-USA Didn’t Fair Badly At All On The Track.
Winning an Olympic gold amounts to catching lightning in a bottle. Elusive. Precious. Difficult. No matter how great an athlete, in order to win an Olympic medal of any kind, everything must go perfectly.
If an injury develops, such as the case for hurdler Terrence Trammell, or if like Lolo Jones you clip a hurdle, then it’s done. There is nothing you can do if the recovery time is not enough for Tyson Gay to be 100%. Or, if your body is not feeling at its best, as was the case with Sanya Richards, then the favorite comes out with a bronze.
For the world, Usain Bolt walked away as the new megastar of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games—mainly because most countries care more about track than swimming. The precocious Jamaican cleaned up in the 100, 200, and 400-meter relay in world record time in all three events, along with the successes of his countrymen.
The outing for Team USA on the track was not quite as bad as the media would lead one to believe.
Sure the U.S. men and women botched hands-offs in the 4x100 meter relays. That almost certainly would have added to the medal count.
However, Team USA had an extremely good showing. Maybe, head coach Bubba Thornton saying, "This is probably the strongest team we've ever sent to the Olympic Games," was an overstatement, but never the less, the US had great successes in Beijing.
Here’s a quick look at the facts.
USA Track & Field earned 23 medals. Of that seven gold, nine silver, seven bronze. That is just one gold and two total medals fewer than Athens, which had been the best U.S. performance since 1992.
Bryan Clay is the world’s greatest all-around athlete after dominating the decathlon, LaShawn Merritt scored an upset in the 400, Stephanie Brown Trafton unexpectedly won the first U.S. discus gold medal in nearly a century, Angelo Taylor led a U.S. sweep of the 400-meter hurdles, and Sanya Richards ran a legendary anchor leg to win gold for Team USA.
By any account that is pretty good stuff.
Yeah, USA Track & Field as an agency is in dire need of improvement, but that does not in any way diminish the U.S. athletes and their performances while representing this country.
Maybe the slight by NBC in television coverage, the disastrous relays results, and the less than desired results on the track will light a fire for change with USA Track & Field executive management.
The international landscape of track & field has been changing for at least the last decade, and much like USA Basketball, the Olympic selection process for track needs some minor modifications. I think some of the performance issues related issues were due to dead legs or fatigue in Beijing.
The process to provide for more recovery time after the grueling Olympic Trials must now be a priority. In order to earn a paycheck , a majority of Team USA ran in Europe at least several times after the Olympics Trials and before heading to Beijing.
The closing of the games feel as though something important is coming to the end. Something magical. Something we will have to wait another four years to see.
It's safe to say they do everything big in China. The 2008 Beijing Games displayed state-of-the art venues, a sense of history & culture, and amazing athletic performances that sometimes left you in utter disbelief.
The ball is in your court now, London.
By Jay Hicks.