This week’s Throwback Thursday looks back at the athletics competition from the Beijing 2008 Olympics. This weekend, track and field returns to the Bird’s Nest as the Chinese capital gets set to host the 2015 IAAF World Championships.
When I look back at the track and field action from the Games of the XXVIII Olympiad, five moments stick out to me the most.
1. Lolo Jones goes from first to fourth in the 100m hurdles final.
Talk about devastating. Lolo Jones said after this race that she could feel the gold around her neck when she clipped the second-to-last hurdle. Sadly, the hurdles are very unforgiving and a race that she spent years training for provided a cruel ending.
2. Bryan Clay Captures Decathlon Gold
Bryan Clay captured silver four years earlier in Athens before becoming the first American since Dan O’Brien in 1996 to win the gold in the decathlon. Ashton Eaton would reclaim American gold four years later in London. But it was Clay who sparked the newest generation of United States success in the discipline that crowns “the World’s Greatest Athlete”.
3. USA Women Stage Epic Comeback To Win 4x400m Relay
In one of the more memorable races that I can recall from Beijing, Sanya Richards fought back from behind to lead the United States in the 4x400m relay, defeating Russia in a race that brought back memories of the Olympics during the Cold War era.
I can distinctly remember Tom Hammond on the call for NBC: “Sanya Richards digging deep… She’s straining with every ounce of her fiber… She goes by. Sanya Richards, wins it for the U.S.!”
The victory was redemption for Richards, who failed to win gold in the individual 400 meter race in Beijing.
4. Liu Xiang Disappoints A Nation, Pulls Out Of 110m Hurdles With Injury
Following his memorable gold medal win in the 110m hurdles at Athens 2004, China’s Liu Xiang automatically became THE face of the Beijing Olympics four years later. Hollywood couldn’t have scripted it better. An opportunity to defend gold on home soil.
But in the preliminary heats, Liu Xiang wouldn’t even cross the finish line. In front of a packed crowd at the National Stadium, Liu Xiang grimaced in pain, dealing with an inflamed Achilles tendon. The developments were so big that NBC, which had tape-delayed its coverage of track and field, broke in with live coverage from the morning heats during Primetime coverage as the poster boy of China’s Olympics pulled out of the competition.
5. Usain Bolt Becomes King Of The Sprints
Well, duh. Lightning struck twice in Beijing in the form of Usain Bolt, who didn’t just win the 100 and 200 meter sprints, but dominated, breaking world records in both races. The athleticism the Jamaican showcased was unprecedented. And when all was said and done, Bolt gave us one of the most memorable moments in Olympic history.
And boy are we looking forward to his return at the World Championships.