London 2012 Part 5: Top Ten Olympians

So last night the London 2012 Olympic games came to a close, and similarly to the opening ceremony I didn’t see much of it, getting a vague sense of what was going on through Twitter and Facebook. The only part I did see was a video showing John Lennon performing “Imagine” and so, I decided not to bother with the rest, because I take that awful song as my cue to abandon whatever it is that’s going on (its use in Glee was one of the factors that made me stop watching that show).

Anyway, its been a brilliant games, not just because of Team GB’s fantastic performance but because its been filled with great stories and iconic moments. Its been hard to narrow it down to 10, and I’ve had to leave out some great athletes and personal favourites, so here are a few honourable mentions: Bradley Wiggins (knighthood’s in the bag), Mo Farrah, Laura Trott, Jade Jones, Tom Daley.

The great thing about the Olympics is the sheer scale, but this is also a problem, I’ve tried to cover as much of the events as I can and make the list as diverse as possible, so here they are, my top 10 Olympians of the 2012 games.

1. Michael Phelps

Country: USA. Events: Swimming. 4x100m medley relay (Gold), 100m butterfly (Gold), 200m individual medley (Gold), 4x200m freestyle relay (Gold), 200m butterfly (Silver), 4x100m freestyle relay (Silver).

In 2008, Michael Phelps was invincible in the water, capturing 8 gold medals and making Olympic history, he came to London competing in 6 events, but few, if any expected him to match his heroics in Beijing. Phelps claimed silver medals in his first two events, and then grabbed a Gold, making history by becoming the most decorated Olympian of all times with 19 medals.

And he still had three events left to go. Phelps having tasted gold again was back to his unbeatable best and steamed to three more golds, bringing his career total to 22 medals.

I’ve got a total man crush on Phelps, a powerhouse of a man who comes across as being an alright bloke and watching him carve his place in history was amazing. Its sad to see him retiring, but I’ll always remember these last two games and his impact, and his record should stand for quite some time. Also, awesome statistic- he’s also the winner of the most gold medals, with 18, which is double the second highest number of golds. The man is quite simply, a legend.

2. Chris Hoy

Country: Great Britain. Events: Cycling. Team sprint (Gold), keirin (Gold).

While Phelps was making history for himself on the world stage, Sir Chris Hoy became a British legend as he picked up two more golds bringing his total up to 6, surpassing Sir Steve Redgrave’s five to become the most successful British Olympian. Hoy always strikes me as a tidy bloke and he was extremely gracious when interviewed along Redgrave, saying that to him Redgrave will always be the greatest. It was a brilliant moment as two titans of British sport embraced and stood stand by side, shining examples of sportsmanship and dedication.

3. Jessica Ennis

Country: GB. Events: Heptathlon (Gold)

Ennis came into the games under heavy scrutiny, chosen as the games’ poster girl the pressure was on and many would have buckled, but she showed some true grit in knuckling down to the task at hand and had a fantastic heptathlon. Posting personal bests in the 200m, 100m hurdles and javelin, she went into the second day of events in the lead and managed to keep out ahead, finishing with an impressive 800m. It was a marvelous moment and great to see one of Britain’s most popular athletics stars triumph on the big stage.

4. Usain Bolt

Country: Jamaica. Events: 100m (Gold), 200m (Gold), 4x100m relay (Gold).

I don’t think any athlete has been as popular with international audiences, but then again, nobody’s been as effortlessly cool as Usain Bolt. A likable, charming presence at the games he came to the games under the weight of expectations and fresh challengers, but once Bolt got going it didn’t look like anyone was gonna unseat him as the fastest man on Earth.

He flew to victory in the 100m and 200m and then anchored the relay team which shattered the world record and where he in particular made 2nd placed USA runners look like amateurs. It was a dominant display, heightened only by his hijinks off the track- partying with Swedish volleyball players, dancing, DJing and celebrating in style he was once again the most captivating athlete at the games.

Bolt stated that he was a “living legend” and “the greatest athlete to live”, big words, but the big man has backed them up and you can’t really argue with him.

5. Yohan Blake

Country: Jamaica. Events: 100m (Silver), 200m (Silver), 4x100m relay (Gold)

It must be rough being in the same squad as Bolt, but Yohan Blake doesn’t seem to let it bother him. He was sensationally fast, and a real asset to the games, giving Bolt a new, genuine rival at the games and the head-to-head races brought added drama to the proceedings, it also meant that Bolt couldn’t quite be as showboating during the races as at Beijing, because now there was someone who looked like they might catch him.

Having two powerhouses helped Jamaica in the relay, and Blake’s powerful performance in the 3rd running position was vital in their success.

Blake seems to have learnt from his teammate when it comes to showboating and you get the sense that while he may have been second fiddle here, the Rio 2016 games may be remembered as Blake’s Olympics.

The Jamaican 1-2, Bolt and Blake.

6. Dwain Chambers

Country: GB. Events: 100m, 4x100m relay.

Team GB’s most controversial athlete, Chambers may not have been able to complete his comeback with a medal finish, but for me he really showed some class at these games. He wasn’t quite fast enough to get through the semis in the 100m and Britain’s relay were disqualified due to an error in passing the baton at a later stage in the race, but interviewed after both defeats, Chambers came across very well. He defended the younger teammates who had made the mistake in the relay, and also seemed genuinely proud and grateful for the opportunity to represent his country at the Olympics. For me, he showed real dignity at the games, well done him.

7. Tomasz Majewski

Country: Poland. Events: Shot put (Gold).

Not one of the big names at the games and taking part in one of the less glamorous events, Majewski, nonetheless became one of my favourites. He threw an impressive 21.89m to claim his gold medal, becoming the first shot putter to successfully defend their title at the games in over 50 years. What I liked was the glee that erupted at his victory, he ran across the track, despite the women’s 5k taking place at the same time to celebrate with some fans and then crossed back across the track, luckily for the runners there was no collision.

I also loved that in a world of image conscious, chiseled athletes it was nice to see an Olympian who looked like a Metallica roadie from the 80s.

Bandana, beard, fist pump- the most metal Olympian?

8. Team USA Women’s 4x100m Relay

Tianna Madison, Allyson Felix, Bianca Knight and Carmelita Jeter USA’s stunning amazonian relay team smashed a record that had stood since 1985, taking 0.53 of a second off the time in an entirely dominant performance. The Americans looked comfortable throughout and it was an extremely impressive display, with Jeter pointing delightedly to the clock as she stormed over the line, realizing that they had set a new world record. Amazing.

Amazing- the US team.

9. Martin Wolfram

Country: Germany. Events: Diving. 10m platform.

Only the second athlete to make my list without winning any medals, Wolfram earned my respect during the 10m platform dive final. The event, which was surprisingly tense and captivating (although I’m still not sure how they mark them) and one of the best events I watched, gripping, with great human responses and drama right to the end.


In the midst of all this medals drama was Wolfram, who finished 8th, and instantly became one of my Olympic heroes. There were still two dives left to go but things didn’t look good for the German, who had picked up an injury and was obviously hurting. His right shoulder seemed to be giving him immense grief and when getting out of the pool he swam and pulled himself out one handed. Impressively he got back up and completed the event, looking a little worse for wear, before being taken away for treatment. It was heartbreaking to see, but I was impressed by his determination and strength in pushing through until the event was over.

Wolfram- tough.

10. Nicola Adams

Country: GB. Events: Boxing, fly (Gold).

The first ever women’s Olympic boxing champion was the adorable Nicola Adams from Sheffield. During her final bout with Ren Cancan she was utterly dominant, outclassing her opponent to win a deserved gold. It was a phenomenal performance and Adams is a talented fighter, but for me she deserves to become a natural treasure for her response to victory, I’ve seen her a few times in the days since and her smile hasn’t seemed to dim since she won and she comes across as being a really nice, down-to-earth girl who seems over the moon to have won and it was wonderful seeing her posing for pictures with fans.

Women’s boxing has a new star and a great public face to push for more recognition and acceptance.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO

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