As I drop in and out of televised Olympic sports last week and this, I’m torn among competitions that are so utterly dependent on technology to identify winners and losers (swimming and fencing, for example); competitions in which advances in technology so clearly enable the competitors to go faster, higher, and farther (swimming again, rowing, cycling, and some field events, for example), and competitions which appear to be dominated by sheer athleticism, training, and the will to win (indoor volleyball and diving, for example). I’m bored and exhausted by women’s beach volleyball and the awe in which other Olympians hold Kobe Bryant (he speaks three languages and loves soccer and Michael Phelps!) and Kobe’s reciprocal appreciation for them. And I’m wondering why NBC is sending Mary Carillo to get acupuncture treatments.
Like most people, I suspect, I appreciate most those competitions where the humanity appears to dominate the technology. My favorite Olympic competitors so far are Usain “Lightning” Bolt, the spectacularly fast winner of the men’s 100 meter dash and possessor of an unmatched demeanor (obliviousness, arrogance, or both?); the Romanian marathoner Constantina Tomescu; and the Canadian equestrian Ian Millar, who led his team to a silver medal in team show jumping — Millar’s first medal in nine Olympic appearances. Nine. He’s 61 and deservedly grinning from ear to ear.