Aug 1, 2012 - By Randy TuckerWhen the Olympics started in London on Saturday there were 35 sports and more than 400 events to be completed over the next 17 days.
While women's gymnastics and swimming take much of the prime-time television coverage, the Olympics are still all about track and field to me. Track and swimming are largely devoid of the sometimes political leanings of meet officials. If you are the fastest, jump the highest or throw the farthest, you win. It doesn't matter what your dad does for a living, what kind of house you live in or where you are from. Track and field is the most democratic of all sports.
The original Olympic Games featured running, jumping and hurdling along with throwing the javelin and heaving the shot and discus. Boxing and wrestling were also included, but the champion of the decathlon was crowned as Greece's greatest athlete at the end of the games.
The Olympic track and field venue takes on special interest for me and even more so for my son, Brian.
Three of Brian's teammates on the Dickinson State University track team will be competing in the jumps and sprints as members of the Bahamas team.
Try to reach up and touch the ceiling of your home. If it's like most houses the ceiling rests eight feet above the floor. If I stretch a bit I can touch it but flat footed I reach to 7-foot-7. That's the height that Dickinson's Trevor Barry cleared without a miss to take third in the World Games in the high jump earlier this year in South Korea.
Barry had the intimidating warmup practice of scissoring 6-8. Scissoring is simply jumping off the ground and swinging your legs like a pair of scissors as you clear the cross-bar. It's the way the high jump was done a century ago. With many competitors struggling at 6-8 the event was often over before it started.
I watched Barry clear 7-4 a couple of times at college meets, and his athleticism was amazing. He long jumped more than 25 feet, but perhaps the most impressive thing I watched him do came just a few minutes after he was eating lunch in the Black Hills State University stands.
Dickinson needed a runner for the 4x400 meter relay, and coach Pete Stanton send word for Barry to come to the track. Dickinson has a variety of team uniforms, so Barry quickly borrowed a running suit and ran a respectable 48-second 400 meter leg before returning to his lunch.
The 400-meter dash is the forte of another former Blue Hawk, Ramon Miller. I first noticed Miller at a meet in Rapid City at the South Dakota Tech facility. Brian was running the third leg of the 4x400 for DSU that afternoon and turned in the best time I've seen him run with a 49-second performance. The Hawks were in third place when he passed the baton to Miller, and I thought that it was a bit disappointing that Brian's best time would be on a third-place team. I didn't realize the speed Miller possessed until he cruised by the two lead runners with a time in the high 45s and won the event.
Miller was a silver medalist in the 4x400 meter relay at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing and is ranked seventh in the world. He will most like run the 4x400 for the Bahamian team as well as the open 400.
Speed is something you can't coach, and the final of these three amazing young men has it in abundance. Derrick Atkins is recovering from a nagging kneecap problem over the past two years but recovered in time to run a 10.09 100-meter time in Florida on June 9. The 10.09 beat the Olympic qualifying "A" standard of 10.18 and sends Atkins back to his second Olympics.
Atkins personal best of 9.85 came in 2007 when he beat the favorite, his cousin Asafa Powell, and finished second in the World Championships behind America's Tyson Gay.
Atkins is an engaging young man unaffected by his fame.
His start is the best I've ever witnessed in person. From the gun he is full speed in just a couple of strides and has perfect sprinting form.
There is speculation he will also run a leg of the Bahamian 4x100-meter relay in London as well.
While I'll be cheering for the red, white and blue I'll be looking for these three young men as well. It's not often that you have a personal connection in the world's greatest sporting event.
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