As you watched yesterday’s events, it almost felt like you had to check a calendar. That’s because certain countries (United States) beat certain world records (4X100 Relay) in certain sports (Track and Field) that were held by certain former communist countries (East Germany). You almost felt CERTAIN like Rocky Balboa was going to come out and fight Ivan Drago. And did it make for yet another thrilling night in London? Well, certainly.
We’ll get to all that in a minute. But first, the workweek is over which means it’s time once again to look at the current leaders in the overall medal count.
Since our last check-in, the USA has absolutely taken off and run away with the medals. Not only do they now lead China for overall medals by 13, they also have 4 more gold medals. And, with both basketball finals yet to be played and many of China’s best events in the rear view, the lead may simply be insurmountable at this point.
Further down, you’ll see that Australia continues to bounce back from a horrendous first half to these Olympic games. They’ve added three more gold medals since Wednesday and now actually have more than Japan whose above them here thanks to their numerous bronze placings.
Now two full weeks in, the space between the top countries have spaced out a bit, sort of like a long-distance race in its latter stages. But make no mistake: with almost 70 medal events still left, these standings are anything but final.
Saturday holds the vast majority of those events, so a lot will change just today. But before we get ahead of ourselves, we have to, of course, look back and yesterday at London.
No ‘I’ in ‘Team’, or ‘Women’
The average person probably doesn’t realize it, but in any four-person relay race about a million things have to go right for any given team in order for them to be perfect. For the United States women last night, about 999,999 of those things did.
The 4X100-Meter Relay takes the chaos of a 100-meter sprint and adds the franticness of a relay race. The end product is a thrilling event no matter the result. So when Carmelita Jeter came across the finish line for the United States and smashed a 27-year-old world record, it was darn near euphoria for the competitors and fans alike.
The American women weren’t just firing on all cylinders, they were pushing their biological engines to the limits as the RPM’s red-lined. But one-by-one the team members flew by without disaster. Actually, there weren’t many flaws of any kind. And that’s just what had happen for the world record to fall.
The new world record, the first time under 41 seconds in the event, may stand for even longer. As I’ve already said, Team USA turned in virtually an impeccable performance meaning the only way to beat them will be to simply be faster. And with a lineup that featured Allyson Felix and Carmelita Jeter, that doesn’t seem too likely.
4X400: A Favored Gold, a Bittersweet Silver, and a Winner in Last Place
There was so much that occurred in the Men’s 4X400 Relay, we simply couldn’t keep the coverage down to just one team. It was just that interesting.
First, there were the Bahamians, who took the gold. Favored to win, they did just that with a remarkable finish and really only one weak leg in their relay.
Then there were the US men. Heading into the race, the American team seemed like a bit of a wild card. Some pundits thought they could win the race while others thought they wouldn’t medal. Two legs in, they had survived the Bahamas’ two best runners and remained nipping at their heels. Then, in the third leg, Tony McQuay overtook the lead for the Americans.
All Angelo Taylor, who was running as Team USA’s anchor, had to do was hold of Bahamian runner Ramon Miller. But as they entered the final stretch, Miller ran him down and the American’s settled for silver.
To the naked eye, it appeared Taylor had lost the race for the US, but there are a few extenuating circumstances that slightly alter the big picture. First of all, Taylor was supposed to never run in the race. He’s actually an American hurdler, but when three of the initial four runners went down for Team USA, Taylor was forced to pick up the slack. The other note here is that none of these replacement runners, including Taylor, botched the handoff, a thing that has been problematic for both the US men and women in the past.
The last man to cross the finish line was Oscar Pistorius. If you don’t remember him from articles past, Pistorius is the double amputee whose metal blades caused some controversy with his admittance into the Olympic games. His South African teammates fell far behind the pack in the first three legs and really didn’t leave him much to work with.
But the fact that Pistorius had an opportunity to compete for a medal at all was a bit of a small miracle. Just ignore the fact that he managed to take a disability and train so hard that some actually accused him of having an unfair advantage, the South African squad actually didn’t even originally qualify for the finals. When one of their runners was tripped and fell, the nation’s Olympic delegation had to appeal the results to get the final standings overturned.
Some Victories Mean More than a Medal
What could be better than winning an Olympic medal? How about said victory exempting from mandatory national military service.
In South Korea, every able-bodied man must serve in the republic’s army for 21 months before they turn 29. Without even mentioning the dangers of serving in any country’s armed forces, the rule puts many young Korean men’s career aspirations on the back burners. I mean, imagine you wanted to do something when you grew up, but somewhere along the way you also had to free up nearly two years of your life. It isn’t the easiest thing in the world.
Luckily, though, there are exceptions to the rule. If you win an Olympic medal while playing for the nation, you are exempt from your military requirements. This is because the government sees the achievement of an Olympic medal as a beneficial service to the welfare of the nation.
And when the South Korean men’s soccer team downed Japan 2-0 in the bronze medal match, it allowed triggered that win-win situation the nation’s government envisioned. The South Koreans, who are amongst the leading nations in the medal count, have one more to add to their treasure chest from 2012 and now an entire soccer team of men are free to do whatever they wish with the remainder of their young adult lives.
NOTE: This story was also published on SportsHead. To read this article and others, click here.
When Bryan isn’t writing, he is on Twitter! Make sure you give him a follow @bclienesch!