Tonight is our last night in Moscow at the 2013 IAAF World Championships. Just like in Beijing, Berlin, Daegu, and London, I have mixed emotions. I am both sad that this current adventure is about to end but also ready to be back home.
There is a little bit of a letdown when a global championship comes to its conclusion. Usually during the last month before an Olympics or World Championships, I spend a lot of time thinking about Shannon Rowbury’s race. I scout the competition, research splits from previous meets, and consider a variety of race strategies and tactics. On Shannon’s race days I feel nervous. And when she’s done competing, I feel pride. But also a little bit of emptiness as this goal race that has been on my mind for at least a month (often longer) is over. “What do I do with myself now?” is what I often end up thinking to myself.
Spending ten days at a global championship for me is like having Christmas ten days in a row. I have almost no concerns each day except what time do we need to get to the track and what event is happening tonight.
I love watching athletes competing in track & field at the highest level. There’s so much excitement, emotion, and drama. Just tonight in the span of one hour, I felt exhilaration for Matthew Centrowitz when he found an opening and sprinted to a silver medal in the 1500, I felt empathy for a courageous Alysia Montano, who just couldn’t hold on in the 800, and I felt frustration when the US women had a bad exchange in the 4X100 meter relay. Taking the kid on Christmas Day analogy one step further, I was a kid on Christmas Day opening presents when Centro saw me waving my US flag as he took his victory lap and he pointed at me. Yes, I am going to miss being at this meet every night.
Today, as often happens at the end of the meet, we got to spend some time with Shannon. We had lunch at Cafe Pushkin and grabbed some pies at Stolle. It’s nice to just spend time with her (and Pablo) and talk a little track, but mostly exchange stories about this current adventure. Like I said on Facebook, it really is a privilege to be at a World Championship meet and feel nervous before a race.
All that being said, I am also ready to get out of town.
Beijing Daegu, and Moscow were particularly challenging trips because of the language barrier (so many Germans speak English that Berlin was nowhere near the same challenge). Every outing, every meal, and every trip to the bathroom required mental thought and that can be draining. We also keep pretty long hours when on the road. The meet tends to be a night meet so we often do not get back to our room until midnight. E-mails and internet surfing tend to occupy another hour or more. Come seven the next morning, I am usually up and ready to do some sightseeting. After all, it’s a limited amount of time we’ll be in this foreign land. No point sleeping the time away. All of this hyperactivity, however, can leave one pretty tired by the end of ten days.
On top of all that, in Moscow, we had to do a lot of walking to get around. The subway was 0.75 miles from the hotel and the subway stop nearest the stadium was a 0.5 mile walk. Just getting from the hotel to the stadium and back required 2.5 miles of walking. Malinda and I estimate that we walked about 55 miles while here in Moscow, so over five miles a day. No wonder I am so tired.
Probably the main reason that I look forward to being back in San Francisco is to see the SHC team and start cross country season and to see my Pamakid teammates and tell them stories about Moscow. The official start of the cross country season is August 19. My assistant coaches will be running practice because I’ll spend most of the day in an airplane traveling home. But I’ll be there on August 20. There may or may not be another Shannon Rowbury on this year’s team, but I still plan to put all my heart into coaching this group and making them the best runners that they can be – just like I did with Shannon and everyone else that’s been on the team over the past fifteen years.
Good night and good bye, Moscow. Thanks for a memorable trip!
As everyone who follows my coaching style knows, I hate Trial Days. If you are one of the favorites then nothing real good can happen, only something bad. If you qualify on, it’s no big deal because you were supposed to. If you don’t qualify on, it’s a disaster. I often use the phrase, “live to run again,” when giving instructions to my athletes at trials.
Today (Wednesday, August 14) was a Trials Day.
On most of Shannon’s trials days at global championships in the past I have been quite nervous – usually indicated by me not talking much (so only Malinda really knows that I am nervous). Interestingly, neither Malinda or I were as nervous as usual today. Last night I was super tired from all the walking we’ve been doing and the less than six hours of sleep we’ve been getting. Upon waking this morning, I was more tired than nervous.
There’s also something to be said about the 5000 trials being less stressful than 1500 trials. In the 5000, Shannon could control more variables and there would be more time to deal with problems during the race (getting boxed in, not the pace desired, etc.). I really felt like Shannon should cruise to the 5000 final….and she did.
After a super slow first 800, the pace picked up in such a way that with about six laps to go, it was apparent who the top five would be because there was a sizeable gap back to sixth place. That’s when I started yelling to Shannon that she was clear. In high school, I told Shannon she was never to look back in a race except in a trials race when it was okay to look back to check your position. I think she may still employ this strategy. Over the last lap she checked behind her several times and definitely jogged in the last half lap when she knew she was going to place in the top five and qualify on.
In the end, the times were very slow in Shannon’s heat 1. That led to all the time qualifiers coming from heat 2, where ten out of the eleven runners qualified for the final.
After the race we met up with Shannon, her parents, coach, and boyfriend and went to the Nike House with them for some food and relaxation. With the trials behind us, there was no need to talk track. Instead, we could focus on swapping Russia travel stories. But unspoken throughout the afternoon was the fact that Shannon’s in a great spot. It should be an exciting 5000 meter final and with her speed, if she can hang around with the leaders until it’s time to kick…..well, you just never know.
I’ve been to a lot of track & field meets in my lifetime. Often things happen at meets that stick in my mind – sometimes something big and sometimes something small. Tonight, on the opening night of the fourteenth IAAF World Championships in Moscow, two things, both small, occurred that stuck in out in my mind.
First, after the men’s 10,000 meters, Mo Farah was beginning his celebratory victory lap surrounded by photographers. I noticed some British fans in front of us waving their UK flags. I told Malinda to have her camera ready because Mo might stop in front of our section, because of these UK fans, and do the “Mobot.” Sure enough, he did (photo coming when we can get to a computer with a USB port). After that, Mo motioned to one of the UK fans for his Union Jack flag – Mo needed a flag for the traditional photos and victory lap. The man tossed his flag to a photographer, who was gracious enough to take it to Mo. “Wow!” I thought to myself….what an honor to have Mo take YOUR flag for all these photos and the victory lap! “That guy is going to have a story to tell his running buddies when he gets home,” I told Malinda.
This reminds me of a story from the 2011 World Championships in Daegu. We had great seats, right by the finish line in around row fifteen. After the men’s 5000, I was on my feet waving a US flag and cheering for Lagat. Suddenly, “Kip” looked up into the stands. He was looking for a US flag for the victory lap that all three medalists take. I swear Lagat looked at my flag and our eyes locked for a moment. Then someone closer (maybe around row eight) got his attention and Lagat ended up taking that person’s flag. I was THAT close to having my own, “my flag went on a victory lap” story.
But I digress…
The second small thing from tonight happened with Usain Bolt. As Bolt came out for his heat of the 100 meter rounds, the somewhat sparse crowd in Luzhniki Stadium went wild. It was the loudest the crowd was all night. Malinda and I had a short discussion about whether or not track & field has ever had an icon like Usain Bolt. I think the answer is no. Bolt is the first, the current, and possibly the greatest most recognizable athlete that the sport has and will ever see. Bolt is a world record holder, he competes in multiple events and is thus a multiple time champion, and he knows how to play to the crowd.
In the final moments before the race, Bolt removed his sweats and placed them into the sweats basket. I was thinking to myself, will Bolt interact with the volunteer who is in charge of carrying his sweats. In Berlin at the 2009 World Championships, Bolt was always playful with the volunteers. But Russians are known to be quite serious and maybe he would resist the temptation. But luckily, Usain Bolt is Usain Bolt. He fist pumped the volunteer and then made his way to his starting blocks. I loved it! That young volunteer will have a story for the rest of his life about giving Usain Bolt a fist pump before his race.
The first day of ten days at the 2013 World Championships is in the books. It was a great night of small things.
For the fifth time, Malinda and I are off to an international destination to watch a global track & field championship. In 2008 it was Beijing, 2009 it was Berlin, 2011 it was Daegu, 2012 it was London, and now in 2013 it’s Moscow. Thanks to good timing, Shannon Rowbury and I both arrived at Sacred Heart Cathedral fifteen years ago, in the fall of 1998. The next four years were filled with fun times as I experienced coaching a state champion. The last five years have been equally fun, traveling the world to cheer for her at the Olympics and the World Championships. Each year has been slightly different.
2008 – Everything was brand new to us (and Shannon) in 2008 and it all happened so fast. In May she was chasing the Olympic A standard. By July she was the US Olympic Trials champion and the owner of a new 1500 PR of 4:00. By August, we were in the Bird’s Nest cheering her on to a seventh place finish.
2009 – Things were different in Berlin for the 2009 World Championships. Shannon was one of the favorites and the expectations and pressure were a lot higher. We rode an emotional rollercoaster watching her fall in the first round and move on only because of a successful protest. Then in the final, she was in the front pack, then someone fell and Shannon dropped back and crossed the line fourth. But there was a protest and after an hour of nervous waiting the winner was disqualified and Shannon was a World Championship bronze medalist.
2011 – Unbeknown to most, Shannon was battling an Achilles injury for much of the 2011 season. It took everything she had to kick by Christin Wurth-Thomas by one-hundredth of a second to get the third and final qualifying spot for the Daegu World Championships. Her parents didn’t make the trip to South Korea, so we were Shannon’s surrogate family on that trip and were there to cheer her up when she failed to qualify for the final.
2012 – We were fortunate to be able to buy Olympic tickets through Shannon and USATF back in December of 2010 because it’s become almost impossible for the average person to buy Olympic tickets, even if you’re willing to pay scalpers’ prices. Watching the women’s 1500 in London, I have to admit, was frustrating because so many of the top contenders were shrouded in doping allegations. Shannon placed sixth but we couldn’t help but feel she was probably much higher among the clean athletes.
2013 – Shannon is competing in a different event. At the US Championships she came in fourth in the 1500, which was not good enough to qualify. She came back the very next day and tenaciously ran the 5000 and qualified for the World Championships in a new event!
I know that I am lucky and blessed to be going on these trips to cheer for Shannon. First and foremost, I am lucky to have a wife who despite the moniker “Track Widow,” doesn’t leave me alone every summer. She is willing to go with me on all these trips, which is a good thing because I don’t know if I am adventurous enough to go alone. Five out of the last six summers our summer vacation was to an international locale for a track meet. The one summer we didn’t travel to another continent, we drove halfway across the country to Iowa and then back via Eugene to watch track meets!
The second way in which I am quite lucky is to have been Shannon’s high school coach. It’s pretty rare to coach someone who goes on to compete in college. It’s rarer still to coach someone who goes on to compete at the national level. And rarer still to coach someone who goes on to compete at an international championship. Well, not only has Shannon competed for Team USA at an international championship, she’s done it five times! Since football season is just about to begin, to put this in football terms, not only did the kid I coach play in college, get drafted by an NFL team, and earn a starting job for an NFL team – they’re a five-time All-Pro player, to boot!
Over the last eleven years going back to 2003, there have been nine global championships (either an Olympics or a World Championships). The only years without one were 2006 and 2010. I looked up the roster of US distance runners over this time span (see chart: US Distance Teams_2003 to 2013). During this period there were 321 slots on the USA team in the men’s and women’s 800, 1500, 5000, 10,000, 3000 steeplechase, and marathon. Those spots were filled by 156 different people. Out of those 156 people, 16 in particular have been the dominant distance runners of this era, qualifying for USA teams five or more times. That’s the company that Shannon is in.
The most dominant USA distance runner of this era is Shalane Flanagan. She has qualified for every US team since the 2004 Athens Olympics, a string of eight straight global championships. Right behind her with seven is 800 meter runner Khadevis Robinson. There are seven runners tied with six global championships: Nick Symmonds, Bernard Lagat, Leo Manzano, Galen Rupp, Dathan Ritzenheim, Jenny Simpson, and Jen Rhines. Of those, Symmonds, Lagat, Manzano, Rupp, and Simpson have a current streak of making six straight USA national teams. There seven more runners tied with five global championships during this era: Abdi Abdirahman, Matt Tengenkamp, Hazel Clark, Kara Goucher, Deena Kastor, Alice Schmidt and Shannon. Out of these, only Shannon has a current streak going with five straight teams made. Of note, if my chart went back further it would be seen that Abdirahman has qualified for seven national teams, including four Olympics (2000, 2004, 2008, and 2012).
My list is somewhat skewed because while the Olympic Marathon is quite glamorous, the World Championships Marathon is not seen as a must-try-to-make team. The top USA marathon runners will often forego the World Championships Marathon in favor of competing at a big city fall marathon like Chicago or New York. Thus, names like Ryan Hall and Meb Keflezighi appear less on my chart than they would if the World Championships Marathon was more highly regarded.
In any case, these sixteen runners, who I consider the dominant USA distance runners of this era, have earned twelve out of the fourteen medals won by distance runners since 2003. Lagat is the only one with multiple medals, winning the gold in the 1500 and 5000 in 2007 in Osaka, a silver (5000) and bronze (1500) in 2009 in Berlin, and a silver (5000) in 2011 in Daegu. Those with one medal in their collection are: Kastor (bronze, 2004 marathon), Goucher (bronze, 2007 10,000), Flanagan (bronze, 2008 10,000), Simpson (gold, 2011 1500), Rupp (silver, 2012 10,000), Manzano (silver, 2012 10,000), and Shannon (bronze, 2009 1500). The only two medalists who aren’t among this “dominant fraternity of this era” are Meb (silver; 2004 marathon) and Matt Centrowitz (bronze, 2011 1500).
What does all that mean? I don’t know but it was a fun chart to make instead of doing what I was supposed to be doing, which was packing.
You’d think that after five trips we’d have this packing thing down. But, no. The last couple days have been filled with laundry and picking out what to bring with an occasional break to check letsrun or study Ken Nakamura’s World Championship stats on the women’s 5000. I think we’re ready now, though.
USA flag? Check!
Go Shannon banner? Check!
Talk to you from Moscow! Время разговора для вас из Москвы
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.
Now that the 2011 World Championships are complete, I would characterize this championship meet as one full of surprises and unexpected results. The underdogs seem to have come through with big performances at the right time, while the pre-meet favorites seemed to have come up short. In fact, at one point there was a daily program cover jinx. Athletes featured on the cover of the program (usually a pre-meet favorite) failed to win their event on six of the first seven days of the meet, with only race walker Olga Kaniskina breaking the jinx. Finally some of the favorites came through on the final two days of the meet with Sally Pearson winning the 100 meter hurdles and Usain Bolt anchoring the Jamaica 4X100 meter relay team to a world record.
The first surprise took place on day two of the meet, when in the 100 meter final Usain Bolt false started, thus the world record holder and defending champion was eliminated from the race. Yohan Blake of Jamaica seized the opportunity to win gold in a time of 9.92 seconds. Blake’s accomplishment is somewhat tempered by the fact that the three men readily acknowledged as fastest men in the world (Bolt, Asafa Powell, and Tyson Gay) were not in the race.
On day three of the meet, the favorites in the men’s hammer included Primoz Kozmus of Slovenia and Krisztian Pars of Hungary. Way down on the season best list with a mark of 78.10 meters was Koji Murofushi of Japan. Murofushi was the 2004 Olympic Champion and his PR of 84.86 meters was set eight year ago. The thirty-six year old who has battled a back injury was not expected to contend for a medal at this year’s championships. In the third round he threw 81.24 meters and matched that mark again in the fifth round. A final throw of 81.18 meters by Pars in the last round was six centimeters short. Murofushi became the oldest hammer throw World Champion in history. This year’s gold came one decade after winning his first World Championship medal and gives him a complete set of medals; he won the silver in 2001 and the bronze in 2003.
Much of the World Championships hype centered on the day three showdown in the men’s 110 hurdles between David Oliver (USA), Dayron Robles (Cuba), and Liu Xiang (China). All over Korea there were banners and posters of these three under the heading, “Who’s the Fastest?” But that is why they run the race. Oliver has been in a slump all summer and was never in contention. Xiang looked like he was going to make a move for the win over the last couple hurdles but chopped his steps. It turns out that the reason he chopped his steps was contact by Robles. This contact led to Robles being disqualified. That made the somewhat unheralded and certainly overlooked Jason Richardson (USA) the gold medal winner.
Both the men’s and women’s 400 meter races came down to the final strides. In both races the USA had one of their superstars competing. Also in both races, the prime competition came from a runner from a country without a rich 400 meter tradition.
In the women’s 400 on day three of the meet, it was Amantle Montsho from Botswana who held off a late charge by the USA’s Allyson Felix to win Bostwana’s first World Championship gold medal. Montsho ran a PR 49.56 to beat Felix, who also ran a PR of 49.59. Montsho has been dominant in the Diamond League this summer, but her previous record of finishing eight at both the 2009 World Championships and the 2008 Olympics made many skeptical that she could win in Daegu…but she did!
On day four of the meet, in the men’s 400 meters it was 2009 defending World Champion Lashawn Merritt against eighteen year old Kirani James of Grenada. Merritt had the lead down the final homestretch, but in the final strides James overtook him to win Grenada’s first ever World Championship gold medal. Similar to the women’s race the winner ran a PR (44.60) to win by the slim margin of 0.03 seconds over a USA superstar.
On day four of the meet, the women’s steeplechase was expected to be dominated by the Kenyan trio of Micah Chemos Cheywa, Mecy Njoroge,
and Lydia Rotich. Cheywa, having won eight steeplechases in a row this year, was the heavy favorite. But instead it was Russia’s Yuliya Zaripova and Tunisia’s Habiba Ghribi who not only went 1-2 in the race but became the third fastest and ninth fastest steeplechasers of all-time. Zaripova’s 9:07.03 is the 2011 world leading mark. Ghribi’s 9:11.97 was a Tunisian national record. She and her supporters were the happiest people in the stadium. Ghribi jumped up and down – and after handing her a Tunisia flag, three ecstatic Tunisian fans could be seen sobbing. Why? Ghribi was Tunisia’s first woman to ever win a medal at the World Championships.
On day six of the meet, the women’s 1500 meters produced an upset for the ages. Most of the focus was on the two-time defending champion, Maryam Yusuf Jamal of Bahrain. American Jenny Barringer Simpson was hardly mentioned, and when she was it usually centered on the fact that she was fifth at the 2009 World Championships….in the steeplechase; but for some reason known only to her and her coach she was competing in the 1500 meters at these championships. Simpson’s 2011 season best in the 1500 ranked her ninth out of the twelve women who started the race. It was a typically tight race but with 300 meters to go, Simpson moved into contention. With 150 meters to go she looked poised to move into the top three to secure a medal. With 50 meters to go she had the same look that she had at the 2009 Prefontaine Classic when she shocked the world by running a new collegiate record of 3:59.90. After seeing that look, I knew she was going to win it…and she did. That’s why she was in the 1500 instead of the steeplechase…to win a gold medal!
Day seven featured the men’s shot put, which was a who’s who of past champions: 2009 World Champion, Christian Cantwell (USA), 2008 Olympic Champion Tomasz Majewski (Poland), 2007 World Champion Resse Hoffa (USA), 2005 World Champion Adam Nelson (USA), and 2003 World Champion Andrei Mikhnevich (Belarus). Despite the presence of these five throwers, the pre-meet favorite was Dylan Armstrong of Canada, who had the 2011 world leading mark (and Canadian national record) of 22.21 meters. Lost in this crowd was twenty-one year old German, David Storl, who had only the eighth best mark in 2011 among the twelve finalists. Storl took the early lead with a throw of 21.60 meters (a PR) in the second round. Armstrong pushed him back to second with a throw of 21.64 meters in the fourth round. In the final round, on the second to last throw of the competition, Storl launched the shot 21.78 meters (another PR, giving him 28 centimeters of improvement in one day, which is just short of one foot). On the last throw of the competition Armstrong could not re-take the lead and Storl was the champion. Among the historic oddities from this event were Storl wining Germany’s first ever gold medal in the shot put and the USA getting shutout of the medals for the first time in twenty years.
The final upset winner came on day nine in one of the last events of the meet, the men’s triple jump. The field included three former World or Olympic Champions: Phillip Idowu of Great Britain (2009 World Champion), Nelson Evora of Cuba (2007 World Champion and 2008 Olympic Champion), and Christian Olsson of Sweden (2003 World Champion and 2004 Olympic Champion). With Teddy Tamgho, the 2011 world leader, out with an injury Idowu wore the hat as the favorite. After one round of jumping the three former world champions held the three medal spots. However, it was the young American jumpers who leaped to glory. In round three twenty year old American Will Claye leaped a PR of 17.50 meters to take the lead. Idowu responded with a 17.70 meter jump to re-take the lead. Twenty-one year old American Christian Taylor then jumped 17.40 meters to move into third. Taylor followed that up in the next round with a jump of 17.96 meters, making him the fifth best triple jumper of all-time. Idowu would improve to 17.77 meters but that was only good enough for silver. The gold went to Taylor, the youngest triple jump gold medalist in history, with bronze to Claye, the youngest triple jump medalist in history.
The difference between winning a world championship and coming up short is a fine line. That fine line is often measured in milliseconds and millimeters. That’s why an underdog can pull off the upset. The unpredictable nature of track & field is what makes watching a World Championship meet so very exciting.
Note: All the great photos in this blog entry were taken by the Track Widow from our fantastic seats in row ten right by the finish line.
Team USA’s strong performance at the 2011 IAAF World Championships cements America’s claim that we have the best overall track & field team in the world. There were some disappointments, like the fall in the men’s 4X100, getting no one on the medal stand in the men’s shot put for the first time in twenty years, and despite high expectations, having a best finish of only sixth place in the men’s 400 hurdles.
In terms of the medal count, Team USA won 25 medals, twelve of them gold. That bettered the 2009 performance in Berlin that saw the USA win 22 medals, ten of them gold and was just a tad behind the 2007 performance in Osaka that saw the USA win 26 medals, fourteen of them gold.
However, as any coach will tell you, the strength of an overall team is based on not just your athletes who win medals, but also those who make the final. Using a scoring system like the NCAA Championships, with 10 points for first, 8 points for second, 6 for third, 5 for fourth, 4 for fifth, 3 for sixth, 2 for seventh, and 1 for eight, I scored the 2011 World Championships. The top eight countries were:
2. Russia, 223
3. Kenya, 194
4. Jamaica, 113
5. Germany, 89
7. Ethiopia, 69
8. China, 65.5
Again, Team USA lives up to the billing as the best team in the world. See scoring table for all the statistics (2011 World Champs Results Table_country scoring).
Some countries are strong in certain subsections of the sport but are not strong in others. Jamaica, for example scored 111 out of their 113 points in the sprints events (100, 200, 400, 110/100 hurdles, 400 hurdles, 4X100, and 4X400). Germany scored all of their 89 points in the field events (high jump, pole vault, long jump, triple jump, shot put, discus, hammer, javelin, decathlon/heptathlon). Kenya was actually the best team in the distance events (800, 1500, 5000, 10,000, 3000 steeplechase, and marathon) by a wide margin. But those were almost the only events they scored in (191 out of their 194 points came in the distance events). Ethiopia’s 69 points were good to make them the second best distance nation in the world. But again, those were the only events Ethiopia scored in. I am a little biased against race walking because it’s not a particularly high profile sport in the US. Despite scoring no points in race walking, Team USA won the scoring competition. Russia and China, meanwhile, improved their point totals with big points in the race walking. Russia scored 56 points (25% of their points) in race walking and China got 23 points (35%). Russia is the country closest to the USA in terms of being good in many different events. However, it’s worth noting that the Russian women outscore the Russian men almost two-to-one and eleven of their thirteen non-race walking medals came from the women.
Team USA had strong numbers of medal winners and point scorers in all event subsections except race walking. The point balance between USA men and USA women was virtually fifty-fifty. Team USA was particularly strong in the sprint, outscoring all other countries in these events, including the Jamaicans. There is a lot of talk that the Jamaicans are a better sprint country than the USA, but at the 2011 World Championships the USA sprinters won 14 medals (six gold) compared to Jamaica’s 9 medals (four gold). Team USA even outscored the German men in the men’s field events. USA men’s distance held their own behind Kenya and Ethiopia. And the USA women’s distance and women’s field, although not scoring a lot of points, did not get shut out either.
One reason for this is that the USA has strong athletes in almost all of the events. Team USA had 129 athletes (66 men and 63 women) entered in the meet, by far the largest team. Russia was second with 83. Even Great Britain, the only other country besides the USA and Russia to have athletes score in all the event subsections (not counting race walking), had 67 athletes, 62 less than Team USA. Some countries are only able to get one or two athletes to achieve the necessary standards to qualify for the meet. It certainly speaks to the strength and depth in USA track & field that our country can qualify so many quality athletes for the World Championships. Before a team can be the best in the world, you first have to get athletes in all the events qualified for the World Championships.
The 2011 World Championships have come to an end. For a track & field geek like myself, this meet is pretty much Christmas everyday for a week. I am in heaven when I am attending the World Championships. For this year’s World Championships to end with a world record was icing on the cake.
The meet itself is spread out into morning and evening sessions. Heats and qualifying rounds are run in the mornings, with semi-finals and finals in the evenings. The schedule is timed perfectly. In less than a three hour period in the evening there will be eight to ten events plus medal ceremonies. The events are spaced so perfectly that you can watch pretty much all the action on the track and in the field events. With the jumbotron screens, Seiko scoreboards on the field, and expert announcing, spectators are kept abreast of all the action as it happens. The events are timed in such a way that there is never anything happening on the track when the final attempts are made by the medal winners in the jumps and throws. That way all the attention is focused on the often overlooked field event athletes. David Storl of Germany used this attention from the fans to his advantage, throwing 21.78 meters on his last throw in the shot put to move from the silver medal to the gold medal.
I am also particularly fortunate that my wife, Malinda Walker (a.k.a. The Track Widow) is willing to foresake typical vacations to travel across the world so I can watch track & field. Our experience at these meets is enhanced thanks to the kindness of Shannon Rowbury, who does all that she can to get us access to things like the Nike hospitality area and athlete’s village. It was quite an honor to time some of her 200’s on the practice track one day during our trip.
This year’s meet in Daegu was particularly interesting because of the great seats that we had. The price of the ticket was 112,500 Won, which is in the ballpark of $112 (USD). They weren’t cheap but they were quite reasonable for where they were located. We were in the section just adjacent to the press area, right on the finish line. I had a better seat for World Championships than I did for the California High School State Meet.
From our vantage point, I was able to get to Shannon to give her a hug after her semi-final race. We could also see the look of pure joy on Jenny Barringer Simpson’s face when she realized that she had won the 1500. We were just yards away from Vin Lannana as he reached over a railing to congratulate Matt Centrowitz on his bronze medal. After the 200 and 4X100 relay, hundreds of fans crowded the press area hoping to get a picture or autograph of The Man, Usain Bolt. I was one of those hundred. Malinda and I proudly waved our American flag throughout the meet and I swear if we had been in row five instead of row 10, Bernard Lagat would have taken our US flag to use for his victory lap (he looked up at us and I could tell he was trying to decide if we were close enough for him to get our US flag).
In addition to the best seats I may ever have for an international championship meet, our tickets came with dinner in the Premiere Lounge every night before the meet. The same menu got a little tiresome but how could I turn down free kimchi and beer?
Sadly this year’s meet is now over and it’s time to head home. I’ll post a blog or two about the meet when I get home before I turn my attention to London 2012 and Moscow 2013.
The 2011 International Association of Athletic Federation (IAAF) World Championships are set to begin on August 27 in Daegu, South Korea. The inaugural World Championships competition was held in Helsinki, Finland in 1983. The meet took place every four years (the year before an Olympic year) until 1993. Beginning in 1995, the World Championships have been held in every odd numbered year, making the 2011 competition the thirteenth World Championship meet. The World Championships in Athletics (track & field) is the third largest international sporting event in the world, ranking behind only the Olympics Games and the World Cup (soccer).
I will be in Daegu, Korea at the World Championships for the final five days of the nine-day competition. My first and foremost interest is cheering Shannon Rowbury in the women’s 1500. I am biased towards this event because I was Shannon’s high school coach at Sacred Heart Cathedral. But besides the women’s 1500 meters, here are the other eleven events that I am particularly looking forward to seeing. They follow in chronological order they will take place:
1. Men’s 100 Meters (Aug. 28)
Will the Jamaican team of Usain Bolt, Asafa Powell, Nesta Carter, and sweep the medals? Who will win out between the pre-race favorites, Bolt and Powell. Bolt is the world record holder and has seemed untouchable at the 2008 Olympics and 2009 World Championships but he’s been a little off his game in 2011. Powell, on the other hand, seems to be on his game.
2. Men’s 110 Hurdles (Aug. 29)
This is expected to be a three-way battle between Daryon Robles (Cuba), Liu Xiang (China), and David Oliver (USA). Robles is the world record holder at 12.87 and won the 2005 World Championships and the 2008 Olympics. Xiang’s PR is 12.88 and he won the 2004 Olympics and 2007 World Championships. Oliver is the American record holder at 12.89 and was undefeated in 2010.
3. Men’s 400 Meters (Aug. 30)
After years of American dominance in this event (think: Michael Johnson and Jeremy Wariner), this year’s 400 meter event seems up for grabs. Any one of eight to ten athletes seem to have a legitimate chance to claim the gold. Countries that aren’t always thought of as 400 meter hotbeds have athletes in the running – Grenada, Belarus, and the Ivory Coast.
4. Men’s 400 Hurdles (Sept. 1)
This appears to be a five-person battle between American athletes and L.J. van Zyl of South Africa. Van Zyl is the world leader for 2011 at 47.66. But don’t discount American’s Bershawn “Batman” Jackson (47.93), newly minted 2011 USA champion Jeshua Anderson (47.93), and thetwo-time Olympic champion Angelo Taylor (47.94). And, although he has been a little off this year, the defending World Champion Kerron Clement should not be ignored.
5. Men’s Shot Put (Sept. 2)
The USA has traditionally been very strong in this “strong man” event. The threesome of Adam Nelson, Christian Cantwell, and Resse Hoffa are TEAM USA teammates again after representing America at the 2008 Olympics and 2009 World Championships. Cantwell won silver in Beijing and gold in Berlin. Can he medal again? An American has won the shot put at the World Championships every year since 2003. But the 2011 world leader is a North American but not an American – it’s Dylan Armstrong from Canada.
6. Women’s 5000 Meters (Sept. 2)
I believe this will be a two-person race between Kenyan Vivian Cheruiyot and Ethiopian Meseret Defar. Cheruiyot has a 2011 best of 14:20.87. But Defar is the defending World Champion and although her 2011 best is “only” 14:29.52, she holds the World Record of 14:12.88.
7. Women’s 200 (Sept. 2)
All the attention for this event will be focused on Allyson Felix. Why? Because she is the three-time defending champion in the women’s 200 meters. However, she’s not taking the easy route to a historical four-peat. Before she begins her defense of the 200 meter title, she will compete in the 400 meters. By the time she steps to the starting line at the 200 meter final, she will have already run five races (400 meter heats and final, plus 200 meter heats).
8. Men’s 1500 Meters (Sept. 3)
Championship 1500 meter races are very unpredictable. The pace is often slow which leads to a mad dash for the medals in the final straightaway. Tactics is the key. On paper Kenyans Silas Kiplagat and Asbel Kiprop are the favorites. But given the unpredictable nature of this event, just about anyone who makes the final is going to be in the hunt.
9. Women’s 100 Hurdles (Sept. 3)
This is another event that could be won by any one of several athletes. The nature of the short hurdles race is such that often there is a surprise winner. You have to negotiate ten hurldes and one slight misstep can mean tenths of seconds in a race where athletes are separated by hundredths of seconds. Keep in mind that after they successfully clear one hurdle, they are just 8.5 meters away from another possible disaster. That’s the challenge that Sally Person (12.48), Kellie Wells (12.50), Danielle Carruthers (12.52), Dawn Harper (12.58), Tiffany Porter (12.60), Lisa Urech (12.62), Perdita Felicien (12.73) are faced with.
10. Men’s 200 (Sept. 3)
As I mentioned before, Bolt is a little off his game this year. Of course for Bolt, “a little off his game” still makes him one of the fastest human beings in the world. The question in the 200 is, Can American Walter Dix take advantage of Bolt’s vulnerability? Bolt appeared unbeatable in 2008 and 2009. If ever there was a time he might go down, the 200 in Daegu seems like the race where it could happen.
11. Women’s 4X100 Relay (Sept. 4)
Winning a medal in the 4X100 meter relay is both about speed and the ability to pass the baton. One could argue that passing the baton is more important than speed. The US women’s 4X100 meter relay team won the World Championship in 2005 and 2007. But at both the 2008 Olympics and 2009 World Championships, the US failed to advance to the final, dropping the baton in the heats. If the US can successfully move the baton around the track, they have the speed to match the Jamaican team, who themselves have to pass the baton successfully. There will be a lot of breath holding when the gun goes off on September 4, and a big exhale by some country’s coaching staff 41-42 seconds later when the first team crosses the finish line with a baton held firmly in their hand. Who will it be?
It’s been a rough summer for Team USA. Since the end of the USA Championships in Eugene eight weeks ago on June 26 no less than thirteen athletes who were originally planning to compete at the World Championships will not be in Daegu wearing the red, white, and blue.
Five athletes have suffered injuries:
Jeremy Wariner, men’s 400 meters. Wariner tore a ligament in his second toe. Jamaal Torrence, who was fourth at the USA Champs, will replace Wariner in the open 400. Miles Smith, who was sixth at the USA Champs, was added to the 4X400 relay pool to replace Wariner (Torrence was already in the relay pool).
Debbie Dunn, women’s 400 meters. Dunn has a stress fracture in her left foot. Jessica Beard, who was fourth at the USA Champs replaces Dunn in the open 400. Keshia Baker, who was seventh at the USA Champs, was added to the 4X400 relay pool to replace Dunn (Beard was already in the relay pool).
Delilah DiCrescenzo, women’s steeplechase. DiCrescenzo has an unspecified injury. Stephanie Garcia, who at the USA Champs was leading DiCrescenzo in the battle for third place up until the final water jump, replaces DiCrescenzo.
Chris Solinsky, men’s 5000 meters. Solinsky tweeted that he injured his hamstring during a speed workout. Solinsky’s Oregon Track Club Elite teammate, Andy Bumbalough, fourth at the USA Champs, will replace Solinsky.
Brian Clay, men’s decathlon. Clay has a knee injury. No replacement was named for Clay.
Seven athletes failed to achieve the necessary World Championship standard and were thus replaced:
Kyle Alcorn, men’s steeplechase. Alcorn missed the World Championship A standard by 0.17 seconds (standard: 8:23.10; Alcorn ran: 8:23.27). Since Daniel Huling, who placed ahead of Alcorn at the USA Champs was going to the World Championships with a B standard only, Alcorn was not elgible. Ben Bruce, who was fifth at the 2011 USA Champs but has the World Championship A standard with his 8:19.10 from a meet in Barcelona in late July, replaces Alcorn.
Angela Bizzarri, women’s 5000 meters. Bizzarri did not achieve the World Championship A standard (15:14.00) and since Amy Hastings, who placed ahead of her is already going to the World Champs with a B standard, Bizzarri was not eligible. Bizzarri missed by 2.31 seconds, running 15:16.31 at the USA Champs. Lauren Fleshman, who was eighth at the USA Champs but ran a World Championship A standard of 15:00.57 at Crystal Palace in London will replace Bizzarri. In 2009 Bizzarri also placed in the top three at the USA Champs but did not compete at the World Championships because she did not get a qualifying time.
Nick Mossberg, men’s pole vault. Mossberg’s best of 5.55 meters was not good enough for the World Championship B standard (5.60 meters). Mark Hollis, who was fourth at the 2011 USA Champs but has a 5.70 meter clearance from a meet in July, replaces Mossberg.
Jeremy Hicks, men’s long jump. Hicks needed to achieve the A standard (8.20 meters) because Marquise Goodwin (8.17 meters), the USA Champion, qualified for the World Championships with a B standard only (8.10 meters). Hick’s best mark ended up being 7.97 meters. Trevell Quinley, who was fifth at the 2011 USA Champs but jumped 8.21 meters this season (one centimeter over the A standard), replaced Hicks.
Keelin Godsey, women’s hammer. Godsey’s throw of 68.90 did not meet the World Championship B standard (69.50). Jeneva McCall, who was fourth at the 2011 USA Champs but has the World Championship B mark with her 69.55 meter throw, replaces Godsey.
Ryann Krais and Chantae McMillan, women’s heptathlon. Krais and McMillan needed to achieve the A standard (6150 points) because Sharon Day (6058 points), the USA Champion, qualified for the World Championships with a B standard only (5950 points). The window for qualifying in the heptathlon was January 1, 2010 through August 15, 2011 but during that period Krais’ best was 6030 points and McMillan’s best was 6003 points. Hyleas Fountain, who was sixth at the 2011 USA Champs, but has a World Championship A standard of 6735 points (from 2010), joins Day on the USA team in the heptathlon.
Two athletes have legal issues:
Michael Rodgers, men’s 100 meters. Rodgers voluntarily withdrew from the World Championships and accepted a provisional suspension from the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) after he tested positive for the stimulant methylhexamine. The use of this stimulant is against the rules but Rodgers has been quick to point out that he was not taking steroids. Trell Kimmons, fourth at the USA Champs, will replace Rodgers in the open 100. A replacement for Rodgers in the 4X100 relay pool was not named.
Jeremy Dodson, men’s 200 meters. Dodson finds himself embroiled in a legal issue one week before the start of the World Championships. He was arrested on suspicion of identity theft. He is free on $10,000 bail and has a hearing scheduled for Friday, August 26. His passport has been confiscated by the authorities and it’s unclear if he will be able to compete. Maurice Mitchell is the alternate for Dodson in the 200 meters.
There are still a few more days before the start of the 2011 World Championships. Hopefully there will be no more drama with the Team USA roster and the focus can shift from injuries, standards, and the law to good old track & field competition.