The best (and worst) from the London Olympics
The best (and worst) from the London Olympics
Best moment: The Olympics are a personal experience, no matter whether you’re competing, reporting, or watching from the La-Z-Boy at home. So to choose a best moment is particularly subjective; there are dozens, if not hundreds, that qualify. But our pick is Kayla Harrison’s gold medal-winning performance in the 78-kg judo competition. Harrison, who lives in Marblehead and trains at Pedro’s Judo Center in Wakefield, overcame years of sexual abuse by a former coach to win gold.
Best athlete: The gold medalist in the decathlon is traditionally regarded as the World’s Greatest Athlete, and affable American Ashton Eaton, who finished atop the podium in the 10-event competition with little suspense, did his part to restore the luster to a sport that doesn’t generate much buzz in the United States anymore. But Eaton’s WGA title didn’t seem quite official until Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt, who references himself on his Twitter page as “The most naturally gifted athlete the world has ever seen’’ (and he has a case), gave his blessing to Eaton, noting with a grin that the decathlete is better in far more disciplines.
Worst use of a tiebreaker from Aly Raisman’s perspective: The Needham gymnast missed out on a bronze medal in the all-around when she finished tied for third with Russia’s Aliya Mustafina, only to have the tiebreaker bounce her from the podium.
Best use of a tiebreaker from Aly Raisman’s perspective: But she would more than make up for whatever disappointment she had in the all-around, winning the gold medal in the floor exercise to go with her team gold. She also took bronze in the balance beam after winning an appeal with the judges, who initially had her fourth, and then – yes, a tiebreaker — with Romania’s Catalina Ponor.
Best farewell: Remember all those columns and soliloquies about how we all get older after Michael Phelps failed to medal in his first race, the 400-meter individual medley? Phelps finished his fourth and apparently final Olympics with six medals – four gold, two silver – giving him 22 overall for his career and more gold (18) than any other Olympic athlete has total medals.
Best imitation of the “Ambient Fire DVD: The Ultimate Video Fireplace:” The video board in Olympic Stadium that constantly showed live video of the Olympic flame, which had the effect of making it appear to be the world’s biggest fake fireplace. And yes, the aforementioned video is real.
Best turnaround in the medal count: This one belongs to Great Britain, and in a sense it mirrors the entire Olympic experience here. When Mark Cavendish failed to medal in the cycling road race, the tabloids, already alarmed with concerns about security, weather and logistics, wondered if the host nation would falter in competition. But good things suddenly came in droves – Jessica Ennis, Mo Farah (pictured), and Andy Murray were among those to win gold – and the Brits ended up fourth in the medal count in an Olympics that went off with nary a hitch.
Worst inexplicable backlash: What’s the beef with hurdler Lolo Jones again? Is it that she’s too forthcoming about her fascinating back story or her personal beliefs? Is it that she’s not the best in her field, just one of the best, so she doesn’t deserve the marketing opportunities that come her way? Or is it because she’s too charismatic for her own good? We forget the gist of the argument now. If only we didn’t have to hear it in the first place.
Worst sense of style: Ryan Lochte. The monosyllabic, Spicolian swimming dreamboat is further evidence that sometimes the perception of a person can change dramatically once they open their mouth. Particularly if there’s a reportedly $25,000 diamond grill covering their teeth.
Best celebration: During the medal ceremony following the men’s 5,000 meters, victor Mo Farah was joined on the podium by Usain Bolt, who had received his medal for the 4x100-meter relay just moments before. While Bolt paid homage by flashing Farah’s popular arms-above-the-head “Mobot” celebration, a beaming Farah countered with Bolt’s trademark “To Di World” pose. Perhaps the single transcendent image from the Games.
Best evidence boxing isn’t dead,at least in Ireland: Katie Taylor (right), who won Ireland’s ninth gold medal in its Olympic history, a feat that spurred such communal joy in her native land that … well, here’s how Bob Ryan put it after her victory : “Will anyone in the Emerald Isle remember any of this? You kidding? They’ll talk about the way Katie knocked that Rooshian girl six ways to Sunday. She’s their princess. Grab a Guinness and start singing, “Katie,” “Katie’s Gonna Get You,” or even “The Fields of Athenry.” Katie Taylor has brought home the gold.”
Best bearded basketball-bouncing brothers: Well, unless there’s a duo we’re overlooking who fit the criteria, this one goes uncontested to Pau (right) and Marc Gasol of Spain. Speaking of uncontested, Pau scored 13 consecutive points for Spain in the third quarter of the gold medal game against the US, and had Marc not been whistled for a bogus fourth foul in the first half, the brothers might have led Spain to the upset in what was eventually a 7-point loss.
Best athlete running on Cheetah Flex-Foot carbon fibre transtibial artificial limbs: Oscar Pistorius, a.k.a. Blade Runner, the double-amputee who cried tears of joy after running during South Africa’s eighth-place finish in the 4x400 relay. “I never set out to prove a point,” said Pistorius, who encountered skepticism regarding whether his artificial legs gave him some kind of advantage, “but I do feel I have made the point.”
Best breakthrough sport: The basketball/lacrosse/foosball hybrid handball, which was to the Summer Games what curling is to the Winter Games, a quirky, sport that leaves Americans wondering, “This looks like a blast. Why the heck hasn’t it caught on in the States?” Pictured, France's centreback Daniel Narcisse (left) jumped to shoot next to Sweden's rightback Kim Andersson.
Best venue: It’s tough to dismiss Wimbledon in this category, but the garish pink Olympic signage looked out of place against the sprawling, elegant greens of the All England Club. Horse Guards Parade was a spectacular backdrop for the beach volleyball party. But the vote here is for Olympic Stadium, which didn’t seem to have a bad seat among its 80,000 capacity and always had a collective anticipatory buzz before the athletic events, and raucous, rolling cheers during and afterward.
Worst venue: The London Aquatics Centre undoubtedly looked cool on NBC with its swooping roof that looked a little bit like a wave and a lot like a spaceship. But inside, it was utterly charmless, with poor sightlines, too many empty seats in prominent locations, and very little time dedicated to celebrating the swimmers after their accomplishments. It felt and looked temporary.
Best marathoner: Stephen Kiprotich was the surprise winner, collecting Uganda’s first medal in 40 years. Afterward, he offered a quote that was almost as telling regarding the victory’s personal meaning as the broad smile on his face: “I was unknown, and now I am known.”
Best marathoner without a country: Guor Marial, the son of newly independent South Sudan who did not want to compete for Sudan and who couldn’t run for the US because he is not a citizen despite living and training in Arizona and having attended high school in Concord, N.H. He finished 47th, tapping the letters “IOA” – Independent Olympic Athlete — on his chest as he crossed the finish line.
The best, period: Usain Bolt. You bet he’s cocky and brash, an incurable showboat. Know what else? It’s done in good fun (what other iconic athlete has ever led a crowd in the wave?), and it’s all justified. He backs it up and then some, winning three gold medals and proving yet again that he has a gear that other elite sprinters lack. If you don’t like Bolt, you’re not paying attention.