It's week two of the 2012 Summer Olympics, which means it's week two of the Swish-Whack, Take That! awards. I give these to an athlete after an extraordinary, odds-defying, nose-thumbing performance that silences critics, doubters, and complainers. The award is named for US fencer Mariel Zagunis who won America's first fencing gold medal in 100 years in 2004, and then successfully defended it in 2008.
As we always do, everyone is trying to figure out the best athlete in the Olympics. Is it Michael Phelps who won his 22nd Olympic medal? Is it Usain Bolt who broke the sound barrier during his 100m gold medal run? Or is it Gabby Douglas, the first African-American gymnast to win the all-around gold?
No, it's American sprinter Manteo Mitchell who ran his leg of the 4x400 relay on Thursday morning's qualifying heats. That's the first round of the relays, and that's when "sprinters" from North Korea, Micronesia, and Lichtenstein all try to finish sometime before lunch.
For America to go out on that round would be humiliating, and nearly impossible. But it's not that Mitchell ran his 400 meters that's impressive.
It's that he ran his last 200 meters on a broken leg.
Mitchell said he was running and his left leg felt out of sorts. Then there was a loud snap followed by a lot of pain. So much pain that Mitchell said he was "in tears every step." But he continued on and finished with a time of 46.1 seconds.
That's not just slow, that's Liechtenstein slow.
Then the angry tweets started coming, questioning his commitment and his effort.
Ah, social media. Where else can a chair-planted butterballs complain about an athlete's results when they couldn't run 400 meters without stopping for a rest?
Mitchell wins a renamed Swish-Whack, Oh Snap! award for not giving up, running on a broken fibula, and making sure the U.S. qualified so they could continue to compete for the gold. If he doesn't receive a medal when the rest of the U.S. wins one, then they all need to chip in and get him a coffee maker or something.
Golden girl Gabby Douglas hardly needs a Swish-Whack, Take That award, since she won the all-around gold, as well as the team competition, but she still gets one for standing tall and putting the haters in their place.
Douglas was catching a lot of grief from the social media circuit — there it goes again — about the state of her hair during the Games. Hair for African-American women is a serious subject, which is why many people thought they should comment, because, you know, it's everyone else's business what an Olympic hero's hair looks like half a world away.
I know how frustrated she must be, because as the father of a black daughter, my wife and I have been on the receiving end of a lot of unsolicited and unwanted advice because we let our daughter wear her hair the way she wanted.
I'm giving Gabby a Swish-Whack, Take That! award because she put everything into wonderful perspective, and everyone in their place.
"I'm like, 'I just made history and people are focused on my hair?'" Gabby said. "I'm going to wear my hair like this during beam and bar finals. You might as well just stop talking about it."
So, thank you, Gabby for rising above the haters and complainers and reminding people that there are more important things to remember, like making Olympic history, and making your country proud.
The final Swish-Whack, Take That! award goes to former Today show co-host, Ann Curry, who lost her job in June, and was replaced weeks before the Olympics.
NBC, who has already been crucified for their poor Olympics coverage, had said Curry would be in London to report during the Olympics, but we had only seen her once before during the games. She showed up at the Today show on Thursday during the second hour to do a story on a still photographer.
Because when you think "Olympic spirit," you think of a guy with a camera and a lens the size of a toilet bowl.
According to the Associated Press, Curry was polite but distant during the on-air banter, and did not return Matt Lauer's "good to see you" greeting and closing. There's no word whether she flipped him the international sign for "bite me."
Curry wins the final award for demonstrating her own Olympic spirit, showing up when she was called, and doing the job she was trained to do, without letting the detractors get her down.
We come to the close of the 2012 Swish-Whack, Take That awards. We call upon the youth of the world to gather in four years in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil to celebrate the power of the human spirit, to overcome the doubters, silence the haters, and show the whiners of the world why they need to just shut up when it comes to complaining about athletes who devote their entire lives to their sport.
The second edition of Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), is now available. I wrote it with my good friend, Kyle Lacy.
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