Thoughts and Opinions on the Centennial Olympic Games
The women's marathon was a striking confirmation that all of the shoe sponsorship, media promotion, living in Boulder, and magazine articles in the world simply will not get it done if the body is not able. Ethiopian Fautama Roba ran beautifully through the streets of Atlanta Sunday, crushing the dreams of the pre-race favorites. Roba seemed capable of running even a few minutes faster if necessary. It's too bad she didn't have the competition to push her to a time of 2:23-2:24.
Posted Tuesday, 30 July, 1996
The women's marathon was a striking confirmation that
all of the shoe sponsorship, media promotion, living in
Boulder, and magazine articles in the world simply will not
get it done if the body is not able. Ethiopian Fautama Roba
ran beautifully through the streets of Atlanta Sunday,
crushing the dreams of the pre-race favorites. Roba seemed
capable of running even a few minutes faster if necessary.
It's too bad she didn't have the competition to push her to a
time of 2:23-2:24.
Life will not be the same for Roba now. Surely David
D'ellasandro and other big city marathon major domos are
already feverishly working the phones to sign Roba on for
The dnf list of Elana Meyer, Lisa Ondieki, Jenny
Spangler, and of course Uta Pippig is an impressive one.
Casual observers of the marathon might be perplexed as to how
Pippig could push her body through a living hell in Boston in
April and almost arbitrarily choose to drop out of the
Olympic race a mere four miles from the finish in July. Hat's
off to Guam's Marie Benito however, for living out her
Olympic dream, finish last in 3:27:28.
So far, NBC's television coverage has been a mixed bag.
Way too much gymnastics and boorish nationalism, in my
opinion. Must we see every move the undersized adolescent
gymnasts make? There are dozens of other sports that at least
deserve a sliver of attention. The women's soccer, field
hockey, and softball teams, as well as the men's wrestlers'
and weightlifters have gotten the short shrift - in spite of
much exciting competition. Ratings for the first week were
off the charts however, giving the network ammunition for the
argument that we are getting what we want to see. Or is the
network dictating what we like to see?
Running fans can't really complain, as track & field is
a marquee Olympic event. Having three solid hours of women's
marathon coverage was pleasant surprise. I suppose it was too
much to ask to see the women's 5000 later that evening. That
no American was a solid medal threat should have been a sign
that coverage would be absent. Many of the track & field
events are taped, and shown later. It doesn't take a genius
to figure this out, when the events are being held in
daylight and shown late in the evening. When the men's hammer
throw was being showcased, you knew that an American had done
well. Indeed, Lance Deal captured a silver medal. Same for
the high jump, in which Charles Austin's gold was a real
And what gives with Michael Johnson? He seems as pre-
occupied with putting on a show as he is with winning his
races. Gold shoes, gold chain, icy stare - it all seems too
pre-packaged. Are we supposed to embrace this man? At least
for me, he is very hard to like, much as Carl Lewis was in
his prime. Lewis seems much more likeable as his star power
fades an vulnerability increases. I'll say this about Michael
Johnson though - the man can sure make a 44 second quarter
Finally, am I the only one cringing at the inanity of
the sideline interviewers? They seem to dig for any angle
that will provoke the athletes. After swimmer Tom Dolan's
poor 400 meter swim, reporter Jim Gray asked him if his
chronic fatigue was " kicking in ". Unbelievable. Watching
sprinter Dennis Mitchell walk away in silence when asked if
one of his competitors was "unbeatable" was classic, just
what these reporters deserved.
The United States track & field team uniforms are a bit
garish, with holes cut in the sides of the one piece suit. A
few of us " old timers" remember when Alberto Salazar cut all
kinds of holes in his uniform for the 1984 Olympic Marathon
in Los Angeles. This was a trick to help him deal with the
heat, but unfortunately was not successful, as Al finished a
dissapointing 15th in the race.
The bomb at Centennial Park robbed Gymnast Kerri Strug
of her opportunity to be on virtually every magazine cover
nationwide. Timing is everything; barring another disaster,
Michael Johnson will get his chance this week.
Was sprinter Linford Christie a poor sport by taking so
much time in leaving the sprint start are after being
disqualified in the men's 100 meters Saturday? The press has
been far too harsh on Christie, I think. The man's dream of
defending his Olympic title was shattered - how can he be
expected to so easily accept his unfortunate fate? Three
minutes does not seem too much time to come to terms. Rather,
Christie's British teammate Liz McColgan was much more of a
poor sport. McColgan gave all kinds of excuses after her
lukewarm marathon performance and said the only reason she
did not drop out was that " it was easier to run to the
finish than wait for the bus. " This is the Olympic spirit?
Victim or villain? The saga of Michelle Smith is one of
the saddest chapters of the 1996 Games. The Irish swimmer's
amazing three gold medal performance has been shrouded in
controversy. On the surface, Smith has been truly wronged by
charges of drug use. She has undergone dozens of drug tests
before and after competitions for the past year. Those " in
the know " however, insist such rapid improvement at the age
of 26 is virtually impossible without the aid of performance
This indeed, is the real insidious price all involved in
sport must pay for the indiscretions of those athletes in the
past who have actually used such drugs: the uncertainty of
not knowing whether to believe and embrace a seemingly heart
warming story such as Michelle Smith's. Sporting fans have
been burned far too often to be anything but cynical, which
is truly sad, as by all rights, Smith deserves to be cheered
for her heroic efforts.