Why Aren’t More Americans Watching Track?

    It would seem that across the world, what deserves to be seen is determined by television viewers and ticket holders, but the athlete in me argues that truly great performances should be seen – at least moreso than a boring bottom of the ninth with the New York Bankees on top.

    And great performances happened this summer. The rest of the globe turned its collective eyes to Daegu, Korea to watch the World Championships in Athletics, an event viewed by more people than any two of the American top three put together. The thing is, you probably didn’t know about it unless you heard about Usain Bolt being disqualified.

    This great tragedy occurred when he false started, which in the international rules of one and done, meant he did not even compete in the 100m race he was expected to win. Shots of him prancing around and tearing off his shirt flew across the web and sports highlight shows, but the rest of the meet went largely unreported in America. Yes people watched the meet, and yes, it was available to thousands, but not a single medal made Sports Center or other highlight shows.

    Does Bolt’s failure or accomplishments deserve airtime? Certainly a portion of us want to see successful people fail, or egotistical people get what is coming to them, but his medal is so much more important to the sport as a whole. Yes, people would rather have immediate emotional satisfaction in seeing another fail, but to actually educate individuals in the importance of an event would be much more satisfying in the long run.

    In the same meet Bolt won Gold in the 200m dash with a time of 19.4 seconds. Another outstanding individual performance was turned in on the track by American Jason Richardson, who won Gold in the 110m hurdles. Incredibly, Bolt and the Jamaicans set a World Record in the 4×4, but that didn’t get coverage from any highlight reel in the U.S.
     
    Another point of interest at the meet was the male American dominance in the jumps, with Gold medals going to Jesse Williams in the high jump, Dwight Philips in the long jump and Christian Taylor in the triple jump.

    The American-dominated “jumpathon” was countered by the German “blitzkrieg” in the throwing events. Andreas Thorkildsen of Norway, reigning World, Olympic and European Champion in the javelin was overthrown by 22-year-old up-and-comer Matthias de Zordo of Germany. Admittedly, their performances did not come anywhere near the event record or even to each thrower’s individual record, but the advantage in such a situation would have gone to Thorkildsen, who has been plagued by injuries since training with Americans right here in the Chula Vista Training center. The discus and shot were also won by Germans, specifically Robert Harting and David Storl.

    On the female side, we took five gold medals on the track, with Carmelita Jones leading the way with an impressive 100m time of 10.9 seconds. This time is nearly a tenth of a second ahead of her competition, a huge gap in the 100m dash.

    Perhaps the most exciting competition of the entire meet on either side was the javelin competition between Barbora Špotáková of the Czech Republic and Mariya Abakumova of Russia. Barbora is trained by the current male record holder in the javelin, Jan Zelezny, whose record of 98.68 surpassed the second place mark by more than 5 meters and has stood since 1996. In the final round of javelin, each competitor gets three throws. Barbora led the event until Mariya passed her on the second-to-last throw. On her last throw, Barbora stepped up with a huge throw to again take the lead until Mariya, on her last throw, belted out a throw that waggled its way out passed 71 meters and won the event by less than half a meter.

    In every aforementioned situation, athletes competed against the very best in the world. It was not the incorrectly dubbed “World Series” of baseball, which only has American-based teams, but a truly international event with incredible performances from Americans.

    I enjoy watching a good baseball game more than most, having played from when I was four until I was 19. I love watching basketball, playing from sixth to 12th grade and having a basketball coach for a father. I also watch football with a passion, having played in high school under the Friday night lights of Texas’ wide open skies.

    However, even with all of this background in American-biased sports, I believe the events that unfolded in Korea this past summer top them all, and that every international event should be covered withat least as much vim and vigor as an ordinary baseball game.

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