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With the Olympics in their last week now is a good time to sit down and reflect on the things that we’ve seen already and a few of the things that are yet to come. (Author’s note: This will not include USA Basketball, because if I remember this right the tournament ends on Saturday and I’m not about to predict the tournament again after doing it once before). But despite that, I think there are still a few things that we’ve all have learned from these Olympics.
1: USA Boxing might be doomed, maybe. And they have no one else to blame but themselves.
Think of all our Olympic programs. From archery to wrestling, name me a program that has contributed as much to the professional arm of its sport as boxing has. From Ali and Patterson to Taylor and Mayweather, USA Boxing was where the future stars of boxing came from. For a variety of reasons, that pipeline has started to show signs of fatigue. And this year, the pipeline that gave us so many champions that to list them all here would feel like bragging too much rusted out and fell into the river Thames.
We have no medalists on the men’s side, and we are now looking for the debuting women’s boxing teams to save us from the absolute indignity of leaving London without a single Olympic medal in a sport that we once dominated.
How did this happen? The answer is simple and complicated at the same time. The simple part? There isn’t the pipeline anymore. All of those young kids who learned to hook off of the jab in urban gyms from East LA to Liberty City aren’t learning that anymore. Either their gyms are closed due to budget cuts by conservative mayors, or they’re correctly understanding that maybe a career where you take your own long-term health and ability to remember your own name in your hands with every time you compete isn’t the best career. That’s the simple part.
The complicated part? Since 1984, USA Boxing has had a tremendous problem with mismanagement. Close your eyes, imagine if every player on Team USA had their own coaches, their own people that they listened to from the man appointed by USA Basketball to coach them to a gold medal.
Imagine the havoc that would ensue if Erik Spoelstra was telling LeBron to do one thing, while Mike Woodson was telling ‘Melo to do something entirely different. Imagine the confusion that would create. Worse than that, imagine if there was never a training camp in one defined spot because all 12 players on the team trained in their hometowns, at their home arenas.
And finally, the head coach of the team (who by this point is really a figurehead with no reasonable expectation of control) can’t even be on the sidelines because he coached a pro basketball game once.
The history of USA Basketball might be a tad bit different if what I described happened. How many gold medals would have been lost? How many articles would have been written breathlessly describing the demise of USA Basketball? The answer is at least two, to maybe a thousand.
If we want to fix USA Boxing, the answer is simple. We have to get to work. We have to figure out where our rivals are beating us to correct the problem. We have to train at one central location.
We have to have one unified force who can get every boxer on the same page. My answer? Nazim Richardson. I know everyone is going to think of Freddie Roach here. Nazim works. He’s the right kind of teacher. Someone who can adapt a game plan for every boxer on the team that will make them the best boxer they can be. Will USA Boxing let him? Let’s wait and see.
(Dustin Self\Red Bull Content Pool)
2: It’s time to stop talking about Lolo Jones. No, really. Stop.
Look, I get it. I have even been seduced by the siren song. However, what are we doing here? Whether she is pretty enough by the Caucasian standards of beauty isn’t the point. What she has or hasn’t done is the point. I know Lolo’s defenders will point out that she’s won the World Championships, set records, and isn’t just a pretty face. This is true. However, with sports like track and field, the Olympics are the apex. They are the thing which everyone remembers. The main point of a legacy.
Her Olympics have been a 7th and 4th place finish. It’s not the kind of thing you’d tell your grandchildren about or that people write breathless magazine articles describing in painstaking detail.
But that is a question that she needs to train her way into answering. All this year, at every meet she can find, that’s how she’ll solve this problem. And I imagine if you asked her, that’s the way she’d want to do it.
So if we can try, let’s allow Lolo to work in peace. It’s not the showy thing, but if we want to see her win a gold medal in Rio, let’s allow her to work this out all on her own.
(Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
3: USA Weightlifting, a sport very few people care about will come out of London with a very bright future.
I don’t pretend to expect you to care about USA Weightlifting nearly as much as I do. However, the best thing about this sport is that all of our weightlifters — the women and men who can bring us gold are young. Holley Mangold, sister of NY Jets center Nick Mangold, finished 10th despite having a wrist injury.
Sarah Robles, someone who set personal best records. Finished 7th, both of these women were expected to have their best chances for medals to come in Rio in 2016. To realize that they have this under their belts and dealt with the pressures of it can only be a good thing. Hell, Holley Mangold had never even been to the World Championships.
Kendrick Farris, the only man to make the team, also finished 10th. He also showed real signs of improvement and being able to hang with the world’s elite.
What does that mean for the future of USA Weightlifting? Our three best lifters have now already felt the crucible of weightlifting on the Olympic stage. They’re not going to be as mentally psyched out as they would have been if Rio in 2016 was their 1st attempt at an Olympic Medal. This gives them 4 years to get stronger, master the lifts and to compete against the best.
The best part about this? As those four years tick by, more and more people will fall in love with the fitness trend crossfit. In addition, since Crossfit has always stated a kind of loyalty to USA Weightlifting by mandating anyone who competes in one of their opens signs up to be a member of USA weightlifting. This could work.
As someone who can tell you the difference between a bodybuilder and a weightlifter without working that hard, seeing a greater cross-section of America master what it is to be an Olympic weightlifter doesn’t have to be a bad thing. I just hope it happens.