From the thrilling Opening Ceremony to Michael Phelps’ iconic eight gold medals, the Olympic Games Beijing 2008 were truly unforgettable. Relive the 10-year anniversary of the Games through Aug. 24 as TeamUSA.org recaps the daily highlights from Beijing. Here’s a look at Team USA's performance on Day 12, Aug. 20, 2008.
In an electric atmosphere at the Bird’s Nest stadium, most eyes at the start of the men’s 200-meter track race were on Lane 5, where Jamaica’s Usain Bolt prepared to race for his second gold medal and world record of the Games.
Meanwhile, Americans Shawn Crawford, Walter Dix and Wallace Spearmon lined up among the seven chasers.
The front of the race proved predictable, with Bolt easily winning in record time. What happened just behind was anything but predictable.
Churandy Martina, competing for the Netherlands Antilles, crossed the line second, with Spearmon just behind in third. But neither of those names survived in the record books. Officials soon ruled that Spearmon, in Lane 9, had stepped out of bounds, and he was disqualified. Then Martina, in Lane 7, was DQ’d too, for the same reason. That meant Americans Crawford and Dix, the next best finishers, were bumped up to silver and bronze.
And the story didn’t end there. Martina’s DQ was later upheld in a ruling by the Court of Arbitration for Sport, but he still found himself in possession of the silver medal. Following the Games, he received a surprise package. When he opened it, he found the medal and a note from Crawford.
“Churandy I know this can't replace the moment,” Crawford wrote, according to the Telegraph newspaper in England, “but I want you to have this because I believe it's rightfully yours!”
“When I stood there on the podium next to Bolt, I thought about it,” explained Crawford, the defending Olympic champion who officially remains the silver medalist. “I went back to my room in the village and decided to give it to Churandy. Quietly. No big deal. I didn't look at it as being something heroic; it was just something I felt I wanted to do.”
The wild finish and act of sportsmanship highlighted a relatively quiet Day 12 for Team USA. Following day after day of medal hauls for American athletes, the three medals earned on Aug. 20 tied for the fewest of any day of the Games.
The only other U.S. medal that day also came on the track, as Sheena Johnson-Tosta took home a silver medal in the women’s 400-meter hurdles.
However, Americans remained active, and successful, in other sports that day.
The U.S. softball team, winners of the first three Olympic gold medals in the sport, advanced to the 2008 gold-medal game via a 4-1 win over Japan in the semifinals. With the sport using a Page playoff system, the U.S. and Japan would end up meeting again the next day for the gold medal.
Also advancing to the gold-medal game was the men’s beach volleyball team of Todd Rogers and Phil Dalhausser, following a sweep of a Georgian team.
Meanwhile, the U.S. men’s basketball and volleyball teams each advanced through their quarterfinals with wins over Australia and Serbia, respectively.
Chrös McDougall covered the 2008 Games for the Olympic News Service. He has covered the Olympic movement for TeamUSA.org since 2009 on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc. He is based in Minneapolis-St. Paul.