Athens Review, Athens, Texas

August 3, 2012

Olympics give us a chance to wave the Stars and Stripes

Rich Flowers

Athens — Sometimes it feels good to put politics aside, and just cheer for the good old USA.

The Olympic games aren’t totally free of intrigue and controversy, but they have their moments. That’s why I’m glued to the screen at the strangest times.

I woke up in the middle of the night Wednesday, just to watch the women’s gymnastic finals I recorded on DVR, while I was covering elections. There I sat in my recliner, getting excited about an event that took place almost 24 hours before.

The USA girls won it going away, and it was fun to watch the celebration. I got a little emotional watching Jordan Wieber mouthing the words of the “Star Spangled Banner” during the medal presentation.

Way to go, USA!

The women’s all-around gymnastic title was decided Thursday, with Gabby Douglas holding off a strong challenge from a Russian to seize the gold.

The Americans didn’t follow their historic 2008 showing when Nastia Liukin and Shawn Johnson won silver and gold, but did finish first and third.

Bronze winner Ali Raisman is one of the great stories in these games. She wasn’t expected to be in the finals, but earned a spot with a strong showing in the preliminaries.

Swimmer Michael Phelps amazed us with eight gold medals four years ago. This summer, Mr. Phelps, your mission is to try to top that. Well, he won’t win eight this year, but he pushed his all-time medal take to an unprecedented 19.

And if you’re tired of seeing  Michael touch first, his teammate Ryan Lochte has come through for the red, white and blue.  Then on Wednesday night, Nathan Adrian amazed us all, and himself by winning the men’s 100-meter free-style. That’s kind of like a sprinter becoming Bob Hayes.

When I first started watching Olympics, back when Hayes was blazing down the track in Tokyo, the big boogie man was the Soviet Union. We always loved it when our sprinters left them in the sawdust. If they topped us in gymnastics or weightlifting, it was obviously because they were like professionals, supported by the big Red government.

Today, the closest competitor to the U.S. is China. That’s because they’re a bigger school. If we’re size 5A they’re bigger than 10A.

The Chinese seem to be good at the sports that require a great deal of precision and discipline. I watched two of their women  Wednesday night, competing in a sport called synchronized diving. It’s impressive to see them leave the diving platform at the same time, stay together through every twist and turn, then enter the water in one splash.

The Chinese team took the gold, with the Americans far behind. They also raked in the medals in men’s gymnastics, table tennis and a lot of other sports,  where you don’t have to be extremely big or extremely fast.

Four years ago, there was a lot of controversy concerning the Chinese women’s gymnastic team. In a sport where everyone is 16 and looks 12, their girls looked about 9.

They were cute, and looked like they had amazing talents. But honestly, how hard can it be to toss 40 pounds in the air.

On Friday, the track and field events will take the stage. Historically, the U.S. has been strong there. I read that the Americans are extremely deep and talented this year. The Chinese won’t be winning many of these events.

For the next few days, I’ll be spending a lot of hours in the recliner, watching to see how it all turns out. Thank God for the DVR. If I doze off during an event, when I wake up, I can rewind it to the point when I nodded off. I can pause it anytime I need to make a mad dash to the fridge.

I may even hunt up a little American flag, so I can wave it around, whenever the U.S. does well in an event. It’s kind of like what George Forman did in the 1968 Olympics.

It would be nice for us to come together, and cheer our men and women to Olympic glory.  There’ll be plenty of time for us to be divided in November.

Rich Flowers is News Editor of the Athens Daily Review.