With the exception of the relay debacle, the Tokyo track results do not signal the danger of the United States ima
The United States has historically been bad at men’s athletics at the Tokyo Olympics.
For the first time since the modern Olympics began in 1896, American men failed to win any individual gold medals on the track. Zero. None on the track until the last event, the 1,600-meter relay.
The men won two gold medals, 10 in total. Previous lows were 3 and 14 respectively, both in 2012.
However, be warned: other than a comically poor result in the 400-meter relay, there is no reason to be alarmed at USA Track & Field, a governing body headquartered in Indianapolis.
Yes, the USATF needs to address what Carl Lewis has rightly called a “clown show” in the relay. And it was a shame that the relay runners were left to explain what happened when no USATF executive or coach stepped forward to soak up the contempt.
A simplified explanation: they weren’t training enough, and the good men weren’t running with the right legs.
The 26 total medals for the United States were in line with other Olympics since 1984 (when a boycott skewed the results): 26, 30, 23, 15, 25, 25, 28, 32. The 32 in Rio were the most in. a non-boycott of the Olympics from Los Angeles in 1932, and it is unbearable.
Additionally, several athletes suggested the team would have benefited from a pre-Olympic training camp, which was canceled due to pandemic concerns.
Tim Layden of NBC Sports (and formerly of Sports Illustrated) summed up the state of the sport:
“American athletics is a business that stretches across the country, from small rural towns to urban centers. . . . In times of concern over the performance of the United States team in the world championships, or when medal-bearing superstars reach retirement age; one often wonders if the “American system” needs an overhaul to continue winning. There is no American system.
“There are local high schools and colleges and junior track programs. There are thousands of coaches, teachers, volunteers and other supporters, the vast majority (but not all) modestly paid, a quilt woven from a common passion for their ancestral sport. (There are also shoe and clothing companies, whose support is evolving, but has historically been concentrated at the highest levels and often of little value to developing athletes). Nothing needs to be revised.
The women of the American team have been great and have been great. They had five gold medals and 15 medals in total, up from six and 16 in 2016 and six and 14 in 2012.
This team is so strong that after 2016 silver medalist Sandi Morris injured her hip, another American, Katie Nageotte, won gold.
And the women had the most glaring collapse. The hammer throwers have been ranked 1-2-4 in the world, and no one has finished higher than eighth. (Amber Campbell, a Pike High School graduate, sixth in 2016, remains America’s top women’s hammer at the Olympics.)
Sydney McLaughlin, 21, and Athing Mu, 19, are not American stars. They are global. Same with Gabby Thomas, 24, who is not only the third fastest of all time at 200 meters, but also has a pedigree at Harvard.
The way sport takes a back seat after the Olympics, maybe the public will forget about it until Paris 2024. But there is a window to keep sport center stage with world championships in Eugene , Oregon, in 2022.
Back to men:
>> They didn’t win the 100 meters: Converted quarter-mile Fred Kerley won silver, and world champion Christian Coleman was absent for missing too many doping controls.
>> They didn’t win the 200 meters: they went 2-3-4, and Erriyon Knighton, fourth, is 17.
>> They did not win a medal in the 400 meters: Michael Norman, who finished fifth, will one day come out. Norman, 23, holds the world indoor record. A long varsity season wore 20-year-old Randolph Ross who couldn’t get out of the heats. Ross’s NCAA time, 43.85, was the same as Bahamas gold medalist Steven Gardiner.
>> They did not win a medal in the 800 meters. 24-year-old Donovan Brazier is the world champion but was not part of the squad.
>> They didn’t win the 110-meter hurdles. Grant Holloway, 23, made a mistake but is the world champion. Devon Allen was fourth.
>> They didn’t win the 400-meter hurdles. Rai Benjamin, 24, broke the old world record. Sean Burrell, 19, was not on the team but set an NCAA Under-20 world record of 47.85.
>> They did not win a medal in the 1500 meters. Cole Hocker is 20 years old. Wait until he runs on his track at the 2022 World Championships. Epic.
JuVaughn Harrison was the first to represent the United States team in the high jump and long jump since Jim Thorpe in 1912. Harrison was seventh and fifth respectively. He is 22 years old.
Shot putter Ryan Crouser, 28, is the most dominant athlete in sport, or perhaps any sport. As a pitcher, he could aim for a fourth gold in Los Angeles in 2028.
Nothing needs to be revised. Except this annoying sprint stint.
Contact IndyStar reporter David Woods at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter: @ DavidWoods007.