From The Editor — April 2004: Pictures really are better than a thousand words

AS ROD STEWART SANG, “Every picture tells a story, don’t it.” There are thousands of words—most of them good ones—in every issue of T&FN, but as the old adage goes, a picture is worth a thousand of them.

There’s something about track & field that brings out the Peter Pan in me (I’ll never grow old!), and I suspect it does in you too. Even if your competitive days are long behind you, don’t you live vicariously through the athletes on the field of play? Sprint with every sprinter, jump with every jumper, throw with every thrower?

But if you’re like me, your vicarious living doesn’t just happen when you’re actually at a meet; it also happens as you thumb the pages of T&FN, right? I frequently go off on wonderful flights of fantasy using T&FN pictures as my vehicle.

Take this issue for example, starting with the cover. A look at Justin Gatlin at full speed and I call up dreams of my youth, when I was going to be the World’s Fastest Human (damn slow-twitch fibers). But I also read the “Zürich” on his bib and wonder when I’ll be lucky enough to again go to the world’s greatest one-day track meet.

On the table of contents page I see Savanté Stringfellow in full sail in the long jump and I think of the day I improved my PR by almost 2-feet… but lost it to a hairline foul. (And I never jumped that far again—just call me Bob Beamon.)

The two-page spread of Mo Greene and Jon Drummond that follows this column really sets my anticipatory juices flowing as I think of not only the fabulous 100s we’re going to see at the Olympic Trials but also equally fabulous competition in so many other events. In many aspects, the OT really is a better meet to watch than the Olympic Games.

Page 13 gives us Christian Olsson in my old event, the triple jump. The Swede now jumps about as far in meters as I could in feet. In my prime could I even have beaten him if I were doing a quadruple jump? (We won’t even talk about Tatyana Lebedeva on p. 23, given that her tripling would also have kicked my butt.)

Page 27 gives us a classic “and the agony of defeat” view. I replay that botched exchange over and over in my head: hand an inch to the left here, hand an inch lower there. The margin between success and failure can be oh-so-slim.

And so it goes, pictures calling up the full range of emotions, nostalgia not being the least of them. It’s just human nature to think of the glory days, remembering what was good and discarding the bad, musing on what might have been.

But the best pictures of all are those of the bright new talents. The rare pro, like the late-blooming Jen Toomey (p. 15), but more like up-and-coming collegians such as Jeremy Wariner (p. 29) or Hyleas Fountain (p. 36), and most of all the high schoolers who in such a short period of time go from being known only to the age-group wonks to suddenly banging on the door of national or even international caliber. The wunderkinder like Scott Sellers (p. 48) and Devon Williams (p. 51).

C’mon Tinkerbelle, we got us a meet to go to!