Our correspondents’ London memories

We asked our FOXSports.com Olympics correspondents to contribute short essays about their favorite memories from London. Here are their thoughts.

The Fierce Five inspired

I had never been into gymnastics — never been drawn into its drama, captivated by its beauty and nerves or affected by the performances that crush some dreams while completing others.

Until these Olympics. Until Jordyn Wieber shook under the weight of what she lost, and Gabby Douglas was lifted higher and happier than she’s ever been by the individual all-around gold she’d won, and the U.S. women’s team basked in the fact it had become the second American team to take home the team gold.

All of these things contributed to my conversion — my understanding, really — of all that gymnastics offers, the ways it reaches us emotionally. But it was my daughter who drove home the point.

I was sitting at the Greenwich Arena, waiting for another day of competition to go on, thinking about these things, when my wife emailed me. Did I have a second to video chat? My 3-year-old wanted to show me something.

My little girl is a bundle of joy and humor, soaking up the world now, seeing things every day we take for granted and reflecting them back to us. I turned on the video chat and, voila, she announced with no buildup and utter seriousness: “Daddy! I can do tricks! I can do gym-astics!”

And she did, running through our home in Kansas City, flinging herself onto the floor, doing what looked like a slow-motion, 1.2-scoring floor exercise. She’d been watching at home — as all of America had — at what the Fierce Five had accomplished.

And I saw it on that video screen, past the medals or dollars to be made or the glory to be had: A little girl, my little girl, simply inspired by what five American teenagers had done.

It was the purest and happiest moment for me of these games.

— Bill Reiter

Pistorius: London’s greatest hero

There is no Olympic adrenaline rush like watching Usain Bolt in the 100 meters. The 100 is the one event I won’t miss at an Olympics because of the vibe, from the cocky intros on.

The best part of an Olympics is actually in meeting people. Elaine Collins, at race walking — yes, race walking — talked about her daughter’s hopes of walking in the 2016 Rio Olympics. While training, her daughter takes flak from people who see her and think the sport looks funny. (It looks like my kids trying to get to the slide at the pool with the lifeguard yelling "NO RUNNING!”). She also explained how race walkers around the world truly act as a community. I have never had interest in race walking, but I learned something from some woman I just happened to meet in a crowd.

But my favorite Olympic memory is Oscar Pistorius, the Blade Runner. When he lined up, I was overcome by the feeling that I was watching society improve, through community. Some runners, fans and journalists had said Pistorius, the first amputee to run track in the Olympics, had an advantage because his blades are better than legs.

After Pistorius advanced to the 400-meter semifinal, I waited for him under the stadium and talked to Canadian runner Daundre Barnaby. Did he think Pistorius had an advantage? I’ll never forget what Barnaby said:

“He’s human. He’s human. So it doesn’t matter. He’s human just like the rest of us.’’

When Pistorius lost in the semifinal, Grenada’s Kirani James, the eventual gold medal winner, took off his nameplate and offered it to Pistorius, who took off his own and gave it to James.

James told me it was just spur of the moment. It was a beautiful thing: People watched, learned and became friends. That’s the Olympics.

— Greg Couch

Harrison fighting back

My favorite memory of the London Olympics wasn’t Gabby Douglas or Michael Phelps. It wasn’t Usain Bolt and Yohan Blake. It wasn’t the entire nation of Great Britain rumbling with joy over Jessica Ennis and Andy Murray and Mo Farah.

It was when a 22-year-old girl from Ohio, someone you’ve never heard of until a couple of weeks ago, stepped to the podium, accepted her gold medal and showed the world that every single one of us can get over the worst things in life and become our best.

I had met Kayla Harrison a few months before, when I visited the dojo near Boston where she now trains. ( Read story)

She had moved there for two reasons: Because she wanted to become America’s first judo gold medalist. And because she needed to escape the horrific experience in Ohio.

Harrison began judo as an 8-year-old girl when her mother wanted her to learn to protect herself. She was a prodigy, but soon her coach — a man 16 years her senior named Daniel Doyle, who’d take her to international tournaments with a reign of protection and fear over young Kayla — began to sexually abuse her. After years of abuse, Kayla finally walked into a courtroom to take the witness stand, and her former coach pleaded guilty and took a 10-year sentence.

She showed up in Boston as a broken teenage girl. But the two trainers at the dojo, two-time Olympic medalist Jimmy Pedro and his father, big Jim, made it their charge to build this girl back up.

They also happened to turn the joyful, lovable young lady into an Olympic gold medalist.

On the podium, tears streamed down Harrison’s cheeks. She’d began to talk publicly about her sexual abuse since the Jerry Sandusky scandal broke last year, but that was not what she thought about when she was being crowned an Olympic champion. She thought only of what she’d accomplished, not what she’d overcome.

It was a moment infused with more meaning than any athletic achievement at London 2012. To me, Kayla Harrison had become America’s greatest hero of these Olympics.

— Reid Forgrave

They kept us safe

My fear was palpable when I arrived in London — fear of terrorist attacks they said surely were coming and the lack of Brit preparedness for such an event. Fear is one of those funny emotions that can only be handled one way: Head on.

So every day I entered the Olympic Park anyway, and the British soldiers guarding the gates are my best memories.

They were a late addition, and their efforts were not without cost. The newspapers said use of troops at these games meant extending stays for others fighting in foreign lands and likely for themselves later. They were proud to be there, anyway. This was their country and their Olympics, and their presence said nothing is going to happen to you on my watch, not if I can help it. And nothing did.

It was because of them that Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt and Mo Farah were allowed to be the stars of these games, why maybe my favorite athlete, Russian swimmer Yevgeny Korotyshkin, was able finally to claim a medal after 12 years of trying to exit an Olympics with one, why Gabby Douglas and Jordan Burroughs were able to steal hearts.

We all are guilty sometimes of paying a lot of lip service to remembering the troops and who the real heroes are, myself included. Maybe, it was the daily walk past them, but I leave the games thinking about them and their American counterparts and all of those people who face far greater fear head-on, daily.

That is true national pride, and my hope is they get a Farah-like victory lap courtesy of their countrymen at some point. I know I will remember them fondly.

— Jen Floyd Engel

Women’s soccer: I’m sold

I made the decision to take the two-hour train ride from London to Manchester when I thought Great Britain would play the United States in the semifinals of women’s soccer.

Team GB vs. the world’s best soccer team would be a hoot inside Old Trafford, the home of Manchester United, England’s answer to the Green Bay Packers and Lambeau Field.

Well, the Brits got derailed and suddenly Canada stood between Team USA, Hope Solo and the gold-medal game. When it comes to women’s soccer, Canada is our Washington Generals, losers of nearly 30 straight to Team USA.

I stuck with my travel plans because I wanted to visit a city soccer-crazy enough to be home to two mammoth soccer stadiums five miles apart. I had no idea I would witness the greatest women’s soccer game ever played. I had even less of an idea that Canada’s Christine Sinclair would make me fall in love with the women’s game.

In the final 30 seconds of extra time, in a game that lasted more than three hours and was as physical as a rugby match, Alex Morgan knocked in a header to end the match 4-3 and advance the US to a showdown with Japan. But it was Sinclair who made the biggest impression on this soccer novice, as she nearly single-handedly beat the world’s No. 1 squad, scoring all three Canadian goals.

Her impact was so great and her presence so overpowering that I couldn’t take my eyes off her. I’ll never forget Sinclair. She was my favorite athlete of these games. She made my trek to Manchester worthwhile.

— Jason Whitlock

Coping with unmet expectations

My lasting impression of the London Games is not of Bolt, Wiggo, Phelps, Gabby, Ennis, Misty and Kerri, or LeBron. It is not of the winners, but of the ones who might have been.

In this polyglot of cultures, sports and status, there were just as many ways to lose. And how they reacted said much about who these athletes, many of whom I had never covered, are.

Mark Cavendish, when he did not win his expected gold for Great Britain in the cycling road race – far from it, in 28th place – complained that his showing was the fault of Australians and others, who had conspired against him.

The Japan women’s soccer coach Norio Sasaki, after his team’s 2-1 loss to the United States, had consoled his players, who were in tears on the field. “If I look at it objectively, they all played well,” he said. “There is nothing we should be ashamed of.”

Marc Gasol, who scored 17 points in 17 minutes, could not do more to help Spain beat the United States because he was in severe foul trouble. Asked about the officiating, Gasol declined comment because to do so, he said, would be to disrespect the game and the winners.

The Olympics can be the best of times and the worst of times, yes, but these games spoke to me through Dickens another way: how we handle the disappointment of Great Expectations.

— Billy Witz