Column: Losing more than medals at Olympics
It wasn't exactly a race to celebrate back home, though Rene Herrera of the Philippines did manage to set a personal best in a men's 5,000-meter heat Wednesday at the Olympic stadium.
That he finished dead last, 43 seconds behind the next finisher hardly mattered. He was an Olympian, even if the Olympics offer a most uneven playing field for most countries.
There are 204 of them in London - 11 more than in the United Nations - and most will go home ''losers.'' While the U.S. and China dominate the medal tables, 128 countries have yet to win one - and probably won't. That includes the Philippines, which hasn't won a medal since boxer Mansueto Velasco got a silver in 1996 in Atlanta.
The list of ''losers'' at this Olympics is long, indeed, but it goes far beyond the medals table:
DOWN, DOWN UNDER: If there's anything that makes the British as happy as seeing their country hauling in Olympic medals, it's making fun of Australia for its dismal performance in London. Australia - which averaged 16 golds the last three games - had only five gold medals through Wednesday, prompting the country's sports minister to concede a medals bet with her British counterpart with five days left for the games. The joke down under is that there's a new malady called Australian Thumb, caused by people having to scroll too far down on their smart phones to find the country on the medal table.
FRENCH WHEELS: There's no loser like a sore loser. The French were having a hard enough time digesting Britain's dominance when they fell for a line from British cycling chief Dave Brailsford that the country had ''specially round wheels'' on its bikes. French cycling officials were so suspicious of the fast British times, they called for a close look at the British bikes and their magic wheels. Of course, the two countries were already at odds over London sweeping in to win the right to host games when Paris had been considered the leading contender.
U.S. BOXERS: Miserable in Beijing, horrible in London. They used to steal medals from U.S. boxers, but now they're so bad there's no need. There were nine U.S. men competing in Olympic boxing - the most of any country - and they couldn't bring home a single medal for the first time in history. USA Boxing is so dysfunctional the team had no coach just a few weeks before the Olympics, and rejected an offer by noted trainer Freddie Roach to work with its young charges. Thank goodness for the U.S. women punching their way to wins in Olympic boxing's newest event. While the men won no medals at all, two of the three women will head home with a medal, and 17-year-old middleweight Claressa Shields - who throws a left hook like the late Joe Frazier - has a chance to do what Frazier did in 1964 and win gold.
WOMEN BOXERS: They're stealing the show in London, but they're still struggling to get respect. While men compete in nine different weight classes, women are consigned to just three, meaning some must gain or lose considerable weight to fit into a category. That's largely because the IOC doesn't want to add more athletes to the games, but the same organization has approved a full field for golf, of all things, at the 2016 Rio Games.
LOLO JONES: Her Olympic disappointment in Beijing - where she was leading before hitting a hurdle late - would have been enough for any athlete. But London was especially cruel, even though she had a season-best time in finishing fourth in the 100-meter hurdles. Jones wasn't unhappy with her race, but she broke down during an appearance on NBC's ''Today'' show when asked about published reports suggesting she was a shameless marketer of herself, more image than substance. ''They should be supporting our U.S. Olympic athletes and instead they just ripped me to shreds,'' Jones said tearfully.
KOBE BRYANT: Where's Kobe? Everywhere it seems but on the basketball court. Bryant has been enjoying his Olympics, watching tennis at Centre Court at Wimbledon, seeing the U.S. women's basketball team beat up on other countries and sitting with his family at the pool when Michael Phelps was swimming. But the player who was counted on to carry the U.S. team in Beijing has been a no-show on the court, where he looks a step slow and out of sync with the rest of the U.S. superstars. He's averaging only about 9 points and is the only player on Team USA shooting under 40 percent. Not to worry, says Bryant, he's ready if needed. ''Scoring is what I do,'' he said. ''I can score in my sleep.''
BIGGEST DOPES: Alex Schwazer, the 2008 Olympic race walk champion from Italy, was in tears back in Rome after being expelled from the Olympics for doping. Schwazer said he bought blood booster EPO in Turkey and kept it hidden from his wife, figure skater Carolina Kostner, and his parents in a box of vitamins in a refrigerator. He said he injected it every day, hoping it would help him win another gold. At least Schwazer came clean when caught. U.S. judo fighter Nick Delpopolo was expelled for doping of another kind. The 23-year-old fighter said his positive test was ''caused by my inadvertent consumption of food that I did not realize had been baked with marijuana.''
GOING HOME: Of all the reasons to be sent home, former 100-meter world champion Kim Collins had one that's hard to beat. Collins was banned from the St. Kitts and Nevis team for missing training sessions, but said he was punished for spending time with his wife. Collins said he found life in the athletes village stressful and wanted some peace and quiet before racing.
LOCHTE LAGS: Kind of hard to say a guy who won five medals is a loser. But Ryan Lochte came to London declaring that it was his time to dominate, and he won only one gold medal in an individual event. Lochte beat Michael Phelps in their first big matchup, but Phelps came back to win their second meeting and was once again the biggest medal winner on the U.S. swim team.
BRITISH ECONOMY: London retailers are finding out what every host city discovers when the Olympics come to town: They were sold a bill of goods about the economic benefits of the games. Almost nightly, the BBC sends out a reporter to tourist areas to see just how bad things are, and almost nightly shopkeepers and pub operators complain that the Olympics are scaring away regular tourists.
Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at tdahlberg(at)ap.org or http://twitter.com/timdahlberg