Bock’s Score: Heavy Medal

Inpho Photography/Imago/Icon Sportswire

Mercifully, the fan-less Tokyo Olympics are over.

No more wall climbing, skateboarding, water polo, judo or those other compelling sports to occupy our time. What will we do? Although beach volleyball did have some redeeming features, the rest of those fringe activities were a colossal waste of time.

The same goes for the jingoistic medals table. The Olympics are supposed to be a celebration of the world’s athletes but it becomes a careful tracking of medals count to prove once and for all that my country has more medals than yours. Especially more golds.

Get rid of equestrian and rhythmic gymnastics, modern pentathlon and canoe sprint. There are plenty legitimate sports to occupy the television networks and fill maybe a week of Games.

And there are individual heroes for those real sports like American Caleb Dressel and his five gold medals in swimming and Britain’s Duncan Scott and his four (one gold and three silver). No swimmer captured more medals than the seven (four gold, three bronze) that Emma McKeon of Australia took home.

Sometimes, it is not the number of medals but the conditions under which they were won that counts most. In that category, two American women deserve prominent mention.

Simone Biles and Allyson Felix each won two medals, one as part of a relay team, the other for individual excellence. The circumstances are more important than the medals, though.

Biles, America’s premier women’s gymnast, withdrew from most of her events because of stress. At age 24, the tumbles and twists, the acrobatics performed in mid-air with no guarantee that her body would complete them without a mishap, caught up with her. So she withdrew and the decision was met with considerable criticism.

How dare she worry about her own well-being and not entertain us? Some nerve. That was not nerve, folks. That was courage, the courage to speak out when she knew her mind was not in the right place for the competition. She deserves a gold medal for that.

Then there’s Felix. At age 35, she qualifies as a senior citizen on the track. She went through a difficult pregnancy, and the whispers that after giving birth two years ago, she was done. She is done now, after her bronze in the 400 meters and gold in the 400-meter relay.

Feliix’s two medals pushed her career total to 11, the most for any track athlete in American history, one more than Carl Lewis and one less than the all-time record holder, Finnish star Paavo Nurmi who won 12 from 1920 to 1928.

So now the medals get packed away until next February’s Winter Games in Beijing. Curling, another mainstream sport, is on the list of events there.

About the Author

Hal Bock

Hal Bock is a contributor with NY Sports Day. He has covered sports for 40 years at The Associated Press including 30 World Series, 30 Super Bowls and 11 Olympics. He is the author of 14 books including most recently The Last Chicago Cubs Dynasty and Banned Baseball's Blacklist of All-Stars and Also-Rans. He has written scores of magazine articles and served as Journalist In Residence at Long Island University's Brooklyn campus where he also served on the selection committee for the George Polk Awards.

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