Work in Sports
Olympic burnout factor
Posted: Friday May 05, 2000 06:21 PM
Another smattering of questions from all corners, so let's dig right in. Remember to keep those questions coming! We're now less than six months from the Games.
Is there an increasing surge of interest rising in the 2000 Games in the U.S.
public and media? Here in Sydney there is a bit of burnout already, as so many
(some minor, some major) controversies have arisen. There is bit of disillusion
in the public/media here when it comes to matters regarding Sydney
You're right on about the burnout factor. I think we in the States were so inundated with stories about the bribery scandal surrounding the Salt Lake City Games that many of the Sydney problems escaped us. I'm sure the Sydney Morning Herald had extensive coverage of the controversy about which groups will participate at the opening ceremonies, whether the volleyball venue at Bondi beach will be built and just who was getting access to Games tickets. Our attention span for yet another controversy that wasn't even national was very short. Another thing: newspapers generally have yearly budgets planned far in advance for baseball season, basketball season, American football season, golf and tennis tournaments, and so on. Many papers blew their Olympics budgets (always smaller in a non-Olympic year) with trips to Utah they hadn't anticipated. As a result, events in Olympic sports that might have received coverage were reduced to copy from wire service reports.
How does the United States' shot put, discus and hammer throwers look this
year? What kind of workouts do they
The U.S. men's team received, well, a shot in the arm last month when C.J. Hunter put a world-leading shot of 21.74 meters (71 feet, 4 inches). That throw validated Hunter's world title in Seville last summer. His excellent series of throws (21.14, 21.00, 21.74, 21.05, 20.97, 21.09) makes him the favorite in Sydney but may still leave him four gold medals behind his wife, Marion Jones. John Godina hasn't been throwing as well as he did when he was No. 1 in the world, but he's still a threat to win an Olympic medal. Godina may also make the discus team, but the top U.S. discus man is Anthony Washington, who won the '99 worlds with a throw of 226 feet, 8 inches. Andy Bloom is another promising shot/discus doubler who should be on the team in one or both events. Our prospects in the hammer are not nearly as good. Lance Deal, age 38, and Jud Logan, 39, are still two of the best, despite their advancing years. Neither is likely to win an Olympic medal. As for the women, remember the name Seilala Sua . The UCLA star is perhaps the best U.S. female discus thrower since Olga Connelly, a native Czech. Sua, of Samoan heritage, is also a likely Olympian in the shot. She may not win anything in Sydney, but look out for her in Athens in 2004. You should see Connie Price-Smith again in the shot. She'd be 38 in Sydney. Dawn Ellerbe, who has broken the 70-meter and 230-foot barriers, has an outside shot at a medal in the first Olympic women's hammer.
Has the IOC ever considered offering "at large" berths to athletes
who, for whatever reason, haven't been chosen otherwise? Khalid Khannouchi and
Wilson Kipketer come to mind, but it could even effect a situation in the U.S.
Trials, where conceivably a Michael Johnson or Maurice Greene might be sick or
injured and therefore unable to compete
The IOC usually permits only two or three athletes per country to compete in individual events. That wasn't always the case. Consider, for example, the 100-meter race in 1904, when U.S. runners took the first six places. Since imposing limits on participants from each country, the IOC has barely budged. Countries whose skiers win individual events at an Olympics get an extra starter in the same event at the next Olympics, though the gold medalist still has to make his or her own team four years later. IOC President Juan Antonio Samaranch kicked the idea around several years ago when two-time 1500-meter champion Sebastian Coe appeared unlikely to be chosen by the selection committee that was to pick the British team for the '92 Barcelona Games. Samaranch called Coe "a great Olympic champion" and said his achievements might warrant such an at-large berth. But the unofficial proposal wasn't well received among fellow IOC members or other athletes and was never put to a formal vote.
As for Johnson or Greene, it's up to USA Track & Field to decide whether to select its team exclusively with a trials system, as it has chosen to do, or make special exemptions based either on numerical performance or medal winnings. The federation has been steadfast in its belief that athletes should earn their spots through a trials procedure, even if that means running the risk of losing a Dan O'Brien through a bad day of decathlon pole vaulting. Some U.S. federations have switched gears this years. The U.S. cycling federation, for instance, used a straight trials system to select its team in 1996, when a number of unproven riders upset established favorites to earn Olympic berths. The team then fared poorly in Atlanta. This year U.S. Cycling is holding Olympic trials in both track and road cycling, but has given coaches the chance to pick the team based on performances at more than just the trials. In other words, you can expect to see Lance Armstrong in the Olympic road race even if he doesn't compete at the U.S. road trials in Jackson, Miss., Later this month.
As for Khannouchi, Kipketer and others who want to represent a second country, the rules are clear: athletes who have represented a different national governing body must first obtain citizenship from their new country. The national sports body that governed them previously then has a three-year period during which it can refuse to allow the athlete to represent his new country at an Olympics. Khannouchi must receive permission from the Moroccan federation before he can represent the United States in the 10,000 meters in Sydney. Kipketer, a native Kenyan who had already run for Denmark at the world championships, had to wait his three years because the Kenyan federation refused to let him run for Denmark at the '96 Atlanta Games.
Very little in the media lately about the American decathlon contingent. What
are our prospects and who are the young up-and-comers? P.S. Whatever happened
to our Kansas native son, Steve
Fritz placed ninth at the USA Championships last year and will try to make the Olympic team again this summer. While training, he has been working as an assistant coach at Kansas State. Dan O'Brien is planning to try to defend his Olympic title, but he has barely competed since striking gold in Atlanta, so his prospects are questionable. Chris Huffins had a strong campaign in '99 (first at nationals and Pan-Ams, third at worlds) and should make the team this year. Watch also for promising 23-year-old Tom Pappas .
I would also like to know the status of cricket as an Olympic sport. Baseball is
an Olympic sport though its worldwide following is pretty insignificant compared
to cricket or soccer. Cricket, in fact, has the highest following among any form
of sport (the sub-continent alone represents a quarter of humanity, not to
mention cricket-playing countries around the world). What is preventing the IOC
from including cricket when they can have all other spectator sports -- hockey,
volleyball, soccer and now
Don't expect cricket to come back to the Olympics very soon. The sport was included at the 1900 Paris Games and consisted of one contest in which Great Britain defeated France and no bronze medal was awarded. Ironically, the main stadium at the 1956 Games, the Melbourne Cricket Ground, had at one time been used primarily for cricket. As for the future, before a new sport can introduced to the Olympic program the IOC must first recognize its international governing body as one that belongs under the Olympic umbrella. Sports such as rugby, polo and golf are so recognized. The IOC is somewhat at cross purposes trying to welcome new sports to the Olympics at the same time it limits the number of Summer Games athletes to a manageable goal of 10,000. Given the number of players it takes to field teams, the size of the field it would be necessary to build, and so on, I can't imagine you'll be seeing cricket Olympians very soon.
I've been playing racquetball for about two years now and I think it's an
awesome game with some very fine athletes. I recently voted online to add it as
a sport to the Olympic Games. Do you know of this possibility and how it may
fair in the voting? CNNSI has no info on raquetball.. why not? Is that
indicative of the interest in the sport, and therefore have I answered my own
See my answer to Brian above regarding new Olympic sports. The IOC recognizes racquetball, even though the sport has never appeared in the Games. The international governing body is headquartered in Colorado Springs and you can access it at www.racquetball.org.
I was at the Mt. Sac Relays. What U.S./Olympic records do you see falling in
Sydney? I think the showdown between Michael Johnson and Maurice Greene in the
200 meters will be the race of the meet with a new
What are your predictions for the men's 100m and 200m races for the Sydney
Sure, put me on the spot. I like Maurice Greene in the 100. During one stretch he went under 10 seconds seven times in eight races last year. With apologies to Bruny Surin and Ato Bolden, Greene is the race's prohibitive favorite. The 200 is a tougher call. Why do I have a sick feeling that with all the ducking going on in the track world these days, either Greene or Michael Johnson will find a way to pull out of the Olympic 200 this fall? It would be a shame. Unlike the ill-fated Johnson-Bailey 150, a 200 between the two superstars could be the best race of any meet. Greene says he feels he can go 19.70 this year. Johnson's ethereal world record 19.32 is out of reach for a while. If Johnson puts a serious effort into training for the 200 this year -- remember, he emphasized the 400 last year and broke Butch Reynolds' 11-year-old world record -- I like his chances. Here's one wild card for you: Nigeria's Francis Obikwelu, who ran 20.05 last year as a 20-year old.
P.S. for James: I was at Mt. SAC, too. How about Marion in the 400? Do you realize 49.59 would have beaten Kathy Freeman at worlds last year?
Sports Illustrated writer-reporter Brian Cazeneuve is the magazine's resident Olympics guru. He'll answer your questions on the first Wednesday of each month leading into Sydney. Click here to send him a question.