Monday, August 13, 2012

Olympics 2012: A Fortnight of Memories (Joy in Repetition Rewarded)

And just like that, the 2012 London Olympics are over and done. A fortnight (two weeks for us non-London folks) has passed and memories have been forged in time. I've already done extensive pieces on my favorite moments so I'll leave you with quick hits on a few more.

Kirani James's win in the 400m. The 1st ever gold medal for Grenada. A 19 year old kid with the weight of an entire country on his shoulders and he carried it proudly.

My dude Cullen Jones racked up two more medals. A silver in the 4 x 100 freestyle relay and his first individual medal - silver in the 50 freestyle.

Cuba's Felix Sanchez wins the 400m hurdles and sheds tears for his late grandmother. I almost wanted to hug him as he bawled during his national anthem. 

Bryshon Nellum and Josh Mance helped the 4 x 400 relay squad win silver. I remember how big a star Nellum was in 2007 when he was a part of four golds at the state track meet for Long Beach Poly and running the fastest HS times in the nation. I remember being at USC's football game after Halloween in 2008 and folks discussed Nellum being shot in his legs while wondering if he'd ever run again.

Two years ago, I saw Josh Mance win a CIF, Masters and state track championship in the 400 meters, beating current USC All-American Robert Woods the final two times. Now both are silver medalists and Nellum carried the flag at the closing ceremonies. Amazing stories to see them both grow.

Tyson Chandler, James Harden and Russell Westbrook bringing gold medals back to Los Angeles. So happy!

Oscar Pistorius making a run for so many. He didn't place in his 400 meter heat or the 4 x 400 relay but he ran for amputees and able-bodied kids to show them anything is possible. To hear one of my good bros from Twitter testify on how Pistorius inspired him, a fellow amputee, it showed me that it wasn't just a race. It was a run for acceptance.

Liu Xiang. The 2004 gold medalist in the 110 hurdles stumbled in the heats of the 2008 Olympics in his native China. He came back in 2012 ready to compete and he stumbled again on the 1st hurdle in his heat. He crumpled to the ground and you thought it was going to end badly. But just watch this video and try to keep a straight face. True grit and heart as he reminded me the Olympics aren't about competing, but finishing your task.

Seeing the Duchess of Cambridge get excited like she was a fan. I know this will cue the comparisons to Princess Diana and her accessible personality but it was nice to see royalty forget they were privileged and enjoy the atmosphere like everyone else. For 2 weeks, William and Kate were super fans like their subjects.

The joy of the women who kept on winning and winning big. Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh-Jennings' 3-peat, Jessica Ennis winning the heptathlon for all of Great Britain, the USA women's bball team 5-peat, Missy Franklin's 5 medals before starting senior yr of HS. Can't forget about the Fierce Five racking up the hardware and Gabby flying into history while McKayla Maroney created a memorable Internet meme with her silver medal scowl.

Rebecca Soni broke a world record in the backstroke in the semifinal. Then she broke that same record in the final. Alex Morgan was a darling after the World Cup. After her header to send the US women's soccer team into the finals vs. Japan, the pride of Diamond Bar is about to get even more love from folks.

Allyson Felix had 3 Olympic medals prior to 2012. She won 3 gold this year. I won't be forgetting that 4 x 100 relay where she and fellow Angeleno Carmelita Jeter were part of a new world record.

How do you follow up greatness? On his 2nd and last time answering this question, Michael Phelps only won 4 gold medals in his final 4 events (6 medals total) and showed his dominance even as a mortal.  He leaves his career with 22 career medals and a record that may not be broken.

As for Usain Bolt, he came to be a legend and left by repeating his 2008 efforts in even better fashion. 6-for-6 career in the Olympics, 5 Olympic records, 4 of them world records. All 6 golds came in the sprints, a 1st. As great as Phelps was, Usain Bolt was even greater as a star who backed up his talk, entertained us all and showed why he may be the fastest sprinter of all time.

London did a great job hosting the Games. From celebrating what made their culture so rich to seeing them enjoy their finest sports hour last Saturday, it was a time to be proud.

As much as I complained about NBC's tape delay, I still watched at night. Why? Because knowing somebody won doesn't mean you don't want to see how they won. Did NBC's coverage have flaws? Yep, mainly in the gymnastics commentators and interrupting their closing ceremonies to promote "Animal Practice." I'd suggest showing more events live on NBC Sports network when they can't show it on NBC or MSNBC and they can still do a prime-time recap.

Yet at the same time, we still watched right? We found ways to avoid spoilers, no matter how difficult. Did it take away from watching the Games together? Yes but prior to Facebook/Twitter, we watched it with folks close to us anyway. It didn't take away from the conversation, but just when we could get into it. Ultimately, NBC could learn from a few mistakes but I'll focus on how they did it right.

The Olympics are about joy and heartbreak. But no matter what happens, getting to the Games is worth celebrating. Getting a medal means holding your head up high. And winning is the cherry on top of your efforts. Either way, it's Joy in Repetition. All of your hard work, long hours, doing those little things, sacrificing and repeating for months on end. There's joy in knowing it was worth something.

(Footnote: The Games was also the final moment for two giants of the media. NBC's Dick Ebersol will retire after presiding over Sunday Night Football, several Olympic Games, Saturday Night Live, a Super Bowl and many more events. Also, Bob Ryan of the Boston Globe - a giant of the NBA beat writers fraternity, frequent Around the Horn contributor, and more - retired following the US-Spain gold medal game after a 44-year career.)

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