Thursday, July 12, 2012

The London Olympics Round Up: Trials

By Shervin Stoney

Every four years, football fans (soccer for you Americans) have the World Cup. Every four years all other sports have their World Cup: the Olympics, the greatest sporting event on Earth. A display of countries' power and show of dominance that doesn’t involve guns, unless you are competing in the shooting events, the Olympics are special place. For the next month and a half I will be serving as a self-appointed ambassador for the Rogue Scholars to the Olympics, giving you all the captivating news as it happens. I must forewarn you, I will be biased towards the United States and Jamaica, and track and field. 

For true Olympics enthusiasts like myself, the action begins months in advance of the actual games. I am talking about trials. We are now about fourteen days away rom the Opening Ceremony.  Most of the trials and selections of athletes have been completed in the 216 countries participating in the London Games. So here are some of the interesting stories to take away from the trials going into London:

The Jamaicans will dominate the sprints again.
Four years ago, the Jamaican sprinters dominated the world. They won both the men and women’s 100 and 200 meter races. The tiny little nation island of 2.8 million people won 6 gold medals- that is 5 more than India with 1.2 billion people! The women’s race will be a bit more competitive this time around.  American Alyson Felix recently ran the fastest time for the 200 in 14 years: 21.69 seconds.  And American Carmelita Jeter is the reigning world champion in the 100 meters. The men’s side is a bit different.  With American Tyson Gay recovering from an injury, no one will be able to touch Jamaican Usain Bolt in the 200 meters. Even more insane, Usain Bolt is no longer a sure thing for the 100. He was beaten at the Jamaican trials by his younger training partner Yohan Blake, the reigning world champion in the 100. If I was betting on a country to rule a sport in the Olympics, my money is on Jamaica in the sprints.

You don’t need legs to be an Olympic runner.  
Oscar Pistorious was born without bones in his legs. Before the tender age of one he had both of his legs amputated below the knee. Dubbed “the Blade Runner” for the carbon fiber prosthetics he uses, Oscar became a star in 2006 when he began to dominate the Paralympics sprints. Soon, he was winning against able-bodied runners, too. His dream of competing in the Beijing Olympics was crushed when the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) said that his blades gave him an advantage. He didn’t pack away his blades, however; he appealed the decision and won. He will be competing in the London Olympics in the 400 meters and the 1600 meters relay for South Africa. Oscar's journey to the Olympics has not been without its controversies, however. There are many out there that believe that his supposed advantage is a slippery slope to the use of robotics in athletics. I would like to see those people have both of their legs amputated and run 45.07 seconds in the 400 meters.  

The Boogey Down Bronx has got talent.
When you think of gymnastics, I am sure you don’t think of the Bronx, and you certainly don’t think of Puerto Ricans. Well that is all about to change thanks to the youngest member of the U.S. men’s gymnastic Olympic team, nineteen year old John Orozco. At the age of 8, John’s mother, Damaris, started to drive him up to Chappaqua to practice gymnastics, and did so virtually every day for ten years.  He is not a second-tier gymnast either.  He won 14 gold medals competing in various US Junior National Championships. He is also the reigning US all-around national champion. At the age of ten, John began to believe that he could be something special and his parents supported him wholly. His father would often take time off work to watch him compete, and his mother would sit in the corner of the gym in Chappaqua and watch her son practice every day. His story is everything you want to cheer for- son of a sanitation worker and homemaker, grew up the ghettos of New York City- it reads like a Hollywood script. He is truly the Cullen Jones (an African-American gold medalist in swimming at the 2008 Beijing Games) of gymnastics.  He is a much needed inspiration for young minorities with dreams of being Olympians in sports void of minority role models.

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