LOS ANGELES, August 11, 2012 – American track and field fortunes have ebbed and flowed and the U.S. has been counted as a “has-been” many times in the past two decades, most recently after modest performances in Sydney in 2000. What a change in London!
The U.S. men crushed the field once again in the medal count, with 15 to Jamaica’s seven and five for Kenya, and led the points race, 157-53 over Jamaica. It’s the 26th time in 26 Olympic Games in which the U.S. has competed that the American men have won the medal and points titles.
The total of 15 medals, with the marathon to go, is one better than in Beijing 2008 (14) and three better than Sydney (12). It trails the Athens total of 19 from 2004 and the 16 won in Atlanta in 1996. The last time the American men reached 20 medals was 1992 in Barcelona . . . the last time the combined teams reached 30 total medals.
The U.S. won the women’s points race, 141-136, over the Russians, collecting the top spot for the first time in a non-boycotted Games since 1968, but lost the medal count, 16-14, as the Russians collected seven medals on the final day of women’s competition.
And there are new stars emerging, like jumping jack Brigetta Barrett, who surprised with a silver in the women’s high jump, and relays coach Jon Drummond, whose charges only set one world and two American records in the past two days.
[Before we get going, please note (1) we’re using the Track & Field News Olympic previews as our form charts, and (2) we’re using the IAAF’s points-scoring system of 8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 for eight places.]
Strong performances by the Russians (1-5-6) and Chinese (3-7) in the men’s 50 km Walk, but we may have seen the last men’s points from both countries in this race. If so, the Chinese will finish with three medals (all in the walks) and 27 points in the men’s competition, significant progress from 2008, when they had no medals and just five points in Beijing.
The Russians have had a terrible meet. If you’re complaining about the U.S. men, consider that the Russian men scored 56 points with five medals in Beijing four years ago, but have so far managed only 40 1/2 points and two medals in London. Ouch! Let us not forget that Moscow will host the 2013 World Championships . . . how are ticket sales going for that?
China and Russia dominated the women’s 20 km Walk, claiming all the medals and the first six places. The Russian 1-2 brings them within one medal of the U.S. on the women’s side (12-11) and 119-98 on the points table with three events left.
No impact on the team scoring, but with this being one of the worst U.S. events, it’s worth noting the success of the throwers from Trinidad & Tobago and Kenya, who have both thrown over 80 meters (262+ feet) this season. In fact, Trinidad’s Keshorn Walcott set national records on his first two throws and won the gold medal at 277-6 (84.58 m), the first-ever medal for Trinidad in a field event!
Men’s 5000 m:
The first few laps were pathetic, at 71+ seconds, but Mo Farah completed a great double in a terrible time of 13:41.66 but a great 52.9 last lap. Bernard Lagat looked like a medal possibility entering the final straight, but tripped with 100 m to go and lost his chance. With Galen Rupp’s seventh, the U.S. didn’t medal, but gained a point on the dope sheet.
It’s the eighth 5-10 double in Olympic history and the second in succession after Kenenisa Bekele of Ethiopia did it in 2008. Farah is the first European to pull off the season since Lasse Viren’s double-double in 1972 and 1976 for Finland.
Women’s 800 m:
The Russian duo of Mariya Savinova (1:56.19) and Yekaterina Poistogova (1:57.53) earned gold and bronze and with Yelena Arzhakova’s sixth, a total of 17 points, a major +8 against the dope and giving the Russians a 13-12 medal lead against the Americans. For the U.S., Alysia Johnson Montano led at the 400 m mark at 56.31, but finished fifth and earned four points.
Women’s High Jump
Russian hopes were high and Anna Chicherova and Svetlana Skholina were sitting 1-2 through 6-6 3/4 (2.00 m), but suddenly Arizona’s Brigetta Barrett continued her late-season surge, with a PR 6-7 (2.01 m) for second at the Trials and another PR of 6-8 (2.03 m) on her second try to win a silver medal!
Chaunte Lowe cleared 6-5 1/2 (1.97 m), but couldn’t do better.
Women’s 4 x 400 m relay:
Any doubt? The BBC splits had DeeDee Trotter at 50.5, opening an enormous lead that only got bigger, then Allyson Felix at a stunning 47.9, then Francena McCorory at 49.4 and Sanya Richards-Ross at 49.2 for 3:16.87, the fifth straight 4 x 400 m on the track for the American women.
Russia with second and Jamaica in third finished as expected, but the race wasn’t close. With a silver medal, however, the Russians collected seven on the final day to finish ahead of the U.S., 16-14. That’s one more than each was expected to earn in the pre-meet projections.
Men’s 4 x 100 m relay:
The U.S. sported a new line-up of Trell Kimmons, Justin Gatlin, Tyson Gay and Ryan Bailey for the final, and the result was a new American record of 37.04, but it wasn’t enough to beat Jamaica’s world record of 36.84.
All credit to USA Track & Field relays coach Drummond, whose teams set a world women’s record of 40.82, and men’s American records of 37.38 and 37.04 (equaling Jamaica’s previous world-record time). Add Walter Dix to the mix in 2013 and who knows what the limits are . . . no dropped sticks and plenty of promise for the future.
Where are we?
Men: After nine days and with 23 of 24 events scored, the U.S. is running away with the team title at 157 points, with Jamaica standing second at 53 and Great Britain third at 51.5. Only the marathon remains.
The U.S. men have 15 medals, two less than projected at this point, with Jamaica at seven and Kenya at five.
Women: With all 23 events scored, the U.S. won the points race for the first time since 1984 and the first time in a non-boycotted Games since 1968! The American team scored 141 points (-1 points vs. the dope) to 136 for Russia (-32), which scored an amazing 57 points on the final day.
The U.S. women won 14 medals in all, one more than projected, but finished second to Russia, which won 16 (also +1). It’s more than any American women’s track team save the boycott-impacted 1984 Games here in Los Angeles (16). Outside the U.S., the previous best mark had been the 1992 Games in Barcelona, with 10 medals. In fact, those were the only two previous Games in which U.S. women tracksters had reached double digits on the medal table.
Jamaica and Ethiopia had five medals each to tie for third on the table.
Overall: The U.S. has a combined total of 298 points, well ahead of Russia (176.5), Jamaica at 107, Kenya at 99 and Great Britain (94).
The U.S. has 29 medals – one short of the “Project 30″ goal, but with possibilities still in the men’s marathon tomorrow. Russia, with a great final day from its women’s team (seven medals) and eight medals on the day (three in the walks) and will likely finish with 18, trailed by Jamaica at 12, nine for Kenya and eight for Germany.
More each day after the close of competition; stay tuned!
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