THE HARD CORE
Only Bob Richards in the pole vault, Horace Ashenfelter in the steeplechase, Parry O'Brien in the shot put, and possibly Sim Iness in the discus throw are conceded good chances of defending individual Olympic championships. There are, however, some bright spots among the newcomers?men like John Bennett in the broad jump, Ernie Shelton in the high jump, Willie Williams in the sprints, Jim Lea of California in the 400 meters, and Arnold Sowell, Pittsburgh, in the 800 meters. They join veterans Andy Stanfield, the 1952 200-meter winner, Fortune Gordien and Jim Dillion in the discus, Jack Davis in the hurdles, J. W. Mashborn in the 400 meters.
But many headaches still plague U.S. hopes.
Traditionally about 75% of our Olympic athletes are college youngsters. Our system of selection and preparation for Olympic competition, in contrast to the Soviets', is completely catch-as-catch-can. Athletes are selected through a series of trials held at the end of our college season in June and July. For the coming Olympic Games, the problem of selection and training increases in complexity, as the Games won't be held until November. Ordinarily most of our runners are just beginning to compete in November after a long layoff.
The predicament we rind ourselves in is to a great extent of our own making. Our college programs are not inclusive enough to prepare our youngsters properly for Olympic competition. Our A.A.U. programs provide far too little spring and summer competition and virtually nothing for athletes who have graduated from college. The result of the latter is that many of our best men retire even before they reach their peak.
The most ridiculous feature of our preparation for Olympic competition is that we scarcely compete at all in six of the Olympic events. It is only during the Olympic year that (in meets other than the National A.A.U. championships) we find the 400-meter hurdles, the 5,000-meter run, the 10,000-meter run, the hop, step and jump, or the steeplechase. Add the fact that the marathon run and even the javelin and the hammer throw are not competed in on a nationwide basis. It is no wonder that we can offer the world no serious competition in 1956 in any of these events, except possibly the javelin throw. Our catch-as-catch-can methods can no longer be expected to function in this day of national emphasis and specialization.
What must be done to prevent humiliation at Melbourne? Several practical steps present themselves.
First, we must select a training site within the United States, either in the Southwest or in Florida, where our athletes can have at least a chance to reach their late-season form for these midwinter games. Like the Russians, our athletes should be given a chance to prepare and train in a climate approximating that which they will find in Australia in November 1956.
Next, we must introduce into our programs all of the standard Olympic events. It is obvious that our present program does not adequately prepare us for world competition.