By Bill Campbell
It was a big weekend at the Olympics in London. When the smoke finally cleared on Monday, the Chinese had 61 gold, the United States 60. Great Britain had a spectacular weekend, running its medal collection to 37. Russia had 35, Japan 27 and France 25. Included in China’s total were 30 golds to the USA’s 25, while Britain had tallied up 16, Russia four, Japan two and France eight.
Spectators will take home many memories from these summer games. Swimmer Michael Phelps added to his Olympic record with a gold medal in the 400 medley relay on Saturday. But track and field had its moments too. Jamaica’s Usain Bolt cruised in the 100 meter semifinal without being seriously challenged. Also representing Jamaica with a golden ribbon in her hair, Shelley Ann Fraser Pryce scored another Olympic win in the 100 meter track race in 10.75 seconds to just edge out the American favorite, Carmelita Jeter, by 0.03 seconds. In the Olympic 10,000 meter race, an event usually dominated by runners from Kenya and Ethiopia, Mohammed Farrar of Great Britain and Galen Rupp of the United States won gold and silver respectively. As Rupp declared after the award ceremony, “It just looked good seeing Great Britain and the USA both on the medal stand together.” Gordon Hansen of Havertown got his third relay medal and a spot in Olympic history over the weekend.
Rowing in his first Olympics, Roxborough’s Glenn Ochal, a Roman Catholic High School and Princeton grad, helped the Men’s 4 team win a bronze medal, covering the 2,000 meter distance in 6 minutes, 7.20 seconds. While it was only a bronze, it was the USA’s first medal in that event since 1992. Ochal was once a good football player but gave up the sport to concentrate on rowing. The bronze represented progress but, as Ochal put it, “There are still two teams ahead of us.” Ochal once trained by running up and down the steps of the Philadelphia Art Museum fifty times and rowing twelve miles alone on the Schuylkill. He and his rowing mates had been together for only five months but came out winners.In basketball, the talented American mens team had to fight off a challenge from Lithuania, winning 99-94. There also was a skirmish on Saturday between North Korea and South Korea, two teams still technically at war. They put on a table tennis battle, with North Korea winning 3-2. . That brought us to Monday and the legend of Usain Bolt soared again.
Bolt, who ran the 100 metter in 9.63 seconds topped Jamaica’s Yohan Blake, who ran it in 9.63, and Justin Gatlin of the United States at 9.79. Bolt decided to let it all out and remind the world about his greatness rather than his humility. “It means I’m one step closer to becoming a legend,” he said, “This is what I do. It showed the world that I’m the greatest and that, no matter what, I’m going to be ‘up’ big on the big day.” A few months back, Bolt had lost to Blake in the 100 and 200 meters in the Jamaican Olympic trials when, Bolt says, he had a bad back. He wasn’t hurting on Monday in the 100. Since Bolt also won the same race at the Olympics four years ago, Carl Lewis can no longer claim to be the only man alive who has won the Olympic 100 back-to-back. As for the ladies, Sonya Richards Ross won the 400 meter gold, giving the U.S. its first track and field gold medal after previously fading in the 400 meter gold semifinal and collapsing in tears. She said after this race that she “always thought I could win” but finally learned that “you don’t win the race until you win the race.” She was determined to cross the finish line before anyone else in order to call herself an Olympic champion and she did it.
In tennis, Andy Murray finally defeated Roger Federer in a final, after a voice rang out in the Wimbledon audience, “Come on, Roger, let him win” Murray won the next nine games and the Olympic gold medal in straight sets. His win, 6-2, 6-1, 6-4, made it look easy just four weeks after he’d lost the Wimbledon final to the same opponent on the same court. Federer had beaten Murray in three Grand Slam finals and he wanted an Olympic gold medal. In a brilliant display of shot-making, it was clear that he would not heed that fan’s admonition to let Murray win. He made Murray earn it, which had to have made the voctory that much sweeter for the Brit.
Women’s boxing, a landmark for gender equality in sports, made its long-awaited debut at the Olympics. The competition began with twelve entertaining bouts and U.S. lightweight champion, Queen Underwood, lost a close fight to Natasha Jones of Great Britain.
TheAmerican women’s basketball team was part of the talk of the town in London too over the weekend. Just mere days after the men’s team set a new Olympic record for most points scored in a game, the ladies set a couple of records against China, winning it114-66. It was the thirty-eighth consecutive victory for the Olympic squad which hasn’t lost in the preliminary rounds since women’s basketball was first played in the Olympics in 1976. In a great exhibition of teamwork, the girls set Olympic records with thirty-three assists, leading to another team milestone of fifty-two field goals. Six players scored in double figures and ten of the twelve had an assist. China got the scoring started early, hitting ten of its first twelve shots. But after that, the Americans just blew them out. By the way, the American men’s basketball team blasted Argentina, 126-97.
South Africa’s Oscar Pistorius received a rousing cheer at the Olympics on Sunday as he qualified in the 400 meter semifinal race on Sunday night. He is a double amputee sprinter who has had to fight to compete since Beijing four years ago. No report on the Olympics would be complete without mentioning him. Racing on prosthetic legs in the 80,000 seat Olympic stadium, he trailed the winner by about 2 seconds. Pistorius ran 46.54, much slower than his career best of 45.07. But when he finished he said, “I’ve been blessed by the Lord.” Pistorius was born without fibulas and had his lower legs amputated when he was eleven. His accomplishment in reaching the semis was awe-inspiring. I’m sure we’ll see him again in Rio four years from now.
When Monday’s medal count was totaled, China’s overall swelled to 64, 31 of them gold. The United States had 63 overall with 29 gold. Russia had 42 but only 7 gold. Britain, by virtue of its big weekend, totaled 40 medals with 18 gold. Japan had 28, with just 2 gold. The table tennis might have been amusing but South Korea, despite losing that event to North Korea, tallied 22 medals overall including 11 gold.
With ten days down and six to go, stay tuned.
Andy and Tammy Reid
No matter the score, no one should ever lose a child.
Most of us who write about, broadcast or simply attend these games also are parents. Writing about or broadcasting them demands a certain amount of objectivity. That’s gone when a well-known sports person suffers a loss like the one Andy and Tammy Reid have this week. Their son, Garrett, was found dead in his room at Lehigh on Sunday, where he had been working with the team on strength and conditioning — by his Dad’s side.
Andy Reid believed that his sons Garrett and Britt, who were arrested on drug charges as far back as 2007, were drug-free now and on a solid footing in life. Britt is presently an entry-level coach at Temple and Reid’s youngest son, Spencer, is a freshman running back there. The drug problems apparently began for Garrett around 2002 when he was a student at Brigham Young, Andy’s alma mater. In a recent interview, the parents said it began with an addiction to Oxycontin and continued with other illegal drugs including heroin. The Eagles coach once said that “dealing with a loved one’s addiction is like fighting with a grizzly bear.” It must be true. We sports fans have many conflicting opinions about Andy Reid, most derived from his radio and television appearances. He comes across many times as gruff, dismissive or contrary. But when such a loss happens, we all see him as a father left to wonder about his eldest son and to comfort his wife and children. The comments of Joe Banner, former president of the Eagles, resonated with me since he must have known the young man well. Banner said, “Garrett’s had a tough struggle. He seemed to be in a good place, which makes it all the more striking. If you talk to the players, they liked him, enjoyed him. He seemed like he had gotten his life back together and was doing something he was really enjoying. It is just incredibly sad. For Andy and Tammy, I can’t imagine what it must be like for them.” None of us can.
In a message of appreciation which was released from the Reid family, Coach Reid admitted that Garrett had lost the addiction battle that had been going on for the last eight years, putting to bed the speculation which had ramped up as soon as his death reached the airwaves. Reid expressed thanks for the prayers and support the family had received since Sunday morning and called Garrett “a wonderful son and brother”, a memory they “do not want overshadowed by Garrett’s public struggle with drugs. Even though he lost the battle that has been going on for the last eight years, we will always remember him as a fighter who had a huge, loving heart.” Just a dad talking about his son. A son who’s lost to him.
With all of you, my sympathy and prayers are with the Reid family.
The Phillies’ consecutive game sellout streak is finally over. Only 41,665 were in attendance at Monday’s game to see the Phillies lose to Atlanta 6-1. It was the smallest Phillies crowd since July 6, 2009, when the fans witnessed a 22-1 win over the Cincinnati Reds. The crowd that night was 41,548 and the sellout streak started the next night, reaching 257 straight games before ending on Monday. The streak was, indeed, a tribute to the Phillies’ organization as well as the fans. But there have been signs of apathy lately, which had to happen. It’s an understatement to say this has turned out to be adifficult season following the 102 victories last year. So the streak ends.
All of which proves, as they say, that winning isn’t the important thing. It’s the only thing.