Sunday, August 17, 2008

Someone Get Me a Dictionary!

I can't find enough words to describe what I just saw. No joke. In one hour, I saw two of the greatest feats in Olympic history. First, I saw local swimmer Michael Phelps break Mark Spitz's 36-year old record of seven gold medals in an Olympics with the US victory in the 400-meter medley relay to give him his record breaking eighth. Then, I saw Usain Bolt set a world record in the 100-meter dash finals with a 9.69(!). I have to say, this was one of the most amazing nights in sports I have ever seen.

First, I'll start with Phelps. I'm willing to admit that my patriotism had been lacking in these Olympic Games, as the first race I saw Phelps swim was Friday night's 200-meter butterfly final in which he out-touched Milorad Cavic by .01 of a second, truly amazing. Laying down on a couch, a jumped up for an enthusiastic fist pump after that one. That race, as everyone knows, gave Phelps his seventh gold medal. Tonights performance, again amazing, gave him the eighth. I can tell my kids I saw Olympic history. I've already got Saturday's issue of The Baltimore Sun saved for posterity and I will do the same Sunday.

I'll admit, I was getting pretty tired of the nonstop Phelps coverage. Being in the Baltimore area, I bore the brunt of it, as he is all over local news and everything. After his spread in Sports Illustrated, I am not sure how many more times I can see him in a Speedo or wearing minimal clothing. I was also tired of Bob Costas referring every single story he possibly could back to Phelps as well. I'm not sure how Costas still has his job either, with his many faux pas this Olympics such as calling traditional African clothing "costumes" during the Opening Ceremonies. That ranks up there with Katie Couric referring to a spinning model of a Greek building during the 2004 Opening Ceremonies in Athens as "the Wicked Witch's house in The Wizard of Oz." Seriously people. Let's show some sensitivity. It's no wonder Americans have a bad name. But I digress. My hat goes off to Michael Phelps, the greatest American Olympian.

On to the second, more exciting part of the night, in my opinion. Bolt stepped to the line, totally relaxed. His countryman and rival, Asafa Powell, stepped up looking nervous, to me at least, while Americans Walter Dix and Doc Patton looked confident. At the gun, Bolt had some trouble getting out of the blocks, as he usually does, but quickly stepped it up, dusting the field. With about 30 meters left, it was won, and his premature celebration began. As Bolt came through, 9.68 flashed up on the screen, before being amended officially to 9.69. Bolt didn't stop at the line either. He started on his victory lap and went all the way around the stadium after seeing his mother.

Bolt's time of 9.69 wasn't the most shocking part of his race either; his margin of victory was just as shocking. Who knows what would have happened if he had not let up? Could have seen 9.59 as NBC commentator Ato Bolden thought? He beat Trinidad and Tobago's Richard Thompson by .20 seconds, which is astounding for track and field. Thompson's celebration was just as entertaining as Bolt's, as Thompson essentially celebrated like he won the gold. Dix surprised all, coming in third to net the bronze. Powell finished a disappointing fifth.

My beef with this race is the lack of emphasis NBC put on track and field this year. This event had happened twelve hours before they showed it in America. Therefore, I already knew the storylines. I knew that American Tyson Gay lost out in the semifinals. I knew that Bolt won and set a world record. The only thing I didn't know was how he did it. I received a text message from a friend that told me not to look online for the results, but nonetheless, I saw the headlines online. Still, I stayed up to watch, and I was not disappointed. NBC was all over swimming this year, which I don't blame them for, as Phelps is once in a generation, but some respect has to be given to the runners.

Despite my frequent beefs with NBC, tonight was an amazing night in sport history, one that I will never forget and one that I will make sure my kids hear all about as they grow up.

Dix said it best about Bolt:

"That guy can run."

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