After 17 days of glorious Olympic competition, the 10,000 athletes from 205 different nations are headed home, many to start prepping for the Rio De Janeiro 2016 Olympics after a brief rest to give their bodies time to heal. The International
Olympic Committee (IOC) and the people of London will take a brief hiatus to breathe a sigh of relief for another successful Olympic Games in the book.
London 2012 appeared to be getting off to a shaky start before the games even began. The pre-Olympic hype was all about security issues and nothing else. However, the people of London addressed the issue, dealt with it, and for 17 days London was the safest and most secure place on the planet.
The Summer Games of the XXX Olympiad may have been the start of something new. The 2012 Summer Olympics can be viewed as The Year of the Woman for a number of reasons. First and foremost is that for the first time in Olympic history all 205 participating nations had a woman compete. Some had to wear their traditional head garb and completely cover themselves as part of their uniform, but their just being able to compete is a step in the right direction. Many of the history-making women weren’t medal contenders, but they were statement makers, first timers, and will go down in history as such. Even though many of the first-timers crossed the line dead last, the crowd roared, clapped, cheered and cried as if they cheering for a home town hero battling for the gold. Everyone knew the significance of what was taking place. Burma, Qatar, Afghanistan, Brunei and Saudi Arabia were among a few nations sending women to compete in the games for the first time.
Sarah Attar of Saudi Arabia won’t be remembered for finishing in last place in the women’s 800 meters, nearly a minute behind the rest of the field, but will be remembered for being the first woman in Saudi history to cross an Olympic finish line. The Londoners, who are the biggest track and field fans in the world were moved to tears as they rose to their feet to Attar in a well- deserved standing ovation as she sprinted down the back straight fully covered with head garb en route to a personal and very historic victory. The 19-year-old Attar finished the race with a time of 2:44.95, which is a record in Saudi Arabia as the best and first time in the event for a woman. Attar runs track at Pepperdine University and has dual citizenship. Her mother is American, her father is Saudi
Nations allowing women to compete for the first time is by far the most important and will be the most memorable part of the 2012 Olympic Games, but there were a few other firsts that took place as well.
Team USA sent the second biggest delegation to the games, being outnumbered only by the host country, Great Britain. For the first time, more women represented Team USA than men, and the women accounted for more hardware this Olympics. Of the 104 total medals won by the USA one-third were won by women. Women also won over 60% of USA Gold.
Team USA won the medal race with 104 total medals, 46 gold, 29 silver and 29 bronze. Team China was a distant second with 88 total medals. 38 gold, 27 silver and 23 bronze. Russia was competitive as usual, coming in third in the medal count with 82 total medals, 24 gold, 26 silver, and 32 bronze. Team Great Britain had one of their best Olympic performance in history by collecting 65 medals, coming in fourth place in the medal count. Great Britain pulled in 29 gold, 17 silver, and 19 bronze. Some of their athletes made history in the process, including Mo Farrah who won gold in the 10,000 meters and 5,000 meters, the first time that has been accomplished.
Jamaican superstar Usain Bolt made history in the Games, and hinted at continuing his historic Olympic career in Rio De Janeiro in 2016. Bolt became the first track and field athlete to successfully defend his gold medal in both the 100 and 200 meters. Many thought his title of Olympic champion was on the line but Bolt silenced the crowd as he crossed the line in the 200 meters in a decisive first place and shushed the crowd in the process. Bolt closed the show in style by winning his third gold medal of the games in world record in the 4x100 meter relay. Team Jamaica got past Team USA in the men’s 4x100 meter relay. The Jamaicans finished with a world-record time of 36.84, while Team USA equaled the previous record that was set by the Jamaicans at the 2011 World Championship. Team USA finished with a time of 37.04. First time Olympian Ryan Bailey ran anchor and was given the insurmountable task to hold off two-time 100 meter Olympic gold medalist and world record holder Usain Bolt.
Team USA held their own against Jamaica through the first three exchanges. Justin Gatlin, 2012 100 meter Olympic bronze medalist, ran the third leg for USA, and handed the baton off with a very small lead. However, it wasn’t big enough. Bolt closed Bailey’s in a two-step lead en route to the gold and a world record. However, Bailey did manage to stay surprisingly close to Bolt down the stretch. He finished fifth in his very first Olympic final with a personal best time of 9.88. Bailey didn’t freeze under the pressure of the bright lights on the world’s biggest sports stage. Instead, he rose to the occasion and ran an extremely fast split during his anchor leg run against Usain Bolt. If Bailey represents the future of USA track and field, then the future looks very bright.
Not to be outdone. the women of Team USA did their country proud. The 4x100 meter relay of Tianna Madison; lead of leg, Alyson Felix; second leg, Bianca Knight; third leg, and Carmelita Jeter; anchor, ran past the field in the 4x100 en route to the gold and broke a 20-year- old world record in the process. Team USA gapped the rest of the field by at least seven meters. Jamaica was expected to challenge, but it wasn’t close. Team USA’s world record of 40.82 erased a 20-year-old record, but this one might not stand as long. All the members of the women’s 4x100 meter relay team are from Southern California.
The USA gold rush was helped out by the women’s basketball team who claimed their fifth consecutive gold medal, women’s water polo who claimed their first ever Olympic gold medal, and the women’s eight team crew who claimed their second gold. Other first-time gold includes talk of Gabby Douglas, who left London with two gold medals. Douglas led Team USA gymnastics to team gold by competing on all the disciplines, posting Team USA’s highest score. She won gold in the individual all-around a couple of days later, making her the first Black woman in Olympic history to win gold in that event. The American public was so overwhelmed with Douglas’ performance that her hometown of Virginia Beach honored her with a 9 x 30 foot mural of herself with her gold medal and the American flag painted on the side of a popular sports bar.
The USA women’s soccer team won their fourth gold with a 2-1 win over Japan in what was considered a repeat match from last year’s world championships when Japan defeated USA 2-1. The women’s 4x400 meter relay team of Dee Dee Trotter, Francena McCorory, Alyson Felix, and Sonya Richard-Ross made a run for the world record. The USA winning time was 3:16.87, less than two seconds off the world record.
Of the 104 total medals won by the USA, over half will make their way to California, mostly Southern California. Felix won her first individual gold in the 200 meter after taking home silver in Beijing 2008 and Athens 2004. Felix was three for three in London, bringing three golds back to the Golden State. Felix won gold in the 200 meters, 4x100 meter relay and the 4x400 meter relay. The women’s soccer team that won gold has nine member Californians on their team and women’s basketball team had six.
Olympic Games have a number of collegiate athletes and former collegiate athletes who compete in the games and the University of Southern California had the most collegiate athletes in the games with 25. The Trojans also continued a long tradition of Olympic gold. Since 1904 a USC student or student athlete has won Olympic gold in every Olympics. Felix kept the tradition alive with three golds, and Felix Sanchez of the Dominican Republic did his part by winning gold in the men’s 400 meter hurdles. Sanchez, a resident of the Dominican Republic, was a standout hurdler at USC.
Some USA surprises of the games was the absence of the USA men in the open 400 meters, an event the USA men swept last Olympics, one that USA has dominated for the past 20 years. The men’s 4x400 meter relay also had to settle for the silver in the event for the first time in over 20 years. Defending 400 meter Olympic champion LaShawn Merit suffered an injury in the qualifying rounds of the 400 meters; another member of the relay team, Manteo Mitchell, broke his leg in the semi-heat of the 400 meter relay. Two hundred meters in the race, Mitchell heard and felt a pop in his left leg. Like a true champion, Mitchell continued his leg in a time of 46 seconds flat. That time is slow by Olympic standards, but very fast considering the last 200 meters was ran on a broken leg. When the public learned of his injury, Manteo Mitchell went from goat to hero for Team USA. The depleted team had to get guys from the 400 meter hurdling corps to fill the void. Bryshon Nellum, a USC standout, helped lead the team to silver in the 4x400 meter relay. Nellum actually gave the team the lead for a brief minute, but Angelo Taylor, who took bronze in the 400 meter hurdles earlier in the week, wasn’t able to hold off Chris Smith of the Bahamas.
Nellum’s road to the Olympics is worthy of Olympic gold. His rise to becoming an Olympian was as tough as they come and was rewarded with a huge honor. The Long Beach native was honored with carrying the flag of the United States of America during the closing ceremony. To get to this point Nellum had to recover and rehab from gunshot blasts to both legs just two years ago. He is less than a year removed from his last surgery from the wounds.
In addition to some nations having women compete for the first time, some nations captured their first-ever Olympic medals. To have your nation’s first medal be gold is even more special. Kirani James of Grenada won his country’s first-ever medal--which happened to be gold. The 18-year-old from Grenada, who is a student at Mississippi State, won gold in the 400 meters. With Merit out James was the strong favorite and he didn’t disappoint. James beat Merit in the 2011 world champions to win gold but, according to James, there is nothing like Olympic Gold.
Uganda got their first-ever Olympic medal as well, which just happened to be gold. It was won in the marathon by Stephen Kiprotich.
Every four years the world’s best athletes come together for the Olympics in the spirit of competition. London 2012 gave the world just enough to keep us satisfied until Rio de Janeiro 2016, which promises to be something very special.