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Stevens: Fans shared favorite Olympic memories
Photo: Tamyra Mensah Stock (second from left) posed for a photo with the three other medalists at 68 kg. Media loved Mensah Stock at the Tokyo Games. (John Sachs photo)
By Sandy Stevens
If my recent Facebook query were an Olympic challenge, Tamyra Mensah-Stock would still have captured the gold!
After record-setting performances by the USA, I posed this question: “Looking back at the success of U.S. wrestlers at the just-concluded Olympics, what was your absolute favorite moment?”
Tamyra excited the most respondents, among them Joy Glynn, Sally Roberts, Pat Tocci, Holly Hale, Stephani Quesinberry Price, Gary Schaefer, Becky Buckles Willhite, Derek Waldroup, Bruce Nyerges, Tom Mancini, Hey Jacob, Rob Williamson and Jim L. Brown, as the champion’s unfettered post-match celebration garnered the most reactions.
Jonathan Walsh: “Tamyra’s post-win speech was amazing, how proud she was to represent the United States, as opposed to other female athletes kneeling.”
Giovanni Datolli: “Her impact on the whole team and how they showed their hand hearts along the way speaks to how special her presence was for the whole team. As the ‘heart’ and soul of the team, Mensah Stock stands out above all.”
Kat Balch: “Tamyra’s genuine self out on display after her matches AND in her interviews.”
Rob Williamson: “Tamyra’s reaction when she saw (coaches) Terry and Izzy and absolutely lost it.”
Sue Tellgren: “Tamyra’s hug with Coach Steiner and Izzy.”
Bud Hennebaul: “Who needs gymnastics? We have Tamyra!”
Amy Panteleo: “Tamyra’s pride in representing our country and immediate thought of using her winnings to fulfill her mom’s dream. Complete selflessness.”
Larry Allen: “Tamyra’s interview after winning the gold medal, celebrating the flag and being American. She had me in tears.”
Sara Levin: “Tamyra’s post-win interview. Reporter: ‘In your wildest dreams, did you think you could do this?’ Tamyra: ‘YES! In my wildest dreams, I KNEW I could!’”
Chris McGowan: “Not only was her post-match interview the best wrestling moment, it may have been the best in the Olympic Games. She belongs on a Wheaties box!”
Second in favorite moments was Gable Steveson’s stunning comeback, prompting these comments:
Corey Christenson: “Don’t ever give up! Gable’s big win!”
Trent Farris: “When Gable Steveson looked up at the ref in excited disbelief and asked if the takedown resulted in ‘2.’”
Ken Klingman: “Gable’s last-second win!”
Chris Willaert: “I’ll go with two takedowns in 13 seconds or whatever that was by Steveson.”
Marquise Camp Sr.: “Gabe’s match and seeing our athletes being competitive on the biggest stage in the world. USA Wrestling set the standard this year.”
Dan Jardine: “Mine was only .2 seconds long.”
Todd Schumacher: “Gable. I’m sure I woke up some neighbors screaming for joy.”
Next on the “favorite” list was David Taylor’s victory, with such comments as these:
Mike Ryba: “David’s last-second win for the gold medal!”
Bob Callison: “David’s takedown followed by seeing his singlet torn on his back from what I feel was the most intense wrestling match of the Games. Defines USA Wrestling overcoming the struggles we have to get to this point in our Olympic quest.”
Jason Salley: “Taylor’s win after coming back from injury the last few years.”
Jose Campo: “Seeing Bill Zadick cry as he hugged David Taylor. Bill knew all of the struggles Dave went through. DT beat the defending Olympic champion and ‘King of Iran.’”
Other U.S. contenders also received plaudits.
Kyle Becker: “How could you not see the conditioning of Kyle Snyder wearing down the Russian Tank. He will not want to wrestler Snyder again.”
Randy Bortles: “Thomas Gilman’s performances were all good, and his injury limiting training makes his results a great story.”
Craig Foster: “Sarah Hildebrandt’s frown turned upside down. Loved that she finished with a smile.”
NBC commentators John Smith and Jordan Burroughs garnered praise, too.
Tim McGuire: “John Smith’s elite commentary was my overall favorite; he enhanced every match.”
Jenny Wong: “John Smith is the corner coach I never knew I needed. Jordan Burroughs was great, too.”
Edd Bankowski: “JB gets my ‘gold medal’ as one of the top commentators throughout the Games.”
Steve Schoenfelder: “Smith/Burroughs did a great job.”
Finally, an amazing number of heartfelt comments cited the entire U.S. wrestling team — on and off the mats.
Kevin English: “Seeing how the team cheered in the stands and how you could hear them.”
Jeff Varney: “Gable’s match was an instant classic, but I would say the resiliency our bronze-medal winners showed made me most proud to be an American.”
Tony Guerra: “Seeing so many of the athletes, coaches and supporters rallying together in the stands to support our team.”
Brian Hazard: “The team cheering each other on in the stands.”
Sam Portillo: “All the men’s team getting together on the podium.”
Bailee Branndin: “Having watched many a teammate desert a squad at Nationals for their own sorrows, there was nothing better than watching all of the wrestlers being great teammates and fans.”
Riley Banach: “Just getting to see the men and women of the USA let it fly! They were laser focused.”
Randy Bortles: “Team USA was awesome.”
(Sandy Stevens is a long-time public address announcer of national and international events and was named to the National Hall of Fame in 1998.)