Redemption day for U.S. track and field athletes


By Dr. Bob Elliott

The Bird’s Nest National Stadium was jammed with anxious spectators, including U.S. fans who were hungry for Gold. Fans were not disappointed, as they once again witnessed a night filled with amazing performances.

BEIJING -- The Bird’s Nest National Stadium was jammed with anxious spectators, including U.S. fans who were hungry for Gold.

Fans were not disappointed, as they once again witnessed a night filled with amazing performances. 

U.S. fans were jubilant as our track and field athletes displayed excellence in most events in which they participated.  

Stephanie Brown-Trafton, a discuss thrower who was not expected to medal, thrilled the crowd with her Gold Medal throw of 212-5. She placed only third during the 2008 Olympic Trials and has never won a U.S. title. 

Her performance earned the U.S. its first Gold Medal in women’s discus since Lillian Copeland in 1932. Stephanie’s performance stunned the rest of the field and set the tone for the U.S. team last night.

Good times continued to roll with our men’s 400 hurdles team. Angelo Taylor, the 2000 Gold medalist, dazzled the crowd and led a U.S. sweep with a personal-best of 47.25.  Kerron Clement and Bershawn Jackson completed the sweep. U.S. fans, who were disheartened as they left the stadium, celebrated as their team ran their victory lap.

After most of the audience had departed the Bird’s Nest, Yelena Isinbayeva (Russia) wowed the audience by winning the Gold Medal and setting an Olympic record.

Between each vault Isinbayeva would totally isolate herself under a white blanket, with only her feet protruding, during the next three minutes.

No one could explain this ritualistic behavior but it works for her. After already being assured a Gold Medal, Isinbayeva followed up with a world record of 16-6¾. 

Jenn Stuczynski, in only her third year of vaulting, captured the Silver Medal with a 15-9 performance. After a protest she was granted a fourth attempt because officials had given her only two-minute breaks between each vault instead of the required three-minute break. Although there was some speculation that Isinbayeva received an extra boost in motivation when Stuczynski proclaimed, “Let’s go kick some Russian butt” before the Games, it was quickly apparent that the world-leading Russian vaulter was in peak form for the Games. 
A changing of the guard took place in the women’s 800 meters final.  Pamela Jelimo, the Kenyan teenager, had the crowd on its feet with an amazing Gold Medal winning time of 1:54:87. 

Seasoned veteran  34 year-old Maria Mutola, a Springfield High School graduate, impressed the audience with her 5th place performance and a speedy time of 1:57.68. Mutola has advanced to the finals in the Summer Olympics in five of the last six Games  She earned a Gold medal in 2000.

Mutola has maintained that she is retiring from competitive track.

She has stated, “I’ll be too old by then (2012) as I am nearly 35. This is realistically my final chance at an Olympic medal and I want to use that as the burning motivation for the race.” 

Of course, her adoring fans in Eugene, Ore., hope that her career is not over. For now we’ll have to wait and see what decisions Mutola, who is a favorite at the Prefontaine Classic, makes for her athletic future.

While sitting in the stands we met 19-year-old Brady Ellison (Glendale, Ariz.) who is a full time resident of the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, California.  Ellison, who was the U.S. 2008 Olympic Trials Champion in archery, placed 15th overall during the Summer Games. When prompted, he displayed proudly his new tattoo of the Olympic rings.

Excitement builds for Oregon track fans as they eagerly await the start of the men’s 800m competition which begins tomorrow evening.

The U.S. team, led by Eugene resident Nick Symmonds (OTC) will be joined by Oregon Track Club’s Christian Smith and the University of Oregon’s Andrew Wheating. The trio will begin their medal quest tomorrow evening at the Bird’s Nest National Stadium.

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