Thursday, August 14, 2008

Olympic Moments: The Agony and Ecstasy

For all the ecstasies and victories of the Olympics, there come stunning losses and agonizing defeats. Such is the nature of the games. To claim the heights of Olympic glories is to soar to the heavens. Some spread their wings and reach the stars; others are burned by the sun and plunge to devastating depths. And so it was on Day 5, Wednesday, that so many bright stars fell.

Perhaps the most physically painful and terrorizing fall was that of Hiroyuki Tomita. In the middle of his ring performance, he lost his grip and spun wildly as he plunged down to the floor. An audible gasp was heard as the audience watched in horror the terrifying fall. And when he hit the floor hard, the world held it's breath, gripped by fears of the worst. And when he moved, a collective sigh of relief was released. It was an excruciating fall, but he will live. While he may not have won any medals, being alive is more important.

Then there is the unthinkable fall of Fabian Hambuechen from the high bar. He was considered a medal contender and the high bar was his best event. But he lost his hold and fell, from the bar and from medal contention. He carried the heavy weight of a nation's hope for gold; the world's expectations were high. And though he tried, he could not deliver. The golden boy's shine was tarnished on the world stage. Was the pressure too much? Who knows. But he does have one more chance to redeem himself, to rise from this fall from grace. Would he take to the heavens once more, or are his wings forever broken?

Yet, there were great victories as well on this day. The Australian women's team in the 4x200m freestyle relay not only won gold, but set a new world record!

The mermaids from down under had an incredible lead that they extended with each leg of the race. By the time it was over, Australia had become the first nation to break America's golden hold on the event since it was introduced in the Olympics in 1996!

And of course, there is the golden dragon of the hour. Yang Wei wins the gold in the all around men's gymnastics. He's never won an individual gold; in the 2000 Sydney Olympics, he was a silver medalist; in Athens, 2004, he placed 7th. After that, he thought about quitting. But he realized that he had put too much time in his quest, and to give up would be a tremendous waste of time and effort. He didn't perform perfectly, but he performed well enough to excel in a competition plagued by so many falls and mistakes. And so, with the Olympics in China, Yang Wei leads his countrymen to team gold as well as finally winning the individual gold that had eluded him for 8 long years. He's worked hard for it, and he earned it.


  1. I have been so sleep deprived with watching the Olympics that i crashed early last night. I'm so glad you covered the highlights and I'm sorry that I missed the gymnastics. it sounds like it would have been great to watch.

  2. Poor fellas, falling. I mean I know this is a horrible thing to say, but I would love to have seen it. I probably also would have found it a little amusing. Like I did with the Hungarian weightlifter.

    Fabulous work of the Aussies. That's amazing.

  3. Snooze, the gymnastics was kind of surprising in that a lot of the medal contenders, besides Yang Wei, kept making huge mistakes. And the falls were the stuff of Olympic legends. The French guy won bronze, not because he had a stellar routine, but because he was consistent and made very few small mistakes! The silver medalist recovered from 2 falls on the pommel horse!

    CP, it's why I luv the Olympics! Those incredible highs and devastating lows! But it was so nice to see them recover and not be permanently injured...or dead. That would've been a downer.

    Someone recorded the live tv fall at this link Hiroyuki Tomita.

  4. OUCH! He just tumbles around and falls down like a rag doll. It does look really incredible.

    I hate to say this but watching it in instant replay I thought it looked a little funny.

    I'm such a bad person. Tee-heee!

  5. CP, it's funny now because he lived thru it. I'm sure it would've put on a damper on the Olympics if he didn't survive.

  6. I feel sorry for Tomita, I admire him a lot! I hope he'll fully recover and will be able to win a medal after all.

  7. Ana, welcome! Tomita is a world class athlete. It was just unbelievable that all the top contenders kept making huge mistakes. And French bronze winner didn't have a spectacular routine compared to the others, but he made very tiny mistakes and he was consistent. But Tomita still has a shot--if he's not too hurt--to medal in the individual event finals.