Olympic Fever....I'm officialy afflicted!
I admit it....I'm an Olympics junkie and I have been ever since I was a kid mesmerized by Mark Spitz in the 1972 games in Munich. He was just so dreamy to a 7 year old girl!
As someone who has participated in competitive sports, I know how difficult it is. But to compete at the level these athletes compete at for the love of the sport is truly amazing!
There are so many iconic moments and athletes that I remember from my own viewing experience. In 1976, I was still living in Hudson, Ohio, which is a small town about halfway between Cleveland and Akron. It was the year of the Bicentennial and an Olympic year as well. I was riveted watching Dorothy Hamill and her famous wedge haircut win the Gold Medal in figure skating. Everyone had to have that haircut; kind of like they did 30 years later when everyone had to have "The Rachel" from "Friends."
Then, in the Summer Olymics in Montreal, Bruce Jenner shocked the world when he won the Decathalon. Now, he's famous for being Kim Kardashian's step father.....that's just sad.
The Winter Olympics in 1980 were a big draw for me because they were in the United States for the first time in my lifetime. At the time, our "big" TV was a 19" black and white Zenith in our basement and that's where we all witnessed Eric Heiden's amazing feats in that unbelievable gold skating suit. Another one of my Olympic crushes was born watching him in speed skating.
"Do you believe in Miracles?" yelled Al Michaels when the upstart U.S. Hockey team, made up of mostly collegiate players upset the heavily favored Soviet team. We almost always forget that game wasn't even for the gold medal; it's what got the U.S. to the gold medal game. Anybody remember who they beat to win gold? (It was Finland, by the way). What an incredible ride and moment of national pride!
As wonderful as the hockey team and Eric Heiden's heroics, the most heartbreaking scene I remember was when our skating sweethearts, Tai Babilonia and Randy Gardner had to pull out of the pairs figure skating because of the leg injury Randy had sustained. I remember watching him try time and again to stick a landing, only to have his leg give out. What tore my heart out was the anguish on the faces of these two young athletes who had trained their whole lives and would never realize their Olympic dream.
We would move from Ohio to Madison, Wisconsin in the fall of 1980 and the following fall, I joined the tennis team for my high school, the Madison West Regents. And who should turn out to be one of my coaches, but Nancy Heiden.....Eric Heiden's MOTHER! He actually came to a few of our matches when he would be back in town, and one of my teammates and I always joked that if we couldn't get dates to the Senior Prom, each one of us would get to go with one of Eric's thighs!
The summer I graduated from high school, I remember watching Mary Lou Retton stick that perfect landing to win her individual gold medal at the Los Angeles games. The look of pure joy on her face was something to behold, as was her smile that was bigger than she was I think. DJB and I had the opportunity to interview her at a Children's Miracle Network event in Orlando a few years ago, and she was just a joy to sit and talk with.
Who doesn't remember this image from the 1988 Summer Olympics from Seoul? Greg Louganis smacking the back of his head on the back of the diving board and then coming back and still competing and winning.....unbelievable! He was always one of my favorite divers to watch for his sheer grace and just how good he really was!
When the Atlanta Olympics was going on, I was training for a sales job (between radio gigs) and I was watching the women's gymnastics final from my hotel room. The U.S. women were right there competing for the gold medal and they needed a near-perfect score in the vault; the only problem was Kerri Strug's ankle was so badly sprained, she could hardly walk on it. Talk about courage.....she runs full speed, hits the vault and then sticks the landing! I remember being in awe of how well she did and you knew it was killing her! It was an awesome moment!
I was riveted four years ago watching the swimming display that Michael Phelps put on in Beijing. The other swimmer that amazed me was Dara Torres, who came out of retirement and made the U.S. squad at the age of 41! She came just short of gold in the 50 meter freestyle and came away with a silver medal. What an inspiration! I can't wait to watch all of the athletes compete over the next two weeks and see what new classic Olympic moments will be made!