Drama and Disappointment
BEIJING BY THE NUMBERS
Who came out on top at the Games?
SHOCKS THE WORLD
THE NEXT IN LINE
Discus technical analysis - Part 2
GROUND vs. AIR
TIPS AND ANALYSIS...
...in the javelin throw
Catching Up With Throw 1 Deep
LETTER FROM THE EDITOR
By GLENN THOMPSON
Thereís nothing to grab your attention on television like the words from the host or news anchor warning the upcoming footage is graphic in nature and may not be suitable for young children.
Do we turn away from the screen? Change the channel?
If you say you do, Iím calling you a bold-faced liar, right here, right now. Youíre like the rest of us. Admit it.
You turn up the sound and inch closer, because no matter how horrific the sight, human nature draws us to horrific images. Itís just human nature to gawk. How many traffic jams have you been in where the accident is in the opposite lane, but everyone heading the other way (including myself) has to slow and take in the carnage.
Thus it was for American track fans in Beijing. The center of the sporting universe for the third week of August was exactly twelve hours from the Eastern time zone in the good ole U.S. of A. The actual track and field updates for most of us came via ESPN or other news outlets. The viewing had to wait until primetime, interspersed with other Olympic events.
Watching most Olympic track events was like watching a documentary of some historic event that might have happened decades ago. Just as we knew JFK died from an assassinís bullet and the Allies won the Big One, we were drawn to watch outcomes we already knew, no matter how unknowing NBC host Bob Costas pretended to be. To view the events, no matter how belated, filled in the howís and whyís of the Olympiad.
And the news that streamed out of Beijing that preceded the televised coverage was unrelentingly bad for fans of the star-studded star-spangled runners, throwers and jumpers, particularly early in the week. Yes, there were golden moments for the Americans. But there was a lot of bitter to go with the sweet.
It started with the menís shot, where all notions of an American dream team sweep was dispatched before the final three throws. Only a clutch effort by the much-maligned Christian Cantwell got the Americans on the podium.
And from there, there was consistent disappointment in event-after-event, day-after-day. For every Stephanie Brown-Trafton miracle moment, there were no finals qualifiers in multiple events.
For every U.S. sweep in the flat 400m and 400m, there was a Jamaican sweep of all the short sprint golds, both male and female, including a sweep of the womenís 100m. Or Lolo Jones heartbreaking crash and burn just two hurdles away from immortality. And the Americans, of both genders, dropping the stick in the 400M relay qualifying.
As the week progressed, I became gun shy about checking ESPN.com, lest I find that some other shocking disappointment had just occurred in the Birdís Nest.
But damned if I didnít tune into NBC each evening to watch the carnage I already knew to be fact.
Am I being a bit harsh? The 23 medals won by the team matches the medal tally won in Atlanta in 1996 and exceeds the 17 won in Sydney. But accounting can be as much art as science. I consider myself a glass half-full type, but for some reason, the disappointments are what lingered with me. And I was not alone in my assessment. The Ring (www.effortlessthrow.org) was abuzz with theories about and scorn for our throwers. Trafton-Brown drew praise, but she generated relatively little commentary compared to the five throwing events where Team USA failed to advance a single athlete.
The sense of underachievement was palpable in Beijing from none other than newly-minted USATF President Doug Logan, who blogged on the subject before the track and field competition had yet to conclude.
Post-Olympiad, Logan promised a review of the High Performance program.
"I wondered why we appeared not to be generating peak performances for the year, whereas others, whether in our sport or other disciplines, were achieving PRs and world records. I questioned whether the areas in which we seemed to underperform were the result of a fluke and bad luck, or if they were reflective of a systemic problem."
The lack of American throws success can be witnessed in these pages. As I have with the last two Olympiads, I reached out to the throwers (mostly American, but Europeans also) whom I have some acquaintance with and asked for their free-form thoughts of Beijing. I asked both before and after the Games, and received a meager two responses. Uno, Dos.
They were in the midst of the wreckage that we witnessed. And apparently they were in no hurry relive the carnage that we couldnít help but watch.*L&S*