Thursday, August 26, 2004

These Olympic moments sponsored by Kleenex

I'm not the sentimental type, but I almost had to brush away a tear when I saw:

Wrestler Rulon Gardner leave his shoes at the center of the mat, signaling the end to his wrestling career. Gardner won a bronze medal in these Olympics to go with his gold from Sydney four years ago. He seems like a big, good-natured farm kid, and I wish him much luck in future life back on the Wyoming homestead.

Hurdlers Gail Devers and Allen Johnson ending their Olympics in ignominious fashion. Devers pulled up lame in her semifinal heat of the women's 100-meter hurdles, while Johnson tripped and fell in the preliminary round of the men's 100. Both athletes have represented the U.S. ably and with distinction for many years; Johnson is the captain of the U.S. men's track team in these Games. We may see Johnson again in Beijing four years hence, but for Gail Devers, this was a sad end to a storied career.

Greek speedster Fani Halkia winning the gold in front of her home folks in the women's 400-meter hurdles. Knowing what a fiercely proud people the Greeks are, I understand how much this victory means to them, especially after the drug-suspected absence of Greece's top male and female track stars, Kostadinos Kenteris and Ekaterini Thanou. Halkia, a near-unknown in track circles before the Olympics — she left a budding career in TV journalism to train for the Games — seemed genuinely grateful for the victory.

The "Fab Five" of U.S. women's soccer receiving their gold medals after defeating the Brazilian squad. Mia Hamm, Julie Foudy, Brandi Chastain, Kristine Lilly, and Joy Fawcett played together on the legendary team that won the first Women's World Cup in 1991 and again in spectacular fashion in 1999, adding an Olympic silver medal performance in Sydney four years ago. All now in their mid-30s and headed for retirement, they have raised women's soccer to the level of national consciousness during their years together.

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