Olympic Fever: Off the Field Awesomeness on Day Eleven

Like everyone else, every two years I become addicted to a bunch of sports I don’t care about during all the time between Olympics. Given that I’m doing next to nothing this summer, I’ve been following the games pretty closely, and I think that yesterday’s schedule was one of the best days so far (although I’m ready for it to be topped tomorrow when the USWNT face off against Japan in the football gold medal match). It’s stupidly obvious to say that the athletics of each event are incredible, but there’s just as much excitement off the field/track/pool/pitch/etc, and equally as many wonderful, joyful, and inspiring moments. Once again, yesterday was a good day for that. While my favourite non-directly-athetic moments of the games so far are the opening ceremonies (of course) and Usain Bolt being a class act and pausing an interview to respect another country’s national anthem (my favourite athletics-related moments being Gabby Douglas’s all-around win and the last-minute goal by Alex Morgan in the football semifinal against Canada), these are my top five fantastic moments from yesterday’s coverage:

Aly Raisman, women’s gymnastics. After Raisman was beat out for the bronze on vault due to the gymnastics’ weird tie-breaking rules, it was nice to see those weird rules go her way on the beam (also, how awesome was Deng Linlin’s routine?!). Even better was her gold-medal winning floor routine. But outside of the athletics, I loved the sportsmanship all of the women showed. It’s bothered me how the media seems intent on portraying several of the gymnasts as “mean girls” types, but there was none of that last night, with Raisman hugging her competitors and Aliya Mustafina flashing her a thumbs up after her routine.

Harper and Wells, women’s track and field. Obviously nobody goes to the Olympics thinking “hmm, I’d really like to come home with the bronze medal,” but it seems like some people (cough, the commentators, cough) think that winning a medal other than gold is a huge failure, whereas silver and bronze are still pretty awesome. American 100m hurdlers Dawn Harper and Kellie Wells certainly seemed to agree. Even after the intense run, their post-event interview was full of joy for the fact that they medaled as well as getting personal best times. I also loved gold medalist Sally Pearson’s scream when they put up the scoreboard.

That exuberant German dude, men’s gymnastics. 
When Fabian Hambuechen finished his horizontal bar final routine, the commentators said that it was the best of his career and he would be nearly impossible to beat. He obviously felt the same way, judging by the triumphant yell he let out as soon as he dismounted, pumping the audience to cheer for him more. Even when Epke Zonderland immediately blew away the rest of the competition, it didn’t put much of a damper on Hambuechen’s enthusiasm. Also, again, some great sportsmanship from the other gymnasts; everyone applauded and congratulated each other and Zonderland.

Liu Xiang, men’s track and field. 
I think this is the moment that will go next to “tearjerker” in the 2012 Olympics dictionary. China’s Liu Xiang won the gold in Beijing, but he was brought down in the hurdles this time due to an injury to his achilles. However, after leaving the track, he returned to finish the race and bent down to kiss the Olympic rings on the final hurdle before his competitors helped him across the finish line.

Kerri Walsh Jennings and Misty May-Treanor, women’s beach volleyball. I think women’s beach volleyball is one of the most underappreciated sports in the Olympics. Not because it doesn’t get covered—it does, and especially since the USA is doing so well (USA vs. USA gold medal match this afternoon, and Walsh and May-Treanor are going for their third gold!), but so much of it seems to include discussion of how hot the athletes are and how small their outfits are, rather than their awesome athletic ability. I’d like to think that Walsh and May-Treanor are making people give the sport a little more respect; their match yesterday against an almost-as-excellent Chinese team was fantastic. But, okay, athletics aside, they also just seem like really awesome women, two of my favourites of the games.


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