The 2012 Summer Olympics are sadly coming to a close. Once again, America and China own a bulk of the medals, but that is not to say the Games went without surprises.
Some of the gold medal winners below were unknowns and wild cards entering into the competition and their victories left many pleasantly surprised. Yet, even more importantly, the exploits of these individuals have brought equally surprising relevance to their countries within sports for which they were unaccomplished on the international stage.
Here are just a few of the great stories from the 30th Olympiad.
1. David Boudia (USA); Men’s 10-Meter Platform
After placing third with teammate Nick McCrory in the synchronized version of this event, Boudia turned in the most surprising result of the Olympic diving competition by defeating Qiu Bo of China by 1.8 points on Saturday night. Bleacher Report’s John Rozum detailed the accomplishment extensively in this article.
Boudia was the first U.S. diver to win the 10-Meter Platform since 1988 (Greg Louganis), but what may have been even more surprising about the achievement was its interference in Chinese diving supremacy.
China had won all but one of the diving events, including gold medals in all platform competitions. And it was not as though China underperformed in the final; Qui Bo delivered his best score of the three 10-meter platform rounds.
2. Kayla Harrison (USA); Judo
Harrison’s gold medal in the 172-pound weight class didn’t exactly come as a surprise for those who actively follow the sport in non-Olympic settings. Brian Cazeneuve of Sports Illustrated predicted a silver medal finish for the Massachusetts resident.
Still, America had never won gold in the event that has been a part of the games since 1964.
3. Mexico; Men’s Soccer
What is the only thing more surprising than Mexico’s London triumph? Runner-up and five-time World Cup Champion, Brazil, has still never won Olympic gold. The same could have been said about Mexico just a few days ago.
Their victory is even more remarkable when you consider that they did it without their star, Giovani dos Santos. Dos Santos, who sat due to a mysterious injury situation, has scored eight international goals for Mexico over the last two years. He delivered three more in London.
The US failed to qualify for the Olympics while Mexico’s gold medal establishes them as a legitimate home of young soccer talent. They may become the CONCACAF nation to beat for some time.
4. Jonas Reckermann and Julius Brink (GER); Beach Volleyball
Beach volleyball has long been dominated by the Americas. This probably has something to do with the existence of, you know, beaches. The German duo won each of the last two European championships as well as the 2009 World Championship, but overall the European nations have lagged behind on the international stage.
Brazil and a pair of American teams were recognized as early favorites by the likes of ESPN and SI. The Germans defeated two Brazilian entries, including a victory over Emanuel and Alison in the finals.