When you bring more than 10,000 athletes from 203 countries (and an independent contingent) together, competing (quite literally) on the world’s stage, representing their nations, emotions can run deep.
The best of the best, proudly wearing their own “stars and stripes” (maple leaves, Union Jacks, etc.). Representing his or her country.
By and large, I am quite proud of Team USA. Many athletes have upheld gamesmanship and sportsmanship ideals, rather nicely. And I think my utter agog comes from the distinct contrast I saw the other night during the women’s vault finals. It’s unfortunate that McKayla Maroney failed to land one of her vaults, but it’s a competition … if you aren’t on your game, someone else will better you. The blatant looks of disgust from Ms. Maroney were disappointing. Please, do not get up on that podium while the American flag is being raised behind you and pout. It’s ugly.
But I am not here to belittle Ms. Maroney any further; I am sure she is doing a rather good job of that herself.
Instead, I want to celebrate some of the athletes who have exemplified sportsmanship during these 2012 Games. These are the moments that typify graciousness and dignity in the sporting world.
- Holy smokes! Who set up the brackets so that North and South Korea would be playing each other in early-round ping pong? I caught this midday match live, and despite the intensity (and perhaps personal ramifications?), the men shook one another’s hand at the conclusion of the match, and walked over to the opposing coaches and offered exchanges. You’d never know the countries were in conflict. My applause to you, gentlemen, for this respectable display.
- Thank you Team USA for supporting one another! It was great to see the LeBron James and Chris Paul in the nosebleeds of the Aquatics Centre, cheering Missy Franklin to her world record 200m Backstroke swim!
- Dawn Harper and Kellie Wells, you ladies are both a class act! Taking silver and bronze in the 100m hurdles was a great achievement, and you each displayed the appropriate level of enthusiasm for it! (Ms. Maroney should take note of how to behave upon winning a medal).
And now, we enter Kerri Strug-inspiring, tear-jerking territory. I recommend a tissue. (Go ahead. I’ll wait.)
As if Oscar Pistorius’ story isn’t inspiring enough, it takes one world-class Grenadian to exemplify character. The 400m semifinal proved to be a field of fast men, too fast for Pistorius. But, despite his struggles to keep up, field-dominate leader (and eventual event gold-medalist) Kirani James approached Pistorius after the run and asked to exchange number bibs with the South African. Honor and respect for all athletes. Congrats, Oscar, on making the semifinals, and kudos to Kirani for this character-building moment.
I don’t know the Chinese to standout in the track & field events, but one hurdler in particular will be remembered for years to come. Liu Xiang found catastrophe on the first hurdle of his 110m race. Suffering an injury that will have him in surgery before the week’s out, Liu ended up hopping the remainder of his race. But wait, it gets better. Great Britain’s Andy Turner and Spain’s Jackson Quiñónez, having already completed the race, joined Liu on the track and physically supported him and helped him finish. Bravo gentlemen, for showing the true Olympic spirit!
Like many Americans, I cried Wednesday watching the beloved team of May(-Treanor) and Walsh (Jennings) play together for the last time. These two ladies have earned a place among America’s sweethearts, for the many years of incredible sport domination. But athletic prowess aside, what I took notice of a few matches back, was their grace. After each win (and there are lots of them!) Kerri Walsh takes the time to shake hands and thank all the officials and support people in the arena, and to wave to and celebrate the fans. She makes these rounds, often jogging up to unsuspecting recipients, before sitting down to rest after a hard-fought match. Likewise, Misty May-Treanor had a particularly dynamic moment after the quarterfinal match against the Italians. Marta Menegatti is an up-and-coming defensive specialist, but Misty still reigns supreme. And after another May-Treanor/Walsh victory, Misty joined a tearful Menegatti at the Italian bench and embraced her, clearly speaking words of encouragement for her career. The crown may not be passed yet, but one pair of royalty is retiring on top, with all the grace in the world.
Humbleness and amazing grace. Thank you, ladies, for representing the United States of America!