TOPICS > Nation

Track and Field Events Warm Up as Gymnastics Takes a Bow

August 7, 2012 at 12:00 AM EST
U.S. Gymnastic's all-around champ Gabby Douglas struggled to keep focus in individual events, while track and field events ramp up with 100-meter dash, hurdles and high jumps. Margaret Warner talks to USA Today's Christine Brennan about the latest results from the London Games, including the success of British athletes.
LISTEN SEE PODCASTS

TRANSCRIPT

More on this day’s events now with Christine Brennan. She is covering the Games for USA Today and ABC and joins us again from London.

And, Christine, welcome back.

Let’s start with gymnastics, which Americans have been so riveted on. This is the last day, and it seems that Aly Raisman is now going to go home with as many gold medals as the celebrated Gabby Douglas. What happened?

CHRISTINE BRENNAN, USA Today: That is true, Margaret, although I will say Gabby Douglas has the most important one. And that is the individual all-around from last week.

So, Gabby Douglas still to me is the breakout star of these Games, not just in gymnastics, but all sports, for the United States. But, having said that, after Gabby Douglas won that individual all-around title — and of course the U.S. team won the gold as well — it has — there’s been a lot of celebrations, a lot of media. And Gabby has not had a chance to focus on her routines, hence an eighth-place finish in the uneven bars yesterday and then a seventh-place finish on the balance beam today, when she was actually ingloriously hanging upside-down on the balance beam, holding on for dear life.

That is not exactly the image you want to have of your Olympic gold medalists. But it’s tough. It shows the pressure. It also shows how much fun she has been having celebrating. And you’re right. Aly Raisman, her teammate, actually came in and won a gold and a bronze and is kind of the star of the show, at least for this day, even though, as I said, Gabby has got the big prize from last week.

MARGARET WARNER: Yes. Neither of them have anything to be ashamed or unhappy about.

Moving on to track and field, where there is a lot of focus now, most of the focus, even though Usain Bolt was only in a qualifying round today, is on him.

CHRISTINE BRENNAN: Oh, without a doubt.

I was in the stadium on Saturday and Sunday when Usain Bolt was running and winning the men’s 100 meters on Sunday night. And it was electric. And it is like the old days of those great prize fights that we hear about from the past, those boxing matches, when the world is watching and the cameras are on and everyone is just riveted.

It’s only 10 seconds, less than 10 seconds, but it was amazing theater. And Usain Bolt from Jamaica, part of an amazing group of Jamaican men and women sprinters winning everything. They have not lost a sprint since Beijing back in 2008.

But Usain Bolt is to this week in the Olympics what Michael Phelps was to last week. And he is a legend in the making. And if he wins the men’s 200 later this week, oh, boy, I think we may be able to say that Usain Bolt is the greatest Olympic sprinter of all time. We’re talking about Jesse Owens, Carl Lewis, many others, but I think Usain Bolt will be able to at least have that argument, that he is the greatest ever.

MARGARET WARNER: Well, as you said, the Jamaicans and the Caribbean nations as a whole have done incredibly well. What explains it? The U.S. used to dominate track and field.

CHRISTINE BRENNAN: That is true.

Well, I think one of the things for the U.S. is that so many good young athletes go to other sports. And so, especially with women, we have — there’s so many opportunities because of Title IX, so you see more women playing other — young girls and then women playing soccer and lacrosse and basketball and those kinds of things.

That is — opportunities have opened up there. So, that is part of it for the U.S. But the other side — and not to for one moment say anything about — other than praise for the Caribbean nations, especially Jamaica — is that the great history there, the role models that come from the 1970s, a man named Don Quarrie, who was an Olympic gold medalist back in the ’70s, in ’76. He, of course, is a name that so many of these young sprinters over the last few generations have gotten to know.

And it builds on itself. And there is a great pride in sprinting in Jamaica. Ben Johnson, who ended up running for Canada, is Jamaican. Sanya Richards-Ross, the U.S. sprinter who won — or the U.S. woman who won the 400 meters here, she actually spent the first 11 years of her life in Jamaica.

And do we see a common denominator here? Absolutely. And I think it is just the rich history, great pride and just an excellent generation of sprinters led by Usain Bolt.

MARGARET WARNER: Now, speaking of being on a roll, Britain was really on a roll today, four more golds. What’s — I mean, people there must be going crazy over this.

CHRISTINE BRENNAN: They are. And it’s great. They are in third place in the medal count. And that is probably where they will stay at this. U.S. and Canada — China and the U.S. are one-two, and then Britain three, and after a really slow start.

Team G.B., as they are calling them here, didn’t have a medal, a gold medal in the first few days. Rowing, cycling, it’s been a bonanza. And it’s great to see. Traditionally, Margaret, the host country does do very well at their home Olympics, whether it’s Vancouver, Canada, just two years ago. The Canadians were great. China of course emerged and really announced itself to the world in so many ways four years ago in Beijing.

Almost every Olympics, the host country has a great performance. And that is happening here as well. I think what is interesting, they are talking about having a legacy for future generations. That is the theme of these London Games.

Well, a legacy and then some, because every 12-year-old boy and girl in this country is saying, hey, I want to play sports now. So I think Great Britain will be great for many years to come in the Olympics because of these two weeks.

MARGARET WARNER: And the U.S., the U.S. women’s soccer team won yesterday over Canada in the semifinals, but that was a nail-biter, wasn’t it?

CHRISTINE BRENNAN: It sure was.

In January, in Olympic qualifying in Vancouver, the U.S. beat the Canadians 4-0. This wasn’t the same Canadian team. And Canada led throughout. The U.S. kept coming back, and then Canada would take the lead again.

And this was one of the great games in the history of U.S. soccer, male or female, riveting. And, finally at the end, Alex Morgan, the young breakout star for the United States, scored the winning goal, had a header in the 123rd minute, which was stoppage time of overtime.

That means they have been playing for a long, long time. And the U.S. was able to put Canada away 4-3, going now to play Japan on Thursday for the gold medal. This is — the U.S. has always been in the gold medal game, either winning gold or one time silver in the Olympics. So, this is a place the United States is often in, in other words, the gold medal game in women’s soccer.

And they are playing Japan. A year ago, in the women’s World Cup final, Japan beat the United States in penalty kicks. The U.S. has been pointing towards the opportunity to play Japan again in a meaningful game. And now they have got it, U.S. against Japan for the gold. And it should be fascinating to see if the Americans can come back and win this game over the rival who took that World Cup from them last year.

MARGARET WARNER: Well, we all will be watching.

Christine Brennan, thanks. And we will talk to you again.

CHRISTINE BRENNAN: Thank you very much, Margaret.