American Keni Harrison broke the world record in the 100-meter hurdle during a race at the London Olympic stadium on Friday, a dramatic victory after disappointment at the US Olympic trials.
That the world record was broken mere weeks after the Olympic trials by a hurdler who did not make the US team raises sticky questions among American athletes, especially when the trials are tougher than the international competition.
"Not making the Olympic team I was really upset,” Ms. Harrison told USA Today. “And I wanted to come out here and do what I know what I could have done [in Rio]."
Harrison broke Yordanka Donkova’s 1988 record with a 12.20 finish during the Diamond League competition. She finished ahead of several runners who had beaten her during the Olympic trials, where she finished in sixth place, the BBC reported.
“You have one bad day but I knew I still had it in me,” Harrison told US Today. “I was coming out here with just vengeance to show these girls what I have.”
Dramatic illustrations of the intensity of US competition exist off the track as well. In the swimming pool, several US Olympic veterans who left London with multiple medals lost their chance at the Rio 2016 Olympics to excellent new swimmers.
The US swim team qualifiers left several favorites behind, including Natalie Coughlin, Matt Grevers, and Tyler Clary. There were serious questions about whether America's top female swimmer Missy Franklin, who took four gold medals and bronze in a relay at the 2012 London Olympics, would compete in more than a relay, the Associated Press reported.
"Right now I need to make the team in whatever way that looks like," she told the AP after finishing a disappointing seventh in the 100-meter backstroke, where she took a gold medal in 2012.
Ms. Franklin ultimately secured her spot by way of the 200-meter backstroke, freestyle, and a relay team.
Her initial struggles, and the list of stellar swimmers who will not attend the Rio 2016 Olympics at all, prompted questions about whether some sports' US trials exceed the Olympics for intensity.
"You can never go in knowing that you're going to make the team, just because the US is one of the hardest countries to make the Olympic team because they're so strong in every event," Ryan Lochte, a fourth-place qualifier in the 200-meter freestyle, told the Associated Press. "You've just got to hope and believe that you can."
His long-time rival and fellow US swimmer Michael Phelps agreed.
"It's harder here," he said.
On the one hand, such competitive trials are a mark of the US team's strength across the board and a source of national pride. But on the other, they suggest that top-notch athletes – or in Harrison's case, world record-breaking athletes – may never leave American soil, simply because they missed their chance by milliseconds in in the US Olympic trials.