Cheering on our athletes
Those who may be questioning America’s greatness during this election cycle needed only to flip their televisions to the Rio Olympics for a wakeup call. The United States dominated the medal count in the 31st Olympiad, serving as a reminder that we remain the world leader.
Reading all the negative stories about Rio’s preparedness for the Olympics, one would be excused for expecting to see a stadium section collapse mid-race. What we watched instead was an Olympiad that at least appeared to move smoothly. Still, there was the green water in the diving well, a Belgian sailor who got sick from the polluted Guanabara Bay and long lines for athletes at the Olympic Village McDonald’s. Then again, there were reports of individual Olympians ordering 50 items at a time from the fast-food restaurant that was free for athletes.
The final medal count at the Olympics, which closed Sunday, was 121 for the United States: 46 gold, 37 silver and 38 bronze. U.S. athletes broke three world records and eight Olympic records. Maybe you saw one of those, like distance swimmer Katie Ledecky’s 800-meter freestyle race. We sat stunned in front of the television watching her leave the other swimmers far behind as she smashed the previous Olympic record held by Great Britain’s Rebecca Adlington by about 10 seconds and her own world record by two seconds.
The United States took home the most medals in swimming and track and field, with those athletes racing their way to the podium 65 times.
We watched Michael Phelps become the most decorated Olympian of all time — besting a man named Leonidas of Rhodes from ancient Greece. Sorry Leonidas, records are made to be broken. In this case, it took 2,168 years to do it.
Ashton Eaton completed a fantastic decathlon, setting an Olympic record for points earned.
Perhaps one of the most emotional finishes we caught on TV was that of the women’s triathlon. Watching American Gwen Jorgenson raise the finish line banner above her head in triumph — after a brief tussle during the running portion with reigning gold medalist Nicola Spirig of Switzerland — was a truly memorable moment.
The two Simones, Biles in gymnastics and Manuel in swimming, became stars in Rio for their phenomenal performances.
In the 100-meter hurdles, all three medals went to Americans: Brianna Rollins, gold; Nia Ali, silver; and Ashley Spencer, bronze.
Skeet shooter Kim Rhode became the first woman to medal in six consecutive Olympiads.
If we seem to be highlighting more female athletes than males, well, the U.S. women took home more gold medals, 29-19 by our count.
And Maryland athletes dominated the field. According to The Washington Post, Olympians with ties to Maryland took home 14 gold medals, three silvers and a bronze. “Only five countries finished with more than 14 gold medals in Rio. Maryland’s 18 total Olympic medals would place the state 14th in the overall medal count,” The Post’s Kelyn Soong wrote. The Baltimore Sun had the Maryland medal count at 18 golds, four silvers and a bronze.
As is the case with every Olympics, we watched any number of stories about athletes overcoming adversity. “Apparently each athlete was abandoned as a child and raised by wolves and had their toes eaten off by fire ants. Through perseverance and pluck they vowed to one day represent their country in the Olympics,” as columnist Rock Kollinger put it.
We also watched the bizarre Ryan Lochte incident unfold. It gave new meaning to that oft-muttered phrase by athletes: “I was robbed.” Lochte “over-exaggerated” a story about him and three other members of the U.S. men’s swim team being robbed in Rio. It turns out, they allegedly vandalized a gas station bathroom and security guards demanded payment for the damages. Despite the potential for causing an international incident, it did save us a few hours of airtime from the usual saccharinsweet coming of age stories about our athletes.
We almost forgot to mention Usain Bolt, not an American mind you, but a truly amazing athlete. The Jamaican sprinter completed his triple-triple — golds in the men’s 100-meter, 200-meter and four-man 100-meter relay in three consecutive Olympics, maintaining his title as the world’s fastest man. You all saw the photo right? The one of him smiling as he sprints ahead of the field in the 100-meter race.
Next up are the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea. In the meantime, the NFL season is warming up, the World Series is a couple months off and there is plenty of NACSAR and golf and presumably some tennis to watch. But it will probably be another four years before we see anyone on television run around a track again.