Thursday, August 19, 2004

They are the Champions

Last night was one of the best nights of athletic competition I have ever seen. I got to watch one of the most unbelievable comebacks of all time, as well as the shattering of a longtime record, the return of sport to the birthplace of the Olympics, an American bicycle win and a third place finish by someone who wasn’t supposed to medal.

I managed to stay up until midnight last night watching Paul Hamm’s incredible comeback from literally landing on his ass in front of the judges on his vault. I don’t know all that much about gymnastics, having been deemed too tall to compete when I was about 8, but I have a feeling that coming from that fall to a gold medal is pretty much unheard of. I don’t think it’s ever happened in that level of competition. I don’t know what was in the air at the venue, but it seemed like the pressure really took its toll on the top men’s gymnasts last night, to the tune of a lot of mistakes, both ones I could see and ones I had to listen to the incredibly annoying announcers chatter about. Annoying announcers aside, watching Paul Hamm literally put everything he had on the line was breathtaking. I was joking with my mom that I didn’t think he knew how to smile, but when he reacted to his score by saying “No. NO!!!” and screaming and smiling and nearly collapsing into the embraces of his coaches, it was obvious he was ecstatic.

One of my favorite sports to watch is swimming, and last night was no exception. Watching the women’s 4X200 freestyle relay not only win gold, but shatter the longest standing world record on the swimming books was awe-inspiring. These girls are all between the ages of 16 and 23. They swam so hard and so fast that they beat a record that has stood for 17 years. As a former competitive swimmer, I can appreciate the difficulty they overcame to do that. Natalie Coughlin set the pace and the girls never backed off. Apparently whatever got into the American men last night when they beat the Australians by a fingertip managed to make its way over to the women.

Speaking of Australians, Ian Thorpe managed to pull an upset by landing on the podium in the 100 free with a bronze, in a race he wasn’t even supposed to be a contender in. Pieter van den Hoogenband swam a flawless race for the gold, and I was delighted to see that as well. He is an amazing swimmer and his enthusiasm is beyond infectious.

The shot put took place in ancient Olympia last night, which is kind of funny since the shot put wasn’t actually part of the ancient Games. However, the field was where the ancient Games had taken place thousands of years ago, so a return to that was stirring. I am glad that the Games finally came to Athens and I think it’s been an amazing few days.

Tyler Hamilton took the gold in the individual time trials, which rocks because I have an incredible respect for him. He is the most underrated American cyclist today and is an amazing athlete. I am disappointed that Lance isn’t at the Games, but it gives me that much more respect for Tyler and what he has been able to do.

I have rarely been as proud to watch the national anthem being played for individual athletes as I was tonight.

Quote of the Day: “Get up now and go/Or you’re never gonna know/Never gonna make it in your houses lying low/Give it one good try/Give it all and fight till you die.” Fight Till You Die, Pennywise

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