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Monday, August 25, 2008

The mystery of the over-accessoried track athletes

Jeremy Wariner wears sunglasses at night. Dayron Robles sports a chain so thick that Mr. T thinks it's ostentatious. Gail Devers used to run sprints with her fingernails long and freshly manicured. And while winning the 400m hurdles in Beijing, Melaine Walker had on earrings so big, my niece could have used them as hula hoops.

While swimmers try to cut down on resistance by shaving their body hair, squeezing into form-fitting suits and wearing multiple caps, track athletes are decked out with so many accoutrements it looks like they're going to the prom. Our loyal readers want to know: what's the deal with all the track fashion accessories? As always, when help is needed, Fourth-Place Medal's Investigative Unit is on the case.

Why does Jeremy Wariner wear sunglasses at night?

There are only three types of people who can get away with wearing sunglasses at night: The blind, Corey Hart fans and Jack Nicholson. Since Wariner is none of these things, there has to be some other reason. Wariner began wearing the glasses at night as a joke while at Baylor, but continued to don them because he says they keep him focused. Or maybe it's in his adidas contract. Also, at this point he'd probably look kind of weird without them. (We call this David Duval Syndrome.)

Why do track athletes wear so much jewlery?

It has to be uncomfortable to have 24-karats bouncing up in your face as you run. Wallace Spearmon knows that, which is why he runs the 200 with his chain in his mouth. (Seriously.) Many other track stars let their chains bounce though. Michael Johnson was the king of this; we always worried he'd chip his tooth with an errant bounce from his necklace. If wearing jewelry doesn't make you faster and, theoretically, could possibly make you slower (it has to be bad for aerodynamics), what's the point of wearing it? We think young runners grew up emulating famous track stars and mimicked their style. For the same reason kids on the playground stuck their tongues out when going in for a layup, Jeremy Wariner probably wore a gold chain because his hero, Michael Johnson, did. It's certainly not for style purposes. After all, this isn't 1992 and Wariner isn't a member of Boyz II Men.

Unsolved mystery: What was with the USA's bibs in the relay last night?

The bibs on the front of the American's track uniforms last night had "USA" handwritten with magic marker, while every other team had a computer printout with their country's abbreviation typed in a clear, bold font. (See picture.) Lauryn Williams said the Americans were handed the handwritten bibs without explanation. The Investigative Unit has put in tens of minutes of research into this one and couldn't find an answer. Can anybody help us solve this mystery?

Even Michael Phelps loses races sometimes, so don't hold our failure to solve that last mystery against us. The Olympics are almost over, but the FPMIU is still open for business. Leave any Olympic mysteries you need solved in our comment section.

Photo via Getty Images