Rio 2016 is officially the most heart-tugging Olympics I have watched in my lifetime. Just when I think I’ve seen it all, the next day’s events top it with more emotional moments as athletes have their moment of glory.
NOTE, Aug. 13: Sorry for the delay in posting the screenshot from the digital edition. Long day of Olympic events to follow, and WordPress was giving me trouble earlier upon attempting to login. I also didn’t realize until way after deadline that I forgot to give this column a headline for ‘Today’s Highlight’ in the print edition. Whoops.
Rio 2016 is halfway over (how did that happen??). For all the moments in the pool from the last six days, last night had to be one of the best I can remember of any Olympics in my lifetime.
Joseph Schooling became Singapore’s first Olympic champion by winning the 100 meter fly and Michael Phelps got Olympic medal 27 in a three-way tie for second. Maya DiRado was in absolute disbelief after winning the women’s 200 backstroke by six hundredths of a second over Hungary’s Katinka Hosszu and went into the stands in tears to hug her husband and parents. Anthony Ervin, who I’m old enough to remember tying for gold in the 50 free with teammate Gary Hall, Jr., at Sydney 2000, became the oldest male Olympic individual swimming champion by winning the same event Friday at age 35. And of course, Katie Ledecky put on a show in the 800 free.
When the world record line was at Ledecky’s feet 400 meters into the race, I was shaking my head and thinking she was doing the swimming equivalent to lapping someone on a track. It was even more ridiculous to see her reach the wall with no one around her, breaking her own world record to win by 11.38 seconds. She is the first woman to sweep the 200, 400 and 800 freestyle finals at one Olympic Games since Debbie Meyer in 1968. I still have no words after following her career the last four years. She broke down in tears during the medal ceremony and the BBC commentators speculated that the reality of her accomplishments was sinking in. I couldn’t help agreeing.
Top performers: Brady Ellison and Michelle Carter
An amazing moment in my career thus far was covering the Archery World Cup Third Stage in Ogden six years ago as an intern at the Salt Lake Tribune. I saw archers and coaches from 33 nations compete for three days and interviewed several U.S. archers including Brady Ellison, Jake Kaminski, Vic Wunderle, Jamie Van Natta and Erika Anschutz Jones. The No. 1 male archer in the world at the time, Ellison was part of a team silver medal at London 2012 but didn’t win his first individual medal until Friday. His bronze medal win over Sjef van der Berg of the Netherlands gave the U.S. its first individual Olympic archery medal in 16 years.
Michelle Carter also made history Friday, becoming the first U.S. female Olympic shot put champion with an American record 67 feet, 8.25 inches on her last throw. Two-time defending Olympic champion Valerie Adams of New Zealand had led by 21.75 inches until Carter’s final attempt.
What to watch for
I myself am going to be watching several sports simultaneously today, so I can’t settle on one I’d recommend. Diving and fencing take place earlier in the day and as swimming enters its final night, track enters its second.
7 p.m. NBC