Monday, August 13, 2012

Olympic courage personified

What a wild two-plus weeks it's been with the Olympics. When thinking about what my favorite story from the London Games, there are so many to choose from.

The U.S. men's basketball team; the American women's basketball, soccer and gymnastics squads; Michael Phelps; Missy Franklin; Ryan Lochte; Gabby Douglas; Usain Bolt; Allyson Felix; Oscar Pistorius; Jessica Ennis are just a few worthy storylines that come to mind.

For me, however, I want to focus on the men's 4x400-meter relay preliminaries.

I will admit, when it comes to track & field, I'm no expert by any means. I never watch any track & field until the Olympics roll around every four years. But there I was, watching intently as the U.S. was looking to earn a spot in the finals. As the race was about to begin, I heard the announcers saying the Bahamas and the U.S. were the overwhelming favorites to not only advance to the final but battle for the gold.

The race begins and the lead runner for the Bahamas races out to a huge lead. No shock there, right? But what surprised me was how far back the lead U.S. runner, Manteo Mitchell, trailed. For the majority of the race, Mitchell was in the back of the pack. He rallied late to get near the front of the pack, and the U.S. wound up finishing a close second to the Bahamas in the heat to qualify for the final.

No big deal, right?

I find out later that Mitchell ran at least the last half of the 400 meters with a broken left fibula. Let me repeat that, he had a broken leg.

Are you kidding me?

Many, many years ago, I ruptured the patella tendon in my knee and was stuck in a leg-length brace for  two weeks. Mind you, I'm about as far away from a world-class runner as you could be, but here is Mitchell running on a broken leg. Can you imagine the pain & anguish he was in? He said he felt something pop in his leg, but had to keep going.

Obviously, he was unable to run for the U.S. in the final the next day, but his courage is something I will remember for quite some time.

Maybe even until the next Olympics -- the next time I watch track & field again.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Let the debate begin

Is Michael Phelps the greatest Olympian of all-time?

That's the biggest question to come out of these Olympic Games thus far. Phelps has won more medals (22) and more gold medals (18) than anyone in Olympic career. He ended his career in style by winning gold as part of the U.S. 4 x 100-meter medley relay team that also set a world record.

Since becoming the all-time medal-winner earlier this week, many have come out to say Phelps is among the greatest Olympians of all time, but not the best. Ask 100 different Olympic experts who is the greatest of all time is and you might get 50 different answers.

What about Jesse Owens, Carl Lewis, Nadia Comeneci, Roger Bannister, Mark Spitz, Eric Heiden, just to name a few?

But really, who cares?

I look at the numbers and Phelps as as many golds as Soviet gymnast Larisa Latynina (second all-time in medals won) has in total medals. As far as I'm concerned, that's impressive enough.

When it comes to naming the greatest Olympian of all-time, there will always be much debate. When it comes to who holds the record for the most all-time, there is no debate.

It's Michael Phelps.

No argument there.