The Summer Olympics captured much of the world’s attention, with far more stories than any columnist has time to share. But if you missed them, here are a few highlights and lowlights from this year’s extravaganza.
The United States is still king in terms of overall team success. While there are always disappointments, the U.S. team excelled in swimming, gymnastics, track and field, basketball and more to run away with the overall medal count.
It seems appropriate that boxing, a sport that doesn’t bring out the best of humanity, would have a scandal. The outcome of the heavyweight fight for gold was greeted with boos and jeers. Scoring a fight objectively is as elusive as having Presidential candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton smoke a peace pipe together.
It’s fascinating how some countries dominate certain sports. South Korea’s women won the Olympic team archery title for the eighth time in a row. Jin Jong-oh from South Korea meanwhile, took gold in the men’s 50-meter pistol, for the third straight Games.
Talk shows love to debate which athlete is more amazing, Michael Phelps or Usain Bolt. Comparing swimming to the 100-meter dash is nigh impossible. Both are amazing athletes who have sustained success for an extended period of time. What more needs to be said?
Some athletes will go to extreme lengths to win a gold medal, including diving across the finish line in a 400-meter run. Shaunae Miller of the Bahamas narrowly won the 400 meters over American Allyson Felix, by taking a fall or dive.
Miller said it was a spur-of-the-moment action, completely unplanned. Already, some have labeled her finish a new event: land diving. Others said it rivaled soccer, which is known for players taking a dive to try and draw a whistle from the official.
If it’s within the rules of the sport, what’s the big deal? It seems reasonable, though, to expect runners to finish a race on their feet.
Meanwhile, Speedo lived up to its name and wasted no time in dropping its sponsorship of U.S. swimmer Ryan Lochte over phony robbery claims. Other sponsors dropped Lochte as well.
ESPN.com senior writer Jim Caple wrote: “There are 11,551 athletes competing at these Olympics, all striving for that elusive gold, silver or bronze medal. While Michael Phelps, Katie Ledecky and Simone Biles have won multiple golds, around 10,500 of the athletes will go home without a single medal of any color. After the years and years of training and sacrifice, that is devastating for some. But they and others still will take home lessons and emotions that are nearly as important as any medal.”
Such is the case with Abbey D’Agostino of the U.S. and Nikki Hamblin of New Zealand, who fell during the women’s 5,000-meter run. The two helped each other and encouraged the other to finish the race, even though any hope of winning was long gone. The sportsmanship reminded us there’s more to life than finishing first.
Race officials allowed both runners into the final, but D’Agostino wouldn’t be able to participate. She was carted off the track in a wheelchair and an MRI later showed a complete tear of her right ACL, a meniscus tear, and a strained MCL.
“Although my actions were instinctual at that moment, the only way I can and have rationalized it is that God prepared my heart to respond that way,” D’Agostino said in a statement. “This whole time here he’s made clear to me that my experience in Rio was going to be about more than my race performance—and as soon as Nikki got up I knew that was it.
“By far the best part of my experience of the Olympics has been the community it creates, what the Games symbolizes,” she added.
A Facebook post by Jeremy Wheeler says it best: “This makes me smile, although I did not personally know her, Ms. D’Agostino would always say hello to me at Dartmouth. I’m a custodian there and sometimes we get the look-aways and snubs from a few of the students. This girl smiled and said hello. She showed her true class here today and Dartmouth is proud to call her one of our own!”
Hillsboro resident Joe Kleinsasser is director of news and media relations at Wichita State University. He can be reached at Joe.Kleinsasser@wichita.edu.