Happiest Medalists–All Three–And Other Olympic Sights

[For some reason, the images aren’t showing up the way I expected them to. To see the photos I’m referencing, right click on the bold (and no, that isn’t working right, either) phrases/names and select “view image.”]

What you missed last night, because NBC only cares about U.S. medalists and last night they cared only about LoLo Jones losing, even though an American, Dawn Harper, won the 100 meter hurdles, was this, the <b>happiest medal ceremony</b>. We did, rather belatedly, see just a tiny bit of the <b>elated celebrations</b> of both silver-medalist Sally McLellan and bronze-medalist Priscilla Lopes-Schliep. And we saw Harper’s face during the anthem. But with all three young women clearly delighted with the result, the opportunity to show that winning any medal IS winning was lost on NBC.

I love the Olympics. I love the athletes who win unexpectedly, like U.S. discus thrower <b>Stephanie Brown Trafton</b> or the beside-himself <b>Matthias Steiner</b>.

I love the ones who expect to win, and still, eight golds into the games have trouble not crying during the the medal ceremony, like Michael Phelps. This guy may have been NBC’s biggest marketing tool, but he doesn’t act like a tool. There was never a moment, even with all the time constraints of his chosen path and all the work and pressure and logistics, when he seemed at all full of himself, or above it all, or too cool for school. As a kid who self-admittedly grew up with a Kick Me sign on his back–he was a dork (had ADHD, had to work really hard in school, was really bad at team sports) and his mom was a principal–he seems to fit quite comfortably in his britches. I’ve heard criticism of how cute he’s not. But really, put the hair back on and he’s plenty cute. Besides, although I appreciate a pretty face (see below) I’m quite aware these are not beauty contests. And the man’s arms are long enough to embrace the world.

I hate the ones who don’t win gold and can’t graciously smile at winning bronze or silver. By the time you get to the medals ceremony, you should be mature enough to realize what you’ve accomplished and a good enough sport to understand there are dozens of other athletes in your event who are not on the podium at all (Dara Torres–I’m looking at you and two of your teammates on the first relay silver–RUDE!).

I do love the hotties (sorry, I’m only human), like <b>Aaron Peirsol</b> on the right of that medley group.

And I love the weight lifters like <b>Viktors Scerbatihs</b>, a Latvian legislator(!) who won a bronze.

I love equestrian events (although NBC has been calling them “horse” events as though anyone watching them doesn’t, by now, know what equestrian means). And if you haven’t been watching on Oxygen, you probably don’t know that the U.S. won gold in Team Jumping and American Gina Miles won silver in Eventing in spite of the U.S. team doing very poorly.

Sometimes, the Olympics make me think of silly things, like wondering, when Rebecca Soni won her unexpected gold, if the women swimmers are annoyed that at their moment of greatest glory they’re having their pictures taken <b>with wet hair</b>. (Couldn’t they have a few minutes to blow dry?)

But most of all I just love the competition and the unpredictability. The pomp and ceremony. The tradition and the big and little sparks of pure joy that come from things like a completely unexpected bronze medal for a U.S. runner who’s mom was an Olympian. If you missed seeing Shalane Flanagan win that bronze in the 10,000 meters with her mom going completely crazy, exhorting her and finally celebrating for her, you missed the best vignette of the games. Find it on video and soak in the meaning of Olympic success.

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