And so, as in all things, comes an ending. (Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports)
(Jon is now a simmering puddle of protoplasm. He'll be taking a vacation, resurfacing in time for football, and begs you all to never let him do this again or at least not until February 2014.)Three weekends, and the space between. The world descended on the seat of the empire which once encompassed it, bubbling with the excitement that only the Olympic Games can truly generate. And with that excitement, the memories:
- The opening ceremonies weren't the greatest thing ever, but there's one image that can't be easily forgotten: the three athletes from the Netherlands Antilles (along with South Sudanese marathoner Guor Marial) dancing their way into the stadium in an expression of unbridled joy and creating a cottage industry in GIFs all on their own.
- Seven countries earned their first-ever Olympic medals: Bahrain, Botswana, Cyprus, Gabon, Grenada, Guatemala, and Montenegro.
- An American woman, who had to rise above childhood sexual abuse at the hands of her judo instructor, fought past it all; sticking with it, she became the first American women to medal in the sport, and Kayla Harrison made it gold.
- We made jokes here, but Kazakhstan exceeded their best-ever medal performance, and in one Olympic Games won almost as many gold medals as they had in their entire history as an independent nation (nine in four Olympics previously, seven this year alone).
- Alex Morgan's header into the Canadian net at the 123-minute mark of the women's semifinal in soccer won't ever be forgotten, nor will the beauty and precision displayed by all the women's teams during the medal round. Women's soccer will never have the power of the men's game, but in these games they proved that perhaps more than any other sport, they deserve to be taken as seriously as the men and that their product is eminently watchable at the highest levels.
- Maurice Mitchell broke his leg halfway through his portion of the men's 4x400 semifinal. And then he ran for another 200m, finishing his leg of the relay in 46.1 seconds despite the injury.
- The insanity of the women's gymnastics qualifications, where the fourth-best woman in the world was forced to watch the women's all-around from the sidelines because her own teammates had finished second and third ahead of her. Alongside that, the tears flowing from Aly Raisman's eyes before she even completed her floor exercise in the team event, realizing that she'd put the USA over the top and won the gold medal... and we can't ever forget that even though she may very well be a ruthless cyborg out to murder us all in our sleep, McKayla Maroney's skill at leaping off a vault horse is absolutely mind-shattering.
- We had scandal, but for once there was really only one major issue: the startling ejection of eight badminton players for cynical match-fixing. We'll also have the memory of Shin A Lam sitting dejectedly on the piste, unable to leave because doing so would signal her acceptance of a clock malfunction which officials didn't overturn despite overwhelming evidence.
- The death of USA Boxing, as only one boxer even made it so far as the quarterfinals -- and even then, Errol Spence only did so after a protest turned out in his favor.
- Germany's Robert Harding, after winning the gold medal in the discus, ripping off his shirt and and then taking off for his victory lap... during which he attacked the women's 110m hurdles and cleared them all while clutching the German flag over his shoulders.
- After twenty years, the Chinese stranglehold on diving finally cracked and an American male took home a gold medal from the platform.
- Amid all the success, perhaps more notable were the minor, troubling failures: USA women's field hockey, considered a medal favorite, finishing dead last in the competition. Men's volleyball and water polo failing to reach the medal rounds entirely. Men's gymnastics sweeping to the lead after qualifications, then wilting in the finals. Little things... things which nag.
- Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt will ultimately be the faces of this summer Olympiad. But they weren't the only shining lights in their respective fields; we were introduced to bubbly, smart, down-to-earth teenager Missy Franklin. K-State's own Erik Kynard burst onto the scene, relying on his raw talent to medal at the age of 21; he'll easily have three or four more Olympics in him, and his technique's only going to improve. And Allyson Felix, veteran though she is, accomplished something no other sprinter ever has: winning gold medals while running in events of 100m, 200m, and 400m. (This did happen once in distance running, and didn't involve relays; Emil Zatopek won the 5000m, 10000m, and marathon in 1952.)
Sixteen days to remember, and now it's all in the past. We'll miss you, London, but it's hard not to look forward to 2016 now and the inevitable bacchanalia in Rio. And with that, your recap of the final day of the 2012 Summer Olympics:
Athletics: Ugandan Stephen Kiprotich doubled his country's all-time gold medal count when he outlasted Kenyan Abel Kirui in the men's marathon. The bronze went to Kirui's countryman Wilson Kipsang. Meb Keflezighi finished in fourth place, a minute and a half shy of a medal; neither Abdihakem Abdirahman nor Ryan Hall were able to finish. Iowa State's Guor Marial, running under the Olympic flag, was 47th.
Basketball: Team USA tried valiantly to choke it away, but 30 points from Kevin Durant -- including a key burst late in the third quarter to give the US some breathing room -- led to USA GOLD in a 107-100 win over Spain. Pau Gasol had 24 in a losing cause. Russia danced past Argentina 81-77 to win the bronze.
Boxing: Cuban Robeisy Ramirez Carrazana won the gold in men's Fly, taking a 17-14 decision of Mongolia's awesomely-named Tugstsogt Nyambayar. Ukranian lightweight Vasyl Lomachenko defeated Soonchul Han of South Korea 19-9. Kazakhstan got another gold medal when welterweight Serik Sapiyev downed the home team, beating Freddie Evans 17-9. Russian Igor Mekhontcev won the Light Heavy by judge's decision after battling Kazakhstan's Adilbek Niyazymbetov to a 15-15 tie on the scorecard. Finally, Great Britain's Anthony Joshua sent boxing out with a bang, thrilling the home crowd with an 18-18 bout against Italian Roberto Cammarelle; Joshua was granted the gold by the judges.
Cycling: Czech Jaroslav Kulhavy took the gold in the men's cross-country mountain bike event. Nino Schurter of Switzerland won the silver, while the bronze went to Italy's Marco Aurelio Fontana. Todd Wells finished 10th and Sam Schultz came in 15th.
Gymnastics (Rhythmic): The gold medal in the group all-around competition went to the Russians, with Belarus taking silver and Italy earning the bronze.
Handball: France nipped Sweden 22-21 for the gold medal. Croatia knocked off Hungary for the bronze with the most lopsided result of the knockout rounds, winning 33-26.
Modern Pentathlon: Laura Asadauskaite of Lithuania captured the gold in the final event of these Olympic games. Samantha Murray of Great Britain claimed silver, and Brazilian Yane Marques won the bronze a mere eight points ahead of American Margaux Isaksen. Suzanne Stettinius finished 28th.
Volleyball: Russia took a five-set victory over the Brazilians to win the gold medal; Italy took bronze over Bulgaria in four sets.
Water Polo: Team USA finished in eighth place after a 10-9 loss to Australia in the men's competition; Hungary took fifth with a 14-8 win over Spain. Croatia held off a late Italian rally to claim the gold medal 8-6, while in a game pitting recent teammates against one another Serbia eked out a 12-11 win over Montenegro for the bronze.
Wrestling: In the men's 66kg event, Jared Frayer lost to Ali Shabanau of Belarus in the 1/8 stage. Tatsuhiro Yonemitsu of Japan won the gold over Sushil Kumar of India, while the bronze medals went to Cuban Livan Lopez Azcuy and Akzhunek Tanatarov of Kazakhstan. Jacob Varner also started at 1/8 in the 96kg, beating Kurban Kurbanov of Uzbekistan. Varner then took down Canadian Khetag Pliev in the quarterfinals and Georgian George Gogshelidze in the semis before claiming USA GOLD with a win over Ukranian Valeri Andriitsev. Gogshelidze shared the bronze with Khetag Gazyumov of Azerbaijan.
MEDAL COUNT: Team USA wins the medal race with 104 overall and 46 gold. China failed to capture even a single medal today, leaving them at 87 and 38; Russia was unable to take advantage, only closing the gap by four as they finished third overall with 82. Great Britain was fourth with 65, then Germany with 44. The British were third in golds with 29, ahead of Russia's 24; South Korea finished with 13, where it seems like they'd been stuck since last weekend.
Tomorrow (all times Central):
There is no tomorrow. It's all done, except for the closing ceremonies. Me? I'm taking a vacation, because I am fried.