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It's not just about gold medals


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A former colleague once made an astute observation about covering the world's biggest sports extravaganza. "You know, the Olympics might be great," he would say, "but when they're over, they're over."

He was right. Despite all the moving, heart-rending stories and outcomes during the actual Games, the Olympic afterglow fades quickly. We move on to the next attention-grabbing issue or event, whether it's the political conventions or the arrival of football season.

Here in Colorado Springs, though, with such an Olympic presence, we should take a look back.

First, let's address one point. Many in the media made a big deal at the end of the Summer Games about the United States "losing" the gold-medal race to China, 51-36, with some even suggesting that meant the Americans' overall performance in Beijing should be classified as a failure.

That's a crock.

All you have to do is remember any of the amazingly close competitions, starting in the pool. Michael Phelps somehow touches the wall first in the 100-meter butterfly, winning by one-100th of a second. Dara Torres leads most of the way in the women's 50 freestyle before she loses by that same infinitesimal margin.

So, by the gold-or-else standard, that means Phelps succeeded and Torres failed? What if the results had gone the other way? Then Phelps would have been the bust, the washout?

We could pick out other results, but it's not worth overselling the point.

The better gauge for Team USA is winning the overall medal count with 110, the most ever by Americans in a non-boycotted Olympiad, and up from 100 in 2004. That's impressive, especially given China's obsession with trying to make the most of this opportunity and the home advantage. Instead, the U.S. racked up 36 gold, 38 silver and 36 bronze medals.

One other point: Those totals truly are skewed because team medals only count as one. If the U.S. Olympic Committee would factor in men's and women's basketball, women's soccer, men's volleyball and women's rowing, not to mention relays in track and swimming, U.S. athletes surely had more actual gold medals placed around their necks than China did. And with those and other team medals (such as silvers in women's volleyball, men's and women's water polo and gymnastics, and women's softball) factored in, the overall medal margin would be far greater.

As for China's role as host city: The ceremonies were breathtaking, the venues were superb and the weather relieved many pollution concerns. But when citizens are being jailed for nothing, and the Chinese denied every permit application for a protest, we can't use terms like "the greatest Olympics ever."

Finally, here's my list of the top accomplishments:

1. Usain Bolt. Almost everyone else would go with Phelps and his eight golds, but the Jamaican sprinter's shocking world records in the 100 and 200 meters were more incredible. Bolt stands alone, in a sport where every nation can compete.

2. Phelps. His feats are historic, but if somebody has to be No. 1 on this kind of list, it just doesn't feel right to put him over Bolt.

3. Henry Cejudo. Sure, he belongs to Colorado Springs, but for the 21-year-old to become the youngest-ever U.S. wrestling gold-medalist tells you how special his story is.

Sports Shot

Don't miss it The Colorado-Colorado State football opener will be televised locally on FOX Sports Rocky Mountain, starting at 5:30 p.m., Sunday, July 31 from Invesco Field in Denver.

Still at home Colorado College women's soccer, after an impressive 3-1 opening win over Oklahoma, hosts Valparaiso at 4 p.m., Friday, July 29, and Idaho State at noon Sunday, July 31 at Stewart Field.

Worth starting Don't be surprised if veteran Michael Pittman plays more and more at running back for the Denver Broncos. He's strong, seasoned and also a good receiver out of the backfield.

Broncos station If you're wondering what local radio station will carry the Denver Broncos now, it's actually Jet FM-107.9 (normally oldies). Outside its range, there's always KOA 850 AM out of Denver.


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