It’s been four years already and the time flew by, but after a four-year hiatus the world’s best will come together and compete for the ultimate prize: a gold medal; a chance to be crowned the world’s best in an event.
The best athletes in the United States have been competing for a spot on the
U.S. Olympic team, to be a part of the contingent that travels to London, England and compete on the biggest sports stage in the world. In the past the U.S. Olympic trials have never disappointed, and often the best in U.S. is usually the best in the world.
This year’s Olympic trials were no different. As always, it’s exciting to watch some of the best athletes in the world compete for a limited spot on the Olympic team. However, this year the trials were filled with twists, turns, new records being set by newcomers in the field. Many familiar faces from past Olympics that tasted or had a shot at Olympic glory won’t be on Team USA 2012. The up-and-coming young, hungry, new kids on the block wanted a taste of Olympic glory for themselves, so they were forced to take the torch from some of the older statesmen in the game who thought they still have something in the tank.
In addition to some of the young guns setting new American records while respectfully forcing their idols into retirement, the U.S. Olympic team will feature a little more Black representation in sports that Blacks aren’t normally seen in. The Black athletes aren’t there for window dressing to show diversity. This is the Olympics; they earned the right to be on the team by being one of very best in the United States, and they all have a shot at gold
The women’s gymnastic team will be led by Gabby Douglas who was the only automatic bid to the team because she had the highest score. Douglas is a strong contender for a gold medal in the All-Around competition, and she can also win gold on the uneven bars, floor exercise and vault. Although the balance beam is not her strongest event, she has high enough scores to medal in that event as well. The other four young ladies who will be joining Douglas in London as part of the Gymnastics Corps are Jordyn Wieber, Aly Raisman, McKayla Maroney and Kyla Ross. Ross is the young 16-year-old gymnast who, according to the commentators, has the international look the judges like. She is tall and thin and displays long lines during her routines, which is something the judges like to see. Ross is especially strong in the vault, floor exercise and uneven bars.
The U.S. has had Black gymnasts in the past--both men and women--but never have they been favored to win gold or lead the team into game with the highest All-Around score.
The swimming competition was full of surprises. This Olympic year the swim team will feature more teenagers than ever before. The 1600 meter men’s freestyle will feature a 19-year-old and an 18-year-old. Missy Franklin, who just turned 17, became a household name during the trials. The Pasadena native, who now lives in Denver, qualified in seven individual events and two relays. She had the opportunity to swim against her childhood idol, Natalie Coughlin, and she beat her in all three events.
Also making the U.S. Olympic swim team for the first time is 18-year-old Lia Neal, who is the first Black female swimmer to represent the United States in the Olympics. Neal didn’t make it in any individual events, but while competing in the women’s 100 meter freestyle she managed to touch the wall in the 4th place position, which puts her on the relay team.
Making his second trip to the Olympics is swimmer Cullen Jones. In the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing Jones was the only Black person in the relay team that brought home Gold. Jones felt like he was the weak link on the team in Beijing, so he trained extra hard to improve his chances at making the 2012 Olympic team. His extra training paid off. Jones will be a part of the relay, and he will also compete in the individual 100 meter freestyle. Although he finished second in the finals at the trials, based upon his time Jones has a good shot at individual gold.
In the past the U.S. Olympic teams have had strong representation from the Inland Empire. In past Olympics Inland Empire heroes like JoAnna Hayes, Tyree Washington, Angela Williams and in the Winter Olympics Derek Parra would not just represent but bring back Olympic gold. There is a good contingent of Inland Empire residents in the swimming events. But, as it stands right now Chaunte Howard appears to be the only track and field athlete from the Inland Empire who will sport the red, white and blue in London. Howard is no stranger to international competition. She’s made the Olympic team before, and she medaled at the world championships a couple of times. However, this year she set a personal best and will led the U.S. women in the high jump. Although Howard has international medals, she’s never won an Olympic medal. She has a great shot at gold in London.
In the sprints both the men’s and women’s teams sent a message to the Jamaican sprinters. Justin Gatlin is on a mission; he’s returning to the sport after his doping suspension. He led the way in the 100 meters with a time of 9.80, beating Tyson Gay who ran 9.85 in the finals. Filling the third spot in the 100 meters is a new face on the Olympic scene, Ryan Wilson from the University of Oregon. Gatlin won gold in the 100 meters in 2004 but was suspended for testing positive for a banned substance in 2005; for Gatlin this is redemption.
Wallace Spearmon sent a message to his good friend Usain Bolt when he qualified first in the men’s 200 meters. Spearmon thought he won the bronze medal when he finished third in the 200 meters in Beijing. However, during his victory lap the replay showed Spearmon stepped into the next lane, so he was disqualified for a lane violation. During the 200 meters finals at the trials Spearmon ran a blazing time of 19.78, easily beating the field. His good friend Bolt, the reigning Olympic champion and world record holder in both the 100 and 200 meters, has shown some venerability. He was recently beaten by his training partner Yohan Blake in both the 100 and 200 meters during the Jamaican Olympic trials.
The 400 meters will have a good shot at another U.S. sweep, being led by reigning Olympic champion LaShawn Meritt. Also in his first Olympic games Bryshun Neilum will represent the U.S. in the 400 meters. What makes his story so great is that Neilum is recovering from shotgun blasts to both legs just two years ago. The USC track and field standout was the victim of a random shooting and was hit in both legs. “Just making the team is a victory for me. I didn’t think I would be here. God is good, I give all the glory to Him,” said Neilum.
The women’s U.S. track team is one of the strongest and promises to bring back hardware. Alyson Felix ran a personal best of 22.01 and sent a message to her nemesis, Veronica Campbell-Brown. Felix has two silver Olympic medals, while Campbell-Brown has two golds. Felix, who has been running a lot of 400 and 100, looks a lot stronger and faster so maybe this is her year for gold in the 200 meters.
Felix is also going for gold in the 100 meters. Her chances at winning aren’t great, but her chances at a medal are. With a good start Felix can run the 100 meters with the best of them. She has good turn over, and great endurance. However, if she doesn’t get out of the blocks good it could cause problems for her, like it did in the 100 meter finals at the U.S. Olympic trials.
During the 100 meters finals, Felix and her training partner Jeneba Tarmoh finished in a dead heat for third place. Tarmoh ran the race of her life; she got out of the blocks quickly and was in the top two for about 30 meters. Around 40 meters into the race Carmelita Jeter and Tianna Madison were in full sprint mode and in control of the race. Because of a bad start, Felix didn’t get her stride until about 80 meters and ran Tarmoh down. Some thought Felix won, but the first official report said Tarmoh won the third spot. After further review, it was determined a dead heat. With no procedures in place for such an occurrence the athletes, their agents and the U.S. Olympic gave the choice of a coin flip or a runoff. After much discussion it was decided a run would settle it.
However, Tarmoh would eventually change her mind and concede the spot to Felix, and she would make the team as a member of the 4x100 meter relay, as an alternate. Many were disappointed with Tarmoh’s decision, but she explained why she made it, and stressed that she Felix are still good friends and have the utmost respect for one another.
Felix is an experienced veteran in international competition and her experience would have played a role in the outcome during a runoff. Felix just ran a personal best in the 200 meters; she is stronger than Tarmoh, and she is mentally stronger as well. The runoff would have gone Felix’ way. Tarmoh said her heart nor her head would have been in the race during the run because she truly feels in her heart she won the race fair and square.
The U.S. will be very well represented in the 100 meters and all the other sprints. In the 100 meter the U.S. is represented by Jeter, Madison and Felix. Lining up for the U.S. in the 200 meters will be Sanya Richards-Ross, Jeter and Felix.
The U.S. Olympic trials are exciting, but the Olympic Games are the icing on the cake. The U.S. always sends a great team, because at the Olympics it’s the U.S. against the world. The U.S. is hungry and is looking for another win. They have the right team to do it.