NBC gets mocked a lot at the Olympics for showing us “touchy-feely” features on athletes, usually American ones.
But for all the heroes that are thrust at us, what I love most about the Olympics are the smaller stories we don’t always hear about in America. I stumbled across two beautiful tales of Olympians Thursday, guaranteed to put a smile on your face (or your money back; hey, it is Good News Friday.)
The first is from Dan Wetzel, the immensely talented writer for Yahoo! Sports. He wrote about the Irish female boxer Katie Taylor, who won a gold medal Thursday and had already created a frenzy back home. We in the U.S., I think, forget about how important some of these Olympians are to their home nations; we have so many superstars that we take them for granted.
Right now, in Ireland, Katie Taylor is a forever legend.
The second story I loved was more whimsical. Joe Posnanski, who as you know I think is a writing Zeus, stumbled upon a fascinating team handball player from Iceland. I know, you’re thinking, why should I care?
Because the Olympics are made up of all kinds, and this is the story of Ólafur Stefánsson, and he is strange and wonderful and just one of the millions of reasons I love the Olympics and he says thinks like “You want to play well for long enough that you leave with a medal around your neck. “That is great. But in the end, it is not about medals. … It is the journey that stirs us.”
**Here’s a terrific story that should get more publicity. A man named Samuel Annable works for a minor-league baseball team in Peoria, Ill. After hearing the famous “Red Paper Clip” story (a man trades a paper clip for greater and greater value until he turns it into a house), Annable has decided he wants to trade two blue dice in to eventually get a sick child to a Super Bowl.
It’s a beautiful and noble goal, and I salute him. To read more about Annable and his quest, check out his blog here.
**Finally, Usain Bolt. I don’t know if we’ve ever seen another athlete quite like him. Thursday he won again, his fourth consecutive Olympic win in either the 100 or 200 meters, the first person ever to win both events at back-to-back Olympics.
He is a force of nature, he is so much better than everyone else. For the second straight Olympics, he actually slowed up in the last few meters while winning a gold medal. His time Thursday of 19.32 could’ve been even faster; that’s what’s so scary.
I know track and field gets little attention except for two weeks every four years. But it’s such a joy to be alive when a transcendent performer like Bolt is running among us.
I can’t wait to see what he does next.