Athletes save the Olympics from their leaders' big lies

Athletes save the Olympics from their leaders' big lies

Oh, how the International Olympic Committee must yearn for the good old days of 1999, when revelations of bribes for bid city votes led to the worst scandal in the hoary (or should that be whorey?) history of the IOC.

Because as bad as that was, 2016 was even worse.

That is a painful irony given that years with an Olympics usually leave enough good recollections to wipe the seamier ones from the public memory bank.

Not so in 2016, even if the underlying point of this column, as it has been in each of the 30 years for which I have given international sports awards, still is to celebrate the best athletes in sports for whom an Olympic gold medal is the ultimate prize.

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Of The Golden Stars Of Rio – And Those Who Made All Medals Shine Brighter

Who was the biggest star of the 2016 Olympics?

It depends on your point of view.

From a global perspective, the answer is undoubtedly Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt, because track and field is one of the two most widely followed and played sports in the worlds (soccer is the other). And the world’s fastest man is the most prized Olympic distinction. And Bolt’s triple-triple, consecutive Olympic golds in the 100, 200 and sprint relay, may last as long as our galaxy.

From the host nation’s perspective, it would have to be Neymar, who scored the lone goal and the decisive penalty kick as Brazil won its first Olympic title in soccer. Neymar was Sidney Crosby 2010 redux: the athlete assuring soul-salving gold in his country’s national sport.

From a U.S. perspective, the choice isn’t as clear-cut, as Sports Illustrated showed with a cover featuring swimmers Katie Ledecky and Michael Phelps and gymnast Simone Biles, whom it called, “The Greatests.” Plural.

While that SI issue focused on just the first week of Olympic action, the three cover athletes essentially played a successful game of “Can you top this?” Ledecky won four gold medals and a silver and set two world records; Phelps won five golds and a silver, improving his record Olympic totals to 23 golds and 28 total; Biles won four golds, a bronze and the acclaim of venerable coach Martha Karolyi as the greatest gymnast of all time.

Whether you think someone topped those three as the No. 1 Team USA athlete will depend on whether you think an athlete who did brilliantly in his or her only Olympic event should get equal credit with athletes whose sports provide the opportunity to win multiple medals.

I tend to come down on the side of multiples, especially when the achievements were as remarkable as those of Ledecky, Phelps and Biles. If forced to pick one, I would go for…nope, not doing that. Sorry. Don’t want to be trolled to distraction.

FOR THE WHOLE STORY ON TEAMUSA.ORG, CLICK HERE

For Biles And Ledecky, Greatness Comes From Going Beyond The Top


RIO DE JANEIRO – In two hours Thursday afternoon, I went from watching Katie Ledecky, who defies the clock in a pool, to watching Simone Biles, who defies gravity on a gymnastics floor.

These two 19-year-olds, born three days apart in March of 1997, each dominates her sport in a way that leaves their rivals in awe.

“If Katie swims the way she can, we all are swimming for second or third,” Denmark’s Lotte Friis, a 2008 Olympic bronze medalist, told me two months ago.

“I knew Simone was going to win; I was just hoping to get second,” her U.S. teammate, Aly Raisman, said early Thursday evening, when Raisman had done just that as Biles took the Olympic all-around title by 2.1 points, the largest victory margin in the last 40 years.

Biles has a team gold medal. And the all-around gold. And she will be favored to add three more in the individual events.

Ledecky has three golds and a silver. She is heavily favored to win a fourth gold Friday after setting an Olympic record in the 800-meter freestyle preliminaries Thursday.

What Biles and Ledecky share is the same plan for getting farther ahead of the opposition when triumph already is a foregone conclusion.

FOR THE WHOLE STORY ON TEAMUSA.ORG, CLICK HERE