Team USA's track and field chances

Aug. 14, 2004, midnight | By Anthony Glynn | 19 years, 8 months ago

Discipline: Athletics
Definition: This discipline is comprised of what the Athens 2004 website likes to call the "simplest physical activities" constituting some of the first-ever Olympic competitions. These competitions are more commonly known as track, field and road events.

How the U.S. rates

The U.S. Olympic track team has a few overwhelmingly qualified athletes not competing in Athens over the next few weeks. World-record holder Tim Montgomery and three fellow sprinters were suspended by the US Anti-Doping Agency for taking steroids. Montgomery's girlfriend and three-time Olympic champion Marion Jones was also ordered to appear before a federal grand jury to testify about her alleged purchase of a newly invented steroid. Both runners' performances declined after the accusations of steroid involvement began a few months ago. Montgomery did not make the Olympic team at all while Jones will only be competing in the long jump, the event she had won a bronze for in the 2000 Olympic Games.

Even with two of America's fastest sprinters out of the races, the U.S. Olympic track team can expect to see medals. Maurice Green, the 2000 Olympic gold medalist in the 100m, will be leading off America's sprinting team with a reliable sub-10 second 100 meters. Allen Johnson has held the Olympic 110m hurdles record since 1996. And then there is Alan Webb. He broke Jim Ryun's 36-year-old high-school mile record and may be the first American after Ryun to medal in the Olympic Games 1500m race since 1968. There does not seem to be much hope for Webb to win the gold competing against the world-record holder for both the 1500m and the mile, but with the personal records he has run this year, the 21-year-old is definitely not going to be last. Two-time Olympic champion and three-time world champion 110m hurdles runner Gail Devers will bring many years of experience and training to the team.

As for the longer races, the U.S. does not have many chances to medal. The Ethiopians have the 5,000m and 10,000m races dominated with the two best male distance runners in and record holders in the world. The only long shot America has at the distance races is with Deena Kastor, 2004 Olympic Trials 10,000m champion and Olympic Trials Marathon runner-up. Marla Runyan may successfully switch from the 1500m to 5000m race as she has been trying to for years, and Suzy Favor Hamilton will hopefully run through the 1500m race fatigue she was overcome by in Sydney.

The U.S. may win the highest percentage of medals in the field events. Not only can Tim Mack, Toby Stevenson and Derek Miles all clear 5.80 meters in the pole vault, but they placed first, third and fourth respectively at the 2004 Olympic Trials. Breaux Greer was confident in a USA Track and Field online interview and stated that if he thought he would not be walking away with the gold this summer then he would not currently be in Athens. The two-time Olympic trials champion and American record holder, Greer has recently been throwing around 87m, just three meters away from the world record set by Greer's chief competitor only four years back. Fellow Olympic Trials champion Stacy Dragila will be the defending gold medalist at the Games this year after breaking the Olympic record in the pole vault in Sydney.

The U.S. has 2003 World Outdoor decathlon champion and second-place Olympic Trials champion Tom Pappas for the combined events. Pappas is ranked the second-best American decathlete in history and will likely medal.

Curt Clausen's qualifications make him a good bet for the 50k race-walk. When he won the bronze medal in the 1999 World Outdoor Championships, he was the first American to medal in race-walking since 1972. After dedicating the last eight years to this one race, he has proven his strength by winning the 2004 Olympic Trials. The U.S. will also have a full team of three men and three women competing in the marathon event. All the American marathoners are solid racers, but it is unlikely they will medal.

Differences in races

There are a total of 46 events in the Athletic discipline. Twenty-four of these events are for men; 22 are for women. There are important differences in the men and women's Athletic events and these charts should illuminate those differences.

Track – Distances
110m hurdles100m hurdles
3000m steeplechasenone

*All other track events are the same distance (100m, 200m, 400m, 800m, 1,500m, 10,000m, 400m hurdles, 4 x 100m relay, 4 x 400m relay)

Track – height of hurdles

Discus8.6inch radius, 4.4lbs7inch radius, 2.2lbs
Shot Put5inch radius, 16lbs4.5inch radius, 8.8lbs
Javelin8.53-8.85ft, 1.76lbs7.21-7.54ft, 1.32lbs
Hammer3.85-3.98ft, 15.99lbs3.80-9.92ft, 8.81lbs

Men – DecathlonWomen – Heptathlon
High jumpsame
Shot putsame
Long jumpsame
110m hurdles100m hurdles
Pole vaultno event
Discusno event
100mno event

Road - events
20km road walksame
50km road walkno event

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