Archive » August 9, 2012
Olympics have been surprisingly fun
By Willis Jacobson, Staff Writer
I’ll admit, when it comes to the Olympics I’m usually less than enthused.
I don’t know if it’s the sometimes bizarre competitions (Table tennis? Synchronized diving?), the always over-done pageantry or just a general apathy involving many of the less popular sports, but I’ve never been one to really get into the event.
This year, probably due more to this being the first Olympics of the social media era than any change in my own attitude, that hasn’t been the case. Between all the complaints about tape-delayed coverage and the minor controversies caused by athletes’ continual inability to get a grasp on Twitter, these Games have actually proven to be interesting, if not at times captivating.
For those who appreciate dominance, the usual suspects have certainly provided that thus far. Michael Phelps presented even more evidence that Mermen may in fact walk among us as he brought in six more medals to up his overall total to an unprecedented 22, including a record 18 golds, four of them from this summer. Usain Bolt was nearly as dominant on land, as he breezed his way to another gold medal and Olympic record in the 100 meters – and this was after a pre-race meal of McDonald’s.
Other household names to take care of business include Serena Williams, who claimed gold on the All-England Club tennis courts, though the only surprise was that it was her first such individual title, and the members of the U.S. men’s basketball team, who are so far living up to the hype, a slight scare against Lithuania notwithstanding.
Beyond those anticipated successes, though, there have been a few surprises from London, both good and bad.
On the positive side, there was the U.S. women’s gymnastics team. I am by no means an expert when it comes to gymnastics, but the U.S. “Fab Five,” including historic individual all-around gold medalist Gabby Douglas, apparently saved their best for the biggest stage. As did the U.S. women’s soccer team, which seems to have a flair for the dramatic when it comes to international tournaments.
One of the biggest disappointments of the Games – and not necessarily from an athletic standpoint, but just a “what was he thinking” standpoint – came courtesy of Italian Alex Schwazer. If you’ve never heard of him, don’t feel bad: He’s a race-walker. Schwazer, a defending world champion who holds the Olympic walking record, finally got in the headlines, though it was for his failed doping test and admission of guilt rather than his great skill of walking really fast in a style usually reserved for last-second restroom visits. If we can’t trust walkers to stay clean, who can we trust?
There is also the case of Lolo Jones, who arrived in London as the most hyped female track athlete – due in large part to her candor about her sex-life, or lack thereof – and will be leaving Great Britain with no neck-wear to show for her efforts. As if the backlash she has received from the media wasn’t enough, Jones has also had to endure the collective cold shoulder from many of her more successful teammates who feel the spotlight should instead be on them. With her marketable looks and personality, Jones will certainly have success ahead of her. Here’s hoping that some of it occurs on the track.
Perhaps the biggest local story of the Olympics was that of Solvang resident Todd Rogers and teammate Phil Dalhausser, the defending gold medalists in men’s beach volleyball. The duo, who have their own “fan club” here in the Valley, were upset by an Italian team in the round of 16 and saw their run as world champs come to a surprisingly quick end.
At 38 years old, Rogers said that this year’s Games will mark his retirement from international play. Here in the Valley, at least one member of the Rogers-Dalhausser fan club said it was a fun ride while it lasted.
“We are still proud of them even making it that far,” said Julie Masonheimer, who also happens to be Rogers’ mother-in-law. “They are still two-time Olympian players and that can’t ever be taken away from them.” When these Olympics wrap up on Aug. 12, the attention here in America will return to the NFL, which is beginning its preseason. If NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has his way, pretty soon the Olympics will feature NFL stars. Noting that American-style football is currently played in 64 countries, Goodell said he would like to see the sport make it to the Olympic stage.
While this might sound far-fetched – the injury factor, short time span and almost certain U.S. dominance would seem to be the biggest hurdles – I wouldn’t count it out. After all, it can’t be more ridiculous than trampoline competitions and juiced-up walkers. email@example.com