(From Compete Magazine’s October 2012 issue)
By Ian Colgate
With the 2016 Summer Olympics set to open in Rio a year from yesterday, here’s a great “oldie” from Compete’s coverage of the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.
Now that the 2012 Summer Games in London are done, let’s take a look back at some of the best, or perhaps the most memorable stories to come out of them. When “recalculated,” or viewed again without all the immediate raw excitement, we find that some of them are still tremendously exciting and heartwarming while others don’t seem quite so important anymore. But all of them reflect our global collective experience, what we saw and felt together in the summer of 2012.
Basketball Dominated by Team USA
The USA Basketball Team, both men’s and women’s teams, stole the show for many viewers. Both the men’s and women’s teams won a gold medal, totally overshadowing their competition on the court. Filled with active members of the NBA and WNBA, the men’s team this year has been compared favorably to the original 1992 Dream Team. And there are others who say that the women were even better, that they might be the greatest group of women basketball players the U.S. has ever seen. It all was part of a magnificent show that thrilled even the non-basketball loving public. Simply put, Olympic basketball was hoopsational!
Worst Dive Ever?
Ouch! If you watched the 3-meter springboard diving preliminaries, you witnessed German diver Stephan Feck land on his back and wind up in last place with a score of zero from every judge. The video of it immediately went viral … and then was immediately blocked by the IOC for copyright reasons. But it gave sports writers a field day. On August 7, Yahoo! Sports blogger Greg Wyshynski shared others reactions to the diver’s last name, ranging from “Oh, for Feck’s sake” to “Oh, Feck.” And we say, WTF(eck), there’s just nothing worse than being shown as the worst in your sport in front of the entire Olympic viewing world!
Gabby Douglas — Newest Olympic Sweetheart
Who can forget that wonderful smile of Gabby Douglas of the U.S. Women’s Gymnastics team? She won two gold medals, one an individual and the other a team all-around competition. Like her earlier counterpart, Mary Lou Retton, Douglas has become America’s newest sports sweetheart. The Women’s Sports Foundation has already nominated her for the Sportswoman of the Year award and Kellogg’s is getting ready to put Douglas on their Cornflakes cereal box in addition to adding her to their traveling team of champions. Douglas also has two book deals, one of which will reportedly focus on her strong faith and be out in December. Watching her is what makes little kids dream of becoming an Olympian.
Muffy’s Winning Streak
Paralympian Marianna “Muffy” Davis has won every race she’s entered in 2012. And three of them produced gold – medals, that is. They represented her victories in the Paralympic handcycling time trial, road race and hand cycle relay events. Paralyzed at age 16 from a 1989 ski accident, Davis returned to the sport as a Paralympian in 1998 at the Nagano Games and won a bronze medal. Then 10 years later she added silver medals in downhill, super giant slalom and giant slalom mono-skiing at the Winter Paralympics at Snowbasin, Utah in 2002. Her change of sport to handcycling happened three years ago, the result of her getting into shape after the birth of her daughter, Glenda. No doubt about it – Muffy Moves!
One Hurdle Too Many
For a country that puts a lot of store into saving face, Liu Xiang managed to make a lot of his fellow Chinese countrymen angry when he went down before the first hurdle in the 110-meter hurdles. It’s all due to a continuing problem with an injured right Achilles tendon. He won a gold medal at the 2004 Athens Olympic event, and by the 2008 Beijing Olympics he had become the face of the Chinese team. But that same year he withdrew from the race after injuring that right Achilles tendon — the London Games then became his focus. Many Chinese are accusing Xiang of knowing that he was incapable of competing and then publically staging the dramatic end to his gold medal hopes for this year. Such a public loss of face when knowing about it in advance is a huge no-no to the average Chinaman. As a result, Xiang is still trying to convince his countrymen that he felt fine at the start of this year’s 110-meter hurdles competition, hoping to defuse the accusations of him knowingly bringing publicity to his inability to perform. In spite of ongoing physical troubles with his tendon, Xiang has no plans to retire.
Bolt Out of the Blue Jamaica
Do you believe that Usain Bolt is the Fastest Man on Earth? It’s already been questioned by challengers in spite of the fact that he won gold for the 100-meter, 200-meter and 4×100-meter relay competitions at this year’s Summer Games, a duplicate outcome of his performance at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. But Shutl, a delivery company, has offered him quite a deal. If he can help them set a world record for fastest delivery, they’ll give him a one percent share of the company plus all the McNuggets he “needs.” Why the McNuggets offer? It’s because Bolt claimed to have used them to fuel up prior to his 100-meter gold medal run.
Look, Ma – No Hands … or Arms
Matt Stutzman, the archer from Iowa who was born without arms, took the silver medal at the Paralympics. It came down to what one reporter called a “nerve-shredding final” against gold medalist Jere Forsberg of Finland. Calling himself the Inspirational Archer on his website, Stutzman says, “If I can inspire just one person then my job’s done. Really, watching me people can only say, ‘I haven’t got an excuse. I can’t say my back’s hurting or I got a sore finger, this guy’s shooting arrows with no arms.’ I kinda hope I make everyone realize you can do whatever you want in this life if you just try.” Thanks for reminding us that the quality of our lives depends on the quality of our mental attitude, Matt.
Phelps Goes Out on Top
All bets seemed to be on Ryan Lochte taking the swimming world by storm as the London Olympic Games kicked off. Reigning champ Michael Phelps got off to a slow start, causing some to think he just didn’t care anymore. But by the end of the festivities, Phelps had won six more medals to become the most decorated Olympian of all time. Just when all seemed rosy, two pictures of Phelps that were part of an ad campaign by Louis Vuitton came out early, violating the infamous Olympic IOC Rule 40. The very real consequence for this violation was that if found guilty of the offense, Phelps could have all six medals he won this year taken away from him. But all’s well that ends well. Phelps was cleared of the offense since he had no control over the event and the Vuitton organization claimed the pictures had been stolen. So Phelps retired at the top of his game with all 22 of his Olympic medals definitely, firmly and forever his.
All these stories and so many more define what made the world stop and watch this summer. Some of these talented athletes will go on to further fame and glory while some will quickly fade from our memories. But one thing is for certain – by the next Summer Games in Rio in 2016, these stories will no longer hold our attention. We’ll be waiting for new athletes and their stories to take the place of our 2012 Summer Olympic heroes and heroines, arousing and inspiring us yet again.
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