Top Five Storylines from the 2008 Olympics Thus Far

Ben WeixlmannSenior Writer IAugust 17, 2008

So, the swimming portion of the Olympic Games is over, and thus we enter the final seven days of the 29th Olympiad. The first hint that it is an eventful Olympics is that even Usain Bolt didn't make the top five! Here they are.


5) Shawn Johnson still hasn't won a gold medal

The 4'9", 16-year-old wondergirl has narrowly missed gold on three occasions. That being said, she could care less. According to several reports, she's having a "wonderful time." As much as I believe that, she still has to feel the pain from her last two silver medals.

First, she lost to teammate and roommate Nastia Liukin in one of the most sensational all-around competitions in recent memory. Today, however, was the real downer. Johnson put together a magnificent floor exercise routine, only to outdone by Romania's Sandra Izbasa by 15/100 of a point.

No one can deny the way in which Johnson carries herself, as she is always smiling and having fun. It must hurt though, knowing how much competitive spirit she has, to come away from the Beijing games with no gold medals after winning the world championships.

Inside and outside of the Olympic Green, Johnson has been America's darling. Sure, Liukin won gold in the all-around, but everyone will remember Johnson's adorable smile and determination.


4) Japan's Kosuke Kitajima winning two gold medals

Even though Kitajima's Olympic haul was only three medals, he put on spectacular performances in both the 100m and 200m breaststroke finals. Kitajima, who dominated the field four years ago in Athens, was back at it again to prove to his American rival Brendan Hansen that "The Swimming Son of the Land of the Rising Sun" truly owned this event.

More impressive in my eyes, though, was the way in which he won his country a bronze medal in the 4x100m medley relay. Japan was not expected to do much of anything in this race, but with Kitajima's insanely fast leg putting the Japanese in front after two swimmers, it put his country in position to hold on for the bronze medal.

I can't really put into words how excellent I think this kid is. His swimming prowess wasn't especially detected due to Phelps' unbelievable run, but Kitajima was definitely second-tier in the swimming storylines.


3) The resurgence of Jason Lezak

Talk about not being able to put something into words. What Lezak did in the 4x100 freestyle relay final was absolutely extraordinary. The 32-year old came into the Beijing games as a veteran competing in his third Olympics, and he showed just that.

Lezak not only held off France's Alain Bernard for the gold in the 4x100 freestyle relay, but he anchored the 4x100 medley relay that won Phelps' his eighth and final gold medal.

You have to feel great for Lezak, who is his own coach, and just simply loves the sport of swimming. It was truly an Olympics that Lezak will never forget.


2) Michael Phelps winning a historic eight gold medals

I know, I'm crazy for thinking this is the second storyline of the Olympics. It's arguably the best feat sports has ever seen. Mark Spitz, the sensational swimmer from the 1972 Munich Games, even said himself that it was possible, and Phelps proved that he needed everything to go perfectly to take home all eight gold medals.

Although there were struggles along the way, he will probably—and rightfully—be remembered for dominating the competition by over a second in five of his eight gold medal races.

Swimming is a sport where six-tenths of a second is considered a blowout. Combine that knowledge with the fact that Phelps and his relay partners swam a whopping 6:58 in the 4x200 freestyle relay, breaking the existing record by more than five seconds.

It may very well never happen again, that a swimmer, or any athlete for that matter, comes along with the greatness that Phelps possesses.

One thing is certain though: His teammates deserve just as much recognition as Phelps gets, because without them, Phelps wouldn't be thinking about any eight gold medals.

Congratulations though, Michael, you put together the finest Olympic performance we have ever seen, and perhaps ever will see.


1) The Opening Ceremonies were absolutely magical

As I think of Olympic moments that may never be matched, like Phelps' run at eight gold medals, one distinct memory from these Olympics comes to mind as The Moment that will never be outdone.

I don't much care that China had to spend 10 times as much money as Athens did for this Opening Ceremony, because it was just that good.

Whether it was the 2008 drummers in perfect synchronization, the fairies suspended in air, or Chinese gymnastics legend Li Ning "running" the around the stadium in midair to light the torch.

The "Bird's Nest", as it was appropriately named, was packed past its 91,000 full-capacity number that night, Aug. 8, 2008. The luckiest of Chinese numbers, eight, was seen in much abundance on this night.

The main spectacle, however, was when the home country of China walked into the National Stadium as the last country represented. Yao Ming, the 7'5" Chinese basketball ambassador was accompanied by nine-year-old Lin Hao, whose story puts any normal human into tears.

Hao, who lost two-thirds of his classmates in the horrible earthquake that hit China, was able to save two of his pupils from death because, in his words, "It was his responsibility."

The Bird's Nest is one of the most amazing sporting venues ever created, and on Aug. 8, 2008, the bar was raised unbelievably high, as it easily marked the finest Opening Ceremony performance in Olympic history.