Unforgettable Moments of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games
The 2008 Beijing Olympics is considered by many to be the most spectacular and the best prepared Games in modern Olympic history. It is also certainly one of the best attended with more than one hundred sovereigns, heads of state and heads of government; and more than 11,000 athletes from over 200 countries in attendance. Let’s relive some of the numerous highlights of the just recently concluded Beijing Games!
Phelps Joins List of Olympic Greats
There were much speculation about the possibility of American swimmer Michael Phelps breaking Mark Spitz’ record of seven gold medals won in a single Olympics. True enough, he did not disappoint. He qualified for eight events (400m individual medley, 200m individual medley, 100m and 200m butterfly, 200m freestyle, 4×100m medley relay, and the 4×100m and 4×200 freestyle relays) and won them all world record time, except for the 100m butterfly where he set a new Olympic record. Phelps, in the process of surpassing Mark Spitz’ record set at the 1972 Games, matched and then outstripped the record nine career gold medals of Games icons Spitz, Paavo Nurmi, Carl Lewis, and Larissa Latynina to emerge the greatest Olympian of all time.
Lightning Bolt Strikes Thrice
With the two-time world champion Tyson Gay eliminated in the semifinals, Jamaican Usain Bolt seemingly had only fellow Jamaican Asafa Powell to beat in the 100m sprint final. He looked around with only thirty meters left and realized that it was all clear; he breezed through and was still able to shatter his own record with 9.69 seconds. Four days after, he repeated the feat in the 200m final, breaking the 200m world record to achieve the first Olympic golden sprint double in twenty four years; and the first 100-200m victories at world record pace. Two days later, Bolt went on to capture his third gold medal running the third leg of the Jamaican 4×100 meters relay team.
Russian and Georgian Medalists in Symbolic Embrace
While sharing the medal podium, good friends and former teammates of the former Soviet Union, Russia’s Natalia Paderina and Georgia’s Nino Salukvadze embraced and kissed each other on the cheeks, setting aside the conflict between their two countries and providing a boost to the Georgian team that had considered pulling out from the Games a day earlier. They finished silver and bronze respectively behind China’s Guo Wenjun following the dramatic women’s 10m air pistol event final. Salukvadze expressed optimism, hopeful that the Games’ ideals of peace would be an example for those watching. “If the world were to draw any lessons from what I did, there would never be any wars,” she exclaimed. “After all, we live in the twenty-first century. We shouldn’t really stoop so low to wage wars against each other.”
Injured Liu’s Pullout Shocks China
China’s 1.3 billion population has been banking on Liu Xiang to defend his 110m hurdles Olympic title won four years ago in Athens. Liu, one of the major faces of the Beijing Olympics, has been bothered by his right Achilles’ heel injury for six to seven years and was obviously in pain when he lined up for the race. He would limp down the tunnel of the Birds Nest stadium to a confused silence from the largely nationalistic crowd.
US Gymnast Ends China Run
China emerged as Games new gymnastics superpower after striking gold in both the men’s and women’s team events. But China’s stranglehold on the sport would be broken by Nastia Liukin of the United States who won the women’s individual all-around event, with Shawn Johnson, Liukin’s compatriot, taking the silver to make it a one-two finish for the United States. The best the host nation could salvage was a bronze medal by Yang Yiling. The triumph somehow atoned for the US women’s loss to China in the team event due to costly mistakes on beam and floor.
South African Amputee Inspires the Rest
The 24-year-old Natalie du Toit, who had won six medals at the 2004 Athens Paralympics, desires to inspire others to reach for their dreams after fulfilling her ambition to compete at the Beijing Olympics despite having her lower leg amputated seven years ago in a motor accident. Thus, she became the first amputee to qualify for the Olympic Games since 1936, and would finish sixteenth in the women’s 10km marathon swim. Her participation prompted the eventual gold medal winner Larissa Ilchenko of Russia, to insist that du Toit merited a medal just for competing.
Australian Diver Prevents China Sweep
Matthew Mitcham of Australia qualified in second position for the 10m platform event final. With one last dive to go, he was ranked second, 34 points behind China’s Zhou Luxin, having experienced mixed success in his first five dives. After Zhou made the worst dive of the final scoring a measly 74.80 points, Mitcham still needed a near perfect score of 107.30 to clinch the gold. His near-perfect final dive drew four perfect tens from the judges and attained 112.10 points, the highest single-dive score in the history of the Olympics. His win prevented China from achieving a clean-sweep of all diving events at the Games.
The Redeem Team Avenges Athens Loss
Following disappointments of placing sixth at the 2002 World Championships and settling for third place at the 2004 Games and the 2006 World Championships, the United States sent a twelve-man basketball team, dubbed the “Redeem Team,” in an effort to reclaim the global throne that once belonged to them. The team, consisting of prominent NBA players, included Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard among others. The United States totally conquered Group B in pool play, crushing China, Angola, Greece, world champion Spain, and Germany by an average margin of 32.2 points. Then, the United States soundly defeated Group A’s fourth place-finishers, Australia 116-85 in the quarterfinal matchup headed by Kobe Bryant’s 25 points, and Manu Ginobili-led Argentinian team (the 2004 Olympic gold medallist) 101-81 led by Carmelo Anthony’s 21 points. In the final battle for the gold, the United States defeated Spain 118-107 in a remarkably close game, with the Americans’ lead reaching as high as fourteen points, and as low as two points with less than four minutes left to play.
Cancer Survivor Beats the Odds in Swim Marathon
The 27-year-old Dutchman Maarten van der Weijden was diagnosed with leukemia in 2001, but returned stronger following his ordeal to compete at the 2003 open water championships before being crowned world champion over 25km in Seville earlier this year. He compared his gold medal triumph to his personal battle against cancer as he waited patiently for the leaders to set the early pace before a late burst saw him claim gold in a time of 1 hour 51 minutes 51.6 seconds.
More articles on Greatest Athletes series:
- (Almost) Greatest Female Gymnasts in History
- 10 Greatest Male Gymnasts in History
- 10 Greatest Female Gymnasts in History
- Greatest American Female Gymnasts
- Greatest American Male Gymnasts
- 10 Greatest Female Figure Skaters of All Time
- 10 Greatest Male Figure Skaters of All Time
Articles on the Olympics:
- Unforgettable Summer Olympic Stories
- More Unforgettable Summer Olympic Stories
- Unforgettable Winter Olympic Stories
- More Unforgettable Winter Olympic Stories
- Unforgettable Moments of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games
- Unforgettable Moments of The 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics
- Michael Phelps: The Greatest Olympian of All Time
Golden Olympic Performances:
- Men Singles Figure Skating
- Ladies Singles Figure Skating
- Men’s Gymnastics – Floor Exercise
- Men’s Gymnastics – Pommel Horse
- Men’s Gymnastics – Still Rings
- Men’s Gymnastics – Horizontal Bar
- Men’s Gymnastics – Parallel Bars
- Women’s Gymnastics – Uneven Bars
- Women’s Gymnastics – Balance Beam
- Women’s Gymnastics – Floor Exercise