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Five rings off to Rio

August 13, 2012
By MIKE MATHISON - Sports editor ( , The Herald-Star

The Summer Olympics are over and will return again in 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

It beat Madrid, Tokyo and Chicago three years ago and now has four years before the world will descend on the small municipality of more than 6,000,000 people.

A really good thing is it is a one hour time difference for us, so more stuff hopefully will be shown live by NBC and we can actually watch it as it happens.

I am guessing those ratings will blow these ratings, as good as they were, out of the water.

Of course, the ratings will only be as good as the American athletes perform.

As sad as that is, it's true.

Another 104-medal performance would blow the ratings through the roof.

The summer gathering every four years, to me, is far better than the winter games.

The summer showing has more sports with which we are familiar - basketball, volleyball, track and field, swimming, wrestling, tennis, gymnastics and, in four years, golf.

Wonder if Tiger is going to play?

Because, you know, he's back - at least that's what everybody says.

The 2012 Summer Olympic program featured 28 sports and 38 disciplines.

Yep, I'm still bummed there is no baseball and softball, but at least in four years we will get kitesurfing.

Also added to the menu in four years is rugby sevens, a seven-man version of the sport. That will be really fun to watch.

I sure hope there isn't a bunch of guys trying to lose a rugby match and there be a scandal like there was this year in badminton.

Water polo came to the forefront again, showing that it has to be the toughest team sport around.

Wimps need not apply.

The U.S. men's water polo coach, Terry Schroder, is a four-time Olympian in the sport and is the model for the male statue which stands outside the Los Angeles Coliseum, site of the 1984 Olympics opening and closing ceremonies and track and field action.

That was the year Florence Griffith-Joyner just whipped everybody.

Schroeder, who missed the 1980 games like all Americans because of the stupid boycott by former President Jimmy Carter, has a scar on his right wrist and talked about it in a 1992 Sports Illustrated article by Kenny Moore:

"The Russian's tooth came off in my arm. I shot over him and hit him in the face. In water polo there is unlimited fouling. The position I play, two-meter man, is the quarterback of the offense. The ball comes to me, and I'm fouled. That can happen 75 times a game. I've had a total of 100 stitches in my face, but it's funny, I've never broken my nose. A former teammate, Doug Burke, had his nose broken at least 12 times.

"I have to be able to wrestle the heavyweights, take blows and keep focused on the game. That's my strength, to take a beating and hold my own, to not start thinking how I'm going to get this guy back but to keep alert for the next pass. You sometimes see kids with Olympic-caliber talent who can't control their emotions when two guys are pushing them underwater. It's tough. It's great. I love it.

"The sport combines so much. You wrestle constantly for position, and then on the fast break you need pure swimming speed. All six guys have to go. If one man pulls out, his defender is freed and the attack collapses. You can't touch the wall until the quarter's over, so you learn to hang on other guys.

"Wrestlers, cross-country skiers and water polo players are the top strength-endurance athletes on the tests. We lift weights, we do eggbeater kick drills carrying bricks, we do up to 6,000 meters a day of lap swimming. We eat a ton. Training twice a day, you eat 12,000 to 15,000 calories a day - and go to bed hungry."

Yep, a tough sport.

Apparently the 2016 summer affair will be without Michael Phelps and Misty May-Trainer, to name two, but will will also get to see Missy Franklin, Katie Ledecky, Sue Bird, Diana Taurasi, Usain Bolt, Ryan Lochte, Allyson Felix, Carmelita Jeter, Brittany Griner, maybe Ashton Eaton and Jennifer Ennis, and who knows how many of the women's soccer players or men's basketball players.

I want to see if Bolt can three-peat.

He won three gold medals and ran in the finals of three races for less than 40 seconds.

That is just nasty.

I know some people think he has an attitude, but I kinda like his playfulness.

When you are that good, it's nice to see someone having fun.

I would just like to see him finish every race like he did the 4x100 relay.

Then there is also all the heartache, which goes right along with the tears of happiness.

I don't think anyone fit the heartbreak more than Morgan Uceny.

Rounding the first turn of the final lap in the 1500, Ethiopia's Abeba Aregawi clipped the left leg of Uceny, sending her to the track and dreams of gold gone.

It was the second year in a row Uceny was tripped in the 1500 as it happened the previous year at the World Championships in Daegu.

Uceny sat on the track in London, pounding it with her hands and fists before burying her head in those same palms, unable to control her emotions.

Uceny posted on her Facebook page:

"I've never experienced such a heart breaking moment. I put myself in the perfect position coming into the bell lap and felt so relaxed and just ready to roll...I even thought to myself " I AM getting a medal" and the next thing I know I'm skidding on the track, out of contention. As soon as it happened I knew it was over, and I couldn't control the emotions. I was able to see my family tonight, and

"I don't know what I would have done without them. They all shared my tears but also were the rocks of support that I needed. I feel like I'm in a dream, and that I will wake up tomorrow to August 10th to race the 1500m final over....but no. I can't thank all of you enough for the TREMENDOUS amount of support given to me. It's been unbelievable and has made me realize was special people are in my life, so thank you. And here's to the journey ahead, cheers."

(Mathison, a Weirton resident, is the sports editor of the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times and can be contacted at and can be followed on Twitter at @MathisonMike)

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