What a year. I could say more, but I’ll keep it at that.
I decided to bring back my ‘best of’ Medal Stand since I didn’t write one last year. I originally wanted to expand it to 10 items, but space and deadline constraints led to me deciding to stick with five. I definitely struggled to narrow it down to five, as several amazing moments (see Rio 2016) didn’t make the cut.
Here is my final column of 2016:
The Medal Stand: Top-five best of 2016
In a year that drew (and is continuing to draw) many superlatives around the world, I can’t help but lightheartedly agree with some of my fellow sports journalists who have declared that “sports saved 2016.”
The Post Register will publish its ‘Best of 2016 in sports’ Saturday, but I realized I haven’t done a ‘Best of the Year’ Medal Stand with my personal favorite Olympic moments since 2014. Although it was a difficult task, I decided to revive it.
1. Wayde Van Niekerk’s race of a lifetime from lane eight.
Four months later and I still can’t get over this. I was seven years old sitting on the sofa beside my late father when I watched the live broadcast of Michael Johnson’s incredible 200-400 double from Atlanta 1996. After Usain Bolt broke Johnson’s 200 world record at Beijing 2008, I wondered how long it would be until his 400 record fell and how. Enter South Africa’s Van Niekerk from lane eight in Rio with a 43.03, prompting a priceless reaction from Johnson on BBC.
2. Hawkins and Richardson represent Idaho at Olympic Trials.
Exciting times abounded in eastern Idaho this summer as 2010 Madison graduate Chari Hawkins and 2007 Skyline graduate Erica Wendt Richardson completed different paths to the U.S. Track and Field Olympic Trials almost three weeks apart. Both making their first appearances at the Trials, Hawkins competed in heptathlon and Richardson competed in the women’s 3k steeplechase.
3. Sportsmanship in the women’s Olympic 5,000.
The now iconic photo of New Zealand’s Nikki Hamblin and Team USA’s Abbey D’Agostino embracing after a women’s 5,000-meter heat on Aug. 16 will forever be etched into my memory. The fact that D’Agostino tore her ACL when they both fell to the track four laps in and got up and encouraged Hamblin to also get up still blows my mind, as did the fact that Hamblin returned the favor when D’Agostino went down again a few steps later and they both finished the race.
4. Final Five own the competition.
Having followed gymnast Simone Biles’s career since 2013, I couldn’t wait to see how large her victory margin would be in Rio. What a week for her and her teammates. An unworldly 8.209-point victory margin in team finals, a teary 1-2 all-around finish for Biles and Aly Raisman and several awesome moments in between that demonstrated how supportive those five women are of each other after years of traveling the world together to compete for the five spots they claimed for Rio.
5. Ryan and Sara Hall come to Mesa Falls.
Longtime Mesa Falls Marathon race director Dave Jacobson shared numerous accounts of the shocked reactions around Ashton upon confirming that American distance running legends Ryan and Sara Hall would be participating in the 20th annual race in August. I experienced some disbelief myself at the thought of two of my heroes since high school cross-country coming to Idaho, and I arrived just in time to see Sara finish just ahead of Ryan to win the half marathon with people lining the streets applauding. What impressed me more than their course records was how humble they are.