The CHill Zone of T&F: Conway's View From the Finish Line

London Olympics – General Wrap Up

Aug 13th, 2012
4:23 pm PDT

David Rudisha2 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.

Allyson Felix2Another 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!

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4 Responses to “London Olympics – General Wrap Up”

  1. Jim says:

    Forgive me if I ramble a little bit, but here are some of my own post-Games observations. The coverage by NBC, while extensive, still lacks so much. I love Dwight Stones and think he is the best guy doing track and field. More than just the field events, he knows all the events, especially the technical aspects, quite well. Tom Hammond is Ok, but I’d rather have Paul Sunderland. He does a great job on Diamond League meets, even though his roots are in volleyball. Lawrence Johnson is Ok, given the little bit that they let him do, but I’d like to see a fresh face and this would be a great opportunity to introduce a woman to the mix. I think I’ve had enough of Ato Bolden, despite being a huge UCLA fan. He’s become too repetitious and predictable and he misses too many key observations. For instance, something that I was screaming to know, that nobody addressed, was how Liu Xiang looked warming up for that race. You would think that after he had pulled out of that meet a couple weeks prior to the Games, that all eyes and cameras would be on him the moment he stepped on that track. His body is suspect and that kinesio tape on his “healed” achilles, absent at the Prefontaine meet, should have raised eyebrows. So I don’t even know if he hurdled in his warmup. What I do know, is the look on his face when he got in those blocks betrayed what was about to happen. I think he knew before the gun went off that this was the end. And for the life of me, I don’t understand why we can see so much footage of other Olympic events, or even minute after minute of long distance races and marathons, but NBC can’t find the time to show every heat of the sprints and hurdles or more than just the medal winning efforts in field events. We’re talking about efforts that last in the small seconds to just under a minute for women’s 400 hurdles. Come on already! I find it shameful that we had certain Olympians, in a range of different track events and sports, who never once had their name nor face on TV!

    The bio they did on David Rudisha was very interesting. I don’t know where his appearance money goes, but it’s certainly not into the trappings of wealth. I was struck by the stark contrast between him and the average western or Asian world-class athlete. He lives in a humble village that most Americans would think smacks of poverty. His life is simple and he’s happy there. His motivations are intrinsic and noble, not driven by commercial opportunities and recognition. His performance, while expected, was fantastic in how he went about it, dropping the field on his third 200. My great disappointment was not getting to see him on their 4 X 400 relay. I was certain we would see an other-wordly split from him.
    I was disappointed in the performances of some of our best jumpers, Marquise Goodwin, Brad Walker, Chaunte Lowe and Jesse Williams, but their “failures” just highlight how dependent world-class performance is upon the smallest of factors – steps, wind, weather, health, confidence, sleep, diet, and what’s going on at home. When I think how easy it is for something to go wrong, I am even more awestruck by the Herculean accomplishments of Carl Lewis winning four consecutive Olympic gold medals in the long jump or Al Oerter’s four titles in the discus – with one .gold coming from broken ribs! Clearly, great performance in field events, as in the hurdles, has as much to do with luck as it does with skill.

    Aires Merrit got the job done in the 110 HH, but I was bummed that the event lost much of it’s lustre when Liu Xiang injured out an. d Dayron Robles DNF’ed. Our future will alway s be bright in the hurdles. The 400 IH was a surprise. I watched Felix Sanchez just a month before the Games and didn’t think he looked sharp enough to pull off a win, but he was flawless in the final. As for Angelo Taylor, I wasn’t surprised at all. He never looked like his old self through Diamond League meets, the Trials and the heats leading up to that final.

    I think the women’s 100 HH went as I expected. Sally Pearson is clearly the best hurdler in the world, both technically and in pure speed. I dont think there’s another hurdler in the world who could beat her in a 100 m sprint. Dawn Harper and Kelli Wells were great on the track and absolutely horrid and self-serving off it. Do those two girls deserve some press, especially Harper? Yes, absolutely. Should they vilify their teammate Lolo Jones in seeking that attention? No, never! It’s not her fault that the media took to her story and sponsors flocked to her great face and personality. I’m sure Lolo never told them to ignore Dawn or Kelli. But for them to blame her for their lack of attention was downright petty and bitchy. All they brought themselves was negative attention and scorn, which is hardly appealing to the sponsors they want. As for Lolo, like Angelo Taylor, she hadnt looked sharp all outdoor season. To be honest, I think her making the team and then finishing fourth in the Olympic final were huge accomplishments, especially in light of the fact that she had spinal surgery just a year out from the Olympics. Ultimately, she lacked speed between the hurdles, but given all she had gone through in a year, and back-biting teammates in her event and that stupid NY Times article, it’s a wonder she did as well as she did.

    The women’s 400 H were great, despite Lashinda Demus’ silver finish. I love that girl! She is totally focused and did not hesitate to affirm that she will definitely be back for another shot at her most significant goal, Olympic gold. That will be an uphill climb all the way, especially as she contends with the challenges of age, motherhood, and rising competition, starting with Georgeann Moline. That girl, still so very new to the event, has tremendous potential. She is particularly tough on the homestretch when so many hurdlers yield to fatigue. I think that this is an event where we will see a lot of improvement world-wide over the next four years.

    We’re gradually improving in distances. Galen Rupp was great, Leo Manzano was surprising, and our 800 guys, Solomon and Simonds, though not medaling, were sub-1:43 remarkable. Another missed kuddo by the announcers was how very close Solomon came to breaking the long-held American record of his coach, Johnny Gray.

    The decathlon looks secure for the future. And over and above the accomishments of Ashton Eaton and Trey Hardee, we have several great young athletes like Curtis Beach and Gunnar Nixon on the way up. And as good as Eaton is, Hardee can beat him on a great day. On the women’s side, I think we should be much better and deeper in the heptathlon. I don’t think we encourage enough good athletes into this event.
    I’d like to see us add multis in high school, at least at the state championship level.

    Finally, I’m not sure what’s up with throws in our country. It’s totally illogical to me that we have such a hard time just making the finals in those events, let alone earning medals. We have great coaches, great strength trainers, great facilities, great money, and great frustration every year. Especially strange to me, is why we have such difficulty in developing javelin throwers. Given all the tall quarterbacks and pitchers that we have (and they can’t all go pro), and they’re already used to weight training, why can’t we compete with the best in the world?! This and the hammer are two other events that, at the least, need state championship level exposure in our country.

    That’s it, sorry I’m long-winded. I think this was a great games for USA track and field. We have a lot of upside and the athletes and resources to get better in everything. I’m pumped for our future!

    • CHill says:

      Feel free to speak your peace … I would like to see new commentators for track in the US … I prefer the European model of not over talking a meet and letting the meet present itself …

      I think that Moline is the future of the intermediate hurdles – at least here in the United States … Tall, long legs, and most importantly heart … She doesn’t give up and just keeps driving … I think she will end up under 53 … Like I said earlier, we’ve been making strides in the middle and long distances for several years now … Things are really happening up in Oregon especially … I’m not saying we’re ready to take over, but we’re definitely competitive, especially in races where it requires racing as opposed to just running fast – which is why I felt we would do well at the Games … And Solomon is a Johnny Gray clone – which is why I liked his chances … I don’t think he’s at his potential yet … Barring injury he will lower the AR … And I think he has a great “partner” here in the US in Charles Jock – another front runner … I think they have the potential to push each other to some special things going forward ..

      I’m disappointed in our field events over all … Yes we went one two in the triple jump, and got medals in the high jump and shot put … But we have dropped precipitously in the men’s pole vault, discus, long jump, and javelin … Events we SHOULD be competitive in … And yes we were challenging in the long jump, but at 27 feet !!! We should have two or three 28 footers !! And I have NO idea why we can’t develop “weight” men … granted it’s not all strength and there is a lot of technical work to do, but come on !!!

  2. Jim says:

    You’re right, our commentators really are a verbose bunch. The absolute worst is Ato Bolden! I swear, that guy is hell-bent on talking all the way up until the gun – always! What’s irritating to me, is to hear him regurgitate athlete trivia that I have heard repeatedly from him (ie. “Sally Pearson is the most technically perfect hurdler in the world!”) while failing to note other interesting things like Briane Theissen, a 3 X NCAA champion in the hep at Oregon, was in the same heptathlon hurdles heat with Jessica Ennis and Hyleas Fountaine. I also watched Kerron Clement finish dead last in the 400 IH and he didn’t he bother to mention that inexplicable result. Yeah, I’m ready for some new talent in the booth.

    • CHill says:

      Our announcers, in all sports at the Games, trend to speak to the lowest common denominator – the person tuning in that knows nothing ..The fan doesn’t need to be educated even when they know little .. If you care enough to watch you will pick up what is going on .. And of you speak add of the person watching isn’t a novice I think they will get up to speed .. Personally I think it’s the nuances that make sport interesting, not the basics .. So don’t tell me Rudisha is running fast, tell me his first 200 & 400 are at WR pace and we are watching something special ..

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