Despite my expertise on the subject, I haven’t paid much attention to this year’s Olympics. I’ve followed the main stories a little bit—Michael Phelps and his eight gold medals, the Jamaicans’ dominance of the sprinting events—but I haven’t been especially drawn in. I don’t know if this says more about the Olympics, professional athletes, or my own curmudgeonly outlook, but I feel like it’s only a matter of time before either Phelps or the Jamaican track team is accused of doping. Anyway, what makes the Olympics interesting to me are the less anticipated stories that tend to occur away from the main events. Remember that swimmer from (I think) Central African Republic in the 2000 Olympics who had to swim a qualifying heat that was the longest distance he ever swam in his life?
Probably my favorite story from these games so far is Francoise Mbango Etone, the Cameroonian winner of the gold medal in the women’s triple jump. Unsponsored and self-coached, the 32-year-old worked her way back to the gold medal despite taking two years off since winning gold in the 2004 Olympics because she was injured and gave birth. But my favorite part was the moment after her first-place finish became official. She ran over to the stands to celebrate with her supporters (her family, I assume) and somebody handed her a Cameroonian flag. Instead of the usual track star routine of prancing around the stadium waving the flag or draping it over her shoulders, she did what virtually every African woman I’ve ever met would do when handed a colorful piece of fabric that size. She wrapped it around her waist like a pagne and went on with her business.