The 2008 Trials in Swimming and Track & Field, my two favorites of all, did not disappoint, and we now have two London-ready contingents who should bring back a nice haul of medals if their Trial performances give us a fair indication of who they are. Below are my final Class Notes on what I saw over the course of last week, and into the beginning of this week.
Swimming's Obama moment: As a lifelong swimmer who constantly had to explain to people that my lanky frame was not used for basketball growing up, but instead for swimming, it was a prideful moment for me and my Black swimming brethren and sistren to have Cullen Jones not only make the Olympic team in his first individual event, the 100-freestyle (not easy out of lane 1), but also win the Olympic Trials in the 50-freestyle. Hopefully it will be easier to digest now when a young Black man says he wants to swim now that there is a face to model after in the same way that young Black boys can confidently say that occupying the Oval office is now possible. The legacy of African-American swimmers in this country was enriched by Jones' achievements last week as well as those of Anthony Ervin who came out of retirement to make another team as well as Lia Neal, who followed in the footsteps of Maritza Correia to become the second Black woman to accomplish the feat. I hope these results will inspire the USA Swimming Foundation to redouble their commitment to the Make A Splash campaign, of which Mr. Jones has been an ambassador for the past quadrennium.
Youth Movement Continues: USA Swimming continues to do a commendable job identifying and developing young athletes who will one day become part of the National Team. As we say happy trails to Katie Hoff, Amanda Beard, and Dara Torres as Olympians, we welcome Missy Franklin, Kate Ledecky, and Lia Neal to the Olympic stage. This lies in stark contrast to the Men's Olympic team where there is no member under the age of 20 years old.
Phelps vs. Lochte: The races at the Olympics between these two will be some of the greatest we have ever seen between two Americans. The variety of events in which they will compete is what makes the rivalry unique, and will be must-see TV during the first week of Olympic coverage.
Allyson Felix's Gold Quest: As decorated an athlete as Allyson Felix has been, her resume does not have that signature individual gold medal performance that allows an Olympian to be able to do speaking engagements for the rest of their lives. She looked like she is intent on making sure she gets that medal as she blew away the field at the Trials in a time of 21.69. I don't know how much we will ever know about the machinations that enabled Felix to gain an additional spot on the team in the 100m dash over her teammate, Jeneba Tarmoh, but she is now in a nice position to bring home four more medals from London to bring her total to seven. This would give her more than Jackie Joyner-Kersee, one of the most decorated American track athletes ever.
Struggle to make the Olympic Standard: I became well-versed in the swimming Olympic standards during my March trip to New Zealand where it was cause for celebration when a competitor won an event and actually made the standard. In the US, there is no Olympic swimming event where the two qualifiers struggle to make the standard. It speaks to the strength of the team. On the track however, it seemed that in many of the events over 400m, the question of whether or not the athletes had the Olympic qualifying time was a constant part of the race analysis, and does not bode well for American prospects for medals. I hope the powers at USA Track & Field (USATF) have a development plan in place as College track and field programs continue to be killed off.