Tag Archives: international sports

Days 12 & 13 in London: Is Usain Bolt the Greatest Ever?

“If I have seen further than others, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants.” – Sir Isaac Newton

Usain Bolt believes he’s the greatest. (Photo from skysports.com)

Although the Olympics have almost concluded, it wasn’t until we were over halfway through these games that we were treated to the appearance of Usain Bolt.  The Jamaican sprinter began the quest to repeat his performance from four years ago in Beijing, winning gold in both the 100 and 200 meters.  Mission was accomplished; and in addition to these two gold, he also helped his team win a gold medal in the 4×100 meters relay.   Once Bolt’s first race concluded, I had resigned myself to believing that yes, Usain Bolt is the real deal, and it’s just not possible that his lightning fast speed is anything but real.  I could finally relax and like this guy.  Along with millions of others, I needed to just sit back and enjoy watching him.  This merely lasted for a few days before I was turned off following his win in the 200 meters.  As he crossed the finish line, he did a few push-ups as if to say, “I’m not even tired.”  He then told the media that he was “now a legend” and “the greatest athlete to live.”

Yams may be part of the Jamaican diet, but apparently humble pie is not.

Bolt’s statement had me thinking:  Is he the greatest athlete ever?  Is he the greatest Olympian?

No.

We can say without question that Usain Bolt is the greatest sprinter in our time.  He has beaten all of his competition and set new world and Olympic records.  Many consider Michael Phelps to be another contender for this

Jim Thorpe (Photo from http://www.cmgwordwide.com)

title.  While I believe that Phelps is more deserving of the title than Bolt, he is not my choice either.  The title of world’s greatest athlete has, and still does, belong to Jim Thorpe.

When I think of who can be called the greatest Olympian ever or who we can say is the greatest athlete ever to live, I’m looking for someone who proved themselves over many years in various disciplines, events, or sports.    At the 1912 Olympics, American Jim Thorpe competed–and won gold–in not just one event, but two:  pentathlon and decathlon.  And because pentathlon and decathlon are both combined events combining multiple track and field events, Jim Thorpe wasn’t just proficient at sprinting and middle distance running.  He also excelled at the shot put, javelin, discus, long jump, high jump, pole vault, and hurdles.  Think about this.  How can we compare one race by Usain Bolt (two if we count both the 100 and 200 meters) to a grueling schedule of multiple disciplines over several days?

We must also take into account that 100 years ago, when  Jim Thorpe won his two Olympic gold medals, his conditions for training and competing were quite different from those of Bolt’s.  There was no aerodynamic clothing, or non-slip track surface.  Athletes like Thorpe competed on grass, dirt, and cinder ash, wearing heavy cotton clothing; leather cleats with metal spikes!  There were no juicer machines, sports nutritionists, or corporate sponsors.  Nor were there state-of-the art gyms with special weights and resistance training.  What could Jim Thorpe have done with training conditions of today as well as modern technology?

Thorpe wasn’t just a multi-event Olympic gold medalist.  He also excelled at baseball, football, and basketball, and he was good enough to play professionally in all three of these sports.

While it might not technically be a qualification for the title of either greatest Olympian or athlete, Thorpe possessed one other quality which makes him all the more deserving in my book:  humility.  It is giants like Jim Thorpe whose shoulders Usain Bolt has stood on to reach his achievements.  And most of those predecessors, like Thorpe, did so humbly.

Faster, Higher, Stronger.

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Filed under 2012 London Olympics, Athletics/Track & Field

Days 11 & 12 in London: I’m in Love!

I know, I know.  I’m late on getting this blog post submitted.  Please bear with me!  I’m working a full-time job and watching the Olympics, and I don’t like to do anything else while I’m watching at home.  My attention while watching the games is undivided!

Day 11

I must make a confession:  I’m in love with these London Games.  I’m also in love with all of Great Britain.

Now, I already liked Great Britain quite much before these games.  Years ago I spent a few days in Wales and London.  The British people just tend to do a lot of things better than we Americans do:  reporting of news, healthcare system, respecting tradition….Well, now they’ve proven again how good they are at sport, and I’m in love with their darling stars of the men’s triathlon:  Alistair and Jonathan Brownlee.  Who wouldn’t be charmed by these adorable two?

An exhausted Jonathan Brownlee is embraced by older brother Alistair. (Photo: Jamie Squire/Getty Images Europe)

I’d written briefly about the Brownlee Brothers during my preview of triathlon.  While the women’s triathlon proved to be disappointing for me (Neither Helen Jenkins, or Andrea Hewitt medaled!), I was super excited for the men’s, as I had one more opportunity to watch this grueling event that combines swimming, cycling, and running.  The  Brownlee brothers did not disappoint.  It was as if they’d rehearsed this race in their minds a thousand times, and it all played out magically, just like a movie.  Both brothers were in the top 3-5 racers from the minute they dove into the waters of Hyde Park until they crossed the finish line.  While they’re not shy about telling the media how competitive they are between each other, it was evident that they were working as a team during the cycling portion, relying on tactics to keep themselves in the top three.  And while Jonathan was penalized for getting off of his bike too early during the cycling-to-running transition, he made up the 15-second penalty, coming in third behind Spain’s Javier Gomez (silver medal) and his older brother, Alistair, who ran the last few feet draped in a GBR flag handed to him by a fan.  Alistair and Jonathan are the first British brothers to share an Olympic podium since the

Bronze and Gold for the brothers! (Photo: Paul Gilham/Getty Images Europe)

Dougherty brothers did so for tennis back in 1900!

As if Day 11 wasn’t already “happy and glorious” enough with the Brownlees’ medals, Sir Chris Hoy did not let down his kingdom with another gold medal in cycling, bringing Great Britain’s total cycling gold medals to eight!  What’s after Knighthood?  Is there a step up from Sir?  Maybe Baron, Viscount, or Earl?

Add to all of this a gold medal in team dressage for Great Britain, and its gold in the team jumping event on Day 10, and one must wonder if there’s any stopping the Britons!

While most of the track and field events have focused on British and American athletes, I’ve got to take a moment to recognize Australia’s Sally Pearson.  It’s not been a great Olympics for Australia.  Thus far, they’ve only won six gold medals, but at least one of them came from Pearson, who blazed past all of her competitors, clearing each hurdle with such quickness like I’ve never seen.  She became the first Australian to ever win gold in the 100-meter hurdles!

Day 12

AFP Photo (Source: Sports Keeda)

While NBC was fixated (again) on scantily clad women playing beach volleyball (Congrats to Misty May-Treanor & Kerri Walsh-Jennings!), I found more interesting competition during Day 12 online, with a humdinger in both handball and (field) hockey.  I have to say I was pulling for Iceland in its quarterfinal match against Hungary.  How many times does one get to say they’re watching Iceland compete in the Olympics?  Not very often.  But alas, the country wasn’t strong enough to hold off the Hungarians, but the  match did go into overtime, with Hungary edging out Iceland by only one point!  In women’s hockey, Netherlands and New Zealand battled on a sopping wet pitch for a spot in the finals.  The Dutch seemed to have the advantage during most of the game, even though both teams remained tied and the game went into a shootout!  The New Zealand goalie just seemed too slow, and with a crowd that seemed to be majority Orange, the game ended with a victory for Holland.  The women’s final will be a doozie:  Netherlands versus Argentina!

If all of this isn’t exciting enough, I haven’t even touched on taekwondo, wrestling or canoe/kayak sprinting; Mo Farah will be running again in the 5,000 meters; and Modern Pentathlon starts tomorrow!  Do these games have to end?

Faster, Higher, Stronger

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Filed under 2012 London Olympics, Athletics/Track & Field, Cycling, Equestrian Events, Field Hockey, Handball, Triathlon

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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Day 4 in London: Yet Again, It’s #NBCFail

Today is a rush of words and heated opinion.  I really wanted to take the time to comment on last night’s gymnastics team final, Phelps’ two medals, and the other medals won in judo, diving, etc.  But  I’ve got about five hours of Olympics coverage to watch while also watching NBC’s prime time events.  I still think  the two weeks of Olympics should be mandatory holidays!  This having to work during the Olympics is for the birds.  Let me say again, that aside from a couple of days  I’m taking off, I’m dying!

Regular readers of this blog know my feelings about NBC’s coverage of the Olympics Games.  For those who don’t, you will after reading this post.

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Why Do We Question Shiwen’s Olympic Victory?

Olympism seeks to create a way of life based on the joy found in effort, the educational value of a good example and respect for universal fundamental ethical principles. – Pierre De Coubertin

Ye Shiwen of China. (Source: Clive Rose/Getty Images AsiaPac)

If you haven’t seen the women’s 400-metre individual medley from Saturday, now is the time to watch it.

As China’s 16 year-old Ye Shiwen touched the wall, smashing the previous world record, I also found myself speculating on the validity of her win.  Then I thought to myself, “No, she can’t be dirty.  She has to be clean.  This can’t happen.”

Ye Shiwen is almost six feet tall.  She wears a size 10.5 shoe.  She’s only 16 years old.  It could be that she’s just freakishly tall and suited for swimming.

Nevertheless, her win has the Twittersphere and Internet buzzing with rumors and speculation.  World Swimming Coaches Association executive director John Leonard went so far as to publicly question as to whether the win was a clean one.  Shiwen’s gold medal race included a final 50 meters that was faster than Ryan Lochte’s in the men’s 400-meter individual medley.  Her time at this Olympics was seven seconds faster than the time she swam at last year’s world championships.

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Day 3 in London: Tears of Joy, Daring to Dream

A tearful Missy Franklin. Photo: Reuters/David Gray

This is what the Olympics are all about.

In just three days of Olympic competition, I’ve seen more tears of joy than I did during all of Vancouver.  This is what I love.  This is what I want to see.  I want to see the athlete moved, brought to tears, humbled by his or her performance or by the opportunity to compete in the Olympics.  Because the Olympics aren’t available to everyone–only those who put in the time, who have the discipline, and who have some ounce of natural ability.

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Filed under 2012 London Olympics, Gymnastics, Judo, Swimming

Day 2 in London: The Human Drama of Competition

Jordyn Wieber

Day 2 of the Olympics was full of both predictable outcomes and a few shockers.  It’s why I always say, “It’s the Olympics.  Anything can happen.”

Not surprising was a silver medal in women’s cycling by Lizzie Armitstead.  Perhaps Cavendish and company should take a few notes from the women’s team!  I was a little more partial to Nicole Cooke than Armitstead, but what matters is that the British won a gold medal!  I’m excited and I’m not even British!

The more I watch swimming, the more I dislike the personalities–At least those of the men.  I know everyone gives Phelps a hard time for how he can be with the media (or for his photo smoking a bong), but seriously-can anyone be more ridiculous than Ryan Lochte with the grill in his mouth?   Phelps had the men’s relay in the bag for USA!  Cullen had set him up nicely.  It was Lochte who lost it for them, and I blame the coach’s decision to make Lochte the anchor.  Lochte said to NBC afterwards that “….it’s  not my strongest event.”  Then don’t swim the anchor!  And don’t make excuses.

Yesterday I watched rowing heats in the early hours of the morning.  I was watching online and the microphone was actually picking up the sound of the oars in the water.  I cannot say enough how much I love the rowing venue for the 2012 Olympics.  I swear I could watch it all day.  Can I just move there?  Maybe the Queen would let me set up tent in her backyard?

The big drama of the evening came, of course, from women’s gymnastics in the team qualification.  While it was not surprising that the United States advanced to the team finals, the shocker was Jordyn Wieber failing to qualify for the all-around competition.  Although I’m more partial to Douglas and Raisman, I thought Wieber put in some great routines.  However, she doesn’t get the height that Douglas does on bars, and she doesn’t have nearly as strong of a floor routine as Raisman.

What I couldn’t get over was the shock in the voices of Tim Daggett and Elfie Schlegel.  They looked so distraught that I wasn’t sure they could continue the broadcast.  Both they and Bela Karolyi complained about the 2-athlete-per-nation rule, which only allows the top two performing gymnasts to qualify for the all-around event.  It’s the Olympics, people.  It’s make or break time.  Without this 2-athlete-per-nation rule, there would be major disparity in gymnastics.  If we allowed the best gymnasts in the finals, then previous Olympics would only have featured the Soviet Union and Romania.  Is it really important that we revert back to 3-athletes-per-nation just so

Karolyi, Schlegel, and Daggett in shock over Wieber

we Americans can feel better?  The Olympics can be incredibly tough for gymnasts, and someone has to lose when it comes to medaling or advancing.  Just ask Kim Zmeskal.   What really irks me is how the media hypes up certain athletes like Wieber, placing great expectations on them, and all for the sake of ratings.  She’s a 17 year-old girl.  With all the hype in television ads and interviews, it’s no wonder that the athletes are all the more crushed when things don’t go as planned.  But instead of blaming ourselves or the media, we want to change the rules?

The late writer Stanley Ross said it best when he wrote the words narrated by his colleague Jim McKay: “….the thrill of victory… and the agony of defeat… the human drama of athletic competition.”

Faster, Higher, Stronger.

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Filed under 2012 London Olympics, Gymnastics