The Fierce Fab Five
I am amazed at the abilities of Olympic athletes, especially the gymnasts. As part of junior high physical education we had to play around at gymnastics and I can say I am in awe of young women and men who combine the strength, grace and agility required to do this at any level, but especially at the national and international level.
The Magnificent Seven of 1996
My appreciation for these athletes really began in 1976 when like so many I was charmed by little Nadia Comaneci who scored the first perfect 10 in Olympic history. Since then when I watch the Olympics I make sure that I at least try to see the gymnastic competitions. I remember the 1996 Games when the American “Magnificent Seven” led by the injured Kerry Strug won the Gold in Atlanta.
Last night I watched the Women’s Team event even though I already knew that the American girls had won the event. Somehow that didn’t seem to matter. NBC has had its share of errors during this Olympic year but last night was not one of them.
I had watched the individual competition earlier in the week and was disappointed with the rules that kept Jordyn Wieber from being in the individual all-round competition despite being one of the top five competitors. It is a bad rule but it did not stop Wieber from helping her teammates win the Team Gold on Tuesday.
Wieber along with her teammates Gabby Douglas, McKayla Maroney, Ali Raisman and Kyla Ross blew away the competition demonstrating incredible aggressiveness and amazing ability. The started strong on the vault and continuing without any major mistakes in any event. As the final scores were registered on the balance beam and the Russian team wept the girls who in a sport that is an incredible display of individual achievement showed that they were a team. Some are saying that they are the best team ever. It would be hard to argue that point.
It was a proud moment for them, their families and their coaches. It was great to watch and made me proud to see such poise under pressure and excellence in execution. It was inspiring to see these young women stick together as a team.
Likewise it was good to see Michael Phelps the greatest swimmer in Olympics history add to his legacy. It had been a tough Olympics for Phelps who had taken 8 Golds in Beijing in 2008 but failed to end up on the medal stand in an event for the first time since 2002. He won Silver in the 200 meter Butterfly, losing in the last couple of feet, but anchored the team in the 4×200 freestyle relay.
Now while the Fab Five and thousands of other athletes were doing all that they could to win there was a shameful display in the Badminton tournament. Four teams were disqualified from the Olympics for attempting to manipulate the standings of thier group stage to secure more favorable match ups in the next rounds. The Badminton tournament is a round robin competition instead of an elimination style event that most of the other team events follow. In this event four pairs of doubles players, four teams, one from China, two from Korea and one from Indonesia were disqualified for throwing games in order. The Chinese seemed to be the instigator of this trying to set up a situation where they could play another Chinese team for Gold.
Disqualified for Throwing Games
There always seems to be at least one scandal at the Olympics, usually related to judging or teams or athletes using performance enhancing drugs. This was different. There is cheating and there is cheating. In this case China’s world double’s champion team of Wang Xiaoli and Yu Yang threw a match against the South Koreans after another the second seeded Chinese team was unexpected defeated by a team from Denmark. Had the Wang Xiaoli and Yu Yang won the match the Chinese could have faced each other in the semi-finals. By losing they hoped to set up a situation where they could still meet in the final. The Koreans and Indonesians were punished for the same type of behavior.
Throwing games in any sport shows a lack of honor and no respect for the game. The teams that were involved should be banned from international competition. Officials and fans alike condemned the teams. Gail Emms said that “It was absolutely shocking….The crowds were booing and chanting ‘Off, off, off.’” Another top player called the it a “circus match” while Lin Dan, the Chinese Men’s Gold Medalist noted that the sport would be damaged while defending his teammates and blaming the organizers for the round robin format.
Thankfully the Badminton World Federation took decisive action penalizing the teams for “conducting oneself in a manner that is clearly abusive or detrimental to the sport.”
The contrast between the Fab Five and the teams that gave their all but lost in the team gymnastic competition and the “Bad” girls of Badminton was amazing. The women of the gymnastic competition, even those that did not medal clothed themselves and their sport in honor while the four Badminton pairs damaged their sport and dishonored themselves.
That being said I find it hard to believe that a “sport” like Badminton remains an Olympic sport while the IOC members voted out both Baseball and Women’s Softball. That is a travesty.
Well, back to watching the games.