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Ron Judd's Olympics Insider

Ron Judd, an Olympics junkie and Seattle Times columnist who has covered Olympic sports since 1997, will use this space to serve up news and opinion on the Summer and Winter Games -- also inviting you to chime in on Planet Earth's biggest get-together.

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August 19, 2008 10:19 AM

Another golden moment, in HD

Posted by Ron Judd


So you love the drama of the Olympics. You can't take NBC's Today-Show-From-Yesterday canned prime time approach. And you're working during the day, when lesser sports are broadcast on cable.

Solution: Set your recorder to MSNBC or, if you have it, Universal HD (which often simulcasts MSNBC coverage in full, glorious HD) and just let it run through the daytime coverage.

It's like watching a different Olympics. A better one. Nothing less than a spectacle of incredible sports. No features. No interviews. Just action.

Sometimes it drags. But it jumps around between sports just enough to keep you interested.

This morning, it jumped over to men's weightlifting, heavyweight division, where one of those special, golden Olympic moments was unfolding on the lifting platform.

steiner2.JPG

Three heavyweight lifters from Germany, Russia and Lithuania, were locked in a duel in the clean-and-jerk final, alternating at attempts to lift upwards of 550 pounds over their heads. Just that concept in itself is stunning. How often do you ever really see something like that?

The weights are so heavy that the thick, hardened steel barbell holding them bends like a Q-tip when the lifters hoist them up on their concrete-block shoulders. The combination of brute strength, mental focus and lightning-quick reflexes required to lift that much weight is astonishing. I've seen it in person, once, and it was even more amazing.

A lot of the air seemed to go out of the contest for this Olympics when Iranian super lifter Hossein Rezazadeh, the two-time defending gold medalist, retired from the sport in July, citing injuries. But as is often the case, another athlete with his own compelling story filled that void.

The winning lift came when Germany's Matthias Steiner, a brick of a man in a black singlet, jerked 258 kilograms -- 568.8 pounds -- to win the gold. There was never any doubt. Once that weight went up above his head, Steiner owned it. With his elbows locked, grimacing, he held it for a second beyond the drop signal from the officials, just to show how much he had left.

steiner1.JPG


When the weight went down, emotion overtook the big man, an Austrian by birth and plumber by trade who emigrated to Germany and sat out three years of competition to become Olympic eligible. Overcome with emotion, he dropped to the floor over top the weights, raised his arms in victory, then leapt around the stage, a man possessed.

Steiner screamed. He cried. He embraced his coach, Frank Mantek, and together, arms around one another, they danced like children in Beijing.

steiner3.JPG

As he exulted, broadcasters told his story: Steiner's past year had been an emotional hell on earth, because his young wife of two years was killed in a car accident.

Moments later when Steiner went to the medal stand, he didn't go alone. He had tears in his eyes, and in one hand a snapshot of his wife, Susann.

"There was so much emotion that I cannot describe," Steiner told the New York Times. "It was, after a few weeks last year, a big motivation to fight for the gold medal. For her. For friends, for family."

It was heartbreaking and wonderful all at once. It's why we watch the Olympic Games. And why it's such a shame we don't see more of them through the lights, noise and haze.

Photos: (Top) Matthias Steiner of Germany takes his second lift in his gold-medal weightlifting performance in Beijing (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel); (center) Steiner exults after jerking 568.8 pounds to win the gold medal (Julian Finney/Getty Images); (bottom) Steiner on the medal stand with a photo of his late wife, Susann (Andres Leighton/AP)

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Blogroll and links

www.olympic.org: The official International Olympic Committtee site, with news releases, a searchable Olympic medals database and other archival information.
www.nbcolympics.com: Olympic news site from one of the Games' primary sponsors.
NBC Olympics columnist Alan Abrahamson's column/blog
Chicago Tribune Olympic sports writer Philip Hersh's blog
www.usolympicteam.com: U.S. Olympic Committee's athlete web site.
www.aroundtherings.com: Ed and Sheila Hula's Olympic News Service (subscription).
www.wcsn.com: News service with audio, video and text coverage of Olympic sports, during and between Olympics. Free, but charges for live video feed subscriptions.
www.beijing2008.com: Beijing Organizing Committee Web site.
www.vancouver2010.com: Vancouver Organizing Committee's 2010 Winter Games site.
www.london2012.com: London 2012 Summer Games site.
www.sochi2014.com: Sochi, Russia's 2014 Winter Games site.
www.chicago2016.org: Candidate city Chicago's summer 2016 bid committee site.
Olympic swimmer Tara Kirk's highly entertaining WCSN blog
Bellevue Olympian Scott Macartney's WCSN alpine ski-racing blog
Other WCSN Olympic athlete blogs.