Thrill of Victory

What I'll most remember from the 2012 Olympics

I always look forward to watching the Olympics, and once again I wasn’t disappointed. From America’s new sweetheart Gabrielle Douglas to a double-amputee competing in track events, there was a lot to remember in London’s edition of the games. Here are the things that really caught my eye.

“Blade Runner” inspires us all
I thought I was watching some sort of James Cameron movie when runner Oscar Pistorius appeared on my TV, for in place of Pistorius’s legs looked like some sort of bent water skis. Of course, those were Pistorius’s artificial limbs, with which he used to qualify for the Olympics as part of South Africa’s 4 x 400 meter relay team.

Pistorius’s motto is, “You’re not disabled by the disabilities you have, you are able by the abilities you have,” and to see Pistorius compete was to be inspired by him. Amputees have their own Paralympic Games at which they compete, but could you imagine the disbelief that people must have expressed when Pistorius told people he was going to try to compete for these Olympics? He showed he belonged, helping South Africa finish eighth, running his leg in 45.9 seconds. He also ran individually in the 400 meter event, though he failed to make the finals in that one.

Of all the things I’ve ever seen at the Olympics, this may be the most unforgettable. His being able to compete was not only a victory for Pistorius himself, but for the doctors and engineers and trainers who helped make this almost-impossible feat a reality.

Gabrielle Douglas’s grace and humilty
I’ve already written about her once, but the American gymnast may have been the enduring face of this Olympics. Her swift and skillful movements on the balance beam and uneven bars were matched only by her grace in the way she handled interviews, even when she failed.

U.S. Men’s Basketball wins gold
Perhaps no team sport is more individualistic at the highest level than pro basketball. From Kobe Bryant to LeBron James, our superstars are their own brands and certainly each come with egos to boot. But watching this bunch selflessly band together to win gold was… well, fun, for one thing. Kudos to Coach K for seamlessly bringing a dozen guys together and making it happen.

Michael Phelps takes a final bow
So he’s quite not what he used to be, but how could he be? Still, it’s pretty incredible when a guy can bring home four golds and two silvers past his prime. There’s never been a more decorated Olympian ever, and when the 2016 games launch without Phelps in the pool, it will seem much the way basketball did when Larry, Magic and another Michael retired. Thanks for the memories, Michael Phelps.

Men’s soccer, in general
As a kid who played a lot of soccer growing up, I always love watching the World Cup when it comes around every four years because I know how hard it is to play at the level at which the world’s elite play. Now that it’s an Olympic sport, I get to see the best in the world for a couple of weeks in between as well. What struck me most in watching was how every time one team made a mistake – an ill-timed pass back to a defender, or a goalie roaming too far from the net – the cost was almost always a goal.

My biggest disappointment in watching soccer? That the U.S. didn’t qualify. Let’s hope we’ll see them compete for the Cup in two summers.

What the heck is team handball?
I think I’d seen just about every sport played in the Olympics before but one: team handball. So I made it a point to tune in when it was on, and while I still don’t understand it all, it was rather fascinating to watch. As a basketball fan, I had difficultly not shouting “walk!” at the TV every time an athlete took off without dribbling the ball. Maybe by the time 2016 rolls around, I’ll know all the rules.