August 18, Week in Sports
:: MICHAEL PHELPS SETS ALL-TIME OLYMPIC RECORD (Olympics)
:: U.S. WOMEN’S GYMNASTS WIN GOLD, SILVER (Olympics)
:: 41-Year Old Dara Torres Wins Three Silver Medals (Olympics)
THE GOLDEN BOY GOES EIGHT FOR EIGHT
U.S. swimmer Michael Phelps now holds the all-time record for most gold medals won during a single Olympics. Phelps won his eighth and final gold medal of the 2008 Olympics on Sunday morning in Beijing.
Phelps had been chasing down the record held by Mark Spitz, an American swimmer who won seven gold medals in the 1972 Olympics. Phelps tied that record in dramatic fashion on Saturday, when he came back to win the 100 meter butterfly by just one-100th of a second.
Compared to his astonishingly close finish on Saturday, Sunday’s relay was easily won by the American team. In the end, Michael Phelps finished the Olympics with eight gold medals, setting seven world records in the process. It is one of the greatest individual accomplishments in the modern history of sports, and a record that is expected to last for years to come.
Quote of the Week: ”Eight is a lucky number in China. Well, they started the Olympics at eight o’clock on 8/8/08, and the biggest individual headliner of these games has gone eight for eight.” — Bob Costas, NBC commentator
Further Reading: ”Phelps’s Epic Journey Ends in Perfection” — Karen Crouse, New York Times
PODIUM PALS: AMERICANS LIUKIN AND JOHNSON WIN GOLD AND SILVER
On Friday, U.S. gymnast Nastia Liukin won the gold medal in the Olympic all-around final in women’s gymnastics. She narrowly edged out her teammate and friend Shawn Johnson, winning by just six tenths of a point.
Liukin, whose father won two gold medals and one silver as a gymnast with the Soviet team in 1980, became just the third woman from the U.S. to ever win the gold in the Olympic all-around. Silver medalist Johnson was largely viewed as the favorite, going into Friday’s competition. Johnson was the reigning world champion going into this year’s Olympic Games.
By taking first and second place and beating out Chinese gymnast Yang Yilin (who finished third), the U.S. team gained a small measure of revenge. Earlier in the week, the U.S. team had experienced a devastating loss to the Chinese team, who won gold while the Americans won silver.
Quote of the Week: “It feels great to have this behind us. Nastia deserves that gold medal. I believe I was destined for the silver. I’m still proud of myself.” — Shawn Johnson
Further Reading: ”The Ballerina Vs. the Energizer Bunny” — Meghan O’Rourke, Slate
DARLING DARA MEDALS THREE TIMES
Five-time Olympian and media darling Dara Torres won three several medals in this year’s Olympic Games, tying Jenny Thompson’s record for most medals ever won by an American woman in the process. In one of her events, Torres fell just one-hundredth short of winning the gold.
A 41-year old mother, Torres is an anomaly in Olympic swimming, where the vast majority of the competitors are significantly younger–many are more than 20 years her junior. In a sport where the strongest competitors are, for the most part, in their twenties, and even swimmers in their thirties (like U.S. swimmer Jason Lezak) joke about their age, to have a 41-year old swimmer put up this level of competition is extraordinary.
On her final day of competition, Torres competed in two final events. After receiving her medal for the first of those events, she had to jog straight from the podium back to the pool in time for her second final event. “I did this in Sydney,” Torres later said, “but I was 33 then.”
Quote of the Week: “Torres has been doing it since the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, where she won a gold medal…. Michael Phelps, the all-time leader in Olympic gold medals with 14, was not even born. A full three-quarters of Torres’ 2008 female teammates weren’t, either.” — Brian Cazaneuve, Sports Illustrated
Further Reading: ”Germany’s Steffen outduels Torres for gold in 50” — Associated Press, via ESPN
WHAT TO WATCH THIS WEEK
:: OLYMPICS: The Olympics continue this week, now without Michael Phelps. The games run through August 24th. A schedule of the events is available here. Finals are marked in gold.
MLB (Pro. Baseball): As the second half of the season moves forward, teams will be jockeying for spots in the post-season–either by winning their division, or by taking the Wild Card spot. [Official MLB Website]
NFL (Pro. Football): The pre-season runs through August, and the regular season begins in September. [Official NFL Website]
NCAA FOOTBALL (College): Practice sessions for college football begin in summer, and the regular season begins in August. USA Today and the Associated Press have both ranked Georgia as the number one team. [NCAA Football, ESPN]
MEN’S GOLF: While there are professional tournaments throughout the year, the most important tournaments are the four Major Championships: The Masters, U.S. Open, The Open (The British Open), and the PGA Championship. Now that the PGA Championship is over, mainstream golf news will most likely revolve around Tiger Woods’ return from injury and preparation for next year’s Majors. [Official PGA Website]
NOTABLE PLAYERS: Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson
MEN’S AND WOMEN’S TENNIS: While there are professional tournaments throughout the year, the most important tournaments are the four Grand Slam tournaments: the Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon, and US Open. The U.S. Open begins on August 25th. [USTA Website]
NOTABLE PLAYERS: Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Maria Sharapova, Ana Ivanovic
NCAA MEN’S BASKETBALL (College): Now that the tournament is over, college basketball news will focus on which players leave their schools for the NBA, and which college teams land the premier high-school players for next season. [CBS Sports]
NHL (Pro. Hockey): The Detroit Red Wings defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Stanley Cup Finals, completing the 2007-08 season. [Official NHL Website]
NBA (Pro. Basketball): The Celtics defeated the Lakers to win the NBA Finals, ending the 2008 season. [Official NBA Website]