Archive for 2008 Summer Olympics

Reclaiming the Gold

Posted in 2008 Summer Olympics with tags , , on August 25, 2008 by nathanjzacharias

Well, as I write this, it’s nearly midnight on Sunday and though I landed at 9 PM, I’ve only just gotten home – thanks Delta.  Once I finally left the airport the tram guy tried to take me to my car.  Ordinarily that would be very nice, however I apparently forgot to tell him so I was only half in the car when he hit the gas and I had to hop along rapidly for 10 feet until he noticed me.

The one thought that kept me going was the realization that I could finally eat when I got home.  But then I walked in the kitchen and discovered that the refrigerator door was open all weekend.  So scratch that idea.

All that to say, I’m not going to be doing one of my epic long-winded articles tonight. Please, please, don’t be too disappointed. I know it will be tough but there will be more in the future.

Well, now that I spent 140 words on some not so interesting details about my evening, I’ll get to the point.  Congratulations to the Team USA basketball team for winning the gold medal with an exciting win over Spain.

For months we’ve been hearing them referred to as the Redeem Team.  After an embarassing showing in recent years, the coaching staff and team were determined to reestablish Team USA as the best in the world.

So what was it that made this team different than past ones?  Recent teams were certainly not lacking in talent.  They had the stats, but they didn’t have the results.

As many have already pointed out, this team was clear that they wanted to operate as a unit.  The individual style of play and lack of focus that had been present in the past was not going to fly this time.

But it also seemed like there was more to it.  They weren’t playing with ego; they were playing with pride.  And that’s a big difference.

They seemed to realize that this was not just another All Star game.  This wasn’t an exhibition game where each player just tried to be the one to make the most sensational play. They understood that these games demanded more than just going through the motions.

They knew that victory must be earned, not assumed.

Coach K and his staff seem to stress that attitude shift from the very beginning, and the team echoed those statements.  But there’s a big gap between saying the right words and making the right plays.

This team bridged that gap.  And they made their nation and their sport proud as a result.

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Addiction Test 2.0 – The Olympics

Posted in 1, 2008 Summer Olympics with tags , , , , , , , on August 20, 2008 by nathanjzacharias

Well, we find ourselves in the last few days of the 2008 Summer Olympics.  Many of you out there are probably wondering how you’re going to cope with the conclusion.  You’re probably worried about the inevitable shakes and cravings that will come sometime next week when you need the gold medal fix and can’t get it.  You’re probably dreading having to go back to….regularly scheduled programming.  Oh the humanity!

Not sure if you’re one of those people? Well, the Betty Ford Clinic may be too expensive (and too full) for you to get yourself checked out, but the good news is that I’ve come up with another easy test to help determine if you’re addicted to the Olympics. 

1.  When you make it to work 3 seconds earlier than your coworker you think you blew them out of the water.

2.  When your friends ask you what you did that day, you wheel in a TV and play a short movie that recaps your day in dramatic slow-motion and highlights a tear-jerking story about how Subway was out of your favorite bread that day.

3.  In an effort to get ready quicker in the morning, you wear the Speedo LZR in the shower.

4.  At lunch, you ask a coworker to be your partner in synchronized eating.

5.  Every morning you not only jump out of bed, but you stick the landing too. 

6.  When you’re waiting for a light to turn green you just keep muttering to yourself, “no false start….no false start.”

7.  Before you get ready to use the computer you put chalk on your hands.

8.  Each morning for breakfast you have a bowl of porridge; three fried egg sandwiches with fried onion, lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise; a five-egg omelette; three slices of French toast; a stack of chocolate chip pancakes; and two large cups of coffee.

9.  When you’re boss asks you why you haven’t finished a project, you say it’s a marathon not a sprint and you’re conserving your energy.

10.  Before you make any decision you ask yourself, “What would Bob Costas think?”

If any of those are you, then you’re going to have Olympic withdrawal next week.

The Olympic Aura

Posted in 1, 2008 Summer Olympics with tags on August 11, 2008 by nathanjzacharias

It happens to me every two years.  As the anticipation for each Olympiad grows in the days and months leading up to the event, I always welcome it with a bit of a low key reaction.  An embarrassing reaction, I know, especially for someone who writes for a sports blog.

I plan to watch some of the major events but don’t give much thought to the bulk of the 3500 hours of NBC coverage.  Every two years, the hype and Morgan Freeman commercials always seem a bit much.

But then it begins.  And in an almost an instant I’m hooked.  Not just to a few events, but to all of them.  Regardless of whether I understand all of the rules or recognize all of the strategy, I’m addicted. For example, I just got done watching the USA play China in water polo.

That’s right, water polo.

I know nothing about water polo, unless you count the times I played it’s very distant cousin, Marco Polo, in the neighborhood pool.

So what is it about the Olympics that suddenly makes every sport seem like your favorite?

It’s the fact it isn’t just about sport; it’s about spirit. And it’s two-sided.

There’s the patriotic spirit in the enjoyment citizens from around the world get by rallying behind their own and cheering for not just a team, but a country.  National pride keeps us on the edge of our seats and pumping our fists, whether we understand what just happened in the game or not.  And in an industry often dominated by the color of money, for two weeks we watch winners brought to tears by simply seeing the colors of their nation raised high.

The second aspect is one that my friend Nate touched on a couple of days ago – the human spirit, and its intangible power takes us beyond borders and medals.  We’re flooded with backstories of athletes from around the world, each a narrative of strength, sacrifice, and perseverance.  And ultimately, the faces stick with us just as much as the final score, if not more in some cases.

Some say the Olympics doesn’t have the same aura that it did decades ago.  Our cultures are inundated with sports now.  Information and news is worldwide so we see highlights from around the globe every day.  And while Olympic athletes were amateur in the truest sense of the word back in the day, now they have the ability to train full time.

They’re right – the sporting side of it isn’t as rare as it used to be.  But as a result, the Games have become much more.  They’re not just about sport, they’re about humanity.  And that’s what brings each of us back every two years.

United States Medal Count – Beijing Olympics

Posted in 2008 Summer Olympics with tags , , on August 9, 2008 by twonateshow

Gold – 10      Silver – 8     Bronze – 11

Gold – Women’s Individual Sabre – Fencing – Mariel Zagunis

Silver – Women’s Individiual Sabre – Fencing – Sada Jacobson

Bronze – Women’s Individual Sabre – Fencing – Becca Ward

Gold – Swimming – Men’s 400-Meter Individual Medley -Michael Phelps

Bronze – Swimming – Men’s 400-Meter Individual Medley – Ryan Lochte

Bronze – Swimming – Men’s 400-Meter Freestyle – Larsen Jensen

Bronze – Swimming – Women’s 400-Meter Individual Medley – Katie Hoff

Silver – Swimming – Women’s 400-Meter Freestyle – Katie Hoff

Gold – Swimming – Women’s 100-meter backstroke – Natalie Coughlin

Bronze – Swimming – Women’s 100-meter backstroke – Margaret Hoelzer

Silver – Swimming – Women’s 100-meter Butterfly – Christine Magnuson

Silver – Swimming – Women’s 4×100-Meter Freestyle Relay

Bronze – Judo – Ronda Rousey

Bronze – Cycling – Levi Leipheimer

Gold – Cycling – Kristin Armstrong

Gold – Swimming – Men’s 4×100 Freestyle Relay

Gold – Swimming – Men’s 4×200 Freestyle Relay

Bronze – Swimming – Women’s 200-meter IM – Natalie Coughlin

Silver – Women’s Gymnastics – Team Competition

Gold – Swimming – Men’s 200-meter butterfly – Michael Phelps

Silver – Equestrian – Gina Miles

Gold – Shooting -Men’s Double Trap – Glenna Eller

Silver – Swimming – Women’s 100-meter breaststroke – Rebecca Soni

Gold – Swimming – Men’s 100-meter backstroke – Aaron Peirsol

Silver – Swimming – Men’s 100-meter backstroke – Matt Grevers

Bronze – Swimming – Men’s 200-meter freestyle – Peter Vanderkaay

Gold – Swimming – Men’s 200-meter freestyle – Michael Phelps

Bronze – Men’s Gymnastics – Team Competition

Bronze – Shooting – Women’s Trap – Corey Cogdell

The Spirit of China – Lin Hao

Posted in 2008 Summer Olympics with tags , , , , , on August 9, 2008 by nathanelwell

It was a day that was filled with horror.  On May 12th, 2008, a massive earthquake measuring 7.9 on the richter scale hit the Sichuan province in China, killing over 70,000 people.  Before the earthquake, 9 year old Lin Hao sat in his 2nd grade classroom, among 30 students.  When the earthquake struck, the entire building collapsed on Lin Hao and his classmates.  But before Lin Hao escaped the rubble, he went back into the pile of rubble and was able to save two of his classmates.  When asked why he risked his life to save others, he said, “I was the hall monitor, it was my job to look after my classmates…”

Lin Hao was thrust into the spotlight Friday night at the Opening Ceremonies in Beijing.  Lin Hao, holding the hand of the towering 7 foot 6 inch Yao Ming, helped lead the entire Chinese Olympic team into the arena before the official lighting of the torch.  Before the Opening Ceremonies concluded, Yao Ming was interviewed on NBC live television about what it meant to have the Olympics in Beijing.  Then, the interviewer put Lin Hao on the spotlight (who was being carried by Yao), and Yao Ming mentioned how Lin’s act showed how even a 9 year old had the mindset to protect his friends, and how he could pass this story onto his children and grandchildren.

In the midst of all the controversy of the Olympics, it was great to see the spotlight fall on such a noble and humble act by a child.  Lin Hao’s parents must have been proud while they watched their son being carried by Yao through the stadium.  But most importantly, it (hopefully) put everyone’s mind on a simple act that represented an entire country as they open the Olympics.  I hope this is a reminder to everyone that the Olympics is more than a tradition of sports and excellence, but also about the deep value of intrinsic life in every human being.

The Opening Ceremonies sure did give me goosebumps, I can’t wait for the festivities to begin!

U.S. Athletes you should watch in the Summer Olympics

Posted in 2008 Summer Olympics with tags , , , , , , , , on August 8, 2008 by nathanelwell

On Friday night, the “Games of the XXIX Olympiad” will begin in Beijing, China.  Set aside all of the political controversy in the games, and you might actually enjoy watching some of the U.S. Athletes perform.  I get the job of pointing out all of the U.S. athletes that you can watch out for.  Sometimes I sit and think about what sport I would play in if I were in the Olympics.  Since eating taco bell, playing PS2, and taking naps aren’t events, I don’t know if I can pinpoint a specific event that I would excel in.  Swimming would involve wearing too skimpy of a swimsuit.  Me and a speedo go together like Brett Favre and the Green Bay Packers.  My mind wanders to football.  The first problem would be keeping up with the other players.  The second problem would be kicking my foot into the ground instead of kicking the ball.  Oh well, enough day dreaming.  TNS now presents the 10 U.S. Athletes you should watch:

Dana Torres – Dana is representing the U.S. women in swimming.  Not only has she been in 5 different Summer Olympics, but she has retired twice in the process, skipping over the 1996 and 2004 Olympics.  She also has 9 Olympic medals, 5 of which she won in the 2000 Sydney Olympics.  After having her first child in 2006, she lost 36 pounds and was able to qualify for the 2008 Olympic Trials.  At 41, Torres is the oldest American swimmer to participate in the Summer Olympics.

Shawn Johnson – Yes, there is a girl named Shawn, and she represents the U.S. gymnastics team.  The list of accomplishments for Shawn is a mile long.  She won the 2006 U.S. Junior National all-around, the 2007 Tyson American Cup championship, and the 2007 Pan American Games, in which she won 4 gold medals AND the all-around.  She also won the 2007 Visa National Championships, won the all-around at the World Championships, came in 1st place at the U.S. Olympic time trials this year, and was the national champion for the second year in a row at the 2008 Visa National Championships.  I’m not sure what all these accomplishments mean, but they sound pretty cool.  She has not lost one competition as an “official Olympic athlete”.  Look for her to cruise to gold both individually and as a team.

 U.S. Men’s Basketball Team – It may not be the original “Dreamteam” but look for the U.S. team to do quite well this year in the Beijing Olympics.  The U.S. men’s team has won a total of 15 medals at the Olympics, 12 of them gold.  In 2004, the men won bronze, taking a break from the previous 3 straight golds they had won since 1992.  The U.S. is lead by a powerful duo of Lebron James and Carmelo Anthony.  They have had 5 games to tune up for the Olympics, in which the smallest margin of victory was 11 points against Australia (Aussie Aussie Aussie, oy oy oy!).  It appears that the Dreamteam is back to their previous dominance.  They’ll face China, Angola, Greece, Spain, and Germany in the preliminary round before hopefully making it to the Quarterfinals and eventually, gold!

Allyson Felix – Allyson was thrown into the spotlight at the 2004 Athens games, and will surely do well in Beijing.  Born to an ordained minister and elementary school teacher, Allyson is an Evangelical Christian who uses her running ability to glorify God.  She has certainly done a great job at that as she is the current and two time world champion in the 200 meters, the World champion in 3 events in 2007, A silver medalist in the 200 meters at the 2004 Olympic games, and has the fastest 4 x 400 relay leg EVER, surpassing Florence Griffith-Joyner.  Allyson will participate in the 100m, 200m, and 400m for the Olympics.  Look for her to kick some serious butt!

Michael Phelps – See what I mean about the speedo?  Ewwwwww.  The most important thing that you should know about Michael Phelps is that he is attempting to break the Mark Spitz record of 7 gold medals in swimming at one Olympic games, which he set back in 1972 in Munich, Germany.  Phelps has qualified in 8 different events at the Beijing games, so it is quite possible he could beat this record.  Phelps did win 8 medals at the 2004 Olympics, 6 gold and 2 bronze.  Look for him to wear the Speedo LZR Racer suit, which I wrote about some time ago.  There are so many other things to say about Phelps, but I’ll just let you read about it on his website.  Or you can check out the article I wrote about him here.

Some of the other folks to watch are Mark Warkentin, in the 10k open water race (1st in Olympic history), Laura Wilkinson of the U.S. Diving team, and the U.S. Women’s softball team (who look to win gold for the 3rd straight Olympics).  Enjoy the Summer Olympics – the Opening Ceremonies begin tonight at 7:30pm Eastern time!

Summer Olympic Preview: U.S. Men’s Football (Soccer)

Posted in 2008 Summer Olympics with tags , , , , , on August 7, 2008 by nathanelwell

Before I begin my post on the U.S. Men’s football team I’d like to share a “football joke” with you:

Q: What did David Beckham have for breakfast this morning?

A: Who cares.

I don’t even think Beckham is in the Olympics.  But oh well… On to football news!  The U.S. Men’s Football team begins its action this morning as they face Japan in in Group B.  In fact, by the time that you read this, the game will have already been over.  It started at 5:00am this morning.  The football matches may not be as big as the FIFA World Cup, but the U.S. team has something to fight for: they have only won a medal ONCE since football became a sport in the Summer Olympics, back in 1900.  The U.S. placed 3rd AND 2nd in the 1904 Summer Olympics in St. Louis.  This was evidently before the creation of one “national” team, as the U.S. placed 2 separate teams at the medal stand, neither of which were identified as “International Teams” (whatever that means).

But back to the present.  The last time the U.S. even participated in the medal round was in the year 2000, when they placed 4th behind Chile.  So needless to say, the U.S. team has its work cut out for them.  But they may have the advantage.  The U.S. team has the youngest average team age, even with a 37 year old forward.  The Japan national team scored the bronze medal during the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City.  The last time that the U.S. faced Japan in the Summer Olympics was in 2000, as the U.S. outlasted Japan in penalty kicks after a 2-2 tie.

The U.S. men will follow their match against Japan, facing the Netherlands, and then Nigeria.  Between Nigeria and the Netherlands, there are 1 gold medal and 3 bronze medals.  It is debatable, however, whether or not the U.S. team will even be able to breath on the field, since Beijing is known for its pollution.  In fact, earlier yesterday, members from the U.S. Cycling team were seen wearing protective masks.  Back to football…And for one more football joke before this post ends:

Q: If David Beckham were one of the Spice Girls, which one would he be?

A: Waste of Spice