It wasn’t exactly a race to celebrate back home, though Rene Herrera of the Philippines did manage to set a personal best in a men’s 5,000-meter heat Wednesday at the Olympic stadium.
That he finished dead last, 43 seconds behind the next finisher hardly mattered. He was an Olympian, even if the Olympics offer a most uneven playing field for most countries.
There are 204 of them in London – 11 more than in the United Nations – and most will go home “losers.” While the U.S. and China dominate the medal tables, 128 countries have yet to win one – and probably won’t. That includes the Philippines, which hasn’t won a medal since boxer Mansueto Velasco got a silver in 1996 in Atlanta.
The list of “losers” at this Olympics is long, indeed, but it goes far beyond the medals table:
DOWN, DOWN UNDER: If there’s anything that makes the British as happy as seeing their country hauling in Olympic medals, it’s making fun of Australia for its dismal performance. Australia – which averaged 16 golds the past three games – had only five gold medals through Wednesday, prompting the country’s sports minister to concede a medals bet with her British counterpart with five days left for the games.
FRENCH WHEELS: There’s no loser like a sore loser. The French were having a hard enough time digesting Britain’s dominance when they fell for a line from British cycling chief Dave Brailsford that the country had “specially round wheels” on its bikes. French cycling officials were so suspicious of the fast British times, they called for a close look at the British bikes and their magic wheels. The two countries were already at odds over London sweeping in to win the right to host the games when Paris had been considered the leading contender.
WOMEN BOXERS: They’re stealing the show in London, but they’re still struggling to get respect. While men compete in nine different weight classes, women are consigned to just three, meaning some must gain or lose considerable weight to fit into a category. That’s largely because the IOC doesn’t want to add more athletes to the games, but the same organization has approved a full field for golf, of all things, at the 2016 Rio Games.
LOLO JONES: Her Olympic disappointment in Beijing – where she was leading before hitting a hurdle late – would have been enough for any athlete. But London was especially cruel, even though she had a season-best time in finishing fourth in the 100-meter hurdles. Jones wasn’t unhappy with her race, but she broke down during an appearance on NBC’s Today show when asked about reports suggesting she was more image than substance. “They should be supporting our U.S. Olympic athletes and instead they just ripped me to shreds,” Jones said tearfully.
GOING HOME: Of all the reasons to be sent home, former 100-meter world champion Kim Collins had one that’s hard to beat. Collins was banned from the St. Kitts and Nevis team for missing training sessions, but said he was punished for spending time with his wife. Collins said he found life in the village stressful and wanted some peace and quiet before racing.