It’s been weeks since the 2008 Olympics and the world is still smarting. China opened its doors in a big way as it welcomed the world to come play in its capital. This Olympics was one the ancients Greeks would be amazed with. This Olympics was bigger, louder, and more emotional than ever before. While the Water Cube and the Bird’s Nest are both closed, the world is still in awe, myself included. Here are my top ten Olympic moments for Team USA.
10. Bryan Clay: Battling back from injuries and competing in one of the most punishing sports in the world, the U.S decathlete upgraded his Athens silver to gold
9. U.S Men’s Basketball: After eight years of disappointment and criticism for the U.S team that year after year was comprised of the world’s best players yet failed miserably on the international scene, the media-dubbed “Redeem Team” blew away the competition to win gold.
8. U.S. women’s soccer: the previous, consistent world champions and gold medalists, the women’s soccer team was left virtually dead in the water with player retirements and the loss of star player Abby Wambach in an exhibition game three weeks before competition began. They still found it within themselves to win gold with a 1-0 victory over highly-touted Brazil.
7. U.S. Women’s Gymnastics: Even with the elegance of Shawn Johnson on the beam to the sheer power of Nastia Liukin on the uneven bars, the all around performance of the team did not live up to expectation thanks to a few untimely falls by Alicia Sacramone. However, Nastia and Shawn stepped up against the powerful and controversial Chinese team to win a combined seven medals.
6.. Women’s Beach Volleyball: The sight of Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh hugging and crying never got old as they did not drop a single set on their way to their second consecutive gold medal. They lived up to their reputation as the best beach volleyball team ever (not just women’s team) and became America’s new favorite athletes to root for.
5. U.S Men’s Gymnastics: With no Paul or Morgan Hamm, the rookie team was supposed to not even final. No one told 22-year-old Johnathan Horton that and he led his teammates to an unexpected bronze in the team competition.
4. Dara Torres: She retired twice, swam in Olympics dating back to the 80’s, and had a daughter before she decided that she wanted to give it another shot. The oldest swimmer to ever compete in the Olympic Games at 42 didn’t just compete, she won silver. And she missed gold by .01 or the closest margin possible in swimming. Yes, the girl in front of her broke the record.
3. Men’s Relay: “I hate to say it but no matter how many times I break it down, I can only see the French winning.” Rowdy Gaines confirmed what everyone already knew: the men’s 4x100 freestyle relay was going to end with the French national anthem. Three legs into it, it seemed the French were going to make good on their promise to “Crush the Americans.” But with ten meters to go, something extraordinary happened: anchor Jason Lezak, after a huge comeback from out of the picture to maybe silver, put his head down and surged to the wall, winning it in with a margin of .04 seconds. The sheer joy that ensued from Rowdy Gaines in China to me in Medway was one for the ages. However, perhaps the best part was when Michael Phelps forcefully hugged the devastated French swimmer.
2. Michael Phelps: What can be said about him? He swam his way to a record eight gold medals while breaking seven world records and participating in two wild finishes that include the closest margin possible separating silver and gold-Phelps coming out on top. He recorded a host of achievements and milestones that not only put swimming on the map but made him possibly the greatest athlete ever.
1. Men’s Volleyball: The first day of competition in Beijing brought tragedy as a random, vicious attack left the head coach’s father- in- law dead, his mother- in-law critically injured and his wife, who witnessed the scene, traumatized. He left the team for obvious reasons but they never forgot him on their way to a huge upset over Brazil to win the gold medal. My most memorable image from the 2008 Olympic Games by far was that of the coach and his team hugging and crying as the American flag settled on their shoulders.
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