The London 2012 Olympics have been defined by two things for Americans. Disappointing TV coverage by NBC (See “Our Grades for London 2012 Olympic TV coverage … so far” blog post) and disappointing results from the most well-known U.S. athletes at the games.
Google the word “disappointment” and the top results are some Wikipedia pages and some dictionary results. But, one only has to scroll to the seventh result to start getting news reports with headlines like “Disappointment for U.S. men’s gymnastics team,” “US Athletes Who Will Continue to Disappoint,” and “Jordyn Wieber’s Disappointment.”
I am truly an optimist, but have thought this a number of times already during these Olympics,
“I remember when the U.S. used to win Gold medals.”
So, is it all over for the U.S. dominance at the Olympic games? Will China overtake us on the medal count and truly take their place as the world’s number one super power on all fronts?
This is a pretty pessimistic view on the future, and like I said, I am an optimistic. So, let’s analyze why this is actually happening.
Our well known athletes are past their prime
So far, the only really well-known athletes that have competed in these games are in swimming events. Ryan Lochte, Michael Phelps, and Rebecca Soni have all been in multiple Olympics and have won multiple medals, but they are in their mid-to-late 20’s and swimming against teenagers and those in their prime who are not crumbling under pressure like our Men’s Gymnastics team (more on that later).
Soni got Silver in the 100m breast stroke to Ruta Meilutyté, the Lithuanian superstar who is just 15-years-old. Lochte lost the 200m freestyle to two 20-year-olds and a 22-year-old. All of our swimming super stars became super stars during the LZR suit era — the few years full body suits were allowed. During this era 93 world records were set. The suits were eventually banned, but were our veterans already too comfortable with the suits to go back to shaving their whole bodies?
Ryan Lochte came into these games cocky and ready to show the world he’s the new BMOC. He did so with a quick Gold medal in the 400 IM. He then faltered as the anchor of the 4x100m freestyle relay and came in fourth in the 200m freestyle. But, did Lochte actually choke or was he just over-hyped in these specific events?
20-year-old French swimmer Yannick Agnel swam a 46.74 as the anchor in the freestyle relay. The World Record in the 100m freestyle is 46.91 — which was set in 2009 during the LZR suit era. Agnel beat the World Record with his leg of the relay and he did so with a pair of spandex shorts and a BIC razor. Lochte didn’t choke, Agnel swam the fastest anyone has ever gone in 100-meters. Agnel is a freestyle specialist who swam out of his mind — almost two seconds faster than he had ever gone before — while Lochte and Phelps are all-around swimmers who still have their best events coming up.
Our younger athletes are untested
The U.S. Men’s Gymnastics Team were almost assured a medal and Women’s All-Around World Champion Jordyn Wieber didn’t even qualify for the event. They faltered, and they did so at the worst time imaginable — during the Olympics. When it all comes down to it, the Olympics are more mental than they are physical at times.
To win in Gymnastics, you have to be near perfect at all times. And when you falter, you have to be able to bring it to the next event. Wieber and the U.S. Men could not get their confidence back after a few deductions.
19-year-old Sam Mikulak summed it up with a quote in the L.A. Times article by saying, “The Olympics just magnifies everything so much more than I expected. It was a lot more pressure than I expected.”
Yep. It’s the Olympics. Did we not have anyone prepare our young athletes for the magnitude of the Olympics? Does the Millennial Generation just think that the U.S. has always dominated and there’s never been pressure? Did they think they would get a medal no matter what?
There has to be an unimaginable amount of pressure on teenagers who have been told they will win a Gold medal, something none of us can ever understand. But, how do our other young medalists overcome?
Our unknowns are succeeding
OK, maybe none of these athletes that will be mentioned are truly unknowns, but they did not come into these games with the hype associated with other athletes. Missy Franklin has taken these games by storm winning two medals already with more to surely come. 16-year-old Gabby Douglas seems to be getting no attention after Wieber failed to qualify, even though she is now the favorite. Matt Grevers and Nick Thoman went Gold/Silver in the 100m backstroke and the U.S. has actually won a few diving medals already.
We’ve won medals in shooting and archery, as well as one in judo. The Olympics have just started, and NBC must be scrambling to find some new athletes to over-hype because the ones they did going into the games are not doing so hot. But, the U.S. is no way out of the hunt for the most medals.
There is nothing to worry about when we still have the U.S. Basketball teams dominating as well as Women’s Soccer and Beach Volleyball. We are an optimistic nation, and we need to continue to show this optimism throughout the games.
Good things are about to happen for the U.S. We might be stumbling, but we aren’t out just yet.