Giant on the move
Continuing our look at the golden moments from the Games, Sophie Hardach tells us what it was like watching the heart-wrenching story of weightlifter Matthias Steiner unfold.
After covering 14 Olympic weightlifting competitions, I sat down for the super-heavyweight contest knowing that it would be the most spectacular of them all. In the previous contests, I had seen hulking strongmen in tears, had watched lifters crash to the floor under the barbell, had heard caveman howls and primal screams.
Now all that macho breast-beating would reach a climax, with 150kg-contenders trying to snatch more than 200kg. What I did not expect to see in that testosterone-filled competition hall was a moment of heart-breaking tenderness.
I had heard the story of 25-year-old German lifter Matthias Steiner, whose wife, Susann, died after a car crash last year, and my heart went out to him as I watched him fail not just one but two attempts.
Matthew Mitcham did two surprising things in Beijing. He scooped a gold medal from the apparently invincible Chinese diving team and told anyone who asked that he is gay.
Mitcham broke down in tears after a nearly perfect last dive edged him above the Chinese favourite into top place. It was the eighth and last medal in a sport that the host nation utterly dominates and was expected to sweep.
Rickey Rogers writes: Pictures of sports idols don’t get much better than this one. Argentine soccer legend Diego Maradona kisses the hand of modern-day Brazilian idol Ronaldinho.
The rivalry between their countries, their differences in personality and the arrogance for which Maradona is known all make this fraction of a second one that in the sports world speaks volumes.
FIFA president Sepp Blatter says he does not see any need to change the format of the Olympic soccer tournament, which is restricted to under-23 teams and allows each to field up to three overage players.
Many people, however, feel that soccer is something of an unwelcome gatecrasher at the Games and that not bringing its top players is rather like turning up at the party with a bottle of cheap plonk.
Whatever the results of the investigation into the date of birth of He Kexin, China’s double Olympic gold medallist, I hope we don’t lose sight of the fact that even in the event of any subterfuge the gymnast herself would not be the one to blame.
The International Olympic Committee has asked the gymnastics federation to check He’s date of birth of following claims that she might be under the minimum age to compete.
Cuba’s Angel Valodia Matos was banned for life from taekwondo on Saturday after he kicked the match referee in the head in his bronze medal bout.
Matos’s coach was also banned for the behaviour that the official said was in “strong violation of the spirit of taekwondo and the Olympic Games”.
You stand in front of the Bird’s Nest stadium, hold up your hand and by a miracle of foreshortening appear to grip the vast cornetto-shaped torch burning on the roof of the athletics venue.
So much goes on in such a short space of time at the Olympics that for many of us it all tends to blur into one. You’re lucky if you can come away from the Games with one indelible image in your mind, a moment you’ll always remember for the drama, the colour or the sheer brilliance of the performance.
We’re almost at the end now, so I’ve asked Reuters correspondents to share a favourite golden moment from the Games. Here’s the first from Erik Kirschbaum, who watched aghast as history repeated itself at the shooting. Erik writes:
Join us on the penultimate podcast from the Games for a look at Argentina’s win in the football, mixed feelings for Jamaica in the 4x100m relays and the prospect of Pearly Kings and Queens taking over the Bird’s Nest stadium.
Paul Radford, Al Himmer, Robert Woodward, Julian Linden and Paul Majendie join me around the laptop. Sorry about the end-of-term feel.
There’s been a lively discussion, here and elsewhere, about which version of the medals table is a better way of ranking countries’ achievements at the Olympics.
Reuters goes with the “gold standard”, if you like, which has put China out in front almost from the start. Other, mainly American outlets go with the “total number of medals” tally that puts the U.S. on top.