The XXVIII Olympic games at Athens has ended yesterday. Here are the Top 10 Athletes from MSNBC. (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/5855729/)
Top Athletes in Athens
1. Michael Phelps, U.S.
Yes, we know that everybody is judged through the harsh lens of expectation, and that Phelps never quite caught Mark Spitz, and never picked up his $1 million bonus from Speedo. He also isn’t much of a talker (after one of his responses to reporters at a press conference, he asked, “Is that answer long enough for you?”).
But Phelps earned six golds and two bronzes, plus he stepped aside during the final relay so that his teammate and rival Ian Crocker could race in the final of the 400-meter medley relay. Half a dozen golds and a badge for good sportsmanship is not a bad Olympics haul, by anybody’s standards.
2. Hicham El Guerrouj, Morocco
The Moroccan had won every big race between 1996 and 2003 except at the Olympics. Now that has changed, with double gold. He managed a dramatic victory in the glamour race at 1,500 meters in 3:34.18, beating Bernard Lagat ofKenya. Then he doubled his pleasure at 5000 meters. El Guerrouj turns 30 next month, and these accomplishments should assure his Moroccan fans he is far from done.
3. Justin Gatlin, U.S.
Maurice Greene will argue that he is still the greatest ever, but for now Gatlin gets to claim the title of world’s fastest human with his victory at 100 meters. He barely made the team at the U.S. trials, but then came hereto win gold in the 100 and bronze in the 200.
The Brooklyn-born sprinter is only 22, and has a bright future ahead of him if the drug tests stay clean. There is bound to be controversy along the way. Gatlin is coached by Trevor Graham, the man who turned in the BALCO syringe.
4. Carly Patterson, U.S.
She wasn’t as perky as Mary Lou Retton, but Patterson was rock solid under the pressure of an Olympic gymnastics meet. She won the all-around individual title, and deserved the crown no matter how much Svetlana Khorkina whined about it.
“I am still Olympic champion,” Khorkina said. Well, not really.Patterson was clearly superior on most of the platforms, with far more difficult routines. “Finally, they looked past her hocus-pocus,” BelaKarolyi said, about Khorkina.
5. Dawn Staley, U.S.
The U.S. Dream Team was a bust, but the women’s hoops team took its third straight gold medal behind its leader and play maker, Staley. In the final seconds, the team showed its respect to Staley by desperately trying to get her the ball. Sue Bird finally managed to make the pass, and Staley dribbled out the clock. “This is for all the underprivileged kids,”Staley said. Most athletes say this stuff, you roll your eyes. Staley,though, is an urban activist who always backs up her words.
6. Abby Wambach, U.S.
Much fuss was made about the departures of Mia Hamm and Julie Foudy, but the U.S. women’s soccer team wouldn’t have won a gold medal without the presence and goal-scoring knack of a much younger star, Wambach. Wambach is a physical terror, a perfect target player in the box. And in overtime against talented upstart Brazil, Wambach headed in the winning goal off Kristine Lilly’s corner to send off the golden generation with an appropriately colored medal.
7. Hossein Rezazadeh, Iran
The world’s strongest man, and one of his country’s two gold medalists, Rezazadeh lifted 263.5 kg in the clean and jerk to break the world record. His facial expressions alone were worth the price of admission.
8. Roman Sebrle, Czech Republic
Whether or not he’s an American, the decathlon champion should always be listed as among the top 10 athletes. Sebrle, exceptional in the field events,beat back the challenge of U.S. star Bryan Clay. Meanwhile, Tom Pappas dropped out along the way. Not too long ago, Pappas was being fitted for a Wheaties box.
9. Ian Thorpe, Australia
The renaissance Aussie star had been criticized within his own country for unorthodox training methods and a laissez-faire attitude. Then he came here and won two golds, a silver and a bronze, capturing the showcase event in the pool – a showdown at 200 meters with Phelps and with Pieter van den Hoogenband of the Netherlands.
It turns out everybody should hire a high school teacher as coach,and go to movies instead of doing laps. It worked for Thorpe, anyway.
10. Jeremy Wariner, U.S.
The white guy with sunglasses somehow won the 400-meter race, coming off the final turn to lead the first American sweep in this event since 1988, with a winning time of 44 seconds flat.
“I lost count, I’ve heard it ever since high school,” Wariner said, about how many times he was told that white guys can’t sprint. “I don’t let it bother me. It’s not about race, it’s about ability. You can’t worry about that.”
Wariner, Otis Harris and Derrick Brew went out of their way to behave well on the medal stand, and on their victory lap. Then they won the 4 x 400 meter relay, and offended nobody again.