Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Olympic Moments

They're here! This past Friday night, the world watched as the Queen of England declared the games of the 30th Olympiad open. The athletes marched, the crowd cheered, and Great Britain staged a gorgeous spectacle complete with James Bond, David Beckham, the Royal Family, and hundreds of Mary Poppins look-alikes falling from the sky. Can't get better than that right?

What has followed since the Opening Ceremonies is three days of tears, heartbreak, and overwhelming triumph. And I can't get enough. In predictable fashion, I watched it all. Every minute of the opening ceremonies, and many, many hours of the TV coverage since then. God bless NBC for live-streaming every event, and then showing the major highlights every night in a four-hour prime time broadcast.

For two weeks every two years (Winter Olympics, I dearly love you too), this is how I get. The heady mix of pop culture moments and sporting event history is more than enough to send me into a euphoric haze. For those of you who are not quite as passionately obsessed as I am, I thought I would take today to count down my five most memorable Olympic moments from the first three days of the games. Not necessarily the most triumphant (although a lot of them are), but the ones that we will remember, and the ones that we will continue to talk about long after the Olympic torch leaves London and heads to Rio for 2016.

5. U.S. Earns Medals in Men's and Women's Synchronized Diving

It has been twelve years since the United States won a diving medal. In two days in London, they won two. U.S. men's pair David Boudia and Nick McCrory and U.S. women's pair Kelci Bryant and Abby Johnston won bronze and silver, respectively, in synchronized diving. If you have never seen a synchronized diving competition, get ye to YouTube immediately, because this was absolutely amazing to watch.

4. Jordyn Wieber Fails to Make Gymnastics All-Around Finals

Never since the "Magnificent Seven" of 1996 has the United States had such high hopes for a Women's Gymnastics team. Well, the Magnificent Seven have become the Fabulous Five, and they are heavily favored to win the team competition, and unseat China as the best gymnasts in the world. But before the team finals could start, the top eight countries had to qualify, which the U.S. did, spectacularly. But the dark cloud over the team finals is favorite Jordyn Wieber's failure to make the all-around finals. Only two athletes from each team can enter the all-around finals, and Jordyn just missed the mark. She burst into tears as the scoreboard flashed teammate Ali Raisman's floor routine score, dashing her hopes for individual all-around gold. 

3. Misty and Kerri Win Again

Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings have won 31 straight sets in their Olympic career, which has now spanned twelve years. That means that, in all the years they have competed in the Olympic games, they have never lost a single set. Not one. Their streak continued last night, when they beat the Czech Republic, continuing their quest for three straight Olympic gold medals. What makes their quest even more spectacular is that many thought they would never make it to London. In the years since Beijing, Misty May tore her achilles and retired. Kerri had two children. But despite the fits and struggles, they returned to the London Olympics in fine form, in the hunt for gold.

2. Lochte Soars, Phelps Stumbles. Or Do They?

Phelps v. Lochte. Lochte v. Phelps. Its the world's longest running soap opera, and it is playing out before our very eyes. On Sunday, Ryan Lochte won gold in the Men's 400 IM, and Phelps, for the first time in twelve years, failed to make it to the podium. So is Lochte 2012 the new Phelps 2008? Probably not, judging from Sunday's freestyle relay and yesterday's 200 Free. So maybe all the Lochte-lovers spoke to soon when they anointed this man the God of London 2012? Or maybe this media-manufactured rivalry is causing the missteps? It's anyone's guess. There is lots of swimming over the next few days, so we'll see what we see.

1. Swimming Has a New Golden Girl: Missy Franklin Wins Women's 100m Backstroke 

During the Olympic Trials last month, I fell in love with this unaffected 17 year old from Colorado. An effervescent high-school student, Missy Franklin has turned down lucrative endorsement deals so that she can remain eligible to swim for her school's team. And she is fierce. Last night, she swam a race to qualify for the Women's 200 freestyle finals. She then jumped into the diving well after receiving special permission from the Olympic officials to do so, to cool down and then warm right back up, because she was swimming in the finals of the 100 backstroke 10 minutes later. She won gold in the 100 back, and set a new American record. Expect to see her smiling face lighting up your Wheaties boxes any day now. 

And as if we didn't love her enough after her amazing back-to-back races, when she stepped up to the podium to receive her gold medal, the announcers let the crowd know that Missy hails from Aurora, Colorado, the site of the Dark Knight movie theater shooting. Bob Costas then cut to a pre-taped shot of Missy's high school friends watching her race from Colorado, and cheering their hearts out when she won. And the tears fall.

BONUS MOMENT THAT NEEDS NO EXPLANATION - Ali Raisman's Parents Watch Her Uneven Bar Routine, Hilariously

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