On "Phelps still golden; team medals dwindle" (sports, Aug. 4), bemoaning the "shrinking" dominance of U.S. athletes at the World Swimming Championships in Rome, let’s go where the politically correct writer apparently fears to go, namely, to the truth behind medal counts in international competition.
If international medals measure world-class athletes, the medal counts measure a nation’s ability to produce world-class athletes. Contrary to impressions left by the article, the U.S. still produces — by a wide and steady margin — more international medalists than any other nation on Earth. The problem is, we don’t always get the credit. Take, for example, the perennial female medalist Kirsty Coventry from Zimbabwe (five gold and nine silver in Worlds and Olympics) who honed her skills with the Auburn University swim team and stashes her medals in Austin, Texas, where she lives and trains. In the medal count, however, her medals go to Zimbabwe!
Or the 1,500-meter freestyle champion Oussama Mellouli — credit for his Olympic gold (proudly displayed at his home in Los Angeles) went to Tunisia!
Winning "only" 10 golds at these championships in Rome is not a sign of waning U.S. dominance, but, in fact, evidence of increasing exploitation of U.S. coaching and facilities by foreign athletes and their image-conscious governments. Our president doesn’t pass out $100,000 checks to U.S. medal winners, but that’s exactly what the aforementioned Zimbabwe swimmer received from her president [after the Beijing Olympics]!
While credited with "only" 10 gold medals at these championships, our funding, coaching and training methods produced a helluva lot more than that. Having misled us by ignoring this salient point, the reporter should follow up with a list of all medalists, U.S. and foreign, along with where they live, train and/or "study."
Let’s see who really deserves credit for these performances. Or, don’t you want to go there?
A.E. DegnanMannheim, Germany