Rick Abrahamson, team handball's representative on the USOC board, worried that under Blake's plan the handball federation's annual budget of $600,000 would be cut by 25% by 2004. (Neither the U.S. men's nor women's handball team qualified for the Sydney Games.) "Where Blake was headed, we would have had to sacrifice either development or support for our national teams," Abrahamson says. Blackmun, who has won backing by encouraging NGB input, foresees allocating funds according to how a sport is likely to fare at future competitions, as opposed to Blake's "backward allocation" based on medals already won.
Though many within the committee supported the general idea of streamlining, any future USOC boss will need not only the financial acumen of Andrew Carnegie but also something Blake lacked: the people-wooing skills of Dale Carnegie.
A Safer Vault?
A Horse Is No Longer a Horse
During the Sydney Olympics the International Gymnastics Federation approved a radically different vaulting apparatus that officials hope will increase safety. The redesigned table, which the federation plans to introduce in competition at the Artistic World Championships in Ghent, Belgium, next October, slopes downward at the takeoff end, like an extended tongue. The design provides more surface area for gymnasts' hands.
Both men and women will vault over the length of the apparatus. (Women traditionally vaulted across the width.) Some officials wonder, however, whether the new table, which has been tested only by elite gymnasts and only in a handful of countries, including the U.S., is really safer for females. Junior Olympic Program director Terry Gray says, "I don't believe it will change the safety, because the design is not a lot different, but there is more room for the hands, which gives a larger margin of error." The traditional horse is 35 centimeters wide; the new table is more than three times that in length. Modifications may be needed, but it is good to see gymnastics trying to take a great leap forward.