Posts Tagged ‘Olympics’

Dara Torres, Usain Bolt Offer Different Lessons in Sportsmanship — and Our Kids are Watching

Tuesday, August 19th, 2008

It's not hard to be blown away by what U.S. swimmer Dara Torres and Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt have accomplished in these Olympics.

Twenty-one-year-old Bolt, the world record holder in the 100-meter sprint, ran it
in an amazing 9.69 seconds on Saturday, beating his own record.

And Torres (a 41-year-old mom!) won two silver medals in swimming — within 35 minutes — this weekend.

But in my mind, these two incredibly talented athletes left quite a different impression.

Swimmers have to be all about focus before a race — especially in the 50-meter freestyle, where there just isn't enough time to make up for even a slight mistake or loss of focus. So that makes what Torres did seem so unexpected.

the eight swimmers for Torres' semifinal headed out to the blocks,
Sweden's Therese Alshammar's suit ripped. At first Torres tried to help
her fix it, but when it became clear that Alshammar's suit was too torn to be saved, Torres walked over to the side of the pool to talk with
an official to make sure that they didn't start the race until
Alshammar had changed into a new suit. Surrounded by swimmers half her age, Torres seemed like the mom of the group, making sure everyone was taken care of.

Alshammar made it back to the blocks in her new suit. Torres re-focused and then beat the rest of the
field, getting off to the best start on her way to recording the best
time of anyone in the semifinals.

Talk about sportsmanship. I was blown away — and so glad that my 12-year-old son, Matt, was able to see Torres do that.

Bolt, on the other hand, easily won the 100-meter-dash gold medal this
weekend, blowing away the field for the first 80 meters or so before
celebrating, coasting and showboating his way across the finish line,
still setting a world record of 9.69 seconds but probably costing
himself at least a tenth of a second with his finish.

I was
disgusted by his showboating. To start pounding your chest and looking at your opponents — with 10 meters to go at the Olympics — seems like the height of arrogance and bad sportsmanship. And Matt saw that, too.

Two athletes, both with incredible talent and drive — and both presenting different examples of sportsmanship for the children of the world to witness.

Love That Debbie Phelps

Saturday, August 16th, 2008

One of my favorite parts of the Olympics is watching Michael Phelps' mom, Debbie, as she watches her son tackle race after race.

"Watching that relay… My heart's pounding, my stomach is starting to do flip flops, but I'm
trying to be very composed on the outside. I hope it comes across that
way," she laughed in a recent interview. "It's no vacation for me."

Michael's mom comes across as someone you'd like to have as a neighbor, a friend, your kid's teacher. (In fact, she's a former teacher and now principal of Windsor Mill Middle School in Baltimore County, Maryland.)

Most of all, she seems down-to-earth and really likable, and she's done a heck of a job raising her son, who made us all proud yesterday, not only with his incredible performance in the pool, but in the way he handled the interview with Bob Costas and Mark Spitz after tying Spitz' record for winning seven gold medals. He was a class act.

Michael's mom raised him right, and apparently passed on some pretty solid values along the way. And it wasn't easy, as she went through a divorce when Michael was nine, raised him and his two sisters on her own and went through some tough years with Michael as he struggled with ADHD in school. Debbie was told by a teacher at one point (as she related in a recent interview) "Your son will never be able to focus on anything."

But Debbie persevered. And Michael certainly persevered. And we're all here to witness the results. And despite all the endorsement money that is now coming Michael's way, despite all the glory that has been heaped upon the Phelps family, despite all that gold — I'm guessing Debbie Phelps will remain a woman who would be a lot of fun to have coffee with.

Keeping it Real, Beijing Style

Wednesday, August 13th, 2008

I guess I shouldn't be shocked to learn that the adorable little girl whose song melted hearts during the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics was lip synching — and that the girl who did do the singing was yanked from the show "for the national interest" at the last minute because she was considered not cute enough.

Nine-year-old Lin Miaoke was simply doing the old Milli Vanilli act and lip-syncing to the voice of 7-year-old Yang Peiyi (who is pretty darned cute, by the way).

“The reason was for the national interest,” said Chen Qigang, the ceremony’s musical director, in a state radio interview. “The child on camera should be flawless in image, internal feeling and expression.” The decision was made at the highest levels, Chen said.

“We had to do it,” he added. “We’d been through several inspections. They’re all very strict. When we rehearsed at the spot, there were several spectators from various divisions, especially leaders from the Politburo, who gave the opinion it must change.”

Few who watched the Olympic ceremony realized the deception. "Tiny Singer Wins Heart of Nation," read the headline in Tuesday's China Daily newspaper.

As a parent (and simply as a person with a heart) I feel sad for young Yang Peiyi, who must have been crushed to realize, at the eleventh hour and after what must have been many hours of rehearsal, that she would not appear in the opening ceremony.

But given the way China de-values women and girls in general, I can't say I'm shocked that only (perceived) "perfection" would do in this case. After all, this was a carefully orchestrated presentation for the world. The only happy ending here is that Chen Qigang and his buddies "at the highest levels" were found out in the most public way.

Well, at least we know that spectacular fireworks presentation that we all saw on TV was the real deal.

Oh, wait. I guess not.