Thursday, August 9, 2012

Observations from the Couch 8.9

I finished writing this in the heady time after the American gold medal win in women's soccer. After some thought I later added a postscript.

As the London Olympics enter their final days I'm amazed at just how much it has become a showcase for American women. I know I'm far from impartial but it just seems so many American women are doing so well in every sport. A 17 year old girl from Flint, Michigan became the first American woman to win a boxing gold medal. In swimming American women won 14 medals, including 8 golds, and seem to have a bright future led by Missy Franklin who won 4 gold medals in her first Olympics. As of yesterday the women have won twice as many gold medals as the American men and there are just too many highlights to mention but here are some of my favorites so far.

Monday Jenn Suhr (photo) of the U.S. won the gold medal in the women's pole vault and ended Russian Yelena Isinbayeva's bid for a third straight Olympic gold medal. Isinbayeva, who has broken the world record 28 times, had been hoping to be the first woman in track and field to win the same individual event in three straight Olympics.

The women's basketball team remains undefeated in London and now hasn't lost a game in the Olympics since they won the bronze medal in Barcelona twenty years ago, the men should be so lucky. The last time they lost in the Olympics was 1992 to a now nonexistent CIS team that represented the defunct Soviet Union. Saturday they will play for their fifth consecutive gold medal. Also Saturday the U.S. women's volleyball team, including its four Penn State members, will play Brazil in the gold medal game. A win will bring the first gold medal in the volleyball team's history.

Women's beach volleyball had a final that was an all American affair with the team of Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings, who have played together since 2001, defeating the team of Jennifer Kessy and April Ross. It was their third straight gold medal and the last, May-Treanor plans on retiring after the games. Walsh, who hopes to play in yet another Olympics, said afterword; "The journey in the past two years that we shared together changed my life; I know it sounds really dramatic, and cheesy, but it has. Our competitive journey together is done, and that’s a big deal. It crushes me a little bit. It makes it really hard, really bittersweet, but I’m really proud that we went out the way we went out."

Finally there is the newly crowned Olympic Champions of the women's soccer team, I'll have more to say about them later.

postscript - My original thought here was how well American women performed when compared to the American men but I'm not sure I made that point clear. I didn't mean for what I wrote to in any way take away from what women in general have accomplished in London. There are so many truly inspiring stories to be told.

There was Saudi judo player Wojdan Ali Seraj Abdulrahim Shahrkhani who faught her match even as Islamic clerics back home said she had dishonored herself and country for fighting in front of men. There was also Tahmina Kohistani of Afghanistan who ran for a country where good women walk behind their men and where a woman was executed for adultery last month.

Than, for totally non-political reasons, there was the Canadian women's soccer team. Last year they quietly exited the World Cup after 3 losses including a 4-0 loss to France. A 1-0 win over that same French team earned them the bronze medal and Canada's first team medal in the summer games since 1936. Over the past week they put in a performance in every way worthy of a gold medal.