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Thursday, July 26, 2012

America Drives the Olympics

One thing I find amusing during these big-box, large scale, upscale international sports competitions is that a large group of the people that the athletes wearing USA shirts are competing against are also USA athletic products themselves.

How many of these swimmers marching under the flag of their dear nation have actually spent the better part of the last 4 years swimming for American universities like Auburn, USC, UCLA and Stanford? I'd say plenty. And under full athletic scholarship no less.  Brazil's 400 IM entrant, Thiago Pereira, swims for USC, and New Zealand's Lauran Boyle swims for Cal-Berkeley. These "schools" I'm mentioning are all major Division 1 powerhouse programs with national competition schedules.

Ditto for track and field. Many of the Jamaicans, just to name a country, have been running here in the U.S. for American colleges since the 1970's.

Have I mentioned the Kenyans? They get recruited for collegiate cross country track and appear regularly in the national CC championships as well as plying their trade on the the American road running circuit. Even the Chinese beach volleyball teams actually moved to California to train full time in their sincere attempt to claim glory for the motherland.

Then there are the soccer and hockey players from all over the world playing in American collegiate and professional leagues who head back to make their national squads for the Games. Spain's basketball starting 5 all play in the NBA as do players on the teams from China and Australia to name a few.

I will hazard a guess that with the exception of Cuba and some of the Eastern European block, a majority of the worlds swimmers, figure skaters, gymnasts and runners train, and not just a little bit, in the good 'ol US of A. This is where the coaching is (or where they've defected), this is where the competition is and most important, this is where the scholarship and endorsement money is.

Many of these athletes never cite their U.S. university affiliations in their Olympic bios.

Just prior to the 1998 Olympics I remember seeing the world-class skater and future Olympic Champion Ilia Kulik of Russia skate at a charity event at Harvard University right here in Cambridge, Massachusetts. I mentioned to one of the organizers of the event how I thought that it was quite  a coup to get him to come to this event and was told it was no sweat at all since he had been training up in Westboro, MA for the last half year. Well what do you know? That's right up the road less than 20 miles away! I'll tell you where he wasn't training...Russia!

The U.S. also invents most of the new sports for other nations to blindly throw themselves at like: BMX, Mountain Biking, Beach Volleball and Snowboarding. Ok, so for this we should be apologizing to the parents of the world also. And thank God we didn't invent Synchronized Swimming! At least I don't think we did. Lord, I hope we didn't! And Rhythmic Gymnastics, what the hell is that all about?


So many of the world's elite athletes have matured in the American sports system where they were fed, clothed, housed, coached and maybe even educated so that they can head back home to "win one for my country!". I guess that's better than saying "I wanted to win but my country really had no resources to make that happen so I came to the United States". I don't think that would play well back home, where ever that is.

So while you're rooting for the nation of your choice in the newest big-money-production games just look again because the name of the place on the athlete's shirt hasn't been as important as where he or she chose to learn to play the game for a long time now and if a nation, any nation, China, Russia and even the United States included, really needs to place it's national worth on how many medals "their" athletes win, they're not fooling anybody but themselves.

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