Two Olympic superstars and a few othersAugust 25th, 2008 - 11:18 pm ICT by IANS
Beijing, Aug 25 (DPA) Ask any person who they consider the superstars of the Beijing Olympics that ended Sunday and you will - in all probability - get just two names: Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt.With eight gold medals from these games and 14 overall, Phelps has set new records and standards that will most likely not be broken for a long-long time (unless, of course, he is still around in 2012 in London).
En route to picking up his eight gold medals (100m and 200m butterfly, 200m freestyle, 200m and 400m individual medley, 4×100m and 4×200m freestyle relays and 4×100m medley relay), he broke seven world records.
The 23-year-old said that his success is built on total determination. “You make sure you are focused on what your goal is and what you want to achieve. That’s just all that I did. I was focused on what I wanted to do and what I wanted to accomplish.”
He admitted that he did not know what made him special. “I don’t know what makes me different - it beats me. I do what I love. I love to compete and I love to swim. I have very, very high goals that I have set for myself and that’s what really motivates me and keeps me going strong.”
Bolt, who won three gold medals, will be remembered just as much for his three sprint medals (100m, 200m and 4×100m relay), in which he also broke the world record three times, as for his near-flippant way of running and exuberant celebrations.
The way he ends his runs and his celebrations thereafter prompted IOC president Jacques Rogge to say that his celebrations could be construed as disrespect for his opponents.
“I think he should show more respect for his competitors and shake hands, give a tap on the shoulder to the other ones immediately after the finish and not make gestures like the one he made in the 100 metres,” Rogge said.
Bolt, however, countered that by saying that he would not change. “I am a performer. I come down here to perform and if the people enjoy themselves I did well. This is my job.”
With the likes of Phelps and Bolt around, it was hardly surprising that most other performances and athletes paled into insignificance.
Bolt, in fact, was not the only athlete to win three gold medals. Chris Hoy, otherwise known as The Flying Scotsman, won the cycling men’s keirin, the men’s team sprint and also the men’s individual sprint, to take his personal overall tally to four golds and a silver, making him the most successful cyclist in the history of the Olympics.
Australian Stephanie Rice, was the most successful swimmer behind Phelps, winning three golds (200m and 400m individual relay and 4×100m medley relay), while local favourite Zou Kai contributed three of the host nation’s 51 gold medals.
Going into the competition, the 20-year-old was not considered as one of the favourites in the gymnastics, but gold on the floor and horizontal bar, as well as the team competition made him one of the most popular athletes in his country.
Another star at these Games is undoubtedly Dara Torres. Although she does not rank in the top 20 with her three silver medals, she still became the oldest-ever swimmer to win an Olympic medal when she was a part of the US 4×100m freestyle relay.
The 41-year-old added a silver in the 50m freestyle and the 4×100m medley relay for a personal tally of four golds, four silver and four bronze from an astonishing five different Olympic Games.
Another athlete who seemed to have followed the same saying was Sheila Taormina.
The 39-year-old American might have failed to medal in the Modern Pentathlon, but she still found her way into the record-books, becoming the first woman athlete to compete in three different sports at the Olympics - and that though she first became an Olympian at 26.
She won a gold in swimming with the US relay team in 1996, competed in the triathlon in 2000 and 2004 and then decided that she should try something else.
But just like Phelps, Bolt, Rice and all the others, Taormina and Torres are stars. They might be stars without gold medals, but they are stars of the Beijing Olympics nevertheless.