Olympics: Only A Game Style

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Kayla Harrison flashes her gold medal...and her gold medal smile.  (AP)
Kayla Harrison flashes her gold medal...and her gold-medal smile. (AP)

When covering the Olympic Games, there are opportunities to get things right, and there are opportunities to get things wrong. Just as the athletes are judged and scored, so is the public radio sports show that covers the Games. (That would be us.)

Two weeks ago, in a story about the technology of swimsuits, the fastest of which have been banned from competition, Reuters reporter Sharon Begley spoke of the possibility of new world records in London:

"I don’t think we're going to see those magic numbers go up on the board," Begley predicted.

Wrong, and wrong, and wrong again and so on. Though these Games will not rival Beijing, in which 25 world records were broken, by the end of the day on Friday the count at the London Games stood at seven..which isn't too shabby.

And speaking of records, last week we anticipated that Michael Phelps would become the most successful Olympic athlete ever in terms of medals accumulated. He did that very thing this week and expressed his satisfaction.

"Oh, yeah, I'm kinda at a loss for words right now," Phelps told reporters in London. "I mean, everything is kinda happening, being able to do something that no one has ever done before, and that's what I wanted to do."

Last week, Charlie Pierce and I decided that the folks at Smashburger, the New Jersey chain that had offered a free Smashburger and fries each week for life to any athlete from that state who set a world record at the Games, were making empty promises, since many of those athletes were competing in sports such as fencing or soccer, where there are no "world records."

"So Smashburger is not quite as generous as it's appearing to be," Charlie Pierce posited.

Guess where Rebecca Soni, she of multiple world records in London, hails from? And MULTIPLE world records would mean multiple smashburgers with fries each week for life, right? I hope she waits an hour after she eats to get back into the water, and that she has lots of friends who like smashburgers.

Finally, and perhaps most significantly, last week Only A Game's Karen Given presented the story of Kayla Harrison. On Thursday, Harrison became the first American to win a gold medal in judo.

As with all athletes who've won gold medals, reporters in London immediately started asking Ms. Harrison what she planned to do next.  Luckily, we had the presence of mind to ask her before she left.

"She told me that her coach, 'Big Jim' Pedro, doesn't want her to be a judo bum for the rest of her life. So, she's considering following in Big Jim's footsteps and becoming a firefighter," Karen Given related.

But, Harrison's mother told us that she can't imagine her daughter giving up the sport altogether.  She imagines that Harrison will become a judo instructor and an advocate and public speaker for fellow victims of sexual abuse.

And, Kayla herself sounded like she just wanted to be a normal 22-year-old for a while…and maybe even attend her first college party.

"My childhood was stolen from me a little bit, so I've never…I haven't really done anything like that," Harrison said. "I haven't really been a kid, in a long time. And I'm looking forward to kinda taking a breath and relaxing a bit."

Kayla Harrison, this country's first winner of a gold medal in judo.

This segment aired on August 4, 2012.

Bill Littlefield Host, Only A Game
Bill Littlefield was the host of Only A Game from 1993 until 2018.



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