Sunday, August 12, 2012

2012 London Olympics: LeBron James’ Heroics Delivers Gold to U.S.

A nation shared its proudness and appreciation Sunday. Basketball was MADE IN THE USA, after all. LeBron James, among all players, was the man of red, white and blue, representing the United States with a sense of pride and grace and led the U.S. to back-to-back Olympic gold medals. He, among all players, jumped for joy in celebration near the bench, wearing a widened smile as if he was a kid who opened a brand new Spalding basketball with MJ’s signature on it. As he led the Americans in the gold-medal game, he was entitled to jubilate with his U.S. teammates, he was entitled to laugh and crack jokes with the youngest one on the team, Anthony Davis.

The man who is the most polarizing figure is suddenly an American hero for restoring hope in U.S. basketball, for reducing the embarrassment of falling from grace in a game we originated, dominated, popularized, and then produced NBA’s finest studs to showcase a new era of talented stars. The man who is the most loathed player is suddenly a savior, a humble and unselfish human being. You don’t have to like him, no, but what he’s done for U.S. basketball is beyond incredible — it’s athletic brilliance and staying power. Maybe after he searched for U.S. coach Mike Krzyzewski on the sideline and greeted him with a hug, you perceive him differently. Maybe after he stood on the podium, aglow with pride, fighting back tears as the Star Spangled Banner belted out of the loudspeaker, you have gained more respect for James. Lauded in these games, he wrapped the American flag around his shoulders and sprinted a victory lap around the court, and then celebrated with the guys proudly and happily.

He didn’t just make the country proud — he escaped hatred, anger and antipathy as one of the most recognizable athletes in the world. It marked the first time, since the megalomaniacal spectacle he televised to announce that he would be signing with the Miami Heat, that he’s pleased millions nationwide. It marked the first time, since he departed Cleveland abruptly to outrage most of the town, that he’s beautifully appreciated for an unpaid effort to compete for our country and be honored for healing America’s basketball woes. The dominance of the United States men’s basketball team, mainly because of James’ leadership and humility, has been profoundly crafty and unbeatable. With James on the U.S. side, the basketball program has risen to the top of the world again, built with NBA stars from a number of franchises that came together and contended against world-class athletes as the game is globalized. You may not love LeBron, but he loves you, willing to sacrifice his vacation months to represent this country in a respectful manner. That’s what he did this summer — unselfishly and willingly — and didn’t mind playing for his country. Before they partied in London, with gold medals hanging from their necks, James poured in 19 points, grabbed seven rebounds and had a team-high four assists, all while he was in foul trouble.

So he finally smiled, breathed a sigh of relief, realizing he had just done something good for America, where he’s despised and demonized because of jealousy or bitterness. But now, we can only send our thanks and bow to the King after his excellent performances throughout the tournament. There’s no doubt, just no doubt, that James would have been named the MVP in the Olympics, if such an honorable award existed. But in America, he’s clearly our Most Valuable Player, the global superstar we are impressed by and call our superhero. For James, the reigning NBA champion after winning his first title for the Miami Heat, he’s the iconic face of American sports, particularly for what he’s accomplished in these Olympics. And by no means were Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant underachievers in London, as the team almost featured a different star on a nightly basis.

Durant, meanwhile, scored 30 points and collected nine rebounds and Bryant scored 17 points. This time, respectfully so, the United States needed James in the fourth quarter. As time dwindled down in the final period — like he did last spring for the Heat — he came through when it counted the most to prove to the world that he’s a clutch performer. He carried Team USA on his shoulders, just as he carried the flag proudly when it all came to an end on the last day of the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, a chance for the players to get to know one another as they came together as respected teammates. But most of all, even if you hate James, he did this for you, he did this for America, and he did this for me.

It’s about America, not LeBron. The absence of King James could have smudged Team USA’s gold-medal ambitions, but, of course, Krzyzewski lobbied for him to join Team USA and restore a winning personality internationally. We can make better sense of it, when perhaps James had the best fourth-quarter performance of the afternoon, silencing haters and doubters. It looks a lot like James isn’t selfish and egocentric, but a competitor who opted for a change of scenery and seized the opportunity to venture elsewhere to win a championship. The chosen one, the man of the fourth performed to hold off Spain late in the closing minutes. James basically rebranded U.S. basketball and repaired his bad-boy image. The nail-biting scare was when James took over, as the Americans coasted to a 107-100 victory.

The Spaniards tried to cut into a lead the U.S. owned, but down the stretch Chris Paul made a couple of baskets that extended the lead. The signature play happened when James drove to the lane for a dunk that gave the U.S. a 99-91 lead and put the icing on the cake. When Spain pulled within six points, LeBron was still playing aggressive, although he had four fouls, and responded by hitting a three-pointer that gave Team USA an eight-point advantage. At age 33, entering his 16th season, Bryant is still the best closer but isn’t as dominant. There’s the notion that Team USA could have taken home silver, if not for James, as the U.S. beat Spain by 11 points. In today’s game, LeBron is gradually stepping into the closer role in his prime, and four years from now in Rio, he’ll definitely be the star all eyes will be on.

The Americans are back to take back what was theirs at the Summer Olympics with the likes of Bryant, Paul, Durant, Carmelo Anthony, Tyson Chandler, Deron Williams and James Harden, doing it without the presence of Derrick Rose, Dwight Howard and Dwyane Wade.

But it’s about the USA and thanking James.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

2012 London Games: Nobody Can Catch Usain Bolt

The first thing I should note, as I couldn’t keep track of the Jamaicans smoking the U.S., is that Usain Bolt is really the greatest track showman. He’s a showboat, a demigod and a natural-born athlete, the sprinting sensation of the world, which affirms he’s The World’s Fastest Man. Nobody can keep up with Bolt, let alone the Americans, an amazing talent running the greatest footraces of these London Games.

Lightning Bolt is the hero of the Olympics, a new theme of track and field. It’s the greatest show in the world by a man who is merely described as the fastest man alive, born with a gift to run for his life and break world records as we become crazy about the Usain Bolt Show. His countryman, Yohan Blake, the 100 and 200-meter silver medalist, handed over the baton and, man, Bolt pulled away in the final leg to blaze across the finish line with a time of 36.84 seconds. I was impressed by him and dropped my jaw Saturday night, as always, when Bolt anchored Jamaica’s world-record performance in the 4×100 relay, breaking its own record in its gold-medal medal victory.

Walt Disney released a film called “Cool Runnings” years ago. The movie was based on a true story about a Jamaican bobsled team that raced at the Winter Olympics. The folks at Disney — as Bolt has been entertaining and electrifying to characterize the nature of track and field events in these games — should choose to make a sequel to “Cool Runnings” and call it Lightning Bolt. The motion picture, after all, would be a seller and top the movie’s box office as one of the greatest sports films of all-time.

It was, after all, the prelude to an Olympic dream, and Bolt cemented his place as one of the greatest runners of all time. There’s no denying it — we are watching Bolt blossom into a legend of these London Games before our very eyes, after sustaining excellence of defending three championships. He is hailed as the Michael Jordan of track stars, captivating 80,000 in Olympic Stadium, with his incredible feet, agility and will to win during his prime as millions across the world respects him rightfully so. The night for Great Britain was filled with euphoria, as well, when Mo Farah beat Ethiopia’s Dejen Gebremeskel in the men’s 5,000-meter final to go with his 10,000 gold, perhaps more impressive than watching Bolt and Bailey in the final leg that concluded with a dramatic finish. Bolt is the most coveted of all Olympians and pulled away from American Ryan Bailey, an impressive run in the final leg of the race, while a rambunctious crowd erupted in cheers and wildly screamed.

My eyes, however, were glued to Bolt the entire time, and no one else. He is, without argument, an Olympic legend, no matter what IOC president Jacques Rogge thinks about his legacy, saying Bolt is not yet there. The rest of the world thinks he wasn’t only the star of the sport, but feels he took another step toward moving into the company of all-time great Carl Lewis, who Bolt ripped earlier this week. If not now, eventually we’ll have no choice but to call him a legend, surpassing Lewis as the most decorated sprinter in Olympic history. Most of all, however, he’s wore the Jamaican flag around his shoulders and gold medals around his neck three times. It’s no fluke that Bolt dominated the 100 and 200-meter with his God-given speed when, rather amazingly, he’s the most relentless athlete the world has ever seen and embraced.

There’s no one as fast as Bolt, a near-perfectionist and the greatest sprinter, running all the way to claim his third gold medal of these London Games and sixth in two summer games. There’s no one who runs harder than Bolt, not right now at least. There’s nothing more breathtaking and wonderful in sports than Bolt. You were delighted, thrilled, essentially falling out of your seat, wondering how the heck he runs so quick. The most athletic runner in London is Bolt. This is a guy who once, with a straight face, said he’s the best of all-time and he’s right about it.

That’s no lie.

But what about the United States? From the moment American Tyson Gay was handed the baton, he had trouble keeping up with Blake, who outran him to give Bolt a huge lead. The handoff from Gay to Justin Gatlin was anything but perfect. But if we’ve learned anything, besides understanding that Bolt is by far the greatest, it’s that Bailey can somehow stay with the fastest man in history. This is not to say, mind you, that he can edge Bolt in a race, because it’s not seemingly possible and won’t ever happen. As time progressed during the race, Bolt had to run all the way and beat Bailey to the finish. There’s no doubt Bailey, 23, is an emerging U.S. track star, not intimidated to compete and endure a challenging footrace against Bolt.

Short of the finish — as Jamaica dominated again — a common trait of the Jamaican culture, the Americans finished second in a time of 37.04 and captured silver. As for Bailey, he’s the emerging U.S track star for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, where he looks to compete and avenge a gold-medal loss against Bolt, who had to run at full speed. This time, Bolt had to actually give it his best effort, like having to accelerate and run all the way until he reached the finish line, just enough to hold off the Americans. Bolt couldn’t slow down and celebrate prematurely, but when he delivered a signature performance, he performed gold-medal winner Farah’s famous salute.

The Jamaicans were running for one purpose, and indeed they brought home the gold, as defending three titles was Bolt’s stated goal. The Jamaicans are celebrating, and among all sprinters, Bolt is partying the most. But as long as Bolt is around, he will be the man to beat. With him around, Jamaica has sustained historic achievements.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Dwight Howard To Hollywood: Lakers Soar Into Prime Contention

The Buss family, especially Jim, the son of Jerry who is running an operation out of Los Angeles, negotiated and somehow landed Dwight Howard in Hollywood. The Los Angeles Lakers, whose recipe for success is constant rebuilding with blockbuster moves, satisfied their star guard Kobe Bryant, surrounding him with star power and plenty of talent to suddenly emerge as favorites in the West.

It’s a no-brainer, after a four-team trade sent Howard to L.A. and after the Lakers super-sized their roster to regain strength and aspiration — as always — that the Lakers are in contention for an NBA championship. The embarrassment the Lakers sustained the last two seasons impetuously drove the Busses to revamp and make certain they stay at the top to contend in the postseason. The Dwightmare is finally over, and folks all over can breathe a sigh of relief, particularly fans donning purple and gold attire who are lucky to have D12 arrive at Hollywood, where he fits in rather perfectly. After all, he’s an entertainer, a solid performer when he chooses to be and earned the “Superman” moniker from his days in Orlando.

Put aside all the rumors. Put aside all the speculations and tired trade sagas. Willingly and merrily, he’s leaving the Sunshine State to relocate to a new address in Los Angeles — off Figueroa Street and Chick Hearn Court — and respectfully steps into the spotlight, welcomed to his new home immediately with a chance to contend for a title with a team demanding to continue a winning tradition. Not surprising, however, that the Lakers acquired Howard from Orlando to make Thursday’s headlines, when he’s been seen around Los Angeles. It’s evident he enjoys the glamour of five-star restaurants and luxury hotels in a town where he’s now famously known as the Lakers’ seven-foot center, or rather remarkably, a superhero who is already idolized, although L.A. fans booed Howard during a ballgame at Dodger Stadium when the Jumbotron showed him standing outside of a stadium suite. And then he was also spotted walking out of a Beverly Hills hotel.

Like Randy Newman and most celebrities, Howard LOVES L.A., realizing he’s joined the Lakers, an assembled team with a nucleus of talent. After adding Howard to the roster, the magnitude of L.A. pro sports centers around the Lakers, whose starting lineup features NBA’s finest studs in Bryant, Metta World Peace and Steve Nash. Pau Gasol, who is also an elite megastar for the Lakers, was ecstatic and relieved he wasn’t traded elsewhere when he’s been floating in trade rumors for months and likely was one of the players to be moved as part of a blockbuster deal. Meanwhile, Howard is, at long last, out of Orlando. He is, at long last, glad to be putting on a Lakers uniform. He is not, at long last, disgruntled or unhappy with a change of scenery, coming to an established team destined to make a strong championship push.

The Lakers, suddenly, are very interesting. The offseason was, for the most part, chaotic and tumult with a lingering saga hijacking the summer as 24/7 coverage on Howard annoyed fans. When he demanded to be traded — with all indications that he wanted to call Brooklyn home — the Lakers, as they should have, phoned the Orlando Magic organization and listened to offers. It was frustrating for months, as the Magic and Howard weren’t sure what their intentions were as to whether or not the self-proclaimed Superman desired staying in Orlando until he became a free agent after next season. It was telling the Lakers were old and stagnant, and were in dire need of younger and fresher legs to keep up with teams like the Miami Heat and Oklahoma City Thunder in the open floor. Having said that, the Lakers continue to bring in the missing pieces to blend in well alongside Bryant, who still wants to be bestowed a championship ring, as they are now in position to win a championship.

Before Nash and Howard joined the company of Bryant and the gang, the Lakers were devoid of athleticism with an aging Kobe well past his prime. As he continues to age, Bryant can’t score as much as he used to nor can he play as hard as he used to when he was well in his prime. The folks in the front office knew they had to sooner than later be proactive and build around one of the greatest scorers in the game, as a way to put a smile on Kobe’s face to avoid any feuding. Remember, years ago he demanded a trade and essentially — if you believe everything you read and hear — was supposed to end up finishing his fantastic career in the Windy City, where he’d have played in the shadows of Michael Jordan and would’ve had tremendous pressure to fill the shoes of a legend. Had it not been for Kobe’s pouting and whining, which may have been a brilliant strategy that forced the Lakers to head into a new direction, they wouldn’t have pursued in a deal to acquire Gasol from Memphis.

Right now, though, the newest Laker is Howard. The deal is officially done, and the Lakers look forward to raising a 17th championship banner into the rafters at Staples Center with a celebration on their minds. In many ways — that is — we simply understand the Lakers’ motives and philosophies. The thing is, if there is a talked-about big man available who is dominant to prolong excellence in the modern era, the Lakers don’t hesitate and finds a way to get him. Quite often, as we’ve seen for decades, the Lakers have turned sizable big men into legends, relying on a dominant inside presence and high-profile centers — Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, George Mikan and Shaquille O’Neal.

Truth be told, the Lakers were aggressive and refused to pass on a lifetime offer that could benefit the team in the long run. It’s tough to be in Mitch Kupchak’s position, but the Lakers general manager wasn’t letting Howard get away and amazingly pulled of another steal, certainly in conversations to be named NBA Executive of the Year. It wasn’t long ago, when he blundered on botched maneuvers and dismantled the team briefly, that he was a puppet on strings unable to have a word in the personnel decisions, as Buss dictated the direction of his franchise. They both needed a wake up call, which occurred when the Lakers were dispatched in the second round for the second straight year with a five-game loss to the Thunder last season.

The reality of it all was that the Lakers couldn’t win with their current roster, badly and seriously needing an overhaul to revitalize a broken team in the City of Angels. The reality of it all was that the Lakers couldn’t survive after embarrassing losses that resulted in early playoff exits. The Lakers wasted no time to rectify the problem, and wisely addressed their top priority by strengthening the point guard position, bringing in two-time NBA MVP Steve Nash to considerably form a scintillating backcourt combination. This is what happens when a team is humiliated in the postseason and continues to fall victim to blowouts, a prominent franchise that upgraded its team to make a run at the championship.

It was nice of the rival Phoenix Suns to reach an agreement on a sign-and-trade that sent Nash to Los Angeles. The only solution, then, was for the Lakers to trade center Andrew Bynum for Howard. They had conversations over the phone, trying hard to whisper sweet things in Rob Hennigan’s ears, Orlando’s newly minted GM. It took a four-team, eight-player deal to get it done, and while the Lakers have improved overnight it seems, the 76ers ended up with Bynum and will now have a low-post presence to create shooting opportunities for Evan Turner and Jrue Holiday. The other team involved was Denver and they picked up Andre Iguodala, a swingman whose presence can sharpen the Nuggets’ perimeter defense.

On the day the Lakers welcomed home Howard, it was a day the Lakers waved goodbye to Bynum, as his services were no longer needed. Either he was consistent or inconsistent. Either he was lousy or effective. And with Howard, as the team’s next big man, the Lakers think they can actually succeed with him in the lineup — they are doing whatever it takes to win. That explains why they have a multitude of NBA titles, why they are either loved or loathed and why Lakers’ games are national televised regularly. This is what happens when an NBA team consists of an array of stars. We are infatuated with stars and love our superstars, as many Americans revere these idols, madly obsessed with the Bryants, the Howards, the Nashes and other attractive figures who are marketable and winners.

As for the Lakers, they make moves to win NOW. The Lakers, as usual, are eyeing a gleaming trophy. It’s all about winning championships, and each year L.A. is normally in contention, rarely missing the postseason. If the Lakers do miss the postseason, they aren’t down very long and eventually return to the playoffs and makes a deep run to be a menace in the West, like they will now. The Lakers, ladies and gentlemen, are back and could have a 70-plus-win season, especially with Kobe and Nash’s veteran leadership. It’s their 17th season in the league, but they both can still play at a high level as the new 30 and older is the new 20 and younger. The gravity of an NBA championship is within reach, and with the Howard acquisition, anything can happen. It’s still surreal that Howard will make Hollywood his home, when becoming a Laker didn’t ever seem feasible, until three days ago. And before then, he was flirting with the Nets and the Rockets, without the Lakers even being on his list. But now that he’s with the Lakers, he doesn’t regret it and appears to be in high spirits.

Howard will be a free agent at the end of next season, and said he’s testing the market. There’s nothing wrong with exploring options, but he won’t be going anywhere after next season if the Lakers have a deep playoff run and wins a championship. He realizes that he can win multiple titles in L.A. and celebrate alongside Bryant, who is by far the best player of this generation. If Howard is playing for championship rings, then he knows L.A. is the right place.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

With All Due Respect, Hope Solo Gets Save for U.S. Women

When the clock finally expired, Hope Solo met her teammates at midfield for a group hug, then leaped in the air and wrapped herself in the American flag. The U.S. goalkeeping star wasn’t always a genuine sweetheart, or wasn’t always a quiet girl. And suddenly Solo, now an Olympic champion at Wembley Stadium, London’s most prestigious sporting venue, is humbled and meek, finally a winner in the Summer Games.

At best she’s not egomaniacal and not bombastic, growing as a person each day and curtailing her arrogant and defiant personality. Humility is helping her grow as a person. Gracefulness is helping her appreciate life better. The heroine of American soccer — a blowhard, a boaster and a loudmouth – was cocky and bitter in a sense, becoming a lightning rod as a well-known American sporting icon. But now, she has a gold medal hanging from her neck and backed up her talk with a diving save on Japanese forward Mana Iwabuchi in the 83rd minute to preserve a 2-1 victory over Japan on Thursday night in the Olympic gold-medal game. So, amid the doubts and unnecessary talk, Solo played the role of a goddess, and not an annoying prima donna who made headlines for arrogantly lashing out at Brandi Chastain on Twitter following her comments about the current’s team defense at the start of the tournament.

In defense, Solo was immature and mishandled the situation with a lack of class and no respect, childishly ranting her displeasure and rage with her big mouth and reckless tweets, allowing her emotions to get the best of her when remarks seem offensive. It shouldn’t be so shocking that Solo is overly sensitive and deciphers things wrongly, or takes unfavorable judgment too personal and doesn’t keep her cool. It’s been seen too often, but what’s also been impressive lately is her marvelous defensive play, leadership and maturity, stepping up at the right time to finally realize her responsibilities were extremely important for the Americans to beat Japan.

While the U.S. team pressed on throughout the tournament, Solo matured as a person, she was more gracious and cordial, handling her task as a goalkeeper, the most difficult position in soccer in which protecting the net is key. If it all looks unreal for the most polarizing athlete of all women — especially in these summer games — where she’s an angel or embattled because of her pompous comments, well, it’s as real as it gets. Solo is not someone you’d like to marry, but she’s very athletic and is the most recognizable female goalie in her country. For those who are not familiar with Solo — perhaps the best female goalie to ever play — she’s a winner and proved it when she rose to the occasion and was stout for much of the night.

This is her moment to laugh, and then years and years from now she can reminisce about the yesteryears with her kids, and tell her story about wrapping herself in the country’s flag. Years from now, Solo can share portraits of the moment she and her teammates stood in line with gold medals around their necks. This, of course, was an exhilarating and special day when she celebrated and soaked in a wonderful moment with her teammates. It’s one victory that might have signified vindication and mounted Solo’s status in U.S. women’s soccer, when she had a stellar performance after underachieving throughout the tournament.

At the right time, she came up big in the crucial moments, basically the justification for Americans coming away with a redemptive victory over their foes from Japan. The craziest, nastiest, bad-tempered woman turned into a score-stopping machine, stopping 12 of 13 shots she encountered that could have been game-changing plays had the Japanese converted goal-scoring opportunities. If not for her, the Americans could have lost for a second time to Japan, who defeated the United States in the World Cup last year. It came down to Solo stretching out her body, extending her arms and diving to amazingly fend off a missile shot. There surely is no way she will change her demeanor or personality, and she represents her country so proudly that she’ll always have a fiery and snobbish attitude, although she stands by America and gives us a bad name with her actions.

It’s in her nature and she’s molded in a sense to conduct herself in such a way that we should realize who she truly is by now, as we’ve all known Solo so well. If I had to choose the most noteworthy athlete to play goalkeeper for the U.S. soccer team, the first person who’d come to mind is Solo, even though she’s quite smug about being the star of the sport, thinking highly of herself as if she’s the best soccer star ever in the land of the USA. That sense of mannerism is irritating and annoying, but as we all know, winning is a cure to humanity. So once an athlete wins, particularly a medal for its country, everything turns irrelevant. Solo is, in her own way, a witness to that, no doubt. She can irritate and peeve our senses, and then carry the weight of expectations on her shoulders. There wasn’t a better time to come along and become a shutdown goalkeeper, coming through when it matters the most.

And Team USA? It was redemption and relief for the U.S women’s soccer team, erasing the heartbreaking blow in the World Cup championship game. The victory gave the Americans a third consecutive Olympic title, with a pair of spectacular goals from Carli Lloyd, who scored both goals including the gold-medal winning goal. And this wasn’t a time Solo blew it, or a time she couldn’t defend the net and instead came on strong for Team USA. Without Hope, the Americans had no chance to survive. The reality is, she wanted it badly, and within reach of her stated goal, Solo was huge in stretches of the game. Such was when she leaped in the air and deflected the ball with her fingertips on a header by Yuki Ogimi in the 18th minute.

A mountain of failures in the past brought her to reality, and she indeed responded, on the biggest stage in front of 80,203 roaring fans at London’s cathedral. The largest crowd ever attended to watch a women’s soccer game, and surely Solo had the game of her striking career. Spectators also saw Abby Wambach move toward becoming one of the all-time U.S. greats.

Solo, though, was given her chance to prove she can play.

If there were one thing we can take away from this miraculous Olympic games, it would be her goal-saving stops that led to American gold.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

2012 London Olympics: A Dynasty at the Beach Like No Other

The nation’s best volleyball players, Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings had a wild party on the sand Wednesday night. The game ended, and May-Treanor danced and then ran around like a little girl at the playground, celebrating and hopping in the sand. The bikini babes medaled again, cementing a legacy on the beach every summer of the Olympic year, to clearly stand alone as the greatest dynasty in Olympic history.

After dominating three straight Summer Olympics, Walsh Jennings searched for her family in the stands, making a quick trip to her parents and her husband in the stands. The moment felt real, with her mom and dad, with her husband, hugging each of them proudly to embrace her last match. Teary-eyed and overjoyed, she grabbed and squeezed her children tightly, celebrating and sharing the moment in tears with Kessy and Ross, who wrapped a flag around their backs and playfully loped across the sand to be showered with “USA!” chants.

All along, we had the feeling May-Treanor and Walsh Jennings, favorites entering the contest, would pull off the victory. It’s as if they couldn’t ever lose, and the truth to the matter is, they never lost. It was theirs, and nobody else’s game. It seemed that they stole the ball to keep it out of reach, buried it under the sand and impressed every country, including the two Americans they met in the medal game, with their supremacy and flair to absorb all the spotlight and popularity.

It’s never easy to leave behind a game, especially when both Kerri and Misty, the most recognizable athletes in beach volleyball, dominated the sport for a decade and fascinated millions again beating Americans Jennifer Kessy and April Ross to win their third consecutive Olympic title. It’s no wonder we’ve fallen in love with the game of volleyball whenever the Summer Games were in progress, fascinated with Misty and Kerri and finished taking pleasure in one of the wonderful Olympic marathons in history by two U.S. hotshots that cultivated the sport’s significance.

The night ended so fast, and just like that, the girls were gold medalists — three-time gold medalists in the same thing they’ve played so well in their flawless Olympic careers. It still amazes me, as they swatted a ball over the net for the longest, that these ladies finished unbeaten. The whole time in competition against competitors from other countries they’ve never lost a match. They were all about winning, ever since teaming up together at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, where they started to produce win after win and went a combined 21-0 and unbelievably dropped just one set overall.

The beach girls came from California to London to compete again and leave precisely a legacy — two of the finest athletes, not only because of beauty or attractiveness but because they are indeed among the top athletes in American sports. Already world champions on the beach, Misty and Kerri, as we are all too familiar with every time the Olympics come in the summer months, were emotional, truly humbled and in tears of joy.

The most admired athletes, after going out as role models for many young girls who may be ambitious to follow their shoes, played in the Summer Games together for the last time, bringing home gold for the third straight time at the Olympics, a rare accomplishment not seen too often in these games. But it’s real and a dynasty is possible, just ask the best tandem in Olympic history. Oh, and they will tell you it wasn’t easy to win three straight gold medals. The two heroines, as we know, have a special bond, an enduring friendship that will remain intact, no doubt, spending countless hours together training and preparing for the world’s toughest competition.

They are Olympian darlings, often appreciated, and totally cool among an elite class of female athletes. Friendship, and competitiveness, is what led to a deep bond, made for a good show and popularized a sport that originated in Southern California at a beach, which gave us May-Treanor and Walsh Jennings. The game that defined a couple of legacies, on a night at a fake beach in the middle of England where spectators looked on and watched history happen before their very eyes, was beautifully magnificent and the legendary beach girls defeated a duo of two emerging Americans in straight sets (21-16, 21-16).

And while Walsh Jennings, 36, said she will return for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio seeking another gold medal to add to her precious collection, her friend and longtime partner, May-Treanor announced her retirement. At age 35, May-Treanor has plans for life after these games, standing by her word to stay retired and spend time with her family and husband Matt Treanor, who is a major league baseball player with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Before she ever was an Olympian, May-Treanor earned her master’s degree in coaching and athletic administration, and desires to coach indoor volleyball for her second-career.

For two years, after the Beijing Games, the two separated and dealt with personal issues in their lives. Things changed for Kerri having to be there for her kids. She’s a mother of two and spent plenty of time with her kids, while May-Treanor fractured her Achilles tendon on “Dancing With The Stars,” when she was a contestant. But the women finally took care of priorities and met again in 2011, and began to get back into studying and finding a workable blueprint for adjustments.

The hard work, because they were willing to give it their best effort in seeking gold, benefited in their favor indeed. The three-time Olympic beach volleyball champions were spectacular and performed impressively at these games.

It was a phenomenal tandem, an awesome dynasty, and I’m going to miss the most dominant team in U.S. Olympic history.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

With Failure After Failure, Lolo Jones Doesn’t Live Up to Hype

And so it ends, without Lolo Jones earning a medal to drape around her neck. For the American hurdler who has been criticized so much, it’s quite iconic with what happened to Jones again in these games, heartbroken and disillusioned, fighting through much adversity and having a second chance to respond, but unfortunately she was unsuccessful in redeeming herself of failures.

In Beijing, she tripped over the penultimate hurdle, falling flat on her face in the final to experience an agonizing debacle that crushed her heart, and then she had no choice but to live with the pain and humiliation until the London Games. Seeking redemption after blowing a gold-medal run in 2008, Jones perhaps was too slow, and without even tripping over a hurdle, she suffered a heartbreaker that will hurt for a while as she was supposed to be the comeback kid.

Considering that she’s a megastar in women’s track and field, engulfed in much tension and associated with negative publicity, she’s not famous only for her hurdling but sex appeal and marketing in which Jones attracts so much attention and plenty of hype because she’s gorgeous and sells products. It was four years later, not long after she burst into tears and missed out on Olympic gold, that Jones was burnt out from the annoying criticism and bashing, dealing with a remote crossroads and tough obstacles as she trained hard six days a week for the London Olympics.

The most hyped Olympian ever, finishing the 100-meter hurdles fourth and then walking off in shock Tuesday, stood at the finish line, with her eyes staring at the scoreboard, fighting away tears and holding back emotions as the gold medal slipped away ever so quickly. This time, it boiled down to a tight, nerve-racking finish, and then by the time Jones broke the tape to record a time of 12.58 seconds, her fastest time of the season, she still couldn’t medal to exceed expectations in the summer games. She was so disgusted, that she barely took a few minutes to congratulate second-place finisher Dawn Harper, the gold medalist in Beijing. The sight of her reaction was depressing and disheartening, and when she walked off promptly to escape from cameramen, she put her hands over her head and bent over, with tears flowing after enduring a gut-wrenching near miss.

The rain dropped softly, and as it was another lamentable night, she failed to prove she’s an athletic runner and not just a marketer, widely dissed by the media and critics for having no athleticism but an image and beauty that has ballooned her stardom. Having a beautiful smile and gorgeous looks that gives off a glow, Jones’ endorsements makes her rich and popular, not the way she performs on the track when she tries jumping over hurdles. The star of American track and field is the epitome of an overly beloved athlete treated like a heroine, making the cover of Time, along with a spread in Rolling Stone and a feature on, when she had not medaled in the Olympics. The American diva of Olympians is also the prototype of a supermodel and could have a second career as a famous TV personality, especially after appearing on late-night television as a guest on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno, where she was rather more entertaining in front of the camera than running a footrace that she has not seen much triumph in during the course of her prosaic Olympic career.

It was, at the very least, intriguing that she opened up publicly to offer her biography on a rough life story. It wasn’t always easy for Jones, growing up in poverty as a young girl and living in a church basement with her family. Growing up poor with practically nothing, her ex-con father taught her to shoplift but she refused to take such a horrific path, turning to sports for a new outlet and then became a track star in high school that earned her a scholarship to LSU. Shortly after her phenomenal college career at Louisiana State University that launched her Olympic career and formed unnecessary hype, she foolishly posed nude in a magazine, and then vowed to remain a virgin until marriage. She is coming off a career threatening injury, and made a strong recovery after undergoing spinal cord surgery. Days after the procedure, despite a speedy rehab that allowed Jones to resume intense training, it was believed to be that she wouldn’t ever race again.

It’s funny she’s overly advertised and portrayed as a winner, when truthfully she has not won a damn thing, sputtering on the biggest stage and fluffing her chances of proving to be one of the best hurdlers. But as it turns out, Jones is merely a Twitter sensation, a superwoman exposed to all the glamour and endorsement deals. So basically, she’s a marketing ploy, a woman with a sexy body and beautiful looks. There’s nothing more to it, and by thinking there’s more to it, then just flash back to the 2008 Beijing Olympics. I remember the race like it was yesterday, and not only was she in the lead for the 100-meter hurdle race, but right there at the finish line to secure the gold medal until hitting the last hurdle to finish seventh.

Talk about a heartbreaker. The standards are always more demanding for Olympic athletes when supporting and savoring high regards, leaving the athlete with no room to breathe or even commit failure. The weight of expectations is larger. The magnitude of failure is a concern. And the pressure of having to win and sustain near-perfection is hard and oppressive. By now Jones can see it, now that she is living through it and faces a sense of reality. She’s anything but golden. Not as advertised, she’s wrongly publicized. Not once in the Olympics has she ever been that good of a hurdler.

Australia’s Sally Pearson finished in 12.35 seconds, just .02 ahead of Harper to win gold. The other American medal-winner was Kellie Wells, an athlete who wasn’t nearly as popular or talked about. If you’ve been watching, then you certainly know of Lolo, a hurdler you cannot miss. It’s impossible to miss her, with all the attention she absorbs, which is not floating too well with a number of U.S. Olympic athletes. The Lolo drama is nothing more but an insult to them, a form of disrespect and disregard when two Americans beat Jones, who is so famous in London, she could have her reality show as the diva of pop culture and not a real athlete. Maybe she’s an idol, but she’s not an Olympian just because of her title in these games.

It doesn’t mean anything if she can’t ever win a medal. It doesn’t matter whether she’s a world indoor champion and first-place finisher at meets in Norway and Qatar. Wake me up when she wins at the Olympics. Until then, I’m sleeping on Lolo, a name that sounds like a baby lullaby. And, after all, she has been pouting and crying in these games, mad over a controversial New York Times magazine article last week that compared Jones to Anna Kournikova. The female tennis star has never won a Grand Slam singles final. So that’s not such a bad comparison quite frankly, in fact, it’s brilliant.

As it seems, at least for now, Jones is no crying or laughing matter. Try an American disgrace.

A fat hippo has a better chance of winning a race than she does.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Usain Bolt Strikes Lightning On London’s Brightest Stage

He is about to become the king of racing, to be precise. Taking off out of the starting block the minute the starting gun fired at Olympic Stadium, unfazed by the doubts and skeptics discounting him as the world’s fastest man, Usain Bolt hauled down the track, faster than a stampede of wildebeests. Well ahead of other sprinters to defend the Olympic 100-meter title Sunday night, he spread his arms in celebration, knowing nobody was behind him to catch up and deprive him of back-to-back resplendent performances, knowing he had just claimed the shiny hardware that he wore around his neck in Beijing four years ago.

As quickly as he dusted everyone in competition, he crossed the finish line and rolled his eyes, as the world’s fastest man alive celebrated, showboated, preened and bobbed his head. It also was Bolt bobblehead night at the center of Olympic Stadium, moving and jerking his head so much to revel in the moment after seizing another opportunity to win the 100-meter gold in 9.63 seconds, the second-fastest time ever run. After weeks of doubt, Bolt won the race, as usual, and kissed the ground, performed a somersault, struck his trademark lightning bolt pose and hugged his training partner and countryman Yohan Blake, who was second matching his personal best with a time of 9.75 seconds. There was an American who finished in the spotlight, as well, but Justin Gatlin lost for the first time this season, settling for bronze in a time of 9.79 seconds. Of course, Bolt was going to win the race — and not just by a step, but dust everyone in the fastest 100-meter dash you will ever see this generation. There’s no overstatement. Bolt, born and raised in Kingston, Jamaica, had the greatest footrace in history to burnish a wondrous legacy.

At age 25, he’s achieved more than the average Olympian, idolized in his native home Jamaica, including other parts of the world as people all over the universe savor his awesome, far-reaching speed, a natural born star treated like an almighty superstar worldwide. That’s what happens when a man has a signature race that we will certainly recall one day, as the incredible showman put on a breathtaking display no one will ever forget, flying faster than Carl Lewis, who is the only other sprinter to defend his 100 Olympic title. Jesse Owens? Not so sure about him… But I do know that Bolt ran the race under 10 seconds to truly become a sporting legend, maybe even one of the most attractive icons in the land of the USA, where he even featured in an ESPN Sportscenter commercial, where he’s marketable, which he is one of the world’s richest sports personalities.

Yet his sport isn’t nearly as respected as are football, basketball and baseball, the basic three Americans tend to follow, while we ignore track and field, which is only popular and eventful every four years that the summer games are in progress. Otherwise, nobody talks about Bolt, an athletic star just as famous and competitive as, say, Kobe Bryant, Tiger Woods, Derek Jeter, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and David Beckham. If he was born and raised in the U.S., he’d easily be seen among the greatest, but Bolt is a stud, an all-time great and is anointed all over the world, drawing all eyes as a sellout crowd of 80,000 chanted “Usain! Usain! Usain!” In these Olympics, shutting up the few who said he wasn’t fast enough to continue his dominance, Bolt, famously living up to his moniker, exploded to the finish just hours before Jamaica’s 50th anniversary of independence, giving his folks back home more reason to celebrate.

If you can beat Tyson Gay, the second-fastest man in the world, and also outrun Richard Thompson of Trinidad, who won silver in the event four years ago in China, then you know you are pretty damn fast. He also burned Blake, yes, his teammate who smoked Bolt twice in the 100 and 200 at the Jamaican Olympic trials, and folks wondered about Bolt’s health status that raised concern as to whether or not he could retain the men’s 100m title when indeed he secured another Olympic gold to add to his collection. From the water to the track, as we dwelled on U.S. swimmer Michael Phelps for the past week when he shattered an historic Olympic record and earned a massive total of 22 medals, 18 of them gold, now we are harping on the fastest creature to run. In a statement victory, followed by a standing ovation from an amazed crowd that witnessed a jaw-dropping, dramatic finish, he can wear the Jamaican flag around his shoulders like a superhero’s cape all he wants and can keep running on the track as if there’s a race to be ran.

From here on out, Bolt has a molded personality that best defines him, and so he won’t change anytime soon, as we’ve grown to accept his victory pose, his dancing and his obnoxious frowns and facial gestures. He is, nonetheless, entitled to do what he feels is necessary, winning again to bloom on the biggest stage and keep the Olympic cauldron burning until Sunday, thanks in large part to his fastness and finesse. The need to defy science is the least important to Bolt — running not for scientists’ curiosity of evaluating the speed of sprinters — but to compete in a sport that he trains hard for and succeeds in these days. The race, believe it or not, was collectively the fastest 100-meter race in history, when seven sprinters zipped across the finish line under 10 seconds for a track event that will forever be talked about. Soon after he left the block, running faster than the rest of the gang, he had separated himself from them and then he turned his head back and effortlessly brought it home, a familiar affair recognized in Beijing four years ago. It was a time he dominated the summer games, as well, owning the track at the Bird Nest in China, like the way he owns Olympic Stadium now to the point where it can be named after him.

Bolt Stadium?

No, he couldn’t set a world record but he didn’t really have to, and still ran like a ferocious animal. Had he ran harder, and not decided to relax, Bolt would have broken the world record easily. But he wasn’t concerned about the world record, and just cared about becoming a two-time champion in the same race, one that seems to expose his strength and no weaknesses. Better than ever, Bolt likes drama, he likes excitement, he likes the noise he makes, bringing plenty of action to a race every time he walks onto the track and sets up for a footrace that he usually wins ridiculously. The attention was more important, craving the spotlight more than he does actually winning a race? Hmmm. Maybe he does. Maybe he doesn’t.

But either way, that is, he certainly loves the limelight, which explains why he’s so flashy and is much of a showboat by his actions and facial expressions that doesn’t float too well for some who think Bolt is pompous and arrogant. Not the case whatsoever. But now, as we can see straight and clearly, he’s a competitor, an athlete who cares about his popularity and rather entertain a large crowd, win or lose. So by staying true to his word, a civilized and humanly unstoppable specimen, ran almost the perfect and fastest race.

In fact, he had to be flying as fast as a 90 mph fastball, quicker than a cheetah or dragsters. With his speed, just to ensure you, Bolt can have a second-career, once he’s done racing and start a business for public transportation that wheels people across a community in a four-wheeled wagon at high speed. Millions of people in America waited to witness the fastest man alive, Usain Bolt, as opposed to U.S. sprinters Gay and Gatlin. We adore the drama and gripping performances in sports, and with Bolt’s burst of speed, his much-hyped world records in the modern era of the 100-meter dash, attracting such a mass audience that he fascinates as he leans back with his arms slanted and the left hand pointing into the air, our folks are infatuated with Jamaica’s sprinting sensation.

If you’re not awestruck by this, then I don’t know what to tell you. It was the race of the ages, an instant classic, an Olympic games to remember.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Oscar Pistorius: ‘The Blade Runner’ Makes for Wonderful Story, So Don’t Ruin It

The folks of the Olympics don’t understand it, probably because Oscar Pistorius is different from everybody else, a double amputee born with no fibulas in his legs. It’s one of the many inspirational stories to ever bring a glow to the summer games, as the South African product ran in the 2012 Olympics on prosthetic legs, with millions inspired and overwhelmed having their sights on the fastest man with no legs.

The problem? Listen to what the naysayers are saying. The oblivious and dubious people are prejudice to the disabled, not kind allowing Pistorius to compete in these games, simply finding a convenient excuse to do whatever it takes to discourage him. But he refused to let the criticism stop him from seizing an opportunity that was finally given to him, and from a very young age, he’s always dreamed of getting into the action at the summer games. Fortunately, he was allowed to run with the world’s best after the International Association of Athletics Federations banned Pistorius from able-bodied events when tests conducted on him at German Sport University showed that his Cheetah blades gave him an advantage. Months later, the court attested that the IAAF had plundered his rights and violated its own rules, and with the concepts of science having a huge influence on their decision, he was unfairly excluded from qualifying for Beijing in 2008.

By now, with only nine days remaining until closing ceremonies, the swirling controversy circling around Pistorius, known as the “Blade Runner, is getting old and people are already fatigued by the endless debates. Why oh why must we ruin such a heartwarming story of a determined athlete who is handicap but has the mettle and self-command to work toward his passion and run with the able-bodies? Why oh why must we discriminate, and turn down a man different from other elite runners, yet he really isn’t much different from any one else? A day doesn’t pass without a tired conversation as to whether or not he belongs on the same track with able-bodied sprinters, an overblown and ignorant argument that has peeved our senses, well, some of us rather. What is there to argue?

Pistorius, like it or not, became the first double-amputee to compete in an Olympics. He also, like it or not, ran on the blades, the prosthetic legs people are negatively passing judgment and voicing opinions on without actually knowing if the blades are what gives him energy to dust able-bodies. Though the laboratories evaluated his blades, which delayed Pistorius’ Olympic eligibility, he dropped into the starting block. From the start, he was slow and couldn’t pick up speed but finally burst out of the crowd, and as a result, he finished in 45.44 seconds Saturday morning, one of his best times this season. That would be good enough for advancing into Sunday’s semifinal round of the 400-meter qualifying to hopefully finish in the top eight of the round to qualify for Monday’s final.

When he is running, as you probably notice, Pistorius’ legs make it seem as if he’s soaring and not actually running. It’s like he’s flying to give us his best imitation of Michael J. Fox on a hover board. It’s like he’s living in the year of 2030, or something. The footrace ended, and Pistorius had qualified for the next round, in sight of advancing further and pulling off the unthinkable. Among all things, now that he’s finally here reaching new heights as a runner, Pistorius is just graceful and happy to be belting along at full speed in these Olympics. He has been training diligently for these games for years and it has certainly paid off. He is stepping into the scene in hopes to stun the world, and he has the heart, he has the spirit, disallowing a birth defect to obstruct a sports career.

But to say he’s not allowed and that his blades gives him an advantage is injustice and folly 24 years after he had his legs amputated. It’s not his fault he was born without fibulas, but still turned into one of the world’s fastest runners with no legs, amazingly keeping pace with the able-bodies that makes for a wonderful book on one of the gorgeous heroic tale. There are signs that his prosthetics are an unfair competitive advantage to abled-bodied runners, but we really don’t know, no matter what scientists tells us, no matter what scientists wants us to believe. The same could be said about Pistorius, unfairly mistreated to take action against healthy runners. The effort of the Court of Arbitration for Sport to reinstate him, after track and field’s international governing body briefly banned him from able-bodied competition briefly, allowed Pistorius to compete — once two scientists confirmed his blades gave him extra propulsion.

He is, indeed, amazing and inspiring that encourage disabled athletes to take on sports and overcome adversity, opening doors for someone handicap, not as fortunate as those with arms and legs that allows them to perform at the highest level in whatever sport they decide trying. It’s only an insult to keep knocking him, downgrading him and disrespecting him, with the human race diminishing the magnitude of inspiration, encouragement, motivation, drive and dedication he brings to mind, uplifting the confidence of others willing to become stimulated with the challenge of overcoming a disability and not letting it stop a person from reaching his or her ambitions. Used to the doubt, Pistorius takes it as motivation. Used to the negative publicity, Pistorius runs harder every time he’s in for a dogfight.

Even if he doesn’t win, he’s still a winner just for hanging with the able-bodied runners, dauntless and courageous to expose his talent with help from his artificial legs. But while I’m OK with him out there, no different from anybody else who I’m fair to as well, you aren’t fine by him racing and think he should only be sprinting in the Paralympics when he has every damn right to have fun in London on his vicious Cheetah blades. Scientists, and it figures, are trying to study him as if he’s a science experiment, and the research has been vague and false, not sure what to believe. There’s no evidence to prove whether or not Pistorius’ blades offers an advantage, and we can only speculate and theorize, just as scientists can predict and try hard to sound intelligent when deep down they don’t know the truth about these blades themselves. In specifics, the carbon-fiber Cheetah Flex-Feet is what he’s wearing to race, the artificial legs he used for the 2004 Athens Paralympics, where he won gold in the 200 to shatter the world record.

Maybe he’s an unfair advantage. Maybe not. But, no matter what, he’s this year’s delightful story.

Let’s not make this an episode of Sports Science but a story of inspiration.

Friday, August 3, 2012

2012 Olympics: Allyson Felix Tries to Exceed Expectations

Allyson Felix sprints into Olympic Stadium with a glare in her eyes, and the body language of a serious competitor, the kind of vibes she brings to racing. It’s about her intensity and emotions, building a winning attitude, on a mission to smoke each sprinter in London and sell a million of Nike shoes, feature on the front cover of sports magazines and be immortalized on Kellogg’s cereal boxes.

The pressure is on as she can rise to stardom, already a rising star in these games, considering that she’s one of America’s fastest women in the world. When she finally arrived in London, after training hard in Los Angeles for the 2012 Summer Olympics, she could have run a marathon around Great Britain. The reigning three-time world 200m champion, Felix, enters as favorite with Veronica Campbell-Brown of Jamaica standing in her way to once again try and unhinge her pursuit of becoming the next beautiful American dream. These games feels like her moment to capture the world’s attention, her moment to shine, proudly wearing the red, white and blue of the United States, representing a nation where it has produced some of the top competitors to take on elite Olympians from all over the world.

Thus, she has twice finished second to Campbell-Brown in the 200-meter at the Games after qualifying in heats running onto the track with a goal on her mind. The two-time silver medalist insisted she is much-improved and can win multiple gold medals, as her goal of winning seems well within reach. She’s dreaming about earning her gold, not silver, which she won at the age of 18 at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens. The weigh of expectations that she may not exceed, the notion of failure and incompleteness are what the naysayers are thinking about, not kind to give her the benefit of the doubt, although four years later makes a difference in one’s performance.

Even at 26, Felix has been mentioned in the same breath as Marion Jones and has the weight her on shoulders to try and surpass a former U.S. sprinter whose sensational performance in Sydney was later tainted because of performance-enhancing drugs. In contrast, Felix has never tested positive for banned substances, which means nobody has placed an asterisk next to her incredible mark. Not once in her Olympic career has she fallen from grace or into deep shame. The world will be looking on to watch Felix hopefully sprint her way into the finish for an elusive individual Olympic gold medal, when she is arguably the fastest U.S. sprinter in track and field nowadays, with another crack to post an exceptional time and have a personal best in the 200 for the first time since in five years. The notion of track and field is that competition is about the fastest, strongest, or toughest, and Felix might just be the fastest, strongest, or toughest woman in these games, a track star who is gifted to blow past every runner in both the 100 and 200.

If she strides in the 100 and solidifies her Olympic career, for the most part, she will be a megastar in the world of track and field. If not, she will have to live with the doubt and misery of failing to capture a gold medal. In the women’s sprints, with all the attention pointing in her direction and really no one else’s, Felix is the more talked-about athlete and is joined by Carmelita Jeter and Tianna Madison. You’ve seen Felix race down the track like a cheetah on the prowl, a burst of speed during the final seconds of her race. At top speed, she just keeps running, on the flat surfaces as thousands of spectators watch from the stands amaze by her incredible agility and swiftness, dashing to the finish with an unbelievable time. For years now, she’s been running, training hard to develop her craft and preparing specifically for these games.

For years, she has been doubted and disrespected as much as she’s finally gotten the credit where credit is due, including in these Olympics favorite to walk away with the bright hardware that she hopes to drape around her neck this time around, awestruck by her improvement and odds of beating the Jamaican girl and other sprinters. With Felix in the middle of the strangest controversy due to a mishandled runoff, in which she and Jeneba Tarmoh finished in a dead heat for the USA’s final spot in the 100 meters, she just missed qualifying for the 100, a race Jeter won as Madison crossed the line second. And when she was disgusted by her fourth-place finish at the U.S. Olympic track and field trials in Eugene, Ore., while a review of the race conceded that Felix and Tarmoh finished in a dead beat, Tarmoh withdrew from a runoff and Felix was given the spot in the Olympic 100.

It’s no coincidence that we are embracing her as a true heroine or either an American disillusionment, an iconic sprinter anticipated to have a few races of her lifetime, particularly after Tarmoh determined the final Olympic spot by barely beating Felix for third place before it was overturned. Heretofore, she really wasn’t even eligible to compete in her best event, a race that exposes her strength and rarely a weakness and a few other activities she takes on in the summer games. It seems more people like her chances, including disbelievers, which she can likely come away with the gold. It may just be her time to spice up the games for the American folks watching from coast to coast, from state to state, from city to city, from living room to living room, from TV set to TV set.

We tend to fall in love with our superstars in America, and when it involves mano-a-mano competition that comprise of U.S. athletes, then viewers are willing to pay close attention. Felix, win or lose, does give us a show, sprinting as fast as she can, not to only awe spectators but chase her dream of standing tall on the podium with Olympic gold around her neck. This time, it was Felix who won her heat easily on Friday in a time of 11.01 seconds, advancing to Saturday’s semifinals and angling for well-respected, a most precious prize of representing a country as an Olympian. Her coach happens to be Florence Griffith-Joyner, the husband of Jackie Joyner-Kersee.

Her performances and speed, although she has not brought the same kind of intensity into the Olympics, is what allows her to own the moniker as the fastest women in the United States, if not the world. From her body of work, which has been seen over the years, she has won three world championships in the 200 meter and finished second at the 2004 and 2008 Olympics. But if she’d like to post the quickest time and respectively finish first to accept the gold medal, an award she has been dreaming of and running after for years, Felix must beat rival Campbell-Brown. Felix saw an opportunity to accomplish her No. 1 goal, as she stated so often over the years.

She wants gold, not silver, not bronze. Gold.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Michael Phelps’ Historic Feat Enriches Legacy

On Thursday night, he became the king of swimming, the face of a sport that has taken over the Summer Olympics during a generation that Michael Phelps has swam for gold medals in the age of the Swimming Gold Rush. Once again, as winning is common, he amplified his incremental legacy at the London Aquatics Centre and remarkably is the most decorated Olympian ever, piling up his 20th medal at the 2012 London Games — and as Phelps finishes his outstanding career on top — he can retire from the sport with a bang.

If this is the end, he could wind up with an offer and television deal to broadcast swimming competitions for a TV network, or he may even get an itch and compete in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio, which his mother, Debbie Phelps, is hoping he decides not to call it quits with a sport he’s dominated so well. And at these games, he’s now a 20-time medalist, 16 of them gold, and no doubt will go down as the greatest Olympian of all-time.

This was a race for Phelps to cherish for sure, an individual swim that will send him into retirement on a high note. As he celebrated at the medal ceremonies, again, as always, Phelps stepped onto the podium, smiled as the national anthem blasted out of the loudspeaker and stared into the air and fought back tears as the United States flag rose to the rafters. It marked the first time at these games that he won an individual gold medal, finally looking like the old Phelps we all knew so well in Athens and Beijing.

Four years ago, he stood on the podium every night, as he did today, with gold draped around his neck. Eight years ago, he collected more gold than Scrooge McDuck, and surely, America applauded him for becoming a then-14-time Olympic gold medalist. That was then. This is now. He was finally swimming like a streamlined dolphin, if not better, a human fish darting his way through the water. He had won the 200-meter individual medley and beaten his rival who burned him last weekend, teammate Ryan Lochte.

Now maybe he can attend a Ravens’ home game and feature on the Jumbotron in a video shot and be given a standing ovation. Now maybe he can make a late-night TV appearance with David Letterman. In what could actually be his final Olympics, Phelps is swimming as someone who is refocused and rejuvenated, willing to continue his quest for gold. He is, incredibly, a coveted and exuberant swimmer, be it painstaking training that has been his means to fame and fortune throughout a lustful generation of unthinkable performances and massive records, done brilliantly in the pool from Sydney to Athens to Beijing to London. There still are two more events remaining on his schedule, and by the time competition comes to a close, he can fly back to his hometown of Baltimore with five golds and two silvers in seven races. The race he will remember more than the rest would be the 200 IM at these summer games.

It was payback, in a sense, a way to get even with his teammate. This time around, he edged out Lochte by .63 seconds and won a gleaming gold medal to add to a priceless collection. Amazingly but realistically, Phelps’ long torso helped him paddle through the water. This time around, as expected, he crashed into the wall to secure Olympic gold for likely the last time individually if he doesn’t claim the gold medal in his last individual race and doesn’t chose to come back in four years to have yet another historic feat that he navigates so brilliantly and incredibly.

This time around, as anticipated, he’s not only the most decorated Olympian of all time with 20 medals, but also the first male swimmer to win a third straight 200 IM at the Olympics. In his first event, he was sluggish and lethargic, getting out of the water lost and dazed. But after he was blown out of the water on the night of the 400-meter individual medley by gold medalist Lochte, Phelps never seemed lazy, or complacent, or bored. There were times, such as last weekend, when he looked weary and uninspired but it just so happened that Lochte burned him in The Great Race. And suddenly, he won and made it clear that he’s still the greatest to ever touch water in these Olympics.

He wasn’t here just to get his feet wet, or wasn’t here to be anointed for what he’s done in the past, or wasn’t even here for prestige but arrived to London optimistic and fit to win more Olympic gold. He said he plans to retire, but sometimes athletes get that itch and then decide to come out of retirement to compete again, emotionally missing the sport they truly are fond of committing much of their life to. Phelps, to be straightforward, may deliberate on his retirement and could end up coming back four years from now. But he likely won’t swim in Brazil for the 2016 Summer Olympics, and the last thing he wanted was to be denied of his individual gold.

The swimming competition is more competitive, with Phelps swimming like he’s obligated to the sport, and he has reigned atop the sport for four straight summer games. More and more swimmers are stroking along to join the chlorine-soaked fun, with Phelps jumping into the water with much inspiration and enthusiasm and having the knack for swimming. For much of these Olympics, it was a slew of nostalgia and greatness. For much of these games, we relished shouting for one of the best and well-accomplished athletes in American history. For much of these swimming pool activities, we savored witnessing Phelps make a splash and transcend to the top of the world — a heartfelt story we’ll dwell on for ages.

This is something we’d be able to tell our children, our grandchildren, and if we’re bless to live long enough, maybe even or great grandchildren. The remarkable achievements in an unparalleled swimming career cannot be duplicated and no Olympic athlete will ever surpass Phelps’ historic record-setting 20 medals. Just when we thought it was the end of an era, he was no longer flat, weary or worn down but had sighed in relief and was finally back to chase greatness. People doubted Phelps about swimming in his fourth Olympics. But it lasted no time. The next day he was back in the water, where he amazed spectators and our fellow Americans, apparently consuming our consciousness. Phelps is not only a 20-time medalist, he’s one of the nation’s popular icons, representing a reflection of nationalism.

This also brings back memories of his historic eight gold medals four years ago. In this day and age, Phelps is obviously not unbeatable, flashing back to the days he’d paddle rapidly through the liquid and out-touch all swimmers for the gold medal. You can’t argue that he’s not among the best. He is among the best, but can’t race as good and hard as he once did. After that lousy performance last week, he swam solid the rest of the way to end his colorful career. He won this race without getting humiliated and worked his long arms and legs to hold the lead, until he had to make the transition to the backstroke.

A weakness for Phelps, Lochte hastily snuck up on him, swimming faster than ever, gaining confidence and suddenly keeping pace with him. But it wasn’t enough, not to beat Phelps, who stayed in the lead and broke away from the other swimmers in the freestyle to win. He touched the wall and then turned his head to look at the scoreboard for the results. As expected, Phelps won the race and Lochte finished second for the silver. When they both reached for the wall, they were fatigued, barely able to climb out of the pool.

We’ll always remember Phelps. We’ll always embrace these particular games, ones he competed in, ones that he enriched the nature of swimming. He will go down as one of the best American athletes the Olympics has ever seen. He’s a champion but he’s also one of the greatest Olympians for generations to come.

Gabby Douglas Morphs Into World’s Greatest Gymnast

Gabby Douglas was given the nickname Flying Squirrel for a reason.


That girl can fly and has become a gymnast of distinction and charm, an athletic figure with courage and guts of a stuntwoman, a young lady of soul and aplomb. Ladies and gentlemen, at long last the demographics of gymnastics for the Americans are greatly meaningful. That means gymnastics is back to normal with a teenager putting the U.S women’s gymnastics team back on a pedestal. At a young age, Douglas’ had nothing else on her mind other than to pursue her dream of becoming a gymnast. And look where she’s at today. She’s an Olympian, and not just a star of the sport, but a winner, a 16-year-old who left her family to fulfill her dream in Des Moines.

So here was her starting point, and as it happened late Thursday afternoon, she had an exceptional performance in her Olympic all-around debut. The exuberance and calmness she showed in competition was roughly an advantage for her to perform her routines brilliantly and in style, and because Gabrielle Douglas stayed calmed and nailed her acrobatic and signature floor routines, she secured the all-around gold medal making her the first African American to win the women’s all-around gymnastics championship at the London Olympics. She won one of the more popular events in gymnastics, wonderfully fitting the same category as Mary Lou Retton, Carly Patterson and Nastia Liukin, who are the only other Americans to win the Olympic all-around gold. After the victory, she stepped up to the podium with a widened smile, just as shiny as her gold medal, an electric smile that will feature on Wheaties boxes and gleam on magazine covers.

With a gold medal draped around her neck, becoming the fourth female American gymnast to win the Olympic all-around title, Douglas heard the national anthem as the American flag lifted to the rafters. A bouquet in one hand, while showing off her gold, she celebrated on the brightest stage and fought back tears — a touching ending to the opening chapter of a promising future ahead. It was a day of perseverance and self-confidence as Douglas came into a stiff competition with the Russians, Victoria Komova and Aliya Mustafina. The mind-blowing gold medal win happened when we least expected it, from a girl no one every thought would beat Russian sensation Mustafina, but as we witnessed with our own two eyes, Douglas was fierce and had mental toughness all along. On the subject of Douglas, a fiery competitor who gave it her best, she competes with heart and has the mettle to flourish into a star after a historic breakthrough that reshaped the brand of USA Gymnastics.

Douglas, who also became the first U.S. woman ever to win gold in both the team competition and all-around, earned a staggering 62.232 score, beating Komova and Mustafinia. The Russians couldn’t secure the gold medal, as they would have liked. But, in the end of it all, Komova got the silver and Mustafinia ended up with the bronze. And unfortunately, Aly Raisman, Douglas’ teammate, failed to keep her balance on the beam and fell short of winning the bronze in a tiebreaker, so settled for fourth place.

It’s amazing to see a young black woman reach her dream, becoming an American gymnast and representing our country with dignity and pride. She was one of the more lucky ones who made it, and on the top of it, won a pair of Olympic gold. Not many teenagers can leave London and tell you stories for ages about the time they’ve won gold medals. Not many teenagers can tell you stories about battling it out with world-class athletes all over the world. Not many teenagers can tell you they represented this country and played a sport in the summer games that they are profoundly obligated to playing.

But Gabby can tell you. She can also later decide to be the subject of a book if she chooses to write a story about her Olympic adventure as a young girl in London. Meanwhile, she may have broken the color barriers for African Americans who’ve always had a dream to push toward gymnastics. The Russians were supposed to win gold in both the team and all-around competition and were more experienced and talented, but couldn’t match Douglas’ level of performances. It had to be a proud accomplishment for Douglas to beat two of the best gymnasts Russia could offer, and certainly she took on the challenge, confronted the tension and exceeded expectations as the United States were long overdue and were finally superior again, with Gabby anchoring the USA gymnastics team.

When she took the lead early on, and while Komova and Mustafinia made critical mistakes to smear their hopes of Olympic gold, she never lost it and continued to perform her routines perfectly, crushing the Russian girls’ hearts in an unevenly matched competition to say the least. What happened was, needing almost a perfect score to move into the lead, Komova became more and more frustrated, more and more unconfident and uncertain of herself, a bit intimidated against the United States. Douglas began the night at North Greenwich Arena atop the scoreboard, and from then on out, she never looked back, holding on to a commanding lead. After the final results, Komova finished with a 15.1, well short of Douglas’ impressive score. Silver, nonetheless, was awarded to Komova, after all. Bronze, however, was awarded to Mustafinia.

The four all-around scores for Douglas, no surprise, ranged from 15.033 to 15.996, giving her enough cushion to fall sound asleep in the middle of the competition and then wake up hours later with the lead still. In over three days, amazingly — for those who haven’t watched closely — she earned a 15.000 or better in 11 of 12 performances. She’s a breakout gymnasts, a star who was born. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is a rarity for a sport of equilibrium and coordination. As a teenager with lots of energy, she is alarming and adept at keeping her balance, extremely gifted at leaping and rotating in the air. It’s very seldom, well, from what we’ve seen all week, that Douglas makes an error, and usually she breezes through the routines and racks up an overwhelming score.

When it comes to gymnastics, no one ever imagined Douglas morphing into the world’s greatest gymnasts, surmounting past her teammate and friend Jordyn Wieber, the reigning world champion and was a favorite entering the Olympics last week but failed to qualify for the gymnastics all-around final. But then a new kid arrived on the block, and stunned the world. There were no burden of expectations, not even once did she fear failure.

She wasn’t fearful of the challenge and never ran from pressure, but grasped the opportunity to dig for gold.

And certainly, she was motivated and in demand to get her hands on that gold.

She is remarkably good as gold.