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  • are the olympics really that important?

    Should olympic wins really be considered that important in comparing the careers of athletes? Is it that important that Skeets, Ryun, whoever else, never won an Oly title? I realize it's a major goal of an athlete's career, but it is only one meet (albeit the biggest meet) out of every four years. Would/should we think of Ryun's career, for example, to be more significant if he had won the olympic 1500?

  • #2
    Re: are the olympics really that important?

    The Olympics have been the biggest meet around for the past 100 years. Had Jim Ryun won the Olympic gold at 1,500, of course this would be of great significance for his career. Ryun was a fantastic miler. In my mind, one of the greatest ever. He had so much talent, however he ran in three Olympic Games at 1,500 meters and "only" came home with a silver medal. That alone is a big part of his story. As for raw talent, I think Ryun would be in the top five of all time. That, of course, has nothing to do with his tactics or his mental concentration.

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    • #3
      Re: are the olympics really that important?

      >Should olympic wins really be considered that
      >important in comparing the careers of athletes?
      >Is it that important that Skeets, Ryun, whoever
      >else, never won an Oly title? I realize it's a
      >major goal of an athlete's career, but it is
      >only one meet (albeit the biggest meet) out of
      >every four years. Would/should we think of
      >Ryun's career, for example, to be more
      >e significant if he had won the olympic 1500?

      Absolutely,

      Especially in Ryun's time. There were no world championships and track & field is about winning & competition, not necessarily fast times. If we discount the importance of the Olympics, Ron Clarke is great, but he was not a great racer, just a great runner. Winning is the most important thing and winning on the biggest stage against the best competition is significant.

      There are only a handful of great athletes who have never won an Olympic gold. Many of them due to circumstance, world war, boycott, injury, etc. But as every athlete points their training toward the Olympics, it is the most important competition to win. It is hard to crown an athlete as one of the event's greats without their possessing an Olympic gold.

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      • #4
        Re: are the olympics really that important?

        >The Olympics have been the biggest meet around
        >for the past 100 years. Had Jim Ryun won the
        >Olympic gold at 1,500, of course this would be of
        >great significance for his career. Ryun was a
        >fantastic miler. In my mind, one of the greatest
        >ever. He had so much talent, however he ran in
        >three Olympic Games at 1,500 meters and "only"
        >came home with a silver medal. That alone is a
        >big part of his story. As for raw talent, I
        >think Ryun would be in the top five of all time.
        >That, of course, has nothing to do with his
        >tactics or his mental concentration.

        Is his losing in those three (i thought it was two but now I'm not sure) Olympics a fair assessment of his tactics or mental concentration? He won so many othjer races that it would be hard to say that he lacked those attributes. It's seems more reasonable to look at those meets as aberrations from the norm. Is it?

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        • #5
          Re: are the olympics really that important?

          Ryun ran in Tokyo, Mexico City, and Munich. The Olympics are about pressure and back in 1964 - 1972 when there were no world championships, the Olympics was it. Of course Ryun was a great runner. He was way ahead of his time, however I don't think he had the mental "toughness" of Herb Elliott or Peter Snell. Had he, I believe he would have won an Olympic gold medal. He had the ability, but something always got in the way. I still rate Ryun as one of the all time best milers in the world. I just think the Olympic gold medal is worth a lot.

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          • #6
            Re: are the olympics really that important?

            A contrary opinion: I've felt for a long time that the Olympics is an important event (duh!), but NOT the be-all and end-all of the sport. It's wonderfully impressive, of course, when a great athlete rises to the occasion and wins the big one on the designated day: Elliott, Snell, Walker, Coe, etc., etc. But there's also alot of luck involved, and the simple vagaries of timing. If the Olympics had been held in 1978 instead of 1976/80, then Henry Rono would have been a double (or triple??) champion; ditto for Bannister in '54; and so on, endlessly. Any objective look at the roster of Olympic gold medalists over the past 20 years or so reveals a curious mixture of appropriately "big" names and an equal bunch of guys who just got "lucky" on the day. It's fine to be lucky, but I just don't think these wins have much more significance than that--luck. Is Peter Rono the best 1500 guy of the late 1980s? Hardly! The Olympics is just another meet--a big meet, granted, but by no means the only one that matters...

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            • #7
              Re: are the olympics really that important?

              >A contrary opinion: I've felt for a long time
              >that the Olympics is an important event (duh!),
              >but NOT the be-all and end-all of the sport.
              >It's wonderfully impressive, of course, when a
              >great athlete rises to the occasion and wins the
              >big one on the designated day: Elliott, Snell,
              >Walker, Coe, etc., etc. But there's also alot
              >of luck involved, and the simple vagaries of
              >timing. If the Olympics had been held in 1978
              >instead of 1976/80, then Henry Rono would have
              >been a double (or triple??) champion; ditto for
              >Bannister in '54; and so on, endlessly. Any
              >objective look at the roster of Olympic gold
              >medalists over the past 20 years or so reveals a
              >curious mixture of appropriately "big" names
              >and an equal bunch of guys who just got
              >"lucky" on the day. It's fine to be lucky,
              >but I just don't think these wins have much more
              >significance than that--luck. Is Peter Rono the
              >best 1500 guy of the late 1980s? Hardly! The
              >Olympics is just another meet--a big meet,
              >granted, but by no means the only one that
              >matters...

              I absolutely agree. Very well put. The element of luck and timing involved in any given meet has to be considered. So, with that in mind, performance over time should very heavily outweigh olympic performance. Olympic losses or wins shouldn't add that much weight to our consideration of a person's career with regards to comparing it with another athlete's career.

              Comment


              • #8
                Re: are the olympics really that important?

                I
                >absolutely agree. Very well put. The element of
                >luck and timing involved in any given meet has to
                >be considered. So, with that in mind,
                >performance over time should very heavily
                >outweigh olympic performance. Olympic losses or
                >wins shouldn't add that much weight to our
                >consideration of a person's career with regards
                >to comparing it with another athlete's career.

                There are lucky Olympic champions. However wonderful the accomplishments of Bannister or Rono. Some guys peaked in non-Olympic years, other in Olympic years. Had FloJo peaked in 1987, instead of 1988, she would not have the some standing in the sport. However, that being said, athletes who can dominate for a quadrennium (sp?) or more eventually do win a gold medal. Rono had the bad luck of back-to-back boycotts. Had the Olympics started in 1895, Greg Foster would be a triple Olympic champion....maybe. Remember, athletes sit out or curtail their efforts in non-Olympic years. Why did Edwin Moses take off 1985 & '82, not 1980 & '84? Injuries, sure, but he did take some time off the rest and recuperate. (He also did not compete at half-strength). Is Paraskevi Patalidou better than Gail Devers? No. Is Shirley Strickland de la Hunty better than Gail Devers? I'm not sure. Gail's lack of a 100H gold does not help her in judging the best of all time.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Re: are the olympics really that important?

                  >Gail's lack of a 100H gold does not help her in judging the best of all time.<

                  But she has three 100H golds. They just happen to have been in the WC, rather than the OG. The fact is that today, the WC are just as important. They have the same athletes, the same format, the same participation, the same level of officials. The feel in the stadium, the level of competition and the excitement, are the same--and I've been to both.

                  No doubt, before 1983, the evaluation of an athlete's career had to consider success (or lack of success)in the OG and there was nothing else that mattered as much. But today, I think you have to look at both OG and WC, and you should look at them as equals.

                  To be sure, Devers's record even by that standard is not unblemished. But she did win three big ones and the fact that thty weren't OG big ones shouldn't matter very much in assessing her career.

                  I guess my answer to the subject question is yes, the really are that important, but so are the World Championships.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Re: are the olympics really that important?

                    Currently the Worlds are at best half as important as the Olympics, since they occur twice as often. Additionally, what are the chances that Marion (or any other female athlete) would have taken maternity leave in an Olympic year? Female athletes tend to have babies (when they are planned) in a post-Olympic year, so the worlds in the year after an Olympics are of even less signifcance than the year before, in my opinion.

                    I would love to ask a sample of world class athletes which they would rather have, two world golds or on Olympic gold?

                    I still find it hard to dub an athlete as an all-time great without their having an Olympic gold, unless there is significant evidence from the balance of their career OR they were victums of events beyond their control (mainly boycott).

                    Additonally, winning is important, but the presumption is that if an athlete fails to win Olympic Gold, then they LOST. Either in the games or at the trials. The best athletes win the vast majority of their competitions, especially at their peak. Take Harald Schmid, he lost much more than he won. He lost to Moses, he lost to Harris, he beat most of his European competitors, but his career is full of silver & bronze, not gold. As good as Merlene Ottey was, she lost most of her big races. Frankie Fredericks has been a terrific sprinter, but he lost 4 Olympic finals to 4 different men.

                    >>Gail's lack of a 100H gold does not help her in
                    >judging the best of all time.<

                    But she has
                    >three 100H golds. They just happen to have been
                    >in the WC, rather than the OG. The fact is that
                    >today, the WC are just as important. They have
                    >the same athletes, the same format, the same
                    >participation, the same level of officials. The
                    >feel in the stadium, the level of competition and
                    >the excitement, are the same--and I've been to
                    >both.

                    No doubt, before 1983, the evaluation
                    >of an athlete's career had to consider success
                    >(or lack of success)in the OG and there was
                    >nothing else that mattered as much. But today, I
                    >think you have to look at both OG and WC, and you
                    >should look at them as equals.

                    To be sure,
                    >Devers's record even by that standard is not
                    >unblemished. But she did win three big ones and
                    >the fact that thty weren't OG big ones shouldn't
                    >matter very much in assessing her career.

                    I
                    >guess my answer to the subject question is yes,
                    >the really are that important, but so are the
                    >World Championships.

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                    • #11
                      Re: are the olympics really that important?

                      The mention of Peter Rono shows how
                      irrelevant the Olympics are now. His name is
                      a small blip on the historical radar screens.
                      The Olympics certainly had a larger sense 40 years
                      ago---would they have made that horrible movie
                      `Running Brave' if Billy Mills had lost
                      to Ron Clarke/

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Re: are the olympics really that important?

                        One more thing. In discussing the "Olympics" we're actually talking about a very complicated phenomenon. It's far more than "just" a track meet--and that's a big part of the problem for me. A big track meet is just that: a track meet. The Olympics is a gigantic media/nationalistic/pop culture event. Some people love that; I don't. I can't fully separate Olympic competition from the tidal wave of hype, promotional blather, and banal feel-good rhetoric that surrounds the actual sporting events. The Olympics INCLUDES track competition, but in itself is NOT a track meet. One of the reasons that athletes value the Olympics so much is that celebrity there has a chance to transcend the (obviously limited) track world--it can result in a much broader, popular renown (Flo Jo, et al.) It's for this reason--not really because they think the Olympics is somehow more intrinsically meaningful than a WC--that athletes still put such stock in this odd, once-every-four-years media carnival.

                        Is that being too harsh?

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Re: are the olympics really that important?

                          >I would love to ask a sample of
                          world class athletes which they would rather
                          have, two world golds or on Olympic gold?<

                          Good question. How about you? Which would you choose--what you think is the highest honor that can be bestowed in your profession (assuming that it is not something like the Nobel Prize, which carries a cash award), or would you rather have the second highest honor plus $120,000 cash?

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Re: are the olympics really that important?

                            >The mention of Peter Rono shows how
                            irrelevant
                            >the Olympics are now. His name is
                            a small blip
                            >on the historical radar screens.


                            So any sporting event in which there is an upset is "irrelevant"?

                            To think that the Olympics are less meaningful in any sense than the World Championships is clearly irresponsible.

                            By the way, Rono did have a great deal of luck in winning that race. The only "great" runner in the race was an underimpressive and maybe even a bit over-the-hill Cram. Also there was a definitely past-his-prime Steve Scott. With Aouita and Cruz dropping out after the heats and Bile out due to injury. Give credit to Rono, the race fell right into his hands and he capitalized. He won the race everyone else wanted to.

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                            • #15
                              Re: are the olympics really that important?

                              "To think that the Olympics are less meaningful in any sense than the World Championships is clearly irresponsible."

                              I don't think that's quite the way to phrase it. You seem to be implying some sort of moral judgment.

                              It's interesting that your comments that follow simply prove the point: Rono got lucky in a shockingly low-caliber race. Why should we pretend that that race was any better than 50 other 1500s that year?

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