Before the XXIX Olympic Games commenced on 8/8/08, I sincerely expected, nay, hoped they would be a failure for China. I really didn't want to see them be successful, in many ways. Two weeks later, that attitude has been completely turned around. Not only do I feel this year's Games were totally awesome, but I think, for the most part, it painted China in a good light. A few things they could have done without:
1) Digitally enhancing fireworks during the Opening Ceremonies
2) Making a cute little girl lip-synch for some busted girl
3) The alleged age of their alleged gymnasts
In only a few cases did the weather play a factor, and without being there, I don't think it was "as bad" as had been portrayed in the months leading up to the Games. That's not to say that some days didn't look absolutely disgusting, because they did, I just think for so many of the events they are inside or at least the athletes' exposure to the elements is limited to under a few minutes per event.
So I've tried to compile a list of few of my favorite moments from the Olympics this year, which is tough because every day produces more than its fair share; from the Water Cube to the Birds' Nest, and all points in between, there was never a pause in action. I'll also list my 10 favorite hotties of the Olympics later, but here is the short list: My 10 favorite moments from this year's Olympic Games:
10) Rhythmic Gymnastics. Yeah, you probably didn't even know this was real. I started watching this back in Atlanta. It's one of the last events they hold, and really one of the stupidest, but damn if it doesn't look good in HD. My brother and I used to watch this on the last Saturday of the Games, and soon found ourselves to be expert judges (along with trampoline). This year was no exception, as the individual winner (Evgeniya Kanaeva) was totally hot and did some crazy stuff, and the team winner (Russian Federation) had a routine that looked like a circus act. There are so many visual things going on, it's nearly impossible to absorb everything unless you do it in slow-mo.
9) Galen Rupp in the 10,000m. In a race that I'm sure hardly anybody watched (it was on between 3 and 4 on the first Sunday), the field was running together through just over 5 miles. Galen Rupp, a young American who runs collegiately for Oregon, was sitting in the pack with the big boys until a destructive 61 second lap with 4 to go blew the doors off. He finished in 13th overall, however, first American, and ran under 28 minutes. This kid is the next American distance track runner.
8) Dara Torres in the 50m free. People are always going to question exactly how she did it, but regardless of how, Torres, at 41 years old, earned silver in the fastest swimming event, losing gold by the narrowest of margins (0.01s). Her time was an American record, and she exuded class throughout the entire process, even holding up the start so a competitor could fix her suit. 8 years ago, at 33, she became the oldest swimmer to win a medal. Now at 41, she seems to only be starting and you can see the drive back in her face. No doubt she'll toe the line in the 2012 Olympic Trials.
7) Women's 4x400m relay (track). Sure, this is an event that on paper I'm sure we should have expected to win, but there were a number of events we should have won on the track this year that we didn't. My girl Allyson Felix clearly has something wrong with her, but still ran well, and then the third leg really messed stuff up for us. Sanya Richards anchored, and quickly tried to close the gap to the Russian team, before keeping the Russian in check. It looked like she was letting the race slip away until the last 75m, when she finally nudged past for the gold. An exuberant Richards, clearly disappointed with her 400m individual bronze, pumped her fist as she crossed the line. It was a great race to watch, even if we probably should have won handily.
6) Usain Bolt in the 200m. What superlative hasn't been used yet to describe this phenom? If there were more sprinting events, he would be the Michael Phelps of the track world. In his early round heats of the 100m, he looked so smooth and effortless, jogging some of the fastest times the world has ever seen. Then he comes out like gangbusters in the 100, blowing the field away and making it look easy in a World Record time. The 200 seemed like it might be a little tougher, as he wasn't easily getting under 20 in the rounds. The final was different, however, and from the gun he got after it. He came off the turn running so fast, the other competitors must have thought they were going to run 21 seconds. He looked like he was working harder, ran through the line and was more humble than after the 100, and earned another World Record that I thought was unbeatable. To top it all off, despite a sloppy handoff to Asafa Powell, the Jamaican team recorded another World Record in the 4x100m relay. The US would never have been able to touch them.
5) Dwyane Wade to Kobe for the alley oop. I'm pretty sure it was D-Wade to Kobe, but after all the ridiculous, Globetrotter-esque highlights, it's hard to remember exactly. Either way, Dwyane had stolen the ball or something and threw what looked like an off balance pass to nowhere, just in the direction of the basket, when all of a sudden Kobe swooped in and grabbed it for the dunk. The first 6 games or whatever for the American team were cakewalks, which was kind of fun to watch, before their rematch with Spain and a much narrower victory. While I was apprehensive watching that one, I'm glad we kept our heads and won the gold. Even though we never should lose gold in the first place.
4) Jonathon Horton on the high bar. I think that's the kid's name. Actually, this could go to all of USA Men's gymnastics. Unlike their female counterparts, they worked super hard, were somewhat underdogs when they earned bronze in the team comp, and were ecstatic with the result. Then in the event finals, some of them knew that in order to win, or put themselves in a position to win, that they would have to put everything on the line. The one guy did so on the pommel horse, performing a routine laced with such difficulty that he fell off. He knew the risk but did it anyway. That's PDAW worthy. Then the Horton guy does the same thing on the high bar. Changes his routine 2 days before the competition so that it's more difficult and nails it. It earned him silver, some believe it was gold-level, but it wouldn't have mattered what medal he won he was so excited after the routine. That's what being an Olympian is all about.
3) Double golds in beach volleyball. This is probably my favorite game-type event to watch in the world. 1) It's fast 2) It's on the beach 3) There's hot chicks and 4) They're in bikinis. Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh have been the super team in the world over the last year, not having lost a match since 8/19/07. They won gold 4 years ago and wanted to repeat as champs. They are dominant and humble, and more than anything they are prepared. It's spectacular to watch them compete. Their win in the rain was a good one. The men, Phil Dalhausser and Todd Rogers, had a tougher road to their gold after losing unbelievably on the opening night of competition to Latvia. From there out it was necessary for them to be flawless; one more loss and they'd be out before the medal round play even began. So they cleaned up their act and despite a few close matches, came out on top, defeating a tough Brazilian team in 3 sets to win gold.
2) Nastia Liukin, basically anything she did. I just liked watching Nastia. I liked watching her on uneven parallel bars. I liked watching her on the beam. I liked watching her in her little outfits, with her tightly pulled back hair and huge forehead, and big smile. There are times she looks like a total bitch, and others when she looks like the sweetest thing ever. Her dad was another character in this drama, which became a little weird by the end. I felt bad when they earned silver in the team comp, but hey, it happens. Then she won the all-around. That's satisfying. In the event finals she got robbed on both accounts, but I feel like she got the one that counted. I also like Shawn Johnson's gusto, but Nastia gets my main approval. I just wish they had shown more of her at the little gala thing, I remember that being a lot more fun to watch.
1) Men's 4x100m freestyle relay (swimming). This goes down as the best race I've ever seen in my life. Take it out of context: just say it was a random meet. It would still have been cool. Now add some more life: the Olympic games, US vs France, for gold. Now give it the piece d'resistance: losing means Michael Phelps will not win 8 gold medals. Sure, what Michael Phelps did was amazing; it has never been done before, and may never be repeated. Would it mean he's a failure? No. More amazing than the physical feats, just the fact he expected 8 wins, visualized 8 wins, and achieved 8 wins, when the pressure was on. That's sick. Anyway, this race was one of the stepping stones to get there, and with their situation looking dire, old-ass Jason Lezak makes up a body length on the World Record holder at the distance, Alain Bernard, and out-touches him at the wall. The reaction from his teammates was pure, and you know the first thought in Phelps' head was not "oh thank God he just kept my medal hunt alive" but rather "yes, that was sick, I'm proud of my teammate." There may never again be a race with so much riding on the line, so I'm glad I got to see it.
So these are my top 10, I'm sure I've forgotten a few, and as I remember I may include them. One great moment was watching the female swimmer from South Africa compete in the 10km open water swim event as an amputee. That was pretty awesome.