MY THOUGHTS AND MEMORABLE MOMENTS FROM THE 2008 SUMMER OLYMPIC GAMES
The 2008 Summer Games marked the first Olympics I've watched on TV since the 1992 Barcelona Games. I enjoyed every second of the Beijing Olympics! I was worried about "staying home" for The Games, but like never before I was engrossed in ALL THINGS Olympics. Between the internet broadcasts, television coverage, message boards, and editorials, I was submerged in the Beijing Olympic experience!
I'm recovering from the "Olympic Hangover" of staying up late for 17 days, but what I lost in sleep, I gained in the thrill of the XXIX Olympiad. As I return to my daily routine, I've gathered my thoughts and memorable moments. It helps me get over my post-Beijing let down. Quite simply, I categorized my thoughts into two categories "Things I loved" and "Not so much". I've got them listed in no particular order. The Olympic Gymnastics Competition was all it was cracked up to be. Enjoy the lists!
Our "At Home Olympic Experience" started with a visit from Paul Hamm, Morgan Hamm, and Morgan's fiancée, Megan. Morgan just returned from Beijing the night before (8.8.08) after an emotional and untimely departure from China. More on that: http://www.intlgymnast.com/olympics/ziert/535.html
Morgan and Paul's competitive careers came to a close in a manner that none of us could've predicted 3 months ago. Nevertheless, we were so pleased to have them spend this time at our home.
I have to admit, at first it was odd watching the Beijing Olympics with the Hamms in Ohio. I knew that a healthy Paul and Morgan could've contributed significantly in China; however, once the competition began I could see the genuine happiness they felt for their teammates, and Raj Bhavsar's success helped all of us see "the greater good" in Paul and Morgan's injuries! It was a positive thing, and it's good to see Paul and Morgan's enthusiasm about life after competitive gymnastics. While not directly, no one can dispute that the Hamm's pushed the U.S. Men's Team to new heights in Beijing!
Here are some photos from our "At Home Experience".....Enjoy!
HINT: This photo album was put together in PowerPoint. If you do not have PowerPoint installed on your computer, you can download the PowerPoint Viewer for Windows or the PowerPoint Viewer for Macintosh to view this presentation.
THINGS I LOVED!
- What about Two-Time Gold Medalist Gervasio Deffer!! The controversial Spaniard never lacked in the talent department, and it was particularly sweet to see him finally earn an Olympic Medal on his best event, Floor Exercise.
- Romania's Bronze medal in the Women's Team Competition and Sandra Isbaza's Gold Medal on Floor reminded critics that Romania's deep tradition in gymnastics is far from dead! I'm impressed with what their program has done with limited resources and huge management changes.
- NBCOlympics.com's high quality streaming of podium training!
- While Cheng Fei's performances and efforts as an emotional leader for the Chinese Women left little in the tank for individual glory, she was instrumental in the Chinese Team effort. A TRUE team player, Cheng Fei's Bronze on beam held a very special meaning. I was so happy to see a female gymnast pumping her fists while giving triumphant hollers. Cheng Fei was a thrill to watch. She displayed great sportsmanship when encouraging Alicia Sacramone following the Team Final. You have to see the photos and footage to really understand what I'm talking about. Loved it! That last tidbit brings me to the vast display of sportsmanship I saw as I watched from home.
- Amid the poor sportsmanship displayed by the media (which I might add we were bombarded with in the U.S). The gymnasts displayed countless acts of sportsmanship that deserve mention and attention.
- Shawn Johnson was often the first athlete to congratulate her competitors, and I'll never forget how Shawn joined Nastia Liukin for a curtain call during the All-Around Finals. Shawn Johnson demonstrated the Olympic Spirit throughout the Games; therefore, her balance beam GOLD was just a fitting conclusion to the Women's competition.
- Nastia Liukin's composure DURING AND AFTER the Uneven Bar Final. While she could've justifiably blamed the judging for the quirky bar results, she simply admitted that she had not performed her best routine. Class Act! She has been on the losing end of two major tie-breaking procedures, and Liukin continues to be a gracious champion! Love her!
- Alicia Sacramone erroneously blamed herself for missing out on the Team Gold Medal. While most of us know Alicia's errors DID NOT CAUSE the team to lose the Gold. She was a good sport by not feeding into the blame placed on the delays caused by cameramen and television.
- Perhaps the most endearing moment of the Olympic Gymnastics Competition was when He Kexin embraced and lifted teammate Yang Yilin during the Uneven Bar final. While I may never know what He was thinking, I can't help but guess that He believed her teammate had won the gold, and she was sharing in her teammate's success. If those were indeed He Kexin's thoughts, I agree wholeheartedly with her.
- All appeared right in the Gymnastics Universe when Oksana Chusovitina earned her silver medal on Vaulting at the tender age of 33. SHE'S THE WORLD'S SUPERHERO MOM!
- U.S. Women's Team WINNING, yes WINNING, the silver medal in the Team competition. They endured an exhausting and at times punishing Olympic Team Selection process, not to mention they experienced severe setbacks in the days leading up to the Olympics.
Just think about it, injuries to Shayla Worley, Mattie Larson, Chellsie Memmel, and Samantha Peszek demonstrated how the DEEPEST TEAM in the WORLD was WHITTLED DOWN TO A TEAM THAT WON THE SILVER MEDAL AGAINST ODDS! Again, just think for a moment. If just one more untimely injury plagued the U.S. Women, an Olympic medal could've been completely out of the picture. These young ladies earned a Silver Medal against odds in a similar fashion that the Men's Team earned a bronze medal. The principle difference was the media perception of each medal. In the men's case it was a victory, and in the women's case it was viewed as a defeat based on the 2007 World Championships. The individual athletes and coaches made America proud on both the Men's and Women's sides!
- Jonathan Horton winning a silver medal on high bar. His individual medal was payment for his tremendous efforts during the Team competition. Without question, he was the leader of the U.S. Men's Team. His High Bar routine from the Event Final is arguably the most dynamic and difficult routine the gymnastics world has ever seen!
- Yang Wei tore through six events to be victorious in China! He and Raj Bhavsar reminded us that great things are worth the wait!
- The U.S. Men's bronze medal Team Final. The team alternates were called upon and did their jobs to help the U.S. win their "Good as Gold" Bronze Medal. Horton was solid, and the high bar squad appeared to be the best in the world (regardless of scores). Raj Bhavsar told us that he "has been paid back double" for all that he endured over the last 4 years!
- Chinese Gymnastics Domination: We could go on and on about how prepared the Men's and Women's Artistic Teams were, but the Chinese dominated Artistic Gymnastics all the while earning individual Gold Medals in Trampoline and a Team Silver in Rhythmic Gymnastics. Impressive isn't enough to describe Chinese Gymnastics program! They succeeded in all disciplines and categories of gymnastics greatness.
- Individual Gold/Silver coming in and Individual Gold/Silver going out! Story book ending for the Team USA's superstars. I love it! The hard work and attention to detail Nastia Liukin/Valeri Liukin and Shawn Johnson/Chow Liang put in over the last several years came through in China. When you look at the whole picture, the one-two punch of Liukin and Johnson was simply too awesome for the rest of the world to handle. Both artistry and pure athleticism were rewarded in Beijing, and the results prove it.
NOT SO MUCH
- Since ditching compulsory routines after the 1996 Olympics, gymnastics has picked up a new compulsory exercise…CONTROVERSY. The vaulting table was the right height this time, nobody was taking Sudafed, Paul Hamm wasn't in the meet, and Chen Yibing was the decisive Olympic Champion on still rings, so we had to find something else to latch on to.
- I guess it's a sign of the times, but it saddens me to know that this year's age controversy quagmire has taken away (more so than in the past) from the stunning performances of ALL OF THE GYMNASTS, NOT JUST THE CHINESE WOMEN! I often wonder how the Chinese Women's team have/has/had wrestled with the negative attention of the age controversy. As a teen, I recall the pressures that came along with an Olympics at home, and I couldn't image having to compete with scrutiny hanging over my head
- The 2008 Olympics marked a time in our sport where we've approached the plateau of physical capabilities. When gymnastics' living legends like Jordan Jovtchev, Marian Dragulescu, Cheng Fei, Hiroyuki Tomita, and Diego Hypolito look as if they can't they've MAXED OUT, IT'S TIME TO CHANGE THE RULES DRASTICALLY!
- Olympic order used to mean something! Vaulting, Uneven Bars, Balance Beam, and Floor Exercise. I didn't like the order used at the Olympic Women's Event Finals. Having both women's leg events was not only tiring, but the audience loves seeing Women's Floor Exercise as the final event of the women's competition. Can you imagine the 2008 Olympic Women's Floor final followed by the 2008 Olympic Men's High bar final? That could've been an even more spectacular night for the sport of gymnastics!
- Bela Karolyi was "The Grinch" of my 2008 Olympic experience. Has anyone noticed how Bela manages to make historic gymnastics moments his own? His antics of exaggerated patriotism, righteousness, and empathy sandwiched between roars, howls, and imaginary adjectives were just too much! I found myself muting his commentary by the time the Women's All-Around Final had arrived. His comments added a negative and suspicious dimension to the competition, really nothing of utility for the gymnastics fan.
- I trained with Bela for several years, and my family and I spent many holidays with Bela and Martha Karolyi. I can separate the real behavior from the phony performance. In 2008, I had an overdose of the Karolyi phoniness. I was embarrassed by his lack of knowledge of the sport. I felt like I was watching a crazed-aged man talk senselessly about a sport he knew little about. Come to think of it, I see why I felt that way. (I guess I shouldn't be surprised why the questions I submitted were never read during Ring the Bela!)
Once again, the BIGGEST competition in gymnastics was filled with lots of drama and great moments. The only certainty is that one can never predict what will unfold! As I let the moments of Beijing digest, I look ahead to what's to come in the next 4 year cycle.