Allyson Felix, the biggest start coming into the U.S. Olympic Trials.
A close friend of mine likes to say that, “Life is a zero-sum game,” meaning things tend to balance out. Such was certainly true May 29, when news came to track and field aficionados that fans could attend the upcoming Olympic Trials in Eugene.
Eugene’s crown jewel of Hayward Field is playing host to The Trials from June 18-27. The expanded attendance afforded by the lowering of COVID-19 precautions in Lane County due to high vaccination rates, will finally give Hayward a chance to energize the new stadium.
The depth of athletic talent coming to Hayward will be outstanding with no fewer than nine world champions in the meet.
The most decorated American woman in Olympic track & field history and six-time Olympic gold medalist Allyson Felix, who is aiming for her fifth Olympics appearance at age 35. Current 200m world champion Noah Lyles is attempting to make his first Olympic team, and 2016 Olympic 400m hurdles gold medalist Dalilah Muhammad; and member of the 4x400m relay world championship team Sydney McLaughlin will also be competing for a spot on the team.
No one arrives to The Trials with any certainty, athletes must earn their spots on the team by performing well here. The meet is pressure-packed and compelling.
Superstars always help energize a stadium, but The Olympic Trials is where superstars don’t just convene, but where they emerge. Athletes have been training for five years – and a top-three finish means representing the U.S. in Tokyo. Making an Olympic team is the culmination of years of dedication and training, and every athlete who comes to Hayward this week is seeking the glory it bestows.
For an athlete, competing at an Olympic Trials culminates years of training focused on delivering the athlete to top form at the right time for the Olympics.
Back to the zero-sum game: While athletes, and those who cover them in the media, speak of “Olympic dreams,” The Games are subject to great economic and social pressures. It is hard not to comment on the dark cloud hanging over the scheduled games in Tokyo. The International Olympic Committees (IOC) is determined to hold The Games despite a majority of Japan’s citizens opposed to it out of COVID-19 concerns.
While much of the United States is easing social gathering restrictions, Japan is still in the midst of a serious wave of infection and it is likely The Tokyo Olympics will take place in a bubble with the stands empty or reduced depending on the state of COVID-19.
The IOC has long touted The Games as a sanctuary from all political forces and has long been defiant about acknowledging the social context of its games, most notably the 1936 Berlin Games staged despite the ominous shadow cast by Adolph Hitler’s rule in Germany. The Mexico City Olympics in 1968; Moscow in 1980; and Los Angeles in 1984 are other examples of the games being held amidst challenging political times.
We can expect the virus to be part of the unfolding story at these Olympics.
When all is said and done, the Olympics is a gathering of the best athletes in a wide range of competitions who will mingle, play, and form friendships through their rivalries. That’s a good thing. From the track and field standpoint, competing and winning in the Olympics fixes an athlete’s legacy more so than any other competition.
It is my sincere hope that those who come to Eugene this week find nobility within the challenge of a pandemic. And, if the past is indeed, prologue for the future, we can expect this week’s Eugene Olympic Trials and the Tokyo Olympics to remind us of things bigger than our day-to-day concerns.
No doubt the Trials and Olympics themselves will be a mix of extraordinary human performance set against one of the most challenging times in human history.