[O]ur parents likely never learned to swim because the community pools were legally or illegally designated "Whites Only," or that the one decrepit community pool in their black neighborhood was a cesspool best to be avoided.Well done, Simone Manuel.
But I kept wondering, as the medals kept coming, what had happened to one of the Rising Stars from London's Games?
A breakout star at the London Olympics with four gold medals and an ever-present smile, [Missy] Franklin’s good humor remained at these Games, but her performance in the pool wasn’t the same.Sporting News pundit Adi Joseph offers perspective.
She won a gold medal for swimming in the preliminary heat for the 800-meter freestyle relay, but was dropped from the team for the final and faded in the semifinals of both her individual events.
In the 200 backstroke, Franklin’s signature event, her semifinal time was about six seconds slower than the world record she set in 2012.
[Gymnast Gabby] Douglas and Franklin are adults now, which means we’re allowed to be meaner to them or something. They have been outshone by younger American women (19-year-olds [Simone] Biles and Katie Ledecky) in their arenas. The easy reaction is to wonder what happened, why Franklin hasn’t set a personal best since 2013 and why Douglas was beaten out not only by Biles, but also by countrywoman Aly Raisman, whom she edged in the 2012 all-around competition.He continues with a reminder that past performance is not a guarantee of future results, particularly if past performance inspires rivals and new entrants, such as this year's swimming phenomenon, Katie Ledecky.
Did we mention that Douglas and Franklin both have gold medals already in Rio?
Douglas and Franklin were so young in 2012 that they were simply expected to win even bigger, get even better for 2016. Never mind that Douglas was the silver medalist at the 2015 world championships (behind Biles) and is either the second- or third-best gymnast in the world, depending on the day. No one was paying attention to that or to Franklin’s stunning 2013 world championships performance in Barcelona, when she won six gold medals including adding a 200m freestyle crown.But let's compare and contrast the emergence of new stars in the Olympic sports with, OK, I'll start with the worst case scenario, the complete failure of the Republican deep bench in the primaries and the complete absence of a Democrat bench, system rigged for Naggin' Crooked Hillary or not?
Is it as simple as, in many of the sports, there are objective and transparent standards of excellence? Faster! Higher! Stronger! And with absence of Soviet judge, carrying off a round-off-multiple-flip-Lomcevak-and-stick-the-landing gets properly rewarded. Whilst in business, or academic research, or politics, the criteria for standing out are messy?
Or, might something calling for all the subtleties and intellectual ammunition of social science to understand be present? Something like a popular culture in which achievers in sport are lauded and catered to from a young age; in which school districts appropriate large sums of money and conduct bond referenda for ever better locker rooms?
A popular culture that also frets about income inequality, particularly if it's earned in commerce or the trades? Now comes Naggin' Crooked Hillary using Bernie Sanders's line about making corporations and millionaires pay their fair share of taxes (whatever that means) and Fauxahontas guilt-tripping achievers for claiming credit whilst not acknowledging the government schools and infrastructure and what have you. Valid points ... and yet, the coach gets a hug or a handshake, and the team doctor languishes in obscurity, whilst the medalists alone sing along to The Star Spangled Banner.
A popular culture in which the resources go into special education and accommodation whilst the gifted students have to make do as best they can? And press coverage of college signing days almost always focuses on the youngsters signing the athletic letters of intent. Partial softball scholarship at Anonymous Community! Golf scholarship at Barely Normal! And yes, the basketball signing at Wisconsin. Going into politics? What a nerd. (Until you see the class clown give it a go.)
What we don't reward we get less of.
But we don't notice it until the political class fails, and the business wizards can't make payroll, and the pipes no longer hold water.
On the other hand, we can enjoy the decline, following the next crop of rising Olympians.