Tahlequah Daily Press

July 27, 2012

Locals gear up for 2012 Olympic games

By ROB W. ANDERSON
Staff Writer

KANSAS, Okla. — Today marks the beginning of the global event that never fails to deliver indelible and historic moments.

The Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games, which will be televised on NBC beginning at 6 p.m., will launch a two-week display of strength, endurance, commitment, integrity and love of country.

Competition in women’s football began Wednesday to headline nearly 40 different event categories, including archery, basketball, cycling, diving, equestrian, fencing, gymnastics, handball, Judo, modern pentathlon, sailing, table tennis, volleyball and water polo.

There are no competitions scheduled today to allow for the celebration that will showcase the United Kingdom as host nation, as well as Olympians from around the world.

For many, watching the opening and closing ceremonies is a favorite event to take in, while others look forward to individual competitions or following the progress of key athletes.

Cherokee County 911 Coordinator Marty Kimble noted interest is especially high in the progress of American 60-meter hurdle record holder Lori “Lolo” Jones and vaunted American swimmer Michael Phelps.

“I’ve been able to watch a couple programs on the athletes. One was on Lolo Jones, the track star. I’m curious to see how she’ll do,” Kimble said. “She had some kind of surgery. When she was running, all of sudden, she just started falling. She’s a hurdler.”

According to NBCOlympics.com, Jones had surgery for tethered spinal cord in 2011. A clipped hurdle kept Jones from winning gold in the 100-meter hurdles at the 2008 Games.

“Then there’s Michael Phelps,” said Kimble. “I’m sure everybody wants to see what he does. Another is Gabby Douglas. She is a [16-year-old] gymnast. She’s been in gymnastics ever since she was little-bitty. She has a contagious smile. She’s one of the shows on the athletes that I saw. She was going to quit. She was tired and did a 180. I think her name’s going to come up. And I’d really like to see an any American give Usain Bolt a run for his money. He’s pretty phenomenal.”

Northeastern State University Head baseball coach Travis Janseen is on board with the hype and expectation surrounding the USA men’s basketball team.

“I am a basketball fan, and they are so dominant,” he said. “My favorite event is the 100-meter dash. I like it because it’s exciting to see those elite sprinters run like they do. You don’t get a chance to see that all the time. What they can do is pretty amazing.”

NSU head women’s tennis coach and Fitness Center Director Ron Cox can’t pick just one event to watch, because he enjoys everything the Olympics is about.

“I get caught up in almost every activity at the Olympics,” he said. “I think probably the swimming would be my favorite, if I had to pick one. I get so excited with how good we are. I also enjoy the basketball and tennis because I’ve coached both sports.”

Cox mentioned Oklahoma City Thunder forward and three-time NBA scoring champion Kevin Durant as an athlete to watch.

“I think he is a quality young man, and he is a smooth athlete,” Cox said. “I enjoy watching him compete.”

Tahlequah Area Chamber of Commerce Tourism Director Kate Kelly echoed Cox’s sentiment in embracing more than one Olympic event, but makes a point to watch the official start to the Games.

“It’s a huge production and while watching I always marvel at the amount of effort and planning that go in to the ceremony that we see,” she said. “Sometimes I get caught up in thinking about the production and forget to just watch and enjoy it.”

Kelly especially appreciates the diving competition.

“It’s fascinating. Some of the dives are just so beautiful,” she said. “Gymnastics are fun to watch. Once again, one marvels at the abilities of these athletes. [And ] I love the equestrian events. The horses are all gorgeous, and it is enjoyable to watch them perform and demonstrate their years of practice and training.”

Hulbert Mayor Shirley Teague relishes the element of danger in the high-diving competition.

“That takes a lot of courage,” she said. “It’s exciting to watch.”

Cherokee County Election Board assistant secretary Shannon Hensley was a gymnast in her earlier days, and looks forward to the competition that illustrates an athlete’s acrobatic ability and strength.

“Gymnastics has always been my favorite,” she said. “I did gymnastics when I was Iittle. My favorite athlete is [retired American artistic gymnast and 2008 balance beam gold medalist] Shawn Johnson. She’s really good.”

In responding to the Daily Press’ Facebook question on favorite events to watch, local insurance agent Trae Ratliff said he can’t wait to catch a glimpse of the five-time World and three-time Olympic gold medalist from Jamaica.

“It’s hard to overlook the excitement of the return of the fastest man in the world: Usain Bolt,” he said.

Sheri Denny Gourd likes the aesthetic impact made by the gymnasts.

“Gymnastics [is my favorite event to watch] because the athletes show such strength and beauty,” she said.

Stacy Pratt, a Tahlequah native (and former Daily Press staffer) who’s now an English instructor at a New York college, agrees with Gourd.

“I know that is a very conventional answer, but it is such a beautiful sport to watch, despite its controversies,” she said. “I was a Tahlequah Aerial, years ago. Our little gym was on Muskogee Avenue, if anyone remembers it. Gymnastics requires so much discipline: attention to safety, accuracy, and beauty all at the same time. It is exciting to do and to watch.”

NSU alum and former Daily Press employee Robin Brown is looking forward to seeing the USA’s NBA dominance.

“Nothing like good ol’ American supremacy to show them foreigners who is boss,” he quipped.

Former Cherokee County resident Charles Letbetter hopes to see Team C.S.I. in the game soon as his favorite event to watch is the javelin competition.

“I keep waiting year after year for someone to slip and murder a judge,” he said.

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