In today’s world, the success of a movie depends quite significantly on how it performs at the box office on the opening weekend. As far as the Summer Olympics Games are concerned, an inspiring start can set the tone for one’s compatriots for the succeeding events. A slip-up however, can put an end to years of preparations. Some athletes buckle under the weight of expectations or are simply slow off the blocks, while others bow out to harsh rules and frustrating injuries. Here are some of the biggest duds from the opening weekend of the Olympics that have surprised many a spectator.
JORDYN WIEBER (Gymnastics, Women’s All-Around)
This 17-year old American was a victim of harsh rules. After a swarm of gold medals at the World Championships and Pacific Rim Championships, Jordyn scored a 60.032 in the Women’s All-Around Gymnastics qualifiers in London on Day 2. Her score was fourth best and easily good enough for the final. However, aiming to sport a global field in most of the disciplines, the Olympics rules allow only the best 2 gymnasts from a country to make the final 24 cut. Harshly for Jordyn, team mates Ally Raisman (60.391) and Gabby Douglas (60.265) were better according to the judges and the gold-medal favourite was eliminated. The Olympic objective of equal opportunities might just have rid us of a more competitive final.
MARK CAVENDISH (Cycling, Olympic Road Race)
The British cyclist is considered as the best sprinter in the world, and his record 4th successive win at the last stage of the Tour de France vindicated that. With that win, he also now holds the record for the most number of stage wins (23) at the hallowed race. Just six days after hurtling to victory down the Champs-Elysees, the home favourite at the Olympic Road race was brought right down to earth, thanks to a fatal error of judgment. The 3-time world and 2006 Commonwealth Games champion boasted that Britain had a dream team that included newly crowned Tour de France champion Bradley Wiggins and runner-up Chris Froome among others. However, Team Britain’s plan to control the race backfired as a breakaway of 30 riders formed at the Box Hill approach. Soon Cavendish, who was supposed to make the sprint, fell behind the breakaway and could not chart a way through despite the efforts of his mates. A disastrous 28thplace finish left the home fans heartbroken.
SPANISH U-23 MEN’S TEAM (Football)
The reigning European Youth champions were billed as one of the 2 teams to contest the final, the other being Brazil. Few would have bet against Spain as they had in their ranks Juan Mata and Jordi Alba – both of whom scored in the final of Spain’s Euro defence this month – and 11 of the kids who won the Euro U-21 Championship in 2011. But they got a rude awakening when Japan beat them by a solitary goal in the Olympic opener, made easier by Inigo Martinez’s sending off on the brink of half time. The senior team had lost to Switzerland in the 2010 World Cup opener, but had gone on to clinch the trophy. Same was expected of the U-23 side, but they suffered an even bigger ignominy at the hands of Honduras. A 7thminuted Jerry Bengtson strike was enough to knock La Roja out and send shockwaves across the Iberian nation.
MICHAEL PHELPS (Swimming, 400m Individual Medley)
The man of the Beijing 2008 Games with a gold in each of his 8 events, Michael Phelps, as expected, arrived at London as the biggest draw, other than Usain Bolt. Like Yohan Blake is to Usain, there is now a star in compatriot Ryan Lochte, challenging Phelps’ Olympic supremacy. With 6 medals from the last 2 Olympics and as the defending world champion, Lochte was at least a medal favourite at Saturday’s 400m individual medley. However, his domination from start to finish was quite a surprise, especially in the same pool as Phelps. The Baltimore Bullet, who had never finished outside the podium in his previous 17 Olympic finals, started falling away from the 2nd lap and never recovered. Eventually, he finishing 4th, a baffling 4.10 seconds behind Lochte who took home gold. Phelps did somewhat recover to win silver in 4x100m Freestyle Relay and one hopes that this is just the start.
SOUTH KOREA MEN’S RECURVE TEAM (Archery)
Korea have been thedominant force in world archery for more than a decade. The women’s team have now won an unprecedented 7 successive Olympic Archery golds. The men’s team also arrived as 3-time defending Olympic champions. Led by world no. 1 Im Dong-Hyun, they smashed their own World Record score of 2069 in the Ranking Round by 18 points. Im himself set up a new individual WR of 699/700. The top seeds began the finals walloping Ukraine by 7 points. But tragedy struck when the USA pulled off an upset in the semis, edging Korea 224-219 and ensuring a first Archery medal since Sydney 2000. Korea, however, salvaged some pride as they beat Mexico to the bronze.
PAULA RADCLIFFE (Marathon)
Another home favourite, Paula Radcliffe has won everything except an Olympic medal. She has competed in 4 Olympic Games, with 5thplace in Sydney her best. Acclaimed as the greatest female long-distance runner of all time, she has won the London (3), New York (2) and Chicago marathons and the Commonwealth Games 5000m gold in 2002, among other laurels. However, the birth of her second child and a recurring back problem due to a torn disc has hindered the Briton’s comeback attempts. She ran the Vienna Half Marathon this year to gauge her fitness level and realized that she was not good enough to compete at her home Olympics. How London misses her, in what could have been her last hurrah.
(Swimming, 400m Individual Medley)
Reigning Olympic champion and holder of the 400m Individual medley World Record, Stephanie Rice suffered a fate similar to that of Michael Phelps. She had swept most of the medals in Beijing four years ago, but gradually slipped out of the podium places as the race neared its end. The Aussie did make a positive start, holding on to second place for the first 4 laps, but like Phelps, lost energy and momentum to finish a shocking 6th. To add to her misery, China’s Ye Shinwen not only won gold, but also broke Stephanie’s WR.