Pick a question, any question

Published 11:00 pm Friday, July 27, 2012

I first noticed the disturbing trait in my friend during lunch, about two years ago.

“Ask me anything,” she said. “Anything about the Olympics. I know it.”

Ummmm … OK. “What year did the U.S. team win the gold medal in ice hockey?”

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

“Are you kidding me? 1980. The Miracle on Ice. Ask me something hard,” she answered.

Ok, then. “Who got the first perfect score in gymnastics?”

“Really? Really? That’s not hard,” she chided. “That’s the best you can do?”

Why yes it was, thank you very much.

“Do you even watch the Olympics?” she chided.

The rest of the conversation spiraled downhill, as I sat dumbfounded by the knowledge she offered. Little did I know she really is an encyclopedia of random Olympic facts.

And, while I’m a whiz at Trivial Pursuit, I am a vast desert when it comes to remembering anything other than a few Olympic names and dates.

On Friday morning, she was positively giddy. “OK, who was the wrassler who beat the Russian – the one who had never, ever been beaten in competition before?” she asked me.

“You just used the word ‘wrassler,’” I answered. “Really?”

“I said ‘wrestler,’ but it doesn’t matter? You know who it was? Of course you don’t. It was Rulon Gardner. How could you not remember that?”

Gardner, it seems, defeated Russian Aleksandr Karelin in the 2000 Olympics. Karelin had been undefeated in 13 years of international competition.

Thanks, Google, for filling in the blanks.

“I’ve got the all-time best Olympic trivia question,” she continued. “In 1976 Nadia Comaneci was the all-around gold medal champion in women’s gymnastics. Who was her roommate at the Olympics?”

What? Her roommate? Did she even have a roommate? I can barely remember Nadia Comaneci.

“It was Teodora Ungureanu.”

“Teodora who? And how do you remember that?”

“I can remember it because she was a teammate of Nadia’s and her name was mentioned in passing during an interview,” my friend said. “I can’t remember to buy toilet paper when I go to the grocery store, but I know Teodora Ungureanu.”

Her vast Olympic knowledge is, as she admitted, a “weird, weird, weird-ness.” But it’s amazing, as well.

“It’s all about the story behind the person,” she said. “I just can’t help it.”

I suspect she’s not alone in her love of the Olympics. Billions of people around the world will tune in over the next 16 days to watch the Olympics. We’ll cheer for the men and women who epitomize the spirit of competition and commitment: Michael Phelps, the swimming phenom who is three medals away from making Olympic history, again and his teammate and toughest challenger, Ryan Lochte, the underdog whom millions of Americans hope to see take the podium.

We’ll cheer for the underdogs whose stories are etched on our hearts, like Im Dong-Hyun, a legally blind archer from South Korea who set a new world record on Friday during preliminary competition. And we’ll celebrate the spirit of the Olympics.

For the next 16 days, we’ll turn to the Olympics for a mental and emotional respite from the harsh and brutal realities of our world (from famine to mass killings, financial worries to drought) and we’ll embrace the men and women who we barely knew two months ago.

We’ll rally around our nation’s athletes, cheering their victories and joining in the heartbreak of defeat. We’ll find new stories, new “moments” to celebrate.

While some of us won’t remember the names of Phelps’ roommate 20 years from now or who won the wrestling competition, we will relish in the experience today.

And, for the record, when my friend asks I can totally answer the question about monarchs, handsome spies and opening ceremonies.


Stacy G. Graning is publisher of The Messenger. Contact her via email at stacy.graning@troymessenger.com. Just don’t send her any trivia questions about the Olympics.