For some, the London Olympics was anticlimactic while for some others it was simply a walk in the park, writes KUNLE ADEWALE
Kenenisa Bekele’s Invincibility Broken
Ethiopia’s double Olympic champion and world record holder in both the 5,000 and10,000 metres, Kenenisa Bekele, arrived the London Olympic Games with the determination to win a record third 10,000m gold.
The 29-year-old who has won three Olympic gold medals and five world championship titles said before the London Games: “History has a big place in my heart. It is not easy to achieve three Olympic titles, and it will be great if I can do it. I have been thinking about it a lot.”
But it was not to be as one of his main rivals Mo Farah had other ideas. He beat the Ethiopian in both distances.
“I am quite excited about it and the crowd certainly was amazing. Things are going well and as an athlete you want to be able to collect as many medals throughout your career as you can. So I want to keep going now. Championships don’t come around that often,” Farah said after the race.
Usain Bolt: The Stuff of Legend
In an interview with the BBC before the London Games, Usain Bolt said: “If I dominate the Olympics, I’ll be a living legend. A living legend walking around. Sounds good.”
Though in the eyes of many, Bolt was already a living legend after his 2008 Beijing Olympic exploits. Retaining his 100m and 200m sprint titles at the London Games can leave no doubt in anyone’s mind.
Bolt had to overcome all cynicism to achieve his unprecedented feat. He had to transcend negative public speculations and perhaps personal doubts after his unexpected double loss to training partner, Yohan Blake, at the Jamaica Olympic trials.
But when the chips were down in the finals of both 100 and 200 metres he led of the pack and in the process set a new Olympic record in the 100m.
Bolt set his goal to be a living legend. And he declared it to the world, though his self-confidence had been dubbed as arrogance and ‘showboating’ by some.
Bolt has said repeatedly that he is lazy. He likes to party and enjoy himself. He hates the discipline of practice and maintains no dietary regimen.
Caster Semenya – A Silver Consolation
Caster Semenya came into prominence in 2009 when she was subjected to gender test after winning the world title in a stunningly fast one minute, 55.45 seconds at age 18 and was subsequently withdrawn from international competition until July 2010 when the IAAF cleared her to return to competition.
She came to the London Games as a leading medal contender in the 800 and was even given the honour of carrying South Africa’s flag into the opening ceremony.
Unexpectedly at the final, she slipped into last place from the start of the final and, even after a fast finishing kick from 250 meters out, left it too late to catch world champion, Mariya Savinova, who posted a season’s-best one minute, 56.19 seconds to win gold.
“Unfortunately it was too late. I’m happy with the silver but I know the coach (Maria Mutola) is not really happy. I tried hard to get back but the body wasn’t really on fire. But I had to fight. It doesn’t matter if you’re back or front, what matters is how you finish your race,” Semenya said.
She knew she’d blown her first Olympic final by starting out too slowly. She expected critical feedback from her coach and, based on her experience over the last three, difficult years, she expected some unkind speculation about her performance in the 800 meters.
But she cherishes her Olympic silver medal all the same. Three years after being forced to undergo gender tests after winning the world title in a remarkable fashion, Semenya is now an Olympic medallist, too.
David Rudisha Did What No One Else Did (photo attached)
Before the London Games, David Rudisha had warned his rivals to fight for silver as he was set to win the gold and he did what no one else, Usain Bolt included, has been unable to do at the London Games; set an individual world record on the Olympic track.
On the day of the final Rudisha had told his rivals in the 800 meters to be ready for a world record, and he delivered on his word, winning in one minute, 40.91 seconds, one-tenth of a second off the mark he set in 2010. That makes him the first man ever to run a sub-1:41.00 time for the 800.
After crossing the finish, he flung up both arms to celebrate, then draped himself in a Kenyan flag and posed for photographs near the timing clock with “NEW WR” on it. He has been the dominant 800-meter runner for the last three years, setting the world record three times and losing just once since 2009.
“It’s something special to break the world record at the Olympics, something that hasn’t happened in the 800 since 1976. I have waited for this moment for a long time. I had no doubt about winning. The weather was beautiful so I decided to go for it,” Rudisha said.
“David Rudisha showed supreme physical and mental confidence to run like that in an Olympic final. Instead of just doing enough to win the race, he wanted to do something extraordinary and go for the world record as well. Rudisha’s run will go down in history as one of the greatest Olympic victories,” Sebastian Coe said.
Vivian Cheruiyot Looks to Rio for Gold
Kenya’s Vivian Cheruiyot was so good that she was nicknamed ‘Pocket Rocket.’ At the World Athletics Championship in Daegu, South Korea, last year she emerged champions in both the women 5000 and10,000 metres and she came to the 2012 Olympics as the world champion in both events and was favourite.
In the final of the 5000 in London she came within the thickness of a vest to craft a legendary crowning to her glittering career but painfully lost the Olympic gold to an all too familiar foe from the North.
She was deprived by her teammate Ethiopian Meseret Defar an Olympic double for a second time when she produced a home-stretch sprint to claim victory in addition to thwarting her long time Kenyan rival of the top medal she longed for.
For the ‘Pocket Rocket’ the outcome of London 2012 will be a mixed pot of feeling since whilst she achieved her goal of medalling at the biggest event, her dream of crowning her illustrious track career with Olympics gold fell a breath short.
As she returns home, Cheruiyot, 28, must be wondering whether a switch to the marathon is the remaining route to fulfil her lifelong career dream in Rio 2016 where she will be 32.
“I need that gold badly, it’s the only medal I do not have in my athletics career, I want it badly and in my heart, I know I will do my best,” she declared before the Olympics.
Brazil Take Dream Back Home
Brazil have won the World Cup than any other country in the world and they have players scattered in major European clubs doing brilliantly well. Yet in spite of their dominance at the world stage, the Olympics gold medal has continued to be a mirage despite having played in the final a record four times.
Perhaps since their failed attempt in 1996 at the Atlanta Games in which they lost to eventual winner, Nigeria, the South Americans have not assembled immensely talented players like the ones they took to the London Games and as such they were hugely favoured to clinch their first gold medal. But it was not to be as Mexico stole the show in the final with a 2-1 victory over the Samba Boys.
The Brazilians established the London Games as the team’s priority this year and arrived as the big favourite after bringing most of its top players for the competition. Many will also be on the team that will try to give Brazil the title at the 2014 World Cup at home.
“We are all sad. We know it was probably our only chance to win a gold medal. Four years from now most of us likely won’t be here again, so this was our last Olympics. It was our last chance to win the gold,” said Neymar.