With words like "elegance and power," "dazzling" and "magnificent versatility," sportswriters lavished their praise on Olympic gymnast Nastia Liukin of Texas.
But when she won the gold medal in all-around women's gymnastics, the headline "Golden Grace" seemed to say it best.
Nastia was one of nearly 100 athletes on the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team at Beijing who live in Texas or have Texas ties. With the help of "Team Texas," America led the world in total medals with 110. In a state where football is king, these Olympians demonstrated that Texas also is a training ground for world-class athletes in a wide range of sports.
The Lopez siblings from Sugar Land made the U.S. taekwondo team a family affair. They became the first set of three siblings in a century to compete in the same Olympic sport. Mark won a silver despite a broken bone in his hand. Steven and Diana each earned a bronze. Their brother, Jean, coached the U.S. team.
Katy native Glenn Eller, on active duty in the U.S. Army, brought recognition to our armed forces when he set two world records in trapshooting en route to the gold medal.
Swimmers with ties to the University of Texas and Longhorn Aquatics joined Michael Phelps on the history-making U.S. team. Eight Texas swimmers won gold, with Aaron Peirsol and Garrett Weber-Gale each achieving two gold medals.
Track stars Sanya Richards from UT and Jeremy Wariner from Baylor each won a gold, running in their respective 4x400m relay teams. Former UT star Cat Osterman pitched for the silver medal U.S. softball team and Texas A&M alum Stacy Sykora played on the silver medal volleyball team. Houston native Jonathan Horton won silver in men's gymnastics.
Texas athletes have built a proud tradition of success in the Summer Olympics. None is more memorable than Babe Didrikson of Beaumont who won gold medals in the javelin and hurdles at the 1932 Games. An all-around athlete who later starred in professional golf, she was voted the world's greatest woman athlete of the half-century in 1950.
Track superstar Carl Lewis competed for the University of Houston and went on to win nine gold medals in four consecutive Olympic games from 1984 to 1996. Sprinter Michael Johnson of Dallas won five gold medals in three Olympics.
Bobby Morrow from San Benito became a triple gold medalist in track at the 1956 games in Melbourne and was proclaimed "fastest human." A&M's Randy Matson hurled the shot put to Olympic gold medals twice during the 1960s.
Athletes came to the Olympics with resumes full of national and international titles and championships. We are inspired both by the effort of all Olympians and by the triumph of dreams, sacrifice, teamwork and a dogged quest to be the best.
Swimmer Eric Shanteau, who trains in Austin, arrived in Beijing with something else: testicular cancer and the decision of a lifetime. Stunned by the news but blessed with an early diagnosis, he decided to postpone surgery until after he competed. Teammate Dara Torres called him "the real hero on this team."
On the "Wide World of Sports," the late and beloved American sportscaster Jim McKay talked about "the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat." Our American athletes in Beijing were humble in victory and gracious in defeat. Mixing with athletes from around the globe, they experienced the Olympic spirit of healthy competition, friendship and goodwill.
The Olympic ideals are as important today as they ever were. Athletes come home forever changed by the Olympic experience. So are all of us who had the pleasure of watching them.
John Cornyn is the U.S. Senator for the state of Texas. Readers may contact him via telephone at (202) 224-2934.