Wednesday, August 5, 2009
In the 100 Meters Silver is a Curse
The most glamorous event on the World Championships stage just might be the Men's 100 meters. Along with winning the gold medal comes the coveted title of "The World's Fastest Human". 100 meter champions often become the "rock stars" of the sport and household names. Jesse Owens, Jim Hines, Valeri Borzov, Carl Lewis, Maurice Greene, Tyson Gay, and Usain Bolt all became household names via championship victories in the 100 meters.
But while the gold medalists of this most prestigious event have gone on to fame and fortune, the silver medalists have not been nearly as fortunate. Instead of being the launching pad to the top of the podium, 2nd place in the 100 has mostly lead to a reversal of fortune in subsequent years.
Going back to Berlin and the Olympics of 1936, the name of 100 meter champion Jesse Owens is still strongly etched in the minds of track fans as we head to Berlin in 2009. Ralph Metcalf, on the other hand, repeated his silver medal performance of 1932 with yet another silver behind Owens in Berlin. Twice the Second Fastest Man in the World, Metcalf became a footnote in history while Owens went on to international and long lasting fame with his win.
Track fans remember Bobby Morrow, Bob Hayes and Valeri Borzov, but only die hard fans remember the names of Thane Baker, Enrique Figuerola, and Robert Taylor - their runner ups whose careers went in another direction. That "luck" or perhaps "curse" of being the 100 meter silver medalist has carried forward from the time when there was only one major championship every four years (the Olympics) until today with three global championships in each four year cycle.
Following is the history of the 100 silver medalists since the start of the World Championships in 1983. We will see how last year's silver medalist, Richard Thompson (TRI) fares in Berlin.
1983, Helsinki, Calvin Smith . Injured and failed to make the Olympic team in the 100. Bronze medal in Seoul. Failed to make the team for Tokyo, Barcelona, and Stuttgart.
1984, Los Angeles, Sam Graddy . Left the sport to play professional football.
1987, Rome, Ray Stewart*. Injured in the Seoul final and finished last. Finished 6th in Tokyo, 7th in Barcelona, 8th in Stuttgart, 8th in Gothenburg, and failed to get out of his quarterfinal in Atlanta.
1988, Seoul, Linford Christie*. Finished 4th and out of the medals in Tokyo. Rebounded with gold in Barcelona and Stuttgart. Injured and finished 6th in Gothenburg. False started out of the Atlanta final.
1991, Tokyo, Leroy Burrell. Finished 5th and out of the medals in Barcelona. Failed in attempts to make the teams for Stuttgart, Gothenburg, Atlanta and Athens.
1992, Barcelona, Frankie Fredericks. Finished 6th and out of the medals in Stuttgart. Finished 4th and out of the medals in Gothenburg. Silver in Atlanta.
1993, Stuttgart, Andre Cason. Injured and failed to make the team for Gothenburg. Injuries forced him to leave the sport.
1995, Gothenburg, Bruny Surin. Finished 5th in his semi in Atlanta and failed to make the final. Silver again in Seville.
1996, Atlanta, Frankie Fredericks. Finished 4th and out of the medals in Athens. Injured and did not start his semi in Seville. Did not compete in Edmonton and Paris. Failed to get out of his quarterfinal in Athens.
1997, Athens, Donovan Bailey. Injured and failed to make the team for Seville. Injured and did not make the team for Seville. Injured and finished 8th in his quarterfinal in Sydney. Finished 6th in his semi in Edmonton. Note that Bailey was twice gold medalist in 1995 & 1996 before his silver medal performance in '97.
1999, Seville, Bruny Surin. Injured in his semi and finished last. Injured and finished 8th in his semi in Sydney. Injured and finished 7th in Edmonton.
2000, Sydney, Ato Boldon. Finished 4th and out of the medals in Edmonton. Finished 5th in his semi and failed to make the Paris final. Finished 4th in his heat in Athens.
2001, Edmonton, Tim Montgomery. Finished 4th and out of the medals in Paris. Finished 7th at the Trials and failed to make the team for Athens. Later suspended from the sport for drug use.
2003, Paris, Darrel Brown. Injured and failed to make the team for Athens. Injured and did not compete in Athens. Finished 7th in his semi and failed to make the final in Helsinki. Failed to make the team for Osaka. Finished 8th in his quarterfinal in Beijing.
2004, Athens, Francis Obikwelu. Finished 4th and out of the medals in Helsinki. Disqualified in his heat in Osaka. Finished 6th in his semi and failed to make the final in Beijing.
2005, Helsinki, Michael Frater. Failed to make the team for Osaka. Failed to make the team for Osaka. Finished 6th and out of the medals in Beijing.
2007, Osaka, Derrick Atkins. Finished 6th in his semi and failed to make the final in Beijing.
2008, Beijing, Richard Thompson. ???
(*) - Results changed with the drug suspension of winner Ben Johnson.