Sports Analysis: Olympic trials show the United States has its sprinting swagger back
Michael Phelps' presence lingers at Olympic swimming trials 5 years after his last race
For the first time since 1996, the U.S. Olympic swimming trials are being held without the best swimmer to ever dive into the pool.But here, on the eve of the trials, it sinks in: For the first time since a previous century, for the first time since 1996, the U.S. Olympic trials are being held without the best swimmer to ever dive into a pool.
EUGENE, Ore. — In each of the past three Summer Olympics, Usain Bolt and his Jamaican teammates have been the dominant force at 100 and 200 meters.
But if the opening weekend of the U.S. Olympic track and field trials is any indication, the sprinting landscape will be a bit different this summer in Tokyo.
In the span of 24 hours, fans at Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon, witnessed a star turn from 21-year-old, and a to rival any recent world or Olympic championship. And next weekend's 200-meter competitions promise to be just as tight, and compelling.
Heartbroken after finishing ninth, Olympic champion Simone Manuel reveals why she struggled
Simone Manuel failed to qualify for the final in the women's 100 freestyle, an event she won at the 2016 Rio Olympics."It was kind of one of those bittersweet moments where my body wasn’t doing what I knew it was capable of," said Manuel, 24, the only Black female swimmer to win an individual Olympic gold medal and one of the most popular and recognizable names in her sport.
All told, the United States appears poised to bring home perhaps its largest medal haul in the short-distance sprints – the men's and women's 100, 200 and 4x100 relays – since the 1980s. Americans won just four medals in those six events in Rio in 2016.
"If you look at the top times in the world (right now)," said, who won the men's 100 on Sunday night, "you see the United States' flag."
The U.S. has brought home at least one medal in either the 100 or 200 at every edition of the Summer Olympics since 1900, excluding the boycotted 1980 Games. It has also been a consistent contender in the longer sprinting events: The 400-meter dash and 4x400 relay.
Canada's Olympic swim trials get underway after pandemic postponements
The long wait is over for Canada's top swimmers. The Olympic swim trials start Saturday in Toronto's Pan Am Sports Centre after cancellation in 2020 and a pair of postponements in 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. "Now that trials is finally happening, it's really exciting right now," said backstroker Markus Thormeyer of Delta, B.C. The five-day trials without spectators conclude Wednesday, which is a month out from the July 23 opening ceremonies of the Tokyo Summer Olympics. Swimmers collected six medals in the 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro, which accounted for almost a third of Canada's 22 medals there.
Some years, however, have been better than others.
At the 1984 Olympics, Carl Lewis and Evelyn Ashford helped the U.S. pull off an improbable feat, winning gold and silver in both the 100 and 200 in men's and women's competitions, while also sweeping the 4x100 relays.
On the opposite end of the spectrum: The 2008 Beijing Olympics, where Americans earned just two bronzes and one silver.
Since those 2008 Games, the U.S. has won just three golds at the short distances, two of them in the women's 4x100 relay. The dominance of Bolt obviously had something to do with that, but it didn't make the results any less disappointing.
The past few years, however, have provided evidence of a shift, as Bolt retired and a wave of up-and-coming Americans have battled to fill his spot atop the world rankings.
Since the conclusion of the Rio Games, U.S. men have run 21 of the fastest 22 times in the world in the 100, and 15 of the fastest 22 times in the 200. In Sunday's 100-meter final, five men beat or matched the time that secured a bronze medal at the most recent Olympics (9.91) – even without Christian Coleman, who was banned two years for whereabouts failures.
With Olympic dream on the line, Canada's best swimmers must hold for applause
While many sporting events around the world have returned to pre-pandemic normalcy with packed stadiums and raucous crowds, COVID-19 still looms large over the 2021 Canadian swim trials. Toronto's cavernous Pan Am Sports Centre, an esthetic marvel, would usually be packed for this event. Instead, it will remain largely empty as Canadian swimmers take their shot at fulfilling their Olympic dreams. The vacant seats would have been unimaginable six years ago at the 2015 Pan Am Games. An event that has largely been heralded as a turning point for the Canadian swim program.
REMEMBER THE NAME.
Let us introduce you to the newest member of the U.S. Olympic Team: Sha'Carri Richardson.— #TokyoOlympics (@NBCOlympics) | x
On the women's side, the international field is more level, though Richardson is the brightest up-and-coming star.
A fiery sprinter who's become known for her vibrant hair, long nails and brash personality, she figures to be one of the gold-medal favorites in Tokyo, alongside veteran Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce of Jamaica. Only 20 women have ever run the 100 in 10.8 seconds or fewer. Richardson has done it three times since April.
The second half of trials, which runs from Thursday through Sunday, will determine the 200-meter teams in Tokyo. Noah Lyles, the reigning world champion in the event, has said he expects to dominate the men's race, advising fans on social media that it "will be disgusting." The women's 200 field is among the deepest at any track event at the trials.
In the coming weeks, the U.S. will also finalize its 4x100 relay teams. The pools for those teams will consist of as many as six athletes – the top-four finishers in the individual race at trials, plus two others selected by Team USA's head relay coach.
Brianna McNeal finishes second in 100-meter hurdles. Will she be cleared to race in Olympics?
Brianna McNeal faces a five-year ban for violating anti-doping rules. The hurdler was allowed to run at trials while her appeal is pending. She did her job on the track by finishing second Sunday. “I can celebrate this. I’m just happy I had the opportunity to be able to compete here. I thank God for that. It’s been a long journey,” McNeal said. “The next few weeks I’m just going to continue to pray and trust in God to see me through and hope that all things work out for my good. I’m just gonna take it day by day.” The fourth-place finisher, Gabbi Cunningham, will replace McNeal on the U.S.
Regardless of who is on those men's and women's 4x100 teams, or the order in which the athletes run, the U.S. will be favored to win gold in both.
Generating lofty expectations, of course, is one thing. Meeting them is another. The U.S. will still need the performances in Tokyo to match its potential, which is no easy feat. But at the very least, the competition at Hayward Field so far has put the rest of the world on notice.
Contact Tom Schad at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY:
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Simone Biles, Sunisa Lee, Jordan Chiles, and Grace McCallum will compete as a team while Jade Carey and MyKayla Skinner will compete as individuals at the Tokyo Olympics RELATED: Simone Biles' Floor Routine at U.S. Olympic Trials Included Signature Moves - and a Nod to Tokyo Games Biles, 24, stormed out of the gate as the top contender to nail a spot on Team USA and ended up winning the weekend. While she uncharacteristically fell off the balance beam on Sunday, her place in Tokyo was never really in question after winning four gold medals and a bronze in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.