Tag Archives: Athletics

‘9.79*’, Part 2

These eight runners ran one of the most famous races in Olympic history.

(Continued from Part 1)

Back in 1988 I remember the shock and disgust I felt when learning of Ben Johnson’s positive test for steroids, and how I felt vindicated when Carl Lewis was bumped up from silver to gold.  Ben Johnson represented the most evil and dishonest aspect of Olympic sports.  Now I find myself hating him less and sympathizing with him more.  Yes, Ben Johnson took performance-enhancing drugs during his amateur competitive career.  Yet according to test results and the testimony of several of Johnson’s contemporaries, so did four of the other competitors from the 1988 race–Including Carl Lewis.  (And I’m not even going to address the allegations that Johnson was framed in his failure to pass post-race drug test.)

I grew up revering Carl Lewis, the heir apparent to Jesse Owens.  As I’ve grown older, I’ve

“9.79*” offers us a never-before-seen perspective of Ben Johnson.

had my eyes opened to the widespread use of performance-enhancing drugs and the real Carl Lewis, whose enormous ego and motives are sickening.  Those who read this blog know what an idealist I am when it comes to the Olympics.  Yes, there’s even some naiveté there as well, because I can’t comfortably accept the idea that we should just enjoy the performance and to hell with trying to maintain the purity of sport.  When I asked Gordon about this and about the impact of 1988 on sports, he offered an interesting comment.  “I believe that the vast majority of times [in races] were not done clean and have never been done clean….1988 was certainly a wake-up call.”  He’s right, but it’s still a bitter pill for me to swallow.

After I watched “9.79*” I didn’t sleep well that evening.  Am I more upset about the injustice of Ben Johnson being the patsy, the fall guy?  Or is it the child in me who feels betrayed by those she once idolized?  After watching I felt angry, betrayed, and sad.   Carl Lewis wasn’t Ben Johnson’s victim.  If anything, it was the other way around.  Nor were Linford Christie, Dennis Mitchell, Ray Stewart, of Desai Williams.  As for Robson da Silva and Calvin Smith, the only two of those eight runners that never tested positive for drugs, they were victims.  But so were we, the fans.  Especially those of us who are hopelessly idealistic and believe in the purity of sport.  When I posed this question to Dan Gordon, he was hesitant to say who—if anyone—is the victim.  Here again, he’s determined to remain objective.  “ ‘9.79*’ asks a lot of questions, [but doesn’t] provide answers,”  he reminded me.

As the interview concluded, Gordon relayed a conversation with a university professor on the issue of doping in sports.  “He said, ‘Remember that it’s just entertainment.’  Well, I’m not sure I’m ready to do that.”

Neither am I.

Faster, Higher, Stronger.

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Filed under Athletics/Track & Field, Book/Movie Reviews

“9.79*” Is a Win, Start to Finish

“9.79*” first aired October 9 on ESPN. The film will be re-broadcast October 20 and 21 on ESPN Classic.

Each generation seems to experience its own sporting scandal.  My generation is no different, and for this Olympic fanatic, the one which still haunts me is Ben Johnson and the 1988 Olympics.  In fact, after watching “9.79*,” ESPN’s latest film in its “30 for 30” series, I think my heart is even heavier.  I walked away from this film with new questions, unexpected sympathy, and anger over multiple injustices.  BAFTA-nominated filmmaker Daniel Gordon has done his job and done it well.

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Days 7 & 8 in London: “Happy & Glorious”

Saturday, August 4, 2012:  This day was amazing.

While I’ve witnessed greatness thus far in these 2012 Games, nothing can compare to what I witnessed days 7 and 8 of these Olymics at Olympic Stadium.  And I watched it all unfold live, as if I were there in Olympic stadium.

The wins for Jessica Ennis, Mo Farah, and Greg Rutherford could not be more memorable or more perfect as they competed in their home country, with throngs of fellow countrymen cheering them on, proudly united and jubilant.  These “Golden Three” all won Olympic gold medals today, their accomplishments happening within a span of  a few hours–two of them within 20 minutes of each other!  With each win came the roar of an elated home crowd, with the thousands of Union Jacks waving madly, and the love of a nation felt by all who watched.

I grew up knowing about the tradition of British athletics.  The tradition which began with those like Liddell, Abrahams, and Bannister and passed on to those like Coe, Holmes, and Thompson, has now been handed down to Ennis, Farah, and Rutherford.

How amazing it must be right now to be British.  A great day for Britain.  A great year for Britain.

“God save our gracious Queen,
Long live our noble Queen,
God save the Queen:
Send her victorious,
Happy and glorious,
Long to reign over us:
God save the Queen
!”

Faster, Higher, Stronger.

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Usain Bolt and My Uncomfortable Doubt

When I was  younger, I believe in Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy.  I even believed that some people might have super powers (Hello, Incredible Hulk!).  And when athletes like McEnroe and Jordan emerged on to  the scene, I celebrated their (almost) superhuman achievements.  Not anymore, though.  Maybe it’s because I’m getting older and I’m not as doe-eyed and naive.  And nowadays, something in me refuses to shake the skepticism about Jamaica’s Usain Bolt and his record-smashing speed.

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