Best – Creating a Legacy
Michael Phelps may or may not be the greatest Olympian ever, but it cannot be argued that he has changed the sport of swimming forever. Having accumulated 22 medals, 18 of them gold, Phelps is a legend. In the last individual race of his career, Phelps won the gold in the 100m butterfly. But when South African Chad Le Clos, who had competed in the same race, told Phelps the influence the swimmer had on his life, Phelps put his arm around Le Clos as Le Clos’s father cried seeing his son with his hero. We may remember Phelps for the medals he has won, but we should remember the effects he has had on swimming as his accomplishments have inspired, motivated and pushed athletes to realize their dreams.
Worst – Robbed of a Medal
During the women’s fencing individual epee semi-finals, South Korean Shin A-Lam was in a sudden death match against Germany’s Britta Heidemann. With a second remaining, Shin had scored two double-touches becoming the priority holder, meaning that she would win if Heidemann did not score. Heidemann ended up scoring two double-touches and won the semi-final because of a time-keeping error. Heidemann was given extra time to score because the timing mechanism did not start correctly. Shin and her coaches challenged the decision. For over an hour, she waited, sobbing until the officials returned to say that she had lost. She was finally escorted off by security as she received a standing ovation. Though she was given a special consolation medal from the International Fencing Federation, she was still robbed of her chance at a gold or silver medal.
Worst – Cheating
During this summer’s Olympics, the sport of badminton gained the spotlight, not for any world records or great matches, but for cheating. Four pairs of female badminton players from three Asian countries — China, South Korea and Indonesia — were banned from the competition. The disqualification occurred after the Badminton World Federation found that the players had purposely not done their best effort and lost in an attempt to receive a more favorable draw in doubles competition.
Best – Women in the Olympics
The 2012 Summer Olympics marks the first time that every country has sent a female athlete to compete. Qatar, Saudia Arabia and Brunei, which did not previously allow women to compete, succumbed to pressure by the International Olympics Committee and changed their policies. Both Brunei and Qatar had female flag bearers in the opening ceremony. Muslim athletes were also allowed to compete in hijabs. Saudia Arabian judo fighter Wojdan Shaherkani may have lost in less than two minutes to Puerto Rican Melissa Mojica, but she was able to compete with a modified hijab, showing fellow Muslim women that it is possible to compete without sacrificing religious beliefs. The Olympics were a defining moment for female athletes and a step in the right direction.
Best – Independent Olympic Athletes
During the opening ceremony, you may have seen a few athletes not representing any nation. This year, four athletes competed as Independent Olympic Athletes, not representing any nation that is a member of a National Olympic Committee. Three of the athletes were from the Netherlands Antilles, a country whose committee was dissolved when it joined the Netherlands. The fourth athlete was Guor Marial, who was born in South Sudan and qualified for the Olympics with a marathon time of 2:14:13. Sudan offered him a chance to compete for them, but he refused to do so as he had lost eight of his siblings in the Second Sudanese Civil War, and he himself had refuged from the country. The newly independent South Sudan does not have a national committee and was able to compete as an IOA.
Worst – NBC’s coverage of the Olympics
For those watching the Olympics in the United States, the Games consisted of tape delays, spoiled results and a complete focus on American superstars. Due to the six-hour time difference between London and the East Coast, NBC decided to show the most popular events of the Olympics at primetime, hours after the rest of the world had learned of the results. The decision to edit and alter the events also drew much criticism, as NBC chose to air a Ryan Seacrest interview rather than the Opening Ceremony’s tribute to the victims of London terrorist attacks. While an estimated two billion people worldwide watched Usain Bolt win the 100m race in 9.63 seconds, Americans did not, as NBC chose to save the race for prime time to make revenue off of commercials. NBC has a lot to learn from BBC on the Olympics coverage.
A version of this story appeared in the Aug. 26 print edition. Mary Jane Dumankaya is a deputy sports editor. Email them at [email protected]