The thrill of victory…and the agony of defeat

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Can all of you U.S. Baby Boomers recall hearing Jim McKay saying that like 1000 times as we grew up? It was part of the opening of the iconic U.S. TV sports program, The Wide World of Sports that aired from 1961 to 1998.

It also pretty much sums up what we’ve seen over the last nearly two weeks of the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro as well.

Lots of thrills in women’s gymnastics, swimming, basketball and…water polo(?) And agony in beach volleyball, soccer, tennis, and men’s gymnastics.

With live streaming and television coverage on 5 channels, I’ve watched more Olympics in the past 13 days than I’ve watch during the last four Olympics. I’m watching the crowd pleasers – gymnastics, swimming, track & field. But I’m also watching stuff like archery, rowing, track cycling, and fencing. AGMA tried to watch dressage. I fell asleep after about 30 seconds. I switched the channel to ping pong

It’s addictive.

The earliest Olympics I remember are the 1968 games in Grenoble, France. As a 14 year old, AGMA fell in love with skier Jean-Claude Killy. What 14 year old girl didn’t? And I wanted to be Peggy Fleming. Too bad I couldn’t even stand up on ice skates.

AGMA remembers feeling terrified in 1972 when 9 Israeli athletes and 2 coaches were killed by Palestinian terrorists at the Munich Olympics. But I also fell in love with the great swimmer, Mark Spitz. What 18 year old young woman didn’t? And I wanted to be Olga Korbut. Too bad that even getting close to a balance beam gave me an anxiety attack.

So many wonderful, sad, and dramatic memories of past Olympics…

  • Nadai Comaneci’s perfect 10‘s in women’s gymnastics in 1976. She looked like she was 12.
  • Bruce Jenner’s decathalon win in 1976…pre-Caitlin.
  • Bonnie Blair’s total domination of women’s Speed Skating in 1988, 1992 & 1994
  • Dorothy Hamill’s figure skating camel in 1976. And her cute haircut that I copied.
  • The black power salute in 1968 by the U.S. 200 meter track gold and bronze medalists
  • The Dan O’Brien/Dave Johnson Reebok-hyped decathlon rivalry that totally fizzled in 1992
  • The Nancy “ouch, my knee” Kerrigan/Tonya “the hammer” Harding rivalry in 1994
  • Eddie the Eagle in 1988. Brilliant!
  • The Jamaican Bobsled team in 1988. Also brilliant!
  • The “Miracle on Ice” U.S hockey team in 1980 defeating the entire Soviet Union. Or it seemed like it.
  • Apollo Ono, the phenom with the uber cool name who made short track speed skating absurdly popular winning in 2002, 2006 and 2010.
  • The secretly HIV positive Greg Louganis bleeding all over everything after hitting his head on the diving board in 1988
  • The heartbreak of Dan Jansen’s first two (1988, 1992) and a half Olympics until he won his gold in his last speed skating event in 1994.
  • The debut and total domination of the U.S. Basketball Dream Team in 1992
  • Torvill & Dean’s Bolero in 1984. Absolute perfection.
  • Kerry Shrug’s winning vault with torn ankle ligaments in 1996. That had to hurt. And Bella Karolyi carrying her to the podium afterwards.
  • Dereck Redmond’s father helping his injured son cross the finish line of the men’s 400 meter track semi-final in 1992. Tear.
  • The Carl Lewis/Ben Johnson track rivalry in 1984 & 1988. Too bad Johnson doped.
  • The nail bomb in Centennial Olympic Park in Atlanta that killed one and injured 111 in 1996. No words.
  • Florence Griffith Joyner’s awesome finger nails! RIP Flo-Jo…you were way too young.
  • 1984, the first time I saw synchronized swimming and rhythmic gymnastics. WTF?? I’m still saying WTF.
  • Shaun White’s flowing red hair as he introduced us to the halfpipe in 2006. Dude.
  • Michael Phelps in 2000, 2004, 2008, 2012 & 2016. Is he really only 31?

One accumulates a lot of memories when one has watched 26 Olympic games.

AGMA always wanted to be an Olympian.

20 years ago, I thought I might have a good shot at curling. I thought I could be a broom person. What the heck – AGMA can sweep with the best of them….   But sweeping while standing on ice…kinda dicey.

Unfortunately, that ship has sailed. Being an Olympian ranks right up there on the unfulfilled dreams list with college football cheerleader and famous actress.

But I’m still collecting Olympic memories. And just like past Olympics, the Rio Olympics have been full of them.

  • Katie Ledecky’s overpowering dominance in the pool.
  • Usain Bolt’s continued superhuman performance in men’s track.
  • The sparkling, flying Simone Biles and the final five.
  • Lily King’s condemnation of a Russian swimmer’s past doping. Before a race with her. And then winning the gold medal when she swam against her.
  • Michael Phelps #Phelpsface when South African swimmer Chad Le Clos tried to intimidate him before a semi-final heat. Then Phelps going on to win the gold in the butterfly with Le Clos finishing 4th.
  • Michael Phelps. Period.
  • Annemiek Van Vleute’s horrific crash in the women’s cycling road race. I thought she was dead. Her mother thought she was dead. Turns out she “just” broke her back in 3 places and got a severe concussion.
  • Ryan Lockte and Co.‘s drunken debacle. Oh, so embarrassing.
  • Simone Manuel’s total astonishment and joy as she looked at the scoreboard and saw that she had won the gold in the women’s 100 meter freestyle. Historic.

So as we say auf wiedershen to the Games of the XXXI Olympiad this weekend, what are your most vivid Olympic memories – past and present?

Going to an Olympics is still on AGMA’s bucket list. 2018 is in Pyeongchang. I don’t have a clue where that is – Korea maybe? 2020 is in Tokoyo. 2022 is in Bejing.

Hmmm… I’m seeing an interesting pattern here. Not sure I’ll make it over to Asia to see any of them.

The candidates for the 2024 games are Budapest, Paris, Rome and LA.

Okay – I’ll only be 70…

2024 or bust!

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18 thoughts on “The thrill of victory…and the agony of defeat

  1. Thanks for the memories, most/all of which are my own experience with the Olympic games. But, I never had the Hamill haircut. Laughing about your gig as the sweeper in curling. ☺ Thanks, AGMA. Hope we both can enjoy those 2024 games. ❤️ 💛 💙 💜

    Liked by 1 person

    • I coulda been a curling contenda… I heard that the oldest person to participate in the Brazil Olympics was a 56 year old female coxswain. I could do that if I learned about rowing and lost 50 lbs or so. I’m short so I’ve got that going for me 🙂

      Thanks Van for dreaming with me and see you in Paris, Rome, Budapest or LA!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks! I was actually surprised when I sat down to write this how many memories I had! Looks like the little gray cells are still cranking away – for now. 🙂 If I had to pick my #1 memory, I think the Torvell and Dean Bolero ice dance would be it. Mesmerizing!

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  2. Wonderful list of memories. I had the joy of attending the 96 Atlanta games, mostly prelim matches and lots of volleyball- that was before it became popular! My parents lived north of Atlanta and opened their house to many as a B&B – make your own breakfast and don’t leave a mess and it’s free. Hubby & I got the best bedroom, some friends got sleeping bags on the screened-in porch. It was a blast…until we were at Centenial Park that night. I recall saying to hubby “we’re too old for this crazy music” and turning to go home….literally 5 minutes before the explosion. We were within the strike zone. Changed the Games experience for sure. Thank goodness I hated the music. But going to an Olympics games is still a great bucket list thing. I still have a pin display on the wall from the 96 Games….that was big deal then….pin trading. We’ve looked at others…but costs have been more of a challenge. You can’t beat driving, free room, and going to all prelims! I hope you make it to one!

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    • How did AGMA miss the ‘Lanta games?!
      I lived in Southern California until 2006. All of us Angelenos really enjoyed the 1984 games hosted (for the second time!) in Los Angeles. I agree that being at any of the venues for any event at any level is a bucket list experience for sure. Besides that, and the pin trading, which I found to be an expensive and addictive distraction, the best thing about that time was the lack of traffic on L.A’s otherwise famously congested freeways! All the media and city officials had warned or requested anyone who wasn’t headed to the Games to stay off the streets during the events. They listened and for that reason alone I would love to see L.A. host the Olympics again. To see clear freeways twice in one lifetime would be pretty close to witnessing a miracle!

      Liked by 2 people

      • But sensibilites have changed since 1984… Do you think people would listen now and not get on the freeways? The mantra these days seems to be, “The rules are meant for everybody else, not me!” Ha!

        If 2024 is in LA, I’m definitely there traffic or no traffic. One of my best friends lives out there – I wonder if she’ll still be there in 8 years?

        Missing Atlanta was STUPID on my part. I remember thinking about it, but money was short and time was short and my kids were busy with sports and I was worried about traffic and finding a place to stay. Yeah – I know – excuses are like belly buttons. I truly regret it now. That’s my skilled 20-20 hindsight kicking in…

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    • I’m so jealous… We lived in Cincinnati in 96 which is only an 8 hour drive from Atlanta. I have kicked myself repeatedly over the years for not going and taking my kids (who were 14 and 12 at the time). What great memories we could have created. My sister had lived in Atlanta, but moved briefly to Jacksonville, FL for a few years – including 96 – but moved back. How dare she!!

      Oh my – so glad that you left before the bomb went off! That was a close call – too close! Yikes!

      I think pin trading is still a big thing. I’ve always wondered what kind of pins people trade… State or country pins? I have no clue…

      Liked by 1 person

      • All kinds of pins…event ones, bought ones, country ones. The coolest are the limited edition ones that specific groups or companies give out. In 96, they had a pin-of-the-day you could buy until they ran out. I ended up with one they gave to bus drivers, one that NBC gave to workers, and an awesome Olympic Women pin from Avon. Back then it was….If you wear them, it means you are open to trade them. It was all fun and a way to meet people and talk…in line, at events before things started. Not sure if it still goes on, but I still have a set of 96 pins in a shadow box on my wall!

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    • I went from very long hair to the Hamill cut – drastic change! But it looked so cute on me when I was 22… 🙂 I’m going for a haircut in about an hour. Do you think my tatted, kick boxing stylist would know what a Hamill cut is? She’d just roll her eyes at me…

      2024 – it’s a date! (I read that having things to look forward to helps keep you “young”!)

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  3. I’ve always wanted to attend an Olympics, but there have never been any reasonably close to where I live. Probably Atlanta and Salt Lake City, but for the former I was in elementary school, and the latter, high school, and when it was in Vancouver, Canada, I was an adult, but living in Israel.

    My most vivid Olympic-watching memory was Salt Lake City 2002 – Michelle Kwan’s horrible mistake in the free skate that almost pushed her out of medal contention, despite being the one to beat. I remember the footage they had of her hometown rally just going “OHHHH” in unison and being sad for her. Looking back at the performances on YouTube from Nagano and Salt Lake City on YouTube (hence why I’m still up this late), Michelle Kwan was amazing in Nagano, but Tara Lipinski was just a little bit better, plus had the star quality that Kwan didn’t. In Salt Lake City, I thought she was a shoo-in for gold even with the mistake, I didn’t think that the two skaters who beat her were as good. Sad that she’s now out of the sport and moving on with her life, but it was good that she resigned when she did to make way for younger skaters to reach their dreams rather than continue her own. I’m not up on Olympics in the recent past because of grad school and life and stuff, but I did watch the performances of Yuna Kim and Adelina Sotnikova in Sochi, and I gotta say that Yuna was totally robbed of the gold. Sotnikova wasn’t even the best on her own team. Sochi had fishy written all over it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Honestly – how could we expect an impartial Olympics in Russia? You said it – fishy!

      I take it you are an figure skating fan? I have to say that I don’t have a lot of memories around figure skating other the ones I listed. But I do watch it faithfully every 4 years. For some reason it doesn’t stick… What’s up with that?

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    • Sure you can make it! Traveling keeps you young! Maybe we can start an Olympic travel company that caters to those of a “certain age”. That way we can go for free! Maybe we should try that for Tokyo… I’d love to see Japan but think the $$ would be very high. We could round up a group of well heeled seniors and be their tour guides, and get all of our expensed paid for. Something to ponder… 🙂

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  4. Love the memories! Watched a documentary recently on Greg Louganis. He’s got grey hair now, still handsome and working as an advisor to young divers. Dorothy Hammil’s haircut…wonderful! I have always felt that if I were in gymnastics and screwed up a floor performance, I would get up, say “fuck this” and go hide. Instead, the finish their programs. Bravely. I felt sad for the 19 year old runner from France who made a false start and was immediately disqualified. He was inconsolable. Great post, AGMA.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I saw a few runners get disqualified because of false starts. Once upon a time, didn’t they give them another chance? This one and done thing is a bit heartless in my opinion…

      I feel the same way about the figure skaters. They screw up and take a hard fall then get back up and finish their program knowing that they’ve taken themselves out of contention. Sad really when you think of how many times they and the gymnasts have probably done their programs/routines flawlessly. I would break out in tears and just crumble into a gelatinous mass. They’d have to carry me off…

      I think I saw part of that Greg Louganis special. I honestly think the gray hair makes him look even more handsome!

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