Was Tuesday, July 31, 2012, the single most brutal day in the history of Russian sport? Who can say otherwise?
The day began with the USA not just defeating but crushing, in humiliating fashion, the Russian female gymnastics squad to win a team gold medal. Gymnastics, of course, had long been the special province of the Russians, and a no-man’s land for the Americans. The world was reminded how very much times have changed, the USSR falling into the ash heap of history and the USA moving to spectacular glory.
The day ended when Michael Phelps of the USA anchored the gold-medal performance of the country’s 4×200 freestyle relay team. In so doing, Phelps deposed Russian Larissa Latynina as the winningest athlete in the history of the Olympic games.
This left the USA with a whopping three times more total medals than Russia (and five times more gold medals) one-third of the way into the competition. And it all happened in London, one of Russia’s most bitter rivals.
How could it have been worse for Russia? We can’t think how.