Wyomia Tyus on medal stand 1968 Wyomia Tyus, fastest woman in the world, on medal stand 1968

These were not the Innocent Games of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. These were the Protest Games of the 1968 Mexico City Olympics.

Hundreds died in anti-government demonstrations only 10 days before the start of the Games, while black American athletes, who had contemplated boycotting the 1968 Olympics, were locked in an ongoing debate about how to protest the plight of blacks in America.

Reigning 100-meter Olympic champion, Wyomia Tyus, a black woman from Griffin, Georgia, was in Mexico City to run, but could not ignore the rising tensions. The ’68 Olympics contrasted significantly with  the ’64 Olympics, when she was a quiet, inexperienced 19-year-old, not expected to medal, let alone break the world record and win gold as she did.

She was in Mexico City, with a chance at making history – to be the first person, man or woman, to repeat as Olympic champion in the 100-meter sprint. And yet, perhaps surprisingly, Tyus was calm and relaxed, as she was when she was crowned fastest woman in the world in Tokyo. Tyus told me she was confident.

The press was saying I was too old at 23 because I wasn’t running that well in ’67. I used that. I thought differently – these athletes should be afraid of me. The pressure – it’s on them.  I had the knowledge. I had the strength. Nobody else was going to beat me. I didn’t say that. But those were the thoughts in my head.

When Tyus lined up for the finals of the women’s 100 meters sprint, she was ready. And as three-time Olympic high jumper, Dwight Stones explains in an Olympic Channel video, Tyus had become an accomplished master of the psych out. And her way was to dance…to a hit of the time, The Tighten Up, by Archie Bell and the Drells.

She would just intimidate you out of any chance of beating her. She wasn’t really that. She was actually kind of shy. But on the track, she was an assassin. Everyone there is very nervous. Of course you’re nervous on some level. Good nervous? Maybe bad nervous? And Tyus was maybe nervous too. But the way she manifested it was, at the starting block she would start doing the Tighten Up. And what that did, it would loosen her up, and tighten up everyone else. That’s why she did it. It was just another technique that she thought of that they had never seen that would take everyone else out of their game.

Wyomia Tyus anchoring 4x100 in 1968 finals
Wyomia Tyus anchoring 4×100 relay in 1968 finals

As she wrote in her powerful autobiography, Tigerbelle: The Wyomia Tyus Story,co-authored by Elizabeth Terzakis, Tyus didn’t just dance her way into the psyches of her competitors, she crawled her way in. She made sure she was the last person in place, delaying as long as she could before she was set. Her husband, would call it “cheating.”

It is true that we Tigerbelles took our time getting into the blocks. I’d always been taught that you stand in front of your blocks and you shake your legs out—you shake and shake. Take deep breaths. Touch your toes and make sure you’re still shaking while you do. Then you kick your legs out to put them in the blocks—you kick, kick, kick, and put that one in, and then you kick, kick, kick, and put the other one in. Then you sit there on your knees and you look down the track.

While Tyus went through her routine, her competitors stayed still, their fingertips on the track keeping their bodies steady as they waited impatiently for Tyus to stop moving.

On that cool, overcast day on October 15, 1968, the fat belly of  rain clouds looked ready to split, and Tyus was actually not as unruffled as she appeared to be. She didn’t want to run in the rain so she wanted to get moving. Unfortunately, her teammates were jumpy. First, Margaret Bailes left early. Then Tyus found herself 50 meters down the track before Barbara Ferrell was called for a false start.

When the pistol fired a third time and all sprinters were off cleanly, Tyus created little drama, leading nearly from start to finish. While she needed to lean to win gold over her teammate Edith McGuire at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, this time she hit the tape ahead of Ferrell with time to spare. With a time of 11.08 seconds, Tyus set a world record for her second Olympics in a row.

True, Usain Bolt was the fastest man in three straight Olympiads, 2008 to 2016. Carl Lewis was Olympic champion in two straight from 1984 to 1988, while Gail Devers delivered two straight sprinting golds for women in 1992 and 1996.

But the first person, man or woman, to be crowned the fastest in the world in back-to-back Olympiads was the woman from Griffin, Georgia, Wyomia Tyus.

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Aska Cambridge Keeping Up with Usain Bolt in 4x100 Relay
Aska Cambridge Keeping Up with Usain Bolt in 4×100 Relay – click on image to see Olympic Channel’s “Games to Remember”

The Olympic Channel features a video that recalls images and moments from the 2016 Rio Olympics. Entitled “Games to Remember – Re-Experience Rio 2016: The Official Summary of the Rio2016 Olympic Games,” the video runs over 37 minutes long.

I started it, but was only going to watch it for a few minutes. I ended up watching the entire video, a collection of short clips of the events of each of the 16 days. And they are all stunning!

Slow mo, normal speed, tracking shots, overhead shots, long shots, all edited to highlight the aesthetics of epic poetry in motion, to accentuate the limits to which the athletes will stretch themselves, to remind us of the chills we experienced when viewing the very best in the world achieve the highest levels of physical achievement.

Go to this link. If you can, put it up on your big flatscreen TV. And revisit the joy of the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Kohei Uchimura from Games to Remember
Kohei Uchimura – click on image to see Olympic Channel’s “Games to Remember”

usain bolt mcnuggets

After the 2012 London Olympics, one of the most famous people on the planet revealed in his just-released autobiography something that likely made the hearts of MacDonald’s executives flutter with pride and joy.

In his book, Faster than Lightning, Jamaican Usain Bolt, sprinter nonpareil, said that at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, he essentially lived off of Chicken McNuggets, consuming an estimated thousand of the fried chicken chunks during his time in Beijing. Bolt won gold medals in the 100- and 200-meter sprints, as well as the 4×100 relay. You can be sure that McNuggets were on his menu for his subsequent triumphs at the London and Rio Olympics.

By virtue of being a TOP Sponsor of the Olympics, MacDonald’s had exclusive rights to market itself as a global Olympic sponsor, preventing any other food provider of associating itself with the Olympics. This privilege provided MacDonald’s the opportunities to create the biggest and best MacDonald restaurants in the world right inside the Olympic Villages over the past decades, a favorite dining area for athletes.

But after 41 years as an official sponsor of the Olympics, MacDonald’s and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) decided it was time to part ways.

Perhaps there was a persistent hum of discontent within the IOC that fast food should not be seen as the fuel for so many healthy world-class athletes, which may have needled the executives of MacDonald’s. “The brand relevance is simply not there anymore,” said Patrick Nally, one of the of the architects of the IOC’s revamped marketing model established in the 1980s. “At every games you see a storm of criticism in the media about McDonald’s being present at the Olympics, and that’s just gotten worse.”

Perhaps it was a matter of the bottom line. According to Business Insider, the CEO of MacDonald’s, Steve Easterbook, has been working on a plan to revamp its menu, employ greater digital innovation to its business processes, and cut costs by about half a billion dollars by the end of 2018. The TOP sponsorship is a hefty USD 25 million per year. MacDonald’s exited it’s contract with the IOC three years before the contract’s completion, so that’s a saving of USD75 million in the next three years.

MacDonalds in Olympic Village of 2012 London Games
Athletes Binging on MacDonalds in the Olympic Village After Completion of 2012 London Games

Perhaps it was a revision to Rule 40. This rule was established by the IOC to prevent over-commercialization of the Olympics by anyone who could draw the five Olympic rings or a close approximation of them. By creating a rule and a process for protecting the Olympic brand, the IOC has been better able to ensure TOP Sponsors that they would truly have exclusive marketing rights within their particular industry category.

However, as a concession to athletes, who are heavily supported by their own sponsors, and who have grown increasingly irked by the hammer hold the IOC and TOP Sponsors have on the ability to prevent their own sponsors of even a splinter of exposure around the time of the Olympics, the IOC decided to relax Rule 40. As explained in this Sports Illustrated article, in February 2015, “the international Olympic Committee decided to relax its guidelines to allow ‘generic’ or ‘non-Olympic advertising’ during the Summer Games. This also allows for athletes to tweet and post on social media about non-official sponsors as long as they do not use any Olympic properties or references. The U.S. Olympic Committee has to grant approval to American sponsors and brands.”

Rule 40 enforces a blackout period for the above-mentioned marketing of personal non-official sponsors, that extends from 9 days prior to the Olympic Games to three days after its completion. However, this did not seem to please MacDonald’s. According to Reuters, John Lewicki, the man who oversees MacDonald’s TOP Sponsorship relationship with the IOC, was reported to say last year that “the company would reevaluate its Olympic relationship after changes to a rule that ended a marketing blackout for companies that sponsor athletes rather than the event itself.”

So while athletes won’t have Big Macs or McNuggets to chow down at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, skiers and skaters will be able to enjoy their fast food fix at the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics in South Korea. MacDonald’s still has an agreement with the South Korean national olympic committee, providing them with marketing rights and access to the Olympic Village. If they can convince Bolt to start a career as a bobsledder like his famous countrymen from of the 1998 Calgary Winter Games, he can be a one-man-marketing machine for MacDonald’s, one last hurrah for a long-time Olympic sponsor.

 

Usain Bolt and the Holy Redeemer

    Usain Bolt and the Holy Redeemer

The bigger picture at the Rio Olympics:

Cambridge Bolt and Brommel

Silver Samurai Japan Team pose
The Japanese men strike a pose – as if pulling out swords for a fight – during the introductions to the 4×100-meter relays finals.

Upstage Usain Bolt? Hard to imagine doing that. But in Japan, the four young men of Japan’s 4×100 team, Ryota Yamagata, Shota Iizuka, Yoshihide Kiryu and Aska Cambridge, did just that.

Very unexpectedly, against such traditionally strong competition as Jamaica, America, Canada and Trinidad and Tobago, Japan sprinted to second place at an Asian record of 37.60 seconds, a fair distance behind champions Jamaica, but ahead of the United States and Canada.

No sprinters from Japan had ever done so well. Famous for long distance runners, particularly with its share of marathon Olympic champions, Japan had only one sprinting exception: a bronze medal finish in the men’s 4×100 relay at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. As Andre De Grasse, who won silver in the 200 meters and bronze in the 100 put it, “Japan probably surprised us a little bit. We didn’t expect to see them up there. But congrats to them as well.”

After all, at the beginning of the track and field competition in Rio, there was very little to indicate that Japan had the talent to medal in any sprint competition, as seen early on in the men’s individual 100 meter heats.

Cambridge Bolt and Brommel
Aska Cambridge and Usain Bolt face off in the final let of the 4×100-meter relays final.

 

In Heat 8, Yamagata came in second with a time of 10.20, qualifying behind South African Akani Simbine. In the semis, Yamagata finished fifth in his heat with a very solid run of 10.05 seconds, but did not qualify for the finals. Iizuka, who did not compete in the 100 meters, failed to qualify in the 200 meters with a time of 20.49 seconds.

In Heat 7 with Usain Bolt, Kiryu placed fourth, his time of 10.23 not good enough to quality for the individual finals. Cambridge qualified with the second fastest time in Heat 4 at 10.13 seconds, behind Canadian star, De Grasse. In the semis, Cambridge did even worse with a run of 10.17 and crashed out of the running for the finals, finishing last in his heat.

Fortunately for Japan, the individual sprints were one thing – the team sprints were another. In the two preliminary relay heats, Japan was not intimidated. In heat 1 of the 4X100 men’s relay, the United States team bested China, which set an Asian record time of 37.82. Japan won the second heat, not only topping the Jamaican team (sans Bolt), but also setting a new Asian record time of 37.68 seconds.

After the heats were completed, the eight teams competing in the men’s 4×100 relay were set. In order of lanes 1 to 8 were Great Britain, Brazil, The US, Jamaica, Japan, China, Canada, and Trinidad and Tobago. But in the finals, most of the teams were able to conserve the energy of their super stars in the heats, while Japan stuck to their four thoroughbreds. The Japanese were in lane 5, next to the Jamaicans, as the lead runners settled into their starting blocks.

Yamagata exploded out of the blocks, which is what you want from your lead runner. He seemed to gain ground vis-a-vis the lead runner for China in lane 6, but exchanges between runners for the Canada and Jamaica seemed to have happened a split second before Japan’s.

Yamagata passed off to Iizuka, who was Japan’s 200-meter runner. The runner of the second leg has to run in the baton exchange lanes twice, which means he runs about 125 meters. You want someone who’s speedy at longer distances, so Yamagata fit the bill. When Iizuka took off at the 100-meter mark, it appeared nearly all teams were tied.

Iizuka passed the baton to Kiryu for the third leg. The third leg is often a make or break leg. Not only does the runner in the third leg have to run 125 meters, he also has to ensure a smooth baton exchange while rounding a curve. Kiryu handled that responsibility to perfection. At the 300-meter point, Jamaica, Japan, China, Canada, as well as Trinidad and Tobago were looking equal, with a slight edge to Jamaica, Japan and Canada. Great Britain and Brazil had fallen significantly off the pace in the inside lanes, while the USA seemed to be slow on the exchange.

The fourth leg, or anchor, is often run by the swiftest on the team. Cambridge was the anchor, and his personal best was 10.1 seconds. Not only did he have the fastest time for Japan in 2016, he was seen as capable of going faster. As we all know, or could expect, Bolt was a runaway freight train and Jamaica was heading for its inevitable golden finish. But Japan’s Cambridge burst out of the exchange, and for a while appeared even to keep pace with Bolt.

silver samurai asian record
The new giants of Japan.

While gold was out of the question, Cambridge’s job was to hold onto silver. Trayvon Bromwell of the American team exploded through the anchor leg and was pushing hard for second, so desperate that he went flying to the track while crossing the finish line.

The citizens of Japan, fortunate to be able to watch this race on a lazy Sunday morning, worked themselves into a frenzy as the race came to a finish, holding their collective breath as their hearts caught up with their eyes.

And then Japan erupted. Cambridge crossed the line in front of Bromwell. Japan had taken silver.

“Nippon! Nippon!” the announcer from NHK shrieked as Cambridge flew past the finish line. The Japanese quartet instantly became the new giants of Japan. We expected the Japanese men’s gymnastics team to do well. We expected the Japanese women’s wrestlers to do well. We did not expect the Japanese men’s sprinters to beat the Americans, the Canadians and push the legendary Jamaicans and Usain Bolt.

But the Silver Samurai did. And heading into the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, pre-teens and teenagers all across the islands of Japan will be saying, “maybe, just maybe, that could be me.”

Lilly King and Yulia Efimova
Lilly King and Yulia Efimova in the aftermath of the 100-meter breaststroke finals

It’s as if people are wearing black hats or white hats. People boo when the black hats slunk onto the stage, and cheer when the white hats make their grand appearance.

In a world of gray – the state of doping in international sport competition – the Rio Olympics is turning into a morality play, where Russians in particular are playing the role of villain. Thanks to the IOC decision to allow individual sports federations to determine whether Russian athletes can participate in the Rio Olympics, some 270 Russians came to Rio, albeit under a moist, dark cloud of suspicion.

Those who are claiming the higher ground – the cleans – have been emboldened by the IOC decision to spit out their lines in contempt. Lilly King of America has made it no secret that her rival in the pool, Yulia Efimova of Russia, who was suspended for doping after winning medals at the London Games, should not be at the Rio Games. In reference to Efimova’s raising her index finger after winning a preliminary race in the 100-meter breaststroke, King said “You wave your finger No. 1, and you’ve been caught drug cheating? I’m not a fan.” King touched the wall a fraction of a second earlier than Efimova to win gold.

Australian swimmer, Mack Horton, said of his rival from China, Sun Yang, “I don’t have time or respect for drug cheats.” That prompted a social media war as Chinese fans dropped virtual vitriol on Horton, who pipped Sun to take gold in the 400-meter freestyle. “We probably just need to apologize to every Horton who has a name like Mack – because they have really copped a fair shellacking over the last couple of days,” said Mack Horton’s father, Andrew.

It’s clearly not just swimming, and it’s not just Russia and China against the rest of the world. King said that Justin Gatlin, gold medalist in the 100 meters should not be in Rio. Gatlin, who won gold at the 2004 Athens Games, was not only caught doping and suspended before the Athens Games, but also afterwards. While the 34-year-old American has a chance to claim gold again, Gatlin is definitely viewed as tainted.

Usain Bolt and the Holy Redeemer
Usain Bolt and the Holy Redeemer

Athletes are loudly expressing dislike, even disgust for “cheaters”. The crowd rain boos on the black hats. And to be realistic, the average sports fan is fatigued by the constant reminder that athletes are cheating. On Saturday, August 13, the morality play will likely reach its climax. On to the biggest stage will step Usain Bolt, arguably the most popular athlete in Rio. Bolt is universally loved for his friendliness, his love for fun and his sublime speed. Bolt is hoping to become the first ever to be crowned the fastest man in the world three Olympics in a row.

But perhaps a somewhat less obvious reason people root for Bolt is the belief that he runs clean and wins. Bolt is a symbol for the high performance and armchair athlete alike – a dragon slayer, a shining savior.

Adding to his favored status, Bolt addresses that responsibility with humility. Here’s how he responded to a question at the London Diamond Games in July, 2015 about his role as “savior”:

A lot of people have been saying that. But it’s not only me but all the athletes also. All the athletes have the right to try to help the sport, to keep the sport in a good light. I think it’s all of our responsibility. I just do my best. I try to run fast. I do it clean. I think that’s just what I have to do. I’m not going to say I’m the only savior of athletics. I just try to do my best and stay focused.

It’s complicated. Russian and Chinese athletes come from cultures where government are able to execute on top-down strategies and tactics more easily than more democratic societies. How much choice do the Suns and the Efimovas in their respective nations have in their athletic careers? As Romanian legend, Nadia Comaneci said in this New York Times video, “I don’t think the booing is really nice. Everybody is a human being in the end. I think you should respect them.”

Efimova is indeed a human being, and I hear her frustration, and I believe her pleas for understanding are heartfelt.

I have once when I made mistakes and I have been banned for 16 months. Like, I don’t know actually I need to explain everybody or not. I just like have some question. Like if WADA say, like, tomorrow, stop, like, yogurt or nicotine or, I don’t know protein, that every athlete use, and they say tomorrow now it’s on banned list. And you stop. But this is stay out of your body six months and doping control is coming, like, after two months, tested you and you’re positive. This is your fault?

Michael Johnson also defended those who served the time. As the 4-time gold medalist sprinter said in this AP article, “the athlete has been a villain and certainly has done damage to the sport. . . . I don’t appreciate that. But the athlete’s not the one that’s making the rules that allows him to get back on the track or back in the pool, or back on the field.”

But to most people, it is simple. If you’ve been caught cheating and suspended, you got to Rio by tilting the playing field in your favor.

Usain Bolt. Save us.

Schippers Thompson Fraser-Pryce Gardner
Clockwise: Schippers, Thompson, Gardner, Fraser-Pryce

The crowns of the fastest men and women in the world reside in the Caribbean island of Jamaica. Both Sherry-Ann Fraser-Pryce and Usain Bolt have won gold in the premier track and field event, the 100-meter dash, at the past two Olympics in London and Beijing.

For Fraser-Pryce, winning gold in the 100-meters at the Rio Olympics will not be easy. Her fastest time in 2016 or 10.93 merits tenth best for the season, a few big competitors with faster times.

Dafne Schippers, 24, won gold in the 200 meters at the world championships, and silver in the 100 meters last year. But in quick succession, the Dutch sprinter has won gold in the 100 meters at the European Championships in Amsterdam as well as the Diamond League championship in Monaco on July 15. However, two huge rivals did not compete at that event, Elaine Thompson, 24, of Jamaica and English Gardner, 24, of the USA, owners of the two fastest times in 2016.

gatlin bolt
Gatlin and Bolt

As for the men, the chief competitor to Usain Bolt is American Justin Gatlin, the much maligned sprinter who won gold in the 2004 Athens Games, but missed the Beijing Olympics in 2008 while serving his second ban for use of illegal performance-enhancing drugs. He returned to the tour in time to place third at the London Games, and has recently won the US Olympic Trials in the 100-meters, sending him to Rio as the oldest sprinter ever to make a US team.

In 2016, Gatlin holds the fastest time in the 100 meters at 9.80. Usain Bolt has been cautious, holding himself back from competing, particularly as he had recently suffered a hamstring injury. But his fastest time this year is 9.88, and clearly Bolt rises to the occasion. Just recently Bolt demonstrated that the injury is not an issue by dominating in the 200-meters championships at the London Anniversary Games on July 22.

Will Jamaicans Bolt and Fraser-Pryce repeat as the first three-time gold medalists in the 100-meters, or will time catch up with them?

Can’t wait to find out.

Say it ain’t so! I really want to see Bolt racing in the Rio Games. I hope he recovers in time.

Bolt reportedly could still be named to the Olympic team.

via Usain Bolt out of Jamaican Olympic Trials (hamstring), still hopes for Rio — OlympicTalk

opening ceremony 1896 Olympics
Panathenaic Stadium a the 1896 Athens Olympics

Pierre de Fredy, Baron de Coubertin‘s dream had come true. He had a singular passion to revive the ancient Olympic games, bring nations together in peace, athleticism and sportsmanship, creating the first ever international sports body, the International Olympics Committee, and then organizing the first modern Olympic Games.

It was 120 years ago today when tens of thousands packed a stadium in Athens, Greece, the birthplace of the Olympics to witness an international sporting event of a scale never seen before. While only 10 nations and 64 athletes competed at the 1896 Athens Games, the 2012 London Games had over 200 nations represented and over 10,700 participants.

100m Athens 1896
100 meters at the Athens Games

With the first Olympiad, a bar was set with every finish. And from that point on, performance was measured on beating the best scores set at a global scale. Coubertin proposed the Latin words, “Citius, Altius, Fortius” as the Olympic motto, which means “Faster, Higher, Stronger”.

The Olympics created a revolution of sports measurement, creating new goals and aspirations for people all over the world. Below is a comparison of results in the years 1896 and 2012. Yes, this is a period of 116 years, but every year, thousands of people were driven by the very best scores established at international and then national sporting events.

1896 vs 2012 results

One of my favorite New York Times videos is one that explains how fast the fastest man in the world has become, comparing every Olympic champion since Thomas Burke in 1896 to Usain Bolt in 2012. As this video dramatically shows, Bolt would have beaten Burke by over 18 meters, or 60 feet!

Bolt in ANA commercial
Usain Bolt in first ANA commercial

World’s Fastest Man and two-time Olympic champion in the hundred meters, Usain Bolt earned $15,000 in track competitions in 2015, according to Forbes. But in terms of endorsements, the sprinter from Jamaica pulled in a cool $21 million.

Puma alone invests $9 million a year lacing Bolt up. Rio, more gold and deeper reservoirs of endorsements are potentially around the corner for Bolt in August.

Adding to those riches is ANA, otherwise known as All Nippon Airways, which just signed the six-time Olympic gold medalist to an endorsement deal. And the first use of the Bolt brand comes in this television commercial of Bolt dancing to the well-known pop song, “Tokio”, written by a band called “Tokio“.

At the end of the commercial, Bolt says “Bolt-un deru?” (ボルトんでる?) It’s a Japanese play on the phrase “bu-tton deru” (ぶっ飛んでる), which means “crazy”, but in this case probably means “going crazy” in a fun, exciting way. An ordinary way of saying it, more appropriately for ANA perhaps, is “taking off”.

So what do you think of Usain Bolt’s moves?