Popularity is not how to honor greatness

Published on June 20th, 2022

by Craig Leweck, Scuttlebutt Sailing News
When the Gold medal winning 2008 Paralympic Sailing Team of Nick Scandone and Maureen McKinnon had been named as finalist for the US Olympic and Paralympic Hall of Fame Class of 2022 in the Paralympic Team category, I feared what would come next.

While being nominated is based on merit, induction is based on popularity. The story of Scandone and McKinnon is unmatched, yet with Sailing as their sport, they predictably failed to gain enough attention through the online vote. It probably didn’t help that Scandone died in 2009.

It remains a mystery to me how an institution in which its members embody the pinnacle of achievement in sport is not shaped entirely by achievement.

On June 24, the 2022 USOPC Hall of Fame class of Natalie Coughlin (swimming), Muffy Davis (Para alpine skiing and Para-cycling), Mia Hamm (soccer), David Kiley (Para alpine skiing, Para track and field, and wheelchair basketball), Michelle Kwan (figure skating), Michael Phelps (swimming), Lindsey Vonn (alpine skiing) and Trischa Zorn-Hudson (Para swimming) will be inducted in Colorado Springs, CO.

In addition to these eight individuals, the 1976 Women’s 4×100 Freestyle Relay Swimming Team, the 2002 Paralympic Sled Hockey Team, legends Gretchen Fraser (alpine skiing), Roger Kingdom (track and field), Pat Summitt (coach: basketball) and Billie Jean King (special contributor) will be inducted.

Currently, the inductees include 119 individual Olympians and Paralympians, 11 teams, five coaches, 19 special contributors, and no member of Sailing. How will the institution ever reflect all the sports it represents? I have the answer… it won’t as long as popularity is the determining factor.

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