I know the big story this Olympics is Phelps and his quest. And don’t get me wrong, I am impressed as all hell by his ability, as well as that of his mates. The Men’s 400M Medley Relay was probably one of the most spectacular finishes I have ever had the pleasure to watch live. And I shared it with my best friend, so double gold star moment for me.
But, if I am honest, I am more impressed by a bronze than all the golds so far.
I am talking about the U.S. Men’s Gymnastics team. Raj Bhavsar, Justin Spring, Jonathan Horton, and Alexander Artemov, in particular.
I have always liked the gymnastics. To me, the quintessential gymnast is the paragon of grace and beauty that humans can achieve. And my interest was further piqued when I first heard of Raj Bhavsar and how his dreams kept getting snatched from him, but he refused to give up.
As a matter of fact, two of my favorites were only alternates until the Hamm brothers had to withdraw. And though Raj Bhasvar’s performance was not truly spectacular, in my opinion, it was a solid performance on which the team could rely.
Speaking of solid performances, Johnathan Horton was simply incredible in everything he did. His routine on the high bar took my breath away and I didn’t see how it could be bested.
And then Justin Spring got up there. Justin was a wild man making leaps and flips that defied gravity as well as the imagination. And his dismount was a triple somersault that he absolutely stuck, inches from the edge of the mat. How he could stop that much forward momentum without so much as a tiny hop boggles the mind.
At the very beginning, with the full team, people were talking about how the team would be lucky to get a bronze. After two primaries fell out because of injuries and they brought in the second string, most everyone acted like the team was just lucky to be there and thought their chances for a medal were nil.
Everyone except the team, that is. Not only did they qualify for finals, after the first half of the rotation they were in the lead. But China has some incredible athletes, and they lost the lead after China did their stationary rings and high bar routines.
And then, at their last event, the pommel, they ran into trouble when Kevin Tan faltered and Raz performed below par. The third contender, Alexander Artemov, was always iffy. He is brilliant when he is on his game but is prone to making large mistakes in the clutch. That is why, initially, he was only an alternate. He wasn’t even going to get to compete.
A lot of people might have let that set them off their game. And after the first two poor performances on their last event in the 2008 Olympics, there must have been a tremendous amount of pressure on that man. I think everyone expected him to choke.
Except him. Yesterday he was just incredible.
I don’t mean to take away from the momentous talent and achievement of Phelps or any of the other competitors, from any country. But the men's gymnastics team impressed me the most. I like stories where they rise above adversity. Michael Phelps is incredible, I won’t argue. But The 2008 Men’s team was simply inspirational.
I once did the backstroke in a black speedo. People thought there was a shark in the water. –Craig Ferguson
Look…If you had one shot Or one opportunity To seize everything you ever wanted In one moment Would you capture it… Or just let it slip?
Lose Yourself, Eminem
(It amazes me how hard it is to find Olympic finals videos on YouTube. NBC must have a team working around the clock making them take them down.)