Way, way back when I was but a novice writer (because I’ve clearly progressed so far now), I wrote a monthly Top Ten column for my high school newspaper, The Garaway Gazette. In true nostalgic spirit, I decided to resurrect the format for a post-Olympics wrap-up piece. Since I spent most of the past two weeks being both enthralled by the London Games and disgusted at my own general schluffy couch-potato nature (especially when I snacked while I watched), there was no way I could devote so much of my time to one thing without blogging about it.
Cory’s Entirely Subjective, In No Way Conclusive, Top Ten Moments of the XXX Olympiad
10. Annie Lennox’s performance of “Little Bird” at the Closing Ceremonies: I know the Spice Girls were pretty zig-ah-zig-ah and Jessie J attempted to see if she could simultaneously make every person in the world shout “What?!” with her series of heinous flesh-toned jumpsuits, but for me, Annie Lennox stole the show. Belting out her 1993 classic from the top of a movable Gothic galleon with scores of creepy dancers flanking her every move, Ms. Lennox reminded the world at large why she is one of the bestselling British female musicians of all time. These photos are a mere taste of the spectacle, which begins at 26:45 in this video.
9. The ascendance of Missy Franklin and the hilarious decline of Ryan Lochte: Missy Franklin was maybe America’s most charming athlete at these Olympics. With her ever-present smile, infectious giggle and playful banter, she probably caused quite a few teenage boys to crush on her pretty hardcore. Hopefully, she will shine even brighter at Rio in four years. But as one star shines, another loses its luster: though he created tons of buzz coming into London with his hyped rivalry with Michael Phelps and his frat-boy looks, Ryan Lochte showed America at these games that he’s more than a little dumb. Sorry, Ryan Lochte: we can’t all be skilled at the English language.
8. Serena Williams’s crip walk after her gold medal: There is just no way around it. Williams wiped the floor with Maria Sharapova in the women’s tennis finals, even clinching her gold medal on a powerhouse ace. What followed was a pretty incredible (if pompous) celebration, capped off by an exuberant crip walk (ignore this article’s stance on the political meaning behind the dance) that really brought the house down. You go, Serena Williams. Shout it out, dance it out, whatever. You earned it.
7. Usain Bolt sweeping the sprints twice in a row: Next to maybe Michael Phelps, Usain Bolt was arguably the most famous Olympian at these London games. After an unprecedented sweep of the men’s 100 meter, 200 meter and 4 x 100 relay in Beijing, all eyes were on Bolt’s muscular frame to see if he could repeat the feat. And after running for less than forty total seconds, Bolt had three more gold medals to hang around his neck. While I think he’s a bit of a showoff (this interview is a great example), there’s no denying his achievements; his races were absolutely thrilling to watch.
6. Andy Murray avenging his Wimbledon loss: The men’s singles tennis gold medal match, while not as decisive as the above women’s final, was still pretty much always in Andy Murray’s favor. The Brit, who lost to Roger Federer earlier this year at Wimbledon, came back to handily defeat the Swiss tennis star at the same court in front of a hyper-supportive home crowd, capping off an excellent Olympic weekend for British athletes. Murray proceeded into the stands immediately after his win, enthusiastically hugging a whole slew of supporters, including his girlfriend and his mother. No win tastes quite as sweet as a rematch win.
5. McKayla Maroney’s near-perfect vault, frigid scowl, and subsequent rise to Internet stardom: I mean, have you seen the vault? I know next to nothing about gymnastics (though I pretend to for two weeks every four years), but when a gymnast can make a judge’s mouth drop open, you know she’s worth her salt. Not only did she manage to still receive a silver medal in the vault event finals after falling flat on her butt, but her chilly, post-competition attitude towards her fellow gymnasts has been immortalized in meme form. And she’s a good sport about it! Pretty sure the girl’s set for life.
4. Jessica Ennis’s heptathlon victory for Great Britain: London had high hopes for these Olympics. As the host nation, they needed to make a serious splash (no pun intended) in the medal count, unlike their comparatively pitiful showing in the 1996 Atlanta Games. A good amount of that pressure was placed on Jessica Ennis, a 26-year old track and field standout who was heavily favored to win the heptathlon. And win she did. Coming into the final event with a commanding lead, Ennis powered through the 800 meter run, winning it handily, even though she could have coasted and still taken the gold. It was a beautiful, moving display of British national pride and an athlete living gloriously up to the hype.
3. Michael Phelps’s heretofore unseen ability to smash whatever records he chooses: Basically, you can’t have missed it. Bob Costas and his fellow gaggle of NBC reporters mentioned it roughly every 2.7 seconds, while bloggers all across the Internet trumpeted the news from the proverbial rooftops: with his six medals at these Games, Michael Phelps has become the most decorated Olympian of all time. (Is he also the greatest Olympian ever, as NBC kept pushing? That is a less concrete thing to define.) I’m not the biggest Phelps Phanatic, but I won’t deny that an American holding that record is a pretty good feeling.
2. Mo Farah’s win in the men’s 10000 meter finals: There was no better victory celebration throughout the Games. Farah (running for Great Britain) crosses the finish line, his American training partner Galen Rupp at his heels, and he simply cannot believe it. He smacks his head repeatedly, runs in a circle and wraps Rupp up in a bony, sweaty hug while millions of his countrymen cheer. He proceeds to kiss the track as tears run unheeded down his face. A grateful, unbound, openhearted celebration of athletic achievement that gave me chills all over again as I wrote this paragraph.
1. Oscar Pistorius’s history-making appearances: Most of the time, I am undeniably cynical, remaining unaffected by sentimentality and the like. But after seeing Oscar Pistorius’s inspiring story and watching in interviews how grateful he was just to be competing, I found myself sitting on my couch, telling myself that those tears leaking out of my eyes just HAD to be from allergies. I was had, hook, line and sinker. The 25-year old South African is a double amputee equipped with carbon-fiber blades instead of human feet who ran his way into the hearts of millions with his amiable demeanor, easy smile and the talent to back up his high profile. Not only did he make history by qualifying for the Olympics period, he made the finals of the men’s 4 x 400 relay and the semifinals of the men’s 400 meter. Sure, he may have came in last in both events, but his post-race smile was arguably bigger than those of the race winners. Of the thousands of athletes who competed these past two weeks, Pistorius is the one who best captured that much-discussed Olympic spirit in my mind.
What do you think, fellow armchair Olympians? What were your favorite London moments?