The US Olympic track and field trials are perhaps the most competitive track and field event outside the actual Olympics track and field events and some other international competitions. Definitely, it is the most competitive athletic event in the world at the national level. It is a competition, which attracts the attention of the global media. Despite their rather subdued performance in recently concluded Beijing Olympics in general, and athletics in particular, the United States remains one of the proudest sporting nations in the world. It has been the world leader in the track and field events.
They are still the leaders despite a far bigger China and a much smaller Jamaica are quickly narrowing the gap. The US track and field history can boast of several historical names such as Jesse Owens, Carl Lewis, Edwin Moses, and Michael Johnson. If the American hopeful Tyson Gay has not won a medal in the Beijing Olympics, it is because of the thundering Jamaican invasion in the Olympic track and field games led by the aptly named Usain Bolt.
The uniqueness in US Olympic track and field trials is not just in its competitiveness. Here what counts is the performance of the athletes at the meet. The previous records and recent performances are not counted. In many countries, the overall performance of the athlete is considered. Only thing is that the athlete should manage to meet the qualifying criterion at one of the competitions during the qualifying year. The qualifying criterion can be a particular time for race events and a particular distance for jump and throw items.
But in the USA, the qualifying procedure is very simple and straightforward. There is a qualifying competition. If an athlete finishes in the first three places and they pass the qualifying criterion, they can book their tickets to the Olympics. There are critics to this system pointing to the number of eligible athletes who were not able to participate in the Olympics simply because they had an off day on the day of US Olympic track and field trials.
But the supporters of the system point to the fact that the USA is the country with the best record in track and field events in the Olympics. Whatever be the flaws in the system, the system of Olympic track and field trials allows the country to send medal-winning athletes to the Olympic Games, and medal tables of the past Olympics is the biggest proof for this.
The history of US Olympic track and field trials is quite a long one, starting from 1908. It has undergone many changes over the years. At present, the actual meet is a culmination of many grass root level competitions, which ensure every sporting talent in the country gets an opportunity. The event does not have a permanent venue. In 2008, it was held at Eugene.