Dwight Stones, two-time Olympic bronze-medal high jumper and now an NBC sports analyst, shares his thoughts on men's Olympic track and field with staff writer Bruce Lowitt.
If last year's World Championships, when we stomped everyone else, are any indication, we're going to win more track and field medals than anyone else. But we're not as good as our '92 team. We won't win as many medals as they did.
We are strongest, of course, in the 200 and 400 meters. If he's prepared, nobody can beat Michael Johnson. The only three guys who can spoil his Olympics are Samson Kitur of Kenya, who won the 400 bronze in '92; Frank Fredericks of Namibia, who won the 200 silver, and Mike Marsh, who won the gold.
We're not as strong in the 100 as we've been in the past. We won't be shut out but we'll be disappointed, meaning we won't win. Dennis Mitchell got the bronze at Barcelona and he'll probably repeat.
The problem with the longer distances is our current system of trials. They're only four or five weeks before the Games. They should have separate trials for the distance events a few months earlier. The Africans in general and Kenyans specifically had to be doing back handsprings when they heard Atlanta got the Games and when they would be. They'll deal with the heat just fine. Whoever from Kenya makes the team from 800 meters on up is pretty much assured of a medal. Our guys _ Steve Holman in the 1,500, Bob Kennedy at 5,000, Todd Williams at 10,000 _ probably would do well, meaning top six, under more favorable conditions.
Everyone likes Colin Jackson of Wales in the 110 hurdles but Allen Johnson can beat him. Jackson has a way of blowing up at the big meets.
The relays are ours unless we do what we did last summer, passing the baton out of the zone in the first round. And it depends on how often they practice together, what kind of egos are on the line, who's running in which order. Does Carl Lewis make the 100 or is he in the top five or so and we're compelled for auld lang syne to put him on the anchor where he belongs? That's a prestigious leg to run and if I'm Dennis Mitchell and I'm the fastest third-leg runner in history, maybe I want to cross the finish line first with a baton and a world record.
Form will be upset in a lot of events and the long jump is one of them. Carl Lewis, Mike Powell, Kareem Strette-Thompson, any one of them can win it. But if Ivan Pedroso, the world champion from Cuba, has recovered from his torn thigh muscle, I bet the house on him.
The shot put is John Godina's to lose, but I can't see us winning any of the other field events.
Now about Dan O'Brien: After blowing the decathlon in the trials in '92, the pressure on him is going to be enormous. The only person who can beat Dan O'Brien is Dan O'Brien; no one else can score the amount of points he can score.