Redemption Song Plays in London on Sunday

Bolt, Murray and Richards-Ross all silenced their doubters

With every day at the Olympics bringing different events and athletes to the competition, it's no surprise that different narratives come to the forefront with them.

Saturday was set up to celebrate the end of Michael Phelps' dominant Olympic career with his 18th gold medal and the storyline extended to the basketball and tennis courts as well.

LeBron James dragging the U.S. out of a scare with an otherworldly four minutes and Serena Williams completing a Golden Slam fit right in with Phelps when it came to people who may well be the most talented to ever take up their sports. 

Sunday had plenty of talent on display as well, but the word that kept coming to mind was redemption. Three of the day's biggest stars achieved their magical moments after hearing plenty of doubts about their ability to pull it off. 

For all of the United States' success on the track, American women had medaled just four times in history in the 400 meters. Two of those medals, including the only gold, came in the boycott-diminished 1984 Games in Los Angeles.

Sanya Richards-Ross has one of those medals, a bronze in 2008 to go with two relay golds, but she needed an individual gold to put the exclamation point on a long run near the top of the event. That 2008 race was hers to win, but she ran out too fast and couldn't hold on at the line in a disappointing result.

Richards-Ross didn't go out too fast on Sunday and she took her time just long enough to find the burst she needed to finish with the gold she's been chasing for so long. Now she's another relay gold away from tying the record for track golds by a female athlete, something that would go nicely with her signature moment from Sunday. .

British male tennis players scoff at the "difficulties" experienced by American women in the 400. They had not won a tournament at Wimbledon since 1936, a run of futility that added another chapter when Andy Murray fell short against Roger Federer in July.

They still haven't won Wimbledon, but they now have won at Wimbledon. Murray flipped the result against Federer, a moment of great celebration for Great Britain and a shining moment for a player who has been pawing at tennis' glass ceiling with no success for quite some time.

Does this make the big three a big four (or five, given Juan Martin Del Potro's play) heading into the U.S. Open? A good debate to pick up when we turn our attention to the courts in Queens, but one that didn't much matter as the Union Jacks waved with wild glee.

Richards-Ross and Murray were appetizers for the main course of the men's 100 meters, one of the marquee sporting events of the world thanks to tons of buildup for a little more than nine seconds of action. The race's field was remarkably strong (seven of the eight finalists ran fast enough to win gold in 21 of the 29 Olympic finals) but all eyes were on one man.

Usain Bolt lost twice at the Jamaican Olympic Trials to Yohan Blake, providing an easy reminder that only one man has ever repeated in the 100m and Carl Lewis needed Ben Johnson to juice himself to the hilt to make it happen. Bolt's greatness seemed unfathomable in Beijing and now he was just another guy in a deep field.

He remained that way until the gun sounded to start the race. Bolt effortlessly raced past the rest of the field and crossed the line in 9.63 seconds, the second-fastest time in history behind only his own 9.58 in 2009.

There was a little finger-wagging from Bolt, something that we all deserved after jumping to the conclusion of Bolt's demise based on a couple of races. If he wins the 200m again, Phelps will have a little more company in the Greatest Olympian ever debate.

Redemption was the theme, one that extended all the way to setting up redemptive moments for the future. McKayla Maroney was as heavy a favorite as there was at these Olympics, but she fell on her second vault and had to settle for a silver to go with her team gold.

Maroney could look at the three stars from Sunday and see that setbacks can be momentary in sports as long as there's another meet, tournament or race coming to change the story.

London 2012 is here. Get the top Olympic news, including what to watch, results and features on our local athletes here.

Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City. You can follow him on Twitter and he is also a contributor to Pro Football Talk.

Copyright FREEL - NBC Local Media
Contact Us