Sunday, September 21, 2008

Three Olymic Snapshots

I promise to never become one of those boring sports guys. You know who I mean - the type who show you why someone's zone defense won't stop Joe Quarterback, OR are sure that The Thunderclaps will "Go Big" with their first draft pick OR let you know how much The Fighting Tunas can pay for a guy nicknamed "Da Neighborhood" before bumping up onto the salary cap. Other guys do all that better and, anyway, who cares?
Still, there are some moments you shouldn't miss, even if you don't read the sports page. Here are three brief ones, all from last month's Olympics in Beijing. All, I think, deserve to be remembered.
First, the appealingly-named Lo Lo Jones was in the 100 meter hurdles final against the rest of the world's best. She had made up ground after a so-so start, and had taken the lead, but was too far ahead of her usual steps to miss hurdle number 9, whacking it with her lead foot pretty hard and killing her speed. In the blink of an eye, the rest of the field moved past her, and in another blink, she finished, on her feet, but in 7th place. All she could do was kneel on the track, taking a kind of fetal position, left alone in front of 80,000 people, knowing her chance was...gone. The other competitors gave her a few pats on the back, no doubt because they had all been there once or twice themselves. But it took her a long time to finally get up and walk off the track, where network people waited to ask the obvious: "How does it feel?"
Stephanie Brown Trafton will never be known as America's Sweetheart. She's 6'4", and checks in at around 225 lb. She's a discus thrower, and the Olympic gods were smiling as her 203' throw beat her competitors' heaves by a full meter. But who says big girls can't be articulate? She admitted to NBC in a nice-sounding voice, that she had had the same Olympic hero since watching the LA Games in 1984 as a child - famed pee wee gymnast Mary Lou Retton, who must have been around 4' 9" and maybe 80 lb. in her Wheaties box picture prime. The lesson? We can take inspiration from different sources. What's important is what works for YOU.
A casual reader might go "Hmmm" in observing the American medal sweep in the men's 400 meter sprint. But getting a medal meant that you had to have run the metric lap in under 45 seconds. One of those runners, David Neville, showed he wanted a medal more than just about anyone when, coming down the stretch in the last few yards, he DOVE headfirst over the finish line, onto the track, not to win the gold, but for BRONZE. The strategy worked, and he came away without injury, though it sure LOOKED painful. There are times, it seems, when wanting something really bad helps get you home just a tiny bit faster, and that's all that's needed.


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