The Olympics: Where obscure sports take the spotlight

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Photo courtesy of USA Today

The 2016 Summer Olympic Games are coming up in a few weeks in Rio and I am pumped. It is another opportunity to watch some of the greatest athletes in the world compete and represent their respective countries.

It is also an opportunity to cheer for many teams or athletes that aren’t well-known or very popular. It shows us that there are many more sports than football, baseball, basketball and soccer and that the Olympic athletes work very hard to be successful.

In 2008, I was watching the Olympic coverage on television when Bob Costas mentioned during the broadcast that French swimmer Alain Bernard had made a prediction prior to the 4×100 meter freestyle relay.

“The Americans? We will smash them. That’s what we came here for,” Bernard said.

It fueled my desire to watch the race that featured 22-time gold medalist Michael Phelps as I wanted to see the Americans make the Frenchman eat his words.

It didn’t disappoint. Jason Lezak chased down the world record-holder Bernard in the final leg and the Americans won by a mere .08 seconds over the French.

It was something that on a normal day, I probably wouldn’t watch as swimming just isn’t my cup of tea. But the Olympics are a time to put all that aside. You cheer on those athletes representing your country and hope that they find success.

Swimming isn’t the only sport I wouldn’t normally watch. Women’s gymnastics has been one of my favorites because the United States is normally an underdog to China or Russia and it is fun to watch the women overcome the odds.


Photo courtesy of the LA Times

Plus, there are some magical moments that happen in the world of gymnastics. One example of this is Kerri Strug in the 1996 Olympics. Strug was the final competitor for the United States on the vault routine.

She was on an ankle that was later revealed to have two torn ligaments. But she stuck the landing on her final opportunity and received a score of 9.712 that vaulted the United States to the gold medal.

We all remember watching her coach, Bela Karolyi, carry her to the podium. It was one of those times when all the world cheered. I will admit it brought a tear to my eye and still does whenever I watch that famous vault.

I love football, basketball and baseball. Covering UVU athletics over the past two years has also got me more interested in soccer and I am pumped for the 2016 season.

But for two weeks in August, swimming, gymnastics, volleyball, track & field, wrestling, biking, and other sports will be my main focus. It is an opportunity for me to watch and cheer for athletes and teams that I don’t normally take the time to do.

It is my hope that those reading this will do the same. It gives a great sense of pride. It gives a greater understanding for how hard these athletes work. And most of all, it brings a world together, which is what we need at this time.