The Summer Olympics, the great quadrennial global escape, is over, and now we
can all go back to worrying about Zika, Brazil’s impending impeachment of its
President Dilma Rousseff, and the games’ biggest news story, American Ryan
Lochte’s gold medal prevarication on vandalism, public urination and white
If it weren’t for Lochte, it would have been as good a set of games as we’ve
ever seen with the medal performances of Phelps, Biles, Bolt, Ledecky, Felix, et
Even the Philippines won a medal.
But there’s the arrogance of Lochte with that lingering bad aftertaste of all
Robbery? Extortion? With a gun pointed to his forehead? None of those things
happened. And even as he admitted to errors of omission and apologized on
Saturday for having “over exaggerated,” his whole demeanor seemed disingenuous.
Really, it’s worse than if he were caught using steroids or banned substances.
Oh, that’s still disgraceful, but one can begin to understand cheating as the
extreme example of an ultra-competitive Olympic-sized will to win. Some come
back from disgrace.
USA sprinter Justin Gatlin was banned in 2001, and again in 2006.
But there he was a new man in Rio, at age 34, running the 100 meter in 9.89
seconds. Good for silver, but second to the iconic Usain Bolt, who won the gold
with a time of 9.81 seconds.
Lochte’s lie had nothing to do with athletic prowess and everything to do with
character and what he is like as a 32-year-old man. Arrogant, self-serving,
disrespectful of the host country and condescending to its people. Lochte’s the
example of “We’re No. 1” taken to the extreme. I’m sure the white male medalist
made it seem like he can do no wrong. And when he was caught, he simply sold out
his teammates with drunken but calculated lies.
One can overcome performance enhancement lies. As Gatlin proved, the drugs wear
It won’t be so easy for Lochte to overcome his lies of character enhancement.
But I wouldn’t worry. Even though Speedo has undressed him, dropping Lochte from
sponsorship, Lochte’s privilege will ultimately save him. After his on-screen
lesson from Matt Lauer, I could see Lochte eventually doing PR for an embattled
Olympics committee, or better yet,the corrupt FIFA. And always available to him
is professional politics, where lying is an art form.
ROOTING FOR ATHLETES FROM ANCESTRAL LANDS
And even with all that, it was still was a pretty good Olympics, especially from
an Asian American perspective.
As Americans of Asian descent, we get the best of most worlds. We can choose to
root for good ole “USA, USA,” as well as our ancestral countries of origin. It
depends if the sport is badminton or rhythmic gymnastics.
So we’re practically always in a medal hunt, especially if you’re of Chinese,
Japanese, and South Korean ancestry. All three countries were in the top ten.
China won 70 medals, Japan 41, and South Korea 21.
This was also a big year for the smaller Asian countries to flex some muscle.
Central Asia’s Uzbekistan won 4 golds, 13 medals overall. And Kazakhstan, land
of the mythical Borat, won 3 golds, 17 medals overall.
But for real muscle flexing, who would begrudge me, an American Filipino, from
rooting for a Philippine national in the 53kg (116.8 pound) class in Women’s
Weightlifting–an event so obscure I was lucky to find it streaming on the web
when the games began two weeks ago.
The Philippines usually gets lost in the opening ceremonies, with networks
cutting to commercial somewhere between Peru and Poland. Typically, it gets
honorable mention for best cultural costume.
This time, a Filipina actually medaled.
Hidilyn Diaz, 25, became the first Filipino medalist in 20 years, winning Silver
after lifting 112 kilograms in the clean and jerk.
The 116 pound Filipina lifted 246.9 pounds in that round. Add that to her 88
kilograms (194 pounds) in the snatch, and her performance earned her second
place in her weight class with a total lift of 200 kilograms (446.9 pounds).
I don’t think Imelda Marcos’ entire shoe collection weighed that much.
It was just the tenth medal ever for the Philippines, which has never won gold,
but now has a third silver in its Olympic trophy case.
Indeed, that one woman’s weightlifting event could have satisfied a whole gaggle
of Asian Americans curious about competitors from their ancestral homelands.
The gold was won by Hsu Shu-ching, who lifted 212 kg, while competing for
If you’re wondering where the heck is Chinese Taipei, it’s the possessive phrase
compromise that China and the International Olympic Committee came up with for
It may not have made some Taiwanese very happy. But the 53g Women’s
Weightlifting event did give the country its only gold medal for the games, one
of three medals this year.
South Korea’s Yoon Jin-hee was the bronze medalist. Overall, South Korea won 9
gold, 3 silver, 9 bronze for 21 medals, good for 8th place among all nations.
Of course, I rooted for the Americans, but really felt nothing for the great
swimmer Michael Phelps, that is, until he lost to another Asian rooting
interest, Joseph Schooling. Technically a Singaporean, and therefore an Asian in
America, Schooling, 21, is on the University of Texas-Austin swim team and has
Bevo the Longhorn tattooed on his body.
In the 100 meter Butterfly, Schooling outswam Phelps, the most decorated Olympic
athlete ever with 28 medals overall, 23 of them gold. But in this event,
Schooling denied Phelps another gold. Phelps, who tied for 2nd, shared the
It was Singapore’s first gold medal ever in the Olympics. It won just four
medals in previous Olympics, but no gold in table tennis and weightlifting.
It’s harder than you think to get any medal, as more than a dozen Asian
countries like Pakistan, Samoa, and Cambodia were shut out again.
But it’s just good to be there as an obscure athlete from some small country,
And not some NBA multimillionaire big-footing the games and staying in a luxury
yacht. But they were in there together at the opening and closing ceremonies,
all with their cell phones out for the ultimate selfie. Champions among
That’s the Olympics, all the athletes just walking the track together not in
competition, just holding their flags and bathing in cheers.
Oh, the individual events were often as goosebumpy. I felt that way watching
Allyson Felix win her sixth gold medal, the most ever for a women’s track and
field star. I thought I was watching Secretariat as I saw Katie Ledecky smash
the field in the 800 meter freestyle, 11 seconds ahead of the silver. And even
in injury and defeat, there was the crash and fall of Ivy League runner Abbey
D’Agostino, who helped her opponent up and then finished the race with a torn
ACL. Those were all great moments.
Let’s hope they become the enduring memories of these games, and not the lies of