By Rob Ficiur
When I wrote about Rio Week #1, I noted that 9 out of the 9 Canadian medals in the first week were won by women. My question was “are the men coming in week #2?” The answer was an emphatic yes. The following are observations / emotions and reactions during week #2.
1. Men’s 200 Meter sprint – Olympic memories and more – Early in week #2 Canadian Andre De Grasse won a bronze medal in the men’s 100 meter. His success in 100 meter engaged Canadians looking to the 200 meter race. Even a casual Olympic fan knows that Usain Bolt holds Gold Medal records. In Rio, Bolt was trying to do something no one has done before – win Gold in both the 100 meter and 200 meter for the third consecutive Olympics. In his last Olympic games could the fastest man ever set a generational record. The simple answer is yes; Bolt earned his third straight gold medals.
Sports is about the story, the people and the drama of an event. Leading up to Thursday’s 200 meter finale, media and fans wondered if Andre De Grasse in his first Olympic games could dethrone King Bolt? Wednesday De Grasse lined up beside Bolt in the semifinal heat. Bolt looked to be cruising to first in the heat when out of nowhere De Grasse charged ahead and nearly beat his brother athlete. The picture of Bolt and DE Grasse smiling as they crossed the finish line is the generational photo of the Rio games. Was Bolt smiling at his under study who will win Gold in 2020? De Grasse would argue that his goal was gold this year.
The men’s 200 meter final was the Olympic event of the week that I planned my schedule around. As rarely happens the hype was equal to the event. Usain bolted to the front of the race and never looked back. De Grasse was in a four way tie for second half way through the race. The Canadian hit another gear putting him solidly in second for a silver. The bronze medal would have been a photo finish in another era. France won it by a few thousandths of a second.
Will Andre DE Grasse replace his friend Usain Bolt as the Gold Medal winner in the 2020 Olympics? In his first Olympic games (2004 Athens) Usain Bolt was eliminated in the heats. In his first Olympic Games Andre DE Grasse has bronze in the 100 meter and silver in the 200 meter. Could De Grasse be as good (or better?) than the best sprinter in Olympic history? We will begin to find out in four years.
2. Technology made these games more instant for me than ever before. When a Canadian won a medal my phone beeped. I knew of De Grasse’s silver medal within two minutes of the event. When we missed getting a medal on day 8, I checked my phone to make sure it was working. Canada had won medals for a record 8 days in a row, was my phone working or did we not get a medal that day?
3. Not quite – With every event there is one winner and three medals but there are numerous athletes that come up short. I watched 33-year-old Canadian Nathan Brannan in the semifinal of the men’s 1500 meter race. Brannan finished well behind the leaders. He did a nice interview, but it must be hard to see your Olympic dream slip away. Sitting at home it is easy to say how wonderful it is to just be in the Olympics. But when you are that close, losing out must hurt. What? My channel flipping finally caught up to me. Brannan’s time was seventh overall and he will race once again on Saturday in the men’s 1500 meter final. His Olympic dream lives on for two more days.
4. Basketball – ho hum – I like NBA basketball, but Olympic basketball is boring. The USA is so much better than the other teams that the games are not worth watching. Since 1992, when NBA players have been allowed in the Olympics, the USA has won five of the six gold medals. Prior to Rio the Americans have a 33-3 record in Olympic basketball. The results are as predictable as Canadian men winning gold in hockey. From 1920-1952 Canada won seven of eight Winter Olympic gold medals with an overall record of 31-1-3. That would have been fun to watch, at least for Canadians.
5. One of Canada’s gold medals this week was by high jumper Derek Drouin. As the Gold Medalist at the 2015 World Championships, is repeating as champion a year later in the Olympics a greater challenge? Drouin took whatever pressure there and won Olympic gold. I happened to be flipping channels when they repeated Drouin’s gold Medal ceremony. Hearing O Canada played on the Olympic stage is always moving no matter where the medal came from.