Checking in from Berlin – August 23, 2009
There’s a big 1500 meter race tonight and we fly out early tomorrow so this may be my last update from Berlin. Sadly it’s the last day already. It’s been a great trip. I am lucky I have a wife that will travel with me to international track meets. The trip has been made even better having Sherie in Berlin with us. And we’ve made two new German friends – Judith and Jurgen. They have seats two rows behind us. Judith helped us with the German words for good luck so we could add that to our Go Shannon banner. We also keep bumping into them around town – on the subway, watching the marathon, at the 10K race. We’ve had a drink with them the last two nights after the meet and have exchanged running and non-running stories alike.
Going to a high level track meet for nine days in a row is basically athletics heaven for me. Since we are there everyday and watching almost all the rounds of all the events (we’ve skipped most morning sessions), I’ve been able to follow a lot of storylines and athletes/events that I would not normally follow.
It actually rained a lot and there was a 30-40 minute delay. The long jumpers had to keep going but they stopped the javelin and even though the high jumpers had started warming up they pulled them off. The meet officials had some good weather forecasts because they resumed around 8:00pm and it was still raining but within 10-15 minutes the rain stopped.
The USA just seems to be cursed in this event. Friday the men seemed to have safely qualified but when we got back to the apartment I went online and read about their DQ for a zone violation on the final exchange. That exchange was right in front of us and it looked good to me so I am curious to see the video replay. On Saturday the US women never even got the baton to in front of us. On the second exchange, they missed the baton exchange on the first try and either in panic or in an attempt to get the baton exchanged before the end of the zone Muna Lee appeared to pull her hamstring. More 4X1 heartbreak of the Americans. More practice would help and in the prelims more focus on moving the baton and less on speed would be good. The Germans showed that good team chemistry can get the job done as they grabbed the bronze in the women’s 4X100. I am not sure who they ran but they did not have any big name 100 meter runners so they did it with smooth passing of the baton more so than with raw speed. Speaking of raw speed, with the Americans out of the 4X100, the Jamaicans appeared to run “safe” in both the men’s and women’s 4X100. Their baton passing wasn’t super crisp so no world record…just two golds!
KENYA VS. ETHIOPIA
Saturday was a good day for Kenya in this rivalry of east African distance powerhouses. Kenya went 1-2 in both the men’s marathon and women’s 5000. Ethiopia had to settle for bronze in both races.
What a difference a year can make. Last year Stephanie Brown-Trafton (from Northern California) won the gold, this year she did not make the top 8. The winner, Dani Samuels from Australia, reminded me of a quote I read somewhere this week: “Sometimes dreams you didn’t even know you had come true.” Samuels certainly was not one of the pre-meet favorites. Her PR coming into the event was 62.95, which seeded her 11th out of 12. She fouled her first throw then threw 59.05 to be in 9th place on throw #2. A near PR 62.71 on throw #3 catapulted her into medal territory. Then she went crazy. It was one of those things. You could see she was in the zone. Throw #4 was 64.76 and she was now in 1st place. As she stepped into the ring for throw #5 you could just tell she was going to PR again. She was hot and she looked so confident. And there it was – 65.44. She improved her PR 2.49 meters in one magical night of throwing…your new World Champion – Dani Samuels.
MEN’S POLE VAULT
The pole vault pit is clear on the other side of the track from where we are sitting so it’s a little hard to follow. I knew from reading online that Olympic gold medalist Steven Hooker was injured and just barely qualified for the final. Hooker was even quoted as saying he might be too hurt to vault in the final. He passed the first four heights and did not come in to the competition until 5.85 and missed! This was starting to look a little like Russia’s Yelena Isinbayeva. Hooker passed the rest of his attempt at 5.85 and the bar went to 5.90. In his second (and what would turn out to be last) vault of the night cleared, Hooker cleared 5.90. When two athletes from France both missed in their attempts at 5.90, Hooker was World Champion.
Another event I do not normally follow. Betty Heidler from Germany was obviously the crowd favorite and she took the early lead with a 75.10 in the first round. Heidler would go on to throw a German national record of 77.12. In fact she had an amazing series that included the 75.10, 75.38, 76.44, and the record 77.12. But it wasn’t enough. Poland’s Anita Wlodarczyk set a new world record with a throw of 77.96 on her second attempt (old world record – 77.80). Wlodarczyk apparently hurt her ankle on this record throw. She passed the rest of her attempts and was sitting on the field with a bag of ice on her ankle for the rest of the competition, relegated to watching Heidler’s big night of consistent throwing. Move over Usain Bolt – you are not the only one setting world records here!