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Highlights - Women - Oldest - Polish team results
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    The 2008 Summer Olympic Games have just ended. Every four years the Olympic Games provide the world with an inspiring sporting spectacle. Even those who do not read the sporting pages and never watch baseball or football (American style) on television, find the games fascinating. This is the only time that such a variety of sports is available to any viewer - 302 individual events in 28 sports. This year the largest number of nations participated - 205, many with only two athletes, even Nauru, with only one. The total number of participating athletes was 11,196, of these 4,746 were women (42%) - the largest number ever.

Many nations participated for the worldwide exposure and experience, having no hope of winning a medal. Actually 87 national teams won at least one medal.
The United States won the largest number of medals overall - 110, of these 36 gold, 38 silver, 36 bronze. However China was second overall with 100 medals, but with the largest number of gold medals - 51, plus 21 silver and 28 bronze.

This writer was inspired by several outstanding performance of individual athletes. The 8 Gold medals won by the American swimmer Michael Phelps is a fantastic performance by any standard, in fact the largest number of medals won by any athlete in any single Olympic Games. He adds thes medals to the 6 Gold and 2 Bronze that he won in Athens in 2004.
Swimming produced several other multiple medal winners, including Natalie Coughlin of USA with 6 medals (1 G, 2 S, 3 B), Lisbeth Trickett of Australia with 4 (2 G, 1 S, 1 B) and Stephanie Rice of Australia with 3 Gold.

The swimming events provided some very exciting finishes, in three of them only 1/100 second separated Gold from Silver! The difference of half a finger length!! In old days, before all the new technologies were available, these would have been called ties.

All the gymnastics performances are awe inspiring, with their grace, precision and bravery. Particularly striking were the two American girls, Nastia Liukin (1 G, 3 S, 1 B) and her team-mate and rival, in the battle for medals, Shawn Johnson (1 G, 3 S).

In the running events the most striking performance was that of the 38 year old Romanian woman Marathon runner, Constantina Tomescu. At the half way mark (21 km) she started pulling away from the leading pack. By 35 km she was at least 300m. and 1 minute ahead of the remaining leaders and showing no signs of distress. She entered the stadium and was half way round the last 400m. circuit on the track before the next two women entered the stadium. To the roar of the crowds she finished with a lead of 22 seconds and didn't falter. She continued with one more 400m. lap waving the Romanian flag!

In the short distance runs, the tall Jamaican, Usain Bolt, lived up to his nickname "Lightning Bolt" by outdistancing all competitors by several meters (no split seconds here!), and establishing new World Records in the 100m, 200m and 4x100m events. After each event he appeared to be untired, and clowned around to the delight of the cheering spectators.

China did an outstanding job in organization of the games and the building of the stadium, nicknamed the "Birdsnest", and all the other facilities. Many world records were broken in swimming events. In part this is attributed to the fact that the pool at these games was 4m deep instead of the usual 3 meters, and was 10 lanes wide instead of the usual eight. Apparently these factors reduce the turbulence thus making faster speeds possible. The opening ceremony was fantastic, although too long because it lasted two hours, before the entrance of the competing teams. The entire ceremony lasted four hours. The beautiful performances of the thousands of synchronized dancers are possible only in a totalitarian country, in which the performers are drafted, paid nothing or very little and required to drill for hours at a time over many months.

The capability of totalitarian countries to take children from their families and totally immerse them in sports training also accounted for the almost total dominance of Gymnastics and the related Diving events by the Chinese. This does not detract from the fanatastic performances of the individuals. Chinese people have a natural talent for acrobatics, just watch Circus Soleil. In Diving their dominance was only broken once - by Australian Matthew Mitcham, who scored four 10s in his last dive in the Men's 10m Platform, to win a Gold. In Men's Gymnastics only once - in the Men's Vault - a Gold was won by a Polish athlete (see below).

However, in Women's Gymnastics, four Golds went to non-Chinese
Vault - Hong Un Jong of North Korea,
AllAround Individual - Nastia Liukin of USA,
Floor Exercise - Sandra Izbasa of Romania,
Balance Beam - Shawn Johnson of USA.

Another myth was broken in these Olympics - that only young people can win in races. American swimmer Dara Torres is 41 years old, but she won 3 Silver medals in swimming. She has competed in five Olympic games, winning a total of 4 Golds, 4 Silvers, 4 Bronze medals, during her remarkable career. As noted above, the winner of the Women's Marathon is 38 years old. The French woman cyclist Jeannie Longo-Ciprelli is 49. The oldest competitor in these Games is the Japanese equestrian Hiroshi Hoketsu aged 67. Incidentally, the oldest Olympic competitor ever was Swedish shooter Oscar Swahn who won his sixth Olympic medal in the 1920 games at the age of 72.

Naturally I was particularly interested in the performance of the Polish team. Since its first Olympic appearance in 1924, Poland has won a total of 59 gold medals, 74 silver and 118 bronze in Summer Olympics, mostly in Athletics. The performance this year was disappointing, winning only 10 medals overall. Noteworthy is the Gold in the Man's vault in Gymnastics, the only men's Gymnastics Gold medal not won by the Chinese. In the Mens 110m Hurdles, Artur Noga was the only white athlete to reach the final round. Here are the full results.

    • ATHLETICS - Men's Shotput - Majewski, Tomasz
    • GYMNASTICS - Men's Vault - Blanik, Leszek (the only men's gymnastic Gold not Chinese!)
    • ROWING - Men's Sculls Four - Wasielewski Konrad, Kolbowicz Marek, Jelinski Michal, Korol Adam
    • ATHLETICS - Men's Discus - Malachowski, Piotr (EST,POL,LIT)
    • FENCING - Men's Team Epee - Andrzejuk Robert, Motyka Tomasz, Zawrotniak Radoslaw, Wiercioch Adam (FRA, POL,ITA)
    • ROWING - Lightweight Men's 4 - Pawlowski Lukasz, Pawelczak Bartlomiej, Bernatajtys Milosz, Randa Pawel (DEN,POL,CAN)
    • KAYAK - Womens double - Konieczna Anieta, Mikolajczyk Beata (HUN,POL,FRA)
    • CYCLING - Womens Mountain Bike - Wloszczowska Maia (GER,POL,RUS)
    • WEIGHTLIFTING - Men's 94kg - Kolecki Szymon
    • WRESTLING - Women's Freestyle 72 kg - Wieszczek Agnieszka
      OTHER NOTEWORTHY in Athletics
    • Men's 110m Hurdles - The only white finalist! - Noga, Artur in 5th place (CUB,USA,USA,FRA,POL,JAM,JAM,SPA)
    • Women's 400m Hurdles - Jesien, Anna in 5th place (JAM, USA, GBR, UKR, POL, RUS, CZR, USA)

Full details of all events , biographies of athletes, photos and videos, are available from two Internet sites: the official Chinese site in English; as well as the website of NBC.

NBC Olympics page
for full details, photos, videos, biographies.
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Last updated: August 25, 2008.