It’s one of my favorite times of the year. No, not the time following the groundhog’s sighting or non-sighing of his shadow declaring how much or how little of winter we have left. I’m talking about the Olympics. Summer, winter, beach volleyball, bobsled, alpine skiing, speed skating, track and field, ski jumping, fencing; you name it, I’ll watch it. Okay, maybe curling isn’t at the top of my list, but I won’t change the channel if the highlights are on.
I have loved all-things-sports for as long as I can remember. I was skiing down my driveway before I even knew what skis were, and I was watching football years before I understood there was more to it than men running around in tight pants. According to my Top 5 Dream Jobs post, I would be thrilled to be a professional athlete. To me, the Olympics have always been a no-brainer. I get to watch the best athletes in the world compete against each other in a variety of sports.
I have seen only ten Olympic Games in my time, but I can easily recall my five favorite moments from them:
1) Atlanta Summer, 1996: Michael Johnson breaks 200m and 400m world records
Although I competed in track and field at the Division-I level in college, I’d put money on the “other guy” nearly every time in a sprint of him versus me. I can run for days, but anything less than a mile or three is much too fast for my liking and abilities. To be the fastest in the world at the 200 meters and the 400 meters (the most grueling distance, in my opinion) in one Olympics is remarkable. Michael Johnson is the only athlete to claim that success. Additionally, after annihilating his competition and breaking the world record in the 400m, The Man with the Golden Shoes (named so because of his custom gold Nikes) clocked a blazing time of 43.49 seconds that still stands 16 years later.
2) Beijing Summer, 2008: Michael Phelps wins 100m butterfly by 0.01 second
For those who have been living under a rock, Michael Phelps has been a swimming phenom for the last decade (though you may also know him for his Subway commercials or the “incident” when he decided to act like a normal young guy and smoke a little weed). His 22 medals make him the most decorated Olympian of all time and his eight golds give him the most first-place finishes in a single Olympics. He has a slew of other records and accolades, and he has often beaten his competition more than handily. What I will remember most, however, is his win in the 100 meter butterfly by 0.01 second. A sports fan can’t ask for a better competition than that.
3) Albertville Winter, 1992: Hometown Hilary Lindh wins silver in downhill
Hilary Lindh may not be a household name, especially when compared to Johnson and Phelps, but she was a named talked about in my household when I was a kid. Lindh and I were born and raised in the same small town of Juneau, Alaska. In a city of 30,000, everyone knows the names in something as minor as the police blotter. If someone becomes a pro athlete, and then goes on to place second in the Olympics, it’s a big deal. Add to that the fact that I grew up skiing—and then ski racing—on the very run that helped Lindh improve her skills, and her silver medal win is pretty memorable in my book.
4) London Summer, 2012: Misty May Treanor and Kerry Walsh Jennings win third gold in beach volleyball
Volleyball is a game I always want to play at the beach or at a picnic with a group of friends, yet rarely do because I’m a wimp and the ball hurts my wrists too much. However, I enjoy watching others play it, especially at the Olympic level. What’s even better is when it’s two women who have won gold medals in the two previous Olympics and are vying for their third. In the 2012 Games, Misty May Treanor and Kerry Walsh Jennings beat their U.S. teammates in the final match and accomplished their goal—cementing their place in Olympic history and in my memory bank, made even more impressive by the fact that Walsh Jennings was five weeks pregnant at the time.
5) London Summer, 2012: Oscar Pistorius is first amputee runner in Olympics
Potential murder-conviction aside, what Oscar Pistorius did for “disabled” athletes (though he certainly seems more able at running fast than a lot of “able-bodied” people) has left an indelible mark on me. Leading up to the 2012 games, there was rampant controversy in the world of track and field and the Olympics over the question: should a double-amputee who uses prosthetics and blades be allowed to compete in the Olympics? The main argument being that the Blade Runner would have an advantage because of his “blade legs” (as if all the other amputee runners are as fast as, if not faster than, “able-bodied” runners and are just too lazy to put in the effort Pistorius put in to try to compete against them). Pistorius, however, worked as hard off the track as he did on and finally won the right to compete against those with real legs. Though he finished eighth in the semifinals, his incredible running ability and personal tenacity will stay with me for years.
Are you an Olympics fan? What have been your favorite moments in the Games?