Sunday, August 17, 2008

Analysis of the first three days of Olympic track & field competition...

While corresponding with Parker Morse, who is running the live blog for the IAAF web site in Beijing, we talked about a very innocent comment made by US Olympic men’s head coach Bubba Thornton (left/photo courtesy University of Texas) to members of the media attending the Track & Field Writers of America breakfast in Eugene.

Thornton, whose real job is as head coach at the University of Texas, stated to everyone in attendance that how the men’s shot putters perform on day 1 of the Olympic track & field competition, would set the tone for how Team USA will perform during the meet.

Boys and girls, Thornton’s words are prophetic.

With three days of competition down, this team is underperforming.

The trio of Reese Hoffa, Christian Cantwell, and Adam Nelson, who many folks thought would sweep the shot put medals have exactly one medal (Cantwell’s silver) between the three of them. In fact, Cantwell probably doesn’t medal if not for a big come-through in round six from a guy who has a spotty record in big international meets (albeit, he’s won a world indoor title).

Reigning world indoor and outdoor champion Reese Hoffa, who was on a roll entering the Games, only managed a seventh place finish, and Adam Nelson, a two-time Olympic medalist who entered the meet with a rib injury, fouled on all three attempts.

Not a good way to start this meet.

So far this weekend, all three women’s 800 meter runners couldn’t get out of the first round; Tyson Gay, who also entered the Olympics hurt, couldn’t break 10 seconds in the 100 and missed the finals; Hyleas Fountain, who’s good enough to make the Olympic team in the long jump, needed a personal best in the 800 to save her from finishing out of the medals in the heptathlon after a sub-par long jump; no men’s discus throwers made the finals, and two of the three women’s marathoners failed to finish, including Athens silver medalist Deena Kastor, who had what turned out to be a broken right foot.

Tonight, the Jamaicans swept the medals in the women’s 100, an event that the American trio of Lauryn Williams, Muna Lee & Torri Edwards should’ve gotten at least one medal.

If I had to pick one event that sticks out so far, it has to be the men’s long jump, an event in which the USA has medaled in every Olympics, except the boycotted Moscow Games, and the Sydney Games eight years ago.

The American trio of Trevell Quinley, Brian Johnson, and Miguel Pate were never factors in qualifying. In fact, it took 7.94 meters (26-0.75) to make the finals!

For the love of Carl Lewis, Mike Powell, and Bob Beamon, what the hell’s going on with these guys?!?

After three days of competition at the National Stadium, Team USA has produced four medals, none gold.

Team USA’s laid a goose egg at the Bird’s Nest.

Last December in Las Vegas, USA Track & Field High Performance chairman Brooks Johnson, who was on the committee that helped select Thornton to lead the Olympic team, told a gathering of America’s top coaches at the Podium Project seminar that 25-27 medals was the goal for the Olympics.

At the Olympic Trials, the talk amongst folks in the know was that this squad had the potential to equal or surpass the 26 medals earned at the World Championships in Osaka last year.

After seven completed events, the Americans only have four to show, from Cantwell, Fountain, Walter Dix (100m), and Shalane Flanagan (10000).

By my projections, this team is on pace for 20-22 medals when this meet ends next week.

While it’s too early for the rest of the world to scream the old Rick Neuheisel quote, “Scoreboard, baby!” unless some of the other athletes on Team USA start coming through this week, 26 medals may be a reach.

Then again, as one wag posted on, “The US performance or lack of, reminds me of some (of) Bubba Thornton's coached UT teams (in) the past. They look great on paper but bad in the arena.”

Wonder if Bubba wants to take back what he said in Eugene?

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