Wednesday, August 25, 2004

By Dominique Moceanu

Following a tumultuous flight from New York City and an emergency landing in Shannon, Ireland (all thanks to a disgruntled passenger), my lovely mother and I arrived at our literal, and figurative, destination; Athens!

With enthusiasm we disembarked upon the genesis of the Olympic Games. Our voyage carried added worth, as it allowed me to sense the strength of my Greek/Macedonian ancestry for the first time, all the while taking part in the grandest celebration on the globe. The rich tradition, the Olympic spirit, and the unmatched Greek pride made for an extraordinary journey. I managed to make the Indoor Coliseum my "second home," and it is where I was captivated by more than a few individuals.

I hope you enjoy My Top 10.0 List.

#10 The security in Greece: These individuals must be commended for their efforts to make Greece feel like the most protected spot on Earth during The XXVIII Olympiad.

#9 Juri Chechi: The Italian megastar, and the modern "Lord of the Rings" delivered solid performances on his most well-known event. His presence was felt through the support of the Italian fans, and it was clear to see why he was chosen for the honor of carrying his country's flag during The
Opening Ceremony.

#8 The Japanese Men's Team: Like the Romanian women, this team won due to the blend of camaraderie, style, and consistency. The Japanese men exhibited the characteristic elegance that brought Japan multiple Olympic Team Championships in the past.

#7 Courtney McCool: While much of the attention was directed toward her Olympic All-Around Champion teammate, Carly Patterson, many allowed McCool to slip from their sight; however, I observed McCool quite closely as she tirelessly supported her teammates throughout the team and event finals. I was curious as to how she must have felt knowing that she could have earned several individual medals, some of which could have been gold. She displayed no signs of self-pity, and I greatly respect her. Her actions were a testament to her character.

#6 Dimosthenis Tampakos: Whether you agreed with the judges or not, Tampakos "tore the roof off" of the Indoor Coliseum. Following several days of mediocre crowds and unfilled seats, Tampakos brought the Greeks in droves, and filled the arena with chants of "Hellas, Hellas, Hellas!" turning the bare seats into a sea of blue and white.

#5 Morgan and Paul Hamm: They emerged from these Olympic Games as leaders of Team USA, just as they had arrived in Sydney. There are obvious differences from 2000, but the bottom line is that they lead the U.S. Men in typical Hamm fashion. If there were any questions about there
leadership, they are now answered. The Hamms are the true leaders of the U.S. Men. The Men's program no longer needs to search for "the leadership" that they had so strongly emphasized throughout the team selection process. Any way you cut it, Paul Hamm's comeback during the all-around final, was remarkable. I hope that he is able to sift through the hype to pull the positives from this experience, because he showed the world that he is a complete gymnast.

#4 Mohini Bhardwaj: With Pamela Anderson thousands of miles away and the commotion of the U.S. Olympic Team Selection behind her, Bhardwaj showed all of us why she was appointed as the Women's Team Captain. Her refreshing gymnastics and consistency as a "table-setter" served as the backbone for Team USA's silver medal. As the sole representative for Team USA in the floor final, as an all-around competitor in the team preliminaries, as well as a last minute substitute on beam in the team final, she quietly paraded her mental toughness and proved that she was not solely a vaulting specialist.

#3 Catalina Ponor: This young WOMAN had "the total package". Ponor possesses grace, poise, and beauty, and I have not described her gymnastics yet! She combines a dash of Nadia with a sprinkle of Boginskaya, a pinch of Milosovici and a touch of her own distinctive elements to make her a special breed of Romanian gymnast. Her striking double gold medal performance during the second day of the event final was strikingly appropriate.

#2 Svetlana Khorkina: Unfortunately often misinterpreted and more frequently misunderstood, gymnastics diva kissed her Olympic theater "goodbye". Her draping of the uneven bars with the Russian flag is an image that will be etched into my memory for the reason that it carries so much meaning. It is hard to imagine a European, World, or Olympic Championship without her. Her impact will only be truly felt as time moves further from August of 2004.

#1 The Romanian Women's Team: The closest team won The Olympic Team Title. Alexandra, Catalina, Daniela, Monica, Oana, and Silvia competed as a family, and displayed their adaptability by defending their Olympic Team Championship under a VERY new set of rules. It was reviving to hear
their petite frames blaring "Haide!" (the equivalent to "Come on!"). It was a pleasure to witness them bring the team gold medal back to their country in such classic fashion. This team makes it easy to understand why gymnasts are the pride of Romania, 

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