Sunday, August 17, 2008

Day 9 RECAP: Phelps, Jamaican Sweep Mark Olympic Halfway Point

Haha, I figured since NBC is going to tape delay the Olympics this week, I'll delay my blog postings...(just kidding, I had other tasks to finish, sorry readers.)

The first week of the Beijing Olympics are in the books and it's a week that many will not soon forget. And this Day 9 of competition has served as the exclamation point of this memorable week.

Olympic Highlight of the Day
Take a good look readers. These are moments that you will not likely see for some time. In fact, this accomplishment may never happen again.
All of you know the story by now, but it never seems to get old, especially for Michael Phelps. He's won eight gold medals in a single Olympic games, accomplishing a feat no other athlete has ever done in Olympic history and more likely, sports history. The magical week at the Water Cube in Beijing will always be remembered for what Michael Phelps did for swimming, the United States, the Olympics and sports history. And even though Phelps had a lot of help, which he is very grateful for, the moment belongs to Phelps and we can only be thankful that we were united by the moment, living together as the motto of these Beijing Olympics: One World, One Dream. And what a dream it has been, that is now reality.

Feel-Good Moment of Day 9
There were actually many feel-good moments on Day 9, from Romania's Constantina Tomescu Dita's win in the marathon to Dara Torres winning two silver medals on the last day of competition. Both wins showed that you can do anything at any age if you set your mind to it. But today's feel good moment comes from the sport of fencing and the American silver medal win in the men's team sabre final.
Keeth Smart was not supposed to be competing in Beijing. His athletic career should have been over and if it wasn't for a two-week intensive treatment period, Smart should be dead by now.

Smart was diagnosed with a rare blood disease just four months ago, and doctors told him that his athletic career as a fencer could no longer continue. Then after a two week period of treatment, his mother succumbed to a two-year battle with cancer.

These difficulties came after disappointment in Athens, when Smart lost on the final touch and resulting in the U.S. men's sabre team leaving without a medal. The following year, his father died of a heart attack.

Considering all these circumstances, it's amazing to learn that Smart, instead of quitting from the sport, did the total opposite and plunged himself into training for this year's Olympic games. The results of his efforts? A well earned silver medal, better than none which happened in Athens.

See Report from New York Daily News.

Upset of the Day...
The most unexpected result of Day 9 came from artistic gymnastics when it made its return to the National Indoor Stadium for the individual event finals. Shawn Johnson of the United States was looking for her first gold medal of these games in the floor exercise final. It looked like she was going to clinch it when she posted a 15.500 for her routine that drew much applause and roar from the crowd.
Johnson's score held up until Romania's Sandra Izbasa, the last competitior on floor exercise, wowed the judges with her floor exercise routine and scoring a 15.650. Johnson ended up with silver, all-around gold medalist Nastia Liukin won bronze.

Team Highlight of the day...
When you think of team sports, you probably wouldn't think of the sport of rowing. But the concept of teamwork resonated throughout the Shunyi Rowing and Canoeing Park when seven finals took place on Day 9. Among the highlights of the final day of rowing were big wins by China and the United States. China won gold in the women's quadruple sculls final with a late surge to the front ahead of the team from the United Kingdom in the final 500 meters. The team of Jin Ziwei, Tang Bin, Xi Aihua and Zhang Yangyang crossed the finish line Sunday in 6 minutes, 16.06 seconds, blowing kisses and raising their arms in triumph in front of a roaring home crowd. This was China's first ever rowing gold medal.

The American women won gold in the classic women's eights event while the American men got bronze in their respective eights event. For the women, this was their first gold medal win in the event since 1984. The two-time world champions defeated the two-time Olympic champions from Romania after slowly emerging to the front of the race by the halfway mark. Romania won bronze behind the Netherlands.

Dominating Performance of the Day...
A sweep of the medals is usually seen as a dominating performance by a nation in that event or sport. That was seen today in tennis when Russia swept the medals in women's singles. But an even bigger sweep happened in the women's 100m final at the Bird's Nest. Shelly-Ann Frasier followed up yesterday's big win by Usain Bolt in the men's 100m final by leading a sweep of the medals in the women's 100m final. Frasier won with a time of 10.78 while her compatriots, Sherone Simpson and Kerron Stewart, both finished with a time of 10.98 and will both be awarded silver medals. These medal successes in the sprints over the weekend thus made Jamaica, the fastest nation in the world.

Those are our highlights from a very busy day 9 of competition. Just so that we didn't leave anyone out, here are some of the other highlights from Day 9.

- Rafael Nadal continues amazing year in tennis with gold medal win in Beijing.
Nadal wins gold medal in men's tennis
- Track and Field: Bekele retains 10,000 meter title 1:17 pm EDT (Reuters)
- Diving: Guo wins record sixth diving medal 12:10 pm EDT (AP)

And finally, here is a look at the medal count coming into Day 10 of competition.

Overall medal standings - 328 of 436 medal events complete

See Full Standings

I'll be back shortly with coverage and a preview of Day 10.

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