Friday, 1 August 2008

Olympic Rivalries

Since the Olympic Games started, world audiences have been treated to some of the best (and worst) rivalries which continue to the upcoming Games in Beijing. Let’s sample some and look at possible ones in the upcoming Games:
From 1936-2004:
1936 Berlin: the long jump finals:- featuring Carl Ludwig 'Luz' Long, local hero and fancied favorite by the 3rd Reich of one Adolf Hitler was up against the odds and 3 gold-medal winner thus far Jesse Owens. He had had an unfair start with his warm-up jump being adjudged as the first jump. With the ensuing rivalry between him and Long, Owens made the last jump of 26 feet 5 ½ inches, proved his point and went on to salute the stars and strips even though they hadn’t yet recognized him as a hero (what with segregation in the States!)
2.1956 Melbourne: - Hungary vs Russia in the water polo Final. The game played in water was a fearsome one for those who watched it. The competitiveness was so bad that one player got his eye injured and had to leave the pool amidst protests and riots. Once order was restored the Hungarians won the game by 4-0 winning the match which came to be known as ‘Blood in the Water’ match.
3.1960:- Hockey Men’s Final: Pakistan (predominantly Muslim) a bitter rival of its pre-dominantly Hindu neighbour India-broke the latter’s dominance in the event. Pakistan had conceded only one goal to Germany in the quarter-finals and was thus on its way to changing history.. India had already won 6 previous hockey golds in the Summer Olympics.
4.1972 Munich: - The finals of the basketball teams men game: - USA vs. USSR. US shooting guard/small forward Doug Collins made 2 free throws with 3 secs. left in the game clock though the horn had blown as time up. The clock was rewound and reflected the seconds for play to resume but again the Russians didn’t make any meaningful play. An appeal from a top FIBA official saw the clock rewound for a second time and this time the Soviets were able to make a quick lay-up basket to lead 51-50. US officials appealed but lost on a 2-3 vote from the Communist bloc countries. To this day, US players have refused to pick their silver medals they ‘won’.
5.1984 Los Angeles: 1500m men’s finals- the event attracted a number of African athletes who were beginning to make an impact in the athletics world but given the boycotts of 76 & 80 this would be the Europeans gig. Steve Ovett of Britain was the favourite over countryman Sebastien ‘Seb’ Coe to win it. Seb raced Ovett and East German Straub to win the race and went on to become one of England’s most noted athlete (he helped England win the 2012 bid to host the Games in London).
6.1988 Seoul: 100m- Ben Johnson seems on top of his game after winning the World Athletics in Rome in 1987, he manages to sprint to another record time of previously fastest time of 9.79 secs managing to raise his hands and glance over his competition. But 2 days later he‘s tested positive for banned anabolic steroids thus Carl Lewis gets the medal though he’s bitter for not winning it more orderly.
7.1992 Barcelona: - 10000m women’s race-the South African’s having been restored after almost 30 years in the cold have Elena Meyer challenging Ethiopian track queen Delartu Tulu and the battle is down to the last stretch with Tulu winning and then holding hands in solidarity with Meyer as they did the lap of honour together. True Olympic spirit!
8.1996 Atlanta :- 4x100m relay : This being a sprint event history was on America’s side and what better way to cap the Games by giving back-to-back medal winner Michael Johnson a 3rd gold. Donovan Bailey –Canadian on the other hand had different ideas. This would be the best time to break tradition and what better place than the Olympics. The Canadians cleanly beat the Americans getting Bailey to prove his 100m win was not just a fluke.
9.2000 Sydney: Who can dare forget the 10,000m final between Kenya’s Paul Tergat and Ethiopia’s Haile Gebreselassie? Though friends off the track, these two athletes have always been competitive especially when both race in one race. This was no exception and the race had a sprint finish with Tergat trying to get past the Ethiopian for gold only for Gebreselassie to use his reserve energies to scorch the Sydney track. This rivalry has now moved to the marathon circles with the 2 world best times being set, yes you guessed it H. Gebreselassie first and Tergat a close second !
10.2004 Athens: - 1500m men- Moroccan Hisham el Guerrouj had extra reserves for the race having secured the 5000m gold. One Bernard Lagat (formerly Kenyan, now a naturalized US athlete) had hoped to beat his jinx in the race with the Moroccan from the World Athletics Games in 2003. This was the right stage but then again Hisham was bound for retirement and what better way to celebrate by winning his 2nd gold (only gold medalllist for Morocco in the 2004 Games).

Rivalries Expected:
• 100m men: Jamaica's Asafa Powell vs. Usain Bolt (or is it Tyson Gay of the US?),
• 800m ladies: Kenyans 2-lap ladies; Janeth Jepkosgei vs. Pamela Jelimo,
• 1500m men: Kenyan-born US athlete Bernard Lagat vs. Kenyan Augustine Choge,
• 110m hurdles men: China's Lui Xiang vs. Cuba's Dayron Robles,
• Football women: USA vs Brazil, women's soccer
• Basketball: USA vs. Argentina
• Swimming: Australian Michael Phelps vs. the rest of the world-
• Gymnastics: USA vs China, women's gymnastics

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