While scanning the internet for articles on this week's National Championships, I came across an article in the Oregonian that really took me by surprise. While host city Eugene prides itself as being "Track Town USA", the primary paper in the larger City of Portland talked about the National Championships and our top athletes as if this were the opening night of a theater production!
The writer, Ken Goe, calls several athletes "arrogant and short sighted" because they are not competing in their primary events, or in some cases only one round, because they have byes to the World Championships as defending champions! He says, sarcastically that "If the people who have packed into Hayward feel cheated, well, hey, the athletes have their own careers to think about".
Clearly Mr. Goe does not follow the sport, or does not understand it. Yes this is our National Championships, and will serve to select the team that will represent the USA at the World Championships in Berlin. But what Mr. Goe is missing is just that - we are trying to select a team for the World Championships, and it is those World Championships that serves as the bigger goal for every athlete in this competition! And THAT is what all of these athletes are pointing towards - to doing their BEST not in Eugene, but hopefully in Berlin!
Mr. Goe states that "USATF CEO Doug Logan has big plans to remake the USATF in time for the 2012 Olympics. How about starting by giving the ticket-buying public and the television executives who have slotted three days of live coverage a national meet in which the sport's biggest names give an honest effort?". Evidently Mr. Goe missed the report where Mr. Logan stated that the goal is to increase our medal count at Majors!
You see, the goal is NOT about putting on a show in Eugene, but rather about putting on a show in Berlin, or London, or wherever the Olympics or World Championships happen to be. To that end, that may mean that sometimes our best hopes in certain events focus on THAT meet and not the National Championships.
Tyson Gay ran his heart out for you last year and put on a great show. And for his efforts he suffered an injury and was unable to perform at his best in Beijing. The result was "failure" in Beijing for the American sprint squad and cries of "what is wrong with American sprinting"! All of our athletes put on a show for Mr. Goe last year, and many performed poorly as a result in Beijing. So yes, those that have the ability to adjust their seasons in order to PEAK in Berlin are doing that! And that doesn't mean that the fans in Eugene won't get their money's worth.
Tyson Gay gave the fans a show on Day One as he sizzled in his appearance on the track - 9.75w the fastest run ever witnessed in Eugene! Just because Jeremy Wariner is running the 200 instead of the 400 doesn't mean we won't see a world class effort from Jeremy in THAT event - he does have a 20.19 PR and is looking to try and improve upon that! Kerron Clement in the open 400 instead of the 400 hurdles? Mr. Goe must not be aware that Clement is one of the world's best in the open event, holds the World Indoor Record in it, and many feel it may be his better event! I don't think the fans will be cheated by having him run the 400 - not at all. As a matter of fact I would suspect that while Goe touts that Galen Rupp was running the 10000 final last night, I imagine that Rupp ran just enough to win, holding something for tonight's 5000! Does that mean that Rupp "cheated" the paying fans? Absolutely not.
Goe says that Gay, Wariner, Lagat, and Clement don't recognize that this meet is a Championship meet. Perhaps it is Goe that does not recognize that this meet is NOT the center piece of the season - only a step towards it - and is taking the title "Track Town USA" a bit too seriously. These athletes are all in town and will put forth world class efforts over the next few days. More importantly, they are doing what they and their coaches feel is best for each to achieve gold in Berlin. Perhaps Goe should consult with the people of Eugene before condemning the actions of the athletes. After all, he is writing about a sporting event, not a theater opening. Yes it is a National Championship - one whose purpose is to select our World Championship squad - not to simply provide entertainment to the people of Eugene. Last year's entertaining meet certainly didn't get it right. This year the athletes are working hard to correct that. Let them and the coaches do so in peace.