5 Aug 2012 Sunday
Day 9 of the London 2012 Olympics saw lightning strike twice for several golden athletes.
Appropriately named, Jamaica's Usain Bolt successfully defends his Beijing title and wins the gold in the Men's 100m race, setting an Olympic record of 9.63 seconds. He retains his title as the fastest man in the world. His training partner, who had beaten him recently, Jamaica's Yohan Blake, clinches the silver. And USA's Justin Gatlin races to bronze. With this win, Jamaica continues its reign as the fastest nation on earth!
And lightning strikes three times for Serena and Williams Venus, who score their third Olympics gold medal in Women's Doubles in Tennis. The American pair makes history with this win, and they look forward to repeating at Rio in 2016! Czech Republic's Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka take silver; and Russian pair Maria Kirilenko and Nadia Petrova won the bronze medal by beating top seeds Liezel Huber and Lisa Raymond of the United States.
The lightning strike repeats for World champion Ezekiel Kemboi of Kenya, who wins the gold in Men's 3000m Steeplechase, an event he won back in Athens 2004. He wins Kenya's first gold at the London Olympics; his compatriot, Abel Mutai, secured bronze. And Mahiedine Mekhissi-Benabbad of France grabs the silver, preventing a repeat of the Kenyan sweep back in Beijing 2008.
Ben Ainslie of Great Britain wins the gold in Men's Sailing Finn class regatta. It is his 3rd gold medal in the event, having won at Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008. He also won a gold in Sydney 2000 and a silver in Atlanta 1996 in the Laser class division. With four Olympic golds total and a silver in his collection, Ben Ainslie becomes the most decorated sailor in Olympic history! Not since Horatio Hornblower has the British produced such a decorated sailor! Jonas Hogh-Christensen of Denmark sails into silver; and France's Jonathan Lobert wins the bronze.
And over in Women's 3m Springboard Diving, China's Wu Minxia wins gold, her first individual gold, after winning the 3m Synchronized title for the third Olympics in a row, making Olympics history. It is a great win for Wu Minxia, whose family kept from her the truth about her grandparents deaths and her mother's struggle with breast cancer; her parents did not want her to lose focus; they wanted her to do her best and win that gold she has worked so hard for most of her life. Wu Minxia's synchro partner, He Zi, settles for silver. And Mexico's Laura Sanchez Soto dives to bronze.
And the gold rush continues for China in two men's events. First off, it was a close call for China's Lin Dan as he narrowly defends his Beijing title in Men's Single Badminton. It was an exciting and thrilling match as both competitors traded leads and made amazing shots and saves. Lin Dan becomes the first man to win back to back Olympics badminton gold. His rival, who gave him a serious run for the gold, Malaysia's Lee Chong Wei, settles for silver. The bronze went to another Chinese player, Chen Long.
The final Chinese gold repeat of the day belonged to Zou Kai, who defends his Beijing title to win the Men's Floor Exercise event. Zou Kai has all ready won another gold in the team competition earlier in the games. This makes it five gold medals in his career so far, having won in 2008 Beijing in the team event, the floor exercise, and the high bar. He still has a high bar event left. It was a brilliant win for Zou Kai, who beat out World and Olympics All Around Champ, Japan's Kohei Uchimura. Zou Kai's performance was outstanding compared to his competitors. Russia's Russia's Denis Ablyazin, who scored the same as Uchimura, won the bronze after the tie breaker was decided by execution points.
It was a great win for Zou Kai; I admire him, not just because of his strength and skills, but because of his heart. He auctioned off his Beijing gold medal in the floor exercise and donated the money to help with the recovery from a terrible earthquake the hit his home province of Szechuan. Though long considered a specialist in the sport, he does have the potential to be a great all around champion, and I look forward to seeing him develop his great talent.
In another strange repeat event, Great Britain's Louis Smith is once again bumped down a medal after a tie breaker rule in the Men's Gymnastics Pommel Horse event. Four years ago, in Beijing, he tied for silver, but the tie breaker rule dropped him down to bronze, due to a lower execution score. And this time, it happens again, only he tied for first place with current world champion in the event, Hungarian Krisztian Berki! What are the odds of tying for a medal position in two consecutive Olympics? But it was still a great win for Great Britain, as another Brit, Max Whitlock, took the bronze.
Over on the women's side, there was an incredible upset! USA's and world champion of the vault, McKayla Maroney fell on her second vault, leaving the door wide open for Romania's Sandra Izbasa to catch the gold! Maroney is left with silver, and Russia's Maria Paseka bounces her way to bronze.
Back in track and field, Kazakhstan's Olga Rypakova, wins the Women's Triple Jump, giving Kazakhstan 6 gold medals in the games so far. This gold medal keeps Kazakhstan in the unique position of the only country to have straight gold medals (6 so far) and no silvers nor bronzes. Caterine Ibarguen of Colombia jumps to silver while bronze went to Ukraine's Olha Saladuha.
A great surprise in the Women's Marathon, as a relative unknown Ethiopian Tiki Gelana powered her way to win gold. It was obvious that she was straining in the last 200m of the race, gasping for air, grimacing, and in pain. But her efforts paid off. Kenya's Priscah Jeptoo claimed silver, while Russia's Tatyana Petrova Arkhipova took bronze.
In Men's Hammer Throw, European champion and Hungarian Krisztian Pars won the gold medal. Slovenia's Primoz Kozmus won silver, and Japan's Koji Murofushi took bronze.
Finally, it is sweet redemption (or revenge) for two athletes.
First off, Andy Murray of Great Britain wins the biggest title of his career, beating out world ranked number one tennis player Roger Federer in straight sets in Men's Singles Tennis. It's a reversal of fortunes for both players, as it was Federer who beat Murray recently in Wimbledon. It's an amazing win for Murray, a redemption from Wimbledon and a sign that he is on the cusp of winning his first Grand Slam. Argentina's Juan Martin Del Potro wins bronze.
Finally, in the Women's 400m race, American Sanya Richards-Ross wins gold and redeems her performance in Beijing 2008. At Beijing, she led the race, but she lost steam towards the end, leaving her only the bronze. This time, she was fast and smart, controlling her pace til the very last 200m when she accelerated and left her competition fighting for second and third place. Britain's Christine Ohuruogu, defending Beijing champion, was shocked that she had to settle for second place. Another American, DeeDee Trotter took bronze.
But my favorite Olympic moment of the day belonged to the Men's 400m Semi-final. As expected, South African sprinter and double amputee, Oscar Pistorius was not able to make the final, finishing last in the race. But what he had accomplished by participating in the Olympics and qualifying for the Semi-final, beating out other able bodied athletes, is an absolutely astonishing feat. The best moment happened after the race, when Grenada's Kirani James, heavily favored to win gold in the 400m race, walked over to hug Oscar Pistorius, and then asked to exchange running bib numbers, a sign of great respect. James later told interviews that he had great respect for Pistorius, and that he didn't see him as disabled, but rather as a worthy competitor and great athlete who has earned his spot to compete at the Olympics.
Seeing a great athlete like Kirani James praise and show respect for Oscar Pistorius reminds us of the spirit of these games. It's more than just about winning a medal or setting records. It's about the human spirit and the human heart, and their ability to inspire us to do better; to do our best; to aspire to be greater than we are; to keep hope against all odds; and find in ourselves the power to change our destinies; to dare to dream and find the courage and strength to follow those dreams and live life to the fullest.