Every four years, the world's fastest, strongest, jumpiest athletes convene in a mega sporting spectacle called the Olympics, of which there are two kinds: Summer and Winter. The latter we'll never really give much thought until serious climate change transforms the Banaue Rice Terraces into a ski slope. The former will be the subject of our discussion today, since today marks the end of one: London 2012.
Our question is this: who here can say they've watched every single game, each run, each graceful dive, each preposterous feat of gymnastic flipping that's sure to make any aspiring Ben Tumbling put a hand over the thumping of their heart? Certainly not us, because with over 10,000 athletes across 302 events in 26 sports, it's impossible to catch 'em all. The opening ceremony alone, directed by Slumdog Millionaire director Danny Boyle, was a doozy, and featured James Bond and The Queen (not the real one of course) jumping from a helicopter.
Yet, if you've been tuned in since they lit the Olympic torch on July 27, these Olympics have made good on their promise of showing just how friggin' awesome some people can be. These games have inspired. Not merely on physical performance alone, but with the stories that tag along with each. Let's check out some of the most interesting.
Phelps and Bolt: Olympic Superstars
There's damning evidence that U.S. swimmer Michael Phelps might be the greatest Olympian ever. Just count the medals. Entering these Olympics, the American swimmer already had 16 medals (six golds and two bronzes from Athens 2004, and eight golds from Beijing) needing just two more to surpass Russian gymnast Larisa Latynina's record for all-time most medal haul. Phelps did just that, acquiring six more in these games (four golds and two silvers) bringing his total up to a record-breaking, stage-setting 22 medals.
And then we have Usain Bolt. Some say it's too early for the 25-year-old Jamaican to declare himself as a living legend, but we say let him talk the talk so long as he can walk the walk (or 'run the run?') The fastest man on earth won three gold medals in unprecedented fashion: becoming the first man to win both sprint events (100m and 200m) in consecutive Olympics and leading the Jamaicans to a new world record in the 4x100m relay with a mark of 36.84 seconds. He won the same three events in Beijing too, bringing his gold medal collection to six.
David Rudisha reinforces why it's foolish to run against the Kenyans
Bolt isn't the only guy who can run in these Olympics. Kenyan runner David Rudisha's gold medal performance in the 800m run came with a new world record of one minute and 40.91 seconds. He's the first runner ever to break the 1:41 time barrier. Hard to win against these guys when there's running involved.
That basketball team with Kobe, Lebron and Durant
Minutes after his fellow NBA stars won the gold, former Redeem Team guard Dwyane Wade tweets: "spain always pushes us 2 R limit but the US is just better." Until that 23-and-under rule is used in international basketball, it's really hard to see any other team pushing past and getting the better of the Kanos. They did what they had to, surprised no one, but nevertheless deserves our applause.
Sweet revenge for Andy Murray
The Scottish tennis player finally stole one from world number one Roger Federer in Wimbledon. This comes just weeks after suffering a defeat against the same man on the same legendary court. Playing in front of a rabid homecrowd, Murray scored 6-2, 6-1, 6-4 in the men's singles finals, becoming the first Brit to win tennis gold since former Wimby champion Josiah Ritchie did it in 1908.
Great Britain makes most of homecourt advantage
While we're on the topic, the host nation hasn't had an Olympic haul this massive since 1908, when they were also the host. At those games, they won over 146 medals in total, 56 of them gold. This year they've ammassed 29 golds, and 65 total, including Mo Farah's defining win in the 10,000-meter long distance run that had every home fan tearing up in pride and joy.
While 65 still sounds like a far cry from those epic 1908 numbers, the thing is only 22 countries participated back then as opposed to a staggering 204 nations today.
That bad-ass "Blade Runner"
All our excuses for not gym-ing seem a whole lot more shameful after seeingdouble-amputee Oscar Pistorius of South Africa compete in the 400m run and the 4x400 relay. With carbon-fiber blades in place of legs, Pistorius zoomed past other able-bodied men to qualify for the 400m semi-finals. Although he failed in his bid for a medal finish, his was a triumph against physical odds.
Meet Manteo Mitchell, the toughest guy in the Olympics Just as inspiring was this American relay runner who ran half a race on essentially just one leg. In the qualifiers of the 4x400 relay, Mitchell ran the first stretch but broke his fibula around the 200m mark. He had heard the bone break, but not wanting to let his teammates down, he forged on. He managed to clock in at 46.1 seconds for his segment of the relay, which is considered subpar. But thanks to him, his team was able to move on to the final race where they managed a silver medal. Suddenly, the Olympics' official theme song, "Survival" by Muse, had its poster boy.
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