Missing top talent hurts US team at Youth Olympics

The head of the U.S. Olympic Committee on Tuesday blamed scheduling conflicts for the Americans' woeful performance in the inaugural Youth Olympics, where their gold medal tally is less than Hungary and Azerbaijan.

The U.S. team, which traditionally is a dominant force at Olympic games, has won just four gold medals in Singapore and trails far behind China, which tops the medals table with 28 golds.

“There were some scheduling challenges,” USOC chief executive Scott Blackmun said. “We looked at this as a developmental opportunity for some of our athletes who don't otherwise get the opportunity to compete internationally.”

The talent gap was most glaring in the pool, as Chinese swimmers won 11 golds while the American team won one race. Some elite U.S. swimmers skipped the Youth Olympics to compete at the Pan-Pacific Championships in Irvine, Calif., on Aug 18-22.

Blackmun said the U.S. team embraced the sports, cultural and educational activities of the Youth Games, which feature 3,600 athletes aged 14 to 18 from 204 national Olympic committees competing in 26 sports from Aug 14-26.

“As things turned out, we might have struck that balance a little closer to the culture and education line,” Blackmun said. “It's not like we sent athletes that weren't qualified to be there.”

U.S. coaches defended the quality of their teams. Girls basketball coach Kathy Richey-Walton said her team, which won the bronze, had the best talent in the tournament. The boys basketball team stumbled to a fourth-place finish.

“I can't speak for the other sports, but I can tell you that we have two of the best performers in our sport at these games,” trampoline gymnastics coach Tara Guidry said.

Some athletes' parents said their children appreciated the opportunity to battle against top competition.

“They're learning how to compete internationally,” said Peter Janzen, whose daughter Kiera won the silver in the 400-meter freestyle. “This is a great experience here that will give great depth to the U.S. swimming program in the future.”

IOC president Jacques Rogge said he was not concerned about the quality of the American team.

“Sure, certain swimmers are not present,” he said. “But this will not diminish the quality of the swimming events or the youth games. When people don't participate, they are easily forgotten and they do not weigh on the success of the organization.”

___

AP Sports Writer Michael Casey contributed to this story from Singapore.

Other Sportssports

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

U.S. President-elect Joe Biden and Jill Biden arrive at Biden's inauguration on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol on January 20, 2021, in Washington, DC.  (Win McNamee/Getty Images/TNS)
Joe Biden issues call for ‘unity’ amidst extreme partisan rancor

‘I will be a president for all Americans,’ he says in inauguration speech

From left, Doug Emhoff, U.S. Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, Jill Biden and President-elect Joe Biden wave as they arrive on the East Front of the U.S. Capitol for the inauguration on Jan. 20, 2021 in Washington, DC. During today’s inauguration ceremony Joe Biden becomes the 46th president of the United States. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images/TNS)
Joe Biden inaugurated as 46th president as Trump era comes to an end

Todd Spangler Detroit Free Press Taking over the reins of government at… Continue reading

San Francisco City Hall is lit in gold and amber to remember victims as part of a national Memorial to Lives Lost to COVID-19 on Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2021. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
San Francisco joins national COVID memorial ceremony

San Francisco took part Tuesday in the first national Memorial to Lives… Continue reading

(Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times/TNS)
With executive orders, Biden to reverse Trump policies on environment, immigration

Evan Halper Los Angeles Times President-elect Joe Biden will move swiftly to… Continue reading

Private vehicles were banned from much of Market Street in January 2020, causing bike ridership on the street to increase by 25 percent and transit efficiency by as much as 12 percent. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
SFMTA board approves new Better Market Street legislation

Advocates say traffic safety improvements don’t go far enough to make up for lost bikeway

Most Read