March 9, 2009 in Sports

Track CEO: Pay top performers

Associated Press
 

The CEO of USA Track and Field recommended paying athletes $15,000 for setting a personal best at the Olympics, along with shortening trials for the games, as two ways of improving the team’s performance after a disappointing effort in Beijing.

Doug Logan responded Sunday to an unflattering 69-page report issued last month by a panel that examined the federation’s problems after the United States won only seven gold medals at the Beijing Olympics.

The introduction to his response was every bit as scathing as the report itself. He said the failures in Beijing were no mere blip or aberration but were instead proof that validates “the unease felt by many” in American track circles.

“This is an institution afflicted by sclerotic thinking, lethargic planning and archaic practices,” he wrote. “We have adopted an argot of nonsensical truisms that do little to develop athletic excellence.”

Logan, who already has streamlined the USATF’s governance structure, agreed with most of the recommendations and was presenting his response to the new, 15-person board Sunday at its meeting in Orlando, Fla.

Some of his recommendations will need board approval to be implemented.

Logan said the most troubling element of last year’s Olympics was that only 13.7 percent of American performances in Beijing were season-bests. The task force found many reasons for this, including athletes who pack their schedules too full between trials and the Olympics, in hopes of cashing in on their status as Olympians.

To return the emphasis to peak performance at the Olympics, Logan recommended paying $15,000 to those who hit personal bests at the games and $5,000 to those who hit their high mark of the season. Should those athletes medal, those bonuses would presumably be in addition to awards the U.S. Olympic Committee already hands out – $25,000 to gold-medal winners, $15,000 for silver and $10,000 for bronze.

He wants the Americans to improve from the 23 medals they won in Beijing to 30 at the London Games in 2012, and wants to explore a summer-long European training camp – maybe in conjunction with other sports and the USOC – as a way of reaching that goal.

“We have to do more to support and cultivate our talent, but it is undoubtedly there,” he said.

The task force also recommended a revamping of Olympic trials, which last year included eight days of competition with two days off in the middle. Many athletes thought that was too much time, too many heats and too great a financial expense.

Logan agreed, suggesting six days of competition over back-to-back weekends.

He also wants to revamp the way the USATF coaching and training staff is selected – an endeavor that almost certainly will be a political minefield in a sport with so many coaches and opinions.

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