During these Olympics, Poseur will spend each day watching and reviewing one sport. He also promises to stop referring to himself in the third person.
Today's Sport: Weightlifting
Weightlifting is another one of those classic Olympic sports that suffers from a bit of an image problem. Weightlifting barely even registers on the US radar for one simple and obvious reason: we really, really suck at it.
Which is a shame because weightlifting is really compelling television. I earlier compared male gymnasts to superheroes, as they all have the broad shoulders of your classic heroes like Superman or Captain America. Weightlifters also look like superheroes, just a different kind. They all look like the Thing.
Like wrestling, most of the powerhouse nations in weightlifting are hardly the most glamorous places on earth. It is a sport dominated by the former Soviet Union and the Middle East. For an American raised on the Cold War Olympics, it's like watching a "heel" convention. However, the not-so-dirty secret of pro wrestling is that the heels are ten times cooler and more interesting. So it goes here as well.
Weightlifting is an almost superhuman sport. Earlier in these Games, I watch a woman from Kazakhstan lift three times her bodyweight. Now, while most of us were reaching for Borat jokes, the proper reaction was:
"Oh. My. God."
How is that humanly possible? I decided to watch the most superhuman category of the most superhuman sport ever devised by man: the superheavyweights. These guys lift so much weight it appears to take about eight volunteers just to load the bar and position it properly. No human being should be able to do this.
You can take your pansy artistic sports or your weenie races where everybody has to stay in their lane... give me large men lifting obscenely heavy weights. It is like watching a real life comic book. This sport is great and should have been the opener for every night of Olympic coverage.
The Favorites: Iran
Iran actually had two big medal contenders matched up the defending gold medalist from Germany. I like that we obsess over the events we decide are the "major" events, but here it is like the off-brand Olympics, and it couldn't mean more for these smaller nations. Iran is never going to win the medal count, but at the weightlifting venue, they can be utterly dominant. And in an Olympics dominated by the US and China, neither nation had a competitor in this, the marquee event of the sport. It was a nice change of pace.
The Gold Medal: Iran
The Iranians came through, partly due to a calamity which struck the German weightlifter. Attempting to lift over 400 pounds, like you do, Matthias Steiner slipped and the bare fell down and landed on his neck. Now, there are sports injuries, and then there's a 400 pound metal bar landing on your vertebrae. It was a genuinely terrifying moment, but Matthias walked off on his own power because, as I've pointed out, weightlifters are superheroes. Behdad Salimi had already won the competition when he stepped up for his final lift, so he decided he was going to try to break the world record. Unfortunately, not even he could get the bar off the ground and he decided to take a bow and celebrate a 1-2 sweep for Iran.
Yes, the Olympics are about winning and setting world records. It is Usain Bolt and Michael Phelps doing impossible things. It's running faster, jumper further than anyone ever has. This is part of what makes the Olympics great. But the flip side of that is the Olympics also is about failure. Most dreams don't get fulfilled, and only one person gets to stand on top of the medal stand. Tonight was primarily about dreams so close you could touch them, but having them still out of reach.
Lolo Jones will not be remembered for the 2012 Games. She will be remembered for the 2008 Games, when she was the fastest hurdler in the world and she had Olympic gold just a hurdle away. A dream denied. A dream so powerful that she came back to the Olympics four years later, and one year after spinal surgery, to try and finally get that medal. She would finish fourth, the cruelest end to the dream. But her story is not one of failure, but of triumph. It would have been a failure had she never gotten up from her fall, but instead she came back and tried to achieve the impossible. Sometimes the impossible is just that, but it does not make the attempt any less noble and beautiful. Here's to Lolo, LSU's Olympic hero.
The hurdles are a cruel race, and the same story played out in the men's 110m hurdles. Liu Xiang has a gold medal, which he won in 2004. He was the first Chinese athlete to win a gold medal in track and field, and he was a national hero going into the 2008 Beijing Games. Due to injury, he couldn't even get off the blocks, but he vowed to come back in 2012. Like Lolo, he struggled with injuries and setbacks, but made it to the 2012 Games. He tripped on the first hurdle of the first heat and instead of walking away, Xiang hopped the course on one leg, kissed the final hurdle, and then his fellow hurdlers took him off the track in a wheelchair. It was perhaps the most beautiful moment of these Games. It may have gotten a little dusty at Poseur HQ.
Next Up: Beach volleyball