Jim Adams: A toast to the top moments of the Olympics
Even if you are but a casual sports enthusiast, there is something about the Olympic Games that is captivating. It splashes onto the scenes with a Friday night Opening Ceremonies and then proceeds to slowly lure you into the middle of this once-every-four-years smorgasbord of sport.
The three weeks have flown by. The Beijing Olympic flame has been extinguished. The torch has been passed to London, the home of the 2012 games. It is hard to believe it is over. So many events shown in such little time on a myriad of networks. There will be no need this day to juggle the TiVo schedule to make sure a crucial or favorite event is not missed. The games are done. The athletes are heading home. The nations prepare to honor their participants. What a rich event it was. Politics aside, it met and surpassed expectations.
As we awake on Monday morning, there is a certain glow in being an American. Our athletes made us proud. We dominated certain sports. There were exemplary performances. The United States medal count froze at 110 at the completion of the Olympiad. Although the US did not lead in gold medals, trailing China by 15, there was enough of the magic to hold us over until the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver.
Alas, what was the best? Where did American performances really shine? What was beyond outstanding? There would probably be a great amount of debate. However, for a variety of reasons, here are my nominees for the Top 10.
10. DARA TORRES ” At 41, Torres showed that age need not be a factor. She garnered two silver medals and showed the grit, talent, and performance of a youngster. Ah, for us all to dream of matching her skills in our advancing years!
9. GYMNASTICS ” With the Paul and Morgan Hamm having to pull out just before the games, there was little hope for the make-shift American squad. They called on two alternates to complement the team. They could have folded in disarray, yet they found a way to capture the bronze medal. It was an accomplishment of meaningful proportions led by Jonathan Horton and Justin Spring.
8. WOMEN’S SOFTBALL ” The most talented team in softball history suffered their only Olympic loss of the past three years in the gold medal game. Although they took the silver, they dominated a tournament in which their competitors’ talent is increasing. Kudos to the Japanese for winning the gold, but it may be exactly what was needed to allow the sport to reappear in 2018, eight years from now. As the American ladies left their shoes at home plate at the end of the gold medal game, the signal of the sport’s cessation in the Olympic, they can hold their heads high.
7. WOMEN’S GYMNASTICS (Nastia Liukin and Shawn Johnson ) ” It may not have turned out exactly how they would have scripted it, but these two ladies put on a show of which we all could be proud. It was not an easy tournament in home China, but they found a way to be outstanding. The medals made for great American press. Looking forward to hopefully seeing them in 2012.
6. MEN’S WATER POLO ” Team USA was expected to go nowhere. This team was an also-ran. Competitors were supposed to hone their skills for the real matches. Yet, Terry Shroeder took his band of Americans and created a rich Olympic story. Great wins again Germany and Serbia led them to a highly unlikely gold-medal encounter against Hungary … one they would lose to claim the silver. Few will forget the celebration after upsetting Serbia. This team was outstanding.
5. WOMEN’S SOCCER ” Here is a sport that is getting progressively stronger in the female venue. Team USA was extraordinary. Their last two victories were claimed in overtime, one in a driving rainstorm. The gold medal game against Brazil was outstanding, a 1-0 thriller in the waning moments of a second overtime. The men’s squad needs to take lessons from these ladies!
4. FENCING ” Mariel Zagunis, Sada Jacobson, and Becca Ward got the party started by claiming gold, silver and bronze in women’s saber fencing. This was a momentum boost. Their dominance was an outstanding beginning to a rich story that would be written over three weeks.
3. BASKETBALL ” Gold and gold. Need I say more? The women were absolutely outstanding. They plowed through their competition and stayed ever-so-focused. Likewise, the “Redeem Team” reclaimed gold for the men’s program after a 12 year absence. LeBron and Koby led a squad proud to be Americans. Both of these programs made huge statements in Beijing.
2. BEACH VOLLEYBALL ” Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh were beyond outstanding. They surgically guided themselves through all the competition. When it came down to the gold medal game against China in a steady rain, Walsh and May took it in straight sets. Phil Dalhauser and Todd Rogers were equally as impressive. Give me a break. With Dalhauser looking like the Jolly Green Giant, the USA took care of business. No big deal. All a part of the plan. They were a grade above all other nations.
1. MICHAEL PHELPS ” No surprise here. Eight golds. Exciting events. Close finishes. The most outstanding Olympic achievement of all time. He is dominant, approachable, focused and talented. He was the consummate entertainer of the Beijing Games. He will be back in 2012.
So, we can stop dragging ourselves into work from late night viewing. The Visine can be retied for another couple of years. The DVR can take a rest. Yes, the reality programs will be back. However, none of them will compare to that which we experienced over the last three weeks. It seemed like it started a moment ago. Yet, it is over. The closing ceremonies were complete as we awoke on Sunday morning.
However, it is a spectacle. There is arguably nothing like it. It is the pinnacle of sport. The athletes proved themselves as something genuinely special … and it gave us pride, pride in our youth, pride in our country, pride in our athletes ” young and old!
If I am so blessed, I look forward to bring you Vancouver in 2010 first hand. You see, too short a trip to miss it. It is only 18 months away. Vancouver will provide great venues and wonderful hosts. You need to think about it. It is one of those once-in-a-lifetime experiences. There is simply nothing quite like it.
Jim Adams lives in Nevada City, is a regular contributor to The Union and a broadcaster for TouchDown Productions. He may be reached via e-mail at email@example.com.
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User Legend: Moderator Trusted User
New season. New co-head coaches. Same expectations.