Last night I sat in a rainy and windblown Olympic stadium in Stockholm, Sweden and watched one of the fastest men in the world run one of the fastest 100 meter races ever. Tyson Gay, he of the glorious beard. One hundred meters in 9.79 seconds. Unfortunately, it didn’t count. At least it didn’t count for any official records. There was a 2.6 m/s tail wind. The maximum allowed is 2.0 m/s. Without the wind, he shattered the record at Stadion.
But I could care less. I was in Stadion, with thousands of other people, shivering in the cold watching an athletic performance like very few in history. And there was plenty more to see. I get into sports. Not in a very visible way. Instead I get nervous ticks. The legs start tapping, I lean forward, my heart rate rises. I wouldn’t be at all surprise if my pupils dilate. But, despite my boyish good looks, I try to avoid looking at mirrors while watching sports so I can’t verify this. Let’s just say though that the evening left me tapping my legs constantly, my neck sore from leaning forward straining for those few extra inches. And for what you may ask?
Well… I saw Peter Forsberg. From afar, but still. He is clearly the greatest hockey player to ever grace the world with his presence. And if you disagree, it’s obvious you eat baby seal for breakfast and I hate you anyway.
Not only did I see Peter Forsberg, but I watched him throw a hockey stick as a javelin. Which, for some reason, made me very nervous. I was afraid that he would plant and his foot would just explode, forever ending any hopes I have of the greatest hockey player heading back to Colorado and playing for the Avalanche. His foot did not explode.
I saw an American woman, Jennifer Barringer, win the 5000 meter race while wearing a Colorado track jersey, which made me pick her as my favorite if only because of the connection to Colorado.
I saw another American, Allyson Felix, break a stadium record and receive a diamond. Because that’s what they do at Stadion for DN Galan, any stadium record that is broken, you get a diamond. Ms. Felix had already broken one Stadion record a couple of years ago. This was old hat to her.
I saw an old University of Oregon athlete, Eric Mitchum, false start in the 110 meter hurdles, leaving me groaning over the entire stadium, only to watch him pull it together and finish in a respectable fourth place. Having seen him run at UO and never losing to another NCAA athlete at Hayward Field, it was a bit of a surprise not to see him out in front. Turns out the competition has improved a bit.
I saw a Swedish favorite, Mustafa Mohamed, fall in the 3000 meter Steeplechase on the last lap as he was leading with the crowd cheering him, and him alone, on. I heard the groan. Very seldom have I experienced an entire stadium's despair at the exact same moment. Last night I did.
But in the end, none of that mattered. Because I saw Tyson Gay run 100 meters in 9.79 seconds.
Welcome to Sweden. And world class track and field.
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