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LET THE GAMES BEGIN

August 4, 2008

Forty-one-year old Dara Torres will be the first swimmer from the United States to compete in five Olympics. She has won nine Olympic medals, including four gold. On July 4, 2008, Dara, the mother of a two-year-old, broke her own American record in the 50-meter freestyle, 26 years after she set her first American record at age 15.

The 2008 Summer Olympic Games will be held in Beijing, People’s Republic of China, from August 8 to August 24, 2008. Well over ten thousand athletes from more than 200 countries are expected to compete in 302 events in 28 sports.

Several concerns attend the opening of the games.

A potential boycott from pro-Tibetan organizations exists.

Amnesty International, upset with China’s involvement in the crisis in Darfur, may also stage a protest.

China pledged that it would allow open media access during the games, but Human Rights Watch alleges that it has failed to do so thus far.

 China has been battling problems with air pollution in the city of Beijing. The Beijing Organizing Committee says it hopes to remedy the situation before the games. Time is running out!

The head of Interpol has warned China of the real possibility that terrorist groups will target the Beijing Olympics.

Plans to reintroduce sex-determination tests for female athletes suspected of being male have angered feminist and gay rights groups.

National Broadcasting Company is planning to broadcast 2,900 hours of live television coverage in High Definition in the United States. These hours will be spread across the network and all its cable TV outlets.

The United States will send 596 athletes to the Summer Olympics.

Among those to watch will be swimmer Dara Torres and her teammate, Michael Phelps. Phelps won eight medals at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens.

Tyson Gay is ready to emerge as track and field’s brightest star. In less than a year, America’s fastest man went from being a shy also-ran to a sprinter mentioned as one of the best ever. He has won three world championship gold medals. He will be competing in his first Olympics.

The US Men’s Basketball Team has been called the Redeem Team. They are determined to win the gold medal. The challenge for Coach Mike Krzyzewski is how best to use his talented professional stars

Fox Sports recently listed their choices for the top ten US Summer Olympic athletes of all time.

1.  Carl Lewis accomplished what no other athlete has ever done. In 1984, he won four gold medals in the same Olympic Games. He also won four gold medals in the same event, the longjump, in four consecutive Games.

2.  Mark Spitz won seven gold medals and set world records in four individual events in 1972. In his Olympic career he won 11 total medals including nine gold.

3.  Jackie Joyner-Kersee won seven Olympic medals, including three gold. She won back-to-back heptathlons in 1988 and 1992, and won a medal in the longjump in four straight Olympic Games from 1984 through 1996.

4.  Jesse Owens accomplished more than winning four gold medals in the 1936 Berlin Olympics. He is especially remembered for embarrassing Adolf Hitler just three years before the Nazi invasion of Poland.

5.  Greg Louganis is the only American to win the diving double-double — a gold medal in both the 3-meter springboard and 10-meter platform events in back-to-back Games, 1984 and 1988.

6.  Michael Johnson won five Olympic gold medals over three Games. He still holds the world record in both the 200- and 400-meter.

7.  Wilma Rudolph was a polio victim as a child. In 1960 in Rome, she became the first American woman to win three track and field events in the same Games.

8.  Al Oerter is one of the lesser-known Olympians on this list. He won four straight gold medals in the discus, from 1956-1968.

9.  Janet Evans captured America’s heart at the 1988 Seoul Games. She won three gold medals, and set the world record in the 400-meter freestyle.

10.  Mary Lou Retton was the darling of the 1984 Olympics. She became the first American gymnast to win the all-around gold medal.

The list omits a number of notable names. 

Consider Dan Gable in the 1972 Olympics. No other wrestler scored even a single point against the Iowa farm boy.

At the 1976 Summer Olympics, Bruce Jenner won the decathlon, setting a new record.

Who can forget the final vault at the 1996 Olympics by Kari Strug? Even with a badly injured ankle, she completed the vault landing on one foot. The petite Olympian clinched the gold medal for the US Women’s Gymnastics Team.

Rulon Gardner, a Wyoming dairy farmer, won the gold medal in Greco-Roman wrestling at the 2000 Summer Olympics. He defeated Russian Alexander Karelin who had been undefeated for the previous thirteen years.

Bob Beamon’s electrifying moment at the 1968 Mexico City games came when he launched himself through the air to beat the previous longjump record by twenty-one inches.

Jim Thorpe rivals Jesse Owens as my choice for best Olympic performance by an American. At the 1912 Summer Olympics in Stockholm, Thorpe, a Native American, won the gold medal in the pentathlon and the decathlon.

When awarding Thorpe his medals, King Gustav V said, “You, sir, are the greatest athlete in the world.”

With characteristic humility, Thorpe replied, “Thanks, King.”

The 2008 Olympics will be interesting.

Let the games begin!

 

-Kirk H. Neely

© H-J Weekly, July 2008   

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