Rachel Blount's 10 memorable 2012 Olympics moments

  • Article by: RACHEL BLOUNT , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 14, 2012 - 6:45 AM

The London Games were studded with countless examples of excellence -- not just in sports but in humanity, beauty and dignity, as well.

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Jamaica's Usain Bolt

Photo: Brian Peterson, Star Tribune

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Staff writer Rachel Blount, who has covered several Summer and Winter Games, looks back at what she considers -- in no particular order -- the 10 most memorable moments from London:

1 After he finished second in Jamaica's Olympic trials to Yohan Blake -- in both the 100 and 200 meters -- some questioned whether Usain Bolt was still the world's fastest man. He proved them wrong, becoming the first man to win both races in back-to-back Olympics and adding a third gold medal in the 4x100 relay in world- record time. Bolt did it with grace, fist-bumping volunteers and pausing an interview while another country's national anthem was being played.

2 Horse Guards Parade was the best of several unique and beautiful venues. Americans Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings, in their final Summer Games together, won their third Olympic gold medal on the faux beach bordered by St. James's Park, the Prime Minister's residence at 10 Downing Street and the buildings of the British government.

3 The middle Saturday of the Olympics, rich with medals, was dubbed "Super Saturday.'' The Brits jump-started their rise to third place in the medals table, earning six golds in their greatest one-day showing since the 1908 Games in the same city. Lord Sebastian Coe -- chairman of the London Games organizing committee -- called it "the greatest day of sport I have ever witnessed."

4 Like Bolt, Michael Phelps' singular talent always manages to shine on the world's biggest stage. A fourth-place finish in his opening event, the 400-meter individual medley, merely stoked his competitive fire. Phelps finished with six medals, including four golds, to reach an Olympic-record 22 for his career in what was likely his final Summer Games.

5 Nine people with Minnesota connections will bring home medals for Team USA. Fencer Susie Scanlan of St. Paul won a bronze in women's team epee, but she gets the gold for drama and heart. Scanlan was instrumental in the Americans' quarterfinal victory over Italy, but she sat out the bronze medal match against Russia for two reasons: Replacement athlete Kelley Hurley needed to compete to be eligible for a medal, and Hurley gave the United States a better matchup. Scanlan got her medal when Hurley's sister Courtney scored in sudden-death overtime.

6 Britain boasts some of the most iconic venues in sport, including Wimbledon and Wembley Stadium. Both provided spectacular settings during the Olympics, and athletes responded with performances worthy of such stages. Andy Murray delighted his home country with a gold in men's singles tennis, while Serena Williams dominated Maria Sharapova. At Wembley, the U.S. women's soccer team beat Japan 2-1 before a crowd of 80,203, the largest crowd to see a women's Olympic soccer game.

7 Many women made history in London, participating in the Olympics in greater numbers than ever. Perhaps the most charming was gymnast Gabby Douglas, who won two golds: one with the U.S. women's team, and one as the all-around champion. She leaves an Olympic legacy as the first black woman to win the Olympic all-around title, and as an athlete eager to be a model for others.

8 Courage at the Olympics comes in a variety of forms. Two of them were showcased at track and field. Oscar Pistorius of South Africa became the first double amputee to compete at the Olympics. Manteo Mitchell, an American, felt a bone in his leg break midway through his leg of the 4x400 relay qualifying heat. He kept running, helping his team get to the final.

9 Until 1996, women's boxing was banned in Britain. That seemed to be long forgotten in London, as the sport made its Olympic debut before sold-out crowds of 10,000 wildly cheering spectators. Women in three weight classes slugged it out, with Ireland's Katie Taylor, Great Britain's Nicola Adams and Claressa Shields of the U.S. claiming the first gold medals.

 

10 One of the sweetest pleasures of these Games was seeing the Brits embrace their newly crowned sports heroes. Mo Farah, born in Somalia, became only the seventh man in history to win both the 5,000 and 10,000 meters at the Olympics, vaulting to folk-hero status overnight. He showed off a victory pose (the "Mobot'') and drew famous fans such as David Beckham among the 80,000 who went wild during his two races. Next up, according to the British press: a possible knighthood.

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