American spirit alive in Athens |

American spirit alive in Athens

The 2004 summer Olympics is in full swing, and once again United States athletes are winning big. Despite the dismal attendance in Athens, a poor showing (so far) by the U.S. men’s basketball team, and Europe’s negative reception of the U.S., there’s something for everybody to get excited about this year.

As of this writing, the U.S. is leading the medal race with 29 total medals (10 gold, 10 silver and 9 bronze), followed by China with 27 total medals, Russia with 18, Australia with 17 and Japan with 15. These athletes who sacrifice everything for years – sometimes there whole lives – for a shot at glory, deserve our recognition.

U.S. gymnast Paul Hamm did the unthinkable Wednesday, coming back from a vault landing where he spiraled out of control onto the judges’ table, and won the men’s gymnastics overall gold, beating out silver winner Kim Dae Eun and bronze winner Yang Tae Young, both of Korea. Hamm was all but out of medal contention after the flop, but persevered with nearly perfect routine on the high bar.

Then there’s the performance of U.S. men’s swimming team member Michael Phelps, who secured his fourth gold medal (with Olympic-record time) in the 200-meter individual medley Thursday night after leading the entire race. The win marks Phelps’ third individual gold of the games, in a showcase of one of the best U.S. swimming performances in Olympics history, second only to Mark Spitz’s record of seven golds in the 1972 Munich games. Phelps, a strong butterfly swimmer, will compete Friday in the 100-meter race. With strong competition from the Aussies, it will be a race worth watching.

And don’t forget track and field, where the Americans always have a strong showing.

While NBC has been criticized for over-covering the events and peppering the coverage with bleeding heart profiles of the athletes, the Olympics should be a source of national pride. Our amateur athletes represent the best in sporting life – let’s honor their sacrifice by celebrating their victories.