I sometimes find that my strongest memories from the Olympics aren't the actual competitions, but rather the reaction the athletes have to their performances.
I don't remember many of Michael Phelps' races last year, but I do remember watching him getting out of the pool, raising his arms, and beaming after winning another race.
These reactions are how the most permanent Olympic memories are made. And every year, there are some reactions that are a bit more memorable than others.
Fortunately, this year was no exception.
I honestly think that out of all the Olympians I saw win gold, Kerri Walsh and Misty May-Treanor looked the happiest. And that didn't make any sense to me because they always win. This is their third straight gold medal. They've never lost an Olympic match. Why did they seem to care so much?
But the more that I've thought about it, the more I've realized that Walsh and May-Treanor cared so much because that match marked the end of an era. May-Treanor had long made it clear that the gold-medal match would be her last.
Though Walsh will go for another gold in Rio, it won't be the same. That's what made this match so special. After the win, the two didn't seem to be celebrating just one particular victory.
Instead, it looked like they were celebrating their entire career and everything they had done together over the course of their partnership.
According to the Associated Press, Walsh told reporters after the match, “I'm just really proud to finish the journey with Misty how we finished it. It's been 11 years of really, really fun and crazy times. She's the best there ever has been.”
Actually, they're the best there ever has been. It's a shame we won't be able to see them in action again, but they left us with a great final memory.
German discus thrower Robert Harting's gold-medal celebration also doubled as the funniest moment of the 2012 Olympics. I mean, how often do you see a man that size celebrate a victory by tearing off his shirt Hulk-style and start running the hurdles?
The moment also marked the first time that I was more impressed with an athlete's celebration than I was their athletic achievement.
I know he threw a discus almost 70 meters, but did you see the way he ripped his shirt? It was amazing! I couldn't rip paper that easily!
Harting's rather raucous night didn't even end there. According to Samuel Luckhurst of the Huffington Post UK, Harting proceeded to:
- board a German cruise liner
- fall asleep on a train
- become the victim of robbery
- lose access to the Olympic Village because his accreditation was among the things stolen.
That's one way to celebrate a medal.
(In other news, Robert Harting has officially won the athlete-I'd-most-like-to-hang-out-with award.)
That's right. The whole country.
After defeating Norway's Bartosz Piasecki 15-10 in the men's epee final, Ruben Limardo won Venezuela's first gold in 44 years.
To put things in perspective, the year that Venezuela last won a gold medal was 1968. Lyndon B. Johnson was still president, the movie The Planet of the Apes had just hit theaters, and O.J. Simpson had just won the Heisman Trophy. We're talking about a long time.
Limardo's own reaction to his gold-medal victory was fairly tame. His country's reaction was not.
Bill Chappell of NPR.org reported that Venezuela actually threw a parade in Limardo's honor, riding him around the streets of Caracas in front of thousands of cheering fans.
According to the Associated Press, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez even presented Limardo with a replica of South American hero Simon Bolivar's sword. The sword is made of solid-gold and is encrusted with more than 1,000 precious stones.
Sometimes it's easy to forget how much winning a gold medal can mean. I think the fact that the entire country reacted like this is just amazing
I started watching the 2012 Olympics with a pretty high opinion of Usain Bolt. I thought he was undoubtedly the fastest man in the world and quite possibly the fastest in history.
I quickly learned, however, that no one thinks quite as highly of Bolt as he does of himself.
Owen Gibson of the Guardian reported that after winning the 200-meter Olympic title, Bolt explained to reporters, “It's what I do. I'm now a legend. I'm also the greatest athlete to live. I am in the same category as Michael Johnson.”
I couldn't love this quote more. It's fun, it's arrogant, and it's just plain ridiculous. I especially love how Bolt casually mentions that he's the greatest athlete ever, as if he's talking about the weather or something.
No one's disputing that Bolt is a legend, but the logical leap from “greatest sprinter to live” to “greatest athlete to live” is a bit much for me.
But the best part of Bolt's claim is that he hadn't even finished all of his events yet. He still was running in the 400-meter relay!
An Olympian calling himself a “living legend,” as well as the greatest athlete of all time before finishing all of his events? That, my friends, is a great gold-medal-winning reaction.
Andy Murray's reaction to his gold medal victory over Roger Federer may not have been as in-your-face as others, but to any tennis fan it was easily one of the best moments in the London Olympics.
Murray's never quite been able to win “the big one”. He's fallen time and time again in pressure situations, most recently to Roger Federer in a crushing Wimbledon defeat.
So when an exhausted Murray sunk to his knees after finally vanquishing Federer, it was impossible not to feel happy for the guy. It was one of those moments where you could read everything on his face. You knew exactly what the victory meant to him.
The best part is after Murray shakes Federer's hand; when he drinks in the moment before tossing his wristbands to the roaring crowd and jogging up to meet his family. I've watched that video about 15 times, and I still get chills when I see it. Unbelievable.