Dear readers, I encourage you to read this blog carefully. It is written by Brooks Johnson and it concerns several things of note, first the 1972 Olympic fiasco with our sprinters, but also the requirements to be an elite athlete.
Johnson notes that the attribute he found in all of his Olympic athletes, from the jumps to the distances, that none of them were ‘normal’. There was the need of something in the psyche of an elite athlete to push them to excel and fight to make an Olympic team.
I was reminded of this when I watched a Sixty Minutes interview of Michael Phelps. Phelps spoke of workouts where he swam 10,000 meters ( about 2 hours, 30 in his fitness level) all out, to show that he could be competitive. Remember the workout in Once a Runner by John Parker, where the main character, Quentin Cassidy, runs 40 times the quarter to show himself that he was ready to race?
I would love to hear some comments on this one….
Olympic Games and Gaming
The first Olympic medalist I worked with was on the 1960 Olympic team. Starting in 1968 I have had the good luck and good fortune to have an athlete I have coached at every Olympics Games from 1968 through 2008. I have personally served on the coaching staffs of four U.S. Olympic teams. As result of that up close and personal involvement, there are several significant facts that have emerged:
1. The Olympic athletes I have coached have ranged from 100 meters to
3,000 meters, including long jumpers, hurdlers, high jumpers and discus
throwers. Despite the diversity in gender, race, personality, and events,
they all had one thing in common. They all had a screw loose. There is no
way an athlete can prepare in the extremes necessary to make an Olympic
team and be “well adjusted”. The simple fact of the matter is, “well
adjusted” people do not, and perhaps can not , push themselves to the
limits and extremes necessary to perform up to the Olympic level.
2. The observation I want to expand on now has to do with what I call
“OLYMPIC GAMING ” The things that go on behind the scenes that
ultimately determine who is going to be successful and who is going to fall
short. In short, “the games people play” that impact performances.
At the 1972 Olympics there was the famous case of two American sprinters missing one of the qualifying rounds of the 100 meters. The genesis for this travesty goes back to the Olympic Games of 1968 with Smith and Carlos raising the black gloved fists in protest. There was a calculated judgment made for the 1972 Olympic team that black coaches were going to coach the sprints and take full responsibility for whatever blacks did in Munich. Hoover Wright ( 400 and 4 x 400 )of Prairie View and Stan Wright ( 100/200, 4 x 100 ) of Texas Southern were the designated coaches to “control” black athletes and take responsibility for any “misbehaving” on the part of blacks. This arrangement would absolve the white head coach and/or his staff of any blame and totally “game” the system in their favor.
Prior to the start of the Games, there was a schedule change for the day of the 100 meters. Unfortunately, the managerial staff was off on a sightseeing junket when the changes were made and never got the changes. So the schedule posted in the American dorm was not the correct one. Dave Maggard, who coached Eddie Hart the #1 American sprinter, came up to the head coach and an assistant coach and advised them that there was a mix up in the schedule and that Eddie Hart was not aware of the change in the schedule.. The coaches were intent on watching Dave Wottle qualify in the 800 meters and essentially blew Maggard off stating that they had nothing to do with the sprinters and that Stan Wright was responsible for getting the athletes to the races on time. I was sitting directly in front of the people involved as this conversation was going on. Lee Evans, who was also sitting close by, volunteered to run back to the Olympic village and get the sprinters. In the mean time, the American sprinters were watching the next round of the sprints on a monitor in the dorm and thought at first it was a replay of the sprints from the morning session. When they discovered the truth, they raced back to the Olympic stadium , passing Lee coming towards them, with only one getting there in time for his race.
Stan Wright later went on ABC television where Howard Cossell was scathing in his criticism of Stan and went on, and on, about how unacceptable Stan’s dereliction of duty was, and what an insult it was to the athletes and the people of the United States. Stan accepted the blame and responsibility and it was never brought to light that the real culprits were the managerial staff whose responsibility it was to get the schedule changes, alert coaches and athletes about the changes, and then post them. According to Olympic protocol, only the designated manager could access these changes from the Technical Information Center. In their efforts to distance themselves from any responsibility associated with black athletes, the coaching staff and managerial staff “gamed” itself right out of any blame for the athletes missing their race.
To read more of Brooks Johnson, click to http://blog.spikesandflats.com
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