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My Olympic experience has been a bittersweet one. I spent a few days in Germany with family relaxing before the pedal got put to the floor here in London. Seeing our U.S. wrestlers not reach their potential in goals is depressing, I’ve never experienced anything like it to this level as at the Games. You just know for many of them this truly is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. It’s cliché, I know, but very true in many sports like wrestling.
Aside from that, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed London and the Olympic experience. As many readers read from my last column in the print issue read, this is my fifth Olympics. It’s the third that WIN has been fortunate enough to have a credential. To frame up how significant that is….there’s only two “wrestling-only” media members who have credentials outside of USA Wrestling’s staff. Andrew Hipps from Intermat, and myself.
In the previous two Olympics, my credential has gotten me only into the wrestling venue. Though I’ve seen some other sports, it’s been spotty as I’ve bought or been given tickets. But this year, my credential is an all-venue credential. As an all-around sports fan who’s come to love the entire Games experience, it’s has been incredible.
The first night I got into town I was able to see Michael Phelps’ second-to-last gold medal swim and Missy Franklin’s world-record, gold-medal performance. I attended the press conference afterwards as well. Though I don’t follow swimming, seeing and hearing about Team USA in swimming and the young talent they have coming up got me excited about the sport’s future in our country. That was a week ago today, on Friday night.
But Saturday night topped them all. The women’s 100-meter dash final was being run at Olympic stadium, so I really went there to see that. But what played out leading up to that final was historic. Many of you have probably saw it on TV, or have seen the replays, but it truly was the greatest hour in Great Britain’s sports history. GB’s face of the Olympics, Jessica Ennis, won the grueling heptathlon by finishing first in the 800 meters. And Great Britain’s Mo Farah won the 10,000 meter (with the U.S. getting second) and their long jumper won as well. This was all in the span of 44 minutes. It was remarkable.
The noise and energy coming from Olympic stadium were contagious. Even if you weren’t cheering for their athletes in particular, you couldn’t help but get caught up in it. As one British journalist said to me, it was as if that was Britain’s breakout night as a country. He described them as a people with pride in their athletics and for who they are as a country, for sure. But they’ve been content with being in the standings (in the Games or otherwise), or maybe being a respectable runner-up in sports was sufficient. Not that night.
That was a night that will go down in history for them. Their Olympic slogan, “Inspire a Generation”, started with that hour. We won’t know for years, but there’s potential of a seismic shift in the way the country views sports and the importance they put towards it because of Ennis and Farah in particular. Two million people put in for tickets for that that night, the stadium holds 80,000.
And I was able to be about 25 feet from the finish line! It was magical, to say the least. And it was a true privilege.
I attended that press conference afterwards, and got to hear their true stories. Ennis talked of the pressure being almost too strong to handle. Farah was a character, joking constantly and talking about ending the continent of Africa’s dominance in those long-distance races. And the story was told about helping his American training partner, Galen Rupp, place as well. Rupp got a remarkable second.
The next night at the track was enjoyable as well watching Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt defended his 100-meter crown. (But it didn’t compare to the previous night.)
Hearing the jovial Bolt in that press conference was a lot of fun too. He is supremely confident as everyone knows. And he boldly told the world and that room of reporters and broadcasters his goal is to become a legend in sports. He said that would be accomplished when he won the 200 meters on Thursday night. And he went out and accomplished that feat last night.
In addition to those headliners, I was also able to attend the women’s gymnastic final for floor exercise and men’s horizontal bars final. I also saw a good portion of the gold-medal match for men’s team table tennis (a first for me), a quarterfinal men’s beach volleyball game with the U.S. in it, saw the Dream Team play against Argentina and saw the U.S. women win gold last night in soccer.
And now the U.S. attention shifts to Excel London, and Jordan Burroughs and Sam Hazewinkel’s time to shine. Stay glued to the televisions and WIN’s Internet site for real-time details.
Here’s to this being “our” time to shine for U.S. wrestling. Two gold medals for Team USA will also be big as we race to stay ahead of China overall. Go Team U.S.A.!