Well it seems like NBC news is at it again. The television network is up to its usual tricks: selecting which athlete on the U.S. Olympic Team we should root for.
Every four years, as part of its coverage tradition, the network pulls together heartwarming human interest stories highlighting the road to the Olympics for various athletes. And for some sports, they select (for viewers apparently) who should be the little darling we should keep our eyes on. And many times they are wrong.
Earlier this week, Gabrielle Douglas beat her training mate, and probable rival, to win the top spot. But, after Douglas secured the win, the only guaranteed spot on the team during the Olympic trials final, a substantial amount of the interviews, coverage and discussion was on Number 2: Jordyn Wieber.
A superstar in her own right, Wieber, is the reigning world all-around champion and two-time U.S. world all-around champ. She had bested Douglas in many competitions leading up to the Olympic Games and was an all-out favorite to win. After a near perfect performance on the uneven bars (her specialty) and vault, following a rocky parallel bar performance, Douglas needed a score of 15.25 or better to pass Wieber.
Her stadium-rocking floor exercise cinched the guaranteed entry with a score of 15.30.
Wieber did make the team – as did McKayla Maroney, Aly Raisman and Kyla Ross. All are expected to become only the second team to bring home gold for the U.S. But the #1 and #2 finishers last night trained together in Des Moines, Iowa with Liang Chow.
Viewers will have to battle with coverage pushing them to favor certain team members over others, despite the natural friendly competitiveness for individual medals. It was done in 1996 with the Magnificent 7 team that won the first U.S. Gold Team medal ever. The more talented gymnast who ended up winning, and holds the record, for being the most decorated American Olympian in history was Shannon Miller – yet, she was stiffed with regard to coverage.
It seems NBC wanted the cute and adorable Dominique Moceanu to be the shining star or the equally adorable Kerri Strug. As history shows, that didn’t quite pan out for Moceanu. Strug stuck her vault, and secured the U.S. gold victory when she endured pain, landed on one injured ankle and ushered in one of the most iconic moments in Olympic history when coach Bela Karolyi had to carry her to the gold medal podium.
Also that year, NBC didn’t bother to even show Dominique Dawes performance which got her a third place medal in the floor individual medal competition. Dawes became one of only one of three U.S. women to win an individual medal that year.
Does the U.S. not care that one of its athletes beat out dozens of others for the third place spot or is it that we only care about gold or medals won by the NBC darlings? It’s best to let the viewers root for the entire team and to quit picking winners and losers. Elevate and highlight all of our athletes.
Gabby’s dad is on his third tour of duty serving in the U.S. military and she comes from a large family where all the kids, including her two older sisters and older brothers, are active in sports. Sounds like a great all-American story to me, one also deserving to be told.