US Olympic Track Trials 2012: Viewer's Guide and Bold Predictions
Drama, drama, drama.
It's time for heroics and hiccups at venerable Hayward Field in Eugene, Ore., where the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials will kick off on Friday. Dreams will be made and dreams will be crushed, and with a full slate of intriguing storylines to follow, you'd be smart to park yourself on the couch. NBC is planning on 12 hours of live TV coverage.
Here are some basic guidelines and predictions to have in handy...
First and foremost, you need to know when to watch. Coverage will be divided between NBC and NBC Sports Network. Here is a list of the times each channel will be broadcasting and to complement that, a schedule of events.
It'd be nice to have a combined schedule showing what event will be televised at what time, but it's not available at the moment.
Chasing Meet Records
One male and four female meet records were broken at the 2008 U.S. Olympic Trials, and there’s reason to believe that more will fall this time around.
There are five men’s events featuring competitors whose qualifying marks are better than the current meet record, including five times in the 5,000-meter race that are faster than Steve Prefontaine’s record set in 1972.
On the women’s side, there are four qualifying marks in four events that would break meet records.
I’d say that seven meet records will be broken in Eugene this year.
Reese Hoffa Will Eat Turkey
While Christian Cantwell has the top qualifying mark in the shot put, Reese Hoffa has the best mark in the world this year and is itching to win his first gold medal.
The gregarious Hoffa, who likes a good turkey leg to celebrate victory, won the recent Prefontaine Classic and has his best shot at winning gold this year. Look for him to beat the field in the Trials.
Tyson Gay Won’t Make the Team
After hip surgery last year, 2007 100-meter world champion Tyson Gay didn’t even start jogging until March. He returned to competition with a solid mark of 10.00 into a headwind at the June 9 New York Diamond League meet and looked comfortable doing it.
Here’s the problem—there are six sub-10 times already in the field at the Trials, and none of those runners are openly dealing with pain.
"It aches and pinches and grabs," ESPN reports him saying after the New York race. "But I've just got to go out there and run through the pain."
Being a soft-spoken guy, there’s a good chance that could be interpreted as “It hurts like hell.”
It would be a feel-good story for him to make it to London, and he’s easy to root for, but you shouldn't put money on him. Here’s hoping he proves that wrong.
Lolo Will Make It to London
Everyone’s pulling for Lolo Jones, and it’s not just because she is one of the most drop-dead gorgeous American female athletes ever. Jones has overcome so much, including a poverty-stricken childhood and a fall in the Beijing 100-meter hurdles that resulted in seventh place rather than gold.
Her qualifying time is currently fourth heading into the Trials, but it’s hard to doubt her based on her ability to come back from adversity. Look for her to shine.
Epic Fail Alert
In 1992, Dan O’Brien was an Olympic favorite in the decathlon. In one of the sport’s most epic fails, he didn’t even make it to Barcelona after a costly misjudgment in the pole vault at the trials.
Lesson: Don’t overlook or underestimate the potential to not even make the team, no matter who you are. Anything can happen.
Tyson Gay pulled up with an injury and didn’t qualify for the 200-meter run at the Trials in 2008 (he wouldn’t have beaten Usain Bolt anyway).
With many top athletes (including Gay) in less-than-perfect health at the moment, there will be some moments that will make you cringe this time around. Some favorites won’t make it to London, and as sad as it is, we won’t be able to look away.
Women's Sprints Are Star-Studded
The women’s sprints will feature serious medal potential in the 100, 200 and 400 meters.
Allyson Felix is a knockout former U.S. Champion and will try to medal in her third-straight Olympics. The resurgent Carmelita Jeter will duel with her in both the 100 and 200, giving the double a try at the ripe old age of 32.
Sanya Richards Ross will join Felix and Jeter in a stacked 200-meter race, and she has the fastest qualifying time in the 200 and 400.
If they all hold up, each runner could win one. Jeter will win the 100, Felix the 200 and Richards Ross the 400.
A 1-2-3 for American Decathletes?
It has been 60 years since American men have occupied all three Olympic podium spots in the decathlon. This time around, there are three legitimate contenders—Ashton Eaton, Bryan Clay and Trey Hardee.
Defending gold-medalist Clay is past his prime at 32, Hardee is coming off Tommy John surgery that will hamper his throws and the 24-year-old Eaton is still young and unseasoned in the throws.
While all three are bona-fide studs, they also face different and serious challenges. Although he has the lowest personal-best of the trio, look for Eaton to break out and win the Trials, and all three will make the team.