A FEW THINGS WE LEARNED FROM THE 2016 SUMMER OLYMPICS (AND WHAT AN OLYMPICS IT WAS!!)
If you were anything like me, you were absolutely glued to the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio this past month. This year the games left us with some truly memorable moments as well as some interesting observations about track & field and running in general. Here are a few of my takeaways:
Ray Treacy is GOOD!
If you ever get a chance to be coached by this Providence-based running guru, do not hesitate. I know, I know, this is probably a pipe dream for 99.9% of us but he's the coach and the brains behind Molly Huddle’s training plan, and also someone who predicted that she would run 30:30, or even 30:20 and place about 7th in the Olympic 10K final. She ran 30:13:17 in a brave race, finished 6th overall and set a new American record in the process! Molly has been running as a professional and working with Coach Treacy for 7 years now so this has been a gradual and methodical development of an athlete. Top coaches such as Ray Treacy know how to take a longer term approach with a runner, in order to allow that runner to achieve his or her full potential. This is why he is on a short-list of coaches I admire and look up to because he really knows his stuff.
Track & Field is getting younger.
The Team USA track & field delegation at the Rio Games was the youngest in the history of USA Olympic competition, thanks to the likes of Sydney McLaughlin (17 y/o, 400m hurdles), Vashti Cunningham (18 y/o, high jump) and Lexi Weeks (19 y/o, pole vault). The Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympic Games could feature an even younger Team USA. There are 13 teenage girls and 11 teenage boys who could contend for a spot on the team in 4 years. Despite the controversy surrounding the sport, the future of track & field is looking very bright.
The US can compete at the distance running events.
Here’s how things played out in spectacular fashion for Team USA:
Clayton Murphy (University of Akron) - bronze medal in the 800m, the first medal in that event for Team USA since 1992.
Matt Centrowitz (Nike Oregon Project) - first US gold medal in the 1500m since 1908.
Evan Jager (Bowerman Track Club) - silver medal in the 3000m steeplechase, the best US finish in that event since 1952.
Jenny Simpson (New Balance) - bronze in the women’s 1500m, the first medal in that event in US history!!
Emma Coburn (New Balance) - bronze medal in the women’s 3000m steeplechase, also the first medal in that event in US history!!
Galen Rupp (Nike Oregon Project) - bronze medal in the marathon, the first men’s marathon medal for Team USA since 2004. This was after placing 5th in the men’s 10K final only eight days earlier!
The bottom line is, US distance runners work just as hard and, when there is a level playing field, perform just as well as athletes from other countries.
Athletes can still dominate their events.
In an age of increasing parity in track & field, where anyone can lose in any given event, the feats accomplished by Mo Farah of Great Britain and Usain Bolt of Jamaica are proof that it can be done. Mo won both the 5K and 10K for the second Olympics in a row and Bolt won the 100m, 200m and was part of the winning 4 x 100m relay team for the THIRD consecutive Olympics. Yeah. So even though it is highly unlikely (Mo is only the second man in history to accomplish the double and what Bolt did is unprecedented) it can be done.
The best running moments don’t always lead to victory.
Abbey D’Agostino (USA) and Nikki Hamblin (New Zealand) got tangled up during one of the 5K prelims and both runners went down. Abbey was first to get up, and instead of running ahead, she turned to help her fellow runner off the track in one of the most memorable moments of the entire games. Then Abbey herself went down with what was later discovered as a torn ACL. They both had to do their final four laps alone, Abbey while injured, but they finished the race and helped each other in the process, demonstrating that the spirit of sport isn’t all about winning. Sometimes it’s about sportsmanship and this is something we can all take with us.
What an amazing Olympics it was!! I’m already looking forward (and hopefully booking my plane ticket) to Tokyo 2020!