Jones and Johnson overshadow other Iowans' Olympic results

The Beijing Olympics have long past; the ads for “Iowa’s Golden Girls” are no longer aired, and the frenzy of Lolo Jones and Shawn Johnson mania is all but gone from memory. Jones will not race against a horse. The spark of obsession is gone; Shawn Johnson likely watched it fade first-hand. But for Doug Schwab, Jennifer Barringer, Ben Askren, A.G. Kruger, Jason McCartney, Christine Thorburn, Nancilea Underwood-Foster, and Leigh Smith, things are not so different. The lack of honor and support given to them as Iowan Olympians before their departures served to soften the shock of being plunged into the same lackluster environment upon return. Iowa’s newscasts and newspapers alike began gearing up for the 2008 Beijing Games well in advance, singing the praises of the state’s gold medal hopefuls, Johnson and Jones, like a pack of Christmas carolers. Yet , somewhere amid the raging frenzy, at least one piece of history was lost to the material rage, and the importance of simply qualifying for the world’s highest competition was belittled and neglected. The Summer Games proved to be a portrait of the circle of life this summer; the tenure of two sports (baseball and softball) were arrested, and another competition rose to grace the bill of events: the women’s 3000 meter steeplechase, a demanding race in which competitors leap over “horse barriers” (large hurdles) and, once per lap, traverse a pool of water known as the “water hazard”. Jenny Barringer knows all about the steeplechase. She also knows all about being an Iowan; she also has Olympic experience as a participant in the first-ever Olympic women’s 3000 meter steeplechase. However, one thing Jenny Barringer has not experienced is the pride that Iowans have shown towards their premier Olympians invested in her. People were simply not informed that this historic event took place. “I don’t even know what the steeplechase is,” said junior Kaitlin Estill. There is no doubt, however, that Johnson and Jones have been highly acclaimed. “Shawn Johnson is the Derek Accola of gymnastics,” said junior William Kresse. Even Nastia Liukin, a Russian-born, Texas-based gymnast, has a higher standing in Iowa than our leaping neighbor from Webster City (Barringer). “Nastia Liukin is perfect,” Kresse said. Despite the lack of publicity which caused so many well-learned Iowans to be left in the dark concerning this monumental occasion, Barringer took part in the steeplechase final, finishing in the top ten and setting an American record in the process. In fact, two other Iowans, Ben Askren (wrestling) and Nancilea Underwood-Foster (diving) can say they are among the ten best in the world at what they do. Who knew? The fact is, Olympic participation medals are issued to all competitors. These medals tell athletes, “You may not win, but it is a great achievement just to qualify for these Games”. This is a message appropriate to communicate, and it is a message Iowa failed to send to eight of its Olympic athletes.