Wiedmer: A magical Olympics rolls on

Wiedmer: A magical Olympics rolls on

August 6th, 2012 by Mark Wiedmer in Sports - Columns

South Africa's Oscar Pistorius crosses the finish line in a men's 400-meter semifinal during the athletics in the Olympic Stadium at the 2012 Summer Olympics, London, Sunday, Aug. 5, 2012.

Photo by Associated Press /Times Free Press.

You'd have to be minus both a heart and soul not to become emotional about most of the athletes participating in the London Olympics.

Double amputee sprinter Oscar Pistorius will cost you a box of Kleenex all by himself. And that's just watching the NBC profile of him where his mother tells Pistorius's brother to put on his shoes while instructing a 3-year-old Oscar to "put on your legs."

Yet after finishing second in his initial 400-meter heat on Saturday, Pistorius lost in the 400 semis on Sunday. He'll now need a relay victory later in the week to grab an improbable medal.

But if there appeared to be an exception to the passion we feel for so many Olympians, tennis seemed a prime target for disinterest.

After all, most of these men and women are multi-millionaires who stay in villas instead of the Olympic village. A lot of them don't even live in the country they represent, having long ago moved to Florida or a tax shelter such as Monaco.

Heck, most of the tennis players probably spend more on a dinner out than the estimated monetary value of a gold medal (approximately $450).

Then Andy Murray, a Scot representing Great Britain, hit Wimbledon's Centre Court on Sunday against world No. 1 Roger Federer of Switzerland.

Federer has long spoken of his deep affection for the Games, which he has now participated in four times. He met his wife Mirka, a former women's player for the Swiss Olympic team, at the 2000 Sydney Games. He won a doubles gold medal at the 2008 Games.

But he had never won an individual gold heading into Sunday, despite owning 17 Grand Slam singles titles, including seven Wimbledon crowns.

At least he'd won something, though. Murray had won nothing of import, falling in four Grand Slam finals, three of them against Federer, including last month's Wimbledon final.

So it seemed all but certain that Murray would again lose on Sunday atop the All-England Club's ground-down grass.

Only the Scot was as cool as James Bond against the normally unflappable Federer. He won in straight sets - 6-2, 6-1, 6-4 - and it actually seemed easier in that.

Yet it was what both men said after this match that earned them nothing but the medals around their necks that made you realize what the Olympics mean to even the richest and most famous among us.

Said Murray, "It has been the best week of my tennis career by a mile. I'll never forget it."

Added Federer, who rarely takes his rare losses well: "Don't feel too bad for me. I felt like I won my silver, I didn't lose it."

There are far more emotional stories, of course. The mother of our stunning gold medal gymnast Gabby Douglas was forced to file Chapter 13 bankruptcy this year. In a sadly similar story, the parents of gold medal-winning U.S. swimmer Ryan Lochte were facing foreclosure in Florida.

The opportunity that comes with those gold medals may ultimately spare those parents, but it also shows how little regard bill collectors have for potential success.

Then there is the heartbreaking/uplifting story of 22-year-old Kayla Harrison, who just won the first-ever gold medal in judo for the United States. Turns out Harrison was sexually abused by her former coach as a 13-year-old, understandably soured on the sport, but somehow bounced back to make history.

Having painfully lost so much of her childhood, she said of her desire to return to school following her gold medal win, "I think it would be pretty cool to be a kid."

And if the Olympics do anything well, they return all of us to our childhoods, to when we we all dreamed of one day winning Olympic gold.

Only 99.9 percent of us fall short. It takes something special to reach the Olympics. Something extraordinary.

Or as Pistorius said of his stunning performance on artificial limbs, "It just felt really magical. If I could predict what it would feel like or imagine beyond my wildest dreams, this was probably 10 times that."

His presence is certainly making these Games 10 times more magical for the rest of us.