Although this is an Olympic year, for many track fans their favorite track meet of the year will take place in Oregon in June, not Beijing in July. While the Olympic Games are the meet where Olympians compete, the Olympic Trials are the meet where Olympians are made.
In some events, those in which American athletes comprise five or six of the top 10 athletes in the world, the caliber of competition at the Trials actually exceeds what we will see six weeks later in Beijing. But even in the events where Americans are not dominating on the world scene this year, the drama of watching Olympic dreams being made rivals any television reality show. So treat yourself to an Olympic appetizer by catching the Olympic Trials on TV.
When: Friday, June 27-Sunday, July 6
Where: University of Oregon's Hayward Field, Eugene, Oregon
Schedule: www.usatf.org - click on the Olympic Trials link to see the full schedule.
Making the team: The top 3 finishers are on their way to Beijing. (Okay, it's actually not always that simple. The Olympic Games has two performance standards- the ‘A' standard and the slightly less rigorous ‘B' standard. For each event the U.S. team can enter three athletes who all have the ‘A' standard or one competitor who has the ‘B' standard. USATF (USA Track & Field) prefers to send a full team so they will send the top three competitors with the ‘A' standard, which in most events are the first three placers. When any of the top three do not have the ‘A' standard, they will have until the deadline to submit team rosters to the Games to achieve that standard. The roster is usually due two or three weeks before the start of the Games so athletes chasing the ‘A' standard will have a few weeks to compete in other meets to get it. If they don't, the Olympic Team roster spot will go to the next highest trials finisher that has the ‘A' standard.
See Part II of my Olympic Trials series for a list of athletes to look for at the Trials.