BBC Sport - London 2012: Is track and field dying in the US?

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May 17th 2012, 5:06pm | 888 views

London 2012: Is track & field dying in the US?

If a sporting event takes place, but ESPN SportsCenter does not see it, did the event really happen?

That is a philosophical conundrum many US Olympians find themselves pondering as they wait for their fortnight in the spotlight to come around again.

Their apparent invisibility was a topic that kept coming up at Team USA's "media summit" in Dallas this week.

Swimmer Jessica Hardy described it best when she told me "most Americans think we only race once every four years, which is frustrating given how hard we work".

But nowhere is that frustration more keenly felt that within the mighty US athletics team.

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Sanya Richards-Ross

I wouldn't say it's dying but it's always been one of the smaller sports

Sanya Richards-Ross

At least the swimmers can lay claim to the undisputed daddy of the US Olympic scene, Michael Phelps. And it is not as if swimming gets huge coverage anywhere else in the world, apart from Australia perhaps.

But athletics, or track and field, does get media attention elsewhere. It is also quick to remind every other sport that it is the most important, popular and purest of the Olympic disciplines.

So why is it so hard to find any athletics news in the world's athletics superpower?

The day before Allyson Felix arrived in Texas for a marathon of interviews and photo shoots, she had recorded the fastest 100m of the season in Qatar, beating the reigning Olympic champions at 100m and 200m in the process.

Worth a story, you might have thought, particularly when you consider that Felix's compatriot Justin Gatlin - a double Olympic champion - had done the same thing in the men's race.

But when the eight-time world champion took the stage with seven other track and field stars at the Dallas summit, it seemed as if it was up to her to break the news as well.

This is probably what prompted 400m hurdles world champion Lashinda Demus to provide the most memorable soundbite of the entire gathering.

"When we get on the track we know we are taking part in a dying sport," she said to the visible alarm of every listening employee of the sport's governing body USA Track and Field (USATF).

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