Fierce Five and Olympic Records

The Covington News - - Opinion -

Our fas­ci­na­tion with the Olympics goes be­yond the near-per­fect per­for­mances of the ath­letes. It also in­cludes their sto­ries. We watch and ex­pe­ri­ence the tri­als and tri­umphs of peo­ple who fail, who get up and who tri­umph once again. Pos­si­bly through watch­ing how Olympians per­form un­der pres­sure, we can learn how to per­form un­der pres­sure, as well.

Two ex­am­ples stand out in my mind from this week, in women’s gym­nas­tics and men’s swim­ming.

In gym­nas­tics, Jor­dyn Wieber, who had been left in tears ear­lier this week when she did not make the cut for the in­di­vid­ual all-around com­pe­ti­tion, went on to lead Team USA to a gold medal. She and team­mates Aly Rais­man, Gabby Dou­glas, McKayla Maroney and Kyla Ross were dubbed the Fab Five prior to the com­pe­ti­tion. They have now re­named them­selves as the Fierce Five.

“There have been Fab Fives in the past, but I like Fierce Five,” said Maroney af­ter they se­cured their gold team medal, “be­cause we are def­i­nitely the fiercest team out there.”

Wieber, who won the 2011 World Cham­pi­onships, fin­ished fourth over­all in the in­di­vid­ual qual­i­fi­ca­tion round Sun­day, but be­hind her team­mates Rais­man and Dou­glas. The in­di­vid­ual all-around rules are set so that only the top two qualifiers from each coun­try can ad­vance to the fi­nals.

This left the 2011 World Cham­pion Wieber out of the in­di­vid­ual fi­nal com­pe­ti­tion. Af­ter shed­ding a few tears on Sun­day, she re­bounded Tues­day to lead Team USA to a gold medal.

At the team com­pe­ti­tion, Wieber led off on the vault, the first ap­pa­ra­tus for Team USA, fol­lowed by Dou­glas and Maroney, who stuck her dis­mount to earn a near per­fect 16.233. One af­ter the other, Team USA’s mem­bers earned the scores they needed to win.

Their con­sis­tency con­trasted sharply with that of the Rus­sian team, whose mem­bers made er­ror af­ter er­ror through their rotations.

That day, men swimmers were liv­ing through their own saga. Michael Phelps turned in a dis­ap­point­ing in­di­vid­ual per­for­mance, but then fo­cused on a team per­for­mance.

Phelps lost his sig­na­ture event, the 200-me­ter but­ter­fly. South African Chad le Clos beat him by .05 sec­onds.

It was ironic. It was the lack of reach in the end that did Phelps in.

In 2008, Phelps had beaten Ser­bia’s Milo­rad Cavic by one-hun­dredth of a sec­ond by lung­ing on the fi­nal stroke of the 100 but­ter­fly.

This year was dif­fer­ent.

“I glided into the wall, that’s a de­ci­sion I made, and I’m not go­ing to make ex­cuses. Some­times in prac­tice I have been lazy at the wall, and I made that de­ci­sion and I’m OK with it,” said Phelps. “Chad is a very hun­gry kid, and he got his hand on the wall first. It was a lit­tle frus­trat­ing, but I had to put it be­hind me. I didn’t want to let (the re­lay) team down.”

Le Clos, who had long watched Phelps and who had stud­ied the 2008 fin­ish, was thrilled and sur­prised with his win.

“It’s been a dream of mine ever since I was a lit­tle boy. I just wanted to race Phelps in the fi- nal, and I’ve beaten him. I have beaten the great­est swim­mer of all time. I can’t be­lieve it,” said le Clos. “Phelps is my hero, and I love the guy. To beat him, I can’t be­lieve it. You don’t un­der­stand what this means to me. This is the great­est mo­ment of my life.”

For Phelps, re­demp­tion came in the form of the 4x200 free-style event. He served as the an­chor of the USA team, which won the gold medal. This gave him his 15th ca­reer gold and 19th medal over­all.

Phelps is now the ath­lete with the most medals in Olympic his­tory.

Soviet gym­nast Larisa Latyn­ina, who earned 18 medals from 1956 to 1964, had held the record for 48 years.

While nei­ther Olympic ath­lete reached their full po­ten­tial in their in­di­vid­ual events, they both helped their Team USA to win the gold.

May their sto­ries of in­di­vid­ual fail­ings, fol­lowed by su­pe­rior team per­for­mance, in­spire us to­day.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.