Tonight was the most incredible night of any Olympic Games I’ve ever seen. And I’ve seen every Olympics since I was old enough to watch television. The Olympic Games were always on at my house. At every games I knew all the best athletes and tuned in for every special event.
Tonight, I was not disappointed. The All-Round Men’s Gymnastics competition was amazing, truly amazing. All of the athletes were great and all of them had great moments. But they also all felt the intense pressure of the competition and made mistakes as well. The reigning world champion, American Paul Hamm crashed spectacularly in his vault. I have never seen such a critical mistake. He almost fell off of the platform and was literally assisted by one of the judges. It was shocking! Unbelievable! In a flash, after years and years of work, pain, and sacrifice, it was all gone. He went from a very close second place to twelfth. And this after such a painful time on the rings (Hamm’s face was contorted in pain during the rings due to shoulder tears).
But a domino effect went into motion and other competitors made errors, albeit none as egregious as Hamm’s. However, Hamm showed true Olympic, and American, spirit. He did not give up. In fact, far from giving up, he turned in perhaps his best performances ever in the next two events, parallel bars and the high bar. Rather than give up he commanded his body to deliver performance no one could have hoped for. His high bar routine, with incredible difficulty, was almost flawless. He won the gold medal. It is undeniably the greatest comeback in the history of the Olympic Games. Something I’ll always remember and be inspired by.
But that’s not all! The women’s 4x200m freestyle relay won gold and broke a 17-year old world record! 17 years this record, set by East Germans in 1987 (when there still was an East Germany), has been unbeatable. And tonight the American women broke the record by almost 3 seconds! It is almost incomprehensible that after so many years, world records are still being set and broken by incredible margins. Fancy sleek bodysuits may help somewhat but these women are simply better, faster, stronger than before. You need only look as far as men’s gymnastics to see further proof of physical improvements. Look at the routines these guys are turning out! The strength required is herculean and yet moves are executed with cheetah speed, so fast that it blurs in the camera.
This is why I love the Olympic Games. The Games bring out the ultimate in the human spirit, and inspire people around the world to do their best. The Games show us what we are capable of. They give us a chance to share in the glory of the best in the world. It was an emotional night for all. Paul Hamm did not shed any tears listening to the national anthem, standing on the gold medal podium. That’s okay, Paul, I shed some for you.