Monday, August 13, 2012

10 FAVORITES (62): London Twenty-Twelve!

Well, it has been a long two weeks away from this blog and I am rested and refreshed thanks to a little Olympics vacation.  No I didn't actually attend the XXX Olympiad in London; but with all the coverage all over the media (Online and on NBC's many channels), I felt like I was there (whether I wanted to be or not!).  And with the Closing Ceremonies done and the Games officially over, out come all the criticisms and lamentations over the happenings of the past two weeks of events.  Some criticize the athletes' performances, especially the ones who had to "settle for silver" (but the athletes are probably tougher on themselves than anyone else could be!).  Some lament the goings-on at the Games, especially in the Olympic Village (it seems every Olympics, we hear about some raunchy sex party happening in the athletes' residences!).  Some even lament the attitudes of some of the athletes.  I know I personally am lamenting the US Swim Team's choice to make a YouTube video of Carly Ray Jespensen's "Call Me Maybe" (I mean, seriously, enough with that song; I didn't enjoy it when Sesame Street parodied it and I usually enjoy a good SS parody!).

But the biggest criticisms seem (usually) to be lobbied at the Peacock Network and their (at varying times) inept and belabored coverage of the Games.  To be fair to them, half of the problems were not of their own making.  I mean, think about it.  When you're dealing with covering a major world event, time differences are going to be a factor.  Add to that the usual staunch lack of co-operation from the International Olympics Committee (more commonly referred to as the IOC!) and their (seemingly arbitrary) scheduling of events.  And on top of that, throw in advertisers who demand that their products be advertised in a certain time period (namely Primetime) and during certain events (say Swimming or Track), NBC's life is not made easier.  It also is not made easier by the 24/7 Twitter-paced media we live in today where everyone in the U.S. knew results well before NBC ever aired a thing during Primetime.

However, all the criticisms aside, there was much to celebrate during the XXX Summer Olympics.  And most among them were the many athletes who swam, ran, tumbled, dove, spiked, dribbled and jumped their way into our lives.  There were so many athletes that did exactly what they came to London to do.  They competed.  Some of them broke records.  Some even changed the way we look at the Games as a whole.  What better way to celebrate the top stories of the London Summer Olympics than to devote a whole 10 FAVORITES to it.  This week, let's look at:

2012 LONDON 

SPECIAL NOTE: Due to NBC's privacy restrictions on videos from the Games, we'll have to make do with using photographs of the athletes.  Yet another reason to lobby criticism the Peacock Network's way!

David Boudia
The US diver shocked the world when he and teammate Nick McRory won the Bronze medal in 10M Platform Synchronized Diving Event.  A week later, Boudia added shock to shock when he eked his way into the Semifinals of the solo event (ranking 18th after the Preliminaries!) and yet managed to perform great dive after great dive all the way into the Finals where he won the Gold Medal over China's World Champion Qiu Bo.

Misty May-Treanor & Kerri Walsh-Jennings
The veteran Volleyball players who won Gold in both Athens and Beijing made the decision to return to try for an unprecedented third straight Gold medal.  Both were a little older and both had undergone personal changes in their lives that made fans question whether a third Gold was possible.  After a tough start and some really close games (against the likes of China, Brazil, Italy and the United States' other Volleyball duo), the pair did the unimaginable and won a third straight Gold medal in Women's Beach Volleyball.

Kirani James
The small island nation of Grenada (just north of the coast of Venezuela) has had Olympic dreams for a long time.  And until this year, a medal in any event seemed impossible for them.  That was until Kirani James.  The sprinter was quite the favorite heading into the 400M heats.  After winning his heat and his semifinal, James' story (along with Grenada's) seemed to resonate with the crowd.  In the final, James crossed the finish line first to the thunderous applause in London's Olympic Stadium because everyone knew that this was what the Olympics was about.  And the party in Grenada celebrating their first Gold medal is still ongoing!

The USA Women Runners
Redemption thy name is woman.  Track stars Allyson Felix (200M) and Sanya Richards-Ross (400M) came to London with the drive to attain Gold after their disappointing Silver medals in Beijing (Felix also won Silver in Athens in her event).  Both women managed to capture Golds in their respective events and then they added to their haul.  Felix, along with new Track superstar Carmelita Jeter (who had already attained a Silver and Bronze at the Games), broke a World Record in the 4 by 100M relay. Then Felix, along with Richards-Ross, grabbed Gold in the 4 by 400M relay holding off rivals from Jamaica and Ukraine.  Flo-Jo would be quite proud! (Pictured below: the three women at the U.S. Olympic Trials earlier this year)

Missy Franklin
She was the "smiliest" person at the London Olympics.  And she had plenty of reason to smile.  The Colorado teenager (who by now is beginning her Senior year of High School!) swam in 7 Final races of the Olympic Swimming events and managed to walk away with 4 Gold Medals and 1 Bronze Medal (and she even placed 4th and 5th in the 2 races where she didn't make it to the podium!).  While the smiles flowed and the tweets from Justin Bieber congratulating her made teen girls swoon, Franklin took everything in stride and thoroughly enjoyed her Olympics debut.  We can look forward to her being a force to reckon with in Rio De Janeiro!

Team Brittania
With the Olympics on their home turf, Great Britain pulled out all the stops in their campaign and built up the legends of their superstar athletes.  Whether it was Heptathlon star Jessica Ennis or Tennis champ Andy Murray, the pressure was on this bunch to deliver.  Even Diving superstar Tom Daley had to retake his final dive because the flash bulbs from the media attention and the over-zealous audience distracted him.  It even helped that royalty was in the audience at some of the major events.  It seemed like everywhere you turned Prince William or Princess Kate or Prince Harry were seen cheering on Swimmer Rebecca Adlington, Long Jumper Greg Rutherford, Long-Distance Runner Mo Farah or the Men's Gymnastics Team.  Ennis, Murray, Rutherford and Farah triumphed in their respective events and brought Gold medals to the home team.  Adlington, Daley and the Men's Gymnasts were pleased with making the podium in their highlighted events by gaining Bronze medals.  Overall, Great Britain was fourth in the final Medal tally but came in third (over Russia!) with total Gold medals.  I think those across the pond would call that a win!

Oscar Pistorius
The only one mentioned on this list who did not medal is probably the most inspiring story of the London Olympics.  The notable South African sprinter was born with a congenital absence of the fibula (a very important leg bone!) and at 11 months, both of his legs were amputated.  But thanks to a strong and supportive family, no legs did not stop Pistorius' Olympic dreams.  With prosthetic blades attached to his knees, Pistorius quickly became a superstar at the Paralympic Games.  His times were becoming so good that he wondered if he could ever compete at the able-bodied level.  After much deliberation of the IOC and disappointingly not qualifying for the South African team back in 2008, Pistorius finally did qualify this year to compete in the Men's 400M race and the Men's 4 by 400M relay.  Though he did not make it to the Final in the former and his team ranked 8th in the latter, his presence and story was certainly felt by the audience around the world.  He is truly an athlete who has changed the face of the Games and we shall look forward to what he can do in the Paralympic Games in London before the end of the month.

The Fabulous Five
These young girls grew up hearing how "The Magnificent Seven" triumphed in Atlanta back in 1996 and trained themselves rigorously to achieve that same goal.  When the Women's Gymnastics Team competition started, these five girls seemed unstoppable.  Jordyn Wieber, Kyla Ross, McKayla Maroney, Aly Raissman and Gabby Douglass all performed their routines with verve and pure talent.  They went on to win the Gold medal in the team event, but these girls weren't done.  Douglass would fly her way to the top of the podium in the coveted All-Around Final (being the 4th U.S. Woman, the 3rd U.S. Woman in a row and the first African-American Woman to win the All-Around competition).  Raissman (who also competed in the All-Around competition, as most of us know!)  would win the Bronze medal in the individual Balance Beam competition and the Gold medal in Floor Exercise competition.  Maroney, who seemed to be a lock for a Gold in the Vault competition, ended up with the Silver medal (and started an Internet wave that even she and her teammates have had fun with!).

Usain Bolt
The Jamaican sprinter who broke records and won 3 Gold medals back in Beijing was back and back with a vengeance.  Many thought his time was over when his teammate Yohan Blake outran him at the Jamaican trials.  But Bolt, who wants the world to be as much in love with him as he is, was not to be counted out.  The Fastest Man in the World retained his title when he defended all 3 Gold medals he had won four years ago in the 100M, 200M and 4 by 100M relay races.  In his own words, he is truly a legend.

Michael Phelps
It is four years later and still Swimmer Michael Phelps is the top story.  Going into the London Games, it seemed that U.S. Swimmer Ryan Lochte was poised to eclipse Phelps in notoriety.  And when the Swimming started, Phelps was not at his Beijing best.  He eked into the Final of the Men's 400M Individual Medley (where he was up against Lochte!) and had to watch from 4th place as Lochte claimed Gold in that event.  But after that notorious Saturday, Phelps seemed to be reinvigorated.  In the rest of his 6 Finals (which he had cut down after the 400M!), Phelps medaled in every single one.  He won Silver in 4 by 100 relay and was out-touched by South Africa's Chad LeClos in the 200M Butterfly.  But in his next 4 Finals, Phelps' Golden touch was back.  With all of his medals combined, Phelps surpassed Soviet Gymnast Larissa Latynina as the most decorated Olympic athlete of All-Time.  And now after 4 Olympics (having burst onto the scene at the age of 14 back in Sydney's 2000 Games), Phelps' talk of retirement have the fans squealing for more.  But really how much more can this Golden guy (who may just be the Greatest Olympian of All-Time!) do?!?!

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