Some observations about some of the happenings of the Rio Olympics.
Usain Bolt is deservedly getting props for being the greatest Olympic track athlete of all time. Of course, that’s because he is the fastest man alive today. The fastest man who ever lived. And maybe, is a man whose fastest ever times will NEVER be surpassed. He won nine out of nine gold medals for sprints and relays, but when you are clearly faster than everyone else, it’s not really that much of a surprise that you won. It’s like when you are in school and there’s that guy who’s the fastest person in the school and beats everybody all the time. He’s just FASTER than everyone.
However, it should be noted that the Bolt of 2016 is not as fast as the Bolt of four and eight years ago’s Olympics. His winning times in the 200 meters of 19.78 was far slower than his 19.30 in Beijing and his 19.32 in London. His 19.78 would have been trounced by Michael Johnson’s Atlanta 200m time of 19.32. To compare times and great performances, the 400m time of Wayde van Niekerk of 43.03 would have just as decisively have beaten that same Michael Johnson (43.49 in the 400m) of that year.
That being said, Bolt is a phenomenon for the ages. People will tell other people years from now of his exploits. He probably will STILL own the world record in the sprints. People will remember what they were doing when they saw that amazing sprinter rocketing down the straightaway during any of his three Olympics. But he might be quitting Olympic racing because he knows he’s “slowing down,” which kind of shows how REALLY fast he “used to be.”
Why is it that divers have to race to take a shower after every single dive they take? I would think that in many countries of the world (those who have to conserve water), that would qualify as a serious waste of water.
Ryan Lochte just pissed his post-Olympic endorsement career down the toilet. It wouldn’t have been too bad of a “mistake” if he just did his damage and fessed up to it. But instead, he will probably forever known as either “Lyin’ Ryan” or “The Lochte Ness Monster.” In other words, he just made the career wrecking mistake of being known for ONE bad thing… blatantly lying in front of a world audience. In this Internet age, can a person ever recover from that?
Simone Biles’ flying through the air with the greatest of ease and landing perfectly while doing her tumbling during her floor exercise or her similar majestic, airborne performances on the vault are the single most breathtaking images I will have of these Olympics. I have been watching these Olympic gymnastics performances for a long time and I have never seen anything as athletically awe inspiring as Simone Biles doing double somersaults with twists and landing gracefully on her feet as mine and millions of others’ jaws simply drop in amazement.
Michael Phelps may have accumulated 28 medals (with 23 gold) during his Olympic career, but it’s a lot easier to run up a whole bunch of medals in swimming, where one guy can enter seven or eight events (including relays) and win up to those seven or eight or so gold medals… in one Olympics (you can’t enter that many in track and field). Multiply that times four Olympics (remember, these guys are merely human and don’t win a gold medal in every race) and you can get yourself 28 medals also. Just be that good.
The trick is in staying in your prime and being “the best in the world” at your event for FOUR Olympics. Most swimmers have a window of peak excellence that usually only lasts one or two Olympics (see Missy Franklin, great in London, multiple gold medals, but a non-factor in Rio, all by the age of 21). Phelps’ amazing record is due to his maintaining a superior level of excellence for what’s now going on over a dozen years. Excellence at the highest world class level AND longevity. Phelps is the only one who has done it so far.
One of the best things about the Olympics are the relay races. Mostly in swimming and in track. They are some of the most exciting events of the entire competition. They really demonstrate the team nature of some of these sports, where great performer alone still can’t beat the collective teamwork of four teammates each contributing their best efforts. It’s so Olympian to have team relays. Teamwork. Nation against nation. And fans can get so behind THEIR country’s relay teams. The national pride factor is off the charts. There really should be more effort on the IOC’s part to get some form of more relay races (in any other sports that are applicable if possible) into the Olympics.
Here’s the thing about the “green slime” diving pool. The pool turned an obvious green color that looked like the St. Charles River in Boston after it had been purposely colored to look that way for a St. Patrick’s Day celebration. For several days, the Rio organizers came up with excuse after excuse trying to explain why they were not at fault (it was algae, it was a chemical reaction, it was a change in weather). This is for an OLYMPICS, mind you. After all of their embarrassing excuses went on for days (and they tried to force the divers to continue working out in a green slime pool) and the world press ridiculed them for their ineptness, they finally came up with the solution that you or I might have figured out in the first place. They drained the pool. And then it was blue again. Why couldn’t they have done that in the first place? Sheer Incompetence.
The surest thing for a gold medal during this Olympics was the U.S. women’s basketball team. They had everything that made the UCONN basketball team best college basketball dynasty in history, including the great UCONN coach Geno Auriemma coaching the team. Then they got the best women’s players in the world today, including a lot of ex-UCONN players. Then, they got this team to play the UCONN style of basketball (great defense on every possession, a solidly structured offense, great rebounding, etc.). The won every game by an average of 38 points per game, with the closest game being a 19 point win. They CRUSHED their opposition. They were a far better bet to win gold than the men’s team with all of their NBA players. The women were great players AND they played like an unselfish team. Of course, they easily won the gold.
Sometimes, the person (who wasn’t expected to win anything) who wins a bronze medal is more excited about their “third place” than the winner (who was expected to win) simply doing what he was supposed to do and winning. The joy some of the bronze medal winners showed when they got their 3rd place finishes was priceless. It shows the glass being half full vs. half empty theory. It’s not about WHAT the medal is that the person wins, it’s what the person achieved vs. what their expectations were. You could feel like you only got third place, or you can feel like, “hey, with all of these world class athletes, I was the THIRD best runner/swimmer/gymnast in the world.” Not a bad way to look at things.
Volleyball announcer Chris Marlowe has been the best announcer at the Olympics. He helped make volleyball seem like the most exciting sport out there. He used to play the sport, but his style and expertise brought out the best in the sport, even when American participants (“his” country) got beat by someone else. In fact, he explained not only WHY the U.S. teams lost, he had already prepared the audience with just how good the opponents were, and emphasized how their exceptional playing was bringing about their wins. And he accurately described how great the Brazilian fans were supporting their hometown heroes, the teams that beat the Americans. And the excitement really showed through the TV screen. GREAT job announcing.
It was also great TV even when watching the crushing scenes of people missing out on medals. They trained their asses off for years, and competed in the great competition of the Olympics, and yet they somehow fell short of their dreams and finished out of the top three. The Olympics are not just all about the winners. They may be a bunch of extraordinary athletes, but they are still HUMAN beings capable of having the same emotions of struggle and disappointment that we all have. The human drama at the Olympics is truly powerful stuff.
And yet, there is nothing quite like the thrill of a person having the best performance of their life and winning a gold medal (or any medal that they are happy to be winning for that matter). We as fans get to see one of the greatest moments of a person’s life, perhaps the very highlight of their lives happen right before our eyes. The ultimate “reality” show.
The 31st Olympiad of the modern era ends tomorrow. I’m really going to be depressed when the Olympics are over.