As I noted here, there were a lot of negatives that swirled around the choice of Rio as a venue for the Summer Olympics. But in the end, regardless of whatever shortcomings may have been present in the capitol of Brazil, these Olympics provided a lot of exemplary displays of athletic prowess with men and women doing things that makes me hurt just watching them.
What's really cool for me is seeing real life people display abilities and talents that are almost super hero-like. We may not live in a world with The Flash or Aquaman but we do have Usain Bolt and Michael Phelps who set capstones to their respective Olympic careers with record setting and gold medal winning performances.
And I was in awe of the extraordinary young people who represent the next wave of Olympian talent and skill. People like Simone Biles who made it seem like gravity is for other people. She was breathtakingly astonishing and deserved the honor of being the flag bearer for the American team during the closing ceremonies of the 2016 Summer Olympics.
But if Simone Biles and other young men and women like her have demonstrated the best of what it means to be an Olympic athlete, sadly we also have an example of the worst sort of behavior.
Last week, the story broken that swimmer Ryan Lochte and 3 other members of the American swim team had been robbed at gun point. Within a matter of days, the story was falling apart and the whole thing was revealed to be a fabrication. It seems Ryan and his buddies had actually vandalized a Rio gas station including urinating on a wall.
The blowback was intense, particularly for Ryan who was the most famous of the group, the one who went on TV to insist to NBC's Matt Lauer that he wouldn't make up a thing like this and the one who took off for America leaving the others to answer directly to Brazilian police. It was a reprehensible display that earned the ire of even NBC's most ardent Olympic cheerleading on air talent.
Well, most of them. During a live broadcast, Billy Bush tried to soft-pedal Lochte's offenses with terms like "embellish" and "exaggerate". Al Roker, the normally affably pleasant weather guy from the Today show, was having none of that. "Ryan LIED!" Roker emphasized, a sentiment concurred with by Natalie Morales. A follow up visit with Matt Lauer was supposed to present a more contrite Ryan Lochte but instead only admitted to having "over-exaggerated" the robbery story. That statement implies that yes there was a robbery but maybe it didn't go down as badly as he said. Except there was no robbery at all, just the misconduct of Ryan and his teammates.
Ultimately I regard this whole debacle with Ryan Lochte as a carnival sideshow that provided an unwelcome distraction from the real, true wonders of men and women testing and exceeding their limits to accomplishing amazing things. These are the stories worth our time and attention.
- Allyson Felix whose triumphs in Rio have now made her the woman runner with the most gold medals ever.
- Matthew Centrowitz whose win in the 1500m race scored America's first gold medal in the event since 1908.
- Gwen Jorgenson who won gold in the Triathalon, the first gold medal win in this event for the United States since...well, ever!
- Helen Maroulis who won the first gold for the USA in women's wrestling.
- American Simone Manuel who made history becoming the first black woman to win Olympic gold in an individual swimming event.
- Joseph Schooling of Singapore who won gold in the 100-meter butterfly by beating Michael Phelps (who had won gold in this event for the last three Olympics) and breaking Phelps' record in the event. At the end of the race, Phelps swam over to give Schooling a hug. (Awwww!)