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In which I am incredibly sappy

August 26, 2008

It has been four years (!!) since the last Olympics. Strange. I know.
Four years ago, I was a nineteen year old college girl on summer vacation who ate, slept and drank the Olympics. Ian Thorpe vs. Michael Phelps, Carly Patterson vs. Svetlana Khorkina, Brendan Hansen vs. Kosuke Kitajima, Paul and Morgan Hamm (who thoroughly creeped me out, but the rest of the country seemed to love them), Aaron Peirsol, Andy Roddick hanging out in OlyVil for no apparent reason (except for maybe the free condoms and the camraderie), the USA basketball team being blatantly awful, Justin Gatlin being amazing.

Four years later, Ian Thorpe is retired, Khorkina was correct in saying that no one would remember Carly Patterson in four years (but no one remembers Khorkina, either)**, Brendan Hansen tanked, Kitajima rolled, Paul and Morgan had to resign their posts as US male gymnastic kings, Aaron Peirsol continued to be amazing (with the added bonus of Matt Grevers at his side), and Justin Gatlin was stripped of those 2004 medals for doping. As were half of the other 2004 Track and Field medalists. And Michael Phelps? Well, you know what he did. And there are three straight Sports Illustrated covers to remind you.

But none of that is what really matters. What matters is the Olympic spirit. What matters is screaming at the top of your lungs when you realize that Michael Phelps out touched Milorad Čavić at the wall in the 100m butterfly by .01 of a second and hearing someone else in your apartment building do the same thing. Or applauding with a crowd of 50,000 at a baseball game when they announce that the Redeem Team pulled off the win over Spain for the gold medal. Watching Misty May sprinkle her mom’s ashes on the beach in China as she did in Athens four years before. Watching Liu Xiang’s coach, Sun Haiping sob through a press conference about Liu’s inflammed heel, and how sorry they are to disappoint the rest of the country.

It’s stunning to have watched the Chinese patriotism throughout the games (and for one moment to ignore the Chinese politics, because that does take a lot away from the stun). It’s stunning to recognize the American patriotism as well, and I’ve seldom felt prouder than to watch the male gymnastics team of Alexander Artemev, Kevin Tan and Raj Bhavsar compete for America and to recognize the US as a cultural melting pot in the Olympics. To watch 41-year-old Dara Torres (though some of us might have gotten sick of her media oversaturation before her race FINALLY happened a week in) lose by a recently clipped finger nail, to watch Yao Ming cheering on the sidelines while his team lost by thirty points. The tears of Austrailia’s Matthew Mitcham after realizing that he won the gold medal and beat heavy favorite Zhou Luxi. Rebecca Soni’s shocking silver in the 100m breaststroke after only making the race because Jessica Hardy tested positive for a banned substance (and once again, doping rears its ugly head). The stunning US softball gold medal loss in the last year of softball in the Olympics. The heartbreaking performance of Alicia Sacramone in the women’s team gymnastics competition. The opposite of that with the men — the support and love shown from a team that was expected to do nothing and walked away with the bronze. The sheer joy that Jonathan Horton passed on to all of us.

I can assure you that the majority of my little blog posts here will NOT be this sappy, but for now, let’s soak it all in. Two weeks of exciting athletic excellence by people that we will not remember in four years. In four years, I won’t remember the awful lines of Shawn Johnson’s poetry that the media shoved down our throats, and there will be plenty of amazing athletes that I will rediscover (or completely forget about in 4 years because they’ve retired. Sniff). There’s more to come, and we’ll relive it until London, or until we get bored and start writing about other things. But we’ll never forget you, Eamon Sullivan’s torso.

**In case you were wondering, I looked it up, and Carly retired in 2006 due to some crazy bulging disks problem. She released an album earlier this month. I’m sure it is doing excellent..

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