I missed a day here (I know), but I got caught having to do something else on Wednesday night, so I wasn't able to tune in for the Olympics post like I planned. But I was up all night last night, and so here are some of my highlights from an exclusively gymnastics and swimming evening:
For Americans there is Mary Lou. And Carly. And Nastia. And Gabby. And now Simone. Yes, for the fifth time (and the fourth straight Olympics) the United States dominated the Gymnastics All-Around competition, though as Tim Daggett and the other announcer whose name they never actually say nauseatingly pointed out, she's the greatest of all time, no debate. NONE! It was hard to argue watching her perform, though, as while the announcers were incredibly annoying (and weirdly sexist to Nastia Liukin in their persistent mansplaining considering she's the only one whose, well, actually won this event before and is the one the audience actually wants insights from), Biles radiated on the floor of that Rio theater as she brushed her way into immortality.
Four years after she lost her bronze medal on essentially a technicality, Aly Raisman was back and this time left no doubts that she was great enough to earn a medal in this event. After crushing the competition in a Floor routine for the ages, she broke down in tears in one of the best Olympic moments of the week, her strength giving way to the pressure she clearly felt to correct what happened in London and prove she deserved to be on a podium in one of the signature events of the Olympic Games. Well done Aly!
Finally, there was Aliya Mustafina, who was the only person who seemed to really give Biles a worry (at one point she assumed the lead thanks to a fantastic piece of work on the Uneven Bars). She also pointed out the problem of the American announcers a bit, as Tim Daggett got increasingly cruel to the Russian gymnast in a way he wasn't to anyone else, particularly people that were much weaker than Aliya, who seems kind of baller (she railed against doping, but also pointed out she wasn't willing to compete under any other banner than Russia, thus celebrating the Olympic Games' inherent love of country). She also became the first woman in sixteen years to medal in this event twice. Plus, her last name is awesome sauce: MUSTAFINA!!!!!
The past few years being a Michael Phelps stan has been a bit tough. After a London Games where I questioned repeatedly his need to retire (he clearly had enough gas in the tank to keep going), he got his DUI and was constantly ostracized for his behavior. Rio has been my redemption, though, as he's been stronger here than perhaps even at Beijing. Last night in the 200m IM, his signature event, he became the first swimmer ever to win the gold medal in four straight events, and then turned around and managed to land the 100m fly with only 35 minutes separating the events. Regardless of the rest of his tournament (he still has two finals left), Phelps has ended his career in the classy way he hoped, but failed to do four years ago.
In what (for me) was the most emotional moment of the night, Simone Manuel made her way into the history books, and not just by breaking an Olympic Record in the 100m free. Manuel became the first ever African-American woman to win a gold medal (or a medal of any kind) in an individual swimming event. It was particularly moving not just because of the history behind such a moment, but also because it seemed completely unexpected (she won in a tie, wasn't the favorite headed into the event, and it was the result of a late push by Manual that it happened) and because the announcers, two straight white men, not only acknowledged the fact but Dan Hicks and Rowdy Gaines seemed genuinely moved to be a part of history. A great American moment all-around.
Finally, there's Nate Adrian, who managed to (the night after he was upset in an event he dominated four years ago) come back swinging with the best smile in American swimming on his face, and rebound into arguably the weirdest and fastest event in the water, the 50m freestyle. He's not the favorite headed into tomorrow, but for his fans, it was a great moment to rally. Go Nate!