Faster, Higher, Stronger
Beijing Olympics Full of New Records, Storylines
By Jonathan Sanfilippo
The Beijing Olympics provided plenty of thrilling sports moments.
Athletes emerged as stars. Records were shattered. Champions were crowned.
As the Beijing Olympics come to a close, The Korea Times has made a list of the top-10 sports stories from these Games. These are the stories that stood out the most. They were the ones that were most talked about, and they are likely the ones that will be most remembered several years from now.
The list is based on international interest, so stories that might be major news in South Korea could be left off for ones that have more global significance.
Also, keep in mind that the list is based on sports only. It has nothing to do with the political or economic issues or alleged cheating scandals that have become major stories during the Chinese Olympics.
Without further ado, here are the top-10 sports stories from the Beijing Games:
1. Michael Phelps ― Many sports figures and media are calling Phelps' Beijing achievements the greatest Olympic performance ever.
The American swimmer set a record by winning eight gold medals at a single Olympics, surpassing U.S. swimmer Mark Spitz's mark of seven golds at the 1972 Munich Games.
Phelps won five individual events and three relays in Beijing, while setting world records in seven of his eight events.
2. Usain Bolt ― While Phelps set records in the water, Bolt made headlines on the track.
The Jamaican sprinter won three gold medals, breaking three world records in the process.
Bolt became the first man to win gold in the 100- and 200-meter races at the same Olympics since American Carl Lewis at the 1984 Los Angeles Games. He then ran the third leg for Jamaica's record-setting team in the 4x100 relay final.
3. China's 51 golds ― China made headlines not only by hosting the Beijing Games, but with its sports performances as well.
The Chinese won more gold medals, 51, than any other country at these Games. The United States was a distant second with 36.
China's 51 golds are the most it has ever won at a single Olympics, improving on its previous best of 32 at the 2004 Athens Games.
4. U.S. men's basketball redeems itself ― After embarrassing itself by losing three games and finishing with a bronze medal at the 2004 Athens Games, the U.S. men returned to their dominant form in Beijing.
The Americans won all of their games in the 2008 tournament by double-figure margins, including a 118-107 victory again Spain in the final.
The United States has now won four men's basketball titles in the last five Olympics.
5. Jamaica dominates sprints ― Jamaica established itself as the fastest country on Earth, dominating the sprint races at the Beijing Olympics.
Bolt drew most of the attention, setting world records in the 100 meters, 200 and 4x100 relay.
But Jamaica's women were also impressive. Shelly Ann Fraser led a medal sweep for the country in the 100. Jamaica's Veronica Campbell-Brown won the 200.
6. South Korea's baseball gold ― Considered an underdog throughout the Olympic tournament, South Korea went undefeated in the Beijing Games to win its first baseball gold.
The Koreans sealed a 3-2 win over Cuba in the championship game by turning a double play with the bases loaded in the ninth inning.
The win might have come in the last baseball game to be played in the Olympics. Baseball will not be held in the 2012 London Games, and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has not decided if it will bring back the sport in 2016.
7. Argentina's football repeat ― In an Olympic men's football tournament that featured star players from throughout the world, Argentina finished with its second straight gold medal.
The Argentines scored on a goal by Angel di Maria to beat Nigeria 1-0 in the final. Lionel Messi culminated a stellar tournament with the assist.
Argentina routed Brazil 3-0 in the semifinals.
8. Ethiopia excels in distance events ― Ethiopia was by far the most successful country in distance-running events at the Beijing Games.
Kenenisa Bekele won a second straight Olympic championship in the men's 10,000 meters and claimed his first title in the 5,000, while his compatriot Tirunesh Dibaba Kenene won the women's 10,000 and 5,000.
Ethiopia also won a silver and two bronze medals in various races of 5,000 meters or longer.
9. Asia produces swimming stars ― After struggling for years in Olympic swimming events, Asian countries enjoyed success in the pool in Beijing.
Japan got a pair of gold medals from Kosuke Kitajima in the men's 100- and 200-meter breaststroke along with four bronze medals by swimmers in other events.
South Korea's Park Tae-hwan won a gold in the men's 400-meter freestyle and silver in the 200 freestyle.
China won one gold, three silver and two bronze medals in swimming.
10. Nadal wins tennis gold ― Rafael Nadal further established himself as the best tennis player on the planet by winning a gold medal in men's singles.
The Spaniard defeated Fernando Gonzalez of Chile in the final to earn his first Olympic title.
Roger Federer of Switzerland, who had been ranked No. 1 in the world for 4 1/2 years before recently losing his spot to Nadal, failed to medal in the singles competition.
However, Federer did team with Stanislas Wawrinka to win a gold in doubles.