Tag Archives: olympic

The Power to Inspire, Unite–To Change the World

mandela flame

Photo: Reuters

Our hearts are heavy since learning of Nelson Mandela’s death yesterday.  Although old in age and having done so much to change our world, many of us are finding it difficult to say goodbye–to bid farewell to a pillar in our international community.

It is a sense of trepidation that I feel when I consider a future without Mandela.  I wonder how we will all continue to fight for equality and social justice when such an influential figure is no  longer here to inspire us.

13 years ago Mandela gave a speech in Monaco during which he spoke these powerful and unforgettable words:

“Sport has the power to change the world…it has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand. Sport can create hope where once there was only despair. It is more powerful than government in breaking down racial barriers.”

During his 95 years, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela was always learning, growing, and advocating change.  He never gave up.  Never surrendered–even when faced with countless hurdles of cruelty and injustice.  Instead, he stood firm in his quest for a world without hate, prejudice, injustice, and inequality.  His unwavering strength, courage, and passion for change is known to have inspired countless others over the decades.   Yet perhaps now–in a post-Mandela world–is when his legacy should influence us all the more.

In less than two months the 2014 Winter Olympics will open in Sochi, Russia.  These games which were designed to ensure ‘all sports for all people’ are being hosted by a country where homosexuality is banned and stories of persecution against sexual minorities are being reported.  Sochi is this century’s Berlin.  A sporting movement which Pierre de Coubertin designed to promote peace, athletics, and equality is once again being held in a country whose laws and actions directly contradict the tenets of the Olympic Movement and the late Mandela.

The torch must  now be passed on–but not from Mandela to a single heir-apparent.  Rather, shouldn’t we all collectively take the torch and vow to move forward, to do our part?    Athletes competing next year in Sochi will represent both genders, all sexual orientations, all races, and a diverse number of religions.  They–along with us, the fans–have “the power to change the world.”  Their actions, their performances, and our support of them can help inspire change.  We not only owe this to Mandela, but more importantly, we owe this to ourselves and posterity.

Faster, Higher, Stronger.

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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 9 & 10 in London: Best Olympics of 21st Century?

As each day passes, I’m starting to believe that these Olympics in London are the best we’ve seen thus far in the 21st Century.  Now granted, we’ve only had four Olympic Games since the new century began, but I believe without question that the 2012 Games are the best, ranking above Athens, Sydney, and Beijing.

Day 9

What wasn’t the best was how McKayla Maroney handled her silver medal win on the women’s vault.  While I haven’t been able to find any good video, I can tell those of you who didn’t see it live that Maroney’s reaction and lack of good sportsmanship was embarrassing.   She not only was pouting  worse than Suri Cruise, but stared daggers at Romania’s Sandra Izbasa, who beat her out for gold.  Izbasa had to reach out to Maroney to offer the traditional “good sport hug” following the competition.  Maroney was not keen to return the embrace.   Listen, McKayla.  I understand you were disappointed.  But you screwed up.  You fell on your bottom.  It’s not like you didn’t medal at all.  You got a silver!  How many people (me included), would give anything to have had a chance to be an Olympian?  Show a little more appreciation and class.  Here’s a small slide show of McKayla’s reaction to her silver medal:

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I spent the remainder of Sunday enjoying more track and field.  Thank God for the live feed online, because NBC only showed about 1/4 of the actual competition.  They say that lightning doesn’t strike the same place twice.  Maybe  Jamaica’s Usain Bolt wasn’t racing in Beijing again, but he was running in the 100 meters again.  And just as he did four years ago,  he blew away the rest of the field, making the race appear effortless, leaving me wondering how much faster he could actually go if pressed to do so.  In the past I’ve doubted Usain Bolt’s world records and Olympic medals.  Perhaps though, he really is just that darn good and that darn fast, a freak of nature, if I can say so, in the most complimentary way.

Andy Murray is, quite possibly, the poster child for the saying “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”  With the weight of Great Britain on him, after so many years of trying to win at home on the grass, of trying to win a major tournament, Murray did it!  He did it!  How fantastic is it for Great Britain to not only have won four gold medals on Saturday, but to have won at Wimbledon for another gold medal?  Fantastic doesn’t even begin to describe it.

Day 10

No matter what your opinion is of synchronized swimming, I highly encourage you to watch this routine by Russia’s Natalia Ishchenko and Svetlana Romashina.  No wonder they are the world’s best!

Growing up, I only associated violence and conflict with Grenada.  It’s nice to now be able to associate something more positive with this tiny island nation:  A gold medal from Kirani James.  James’ sportsmanship impressed me when during the semi-final heat he exchanged bibs with South Africa’s Oscar Pistorius.  How proud the “Island of Spice” must be!

Finally, if you didn’t see Felix Sanchez’s gold medal ceremony, then you must.  The runner was overcome with emotion as his national anthem played following his win in the 400 meters.  Yet again, I love seeing the  impact that such an experience has on some of these athletes.  This is what it’s all about.

Faster, Higher, Stronger.

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Day 1 in London: Let the Upsets Begin!

Day one is over and I’m tired.   I was up at 5:00 AM to watch men’s cycling, followed by archery team finals, then beach volleyball, mixed with some indoor volleyball, a bit of rowing trials, a fencing gold medal bout, followed by men’s gymnastics and swimming–And I didn’t get to watch everything.  I’m exhausted.

Maybe the IOC had it right when they used to hold the Games over a period of months–not weeks?  At this rate, I’ll be worn out by Day Four.  God knows there’s probably typos in here, but I don’t have time to proofread.  I’ve got Olympics to watch.

Cycling

What is there to say about the men’s road race in cycling?  I was, as the Britons say, gobsmacked!  Cavendish, Millar, Wiggins, and Froome were all silenced and kept back in the peloton.  Others like Greipel and Cancellara were kept silent, as was Greipel’s teammate Martin, who pulled out of the race about 90 kilometers from the finish.  Yet the win by Alexandr Vinokourov proved my husband correct in his prediction:  If one wants to know who’s going to win in Olympic cycling,  watch and see, because one just can’t make a prediction in the unpredictable sport of cycling.  I loved seeing all the British people along the roads cheering, the riders on.  The turnout of fans was amazing!  It was so wonderful to not only see an older athlete surge past his younger competitors for a gold medal, but to see the emotion as he stood on podium while his national anthem played.  It gave me hope to know that for some professional athletes, the Olympics are important.  It was also exciting to think about what Rigoberto Uran’s silver medal will do to boost Colombian cycling.  Oh dear, my husband is turning me into a cycling fan!

Archery

I took in the men’s team final for archery.  The world must have heard my gasp when Italy’s Galiazzo scored an eight on his last shot.  Oh, it was so close!  I was surprised to learn that most of Team USA wont’ be returning for the 2016 Olympics.  With that much talent and potential, think of how much better they could become?  The question I have though, is this:  Is Mexico that good or was Korea really struggling?  Maybe both.  While Korea really struggled compared to previous Olympics, Mexico was darn impressive, and I’m hoping this team is going to stay around for 2016.

Swimming

It was a difficult day for Michael Phelps, and while many don’t like him, I feel sorry for him.  I can’t imagine the scrutiny in which he’s under, and the constant barrage of questions from reporters about him becoming the winningest Olympian of all time must be so annoying.  Phelps has already swum in two Olympics.  He surpassed Spitz’s record of seven medals.  He’s the greatest swimmer there’s ever been.  He’s tired and he’s ready to retire.  Cut him some slack, media.  And while he may not be the most likeable or least controversial athlete, he’s a heck of a lot more likeable than Ryan Lochte.  What was amazing in the pool yesterday wasn’t Phelps’ inability to win a  medal, but rather it was Ye Shiwen’s blistering pace in the pool as part of the women’s 400 meters individual medley.  Dear God!  If she’s this good at 16, what will she be like in four years in Rio?  Absolutely amazing.

Fencing

Women’s fencing was a close final!  Yet again, we saw why the Italians are masters with the fencing, as the ladies swept the podium.  For a gold medal bout to go into sudden death….how exciting!

Gymnastics

And as for men’s gymnastics, all I can say is that I’m glad John Orozco’s mother isn’t Chinese, because I don’t think her nerves could have stood watching the Chinese men’s team performance yesterday.  Talk about a stunning turn of events!

Faster, Higher, Stronger

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Filed under 2012 London Olympics, Cycling, Fencing, Gymnastics, Swimming

London Preview: Diving

Olympic Divers for London Olympics (1908, 1948, 2012)

What/Where/When: Diving, Aquatics Center, July 29-August 11

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London Preview: Synchronized Swimming & Its Place in the Olympics

Russia in 2011 synchronized swimming team event

What/Where/When: 

Synchronized Swimming, Aquatics Center, August 5-10

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London Preview: Advice From Sir Winston

I’ve been thinking a lot about the recent controversies being reported out of London.  The cauldron hasn’t been lit.  Nor has the first starting gun been fired.  Yet already the London Organizing Committee (LOCOG) is already under heavy  criticism from the media, tourists, and London’s own residents.  There’s been the threat of strikes from border guards and train operators, the forecast of a very rainy and “soggy” Olympics, the G4S fiasco, and complaints from Londoners regarding logistical issues such as traffic and transportation. 

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