Monday, April 21, 2008

Something to ponder in the wake of Deena's Olympic Trials win...

While writing yesterday's post on the women's marathon trials in Boston, I was steered towards an article by Liz Robbins of the New York Times previewing the Trials race.

Deena Kastor is quoted in this article extensively; however, one quote jumps out at me:

“For me, it’s not about just being happy to be here, but for a lot of people it is,” Kastor said.

Unknowingly or not, Deena's statement essentially called out the women's long distance running community for what I said in a 2000 op-ed piece in Northwest Runner.

In that article, I said, "the mentality in the USATF women’s long distance community is like AYSO youth soccer where everyone plays, and is more concerned with generating feel-good stories (i.e. number of working moms competing, high participation numbers, ad nauseum), instead of focusing on making the top female runners more competitive against world-class competition."

The NY Times article further quotes Kastor as saying that a soft qualifying standard did not encourage the competition, “but I’m not really sure what will.” She added that great performances could inspire people.

For now, she said, “the ‘happy to be here’ mentality has also hurt us in the Olympic Games.”

“People strive to be as fit as possible just for the Olympic trials,” she said, “and when the Olympics come along, they’re just happy to be a part of it. I wanted to break that cycle when I went to the Olympics the last time.”

Phil Hersh of the Chicago Tribune, perhaps one of this country's most respected writers on the Olympics, summed up Kastor's thoughts in an article he wrote eight years ago as the phenomenon known as "'Olympic tourism'--sending athletes who have no chance to make the top-8, a distinction that earns a certificate, let alone no chance at a medal.”

To read the NY Times article, please go here...

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