Saturday, August 18, 2012

Olympics Post-Mortem

It's been a week now since the 2012 Summer Olympics hosted by the city of London concluded.  Americans have been rejoicing ever since as we topped not only the overall medal count, beating China by 16, but also finishing atop the standings in the number of gold medals won with 46, eight more than 2nd place China.  As usual, contests that seemed to be a forgone conclusion on paper turned out totally different.  That drama, along with the great human interest stories, is what makes the Olympics so compelling  Let me go over the things I thought would be big stories, then recognize some things that became big stories, and then look ahead to Rio 2016 when we'll put on our Uncle Sam hats and do it again.

PRE-GAMES HEADLINERS - These folks had big hype coming in, but it's hard to live up to Olympic-level scrutiny...

RYAN LOCHTE - In a pre-Phelps swimming world, what Lochte did in 2012 would have been revered.  But just like NBA players who don't have rings because they played in the Jordan era, Lochte will always be measured against his homey.  Two gold, two silver, and a bronze is a nice haul for any Olympic swimmer, but when you consider that he won five gold at the 2011 World Championships, and that he lost his signature event (200bk) and got run down on the anchor leg of a relay, you'd have to say that he didn't quite deliver in London.  No worries, he's still going to get his money, and he'll likely be back for more medals in 2016.

USAIN BOLT - Delivered like a champ.  Erased all memory of him getting beat in the Jamaican trials by Johan Blake, and got the gold trifecta (100m, 200m, 4x100relay).  Got no problem with him saying he's a legend, but he's not the greatest athlete to live.  For my money, he'd have to hurdle and long jump to begin to make that claim.  Speaking of long jumping, shame on Carl Lewis for trying to rush the stage Kanye-style during Bolt's moment.  Nobody has forgotten Los Angeles in '84 Mr. Lewis, relax.

JORDAN WIEBER - The regining All-around World Champion gymnast didn't even make it to the all-around Finals in London, though she arguably deserved to.  Then when she got a chance to earn a medal in an individual event, she got seventh.  To spin this positively, it is a testament to the development of US Gymnastics that the reigning World Champ could be outshined by two teammates, and be reduced to a supporting role.

SANYA RICHARDS-ROSS - You could not miss Richards-Ross face in pre-Olympicpromotional campaigns from Shell, Citibank, and Nike.  She delivered in this Olympics unlike in Beijing '08 by winning her signature event, the 400m.

OLYMPIC SCENE STEALERS - These folks were not high on the national radar coming in to the Games, but they made their mark, and now stand to gain handsomely...

ALLISON SCHMITT - Became more than just "Michael Phelps Training Partner" during this Olympics as she took home an individual gold in the 200m freestyle plus two relay gold medals, and then added a silver and a bronze.  I look to see her back for 2016

GABBY DOUGLAS - In a story made for Hollywood, the 16yr old becomes the first Black woman to win the Olympic all-around.  It was tough watching her fall off the beam and struggle in her individual events, but her Olympic performance will go down in history.

DAVID BOUDIA - Made Americans remember that we have a history of diving excellence by becoming the first since Greg Louganis to win a diving gold medal (10m platform)

YE SHIWEN - The Chinese 16yr old took gold medals in the both the 200 and 400 individual medley, and raised eyebrows for her blazing freestyle split in the 400. 

DAVID RUDISHA - Performance of the Games as far as I'm concerned winning the 800m on the track with a world record time of 1:40.91. The way he ran the race, effortlessly separating at the 450 mark, had to leave not only the track fan, but the layman saying "How did he do that!"  Hope they find a nice spot for his tree at St. Patrick's.

LOOKING FORWARD TO RIO 2016 - Things that I'll have my eye on to see how they develop as we move towards Brazil in four years...

AGE LIMIT FOR US MEN'S BASKETBALL TEAM - David Stern wants to see an age limit imposed for Team USA of under 23 in order to protect his NBA product.  According to, FIBA is not prepared to put this age cap in place for 2016, but I wouldn't be surprised if the NBA continues to make a strong run at this.  While it is entertaining to watch Team USA go Harlem Globetrotters on Nigeria or Tunisia, I think it would be interesting to see if Jerry Colangelo could develop an under 23 squad that could beat the more seasoned world teams.  Here's what a U23 might have looked like for 2012 (pre-injury):

Kyrie Irving (G)
John Wall (G)
Jrue Holiday (G)
Klay Thompson (G)
Brandon Knight (G)
DeMarcus Cousins (C)
Anthony Davis (C)
Derrick Favors (F/C)
Paul George (F)
Kawhi Leonard (F)
Derrick Williams (F)
Tristan Thompson (F)

Knight, Williams, and Thompson are the only ones not already in the USA Basketball pipeline.  The other 9 were members of the 2012 Select Team which served as a sparring partner for the Olympic team.  I could not see this team not winning the Gold medal because there's no proven player like LeBron, Kobe, Kevin Durant, or Chris Paul who could put the team on their back in the 4th quarter, but it would be interesting to see who might emerge.

REINVESTMENT INTO USA TRACK&FIELD - I've never seen such a poor showing on the men's side in Track & Field.  Bronze in the 100m, NO medals in the 200m and 400m (first time since FOREVER), and Silver in the 4x100 and 4x400.  In contrast, it was a banner Olympics for the T&F field women.  Silver in the 100m, Gold and Bronze in the 200m, Gold and Bronze in the 400m, Gold in the 4x100m and 4x400m relays.  What is apparent is that there is very little support for the National team unless you have past medal pedigree, which means we're left with college athletes, who are overextended by the time the Games take place, and a large number of pros who cannot fully dedicate themselves to training because they have to work at Home Depot or Staples to support themselves (hence why Dawn Harper and Kellie Williams have been unloading darts on Lolo Jones).  I wonder if USATF will figure it out like other USA governing bodies have.

WILL NFL FOOTBALL GO OLYMPIC - If I had not heard Roger Goodell talk about it with my own ears, I wouldn't believe this to be an actual movement.  Can't ever see this happening, but it will be interesting to see if it's still being talked about four years from now.

Here's to another four years of buildup...

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