Friday, August 3, 2012

Olympics day 6: Champions and Heroes

s2 Aug 2012 Thursday

In perhaps the most anticipated race between two swimming giants, it is American Michael Phelps, who reclaims the gold in the Men's 200m individual medley, becoming the first person to win gold in the event in 3 Olympics in a row. This is Phelps first individual gold this London Olympics. And if this really is his last Olympics, closing it out by winning the gold for the 3rd Olympics in a row is a great way to go! His rival, friend, and teammate Ryan Lochte settles for silver; and Hungary's Laszlo Cseh claims the bronze. In the hyped up race between Lochte and Phelps, Laszlo Cseh is often overlooked by the media. But this great athlete has shown an amazing tenacity to keep up with Phelps and Lochte, going head to head in previous Olympics and World Championships. He may not be as famous as his competitors, but he has done an incredible job of breaking his own records and going above and beyond just to keep pace with his more famous peers.

And though Ryan Lochte may have won just the silver against Michael Phelps, his win is impressive in light of the fact that he had just raced only 30 minutes before to win bronze in the Men's 200m backstroke. Tyler Clary out swam his teammate and defending champion Ryan Lochte and took gold. Japan's Ryosuke Irie powers through the end to grab silver. All in all, an exciting race! Hats off to Lochte for recovering from this race to compete again in half an hour.

In other swimming news, Ranomi Kromowidjojo of the Netherlands sets a new Olympic record at 53 seconds in the Women's 100m freestyle. She breaks the previous Olympic record that she set in the qualifying heats. Belarus' Aliaksandra Herasimenia catches the silver and China's Tang Yi seizes the bronze.

And it's American Rebecca Soni who swims to glory as she wins gold and sets the new world record for the Women's 200m breaststroke. With a time of 2:19.59, she becomes the first woman to swim under 2 minutes 20 seconds and successfully defends her Beijing Olympic title. Japan's Satomi Suzuki comes second for the silver, and Russia's Iuliia Efimova gets the bronze.

And the women continue to shine in other events. Perhaps the most famous and celebrated woman's win today belongs to 16 year old Gabrielle Douglas, who won gold and became the first African American to be Artistic Gymnastics Women's Individual All-Around Olympic Champion. Always upbeat with a big smile, Gaby Douglas outperformed her competitors, leaving the Russian silver medalist Victoria Komova in tears as she settles for second.

The bronze winner had be decided on a point basis, because at the end of competition, it was a tie between Russia's Aliya Mustafina and USA's Alexandra Raisman! Both finished with the same total score of 59.566. In case of a tie, such as this, the sum of the three highest apparatus scores is used to determine the winner. And it was Aliya Mustafina who edges out for the bronze win.

Meanwhile at the Women's Eight Rowing event, the American women defend their Beijing title and secure the gold by pulling ahead of the other rowers. The Canadians grab silver, and Netherlands settles for the bronze.

Over at the men's side, New Zealand picks up its first gold of the games, as Nathan Cohen and Joseph Sullivan win Men's Double Sculls. They out rowed Italy's Romano Battisti and Alessio Sartori who claim silver, and Slovenia's Luka Spik and Iztok Cop take the bronze.

During the Men's Lightweight Four event, South Africa captured its first Olympic rowing gold. Britain edged for the silver, leaving Denmark to claim bronze.

In other boat related news, Great Britain pulls off an upset in Men's Canoe Double Slalom by taking the top two spots, leaving the world champions from Slovakia, twins Pavol and Peter Hochschorner, the bronze. Tim Baillie and Etienne Stott won the gold, followed by teammates David Florence and Richard Hounslow who claim the silver.

Emilie Fer of France was the surprise winner in Women's Kayak Slalom. Australia's Jessica Fox took the silver, and Spain's Maialen Chourraut gets the bronze.

And it was another American woman who performed an amazing feat today. In Women's 78kg Judo competition, Kayla Harrison wins the US its first ever Judo gold medal. Britain's Gemma Gibbons is left with silver. One bronze went to Brazil's Mayra Aguiar, the other, to France's Audrey Tcheumeo.

Of all the wins that have been celebrated so far, Kayla Harrison's is the one that I find the most moving. And it's not just because she brought home the USA's first ever gold in Olympic judo, though that is an amazing achievement. To me Kayla Harrison is a hero. I hesitate to write down the hardship and horror she went through to get to this point. And I cringe when I see and hear reporters digging into her painful past to get soundbites. But as Kayla Harrison herself doesn't shy away from questions and has told her story, I can't help but admire her even more. When Kayla Harrison was 13, her judo coach sexually abused her. For three years she suffered in fear and silence. When she finally confided in a friend, her friend told Kayla's mother, who notified the police. The coach was convicted and sentenced to ten years in prison. The nightmare over, it would take years and a move to Boston to train under a new coach, Jimmy Pedro, to help Harrison begin the long road to recovery. And those years of hard work and support, dedication and perseverance culminated today in an amazing gold medal win.

When the horrific story of the Penn State child abuse scandal broke out earlier this year, Kayla Harrison spoke out and told her story. She did it, because she wanted the victims to take heart, and know that they can overcome this; that they have it within themselves the strength to overcome, to move on, and that things can get better. Her story is one of survival, of triumph over adversity. And as she stood on that medal podium to receive her gold medal, she was determined to keep her composure. But as the American flag was raised and the national anthem started playing, tears began to fall from her eyes, as she was overwhelmed by so much emotion, by so much joy at what she accomplished, and how far she had come. It was a truly heartfelt moment, and I was very moved and so proud of her for her achievement.

There are several ways to measure greatness in the Olympics, where so many records are set and broken, and heroes rise and fall. For some, greatness is measured by a clock, a timer to see who's the fastest; for others, it's measured by the finish line, the winner is the first one to cross it; still, others rely on scores, to determine the best. And we've seen so many new heroes who've broken old records and set their own.

But there are those moments in history, where greatness and achievement cannot be measured by any means; where the spirit rises to heights beyond comprehension; where true heart, true bravery, and true strength really shine through. And watching people like Kayla Harrison win is more than just about being the best. It's about hope and courage. It's about knowing that no matter how darkest things become, there is a light that can guide us; that we have within ourselves the power to change our destiny, to survive and thrive; and know that we are not alone. And when we take the time to care for each other and work together to support one another, we can achieve great things.


  1. Blimey, considering the situation I'm in right this moment, I'm going to clutch your last paragraph to my chest and run with it.

    Has Mr Lax won anything yet?

  2. Truly Ms Harrison has triumphed in so many ways.

    @ Miss Scarlet: No. I've only got the silver here.

  3. i've been so wrapped up in all things babyville, sugar, i've missed (for the very first time, i might add) all things olympic this year! your posts have brought me up to speed and i thank you. what an incredible story re: kayla harrison! you've done a fantastic reporting job! xoxoxo

    oh hai, miss scarlet and mr lx! ;~)

  4. Scarlet x3, As long as you have hope and believe in yourself, you have the power to change your life. And I hope that you're doing fine and know that you're not alone. If there's ever anything I can do for you, just send me an email...even if it's just to talk. That's what friends are for :)

    lx, That is so true about Ms Harrison. She is a hero.

    Savannah, Greetings and Congratulations to you and the family (and the soon to be new addition to the family) :)

    Thank you for the compliment. I try to discuss stories that really move me; and Ms Harrison's courageous story is one that I'll remember for a long, long time. It's a testament to the true power of the human spirit to overcome incredible horrors and rise to great heights of triumph.