Well the 2012 London Olympics are in the history books now. And history was definitely made at these Olympics! Gabby Douglas became the first African American to win the Olympic women’s gymnastics all-around title, Michael Phelps officially became the greatest Olympian of all time, Misty May-Treanor and Keri Walsh Jennings won an unprecedented third straight Olympic title in women’s beach volleyball, Adam Van Koeverden made Canada proud with his silver medal performance in men’s kayaking, and Tom Daley stole the heart of Great Britain.
What a spectacular show these Olympics were! Below are my favourite Olympians from these games. Enjoy!
THE US MEN'S 4X100 MEDLEY RELAY TEAM
For me, the men’s 4x100 m relay team final was the most emotional moment of the Olympics. Eight years ago, I read an article in Time magazine about Michael Phelps before the 2004 Olympics. I cut out his photo and put it on the wall of my room for inspiration – inspiration to always reach for my dreams and believe in myself. Well guess what? Michael went on to win six medals in Athens, eight medals in Beijing and six medals in London, totaling 22 Olympic medals.
The men’s 4X100 metre relay team final was Michael’s last competition ever. As he and teammates Matt Grever, Brenden Hansen and Nathan Adrian took to the Olympic pool, my heart started to pound insanely and I felt my emotions getting the best of me. I thought about all I had been through the past eight years – all my successes, disappointments and everything in between, all while Michael Phelp’s photo lived on my bedroom wall. I remember when things were so rough for me that I didn’t want to get out of bed in the morning – but I looked at Michael’s photo and it gave me the confidence to believe in myself and to not let anyone tell me I couldn’t achieve my dreams.
On Saturday, August 11th, 2012, as team anchor Nathan triumphantly finished the relay, finalizing the win for the US men’s team, I watched as Michael celebrated his final Olympic moment - it was a moment I will never forget. Congratulations to Matt, Brenden, Nathan and Michael for an amazing job. And also thank you to Michael who inspired me with his dedication, courage and heart.
THE US WOMEN'S GYMNASTICS TEAM
Watching the US women’s gymnastics team win gold was my personal favourite moment of the Olympics. In case you haven’t noticed, I’m a huge gymnastics fan and I follow gymnastics every year. So I was already a fan of Gabby Douglas, Aly Raisman, McKayla Maroney, Jordyn Wieber and Kyla Ross. But now the entire world knows of them too and I’m so happy for these athletes! Their team win was absolutely stunning, capped off by a glorious floor exercise by team captain Aly. They worked so hard for their Olympic moment and I’m thrilled that the entire world got to see what these girls are made of.
In addition, I was ecstatic to see Gabby win the all-around. I remember seeing her struggle at nationals a year ago. Back then, if you told me that she would even make the Olympic team, I would have said you were crazy. But what a difference a year makes. Gabby peaked at the right time and is now not only the queen of gymnastics, but one of the biggest sports stars in the universe.
However, my favourite Olympian of the London games is Aly Raisman. Her story is the tale of a hard working underdog who finally got to shine in the Olympic spotlight. She did not come out from nowhere – she’s been the rock for the American team for the past few years. You could always rely on Aly at every world championships. Along the way she’s had stellar individual results as well, including a bronze on floor at the 2011 worlds. So why were people surprised at her individual gold medal on floor and bronze medal on beam in London? I certainly wasn’t. I fully expected Aly to be sensational and she did not disappoint! Congratulations to Aly Raisman and her Fierce Five teammates!!!
Tom Daley is a national hero. The 18-year-old diver from Great Britain triumphantly won the bronze medal in the men’s 10 metre platform dive, finally earning his much deserved medal. It’s been a long hard road for this two-time Olympian, whose father Rob died of a brain tumor last year. When asked about his Olympic medal Tom stated, “It wasn’t just a medal for me: it was a medal for the whole team, my family, friends, supporters, for Britain”.
Despite his incredible diving abilities, what impresses me the most about this teen sensation is his ability to balance both diving and school. A few days after winning his medal, the Plymouth College student excitedly tweeted to the world about how he got his exam marks back…and he got a straight A average! Way to go Tom! Keep your eyes out for this fine upstanding young man as he makes his way across the UK promoting his new book, “My Story”.
The media likes to refer to Aliya as a diva. But that’s far from what this Olympic and world gymnastics champion is. Long considered the frontrunner for the women’s all-around title in London, the young Russian rose to the top of her sport in 2010 when she became the world all-around champion. However, she seriously injured herself at the 2011 European championships when she tore the anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee.
Coming back from surgery, the road to London was extremely difficult for the former queen of gymnastics. It was even questionable if she would compete as an all-around athlete at the Olympics. But Aliya is a fighter, plain and simple. She possesses a fire and determination that is not to be trifled with. While others may think this makes her a diva, I see this as having the heart of a champion. In London, Aliya became the most decorated gymnast of the games, winning gold on the uneven bars, silver with her team and bronze medals in the all-around and on floor.
Aliya is a gymnastics icon, having captivated audiences world wide with her magnificent and superior style. And furthermore, she displays great sportsmanship, despite NBC’s efforts to frame her as a bitch. When Aly Raisman won gold on floor, Aliya went up and cheerfully congratulated Aly. Aliya Mustafina is in a class by herself – and it ain’t no diva class. It’s the class of a true Olympic champion.
MISTY MAY-TREANOR AND KERRI WALSH JENNINGS
"It's insane. It doesn't feel like it's real…because it feels like I'm in a dream,” Kerri told the Associated Press after she and Misty won their third straight Olympic gold medal in women’s beach volleyball. And what a dream it has been. Few people can say that they have literally had a dream-like career alongside their best friend in the world. But Misty and Kerri can say they have. Their win in Athens was amazing, their win in Beijing was phenomenal and their final win in London is historic because it will most likely stand as an unmatched achievement in the history books for many years.
The moment that these two American gals realized they had won their third Olympic title, they let out screams of joy and tackled each other onto the sand in an emotional embrace. I will always remember the victory dance in the sand that Misty later did – it was absolutely inspirational. As I watched her celebratory dance, I said to myself “that’s the kind of person I want to be”.
Yes, Misty and Kerri have definitely become two role models that I aspire to be like – no, I wouldn’t be winning three Olympic gold medals in beach volleyball, but I want to dedicate myself 110 per cent, live without fear and go after my dreams. As I watched Misty and Kerri receive their gold medals, I thought to myself – wow, what a beautiful storybook ending. A dream come true.
GREAT BRITAIN MEN'S GYMNASTICS TEAM
What a class act these guys are! The team of Louis Smith, Sam Oldham, Kristian Thomas, Max Whitlock and Dan Purvis made history by winning Great Britain’s first-ever Olympic medal in men’s team gymnastics. They put on a truly sensational show in front of a home country audience that erupted into thunderous applause after each routine. One by one the team knocked each of the apparatuses out of the ballpark, highlighted by Louis’ spectacular pommel horse routine and Kristian’s breathtaking vault.
The team concluded their stunning performance on the floor exercise, after which the crowd went wild! Yes, this was followed by extreme confusion as the Olympic gymnastics officials deliberated over Kohei Uchimura’s pommel horse score, a controversial deliberation that resulted in Great Britain’s original second place finish getting demoted to third, with Japan rising from fourth place to claim the silver. However, the Great Britain team handled themselves with class and happily accepted their history-making bronze medal. Like I said – a true class act!
Hard work and perseverance pays off - American diver David Boudia is a shining example of this. After coming away from the Beijing Olympics empty handed, the Purdue University student decided to stick with the sport and to make it to London. The result? In London, David won bronze with his partner Nick McCrory in the synchronized platform event and later triumphantly took the gold medal in the men’s 10 metre platform diving competition! David and Nick won the first Olympic diving medals for the US since Laura Wilkinson's gold medal at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.
What’s next? Gymnastics! David was gymnast while growing up, before giving up the sport to focus on diving. Now he plans on returning to gymnastics to train on vault, hoping to compete at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro as both a diver and a gymnast! I’m really looking forward to following David’s career over the next few years and seeing what happens. Good luck!
Winning an Olympic gold medal is an amazing achievement – overcoming an aging body and injuries to rise up and win another Olympic gold is ten times more impressive. And that's exactly what Romanian gymnast, Sandra Izbasa did in London. Four years ago, I remember seeing her spectacularly win the floor finals in Beijing, eclipsing fan favourites Shawn Johnson and Nastia Liukin. I thought that was the end of Sandra’s career – it would have been a fine fairytale end to her wonderful gymnastics career. But it wasn’t the end – far from it.
During the next four years, I saw her persevere and struggle with injuries. My heart hurt watching her at times. But she has the spirit of a fighter and she was able to rise to the occasion in London. I personally think her gymnastics was even better in London than it was four years prior. But hardly anyone thought she was going to be able to win another Olympic individual gold. Everyone was talking about McKayla Maroney’s unbelievable vaulting abilities. But it was Sandra that captured the gold. McKayla of course threw open the door when she fell on her second vault and Sandra went tumbling through it.
When Sandra’s final score flashed on the scoreboard and she realized she won, she instantly broke down into tears and I felt so proud of her. After watching her all these years, I was so happy to see her succeed again at such a spectacular level. It just makes you realize that you should always work hard and try your best because you never know what can happen. Way to go Sandra!
ADAM VAN KOEVERDEN
Congratulations to a Canadian Olympic hero! Adam, who won silver in the men’s 1000 metres kayaking event in London, is now the most decorated athlete in his sport, having won eight world medals and four Olympic medals, including a gold from Athens. What a great representative and role model for Canadians!
In addition to his athletic accomplishments, he is also a graduate of McMaster University where he was his class valedictorian. Congratulations on all your success Adam!
CHINESE MEN'S GYMNASTICS TEAM
The Chinese men are the kings of gymnastics, period. Feng Zhe, Guo Weiyang, Chen Yibing, Zhang Chenglong and Zou Kai came out fighting during the Olympic men’s team final in London and showed everyone they were the still the best men’s team on the planet. After winning five consecutive world titles, the reigning Olympic champs really had a lot to live up to.
However, devastating injuries resulted in two of their top team members, Chen Yibing and Teng Haibin having to sit out of the London games. On top of that, a poor performance in the qualification round made a lot of gymnastics fan question whether or not the Chinese would be able to pull off another gold. But pull it off they did, in a spectacular victory that will not soon be forgotten. Well done gents!