1. Usain Bolt, Fastest Man Alive
I believe you might have heard of him. (Click on the picture to read the accompanying article; it’s hilarious.)
2. The Style. Usain’s gold shoes (see above). Sanya Richards’s arm sleeves. Gail Devers’s fingernails gave me nightmares as a child. And let’s not forget Flo-Jo. Even if there was an equivalent to the LAZR swimsuit in track and field, the athletes would probably find some way to make sure theirs looked different from everyone else’s.
3. Dayron Robles, 110 Meter Hurdles Gold Medalist
What can I say? I’m a sucker for a cute guy with glasses.
4. The History
All of the Track and Field (then called Athletics) events contested at the first modern Olympics in 1896 are still part of the competition today. Of course, there have been a few advances in technique since then. Then there are legends like Jim Thorpe, Wilma Rudolph, and Jesse Owens, and bizarre incidents like Zola Budd and Mary Decker Slaney. These are the stories my father told us over the dinner table. And people say I’m a little odd.
5. LaShawn Merrit, 400m Gold Medalist
Upsets are sexy.
6. The Relays
There’s something really funny about world-class athletes competing to carry a little aluminum stick around in a circle. It reminds me of elementary school gym. Also, rarely do you get to see a proverbial phrase acted out in such a literal manner, and with such potential for disaster. As entertaining as the swim relays were, I think they would have been more entertaining if they had batons, too. Phelps needs a new challenge anyway.
7. Irving Saladino (Long Jump Gold Medalist)
Irving won Panama’s first ever gold medal at these Olympics. That wasn’t what first impressed me about him.
8. Minimum Scoring Controversies
Run faster than the other person, you win. Throw the heavy object farther than the other person, you win. Jump higher than the other person, you win. Step on the line, you’re out. Beat that, gymnastics.
9. The Commentators
I’ve spent so much time watching track and field that Carol Lewis and Dwight Stone feel like members of the family. And NBC’s track and field broadcasting team as a whole has been far and away the most enjoyable and informative team of the Beijing Games, at least on the main network. I’m especially enjoying the contribution of newcomer Ato Boldin, although the fact that I remember seeing him run in an Olympics makes me feel old.
10. Yaroslav Rybakov, High Jump Bronze Medalist
Russian. High Jumper. Model. Wow.