A golden day at the Olympics

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Over the weekend, Brit Andy Murray (left) beat Swiss player Roger Federer, earning the first gold medal for England in more than 100 years. Photo by Pamela Conley Ulich

Former Malibu Mayor Pamela Conley Ulich is in London for the 2012 Summer Olympics. On Sun., Aug. 5, the Olympic tennis teams hit the courts.

By Pamela Conley Ulich / Special to The Malibu Times

The day started off with a proper English shower of rain, followed by puffy clouds and fresh air. I was finally able to wear the big rain boots that took up way too much room in my suitcase. I used this opportunity to walk through puddles while the crowds next to me had to weave in and out of the pools of water on the trek to Wimbledon to watch the women’s singles and men’s doubles golden matches.

On Saturday, we witnessed Serena Williams blow Sharapova off the grass. Sharapova grunted loudly every time she hit the ball, but the grunts didn’t help her win more than one game the whole day. Serena was dignified and as elegant as ever, and won 6-0, 6-1. The tennis-player and fashion designer was dressed for success, and I knew she was expecting to win the gold because she wore a big golden hair tie that matched her gold medal perfectly. Talk about accessorizing! The ceremony was beautiful, but eventful when the American flag flew right off its hinges and hit the ground. The flag faux pas didn’t keep Serena from smiling and jumping up and down for joy after the national anthem finished.

Bob and Mike Bryan, known as the Bryan Brothers, followed suit with another golden performance, beating the French team 6-4, 7-6. The games were filled with volleys and hits, but the Bryan brothers, who are from Camarillo, never lost their composure or the pep in their step. The duo bounced up and down between points like bunnies in a Duracell battery commercial. The twins worked in unison as one and seemed to know what the other was thinking without having to speak much, while the French team consulted with each other nearly every point.

Sunday morning, the indefatigable, determined Williams sisters won yet another gold for team USA in women’s doubles, easily defeating Czech Republic duo Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka 6-4, 6-4. This victory was a repeat of last month’s Wimbledon final, when the Williams sisters also won in straight sets on Centre Court.

By all accounts, team USA is the tennis powerhouse, with three out of a possible five gold medals and one bronze, but this sunny Sunday was the big day for England.

England, despite hosting one of the world’s most famous tennis matches, has not won a title at Wimbeldon for 76 years, and has not won a single gold medal in tennis for more than 100 years. In 1908, when London hosted the Olympics, England won all six gold medals. The events included four gold matches exclusively for men (mens’ singles, doubles, indoor singles and indoor doubles) and two gold matches for women (women’s singles and doubles; there were no indoor events for women).

Today, the Swiss cool-as-a-cucumber Roger Federer faced the English smiling-man Andy Murray. Only four weeks ago, to the day, Federer had blown Murray to pieces and won the Wimbeldon title, but today was different in many ways.

The normally austere Wimbeldon crowd, filled with “proper” people who whisper and say “shhh” after points, was replaced by screaming Union Jack fans doing the wave and screaming after nearly every point. It reminded me of being at a USC versus UCLA football game, only all of the fans were rooting for one team: GB!

It started to get hot, and I knew Federer was getting tired when he kept asking for a towel. Meanwhile, Murray was jumping around on his side of the court soaking in the hometown advantage. Although Federer appeared to have more pep in his step after he ate a banana during a break, his bubble soon fizzled, and I was not surprised when Murray beat Federer in three straight sets, 6-2, 6-1, 6-4.

Federer immediately left the arena after the loss, while Murray jumped into crowd, giving his girlfriend, mother and even a little boy, hugs. The crowd went wild. It was as if they had won more than just a gold medal, they had restored their pride in their country and inspired themselves and their children to believe that anything is possible.