August 11, 2012

Do you remember that moment in The Princess Bride when Westley is preparing to fight Prince Humperdink and shouts, “To the pain!” 

Weirdly, that was the first thing I thought of when I heard about runner Manteo Mitchell’s performance in the 4x400m relay. Halfway through the opening leg of the second heat on August 9, Mitchell felt a bone in his left leg snap. “As soon as I took the first step past the 200-meter mark, I felt it break,” he told the AP. “I heard it. I even put out a little war cry, but the crowd was so loud you couldn’t hear it.”

Instead of stopping, however, Mitchell gritted out the last 200 meters and passed the baton on to Josh Mance with the US in fifth place, close enough that his teammates were able to finish in a tie for first with the Bahamian team. The next day, with Angelo Taylor in the lineup in Mitchell’s place, the US won silver.

Some Grinch-like reporters insisted on pointing out that the bone Mitchell broke is the fibula, not the bone in the calf that bears most of a person’s weight. Please. The man pulled a little girl—specifically, a Kerri Strug. Let’s give him all the props he deserves.

More pain was dished out to Wallace Spearmon of the US by the incomparable Usain Bolt and the rest of the Jamaican sprint team. If you recall, Spearmon finished third in the 200m four years ago in Beijing but was disqualified for stepping on the white line marking his lane. This time Bolt, Yohan Blake, and Warren Weir swept the medals for Jamaica, leaving Spearmon .06 seconds out of the money.

“There was a never a doubt in my mind I would finish top three,” Spearmon told the Fort Worth, Texas, Star-Telegram afterward. “You have your good days; you have your bad days; you have these days.” 

For much of the men’s basketball semifinal, it looked like a familiar set of hands—Manu Ginobili’s and the rest of the Argentine team’s—that might dish out a dose of pain to Team USA. But Kevin Durant (19 pts) and LeBron James (18 pts, 7 rebs, 7 ass) took over in the third quarter, and the US won, 109-83. 

I place the blame on Luis Scola’s big shoulders. He wound up with 15 points, but it was a very quiet 15. Most times that his teammates got him the ball, bad things happened—missed shots, blocked shots, at least one turnover, personal fouls. As Argentina’s only post threat, Scola got to the free throw line exactly once and pulled down all of one rebound. They needed a lot more from him.

The US women dominated Spain in the water polo gold medal match. The offensive discovery of the games was 19-year-old Maggie Steffens, who, you gotta figure, will someday captain the squad. The team’s current captain, Brenda Villa, was kept to one assist and one goal in the final, but she was fantastic on defense, which was Team USA’s strength throughout the tournament. And the game wasn’t as suspenseful as the 8-5 final marker made it seem. With six minutes left, the US led, 8-2, and there wasn’t much doubt even after Spain notched three unanswered goals.

The women’s field hockey gold medal match on August 10 between Argentina and the Netherlands was a tightly contested, defensive affair, with very few shots on goal. The Dutch women—who had been getting a lot of attention for off-label reasons—scored two late goals to win the gold. But I can’t get too outraged by the search for pulchritude: I had similar thoughts about the looks of the Argentine squad during group play.

Two of the three gold medals handed out in women’s boxing went to athletes from the British Isles, where the sport has caught on ahead of the rest of the world. They went to lightweight Katie Taylor of Ireland—who was already a four-time amateur world champ—and the Leeds-born flyweight Nicola Adams. The third gold went to 17-year-old middleweight (the heaviest weight class at the Olympics) Claressa Shields, from Flint, Mich., who took apart Russian boxer Nadezda Torlopova, 19-12, on Aug. 9. Shockingly, NBC decided not to show the bout. MSNBC’s Willie Geist tweeted that he asked Shields, “How did you choose boxing?” Her answer: “I just enjoy beating people up.” Yikes.

One guy who was definitely feeling no pain was US wrestler Jordan Burroughs. After defeating Iran’s Sadegh Goudarzi in the 74 kg final, he hopped around the arena, barely able to contain himself before the medal ceremony. Then he jumped up into the stands to find his mother and wrap her up in a hug. My favorite quote from Burroughs? “If the queen of England came onto the mat, I would probably double-leg her,” he said.

A few cool articles from around the US and Latin America:

And my personal favorite, from the Dominican Republic:

“To the Pain,” by Bill Vourvoulias.

From “No Pain, No Gain,” the August 11, 2012, issue of V as in Victor.

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