In a previous post, my colleague B.J. Schecter has asked whether the performance of Usain Bolt at these Games has been more impressive than that of Michael Phelps. (I'm with B.J. on tabbing Phelps.)
I'd like to add a question that takes a longer view. There are certain Olympic results that have come seemingly out of nowhere and whose aftershocks have altered the landscape. Bolt's strikes me as belonging on that list. I was amused in my colleague Tim Layden's story yesterday previewing the 200 as to how many of the old-timers didn't seem to think Bolt had paid his dues; that how a guy who hadn't been around that long and had such an unconventional style (mostly because of his height) would have to get a little more seasoning before he could lower the record. Clearly, that conventional wisdom has been turned on its head.
Here are some other summer events in my Olympic lifetime that made everyone sit up and take notice.
1. Abebe Bikila of Ethiopia winning the marathon at Rome in 1960, essentially putting Africa on the track map.
2. Bob Beamon of the U.S. obliterating the long-jump mark in Mexico City in 1968.
3. At those same Games, high jumper Dick Fosbury of the U.S. introducing the "Fosbury Flop."
4. The Soviet Union ending the U.S.'s men's basketball dominance at Munich in 1972.
5. The perfect 10 on the uneven bars by Romanian gymnast Nadia Comaneci at Montreal in 1976.
6. Ben Johnson being stripped of his medals after the Canadian sprinter was found to have been on Stanozolol while winning the 100-meter dash in a world record 9.79 at the 1988 Games in Seoul.
What other summer events would you say have had such seismic impact? And where does Bolt rank on the seismic scale?
By B.J. Schecter
Just when you thought the rest of the Olympics would be a snooze after Michael Phleps finished his vision quest with eight gold medals on Sunday, along comes Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt. After setting a world record in the 100 over the weekend, Bolt came back on Wednesday and broke Michael Johnson's 12-year-old record in the 200 with a remarkable time of 19.30 seconds. Bolt became the first man to pull off the 100-200 sweep since Carl Lewis in 1984.
Which brings us to the impossible question: which feat was more impressive? Is it the fastest man in water or on land? I'd give Phelps the edge because of the pressure, number of events and fashion in which in won his eight golds. But Bolt isn't far behind.
What's your take?
By B.J. Schecter
Now that gymnastics in Beijing is in the books, it's time to take stock on an eventful competition. We had triumphant performances, a combined eight medals for the U.S. women, an age controversy with the Chinese team and a scoring saga in which American Nastia Liukin lost the gold even though she had the same score as the gold medalist.
Sports Illustrated's E.M. Swift says the IOC should be ashamed for not investigating the ages of the Chinese gymnasts and needs to level the playing field.
After all is said and done, what will you remember most about the gymnastics competition? Will a dark cloud hang over the sport? Or is controversy just inherent in gymnastics?
What are your other thoughts/impressions on the U.S. team, the Chinese, the age controversy and the scoring?
When Sports Illustrated hits your mailbox this week, flip to page 24. You'll get a sense of just one of the many filters through which SI writers watch the Olympics: Who does he or she resemble? This week's issue features four of our favorite athlete-celeb lookalikes. I won't give any away, but SI's pick for U.S. breaststroker Rebecca Soni is my favorite. There were plenty more that didn't make the cut, however, including a few of my own.
I still can't watch Michael Phelps come out of the pool without confusing him for American Pie actor and ex-Katie Holmes fiancee Chris Klein. (It's a different story when those ears aren't pinned back.) And when Phelps' mother, Debbie, got all hysterical during his narrow win in the 100 meter, she was a dead-ringer for Everybody Loves Raymond matriarch Doris Roberts. (Don't take that as an admission that I watch ELR. I don't.) One SI reporter suggested Bela Karolyi was a moustachioed Walter Matthau knockoff. But I don't see it. Then again, I may be the only one who sees a little Naomi Watts in Nastia Liukin.
What do you think? Who's your favorite Olympic lookalike? Who plays Abhinav Bindra in the Abhinav Bindra movie? And Usain Bolt?
By Mark Bechtel
A thought while watching what's been
a surprisingly dreary (UPDATE: an action-packed, bizarrely ill-will-laden) Brazil-Argentina soccer semifinal: When it comes to ridiculously misguided rules and regulations, the IOC can really give the NCAA a run for its money. Brazil is wearing different jerseys than the ones they usually wear. Their football federation badges are missing, because the IOC has a rule against them. Brazil's sports minister said, "The IOC determines that we shouldn't use any national identification in the jersey, only the colours of the country and the Olympic arcs." He neglected to mention the Nike swoosh, which the IOC has no problem with. So Brazil broke out a different set of badgeless jerseys; other countries just ripped their emblems off their shirts. Check out the Argentinians' chests. You can see the spots where the badges were--right next to their Adidas logos.