For the past two weeks many of us have watched the Olympics with great interest. I am sure many of you, like myself, have been paying attention to the race with China in the medal count. The USA finished the games with more medals than China 110-100. Unfortunately the USA was unable to keep up with China in the gold medal count, with China winning 51-36.
I spent most of the first week hoping that we could catch up in the gold medal count before realizing early in week two that it wasn’t going to happen. I then spent a lot of the second week disappointed that we couldn’t keep up with China. I looked to blame this disappointment on the Americans that were favored to win Gold and failed—including, but not limited to, the US Track team and the Women’s Softball team. This was completely unfair because they were competing as hard as they could against the world’s best, but I still felt disappointed. I also realized that for those teams that fell short of their expectations there were at least as many teams and individuals for the USA that came out of nowhere to win big, including the Men’s Gymnastics team, the Women’s Soccer team, and Men’s Beach Volleyball.
As the Olympics actually came to a close I realized that the while the competition with China was a good story line and both teams could walk away with some satisfaction, the US won clearly in another category. The USA athletes never failed to show the beauty of sports through their emotion and their passion for their respective sport. I thought back over what I had witnessed the past two weeks and every American showed their passion in both the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.
I witnessed great passion from Michael Phelps as Jason Lezak touched the wall in the 4X100 free relay; Misty May, Keri Walsh, Phil Dalhausser and Todd Rogers after winning Beach Volleyball; and many other athletes during their celebrations. I also witnessed heartbreaking agony from the Women’s 4X100 team as they dropped the baton, Lolo Jones after she hit a hurdle and lost her 100 meter hurdle race, and the other athletes that had their dreams ripped away.
My point in mentioning both sides of the emotions shown by the Americans is that they captured what sports are about; and I just didn’t see that from the Chinese team. Watching as China’s many athletes won and lost their events I did not see the same reaction. Many times it surprised me a how little it seemed to affect them as they fell to lose a medal or succeeded to captured a Gold medal. My only guess would be that it is a reflection of their sport culture.
It was mentioned many times during the games that Chinese scouts were sent to schools across the country to recruit kids that they thought has potential at certain sports. Those kids were then placed in government training programs to prepare them for a future in that sport. This is drastically different from American sports where kids play many sports in recreation leagues and then, if they excel at one sport or really love the sport, they can focus on that sport and choose a place to train. I can’t help but think that many of these Chinese athletes only view their sport as a job and no longer see it as the sport it is meant to be. I am not saying that this applies to all of the Chinese athletes or that the same cannot be said about some American athletes. I am simply saying that I while there many flaws in youth sports in America it is clear from these Olympic Games that even the top athletes in the USA can still see and feel the joy of the game and for that I am proud.
I want to end by thanking and congratulating all of the American athletes for the hard work and excellent performances that all of them turned in over the last two weeks. Go USA!
As I am going to be writing a regular column on the world of sports for The Dagger, I thought that I should let you know a little about myself as well as what I plan to do with this column.
I am a graduate of the University of Maryland – College Park. At Maryland, I majored in Kinesiology (Sports). I worked for the Athletic Department in several different capacities and I have always been a sports junkie.
My plan for this column is basically to share the latest sports news and a little bit of my opinion. I will focus mostly on football, at least during the season. I would also like to hear from you. I would love to hear what your opinions are; and if you have any questions send them my way.