By Josh Davis
SAN ANTONIO, Texas, August 17. THE final of the men’s 4 x 100 meter freestyle relay in Athens had six countries with legitimate medal expectations vying for only three medals. Most of them swam times that would have won the Olympics as recently as 1996.
It was a very tight race for the silver and bronze. But one team dominated from start to finish, beating the favored USA in one of their best events like a drum. Even NBC commentators, Dan and Rowdy, couldn’t believe the domination of the South African men’s relay. They split 48.1, 48.1, 48.8, and 47.9 to crush an already awesome world record!
The only experts who foresaw this Big Time upset was Swimming World magazine, which published an article several months ago saying little South Africa could upset the giants – the USA, the Netherlands, Australia, Russia and France – and take the gold.
The rest of the world probably was wondering how these guys from the bottom of Africa got so fast. Bob Costas even suggested that some people might think these guys are on some performance enhancing drugs.
No, they are not on any drugs!! The reason they are so fast is a combination of talent and training at the University of Arizona.
Don’t be fooled. With all due respect to South Africa, these guys did not get super fast in their homeland. It happened right here in the land of opportunity, the good old USA!!
The fastest three of the four guys on that relay are practically Americans. They’ve been living in America for a combined 20 years; they train at an American university; they benefit from American coaches; they eat American food; and they even have American girlfriends.
They have benefited fully from the many blessings our great country has to offer. But who gets the credit – at least on TV? The nation of South Africa.
I guarantee you that if these guys had spent the last six years of their lives in Durban or Capetown, they probably would not have broken the world record.
I would love for those swimmers who train on our soil to acknowledge what America helped them accomplish. And, in this case, it would be appropriate to give their US coaches, Rick DeMont and Frank Busch of the University of Arizona, a well-deserved public tribute for their guidance.
I will say that Ryk Neethling and Roland Schoeman are among my favorite swimmers in the world. Ryk is tough as nails and has developed himself into an incredible sprinter after spending his collegiate career as an outstanding distance man.
Roland is just plain awesome — in the pool and out. He is one of the fastest swimmers on the planet and his technique is flawless.
It’s true, of course, that these guys are very talented and work incredibly hard and are very motivated and self-sufficient. But let’s be honest: you still need a pool, food, shelter, safety, coaching and a little encouragement.
Basically, the U of A sprint coach, Rick Demont, one of the best coaches in the world, helped a whole country celebrate an Olympic gold medal and made some talented young men national heroes. Even if those guys don’t say a small thank you to the USA, at least tell Rick and Frank “thanks – we couldn’t have done it without you.”.
I’m privileged to know three of the four guys who comprised the fastest relay ever. They are great guys who love their country and I’m a better person for knowing them and getting to race them. I am glad they came to America. I trust that they will share their gold medal and their experiences not just with South African kids but American kids as well.
Is it a little frustrating that these guys used our coaches and our facilities to beat us at the Olympic?
Will it ever change?
No. Nor should it.
What makes America great is that we promote freedom and opportunity. If a human being wants to reach his or her dreams and potential, America can allow you to do that. If there are other countries, such as Iraq, that are oppressed and messed up, we help them get their freedom back.
If there are countries such as South Africa who lack the resources we have in abundance, we freely share those resources.
Sincere congratulations to South Africa! Winning a gold medal is an incredible feeling and I’m glad they got to experience it.
Once again the USA has made the world a little better, even though we don’t always get the credit for it.
Josh Davis, co-captain of the USA men's Olympic teams in 1996 and 2000, won three gold and two silver Olympic medals.