So – What in the Hell Just Happened?

Men’s Track & Field Performances-So Disappointing!

I am with Carl Lewis. “It was a total embarrassment, and completely unacceptable …” for the U. S, Track & Field (men’s running) teams disappointing performance.

The 4 x 100m relay

Before I can begin to deal with the embarrassment of the familiar faces not even being in the 4 x 100-meter relay race, or that the U. S. team came in sixth place in the qualifying heats, I have to first get over my unending bewilderment of what happened a few days ago in the 100-meter sprint. 

Allow me to digress for a moment.

I am kicked back on the sofa downstairs, watching the replay of one of the Olympic events-I can’t recall which one and my wife comes down the stairs on her way to the kitchen to make some of her world-famous chili and says, “is that the 100 meter final you’re watching, and I say no”. Then, she says “ have you watched the 100-meter finals, again I say no.”

So, what could this surprise be? These events have been dominated by U. S. athletes in general and black athletes in particular. Using my sequential viewing technique I’ll mention later, I had already seen all of the semi-final heats and had a pretty good idea as to who was in the final of this event. Still, I pondered my wife’s question with keen interest.

You see, I am all in during the Olympic games and I will watch a few minutes of almost [I say almost] any event. I may have been watching a recorded Equestrian event, or maybe it was the women’s rugby finals or even Canoe Slalom. It doesn’t matter, as I said earlier, I am all in and will watch almost any Olympic event — except, basketball, golf, and wrestling, to name a few. Sorry, I just don’t give a crap about either of these sports.

Back to my wife’s question of “have you watched the 100-meter final.” She then says you’re going to be surprised. No, I wasn’t going to ask her what the surprise was, as the answer to that question would have spoiled all the fun. I didn’t spend a lot of time on the question as I wasn’t about to break my routine of watching the recordings of the events I love and not getting off course. I stayed with my 2-year plan to follow the games’ events in sequential order.

Question answered — mystery solved!

After lumbering through another fifteen minutes of viewing some of the more tepid events, I finally catch up to today’s premier event, the results of the 100-meter final. And whoa behold. Who woulda thunk it? There stands Lamont Marcell Jacobs of Italy, posing for the camera.

Photo Credit: Olympics-Athletics – Lamont Marcell Jacobs of Italy, posing for the
camera after winning 100 Meter Sprint in Tokyo – 2021

Who the hell would have guessed that an Italian sprinter had won the 100-meter sprint. Italy, the 100 meters? Did we give this cherished event away to the Italians? What is this world coming to? 

Okay, I know a lion is a pretty fast predator, but he is no match for the speed of a Cheetah. Italy vs the USA in sprints, get it? Okay. my bad. I could have done better.

The Italians take the 100 meters and the 4 x 100m relay

After the 100 meters and 400-meter hurdles debacle, I asking myself “What the hell just happened? Before I can solve that riddle, I am hit with the fact that the men don’t even qualify for the 4 x 100m relay semi’s and thus the finals. Reason: they came in sixth place in their heat. Sixth place!

Okay, they were having a bad day you say. Well, let’s go back to the 2008 Beijing Olympics. The relay team was eliminated there too, for dropping the baton of all things. A bad day there too – I suppose. And, don’t even try to excuse this unacceptable performance, as one commentator attempted to do by saying, “well, you have to understand these guys are traveling at some awful high speeds, 25 mph in some cases, and it’s not as easy as it seems”. WTF did you just say? 
This sounds like a guy who is accustomed to passing out the participation trophies at his kid’s (losing) little league baseball game-even though his kid’s team lost the game by a landslide? 

Is today the day that the participation trophy (PT) culture has caught with us? Not necessarily with the athletes, but in the minds of some of us who are seemingly ready to excuse anything. 

Nah, I do not think so. But you better keep looking over your shoulder.

Then five years ago in the 2016 Rio Olympics, the 4 x 100m relay team was disqualified in the finals due to a violation of baton exchange rules.

These guys have attained the distinction of becoming Olympic athletes and with that distinction comes some basic assumptions. One basic assumption is that by the time they are bestowed with the honor of becoming an Olympian, they should have learned how to pass a baton.

The Gold Standard

What I do know, is that in the world of track and field, there are six premier events-all running events. The 100-meter semi’s/finals, the 200-meter finals, the 400-meter semi’s/finals, the 4 X 100-meter semi’s/finals, the 100-meter hurdles/the 400-meter hurdles finals.

The men’s 100 meters have been present on the Olympic athletics program since 1896. The 100 meters is considered one of the blue-ribbon events of the Olympics and is among the highest-profile competitions at the games. It is the most prestigious 100-meter race at the elite level and is the shortest sprinting competition at the Olympics — a position it has held at every edition except for a brief period between 1900 and 1904.

Some of the 400 meters, 4 x 100m relay, and 200m athletes just did not seem to take their events seriously enough.

The adage, “A picture is worth a thousand words” could never be more revealing than in this photo. Benjamin looks like he is out for a morning jog.

Photo: USA Today Sports, Karsten Warholm celebrates his 400m hurdle win

During the interview with the reporter after one of the semi-final track & field events, the athlete who came in third and when asked by the reporter “what do you think of your performance”, the guy says “well, I know I stopped running in the end and didn’t do my best, but I will do what I have to do in the finals”. EXCUSE ME!

Then there is another brother in an interview where he said he came for the “partay”. Now, there are two ways to interpret that word used in his statement. The Urban Dictionary defines it in several ways. The Olympics are not that type of party. If you qualified — and you did – to be an Olympic athlete, then showing up in Tokyo just for the “partay” is a poor example of being a serious Olympic athlete. 

I understand pacing oneself in some of the semi’s and heats to avoid over-exertion before the finals. Here is the darn problem with that. If you do not make the cut in the semi-finals, then you won’t get the chance to be in the finals-as some of them didn’t. 

None of these laid-back, lackluster attitudes apply to guys like Noah Lyles or Grant Holloway. Two guys who show a lot of humility and authenticity.

Noah Lyles was a Bronze medalist in the Men’s 200m Final. During Noah’s interview, Noah says “I felt like I was running for his life.” This young man has a super relaxed demeanor, but he is focused. And, he’s a truly genuine guy. 

Grant Holloway, a bronze medalist in the 110m hurdles, is, to me, another likable guy with a great attitude.

How impressive. Congratulations to both of you.

You are Not the Bolt!

How is it that you lose a race at the finish line because you stopped running, or because you’re gazing across the lanes at the other runners? Any coach will tell you to never stop running until you are across the finish line. Heck, if the serious dudes are running the 400m, they will not stop running until they have almost run another 200 meters.

In race after race, you see some of the male athletes in the sprints, relays, and 400m races showboating [it seems]. Seems that some of them were trying to imitate Usain Bolt, especially as they approached the finish line. Well, I have news for you wannabe’s, you’re not Usain Bolt.

While Bolt is known for his flamboyance, his jabbing, and even joking at his competitors-often at the end of his races, he never did that until his win was either a sure thing or he was at that finish line. Yes, he ran races where during the last dozen meters he would look around and sort of smirk at his opponents. What Bolt never did was allow his computers to get ahead of him while he displayed some of his antics. 

Finally, unlike some in this Olympics crop of runners, Usain Bolt never ran as fast as he could run. I do not think we will ever know how fast this dude is. I am not so sure he even knows.

The Women Runners Showed Amazing Determination & Seriousness!

Watching Delilah Muhammad compete in the women’s 400m Hurdles is a far more impressive show of competitiveness, determination, and desire than it has been watching some of the men perform in similar events.

In the Women’s 400m Hurdle’s semifinals and finals, here is this woman and other women like Sydney McLaughlin and Dalilah-Muhammad running their hearts out in a display of seriousness that seems lost on some of their male counterparts.

The women are competing in their respective events in a deluge. Rain pouring off their faces and bodies as if they got out of a pool, yet you did not see any showboating or silliness or carefree expressions on their faces — while they ran in the rain.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is photo-by-cameron-spencer-getty-images.jpg
Rivals Sydney McLaughlin (400m Hurdles Winner)and Dalilah-Muhammad embrace each other after 400 Meter Hurdles

Thank goodness for the performance of the women sprinters, hurdlers, and relay runners. They garnered well-deserved excitement in this Olympiad. Any rightfully so!

So – What in the hell just happened?

A New Normal I suppose! 

Could it be that certain sports like some of these track & field sports have become so blended with black and white athletes that we can no longer assume the U. S’s dominance of sprint and relay races? 

This is not about diminishing white athletes. Heck, I love watching and adore Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte, Katie Ledecky, Caeleb Dressel, some of the best swimmers in the world. And guess what, they show up and show out and WIN!

I am always amazed and dazzled by the big white guys who can (seemingly) throw the16-pound ball in the men’sand the 8.8-pound ball in the women’s Shot Put competitions, respectively. The discus throwers are another fascinating sport to me, and I do not want to forget those big guys who throw that heavy-ass ball tied to a rope or chain or something, halfway across the field. Okay, I know, it is called the Hammer and the event is the Hammer Throw. 

Hammer Graphic

So, no offense, but we all know who’s going to win most of the Olympic swimming medals. It’s going to be the USA and it’s going to be the white swimmers and we all know why. But a white guy from Norway winning the 400m hurdles? Come on! Norway? Awesome job Karsten.

James Lang, USA TODAY Sports Karsten Warholm celebrates winning the 400-meter final, narrowly beating American Rai Benjamin.

Finally and back to my point. We all also know what country and what group of athletes have historically won most of the premier track & field events, especially the 100m sprint and relay, the 4 x 100, the 200m, the 4 x 100m relay, and the like. We also know what country and what group of athletes will win the majority of the swimming medals.

So let’s not get our panties in a wad here.

We have to move on.

Is it because we’re now seeing some athletes who previously would have represented the U. S. in track & field now representing other countries? I am just being frank and asking the question.

For Some Athletes, Competing for Another Country Is the Only Way to Reach Olympics.

A FIBA rule allows countries to tap players with dual citizenship or a player who becomes a naturalized citizen. Several players at the Tokyo Games are taking advantage of the rule, including former UConn forward Gabby Williams, whose mother is French, is playing for France. Astou Ndour, born in Senegal, went to Spain to play basketball and became a Spanish citizen in 2011.

Yvonne Anderson knew playing in the Olympics for the U.S. was a long shot at best. Yet, the Arkansas native is here is at the Tokyo Games living her Olympic dream — with Serbia

Nigeria’s roster is filled with players who honed their games at American colleges and now represent the country of their parents.

An Olympic hammer thrower inadvertently brought that question to the fore last month when she turned her back on the U.S. flag after qualifying for the team. Gwen Berry, who is a two-time Olympian, said the flag and anthem don’t represent her because of racial and social injustices in America.

Is the Olympics about patriotism or just a chance to compete?

Further complicating matters is the fact that, in some sports, athletes can now qualify as individuals, rather than as part of their country’s official medal team.

For example, in women’s gymnastics this year, four U.S. gymnasts, including the University of Utah’s Grace McCallum, will compete as a team, while two others (including Utah’s MyKayla Skinner) will compete for individual medals as part of the U.S. delegation.

A Transfer of allegiance.

The International Olympic Committee requires that athletes be citizens or nationals of the country they compete for. According to the Villanova Sports Law Blog, Rule 41 allows athletes with multiple citizenships to choose which country they want to represent. The law requires athletes to wait at least three years before changing to a different country, but there’s a loophole: The athlete can be released from his or her choice if both countries agree.

More than 200 nations will participate in the Tokyo Games, and each one has different laws that govern citizenship and nationals. But no matter where an Olympic-caliber athlete is applying, they may find it easier than the average person to get approved.

As such, both American athletes and those from other countries have used national status to join the Olympic teams of countries where they don’t live and then have competed against their own countries in the Games.

Days have gone by!

Gone are the days when the U. S. dominated the six premier track and field events — all running events. The 100-meter, the 100-meter hurdles, the 200-meters, the 400-meters, the 4 X 100-meter relay, 400-meter hurdles.

Bye-bye to the seeing the grimacing faces, the agonizing strain they place on the bodies as serious athletes as they approached the finish line. 

And please, don’t sit there reading this and thinking I am suggesting the athletes shouldn’t have some fun and enjoy this once-in-a-lifetime experience. Of course, that’s not the case. Have all the fun and do all of the “partaying” you want – after you have won a medal.

Okay, let’s just do (barely) enough to make the Olympic track and field team, grab your duds, hop a plane with your free ticket, and show up in the host city for the Olympic games for the “partay”.

In the meantime, you’re causing the U. S. to forfeit its claim to the dominance of the 100 meters, 400-meter hurdles, and 400-meter relays.

All said- they are all Olympians. They’re in a class like no other. They are the best in the world and the best we (USA) have. Hats off to all of them.

Hats off to Karsten Warholm for shattering the world record in his men’s 400-meter hurdles win. 

Photo Credit: USA Today Sports

Hats off to Italy’s Lamont Marcell Jacobs for his surprising gold medal in Olympic 100-meter sprint.

Photo Credit: USA Today Sports

Enjoy it while it lasts my friends. 

We want these titles back.

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