I have to start this note with an apology. There are times with you, dear readers, that I communicate in a bit of a short hand. My son, Adam, who has dealt with my embrace of the vague, gently reminds me sometimes that even he has a hard time getting my drift. So, this time, I will try and stay focused and direct, taking in as many points as I feel I need to, in describing the significance of this summer of track & field that we will refer to for many years as simply, London 2012.
As someone who has competed, coached and worked in an industry that I love, I take it for granted that all of our readers just get it. The truth is, many don't appreciate the significance of great performances, epic competitions and sanctuaries of sport.
To make an Olympic team, in most of the 209 countries that sent teams, is an amazing task. To make one of the positions on the Team USA track & field team, that, dear friends, is near impossible. First, you have 1.4 million high school kids running, jumping and thrower. Then, you might make it to a US college, so you are down to 1 in 7, about 200,000 competing in college. Then, perhaps, you were in the top six in an NCAA final, and you find some sponsorship. For most, it is equipment and some performance bonuses, but you need a job during the day to pay for rent. This is where most athletes call it a day.
But, perhaps, you have that vision thing, you see yourself with an Olympic uniform on, and you make an Olympic Trials. In your first Trials, you do not make the semi finals. In the second, you make the semi finals, make the finals, and with 100 meters to go, you are blocked in by three runners, someone falls, you go over them and kick like you never have before, you make the team. Hard work, good competition skills, a thoughtful coach and support system, and lots of luck play a significant part in those who make a US Olympic track & field team.
Making an Olympic medal? You are then, on that day, one of the three best in your event. You have to show up and perform. No one gets an easy day.
The Team USA track & field team may be the hardest team to make in the world. In 2012, it worked. 29 medals is no mean feat. Everyone was earned, and some athletes came terribly close. All of that takes work. 12-15 years to make a US track team. Allyson Felix, one of the most talented athletes you or I have ever seen, takes difficult workouts and discussions from Bob Kersee most of the year. Clyde Hart, working with Sanya Richards-Ross, helped her get to the place where many thought she could go, and finally, she is racing Amantle Montsho, and winning.
This has been a long season. ISATF Berlin is one of the last meets of the year. Robert Harting of Germany, wins his 33rd discus competition against a field with, once again, some tough discus throwers, Kellie Wells wins the 100m hurdles in Berlin, having grown past a hamstring tear in 2008, and long, tough season,where she took bronze in the 100m hurdles. Pamela Jelimo gets back to the top of the world, taking an Olympic silver and wins the 800 meters.
And German Fernandez, one of the most talented Americans ever, who has suffered through college years where his heart could handle more than his skeletal system, runs a nice 3:34.60 with every kicker at 1,500m in one race. German is now sponsored by Nike and under the watchful eyes of Jerry Schumacher.
Any athlete who gets to this level should be applauded. Our sport has epic battles each and every meet, because, dear friends, it is all about the competition. For years, I have thought that most sports fans get it that nothing comes easy in this sport. 80,000 fans each night and 75,000 fans each day in London surely got it, now we need to take that message around the world.