Summer Olympics 2008 have come and gone with the Closing Ceremony last night. Even though host country China smashed the United States and the world for most gold medals, the United States gets the W for total medals. Outside of the medal count, now it’s time to look at the stories, the highs and the lows, the best and the worst. Of course the United States, among other countries has some great stories to tell from this, but on the other hand there are stories that countries around the world would rather keep quiet for another four years or so.
There are the obvious great stories to tell. The most obvious would be Michael Phelps swimming into Olympic history. Others include those speedy Jamaicans, awesome U.S. Volleyball (court/beach and mens/womens), opening ceremony, USA basketball. Some of those stories that the world does not need in Olympics 2012 are gymnast age controversy, Spanish basketball team picture, flack from opening ceremony, replacing a young Chinese girl because she wasn’t cute enough, US Track and Field baton drop. Those are good and bad stories in either way, but I’d like to provide my personal two that struck me, happy for one and sad for another.
In my opinion, the best story of this year’s Olympics would have to be centered around Rohullah Nikpai. Nikpai defeated world champion Juan Antonio Ramos of Spain to earn the bronze medal in the men’s under 58-kilogram taekwondo competition. What makes this special is that Nikpai is representing the war torn country of Afghanistan, that hasn’t really seen a peaceful period since the 1970s. With the bronze medal win for Nipai came all kinds of rewards including financial awards and a house. This sole win by the Afghan, which is the only medal in the country’s history, led all of the evening newscast in that country. In the midst of war, the whole country still found time to celebrate this victory, as they rightfully should. They have now proven to the world, in at least in one way, that Afghanistan can compete against the best in the world on a global platform.
On the other hand, one Olympian that I truly feel sad for is Lolo Jones. Lolo Jones is a hurdler for U.S. Track and Field. Lolo, had a disappointing 2004 at the U.S. Olympic trials. She bounced back over the past few years winning titles, breaking personal and other professional records. She came into 2008 as a bona-fide star. She made it to China, expecting Olympic gold. She blew through the preliminary rounds and most thought that she’d win at her bread and butter, the 100 meter hurdles. Jones started off to a bit of a slow start, but she eventually made her way to the front of the field. In just seconds she began to separate from the field and victory looked good. At the close of the race, Lolo went to the second to the last hurdle and clipped the top of it with her lead foot. The shocked crowd looked on as she almost kept pace, but eventually lost stride and her momentum and came in for a 7th place finish. Pain and anguish came immediately and the tears came later. I heard one thing that rings true when it comes to the Olympics. It’s not like other sports where you can say, “ah well, there’s always next year.” There is no next year for the Olympic athletes. We can only hope that she’ll still be somewhere in her prime in London.
Not for nothin’, but it wasn’t all about Phelps this year. There’s enough good stories and bad to go around. Gives you hope, it’s compelling and makes for a good show. But the good thing for the Olympics, it makes you really await London 2008.