Sunday, September 7, 2014

Out of exile

With the last Diamond League race behind us, the International Track and Field season is effectively over. At the beginning of the summer I gave an intro to some of the key players. And since then it's been exciting to watch it all play out.

One observation is that there has been a subtle shift in the attitude amid the American athletes. For a long time they saw themselves as the underdogs, saying things like "I'm just glad to be in the race" and "I did my best" and "We'll see how things plays out." I think that the east Africans had come to so thoroughly dominate the distance events that winning international meets seemed out of the question for anyone with fair skin.

But this season has been huge for USA Track and Field. it started with Emma Coburn surprising everyone by coming off an injury and winning the 3,000m steeple chase in Shanghai. Then Galen Rupp rocked the Prefontaine Classic by crushing the 10,000m with a world-leading time. And all through the summer, Jenny Simpson and Shannon Robury were finishing on the podium at major European meets in the middle distances. And in Brussels steeplechaser Evan Jager finally broke the American Record and finished strong in third place.

But more important than the wins and the medals is the way the athletes described themselves. I watched a lot of prerace and postrace interviews, and a common theme emerged: they were expecting to win. And if they did they were excited but confident, and if they didn't they chastised themselves for just missing the prize.

This transition is important, because you will only win the race if you believe that you can. Belief is not all you need, but it is an essential component. You must expect it, anticipate it. And after years of being the "best American" in the race, these elite athletes are finally ready to shoot for being simply the "best." And I am ready to watch them do it.