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Olympics full of memorable moments

Which was the bigger story this Olympics, Michael Phelps winning eight gold medals, Usain Bolt breaking Michael Johnson’s “fastest man alive” record, the United States regaining its crown as the best basketball team in the world or the Chinese government supposedly forging records to allow underage girls to compete in gymnastics?
It is a tough choice. There were so many great moments from this year’s Olympic Games and I am glad I tuned in to check out so many wonderful achievements from the world’s top athletes.
It got me to thinking about some of the great moments from past Olympics that I have had the pleasure of viewing. Here are the highlights from my lifetime that I can remember experiencing with the rest of America.
As a boy I wasn’t that into sports of any kind, however, once professional athletes were allowed to compete at the Olympics and the 1992 Dream Team competed in Barcelona, I was interested. The Dream Team was made up of an illustrious collection of talent that included several men who have been labeled the greatest to play the game. This included Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, David Robinson, Patrick Ewing, Scottie Pippen, Clyde Drexler, Karl Malone, John Stockton, Chris Mullin and Charles Barkley. The only non-professional athlete on the team was Christian Laettner of Duke University.
At the tender age of 12 I was enthralled by the all-star caliber this team had to offer. The dominance this team showed in Barcelona will never be forgotten and it is that spirit and supremacy this year’s Redeem Team was hoping to renew, which in my humble opinion it did.
My single favorite moment from any Olympic Games – even including the ones before I was born – is gymnast Kerri Strug winning the U.S. a gold medal in team competition. Strug was a member of the “Magnificent Seven” at the 1996 games in Atlanta.
You might have seen this epic moment highlighted in a commercial narrated by Morgan Freeman during this year’s competition.
Strug – being the last to vault for the United States – under-rotated the landing on her first attempt and injured her ankle. She needed a high score to cover for the Russian team’s floor exercise score, which was projected to be a good one. Strug’s first score of 9.162 points would have been good enough to secure the gold but the U.S. team couldn’t be sure of that and sent her out for another vault.
Strug had 30 seconds to limp back to the end of the runway for her second attempt. I still get chills thinking about that little girl (who was three years older than me at the time) flinging through the air with only one working ankle knowing the landing is going to be one of the most painful feelings she has ever endured. Having that expectation run through her mind as she spins and flips in the air is what makes her landing even more extraordinary.
Strug landed briefly on both feet, almost instantly raising her hurt foot from the mat. She raised her arms, saluted the judges, hopped around and raised her arms again. She had done what she need and scored a 9.712, ending all doubts about where we would finish in the medal standings.
The scandalous story of Nancy Kerrigan being clubbed in the knee prior to the 1994 U.S. National Championships in Detroit was all I remember from the Winter Olympics in Lillehammer. Viewers including my mother were completely engaged in the ice skating competition to see how the United States’ team would fare.
At 14 years of age I didn’t know who the women were and I hated watching ice skating, but I was captivated by the idea that a person would go so far as to attack a rival for a chance to participate in the Olympics. I truly didn’t comprehend how important it was to these athletes to have their shot at competing for their country.
The bombing at the Centennial Olympic Park that killed two and injured 111 others marred the Atlanta Games in 1996. I couldn’t believe a bombing had occurred on American soil because in my sheltered brain that sort of thing was only supposed to take place in war-torn areas like the Middle East and countries split into northern and southern lands such as Korea and Vietnam.
One of my last favorite moments is a little bittersweet because I think I came up with this idea before the Olympic Committee did. What I am talking about is the Olympic Flame Lighting during the opening ceremony for the 1992 Games in Barcelona. Paralympic archer Antonio Rebollo fired a burning arrow toward the cauldron sending the flames high into the air.
When I was about 7 years old I had the idea that it would be neat to send an arrow above the crowd into the cauldron. Of course in my version of events I was the archer and I spent many days in my backyard attempting to build a bow in order to begin practicing the amazing deed I would bestow upon the world later in life. Somebody must have been spying on me and took my idea for the 1992 Olympics.

Matt Cook is a staff writer at the Ennis Daily News and can be reached at matt@ennisdailynews.com

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Posted by on Aug 28 2008. Filed under News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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