Late surge gave US narrow win over ChinaBy Manolo R. Iñigo
Philippine Daily Inquirer
THE SEESAW battle between the United States and China in the just-ended 2012 London Olympics saw the American athletes eventually overtaking the Chinese by six gold medals in the overall tally, 46-38.
All told, the US accumulated 46 gold, 29 silver, and 29 bronze medals for a total of 104 as against China’s 38-27-23 tally and 88 overall. Host country Great Britain made the biggest leap with a 29-17-19 gold-silver-bronze haul and 65 overall.
The US contingent struck early through its swimmers, led by Michael Phelps who won four golds. With a total of 22 medals in the Olympics, 18 of them golds, Phelps considered himself as the greatest Olympian of all times, surpassing past Olympic icons as fellow American Carl Lewis, and Finland’s Paavo Nurmi, also known as he “Flying Finn.”
Lewis won two golds in the 100-meters, one gold, one silver in the 200m, three golds in long jump, and two golds in the 4 x 100m relay in the 1984 (Los Angeles), 1988 (Seoul) and 1996 (Atlanta) Olympics.
Nurmi won nine golds in the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics, establishing world records in less than 90 minutes in the 1,500 meter run in 3:53.6 and the 5,000m in 14:31.2. During a race, the “Flying Finn” carried a stopwatch. He was considered as the first runner to bring a scientific and tactical approach to the long distance races.
As a young man he climbed out of bed and chased trolley cars in the city and raced the mail train through the pine forests. He spent his military service with running very much in his mind. According to the records, he would leave camp long before the sun came up, returning in time for reveille. He grew into a taciturn, stolid, huge-chested man with an enlarging bald spot and once described by well-known sports columnist Jim Murray him as “sere as the Finnish winter, as bleak as an icicle, as gloomy as the second act of an Ibsen play.”
He was looking forward to the Los Angeles marathon in 1932. But failed to make it at the last moment when charges were brought against him by the International Olympic Committee that he had accepted monetary compensation along the way. As a consequence he was declared a professional. In the words of one race official the findings only proved that Nurmi had “the lowest heart rate and the highest asking price of any athlete in the world.”
In London 2012, the US overtook China with late victories in the decathlon and women’s football—avenging a loss in the 2011 World Cup. It was also the third successive Olym crown.
By the way, American women athletes outnumbered the men in this year’s US Olympic delegation.
China, relying on its signature sport table tennis, badminton and diving, had taken the early lead, but lost it to the US when the crack American swimmers flexed their muscles led by the great Michael Phelps.
The Americans credited popular hometown support, keen determination to win and rigorous training under competent coaches for their victory in London. It was the third time for London to host the modern Olympics, having hosted the quadrennial Games in 1908 and 1948.
Other heroes in London 2012 were Jamaica’s Usain Bolt, who became the first Olympian to retain both the 100-meter dash and 200-meter titles besides being a member of the victorious 4 x 100m relay team, and double amputee Oscar Pistorius of South Africa. But that will be for another column.
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