A Few Familiar Olympic Characters

After all is said and done with these 2012 London Olympics, NBC Universal, the sole broadcaster of the Games in the United States, will have raked in over a billion dollars.

The Olympic opening ceremony set an international viewing record by drawing nearly a billion viewers worldwide.

Comparatively speaking, Super Bowl XLVI had just over 110 million viewers.

These numbers simply confirm what has been the most obvious statement in sports for 120 years—there is no bigger stage than the Olympics.

There is something so special about these sports and athletes.  The tension is real and never fades; it is as if we are willing our countrymen and countrywomen to the podium from our living rooms.

London 2012 is only four days old and we’ve already seen enough drama, triumph and discomfort (see: the very end of the US women’s gymnastics team qualifying) to tide us over until Rio.

American Jordyn Wieber, after finding out she had been overtaken by teammate Aly Raisman and would not compete for the individual all-around title.

Every four years, a new story is woven by Olympic characters of a similar nature.  Here are some of the supporting roles that have kept us coming back so far in 2012…

The Triumphant Underdog, Honduras Soccer over Spain:

Striker Jerry Bengston scored merely seven minutes into the 1-0 soccer match that eliminated Spain, the overwhelming gold medal favorite.  Sure, there were some fortuitous bounces, including Spain’s three shots that glanced off the crossbar in the second half, but the determined Honduras side was able to hang on.  The scrappy play of Honduran goalkeeper Jose Mendoza, who had key saves against Rodrigo and Iker Muniain, was key in securing this “Miracle on Turf.”  Tegucigalpa, Honduras’s often violence-ridden capital, was due for a heartwarming moment—this was it.

The Battle-Hardened Vet, Cyclist Alexander Vinokourov:

In 2008, it was forty-something Dara Torres who shocked the world by winning two silver medals in her fifth Olympics.  This go-round, we witnessed Kazakhstan’s Vinokourov end his cycling career with a gold medal on his resume.  After fighting to regain his legitimacy following a 2007 doping ban and a 2011 Tour de France crash that cracked his femur and briefly put his career on hold, Vinokourov finished a respectable 31st in the 2012 Tour de France and held off Colombia’s Rigoberto Uran in London’s first event to claim Olympic glory.  Vinokourov and his metal hip will take a final bow following Wednesday’s time trial event.

The Redeemed, Tie, Swimmer Brendan Hansen and GBR Men’s Gymnastics:

After failing to win an individual medal in Beijing, many in the swimming world expected the American to fall flat on his face at the 2012 Olympic Trials or just not show up at all.  It was rumored that the screams of four-time Olympic breaststroke gold medalist Kosuke Kitajima of Japan haunted his dreams for years.  Swimming from lane eight and not expected to medal in the 100 meter breaststroke, Hansen charged from the back of the field to close the race, pass long-time foe Kitajima and win the bronze to end his individual career.  Said Hansen to Andrea Kremer following the race, “This is the shiniest bronze medal you will ever see.”

Kitajima is known to scream to the heavens following each victory. Something tells me Brendan Hansen can now sleep well.

Anybody knows 100 years is a long time to wait.  Maybe that’s why North Greenwich Arena, which hosted Monday night’s men’s gymnastics team finals, was absolutely on fire.  Great Britain’s Daniel Purvis, Max Whitlock and Kristian Thomas nailed down three solid floor exercise routines to make up a miniscule .3 point deficit on team Ukraine and earn their team a long-awaited bronze medal.  Barring a .7 point correction on Japan’s final pommel horse routine, the Brits would have won silver.  It was kind of fitting that Prince William and Prince Harry were on hand to witness the coronation of British gymnastics royalty.

The Punisher (Replaces Usain Bolt from Beijing), China’s Diving Team:

Three for three thus far, the Chinese are favored…no, expected to win the five remaining diving events.  Enough said.


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