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Michael Johnson: U.S. Performance "Disappointing"

American Michael Johnson, the 200 and 400 world record holder, called the U.S. team performance at these Games "disappointing" during a press conference (Johnson did not, however, say "disastrous" as the Olympic information service reported.). Johnson also expanded on his comments during remarks after the conference.
"To this point, it's been a disappointing Games for the U.S. team," Johnson said. "That's the problem for the U.S. team; some of the athletes are just not performing to their level. We've seen some athletes who have run faster this year, but they get here and they're not performing....
"You go through eras. Sometimes you have athletes who are maybe not as [mentally] strong as others. Take the case of our 100-meter girls. Lauryn [Williams] is tough, she's always pulling through...Torri [Edwards] is notoriously running fast throughout the season and not necessarily at championships. Muna [Lee] is a great athletes, but just from a personal standpoint, she would tell you herself that she is meek. She's a really sweet girl, but a really sweet girl sometimes gets intimidated."
About Kenyan-born Bernard Lagat, who won an Olympic silver and bronze in the 1,500 for Kenya who failed to advance to the 1,500 final here in his first Olympics for the United States: "He's running like an American distance-runner now.":

By Amy Shipley  |  August 20, 2008; 8:11 AM ET
 
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Comments

I live in Britain. The medal table over here has always listed Countries by the number of Golds they have won, rather than the total number of medals. I see that in the Post you use the total number of medals, treating Gold, Silver and Bronze as equivalent.

In Britain, China is the clear winner with America a distant second. In the Washington Post, America is top of the table despite only having 25 golds to China's 45.

What's the reasoning? ;)

Posted by: Martin | August 20, 2008 8:35 AM | Report abuse

Eternal dominance, although a goal for many cultures has never been a fact. The Olympics is just one facet of life in which this is obvious. Other countries are just getting better and for a multiplicity of reasons which I cannot even start to delineate. There is no need to panic. It is my opinion that we need to learn from the approaches of many, including those beyond our shores who appear to be coming up with the better mousetrap. Such an approach would diverge from that of our leaders who seem to be stuck at an earlier phase of our national evolution. It is quite obvious that talking alone just is not going to be worth very much. Mr Johnson's disappointment is understandable but we need to look at these results, compare them with those in other areas (eg. foreign policy, trade and industry, education) decide whether our current approach needs modification and then act. In the meantime our appreciation for the efforts of our athletes needs to be undaunted and respectful of their efforts.

Posted by: Draesop | August 20, 2008 8:48 AM | Report abuse

I think it is high time US learn from other countries if it wants to top the medal tally. Learn from China how to diversify so that you are not dependent on just one track for most of the medals. Identify low handing fruits, diversify in the games where there is not that much competition, send you athletes to other countries to train etc will definitely help in next olympics.

Posted by: Globalisation!!! | August 20, 2008 8:55 AM | Report abuse

Eversince the IAAF started an all out effort drug testing athletes, the United States was bound to fall from track and field dominance. It's going get worst because the American athletes will be under a microscope and they won't be able to cheat anymore.

Posted by: Junior Simpson | August 20, 2008 9:13 AM | Report abuse

I agree w/Junior Simpson!

Posted by: Ntlekt | August 20, 2008 9:23 AM | Report abuse

Martin in Britain - Because the focus should be on the athletes. Total medal count reflects the total merit of the athletic competition, especially when you have tie breakers and 0.01 sec determining Gold vs. Silver. More importantly, it is pretty easy to sort it this was. How do you rank the nations who don't have any Gold? How do you justify placing a nation whose 1 single medal is Gold higher than another with and unlimited number of Silver and bronze? It may not always make sense (China is clearly dominating, so don't think I am ignorant of that.) but there doesn't seem to be a different, simple way of doing it. And we Americans are all about the simple.

Globalisation!!! - While I may sound like I'm justifying keeping the US at the top of the charts, that is clearly not what this country's delegation is about. We would never follow China's approach, ever. Just like we didn't do it when the USSR was dominant. Our approach is an extension of our society - if athletes can figure out a way to succeed, and that includes finding sponsorship opportunities and marketing themselves, great. But we are never going to send kindergarten age kids off to a controlled and segregated training facility for a decade in order to compete in these games.

Junior S. - Sour grapes much?

Posted by: A comment on the comments | August 20, 2008 9:25 AM | Report abuse

Martin,
The Washington Post and most US papers use the AP feed for their medal counters, which just tallies all medals. I don't really know the justification for why they do it, but that is the way it has been presented in the US since at least 1984, which is the earliest that I can remember.

Globalisation,
Unfortunately, the US can't really attack the low hanging fruit like other countries in order to boost our medal count. The problem is, that in most of the sports that the US is bad at, there is just little interest and incentive for the best athletes to move into those sports. This is partly because many are not exposed to the sport, or the economic opportunity in that sport does not exist, primarily because there is no interest from companies to sponsor an athlete in that sport because the following is so small.
Frankly, in order to boost medal count, you are going to have to substantially increase government involvement in funding and directing sports programs from the time children are very young, which is just not that popular an idea in the US. The funny thing, when you look at where both countries are getting the bulk of their medals, outside of gymnastics, there is minimal direct competition between US and Chinese athletes, as the Chinese signficantly outclass the US in most of their strong events, and the US does likewise in their strong events.

Posted by: Chris | August 20, 2008 9:33 AM | Report abuse

Michael Johnson surely has a point, these have been a pretty poor games for the US - many top athletes haven't delivered.

As for ranking by gold medal or total medal haul, Martin from Britain is right, every other country seems to do it by gold medal...

http://www.smh.com.au/
http://www.lequipe.fr/Jo/TAB_MEDAILLES.html
http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/olympics/default.stm

Posted by: Ranking by gold medals? | August 20, 2008 9:38 AM | Report abuse

"Low hanging fruit" Ha, that's funny. The U.S. is never going to invest millions of dollars and thousands of lives to grind kids through sports "schools" so that we can win a gold medal in handball or badmitten or any of these other silly games that we don't play here. Never.

It makes sense for China (as it did for the USSR) because they are trying to prove a political point (socialism is superior). We won the Cold War...we don't need to do it.

Posted by: Chris | August 20, 2008 9:45 AM | Report abuse

America feel they have to dominate the olympics everytime. They have prolonged features on American losers and always making excuses for them, but fail to give attention to other athletes from the other countries who have acheived gold at the games. Very selfish & bias attitude I must say.

Posted by: Cold Ones | August 20, 2008 10:00 AM | Report abuse

Oh other Chris, the US does invest millions to try to pump up sports in which it does not compete well, the problem is, it is easier for a central authority to incent Chinese parents to send their kids to sports schools because it is much cheaper to improve their lives economically. As for sports schools, you obviously have never seen those sports training academies in Florida that start at junior high age and rarely give the kids an education in anything other than their chosen sports. Particularly bad is tennis, but of course, their it is entirely the parents choice and they are not state supported.

Cold Ones,
The reason why there are prolonged features on American losers on US television is because most Americans don't care about other athletes unless they are trancendent, and frankly, most athletes gain golds in sports where Americans just don't care, why would the network waste its money and airtime on athletes and sports that are just going to cost them viewers, and thus money from advertisers. It's kind of funny how people not from the US fail to understand that it is commercial pressures and not a concerted effort by some central authority to shape US public opinion that drives coverage of these games.

Posted by: Chris | August 20, 2008 10:31 AM | Report abuse

common guys we need to work hard for the enxt olympic though disappointed today..

Posted by: memo. | August 20, 2008 1:21 PM | Report abuse

To Martin. I can't answer your question about why they post the medal count the way they do, but it will make no difference as I believe the USA will reel in the Chinese during the track and field, BMX, and a few other upcoming events.

Posted by: Norman | August 20, 2008 1:33 PM | Report abuse

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