My colleague Pat Price, who writes the blog Writing About Running, has an excellent post up today. It’s Taking the temperature of the US Olympic Distance Squad.
Track and Field at the 2012 Olympic Games starts one week from today (check out the schedule here).
How’s the United States Distance Team doing going into the games?
Below is an update about what each American athlete has been up to since the trials and who has a true MEDAL CHANCE, a DARKHORSE medal opportunity, and then sadly, those who may not by ready to roll due to injury (HURT ALERT).
I agree with all of his assessments, and it’s a great summary of the US team in that area.
In fact I like it so much that I’m going to steal the idea and the format and do the same for the US field eventers. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, Pat.
1. Jamie Nieto — DARKHORSE
Nieto was dead last at the big Diamond League meet in Monaco, and the 2.31m jump that got him into the Games with an ‘A’ qualifier was a one-off, his best mark in eight years. So why do I rate him as a darkhorse? Because his Olympic Trials win proved his ability to produce in wet conditions, and rain is a very real possibility in London at any moment. He spent his undergraduate years spent at Eastern Michigan University, and if you can’t jump cold and rainy conditions in the upper Midwest, then you can’t jump during the outdoor collegiate season. Regardless of what happens here, the Olympics will be Nieto’s swansong; the 35-year-old aspiring actor has announced it will be his last competition.
2. Erik Kynard — MEDAL CHANCE
The 21-year-old Kynard made his European debut in Monaco with a fourth-place finish an a leap of 2.30m, one of his better heights. Kynard’s hometown of Toledo is just 40 miles away from Eastern Michigan, and so while Kynard’s speedy approach doesn’t hold up well to rain, Kynard is hardly intimidated by bad conditions.
3. Jesse Williams — MEDAL CHANCE
Williams’s first major win of the outdoor season was at the Monaco meet, where he turned back Britain’s up-and-coming Robbie Grabarz. Williams hadn’t looked like the defending World Champion until this meet, but now he appears to be hitting his peak at just the right time.
1. Brad Walker — MEDAL CHANCE
Walker tied for first in Jockgrim, Germany, on Wednesday with a big 5.81m clearance, and took some realistic shots at 6 meters. This came on the heels of a 5.72m runner-up finish at Szczecin, Poland. Walker is more than capable of hitting the height needed to medal; as always in this event, it comes down to who can execute when it matters. Walker is very mindful of the 2008 Olympics, where he failed to qualify to the final, and is looking to be mentally ready as well as physically ready.
2. Jeremy Scott — HURT ALERT
Scott has been having some knee trouble and returned to the Chula Vista Olympic Training Center to get work done on it, so he hasn’t competed since the Trials.
3. Derek Miles — HURT ALERT
Miles competed at the Gill Field Fest in Illinois and cleared 5.41m on his third attempt, and was unsuccessful in three attempts at 5.61m. He’s been battling a nagging achilles problem all year. And let me tell you, if you’re nearly 40 years old (as Miles is) and trying to beat kids half your age, if that’s all that hurts you’re doing very well.
1. Marquise Goodwin — MEDAL CHANCE
Goodwin had a subpar outing at Monaco, a sixth-place finish with 7.94m, but is still a threat to medal. No one is setting the world on fire in this event this year. Goodwin competed in a Nike uniform, which led to us wondering if he’d signed and renounced his remaining collegiate eligibility, but Austin news sources report that he’ll return to the Longhorn football team after the Olympics.
2. Will Claye — DARKHORSE
This is Claye’s second event, his specialty being the triple jump, but he can pop one out. He hasn’t jumped since the Trials, so far as I know. He’s been dealing with a right ankle injury but “is expected to be 100 percent healthy” for the Games.
3. George Kitchens
Kitchens is ecstatic just to be here. He hit a massive PR to simultaneously get third at the Trials and achieve the Olympic ‘A’ standard, and fell down in tears of joy while readying for his final attempt. In Lignano, Kitchens took second in a modest 7.78m but only two centimeters behind Australia’s Henry Frayne. Kitchens is lucky to be alive after surviving a murder attempt at the age of 12, taking bullets to his chest and arm.
1. Christian Taylor — MEDAL CHANCE
Taylor is more than just a threat to medal, as he’s the defending world champion and realistically talking about challenging the world record. Since the Trials, he won the Aviva London Grand Prix by nearly a foot and a half. He’s ready.
2. Will Claye — MEDAL CHANCE
Claye does not appear to have competed since the trials and it also doesn’t appear to be injury-related. Claye has few losses, this year or last, to anyone besides Taylor, and has beaten him on occasion.
1. Reese Hoffa — MEDAL CHANCE
Hoffa followed up his Olympic Trials win with a win in London over his two major non-American rivals, Tomasz Majewski and Dylan Armstrong. Hoffa is on a streak, but things always seem to get weird in this event at the Worlds and Olympics.
2. Ryan Whiting — MEDAL CHANCE
It does not appear that Whiting has competed since the Trials, but he has not reported any injury issues. Nonetheless, anyone who can make the US team in this event is automatically a medal threat — especially for a reigning world indoor champion like Whiting.
3. Christian Cantwell — MEDAL CHANCE
Cantwell was only third at the Trials, but at the Gill Field Fest he threw a massive 22.31m (73′ 2.5″), by far the best in 2012. He’d been struggling with back pain all year, so much so that he told the Columbia Tribune he considered taking an offer from the WWE. But now he’s feeling good and throwing very far.
1. Lance Brooks
2. Jarred Rome
3. Jason Young
I’m unaware of results for any of these three, and all are going to need a good qualifying round in order to get to the finals.
1. Kibwe Johnson — DARKHORSE
Johnson has had trouble this year, but went over 80 meters multiple times last year. If he can get back to that kind of performance, he has a chance to get on the podium. He has not competed since the Trials.
2. AG Kruger — HURT ALERT
Kruger recently had 35 cc’s of fluid drained from his right knee. He says he feels better now than when he made the Olympic team.
1. Craig Kinsley
2. Sean Furey
I am not aware of any competitions since the Trials for either Kinsley or Furey.
3. Cy Hostetler
Hostletler threw 74.79 for seventh and last at the Diamond League meet in Monaco. He wrote about the experience at his blog, noting that while he threw poorly he’d also been traveling for 36 hours just to get there and his tricky knee is finally feeling good again.
1. Ashton Eaton — MEDAL CHANCE
As the only current world record holder on the US team, and the only world record breaker in 2012, Eaton is more than just a threat to medal. He’s about as strong a favorite as there is in an event that gives you ten ways to screw up. Eaton was a guest at the Thorpe Cup decathlon competition and did five events: 100m in 10.46, shot put in 14.78m, high jump in 2.04m, discus in 46.54m, and javelin in 61.68m. Eaton’s weakest points are the throws, but the shot and javelin were PRs and the discus close to it.
2. Trey Hardee — MEDAL CHANCE
Hardee is the consensus pick for silver–or, if Eaton should happen to falter, gold. Hardee was also a guest at the Thorpe Cup, where he did the long jump (7.27m), shot put (14.95m), 400m (49.07), discus (47.75m), and pole vault (4.85m).