do well. It was especially fun to see the Queen’s granddaughter, Zara Phillips take a silver medal in individual eventing. It was also easy to cheer with the crowd as Mo Farah edged Galen Rupp by less than a half-second in the 10,000M finals
And then there was Manteo Mitchell, the North Carolinian who ran the last 200 meters of the 4x400 trials on a broken leg. “I heard it snap and it hurt really bad. I just couldn’t let those other three guys down, so I just continued to run.” This is the stuff of real Olympic heroes.
We put the games to bed for another four years. We’ll convene on August 5, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro for another two weeks of brilliant performances and a most certainly a lifetime of memories.