They’re not finished with the closing ceremonies yet, and they won’t be shown here on the West Coast for several hours, but I’m already looking back on these Games. So much happened in what was a great meet. I want to take a look at several specific topics individually, but today just look back in general at the last week of competition.
Let me say off the top, I got it wrong on Bolt. Not because I doubt his ability – double WR holder at 9.58/19.19 . But because historically I’ve seen far too many "injured" athletes forced to give way to healthy ones – regardless of their superiority – including several in this meet. Suffice it to say that whatever "injuries" he was nursing were certainly not on par with those of Liu Xiang, Dayron Robles, Phillips Idowu, Lashawn Merritt, countryman Asafa Powell or several others who were done in by faulty body parts – and that’s just a partial London list, I could do an entire article on .”Injured Stars Throughout Olympic History”.
While his injuries weren’t on par, his performances were once again superior as Bolt was clearly one of the stars of these Games doubling at 9.63/19.32 and anchoring a WR relay. His charisma gains him the lions share of attention, but others also had great achievements. Host athletes Jessica Ennis (heptathlon) and Mo Farah (5k & 10) certainly giving Great Britain reason to cheer with sterling gold medal performances. Allyson Felix almost went unnoticed in earning her three gold medals, but it was the first such haul by a woman since 1988 as was her 47.8 4×4 split – one of the fastest in history and the first since the 80′s. Jamaica’s 36.84 and the United States 40.82 were both WRs and barrier breakers. As a matter of fact, the US mark may prove to be Beamonesque – we’ll see if it can be approached. I’d already said previously that I felt the men’s record was soft and I expect both Jamaica and the US to take further shots at it.
No disrespect to any of the above performers or performances, but the athlete of these Games, for me in terms of individual performance was David Rudisha. Bolt was clearly the performer of the meet, but what Rudisha did in that 800 will resonate for the next several decades. Breaking the 1:41 barrier was beyond historical, it was legendary – something almost incomprehensible. Yet he made it look routine, and dare I say that he may do it again before the season is over.
The crazy thing is, he may have to, as these Games showcased a youth movement unlike any I can remember in recent memory. For example, the 800 final had THREE teenagers in it, with silver going to teen Nigel Amos setting a WJR 1:41.73 – with Timothy Kitum, and Mohammad Aman in the top six! Yes, there was a youth movement taking place in this meet and the future was on display. Ryan Bailey, Keston Bledman, Jimmy Vicaut, and Adam Gemili in the 100. Warren Weir in the deuce. The 400 was full of kids with Kirani James, Luguelin Santos, Lalonde Gordon, Tony Mc Quay and a few others. Jumpers Christian Taylor, Will Claye. Javelin thrower Keshorn Walcott. And Decathlete Ashton Eaton all among the most prominent young people in London – and they were spread throughout the spectrum. This is just the tip of the iceberg as I predict that most of the old names we’ve become accustomed to at Worlds and the Games will soon be replaced by these and several others on the horizon. More later.
When you look at the youth movement, they are at the tip of another transition – that of smaller nations rising to the fore. We’ve become accustomed to Jamaica, Kenya, and Ethiopia as major players . But look out as here comes Trinidad, Turkey, Algeria, Grenada, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and several others. Yes the US, Great Britain, Russia, and Germany are still there and leading the pack, but the lead is getting smaller every day as more and more small nations are getting on the podium.
Another transition in these Games was the United States back into contention in the middle and long distance events. A place away from the podium in both 800 finals. A silver in the men’s 1500. Just missed a medal in the men’s 5000, a silver in the 10,000, 4th in the men’s marathon, and 19th & 11th in the women’s marathon. Most had given us up for dead in anything over 400 meters, but we’ve been on the move for a good three seasons now and we’re finally back in the medal conversation. On the flip side this was the worse showing in the men’s sprints since 1928! Never before I have seen such mass under performance. Granted the 100 meter sprinters performed well, but in the deuce and quarter that was embarrassing. Yes Merritt was injured, but no excuse for the others. Everyone in that 400 was young, so I can’t go there. And Spearmon is a veteran who watched the world run by. More on the state of sprinting another day soon.
I also think London showed this is a sport that is looking for and needs new icons. Yes we have Bolt, but I wish the sport would learn to use Rudisha. We have Felix who is bright and articulate – and vastly under used. She is everything that Marion was, and wasn’t! But the sport needs new stars. Look at all those that bowed out or had their difficulties in London: Liu Xiang, Lashawn Merritt, Jeremy Wariner, and Yelena Isinbsyeva, among others, Then we have events like the men’s long jump, women’s 1500, just waiting for someone to come along and take them back to prominence. There is so much potential in this sport but the powers that be seem to miss it continually. No offense to Bolt who is ever the showman, but the sport must learn to expand it’s base and utilize ALL of its stars. Rudisha is certainly the greatest athlete on the planet that no one knows about!
And NBC doesn’t help. They may have had the most hours of coverage ever, but track and field got screwed. Yes there was live Internet coverage, which at times was awesome, and at times thoroughly frustrating. But in America you expand via television, and coverage of track and field was confined to very late night spots that did a poor job of covering our athletes. I have no problem covering athletes from other nations, and focusing on the stars of the sport. But, and again no offense, but I have trouble when Oscar Pistorius and Caster Semenya get much better coverage than say Kellie Wells or Ryan Bailey – athletes unknown in this country with their own interesting stories to tell. I could go on and on, and may in the future, but I think you get the point.
Finally, prior to the start of this meet the athletes seemed to band together over the issue of their pay – and just how little they are getting. I’ve complained for years over the lack of a suitable pay structure in this sport – actually over the fact that there really isn’t one at all. I’m glad to see that the athletes are finally getting a bit fed up as well. I hope to hear more from them on this subject and that it wasn’t confined to a few frustrated moments at the world’s biggest spectacle. I’ll keep complaining even if they don’t, because it’s time for a change.
So there’s my start to following up on the Games.I’ll start taking a look at some individual topics next. OH, don’t forget that the DN Galen meet is up at the end of the week!