The 2012 track & field season is just about over. The London Olympics came to an end over a month ago and the final Diamond League meet of the season took place in Brussels last week. Two news items that serve to close out the 2012 season and get us thinking about 2013 recently caught my attention.
Shortly after winning the Olympic shot put competition, Nadezhda Ostapchuk of Belarus was stripped of her gold medal because she failed a drug test. Ostapchuk was tested for drugs sixteen times between April and the start of the Olympics and passed every test. Her last test that showed no drugs was on July 30. She was tested when she arrived in the Olympic village in London and again after the shot put competition on August 6. Both these tests showed she had an anabolic steroid in her system. Ostapchuk denied using steroids but was disqualified nonetheless.
After some investigating, it is now being reported that Ostapchuk’s coach, Alexander Yefimov, has admitted that without her knowledge he “spiked” her food with the banned drug metenolone after the July 30 test because he was worried that she was not performing well.
Athletes are responsible for anything they ingest or that is found in their bodies so Ostapchuk is still disqualified from the Olympics, but her drug ban has been reduced from two years to one year. The coach, Yefimov, has been suspended for four years.
Who knows how much of the story of the “spiked” food without her knowledge is true. If the reported facts are true it seems that the penalty for Ostapchuk is fair, but if so, I think Yefimov should be banned for life for such an unsportsmanlike act. It’s certainly interesting final news from the Olympics.
Now we turn our attention towards the 2013 World Championships in Moscow. Countries will have the usual allotment of sending up to three athletes, with the required standard per event, to compete. An exception is that 2011 World Champions and 2012 Diamond League winners are granted a wild card entry into the 2013 World Championships. That means countries could have a fourth athlete in an event. For example in the women’s 1500 meters, Jenny Simpson of the USA, gets a wild card entry into the World Championships so the USA can send Simpson and three other runners in the women’s 1500 meters. Another example is in the men’s shot put where USA thrower Reese Hoffa won the 2012 Diamond League competition. The USA can send Hoffa and three others to the 2013 World Championships in the shot put.
However, countries cannot send five entries in an event. In the rare instance that the 2011 World Champion and 2012 Diamond League winner is from the same country but are a different person, each country’s national federation will have to decide who gets the automatic wild card entry. There are five instances where this happened, all in men’s events.
|Country||2011 World Champ||2012 Diamond League Winner|
|100 meters||Jamaica||Yohan Blake||Usain Bolt|
|200 meters||Jamaica||Usain Bolt||Nickel Ashmeade|
|110 hurdles||USA||Jason Richardson||Aries Merritt|
|1500 meters||Kenya||Asbel Kiprop||Silas Kiplagat|
|3000 steeplechase||Kenya||Ezekiel Kemboi||Paul Koech|
It will be interesting to see how the three national track & field federations, Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association (JAAA), United States of America Track & Field (USATF), and Athletics Kenyan (AK), handle this unique situation. Usain Bolt has already stated that in the 100 meters he will give up his wild card spot to Yohan Blake but in the 200 meters he will await a decision from the JAAA. The coach for both Bolt and Blake, Glen Mills, has recently criticized the IAAF for limiting the wild cards. Mills complains that athletes who have fulfilled the requirements to earn a wild card entry by either winning the 2011 World Championship or the 2012 Diamond League competition are being punished because someone from their own country was successful.
In four of these events, the national federations could use the 2012 Olympics as the tie-breaker. If that were the case, Bolt (100 and 200), Merritt (110H), and Kemboi (steeplechase) would get the wild card as the Olympic champion in that event. AK would still have to use a different tie-breaker in the men’s 1500 meters.
Four athletes won both the 2011 World Championship and 2012 Diamond League. Those double winners are Amantle Montsho (BOT) in the women’s 400, Vivian Cheruiyot (KEN) in the women’s 5000, Valerie Adams (NZL) in the women’s shot put (Adams was awarded the gold after Ostapchuk failed a post-competition drug test – see above), and Christian Taylor (USA) in the men’s triple jump. If you add the 2012 Olympic results to the 2011 World Championships and 2012 Diamond League results, only Adams and Taylor made a clean sweep of all three competitions.
There are twelve Olympic champions who are not receiving a wild card entry into the 2013 World Championships because they neither won the 2011 World Championship nor the 2012 Diamond League competition. They are:
- 1. Taoufik Makhloufi (ALG), men’s 1500
- 2. Felix Sanchez (DOM), men’s 400H
- 3. Greg Rutherford (GBR), men’s long jump
- 4. Ivan Ukhov (RUS), men’s high jump
- 5. Tomasz Majewski (POL), men’s shot put
- 6. Keshorn Walcott (TRI), men’s javelin
- 7. Allyson Felix, (USA), women’s 200
- 8. Sanya Richards-Ross (USA), women’s 400
- 9. Asli Cakir (TUR), women’s 1500
- 10. Meseret Defar (ETH), women’s 5000
- 11. Natalya Antyukh (RUS), women’s 400H
- 12. Jenn Suhr (USA), women’s pole vault
These are some quality athletes, who will have to fight for their spot in Moscow via their national governing body’s qualifying procedures. Not included in this list are the hammer throwers, decathletes/heptathletes, and 10,000 meter and marathon runners, whose event are not part of the Diamond League series.
Click below on “Wild Card Entries_13″ for a full list of winners by event from the 2011 World Championships, 2012 Diamond League series, and 2012 Olympics.
The 2013 track & field season is still a long way away but there are some interesting stories developing already.
The Olympic Men’s 800 meters was one of the greatest races I have ever seen. Not only did the winner, David Rudisha set a World Record, but there was a world junior record and an Ethiopian national record set as well.
Moments before the race on August 9, 2012, I leaned over and told Malinda, “If there was ever a distance event where we could see a World Record in the Olympic Final, this is it.” A few minutes later, Rudisha made me look like a psychic.
As soon as the gun sounded to start the race, Rudisha sprinted out hard. He managed to hold off Abubaker Kaki to claim the inside position and the lead after they cut in. Rudisha came through the first 200 meters in 24 seconds and hit the halfway mark at 49 seconds. He was definitely on World Record pace. What was interesting, however, was that the field was not getting left in his jetstream. Rudisha was running really really fast but the other seven runners were getting pulled along to some fast times, too. When Rudisha hit 600 meters at 1:14, my head almost exploded as I tried to calculate what kind of time he was on pace to run.
My eyes then shifted to the rest of the pack. American Duane Solomon was positioned in sixth place but appeared ready to make a move for a medal. The other American, Nick Symmonds, had been in last place for most of the race and was still there with 100 meters to go but then seemed to come alive and he, too, was making a sprint to get a medal. I screamed for Solomon. I screamed for Symmonds. Then I heard the crowd, that had already been deafening loud, get even louder. I looked to the left to see that Rudisha had finished and then I checked the time on the scoreboard. It initially read “unofficial 1:41.0.” Rudisha owned the previous World Record of 1:41.01 so if the time held, he would have World Record by .01 seconds. A few seconds later the official time flashed on the scoreboard and it was even faster. 1:40.91! Rudisha had become the first runner to ever break 1:41 in the 800 meters. To put that in perspective, prior to this race, besides Rudisha, only three other runners had ever broken 1:42 (Wilson Kipketer, Sebastian Coe, and Joaquim Cruz).
The others in this field were also amazingly fast. Seven of the eight runners ran a personal record (PR), with the eighth running a season best.
Eighteen year-old Nijel Amos of Botswana won the silver medal with a 1:41.73. That time made Amos the fifth runner to ever break 1:42, earned him a new world junior record (for athletes who do not turn twenty at any time during the calendar year in which the mark is made) and tied Amos for the eighth fastest 800 time in history. All this from an athlete who entered the Olympics with a PR of 1:43.11
Kenyan Timoth Kitum, who had only the seventh best PR out of the field before the race started, ran a 1.41 second PR to win the bronze, holding off four other runners who all finished within 0.79 seconds of each other.
The Americans, Solomon and Symmonds, came up just short in their bid for a medal. But they could hardly be disappointed with their times. Solomon’s 1:42.82 and Symmonds” 1:42.95 make them the second and third fastest American 800 runners of all-time, behind only Solomon’s coach, Johnny Gray (1:42.60 set in 1985). Obviously these were PR’s for both Solomon and Symmonds and they are just the second and third Americans (along with Gray) to dip under the 1:43 mark.
Sixth placer Mohammed Aman of Ethiopia, who is only nineteen years-old set a national record with his 1:43.20. Aman improved on his own national record, which was 1:43.37. Aman has steadily been lowering the Ethiopian record over the last two years. The last person before Aman to hold the Ethiopian national record in the 800 meters was Berhanu Alemu, who ran 1:45.28 in 2004.
Abubaker Kaki of Sudan was the only runner in the field not to run a PR (his PR is 1:42.23). However, it was a season best for Kaki, who ran 1:43.32. It was Kaki’s junior world record of 1:42.69 that Amos broke.
The last place finisher, Andrew Osagie of Great Britain, ran 1:43.77, which was a PR. That time would have won gold at the 2000, 2004, and 2008 Olympics. The only Olympic 800 meters in history where 1:43.77 would not have medaled was 1996. For Osagie, 1:43.77 got him a personal record but also last place!
Often in a World Record setting race, at least in a distance race, the record setter has pace setters or rabbits and the record setting runner tends to finish far ahead of the rest of the field. The lack of both rabbits and a gap is what made this race so special. The depth of this 800 race was like no other 800 in history. From first place to eighth place, the runners put up incredible times. Records and PR’s were the norm in this race, the greatest 800 race of all-time.
1 David Lekuta Rudisha KEN 1:40.91 (WR)
2 Nijel Amos BOT 1:41.73 (WJ)
3 Timothy Kitum KEN 1:42.53 (PB)
4 Duane Solomon USA 1:42.82 (PB)
5 Nick Symmonds USA 1:42.95 (PB)
6 Mohammed Aman ETH 1:43.20 (NR)
7 Abubaker Kaki SUD 1:43.32 (SB)
8 Andrew Osagie GBR 1:43.77 (PB)
If you don’t count watching someone near and dear to me running in the women’s 1500 meter final, then I have two favorite memories from the 2012 Olympic track & field competition. My favorites will reflect the fact that I am American distance runner and coach.
The first happened on a night now being referred to in Great Britain as “Super Saturday.” The Brits are calling it Super Saturday because that was the night the UK won three gold medals in track & field within an hour. While all eyes were on Mo Farah on the final lap of the men’s 10,000 meters and while the majority of the cheering was for Mo, our eyes and cheers were for Galen Rupp. My wife Malinda yelled so loud for Rupp that she made herself hoarse and her voice was never the same the rest of the Games. Rupp stayed in contention the whole race and made a move to get a medal with 200 meters to go. He looked great, striding past runners from Ethiopia to claim the silver medal. It was the first medal in the 10,000 meters for the US men since Billy Mills in 1960.
I was very happy for Rupp. He’s been in the spotlight since his running prowess was first noticed on the soccer field at Central Catholic High School in Portland in 2000. I have a small connection to Rupp because although Rupp’s pretty much been coached by Alberto Salazar since 2000, the head coach at Central Catholic is a friend of mine, David Frank. David was the head coach at St. Francis High School in Mountain View, a rival West Catholic Athletic League (WCAL) school, when I first became the head coach at Sacred Heart Cathedral. At the 2000 US Olympic Trails in Sacramento, David told me he was moving to Portland. One year later, one of his star athletes was Rupp and also one year later, my star athlete, Shannon Rowbury, won her first state championship. It’s funny how small the track & field world can be.
The second memorable moment took place on Tuesday, August 7. It was the final of the men’s 1500 meters. Shannon’s teammate, Leo Manzano was in the race. If you think that all the athletes’ coaches get first class treatment and a front row seat to watch their people compete at the Olympics, think again. Most coaches have to buy their own ticket to get into the Olympic Stadium. Leo’s coach in London, Ryan Ponsonby (Manzano’s main coach is John Cook but Cook often doesn’t travel overseas so in Cook’s absence Ryan is the coach on-site) was sitting two seats over from me in the second level of the stadium in row 69. All the seats have a great view but this was a long way away for the coach of an Olympic finalist to be sitting.
Ryan described the race in an interview with FloTrack. He said that he told Leo to conserve energy early to be ready for a hard and fast last 400 meters. Leo did just that. With 400 meters to go he was towards the back in tenth place but still in striking distance. With 300 to go there was still a sizeable gap between Leo and the first eight runners. As it turned out many of the runners ahead of him had gone too hard too early and would run out of gas the final 100. In an interview after the race Leo said his legs felt like bricks, which explained why he was still a ways back with 200 meters to go. But that’s when things started to change. “Keep going, keep going, keep pushing ,” Leo said he was telling himself. He started moving up. Ryan, after silently focusing on the race for the first 1400 meters, pumped his fists and started screaming as Leo hit the top of the final straightaway. We all could tell what was about to happen. Malinda was screaming herself hoarse again. Leo was going to medal! He passed all but one and ended up in second place to grab the silver medal. It was bedlam in row 69. Ryan gave a thumbs up and we (we being me, Malinda, Shannon’s parents, a few of Shannon’s friends who live in the UK, and Coach Cook’s team doctor Alan King) all started jumping up and down and hugging. It was the first medal in the 1500 meters for the US men since Jim Ryun in 1968.
What a moment! I was particularly proud that I could share in Ryan’s celebration before he rushed down to trackside to greet Leo on his victory lap. I thought back in September of 2011 in Daegu, South Korea. Leo and Shannon had failed to qualify for the 1500 final, both of them being eliminated in the semi-final. It meant they had some unexpected days off with no competition. They would have rather been preparing for their final race but instead we arranged to meet for a Korean lunch. I spend lots of time hanging out with Shannon but this was a new experience to spend the day with Leo. He is a down to earth, genuine, nice person and it was a thrill to just joke around and talk to him. Track & field is a crazy sport. Eleven months ago he was frustrated at his performance at the World Championships. But in London, he might have come in second but as Leo said, it “feels like I got first.”
Two noteworthy Olympic medal performances by American men, ending 52 and 48 year dry spells in their event. Coincidentally, I have a one or two degrees of separation connection with each. No wonder those are my two favorite Olympic memories from London 2012.
Keep calm and carry on. You hear that a lot here in London. I believe the track & field distance race equivalent is “Keep Calm and Kick”.
The women’s 1500 meter final will take place Friday at 8:55pm London time (12:55pm on the west coast). Shannon Rowbury will be running in her second Olympic final and she’ll be looking to improve on her seventh place finish from Beijing (which as of now is the highest finish by an American woman in the Olympic 1500 meters in history).
Shannon gave us some anxious moments during the qualifying races. On Monday in the first round she finished seventh and we had to sit through the next two heats to see if her time would qualify to the next round. As the Brits like to say, Shannon’s 4:06.03 was the “fastest loser” and she moved on to the semi-final. On Wednesday, Shannon was well positioned throughout the race and inspired by her teammate Leo Manzano’s patient race tactics (more on that in a later post) hung out patiently around seventh place for most of the race. Only the top five would automatically qualify for the final and with 100 meters to go Shannon still had some work to do to move into the top five. She surged down the final homestretch passing two runners to secure the fifth and final automatic qualifying spot by one tenth of a second (4:05.47 to 4:05.57). The times in the second semi-final heat were much faster and it turns out that that one tenth of a second was huge because it was the difference between making the final and being eliminated (as all the time qualifiers came from the second heat).
In many ways, the stress is off. The goal in these first two races was simply to qualify on and Shannon has done that. She’s in the final along with eleven other women – the best female 1500 meter runners in the world. Previous championship meet credentials, PR’s, and season bests are immaterial. Everyone will line up even at the starting line and attempt to run three and three quarter laps around the track and get to the finish line first.
The final is simple and straightforward. You go for it. You leave it all out there. In most of the other distance finals that I’ve seen at these Olympic Games, the top finishers have been very patient early in the race, letting others set the pace and deal with the pushing and shoving that occurs in the middle of the pack of races of this nature. Then at some point later in the race, there comes a moment when it’s time to make your play for the medal. A moment when it is time to put four years of training and dreaming to work.
It is an honor and a privilege to be in London sitting in my hotel room and preparing to watch someone I know and care about run in an Olympic final in less than twenty-four hours time. What a wild journey cheering on Shannon Rowbury has been.
For Shannon, it’s time to Keep Calm and KICK!
For me, it’s time to Keep Calm and wave my banner!
I have now been in the London Olympic Stadium four times. Even though we are sitting high in the second deck, the sight lines are great. We can see all the action. My only minor complaints are that the scoreboard is hard to read (it’s not my fault I have bad eyesight, the London Olympic Committee should be taking care of my needs!) and that when the UK fans cheer loudly (which they do a lot), I can’t hear what the announcer is saying. Pretty minor things to be fussing about, huh?
There have been some complaints regarding the Olympic flame. The only people who can see the flame burning inside the cauldron are people who have tickets to attend an event (i.e. track & field or athletics as they call it here) in the Olympic Stadium. Since I am one of the lucky ones who has tickets to the Olympic Stadium, this has not been a complaint of mine.
On the flight over to London, Virgin Atlantic offered a documentary about the construction of the stadium. It was very insightful and easier to understand than the technical article my dad showed me from Civil Engineering magazine.
The London Olympic stadium seats 80,000 people and was built in east London at a cost of 486 million pounds. One of the cornerstones of the London Olympic bid was the eco-friendly and flexible nature of the Olympic Stadium. The stadium was built in such a way that it can be partially dismantled after the Games leaving the lower bowl, comprised of the track and 25,000 seats.
There were many challenges the architects and engineers faced when designing and constructing the stadium. Over two hundred building were demolished in east London to create space for the stadium. Some of these buildings produced toxic waste so the soil needed to be decontaminated. In the end some of the soil was re-used for landscaping and another 800,000 tons of soil were removed from the area. There was believed to be over two hundred un-exploded bombs from World War II buried in the ground that had to be considered during the construction to prevent an unplanned explosion. The land allotted for the stadium is surrounded by rivers on three sides and the area was not large enough for the traditional footprint of an 80,000 stadium. Designers got around this by “pulling” out food preparation areas and moving them to outside the stadium.
The upper bowl of the stadium is comprised of steel components that are bolted together and can be un-bolted and removed after the Olympics. The roof, too, is a stand-alone feature of the stadium, weighing 450 tons. The roof is not connected to the lower bowl of the stadium. The roof has four components: an outer ring, an inner ring, 12,000 meters of cable, and 25,000 square meters of fabric. The roof is designed to shelter the fans as well as block wind for the athletes so that any marks run are not wind-aided or wind-hindered.
There are fourteen light towers, weighing 500 tons, attached to the roof. Each tower provides 14,000 watts. The lights are all angled properly to illuminate the track but to not create any shadows or glare for the spectators.
The grass on the field was grown off-site and then cut into rolls and brought to the stadium. Three hundred and sixty rolls of the turf were brought in. The transfer of the grass from its off-site location into the stadium needed to be done in less than twenty-four hours for the grass to stay alive.
Throughout the construction, workers had to deal with typical London weather issues. In the winter of 2010, work stopped for two weeks during a freeze. High winds were often a concern when working with the cranes and lifting heavy steel components into the air.
In the end, over 5,000 workers helped to build the stadium. The circumference around the outside of the stadium is one kilometer (anyone for 5 X 1000 meter intervals?). There are 338 kilometers of cable, twelve kilometers of ventilation ducts, and eleven kilometers of drainage.
Number of days to build the London Olympic Stadium: 1,000
Number of toilets in the London Olympic Stadium: 1,387
Number of memories for the athletes and spectators inside the London Olympic Stadium: infinite
There is something about being inside an Olympic Stadium and seeing the Olympic flame burning that is indescribably special. Knowing a little more about the construction of said stadium adds to the experience. Thanks, London! I’ll consider my poor vision and hearing to be my own problem and give you an A for your stadium!
The announcers around here are calling Saturday August 4, 2012 the greatest day in United Kingdom (UK) Olympic history. At least from a track & field (or athletics, as it’s called over here) perspective.
Walking around the Olympic Park this afternoon I saw two British fans wearing specially made t-shirts in support of two of their favorite athletes. One’s shirt said “Yes Jess” on it. The other said “Go Mo.” The newspaper slipped under my hotel room door this morning, The Independent, had two articles each on this Jess (heptathlete Jessica Ennis) and this Mo (10,000 meter runner Mohammed Farah) and their prospects for bringing home the gold medal on their home turf. At the very beginning of the meet, the public address announcer informed the crowd that the last time a UK track & field athlete won a gold medal at an Olympics held in London was 1908. Well, that is a long time. But track & field at the 2012 Olympics just got underway so all the statistic really means is that the home team got shutout on the gold medal front when they hosted the Olympics in 1948.
Still, the pro-Great Britain/cheer wildly for every Great Britain athlete attitude was on display at the track on this night. This night that would turn into quite a special one for fans of athletics in the UK.
It all started around 9:02pm local time. Ennis had a strong lead in the women’s heptathlon and was more or less assured of the gold medal. In the final event of the heptathlon, the 800 meters, she went out hard for the first 400 meters and then slowed and was caught by a couple runners. With 200 meters to go, however, the crowd roared to life and this inspired Ennis to find re-take the lead down the final straightaway, much to the delight of the crowd. Her time of 2:08.65 earned her 984 points and brought her final score for the two-day, seven event competition to 6,955 points. She finished 306 points ahead of second place and broke her own UK record for the heptathlon. How dominant was Ennis in this event? Second place finisher Lilli Schwarzkopf of Germany finished with a score closer to eleventh place Brianne Theisen of Canada (who also happens to be Ashton Eaton’s fiancé) than to Ennis’ score.
Right as the heptathlon was winding down all eyes in the stadium shifted to the long jump runway. Great Britain had two athletes, neither of whom got much press in the newspaper today, unlike Ennis and Farah. Greg Rutherford and Christopher Tomlinson were trying to win Great Britain its second gold medal earned on home turf since 1908 as well as the second one of the hour. After one round of jumps, Tomlinson led with a jump of 8.06 meters. Rutherford took over the lead in the second round with a jump of 8.21 meters. For a short time, Great Britain was sitting in the gold and bronze medal positions in the long jump. Rutherford improved to 8.31 meters in the fourth round, a jump missed by many in the stands as when it happened the crowd was focused on another British athlete in the heptathlon, Katarina Johnson-Thompson, a nineteen year old athlete, who just may be the “next Jessica Ennis.” At 9:22pm, as Ennis finished her victory lap, Will Claye from the United States was on the runway. He was the penultimate jumper and the last jumper with a chance to knock Rutherford out of the gold medal spot. When Claye’s mark fell short, the crowd went wild as Rutherford celebrated winning a gold medal in the long jump.
Minutes later, the men’s 10,000 meter race was underway. Farah bided his time in the front pack, not concerning himself as runners from Eritrea and Kenya jockeyed for position, continually surging and slowing down. The lead group got smaller and smaller but there were still eight or so runners still in contention with a mile to go. Even over the last lap five or six runners were still in it with a chance to win. The stadium was going crazy cheering for Farah, who for his part, looked in control the whole way.
Over the last 300 meters, Farah looked strong with the lead but not all eyes in the stadium were strictly on him. Earlier in the race I had commented that maybe this wasn’t Galen Rupp’s day as he seemed to fall back from the lead pack for no apparent reason. But when it came time to really race, Rupp was there and Rupp was ready. He surged past a couple of runners at the 300 to go mark. With 200 to go, he was well positioned on the outside and appeared to be running faster than the runners just ahead of him. Just like at the 2011 World Championships when I started screaming, “She’s going to medal. She’s going to medal,” about Jenny Simpson in the women’s 1500 with about 150 meters to go (Simpson would not only medal but win the race), I started yelling that Rupp was going to medal. Down the final homestretch Farah held on to the lead and Rupp secured second place. It was a third gold medal for the UK in less than an hour. A medal for the USA in the men’s 10,000 meters, their first since the 1964 Tokyo Olympics when a kid named Billy Mills won the gold.
The guys at FloTrack have a great photo sequence of the final 100 meters.
I am not versed enough in Great Britain’s Olympic and track & field history to know if today should rank as the greatest day in their Olympic history. It was certainly a terrific day, though, but not just for the Brits. I am pretty sure that for Galen Rupp, he can say that today was his greatest day in his track & field career.
Sacred Heart Cathedral (SHC), a Catholic school in San Francisco founded over 150 years ago and with a current enrollment of 1,257 students, can make a claim that very few other schools around the country can make. SHC has two alumni going to the 2012 London Olympics in track & field – Tina Kefalas, class of 1995 in the marathon for Greece, and Shannon Rowbury, class of 2002 in the 1500 meters for the USA. Even more amazing is the fact that the school does not have a home track.
As the current head cross country and track & field coach I can say that I’ve never seen not having a home track as a detriment to our program. The kids in our program are blessed because there is a lot of variety in their training schedule. It isn’t meet out at the track after school every day at 3:30. In fact, I think the time the kids spend taking the bus together to practice is part of their experience that makes being on the SHC track & field team special and unique. It also helps weed out who is really dedicated to the sport. It takes a great deal of commitment to get yourself to practice off-campus via public transportation day after day.
Kefalas was the school record holder in the 1600 and 3200 meters when she graduated from SHC in 1995. She was the first runner in school history to qualify for the cross country state meet. She remembers going on a road trip to Colorado Springs with her coach, Mr. Denis Mohun (also a graduate of the school in 1979) and some other runners from the team. “It was the turning point for me. My first two years I was playing volleyball and track and after that trip, I finally decided to run cross country,” recalls Keflas. She also is proud to have won the school’s Vincent Contrero Award for excellence in both academics and athletics.
In the fall of 1998, SHC hired a new coach to head both the cross country and track & field
program. That person was me. I had the good timing to arrive at SHC the same season as a freshman who would change my life, a freshman named Shannon Rowbury.
Rowbury would go on to win two state championships and seven section champions during her SHC career. She was nationally ranked in the 800, 1600, 3200 meters and cross country and supplanted Kefalas as the school record holder in the 1600 and 3200 meters.
One of my fondest times during Rowbury’s high school career was her whole senior year of track & field. We both knew that this was the eighth and final season together at SHC. We took time to really soak it all up and enjoy the ride. She set numerous meet records, would sign autographs at meets, and together we would be interviewed for both television and newspaper articles. It was just a lot of fun and we made a point to have fun and enjoy every moment of it.
John Scudder (class of 1972), has been around SHC for thirty-two years and he recalls both students fondly. “I remember Tina and Shannon well. During Tina’s time at SHC, I was the Dean of Students; she was a model student who never found it necessary to take a trip to the Dean’s office. While Shannon attended SHC, I was the Principal. She too was active at school well beyond athletics. It is amazing to think she was so successful on the track, while all the time focusing on her work in the classroom,” said Scudder. Now serving the school as President, Scudder said, “I am so proud of their accomplishments. I know I speak for the entire SHC community in wishing Tina and Shannon the best of luck during the upcoming competition. Go Irish!”
After high school, Keflas went on to run at the University of Southern California. She then moved to Greece, where she continued to run at a high level. In 2008, in her first 3000 steeplechase of the season she ran 9:55.96, less than one second off the Olympic “B” standard, which would have been enough to qualify to represent Greece at the Beijing Olympics. Unfortunately she was injured in her second race and that ended her season and thus her 2008 Olympic dreams. Kefalas then decided to run the 2010 Athens Marathon, which also happened to be the 2500th anniversary of the historic run by the messenger Pheidippides from Marathon to Athens in 490 B.C. that gave the marathon race distance its name. She completed the marathon in two hours, 40 minutes, and 36 seconds, well under the Olympic “B” standard but unfortunately before the qualifying period for the 2012 Olympic marathon began. Kefalas would need to run another marathon closer to the Olympics in sub-2:43 to qualify for the 2012 Olympics. On April 22, 2012 at the Enschede Marathon in the Netherlands she ran 2:41:00 to stamp her ticket to London.
Rowbury competed for Duke University after high school and since college has been a professional runner, sponsored by Nike. Her breakthrough season was 2008, when she lowered her 1500 meter personal record from 4:12.31 to 4:00.33. She qualified for the 2008 Olympic team in Beijing and has also represented the USA at the 2009 and 2011 World Championships. She’s finished in the top three at the US Championships in the 1500 each of the last five years, has been ranked as high third as in the world (2009), and is the eighth fastest women’s 1500 meter runner in US history.
Kefalas will race in the women’s marathon in London, which is Sunday, August 5. She said that her goal is to break 2:40.
Rowbury will race in the women’s 1500 meters in London. The first round race is Monday, August 6, the semi-final race is Wednesday, August 8, and the final is Friday, August 10. In an interview after the Olympic Trials, Rowbury stated that her goal is to “get on the podium,” which means placing in the top three to earn one of the coveted Olympic medals.
As you watch the 2012 London Olympics, almost every athlete you see will have some sort of backstory. They competed in high school, they had a high school coach, at some point making the Olympics became, first a dream, and then reality. But when you’re watching the track & field portion of the Olympics, remember that two of the athletes attended the same Catholic school in downtown San Francisco. The one without a home track.
If you follow the Olympic Trials in Eugene from June 22-July 1, 2012, you will hear a lot of talk about the Olympic A standard. Here is an explanation of what and how the Olympic A standard works.
The International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) oversees the track & field competition at the Olympics. The goal of the IAAF is to have 2000 athletes in the 47 different events at the London Olympics. For every event there is an A standard and a B standard. The A standard is the better mark (faster/farther). For example, in the women’s 1500 meters, the A standard is 4:06.00 and the B standard is 4:08.90. For most events, with the marathon, 10,000 meters, race walking events, decathlon, and heptathlon being exceptions, the qualifying window for an athlete to achieve the Olympic standard is from May 1, 2011 to July 8, 2012.
Each country can send three athletes in each event provided they have achieved the Olympic A standard. If a country only has athletes with the B standard, they can only send one athlete. There is also a special rule that allows countries that do not have any athletes who have achieved the Olympic standard in any track and field event to send one athlete of each sex in one event to the Olympics.
In a nutshell, countries will send three athletes in events where they have at least three A standard athletes. If they have just two A standard athletes, they will send those two. If they have just one A standard athlete they will send just the one. If they have no A standard athletes but multiple B standard athletes, one B standard athlete will get to go.
In the United States, both achieving the Olympic standard and placing in the top three at the Olympic Trials are factors. In most every event, the USA has at least three A standard athletes; in most events, the athletes who place in the top three at the Olympic Trials will have also achieved the Olympic A standard. We’re not known as the best track & field team in the world for nothing!
But there are exceptions and you could hear about those exceptions during the course of the Olympic Trials. Important points to keep in mind:
- In the US, the focus is on the Olympic A standard, not the B standard. In 99% of the cases, any US athlete who is a legitimate contender for the US Olympic team will have at least the Olympic B standard.
- Athletes need to have achieved the Olympic standard only some time since May 1, 2011. They do not have to achieve the mark at the Olympic Trials.
- United States of America Track & Field (USATF), the US governing body, has stated that the Olympic standard needs to be achieved by the end of competition (for each event) at the Olympic Trials. Unlike some other years, athletes will not have the opportunity to “chase” the standard after the Trials. “Chasing” the mark refers to athletes who go to meets after the Olympic Trials but before the Olympics in an attempt to achieve the Olympic standard.
Here are some scenarios and explanations of who will go to the Olympics.
Scenario 1 – top 3 have all achieved the Olympic A standard.
1st – Amy (has A)
2nd – Lisa (has A)
3rd – Janet (has A)
Amy, Lisa, and Janet go to the Olympics.
Scenario 2 – A runner with only the B standard places in the top 3.
1st – Deborah (only has B)
2nd – Lisa (has A)
3rd – Janet (has A)
4th – Amy (has A)
Deborah is skipped. Lisa, Janet, and Amy go to the Olympics.
There is a huge advantage to arrive at the Olympic Trials with the Olympic A standard already achieved. Any athlete who has not yet achieved the Olympic A standard and wants to go to the London Olympics, has to not only place in the top three at the Olympic Trials but also make sure that their mark meets the Olympic A standard. Otherwise they will be like Deborah in scenario 2 above, skipped over by athletes with the A standard.
Athletics Kenya, the national governing body of track & field in Kenya announced on March 15 that Kenya will hold their men’s 10,000 meter Olympic Trials race in Eugene, Oregon in June 2012. This announcement means that all other Kenyan Olympic Trials races will take place at the Kenyan national championships in Nairobi on June 21-23.
News that Athletics Kenya was considering having the men’s and women’s 5000 and 10,000 meter Olympic Trials races at the Prefontaine Classic first broke in late February. While it was not official, Prefontaine meet director Tom Jordan confirmed that they were considering the possibility.
Many people were immediately opposed to the idea of Kenya holding some of their Olympic Trials races outside of Kenya. Former Kenyan Olympic stars Paul Tergat and Moses Tanui went on record against the trials being in the United States. “The national Olympic team selection should be done by Kenyans, run in Kenya and witnessed by Kenyans,” Tergat said in a press statement. “We have always been doing the selection in Kenya and we must bring the country’s idols to compete at home so as to encourage youngsters,” said Tanui, who also added that, “The youth of this country are being denied a chance to represent the country because they cannot afford to travel there (Eugene),” Tanui also pointed out that the money spent on sending Kenyan runners to the Prefontaine Classic would be better spent developing runners in Kenya.
Another leading former athlete, Martin Keino, son of the famous Kenyan runner Kipchoge “Kip” Keino, wrote an opinion piece in which he pointed out the positives of the Olympic Trials taking place in Kenya both for the Kenyan fans and for the athletes. “It is unique in the sense that it is the convergence of as many as 20 of the world’s top distance athletes fighting for just three spots through a rigorous system of selection,” said Keino, “The men’s 5000m and 10,000m races are generally some of the most exciting races at an Olympic trials here in Kenya. Not to hold these events in such important trials is to deny thousands of fans their only opportunity to watch their stars in person before the Games. As a former athlete who participated in several trials, the pressure cooker environment, high altitude and the toughest competition in the world made for the best preparation for any championship to follow,” he said.
From a financial point of view, it did seem odd. It would be much more expensive for athletes to get to Eugene than to Nairobi. There were suggestions that Nike, the sponsor for the Prefontaine Meet, was paying for the travel expenses for the Kenyan runners to come to the United States. One can’t help but wonder if Nike also promised a payment to Athletics Kenya for holding their Olympic Trials races at Prefontaine. It makes sense that Nike would be willing to spend some money to make this happen because from a marketing point of view having the Kenyan Olympic Trials in Eugene would create more interest in the Prefontaine Meet. The Star, a daily newspaper in Nairobi, quoted Kenyan Commissioner of Sports Gordon Oluoch as saying “You do not hold national trials in another country because you have an all expenses paid trip by Nike.”
Details such as, would there be special races only for Kenyans or would the Kenyans run in the usual 5000 and 10,000 meter races that are open to runners from all countries, were heavily speculated by track fans. United States runners like Chris Solinsky (via twitter) speculated about the situation just like other running fans.
Amid all the controversy, Athletics Kenya stated that the reason for holding their Olympic Trials outside of Kenya was simply for competitive reasons. Athletics Kenya felt that since Kenya has not won an Olympic gold medal ever in the women’s 5000 or 10,000 and the last men’s gold medals were 1988 (5000-John Ngugi) and 1968 (10,000-Naftali Temu), they needed to do something different to get their best possible team on the line at the 2012 London Olympics to go after the gold medals that the country covets. Having the race at sea level (Nairobi’s elevation is 5,600 feet) would simulate the London conditions better. After all, the top finishers in a 10,000 meter race at altitude in the heat may not be the runners who would perform the best in a 10,000 meter race at sea level. Athletics Kenya’s has released a plan to hold a training camp in Eldoret, Kenya beginning on March 12 for runners with the Olympics A and B standards. Then there would be a mini trials on April 17 to determine which athletes would go to Eugene in June for the Olympic Trials. A couple weeks ago the rumor was that Athletics Kenya planned to send five men and five women each for the 5000 and 10,000 meter races at Prefontaine. Thus a total of twenty athletes only would vie for the twelve Olympic spots (three each in each event, both men and women).
On March 15, Athletics Kenya made an announcement that only the men’s 10,000 meter Olympic Trials race would take place in the United States. The men’s 5000 and the women’s 5000 and 10,000, as well as all other track & field events will take place in Nairobi as in past years. The Kenyan 10,000 meter Olympic Trials race will take place on Friday June 1, the night before the Prefontaine Classic. There will be no charge for admission for this special meet, being billed as “Hollister Night at Hayward” in honor of one of the original Nike employees, Geoff Hollister, who passed away on February 6. The 10,000 meter race will have fifteen Kenyan athletes (selected by Athletics Kenya). There will be no pace maker and the top two finishers will qualify for the Kenyan Olympic team. An Athletics Kenya panel will select the third runner to represent Kenya at the London Olympics. Other events scheduled for the Hollister Night at Hayward are the men’s triple jump and mile and the women’s discus, hammer, 1500 and 800.
There has been much speculation, many announcements, comments, and re-announcements on this event over the last three weeks. The final decision has been announced but I wouldn’t be surprised if it is not the last of this controversy. The best part? No matter what’s decided there are sure to be some exciting races to determine Kenya’s Olympic team followed by more exciting races in London.
There have been several marathon races and news of note over the last couple of weeks. I could blog about the IAAF’s recent decision to count women’s marathon world records in women-only races, or Patrick Makau’s new men’s world record of 2:03:38 set in Berlin, or the impressive times by Chicago Marathon winners Liliya Shobukhova (2:18:20) and Moses Mosop (2:05:37), or the amazing story of Amber Miller, who completed the Chicago marathon in 6:25:50 while 39 weeks pregnant and then gave birth to a baby girl Sunday evening.
Instead, however, the marathon news story that caught my eye came from the Kielder Marathon in Northumberland in the United Kingdom on Sunday, October 9, 2011. This marathon had 1,109 finishers, 1,108 of them legitimate. Rob Sloan started the race but at the 20 mile mark flagged down a bus driving spectators to the finish and caught a ride. He then got off the bus, went back on the course, and re-entered the course. He crossed the finish line in third place in 2:51:01. However, the real third place runner questioned the result and after spectators came forward to say they saw Sloan on the bus, Sloan was disqualified, by event director Steve Cram – yes, the THAT Steve Cram (1983 World Champion and 1984 Olympic silver medalist in the 1500 meters).
This cheater reminded me of another marathon cheater who got caught. This one took place almost ten years ago at the 2001 New York City Marathon. Martin Franklin used times from races that he likely cheated at to earn elite status for the 2001 NYC race. He started the race but then hopped on the subway where he was seen by several marathon fans, who noticed Franklin when he re-entered the race in Central Park and crossed the finish line, appearing to be the in nineteenth place and fifth American. LetsRun.com had expose on Franklin including pictures and called for his arrest for fraud. Steve Holman, an elite American 1500 meter runner in the 1990’s, wrote an open letter to Franklin that appeared in Runner’s World Daily (download it below). I still get a chuckle when I read Holman’s letter. My favorite part is when Holman questions why, if Franklin was going to cheat he, only came in nineteenth, “When you cheat, Martin, you have must have the courage to cheat with gusto. The only thing worse than a cheater is a cheater with low standards.”
All this cheating brings to mind
the posterchild for cheating at a marathon – Rosie Ruiz at the 1980 Boston Marathon. Taking an illegal shortcut during a race is now commonly referred to as “pulling a Rosie Ruiz.” The 26-year old Ruiz had only begun running 18 months before the 1980 Boston Marathon.
From a moral point of view, I believe cheating is just plain wrong. But the oft-overlooked backlash from cheating incidents like those described above is the harm it causes the rightful award winner. At the Keidler Marathon it was the real third place winner, Steve Cairns, who informed race officials about the cheater, Sloan. Although race officials disqualified Sloan and properly awarded Cairns third place, Cairns was robbed of intangible things that accompany placing third, such as being interviewed on television. “My prize will get forwarded to me, but he has stolen my glory and my moment on the podium,” said Cairns.
After the 1980 Boston Marathon, it took eight days until Ruiz was disqualified and for Jackie Gareau to be rightfully named the race champion with a time of 2:34:28. BAA officials did everything they could to make it up to Gareau, including staging a ceremonial finish in which she ran the final few yards of the race and broke the finish line tape as the winner. But that still doesn’t compare to the moment of having the winner’s wreath placed on her head on Boylston Street in front of thousands of cheering fans. That irreplaceable moment was stolen from Gareau by Rosie Ruiz. That fact is not lost on the BAA officials who continue to try to honor Gareau for her victory. They brought Gareau back on the twenty-fifth anniversary of the 1980 race to be the grand marshal for the 2005 race. Again in 2005, BAA officials staged a ceremony for Gareau where she got to recreate the end of her race by breaking the finish line tape. Gareau would continue to run marathons at a high level. Her marathon best was 2:31:27, she placed fifth at the 1983 World Championships Marathon, represented Canada at the 1984 Olympics, and was named the Canadian marathoner of the twentieth century. In 2010 Gareau was one of many former champions honored at the Boston Marathon. At the age of fifty-seven she ran the 2010 race in 3:44:17 on the thirtieth anniversary of the famous 1980 race.
Despite the evidence against her, Ruiz maintained her innocence and refused to return her first place medal. At that time, the winner of the women’s Boston Marathon received a medal that was smaller than what the winner of the men’s race got. BAA officials decided to present Gareau with a new medal, one that was the same size as the men’s winner and larger than the one Ruiz refused to return. After that, BAA officials kept the medals for the women’s winner and the men’s winner the same size. If one good thing came of this cheating incident, this would be it.
For those of you preparing for the NYC Marathon, Cal International Marathon, or any other race, get your training in and don’t even think about doing a “Rob Sloan,” “Martin Franklin” or “Rosie Ruiz.”