From the Legion of Non-American Super-Heroes, I bring you 2 Olympians who, for vastly different reasons, have captured the imaginations of the 5 Ring Circus ticket-buying public who have chosen to attend the Games of the Modern Olympiad in Londinium.
OK, those of us who prefer a multitude of camera angles and ever-hopeful Canadian commentary over the wonders and joys of uncooperative British summers have also been transfixed by the swirl of media-led controversy that surrounds not only South African double amputee Oscar Pistorias but also The World’s Fastest Man, Jamaican Legend Usain Bolt.
The fact of the matter is that Track & Field has now taken centre stage and while NBC is still running Michael Phelps “Greatest Olympian Ever?” retrospectives and the British tabloid press re-runs “Beyond Velodrome” headlines every time Sir Chris Hoy’s crew strikes gold in cycling, we, the Fan, have moved on. Don’t think as a Canadian, I have forgotten Brent Hayden’s elation with Bronze in the 100M free or Ryan Cochran’s ballsy (sorry, no other word describes that swim) Silver in the 1500M, but if the Olympics is about ‘that shining moment’ for the athlete, it is often about ‘that fleeting moment’ for the viewer.
Good, because it is and while I understand that many Fans comfortably embrace the situation because Pistorius has never been a Medal contender, there may come a time where an amputee’s raw athletic ability will overcome the soon-to-come prosthetic guidelines and Own The Podium will take on a whole other meaning.
This is progress, pure and simple, a part of the same evolutionary cycle that just allowed our Curiousity to get the better of us and land a rover on Mars and as long as Pistorius isn’t trampolining his way around the track in sub-10 seconds for 400M then I’m prepared to allow the IOC to monitor the situation until further notice. I am also prepared to cheer loudly and unashamedly for the Blade Runner in the 4x400M Relay while I graciously ignore those who attempt to whisper Casey Martin arguments into my ear. Let’s deal with that another time and NO it’s not even close to the same situation.
Speaking of sub-10 second competitive advantages – all viewers outside of the USA were privileged to see the Men’s 100M Final live. NBC of course was busy exercising its $1.8Billion purchased Olympic rights by showing Equestrian and Beach Volleyball and delaying arguably the most important Olympic showdown ever until prime time. Social media, in its infinite wisdom chose to exercise the Universal Spoiler Option rather than adhere to NBC’s quest for silence and luckily for American Track & Field Fans, The Lightning Bolt was still celebrating his victory about 4 hours later when Al Michaels was finally able to transition smoothly from the bikini-clad action at the Horse Guards Parade. Had they chosen to preempt the race with a re-mastered 3D version of “Heidi,” NBC executives would have walked away with less egg and badly cooked British bacon on their face than they did.
The race itself lived up to its billing. With Bolt coming in at a self-professed 90%, World Champion Yohan Blake looking dominant in heats and a revitalized (and hopefully unenhanced) Justin Gatlin still unbeaten in 2012, the US/Jamaican sprint rivalry looked to be as healthy as it has ever been. Through 40 metres, the result was still in doubt as Bolt, Blake and Gatlin had all limped out of the blocks but when Lightning found his 6’5” stride at the halfway point, it became simply a matter of a race for Silver. 9.63 seconds – the 2nd fastest time in history in a race where all 8 men would have broken the 10 second barrier had Asafa Powell not pulled up lame. The statistics are ridiculous… he reached a top speed of 31 mp/h and covered the distance in a mere 41 strides while spending more than 6 seconds of the time completely airborne! Realizing that Bolt’s speed would have gotten him a ticket in a school zone is part of what makes the 100M the pre-eminent showcase of each Olympic Games. Since the London Games of 1908, the winning time has only improved by 1.17 seconds which is truly remarkable in this era of exponential change and radical new training methods. I guess it just goes to prove that, in the end, we are all just skin, muscle and bones and sometimes, just sometimes… some graphite. Until next we chat Kelowna…be proud of who you are.