USA track & field disqualifies itself

Correct me, please, if I’m wrong. But I thought the aim was to send the best team possible to the Olympics.

That’s why I have no problem with last Saturday’s decision by USA Gymnastics to name Paul Hamm, the 2004 all-around Olympic champion, to the six-man squad even though he missed the “trials” due to an injured wrist that doctors say will be healed in time for Beijing.

It’s also why I don’t get USA Track & Field, which insists on choosing its entire team based on a one-time event — the win-or-stay-home trials, which begin Friday in Eugene, Ore. That’s nuts.

Athletes could have won every major title since the last Olympics but wake up with colds on race day and miss finishing in the top three. If they were gymnasts, the “committee” would name them to the team anyway. Because they compete in track and field, they stay home.

You might have run the fastest times in the world all year, but if you slip in the trials, tough luck. Here’s the remote.

That’s nuts.

You don’t have to be a T&F aficionado to know that sprinters Tyson Gay, Allyson Felix and Jeremy Wariner (the 2004 400-meter Olympic champ) should be in Beijing.  There are athletes in other events who no doubt should be in Beijing, too.

Let everyone else sweat it out this weekend to fulfill their lives’ dreams. Good for them. But when it comes time to board to plane for China, let’s make sure our best have boarding passes — not that they’ve been bumped due to one bad day.

The fact that various sports among the U.S. delegation have such disparately different qualifying criteria seems inane. Aren’t we ultimately one team?

Of course, as absurd as it is, the qualifying format isn’t likely to change. USATF president Bill Roe told USA Today that he hasn’t “felt a huge groundswell to change” the qualifying criteria.

Little wonder. USATF makes a killing off the trials. This year’s event is sold out, and it’s being held at Hayward Field, which recently underwent an $8 million renovation.

Seems it’s hard to do what is best to win gold medals when you’re simply going for the gold.


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