Checking in from Berlin – August 20, 2009
Day 7 at Berlin’s Olympic Stadium had 4 main highlights for me.
- I was excited for Bernard Lagat, Matt Tegenkamp, and Chris Solinsky (high socks and all) for qualifying for the 5000 meter final. Maybe this is a new generation of US distance runners that can compete at the world level.
- In the first heat of the mens 5000, before the runners competed the first lap, something happened to Ethiopian Ali Abdosh. I don’t know exactly what happened but when I looked up on the big screen Abdosh was frantically trying to put his shoe back on. It seemed to take him forever. By the time he did the pack was 200 meters ahead of him. Abdosh, with a 12:59 5000 PR, took off after the pack. He may not have been in a full sprint but it was close. He slowly closed the gap on the last runner and the crowd was really cheering him on. For a brief time I thought the runners at the front of the pack actually had slowed the pace down (ala Tour de France) to allow their fallen comrade to get back into the pack. Abdosh caught the last runner by the 5:45 mark of the race (it basically took him 4 ¼ laps of hard running to catch the one person). He looked like he might actually get back into the front pack and qualify for the final. With four laps to go he was about three seconds behind the last runner in the front pack. But he stayed in that position for two laps and I realize he was just out of gas after working so hard to get close. In all honesty, his best strategy at that point was to back off and save his legs in the hope that he gets into the final on an appeal (assuming there was some type of contact/collision that caused him to lose his shoe – I don’t know if there was…I didn’t see it). I just checked the IAAF website and there is a “q” next to Abdosh’s name so he will be in the final. Hats off to him for a gutsy race today after losing his shoe.
- Speaking of hats off, Malinda and I have really taken a liking to US high jumper Chaunte Howard. Howard went to high school in California so I must have been at some of the same meets as her in the 2000-2002 era but I never got to watch her compete. I don’t know too much about her…but we like her! We first noticed her at the Beijing Olympics. After she was eliminated in the high jump, she stayed in the competition area and cheered for the remaining competitors. When eventual gold medal winner Tia Hellebaut set a new personal record by clearing 2.05, Howard jumped up and down and ran over to Hellebaut and hugged her. You would have thought it was Howard that won the gold medal based on the smile and joy on her face. This year we again noticed what a people person she is. She could be seen interacting with her fellow high jumpers during the preliminaries. During introductions before the high jump final tonight, after her name was called she stayed in the area and clapped for everyone that was introduced after her. All the other jumpers waved to the crowd when introduced and then went back to their warm-ups. Throughout the competition, Howard was cheering people on. She led the rhythmic clapping when Amy Acuff cleared 1.92 and Howard was on her feet cheering and trying to use some body English of her own to help Acuff clear 1.95. Acuff has been competing since long before Howard was even in high school. I am sure Howard looks up to Acuff and she showed tremendous respect for Acuff tonight in what was probably Acuff’s last international championship meet. When US runner Marshevet Hooker pulled up in the 200 meters with an apparent hamstring injury, who went over to see if she was OK? Chaunte Howard! I am just very impressed at the positive sportsmanship and friendly personality that Howard displays. It’s refreshing to see and she certainly makes a great role model for young athletes.
- The high jump was billed as a battle between Vlanka Blasic from Croatia and Ariane Friedrich from Germany. It was a great high jump competition, living up to the hype. As was the case when German athletes have been in medal contention in other events, the crowd was very loud in showing their support for Friedrich. I was again amazed and impressed by the crowd’s knowledge of the small details of the sport. US decathlete Trey Hardee (probably referring to the large number of fans in the stands watching the decathlon from early in the morning to late at night) said, “I’ve never seen so many decathlon fans!” And he’s right. Not only do the fans cheer, they know what they are cheering about! The competition in the high jump was a back and forth affair between the two rivals Vlasic and Friedrich as well as Russian Anna Chicherova. Chicherova was actually winning on less misses when the event dwindled down to the final three, with the bar at 2.02 meters. At this point there was a short break in the high jump competition for a race on the track. It was only the men’s 200. And Usain Bolt only ran 19.19 for another world record. The crowd was on its feet again yelling and screaming, with loud music in the background. But as loud as Bolt can get the (I’m guessing) 70,000 fans to be with his record breaking runs, Friedrich can put one finger over her lips and get the entire stadium to go silent so she can concentrate on her jump. She got the whole stadium to come to a complete standstill – you could hear a pin drop. I was in utter amazement!