The London 2012 Olympics have begun and the world cannot help but watch all-day coverage of men’s rowing. It’s not that anyone particularly likes rowing, but because it only happens every four years, people are glued to the TV. I’m guilty of this too. Why would any sane person hold on to and defend memory of the Dream Team of 92’s Olympics? (The best team ever, btw) We all have favorite Olympic memories, but for most of us it’s because we watched them in our youth and still had dreams and ambitions…and stuff.
In dedication to the current Olympics my list will be the stories that are great enough to have feature films based on them. There are suprising few Olympic movies. If you ask anyone, they’d only be able to name Miracle and Cool Runnings. These great athletes deserve better.
5 – Tommy Kono
|I can do this sitting down|
A Japanese-American born in 1930. His family was put into internment camps for years during his youth. It was there that he started lifting weight and building strength. Much like Michael Phelps he suffered from asthma at a young age. He went on to compete for the country that put his family away and lifted in the 1952, ’56, and ’60 games. He won 2 golds and a silver and became the team’s head coach in 1976.
4 – 1992 Barcelona Olympics
|How I feel after running a mile|
There is not a person on earth outside of egomaniac Lebron James that thinks any team is better than the all-star Dream Team. Putting Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Karl Malone, John Stockton, David Robinson, and Clyde Drexler in one room would make any other countries explode from fear and admiration. That is exactly what happened. They easily beat each team by an average of 43 points. It would almost be cruel to watch the games if it wasn’t so much fun to watch the greats play. Though, in the movie showcasing these games, they would be a subplot because who really wants to watch the Harlem Globetrotters trounce a team from Peru. The main character would be Derek Redmond. He is a British long-distance runner who tore his hamstring halfway through his race and tried to persist and fight through the pain. He had a long way to go and would not give up. This is where the real heart-grabber comes in. His dad comes down from the stands and rushes to his sons aid and supports him as they both cross the finish line. Yes, he may have got last place but it made for one of the greatest, most emotional olympic moments ever.
3 – 1996 U.S. Female Gymnastics Team a.k.a. Magnificent Seven
|This could either be Kerri Strug or some guy who likes to be carried by Russian men.|
The stage is set. The Russians had won every single women’s Gymnastics event since the 1950’s. They were the odds on favorites again even though we had home turf in Atlanta. Even with several mistakes, the U.S. team was in the lead. Our team had a minor lead, and by minor I mean (.897 points). Dominique Moceanu, who is my personal favorite olympian, fell on both of her vaults. She earned very low scores and it seemed like Russia was going to take Gold again. Kerri Strug was our last hope. She ran and jumped her first vault….and fell. Not only did she fall but she damaged her ankle. Apparently that makes it hard to run, jump, and land. This is another story where she could have nursed her wounds and sat out with her Bronze winning team, but her coach asked her to go again. She did and the rest is history. She landed on her good foot and did the usual gymnast peacock move to the judges and fell to her knees. Her daring moves took her out of individual matches but won the gold for her team. Did I mention that I had a giant crush on Dominique Moceanu?
2 – Seoul
|Please say those are bracelets and not veins…|
This entire olympiad was full of great stories. Florence Griffith Joyner “Flo Jo” emerged on the scene with 3 gold medals and 1 silver. There was much speculation about doping, and she retired soon after the games. Some say it is because of the allegations. Greg Louganis became famous for hitting his head on the diving board basically splitting his skull. But even after that he brought home 2 gold medals in the event. Lawrence Lemieux is not a household name but he is an absolute olympic hero. He is Canadian (do they have an olympic team?) and was competing in the sailing event. He was poised to take the Silver medal as he rounded the halfway point of the race. Like any olympian, he had surely trained the majority of his life for those few moments of competition. But he saw the ship of the Singapore crew capsize and he steered his boat out of the race and saved two sailors, waiting with them for further help. He finally finished the race in 22nd place. The IOC later gave him a special award for his sacrifice. The last is an unfortunate story. Roy Jones Jr, an American boxer was fighting for the Gold against South Korea’s Park Si-Hun. Anyone could see that Jones was the champion, doubling the blows against Si-Hun. But when the judges decided the winner, they held up Si-Hun’s hand as Jones stood there shocked. It wasn’t long before they IOC suspended the three judges and found that Korean officials had fixed the judging. This movie would play out as an ensemble sports drama and be in the vein of “Crash” or “Magnolia.”
1 – Jesse Owens
|Somewhere in Germany, a Hitler just cried|
The year was 1936. Germany was host to the olympic games and Hitler was at the peak of his power. His intent on bringing rival nations to his homeland was to prove the superiority of the Aryan race. Much of the propaganda during the games was depicting Africans as an inferior race. Enter Jesse Owens, an American track and field athlete. He went in as the underdog and won 4 gold medals in the Berlin games. A German athlete, Luz Long, who died fighting for the Nazis in WWII, befriended Owens and gave him advice that eventually helped him win the events. Hitler chose not to acknowledge Owens till much after the games and stressed that he was constantly put off my his victories. I picture something out of Gladiator for this, as Hitler is in his box watching Owens’ triumphs and yelling with frustration. While in the Olympics, he was offered to endorse Adidas. It was the first ever endorsement for an African-American. My how times have changed. Even as Owens came home a hero as the man who humbled the dictator, he was not welcomed as such. FDR didn’t recognize him, and neither did Truman. It wasn’t till Eisenhower took office that Owens received the sports changing credit he was due.