My memories from the Beijing Olympics

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By Tommie Kendall

After 17 days of non-stop action, the 2008 Beijing Olympics came to a halt with the final event finishing up just three days ago. Although I was a little leary of how these Olympics would play out, I’ll have to say I was highly impressed.

Aside from a few of the typical scandals that come with the largest sporting stage in the world, I thought China did an excellent job in hosting the games. It might just be because I’m getting older and, naturally, I enjoy sitting in front of a television more than I used to, but this was one of my favorite Olympics to watch. From Michael Phelps becoming the greatest Olympian ever in terms of gold medals, to the United States reclaiming their dominance in men’s basketball, I was sitting in front of my television to see most of the action — too much, if you ask my wife Sandra.

When I turned off my TV for the final time Sunday night, I was left with plenty of feel-good memories. Here are just a few of my personal highlights from these games:

Opening ceremony: Although I later found out that some things I saw on TV weren’t the real deal, and that a certain little girl was lip syncing a lovely song that was actually sung by another little girl deemed not pretty enough, I will have to admit that I was a bit blown away by the opening ceremonies. The breathtaking, eye-popping action was a treat to watch. It was the first time I actually sat through the entire broadcast. The only downside is every opening ceremony will most likely look very lame by comparison.

Michael Phelps: Of course no list of highlights would be complete without swimming sensation Michael Phelps. He was the most dominant athlete at these games, with a record-breaking eight gold medals in a single Olympics and a record 14 total golds to become the greatest Olympic champion of all time. For the first half of the Olympics, it was complete Phelpsmania all across the world.

Usain Bolt: While Phelps was the dominate force in the first half, Usain Bolt hogged the spotlight during the second. His three track races produced three golds and three world records, which equals tons of worldwide fame. First he won the 100-meter dash in an astonishing 9.69 seconds while celebrating the final 20 meters, then he broke Michael Johnson’s 200-meter record deemed unbreakable with a blazing 19.30 seconds, then capped off his week with a leg on Jamaica’s record-setting 400-meter relay team.

Women’s gymnastics: Once again, I was drawn into the women’s gymnastics during the Olympic games — it never fails. I don’t ever watch gymnastics, but for some reason I have to watch all the flipping action during each Olympics. I guess it’s some kind of spell that was cast on me years ago. This time around, it was Americans Shawn Johnson and Nastia Liukin that I was widely cheering for. They didn’t disappoint.

Beach volleyball: Another sport I was really into was beach volleyball. And this was a good year to be as USA teams swept both the men’s and women’s titles. Phil Dalhausser, Todd Rogers, Misty May and Kerri Walsh were names I heard a lot of during the last few weeks.

USA men’s basketball: Of course I had to watch all the men’s basketball action. After these Olympics, I will have to say this USA team is the second best of all time — only behind the 1992 Dream Team. Better known as the Redeem Team, Kobe Bryant and company went undefeated and put the USA back on the map as the top basketball country in the world.

China won: I’m not admitting that China has better individual athletes than the United States, but I will say that they were better prepared and did in fact defeat us at these Olympics. When talking about what country did better, some people will point out that the USA won more total medals, while others point out that China won more gold medals. My secret formula for figuring out the top country is simple: three points for a gold medal, two points for a silver and one point for a bronze. If you do the math, China came away ahead 223-220. Case closed.

Now that the Olympics are over, I’m a bit depressed and already find myself with much more free time. It sure was a great 17 days as I followed all the highs and lows. It was fun while it lasted, but now I must get back to my normal routine. Sadly, that includes counting down the days to the next Olympics — 1,430 to be exact.

Tommie Kendall can be reached by e-mail at sports@hclocal.com.