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Wednesday, 19 May 2021 11:01

‘Total Olympics’ goes for the gold

I love the Olympics.

There’s something so captivating about watching someone at the peak of their performance do what it is that they do best. This notion of being recognized as the literal best in the world at something – fascinating.

And that’s what the Olympics do. They celebrate the glory of athletic achievement (as well as nationalistic jingoism and bureaucratic graft, but still).

There’s more to the Olympics than the winners, however. For every famous gold medalist’s face gracing a Wheaties box, there are scores of stories of those who were just as excellent, yet now linter in obscurity. Not to mention those who, for whatever reason, never quite reached the same iconic pinnacle. And just like anything that has been around for more than a century (or centuries, if you start counting from its Greek origins), a lot has changed – both good and bad.

These are the sorts of stories that you’ll find in Jeremy Fuchs’s new book “Total Olympics: Every Obscure, Hilarious, Dramatic and Inspiring Tale Worth Knowing” (Workman Publishing, $22.95). Yes, you’ll get stories of the giants of various eras – Jim Thorpe, Jesse Owens, Mark Spitz, Mary Lou Retton, Michael Phelps – but you’ll also be reminded of (or learn for the first time) names of exceptional athletes with less longstanding cultural resonance.

In addition, Fuchs has brought forward numerous tales of Olympic history, digging into some of the behind-the-scenes chicanery that came with hosting the event and revisiting some of the wild and weird competitions that were once part of the proceedings.

It’s a compact and fun trip through the history of the Games, a catch-all of trivia, biographical sketches and fascinating forgotten moments. Anyone with affection for the Olympics will find plenty to enjoy in these pages.

Published in Sports

What does it mean to be a sports hero? There are so many different arenas in which athletes can excel and become part of the story of their sport, whether we’re talking about professional championships or individual records or Olympic glory or some combination therein. Athletic prowess has been turning ordinary men and women into legends for centuries.

But while some heroes become ensconced, forever part of the story of their sport, others fade into the margins of history. No matter how highly celebrated and decorated in their day, they don’t maintain their spot in the popular imagination. But those athletes and their feats still matter, even if they’ve been forgotten … and their stories still deserve to be told.

Kevin Martin’s “The Irish Whales: Olympians of Old New York” (Rowman & Littlefield, $32) relates the tale of one such group of forgotten heroes. These men, a collection of Irish immigrants to the United States in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, were athletic sensations during that stretch. As a group, these men thoroughly dominated the world of field events through the early days of the modern Olympics, becoming sensations on both sides of the Atlantic and bringing great pride to both their native country and their adopted homeland.

Through a meticulously detailed and researched exploration of these men, a new appreciation can be gained for these athletic marvels who, despite global fame in their day, ultimately faded into relative obscurity. Their greatness is undeniable; this book proves a worthwhile introduction to that greatness.

Published in Sports

Every four years, the world watches as its greatest athletes compete on the global stage. Elite performers from all over converge on a single place in an effort to excel in the name of Olympic gold.

But what happens to these athletes after the cheering stops? Is the price paid to reach the pinnacle too high?

That’s the fundamental question behind “The Weight of Gold,” a new documentary from HBO Sports. In it, filmmaker Brett Rapkin speaks to a number of American Olympians – both Summer and Winter – about the toll their respective quests for excellence took on them. Even the most successful among them had their share of struggles … and for too many, the tale took a tragic turn.

The film – narrated by legendary swimmer Michael Phelps (a featured interviewee and an executive producer on the project as well) – brings together new interviews and archival footage to offer a look into the sacrifices these athletes make to reach the top and the aftermath through which they must navigate after the spotlight fades.

Published in Sports

The world of elite competitive sports is a fascinating one, studded with stars and fantastic feats. We watch and we marvel and we revel in the incredible athleticism that plays out on the fields and in the arenas that make up the grandest stage. We LOVE sports.

But there’s another side to that love affair – a side that can be unpleasant, harmful and, sometimes, utterly horrifying.

“Athlete A” – a documentary by Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk, currently streaming on Netflix – tells a story that reveals just how dark the dark side of sports can get. It’s the story of the USA Gymnastics sexual abuse scandal, in which team physician Dr. Larry Nassar took advantage of his position to abuse hundreds of girls over the course of decades – and in which the leadership of USA Gymnastics attempted to cover it all up. The film walks the viewer through the investigation, led by reporters at the Indianapolis Star, while also engaging with some of the first women to go public with their allegations of abuse.

Watching this film isn’t always easy – there are some gut-wrenching moments that will land hard no matter how much you already know of the story. But “Athlete A” is important filmmaking, a cinematic document of a story that forces us to take a long hard look in the mirror of our fandom. It’s a reminder that a win-at-all-costs mentality can be dangerous – because some costs are devastatingly, unconscionably high.

Published in Sports
Wednesday, 10 August 2016 10:32

The Sports Edge - Waning Moments

It's too easy to take potshots at this year's incarnation of the Olympics Games. The Zika, the air and water pollution, the body parts washing up on shore - the punchlines are there to be had for even the worst late-night staff writer. And I have long held the opinion that the Olympics are the longest running and most boring reality television series in the history.

Published in The Sports Edge
Wednesday, 08 June 2016 11:01

Curry won't play for U.S. Olympic team

Stephen Curry has withdrawn from consideration from the Olympics, leaving the U.S. basketball team without the NBA's MVP.

Published in Sports

LONDON - The British capital is awash in Olympic ink tattoo ink, that is.

At Olympic venues around London, competitors flaunt marks of blood, sweat, tears and hopefully glory on toned arms, hips and torsos.

But tattoos of the iconic Olympic logo the five interlocked rings aren't just for the world's top athletes. Amateurs, performers at the opening ceremony and tourists as well have been inspired to get the Olympic spirit under their skin.

Published in Sports
Thursday, 02 August 2012 00:03

Ask Todd Parker - Aug. 1, 2012

Dear Todd Parker,

I've been dating my girlfriend for almost two years and we've been living together for six months. Up until very recently, everything has been going as smooth as could be. We share a lot of interests and have a lot of mutual friends and have a lot of fun together.

This weekend, we sat down to watch the Olympics (neither one of us is really a sports fan, but we enjoy watching the stories play out). We spent all day lazing on the couch, eating take-out and not really doing much, when all of a sudden she turns to me and says 'Are you happy? Because I don't think I am.'

Published in Ask Todd Parker
Wednesday, 01 August 2012 16:11

Olympic dreams

I was watching the Olympics swimming heats with my nephew, when at one point he turned to his mother and said, 'I'll never make it to the Olympics.' His Mom (aka my sister) replied, 'If you think about the Olympics, that's too big just think about your next meet and then the next and do the best you can.' I pointed out that the Olympic athletes likely started swimming in their neighborhood pools and swim clubs, and they just kept on swimming!

Published in Local Business

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