August 20, 2012
by Oliver Layco
Alpha and Omega; the beginning and the end. That was a theme I found recurrent throughout these London games. It was the end of many legendary careers and the beginning of some. Phelps, Treanor, Jennings, Bolt, US Men’s Basketball over 23 years old; Franklin, Kessy, Ross, Davis. Those are the names that belong to some of the most prolific Olympians who are ending their careers and some who are just getting started.
Michael Phelps entered these games with the potential to become the most decorated Olympian of all time. He was the easy favorite to win all the events that he was set to compete in. Yet, when time came, he barely qualified for the first final of these Games. Then in the final of the 400m IM, he didn’t even reach the medal stand. This took people back and everyone started to get on his case. Then the next two races, he ‘only’ got the silver medal. For anyone else this would be an accomplishment in itself, but for someone of his background, it only let the doubters come out. Fortunately for him, he would strike gold during the Men’s 4X200m freestyle and would never look back. Since that race, he won gold for the remainder of his events. None more significant than the last one; which set him apart from anyone else in history. At 22 overall medals he stands alone as the king of Olympians. He has promised that these would be his last Olympics, but only time will tell if he can truly stay away from the thrill.
While Phelps’ was winding down his career, Missy Franklin was just getting started. At only 17 years old, the potential is extremely high for what this young woman can accomplish. She was also a symbol for the people of Aurora Colorado. After that horrific shooting, the people there needed someone they could relate to and rally around. As if competing in the Olympics wasn’t pressure enough, she now was carrying a city on her shoulders. With the exception of one bronze medal, she was golden through and through. Her infectious smile and positive attitude made her an instant favorite once she received her first medal. She even set a world record in the process! She appeared so humble in front of all the lights, that she was really an inspiration to more than just her hometown. When she goes back to school in the fall, I bet her “What I did over summer” essay will be one hell of a story.
In the realm of beach volleyball, Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh-Jennings looked to remain perfect in their Olympic careers. They never lost a set or match since the Athens Olympics in 2004 and were looking to 3-peat. Everything looked like it was going according to plan, but they had a misstep when they faced the Schwaiger sisters of Austria. It seemed like they took it personally and they came back stronger and fiercer than seen before. When they reached the gold medal game, they went up against another team of American’s. This is funny in a way that this could’ve been the passing of the torch if Ross and Kessy were able to pull off the upset. Instead, Treanor and Walsh took over and showed off their veteran savvy and won the gold medal. This is the end of their time competing but I’m sure we’ll see more from those ‘other’ Americans that won the silver.
The focal point of Track and Field in London was none other than Usain Bolt. The man who showed off his cockiness yet was cool enough to be relatable. He was able to walk the walk and talk the talk. There was just nothing I could find that people couldn’t like about him. However, there were a few missteps in the qualifying rounds in his home of Jamaica. He ‘only’ placed second in his qualifying runs. He had the same pressure as Phelps in that first place is the only option. He took this loss as motivation to really push himself; and suffice to say, he didn’t disappoint. When the final of the 100m came on, you could see in his eyes that he was focused and there was no way he would lose. He came out and bolted for that gold medal. He smiled and had his signature pose for the cameras as he ran his victory lap; and he wasn’t done by any means. He won gold in the 200m and Jamaica won the 4×100 relay. For him the celebration will be ongoing. He even called himself a legend, and for the most part he’s not wrong. No one in history has done what he just did. There’s a chance he could compete in 2016 in Rio, but whether or not he’ll be in top form is another question. I don’t mean to eclipse the other athletes who had amazing results in their respective events, but Usain Bolt was the main attraction. Allyson Felix, Sanya Richards-Ross, Carmelita Jeter and others all got rid of personal demons that were haunting them and they deserve recognition for their work.
As for the US Men’s Basketball team, they were the odds on favorite to win the gold medal. The next favorite would be the silver medalists from 2008, Spain. This iteration of the Dream Team would even go so far as to say they would beat the 1992 Dream Team that featured Jordan, Bird, and Magic; amongst other Hall of Famers. For me, the 2012 team never played up to their potential except for one game against Nigeria. Now, this was Nigeria’s first time competing in the Olympics, but the US laid the smackdown on them and beat them by 83 points. During that game they set records for everything it seemed like. Highest margin of victory (83), most 3-pointers made (29), and points by a single player (37); that record held by Carmelo Anthony in only 14 minutes of play! Imagine if he played like that in the NBA. Other than that, they weren’t as dominant as their 1992 counterparts. Granted international competition has gotten better since then, but still, there’s a certain expectation of these superstars. Even the final scores weren’t a real story of their games. Most of the time they would struggle in the first half while other countries remained close. Yet in the second half, they would flip a switch and play like they should’ve played the whole game. In the gold medal match, it was reminiscent of the 2008 match. Spain would be close throughout and the US of A wouldn’t pull away until the closing minutes. The heroes this time was a combination of Kevin Durant and LeBron James. Irony behind this is they were battling for NBA supremacy just last June. But that’s the beauty of these games, players can put aside personal rivalries for something bigger than themselves. This could be the last possibility we see these superstars due to a rule the NBA commissioner wants to enact for the 2016 games where the oldest players can be 23. By this standard, Anthony Davis will be the only player returning to the games in Rio. This makes no sense because the USA made a strong push in the past to include professional players and now we’re just going backwards. They may not say it, but the NBA owners and Stern just see this as a money issue. So this could very well be the last we see of the USA’s best competing in Olympic basketball.
Through all the NBC tape delays that made no sense, these Olympics were something else. London put out an extravagant opening and closing ceremony that will be remembered. The athletes themselves lived up to the hype and exceeded it. If this is the end of some Olympic careers and the beginning of others, it was a proper send off for the legendary athletes that we won’t see in Rio. And who knows, maybe I can make it to Rio.