Chanman's Blog

The end of the Bolt era, but not the moment track & field wanted

The end of the Bolt era_UslainSaturday August 5, 2017 was the 100 meter final at the 2017 World Championships. Usain Bolt had already announced that this would be his final individual race (he will still race in the 4X100 relay next week). With thirteen individual gold medals in the 100 and 200 meters from the Olympics and World Championships, this was a much anticipated finale for track & field’s biggest star.

If Bolt were to win, he would go out in style, doing what he has done almost without fail since 2008 – WIN. There would be loud cheering, perhaps as loud as it was when the Brit’s own Mo Farah won the night before. There would be throngs of photographers following him, imploring him to do his famous “Bolt Arms” pose. The Jamaican fans would cheer wildly. Bolt would take a long, circuitous lap around the track that would both be a victory lap and a farewell lap.

On the other hand, 21-year old American Christian Coleman, owner of a 9.82 personal record that makes him the fourth fastest American in history, seemed ready to beat Bolt. Perhaps a Coleman win at these World Championships would represent an official “changing of the guard” – Bolt passing the baton to his heir apparent as sprint king.

Either scenario would give track & field a signature moment.

But instead, track & field got an eyesore of a moment.

Justin Gatlin, an athlete mired with doping allegations and drug suspensions in his past, was the man who beat Bolt in Bolt’s last race. All meet long, whenever Gatlin was introduced, the knowledgeable London fans would boo. Not the most sportsmanlike thing to do but it is hard to be critical of the booing.

If you need a refresher course on Gatlin, here it is. In 2001, while in college at the University of Tennessee, Gatlin failed a drug test. The drug was an amphetamine that was in a medicine he was taking for attention deficit disorder (ADD). Gatlin’s initial two year suspension was shortened when the details about the medication were uncovered. But he was informed at that time that any subsequent positive drug test would be treated as a second offense (which comes with a lifetime ban).

He had a very successful 2004-2005, winning the gold in the 100 meters at the Athens Olympics and winning the gold in both the 100 and 200 meters the 2005 World Championships in Helsinki.

In May 2006, Gatlin ran a World Record tying time of 9.77. However that mark was annulled after he failed a drug test from a meet in April (the result did not come back until June). Gatlin and his coach Trevor Graham (himself linked to eleven athletes who tested positive on a drug test and/or served a drug suspension) claimed Gatlin was sabotaged by their massage therapist Chris Whetstine. They claimed Whetstine massaged testosterone cream into Gatlin’s legs and that’s what led to the positive drug test. This being his second offense, should have meant a lifetime ban. However, Gatlin cooperated with anti-doping officials and because of the “exceptional circumstances” of his first offense, Gatlin was given an eight year ban, rather than a lifetime ban. Gatlin appealed the suspension and it was eventually reduced to four years.

Thus Gatlin returned to competition in 2010. All this time, Gatlin has not apologized for any of his actions nor admitted to any wrongdoing. He has carried on as if nothing happened. Which has only increased the dislike for him by fans of the sport. There is also a strong feeling among experts and scientists that once an athlete uses performance enhancing drugs, their physiology is changed and the performance enhancing benefits will last beyond the time the drug was taken. That’s the rationale for lifetime bans on even a first or minor offense.

That’s the man that won Bolt’s last race. That’s the man the London crowd has been booing non-stop. That’s why this was the worst case scenario for track & field.

The end of the Bolt era_embracing GatlinAfter the race, the crowd was stunned and didn’t know what to do. They booed Gatlin. They cheered with appreciation for Bolt. Bolt, showing class and sportsmanship in defeat, a situation he has not often faced, embraced Gatlin. Bolt took a somewhat subdued farewell lap, waving and thanking the fans. He was interviewed on the stadium big screen, where he showed nothing but class. Gatlin did not take a victory lap and was not interviewed on the stadium big screen. The medal ceremony has not happened yet. I have to wonder what will happen when it does.

The end of the Bolt era_waving goodbye

Thus, on the same night that four athletes received re-allocated medals from previous World Championships due to doping disqualifications, a person that most track fans consider a two-time drug cheat, won what was perhaps the most anticipated and watched race of all-time. Track & field has created this situation by not coming down on drug cheats as strongly as many call for. And so now they have to live with these results – Gatlin winning the race and no signature farewell moment for Bolt.

Opening Night in Moscow

The view from our seats at the 2013 World Championships in Moscow.

The view from our seats at the 2013 World Championships in Moscow.

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.

The opening ceremonies were not small at all.

The opening ceremonies were not small at all.

Doubling Up, Part 3

Allyson Felix running the 400 meters at the 2011 USA Championships. She'll double in the 200 & 400 at the 2011 World Championships in Daegu.

In parts one and two, I began to list some successful doubles at international championships by sprinters and field event athletes. In part three, I finish the list.

The 100/200 Double

The 100/200 double is pretty standard even at international championships. That’s why to make my list, Jesse Owens, Carl Lewis, Fanny Blankers-Koen, Marion Jones, and Heike Drechsler had to add the long jump or hurdles to make their achievements stand out. Three athletes, however, deserve special mention in the 100/200 double department.

Florence Griffith-Joyner, 1988 Olympics – 100, 200, 4X100 meter relay, 4X400 meter relay

Florence Griffith-Joyner, or Flo-Jo, as she was nicknamed burst on to the scene in 1988 with a season never since duplicated by a female sprinter. Her world records in the 100 (10.49) and 200 (21.34) still stand. At the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, sporting long and colorful fingernails, she dominated the 100 (10.54 wind aided) and 200 (21.34, world record) and then came back to run on both USA relay teams. In the 4X100 meter relay she helped the USA to the gold (41.98). In the 4X400 meter relay she helped the USA to the silver 3:15.51. Sadly Flo-Jo passed away at the age of thirty-eight of an epilecptic seizure in 1998. Griffith-Joyner is survived by her husband Al Joyner, the 1984 Olympic triple jump champion and brother of Jackie Joyner-Kersee. Al continues to be active in the sport today, coaching at the US Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista and placing third in the men’s 50 year old age division in the triple jump at the 2011 World Masters Athletics Championships.

Merlene Ottey (Jamaica), 1995 World Championships – 100, 200, 4X100 meter relay

You could pick just about any international championship meet between 1983 and 1996 and Jamaica’s Merlene Ottey was probably competing in some combination of the 100, 200, and 4X100 meter relay. More times than not she was winning a medal, too. Ottey is the proud owner of eight Olympic medals and fourteen World Championship medals. Purely based on the quantity and color of her medal haul, I will call the 1995 World Championships in Gothenburg, her best multiple event meet. She won gold in a photo finish over Russia’s Irina Privalova in the 200 (22.12) when American Gwen Torrence was disqualified for stepping on the lane line on the turn. In the 100 (10.94) and 4X100 meter relay (42.25), Ottey won silver medals. Ottey, who is now over fifty years old, is still competing.

Usain Bolt (Jamaica), 2008 Olympics & 2009 World Championships – 100, 200, 4X100 meter relay

What more can you say about Jamaica’s Usain Bolt? At the 2008 Olympics in Beijing he set world records in winning the 100 (9.69) and 200 (19.30) and then helped Jamaica to a world record in the 4X100 meter relay (37.10). One year later at the 2009 World Championships in Berlin, Bolt “only” set two world records instead of three. He won gold in the 100 (9.58) and 200 (19.19) with world record marks. In the 4X100 meter relay, Jamaica won gold again (37.31) but without much threat of competition, they ran conservatively, safely moving the baton around the track without making an attempt at the world record. Keep in mind that before Beijing the world records were 9.74 and 19.32.

The 200/400 Double

While Allyson Felix’s attempted double would make her the first athlete in World Championship history to pull off the 200/400 double, the feat has been accomplished at the Olympics three times.

Valerie Brisco-Hooks, 1984 Olympics – 200, 400, 4X400 meter relay

At the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, Valerie Brisco-Hooks set out to make history. First up was the 400 meters, where her main rival was fellow American Chandra Cheeseborough. Cheeseborough, who would be a 2008 Olympic Coach for the USA was the reigning American champion and had defeated Brisco-Hooks by over half a second at the US Olympic Trials. But at the Olympics Brisco-Hooks would reverse their finish, winning in 48.83. She was the first woman from outside Eastern Europe to break 49 seconds in the 400 meters. Amazing, considering that her best 400 before 1984 was 52 seconds. Brisco-Hooks would come back to win the 200 (21.81) and helped the US win the 4X400 meter relay (3:18.29). Brisco-Hooks became the first athlete, male or female, to win the 200/400 double at the Olympics.

Michael Johnson, 1996 Olympics – 200, 400

Twelve years after Brisco-Hooks’ feat, Michael Johnson set out to become the first male athlete to win the 200/400 double at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. The closest any male athlete had come was at the 1924 Olympics when Britain’s Eric Liddell won the 400 and placed third in the 200. Johnson won the 200/400 double at the 1995 World Championships and he made no secret of what his goal was in Atlanta. If you didn’t know what that goal was, his special-made gold spikes told you. He was dominating in the 400 meters, winning his fifty-fifth consecutive 400 race by nearly one second over Britain’s Roger Black (43.49 to 44.41). The 200 meters was expected to be a closer competition but Johnson made that one look easy, too, running a world record of 19.32 to make history as the first male to complete the 200/400 double in the Olympics. Johnson slightly injured himself running the 19.32 and ended up scratching from the 4X400 meter relay, thus denying himself a chance at a third gold medal at the 1996 Olympics.

Marie-Jose Perec (France), 1996 Olympics – 200, 400

Much less hyped than Johnson’s 200/400 double at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta was Marie-Jose Parec’s attempt to win the same double. Parec’s better event was the 400 meters as she was the 1991 and 1993 World Champion and 1992 Olympic Champion. It came as no surprise when Perec defended her title in the 400 (48.25), becoming the first athlete, male or female, to win the 400 in back-to-back Olympics. The 200 meters was going to be a bigger challenge for Perec, who only decided to compete in both events a few weeks before the Games. Fifteen minutes before Johnson completed his 200/400 double, Perec completed her double, winning the 200 in 22.12.

Allyson Felix

Now back to Allyson Felix, whose announcement that she will attempt the 200/400 double at the 2011 World Championships in Daegu is what sparked me to create this list of successful doubles. The double will be a challenge. Not counting relay races (and Felix is in the USA relay pool for both the 4X100 and 4X400), Felix will need to run six races in the span of seven days. The 400 is first and she will have a heat on August 27, a semi-final on August 28, and then the 400 final on August 29. She would then have two days off before starting the 200. Felix is seeking a fourth consecutive world championship gold in the 200, having won in 2005 (Helsinki), 2007 (Osaka), and 2009 (Berlin). She will have two races (heat in the morning and semi-final in the evening) on September 1 and then the 200 final on September 2. Should she be selected to run in the relay finals, the 4X400 meter relay is September 3 and the 4X100 meter relay is September 4.

Monaco Diamond League Meet

I have watched hundreds of track & field meets in person, on television, and on the computer over the years. But I have never seen some of the things that I saw at the Diamond League meet in Monaco on Friday, July 22, 2011. For a brief moment at the end of the men’s 1500 meters I thought I was watching a hockey game instead of a track & field meet. Then less than an hour later, the action during the men’s 5000 meter race looked strangely similar to roller derby.

The men’s 1500 meters was an exciting race won by Silas Kiplagat in a 2011 world-leading time of 3:30.47. However, it turns out that the real excitement would happen after the race. France’s Mehdi Baala and Mahiedine Mekhissi-Benabbad, who finished ninth and eleventh in the race got into an altercation right at the finish line. This was not just a shouting match or some shoving. There was a head butt and some wild punches thrown.

As a result of their “brawl” as the BBC is calling it, both athletes did not receive their appearance fees and the French Athletics Federation has provisionally suspended them pending further investigation. A disciplinary hearing should take place within the next week. After that, the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) will determine if they will take action, such as not allowing these two French athletes to compete at the World Championships in Daegu. If you are to believe the quotes from the athletes, it was all just a misunderstanding.

Forty minutes later, the men’s 5000 meter race was underway. The rabbit set a strong pace early and the race was on 12:50 pace through 2000 meters. Even though it slowed down a bit after that, the leaders came through 3000 meters still on sub-13 minute pace. As the race slowed down even more the lead pack started to get bunched together.

The live streaming video on that I was watching then broke away to cover the triple jump. When the camera returned to the track, the race clock read 10:41 and there were about 900 meters left in the race. The announcers started to explain that less than a lap ago there was a fall by the finish line and Galen Rupp went down and was out of the race.

What a shame! Rupp was certainly on pace to better his PR of 13:06.86. Later Rupp’s coach Alberto Salazar would text a picture of Rupp’s shoulder to TrackFocus reporter Doug Binder, with the message, “Scratched up and sore but upbeat, ran good hard workout after, not tired. Has to learn to stay out of trouble.”

Back to the actual race. The announcers had not yet given all the details about Rupp’s fall when there was more pushing as the runners neared the 800 meter to go mark. The announcers stated that Imane Merga of Ethiopia was responsible for a lot of the shoving. The video feed then cut to a shot from a track level camera situated right next to finish line. All of a sudden there was a green jersey coming right at the camera. It was Chris Solinsky! He had been pushed, lost his balance and stepped over the inner rail and off the track. Solinsky angrily pumped his fists at the pack as they continued on without him in the race. The race clock now read 11:02. In the span of twenty seconds, I learned that two top Americans were out of the race.

Later Solinsky would tweet that he let his emotions get the better of him and that he should have gotten back on the track and finished the race. Even if his chances of winning the race, breaking the American record, and setting a new PR were gone, he probably still could have achieved an Olympic A standard for next year if he had completed the race. has a great sequence of photos of Solinsky being pushed.

The race continued and thanks to a sixty second penultimate lap and a final lap of 53.7 seconds (the last 200 was run in 26.4 seconds), Great Britain’s Mo Farah won the race over America’s Bernard Lagat, 12:53.11 to 12:53.60. Both Farah and Lagat set their respective national records.

There was one final thing at the Monaco meet that I almost witnessed that would have been unique – Usain Bolt getting beat in the 100 meters. However a fantastic final twenty meters and a well timed lean gave Bolt the win over fellow Jamaican Nesta Carter, 9.88 to 9.90.

Penn Relays Recap

The 2010 Penn Relay Carnival lived up to the hype. It was a great meet filled with dramatic race finishes and memorable performances. Writers at and have already done some nice write-ups on the meet so there’s no point in me re-telling the whole story of the 2010 Penn Relays. I’ll hit on the highlights and then list some links, should you want to read more.

The University of Tennessee Women pulled off the distance relay sweep for the second year in a row. Phoebe Wright ran key legs on all three winning relay teams and now has six Penn Relay championship watches, one for each of the six winning relay teams she has been a part of last year and this year.

The University of Oregon made their presence felt at the meet. The women had three top three finishes (2nd in the DMR, 3rd in the 4X1500 relay, and 3rd in the 4X800 relay). The men won the DMR and 4Xmile relay, and came in 2nd in the 4X800 relay – one of the most talked about races of the meet.

The men’s 4X800 relay was highly anticipated because Oregon was anchored by 2008 Olympian Andrew Wheating and the University of Virginia was anchored by freshman sensation Robby Andrews. Wheating is known for his big kick at the end of races, so it was a bit of a surprise when Andrews beat Wheating at the NCAA Indoor Championships in March. The two would have a rematch on the anchor leg of the 4X800 relay; Andrews beat Wheating to give Virginia the win. has a nice story about the Wheating-Andrews rivalry with links to more stories about it.

Usain Bolt electrified the crowd during the 4X100 relay. You can see in the ESPN television coverage of the race that the public address announcer had to plead with the crowd to be quiet for the start of the race so that they could have a fair start. Cameras were set-up to get a computer time for Bolt’s 100 meter split. It doesn’t really mean anything because he had a running start, but it sure sounds cool and fast to hear that he ran an 8.79 split (much faster than his world record 9.58).

Athletes who either train with Shannon Rowbury or are coached by Shannon’s coach, John Cook, were in action in the USA vs. the World relays. Alysia Johnson anchored the USA Blue team to 2nd place in the sprint medley relay. Jacob Hernandez ran an 800 leg on the USA Blue DMR team. David Torrance (1600 meter split: 4:00.46) and Leo Manzano (1600 split: 4:00.03) were part of a blanket finish that had three teams finish within 0.07 seconds of each other (1st Kenya-9:24.97, 2nd USA Blue (Torrance’s team)-9:25.02, 3rd USA White (Manzano’s team)-9:25.04). Speaking of Shannon, she is scheduled to race the 5,000 meters at the Payton Jordan Invitational on Saturday, May 1 at Stanford.

The excitement of the Penn Relays was on display in the high school boys 4X400 relay championship. I won’t give away the end, but some things to look for as you watch the video of the race:

– Note how the runner in the green and yellow uniform (Vere Tech from Clarendon, Jamaica) on the second leg “cuts out” to lane five.

– The team in the yellow and red uniform (Wolmer’s Boys from Kingston, Jamaica) had quite a day. Three of the four boys who ran in the 4X400 championship also ran on the 4X100 relay team that set a new Penn Relays record of 39.78 earlier in the day.   

– Notice how the crowd goes crazy when Cheltenham from Pennsylvania goes by the Jamaicans to take a short lived lead. What a thrill for that team!

– Three teams finish within 0.38 seconds. Two of the teams are from Jamaica and the third one is Junipero Serra from Gardena, CA. Several California high school teams were in the finals, showing once again that California has some of the fastest runners in the world.

My final note about Penn Relays is something that makes me very proud. An athlete I coached at Sacred Heart Cathedral, who eleven months ago was winning her league championship in the 300 hurdles, got to run in the 4X200 and 4X400 relays for Ithaca College. Tammia Hubbard worked very hard to develop from a somewhat awkward freshman into a JV champion, and then into a varsity champion. Now she is a college athlete who ran at the Penn Relays in her freshman year. You can read more about Tammia in an Examiner article from March 2009. Friday Recap (Tennessee women win the 4X1500 relay. Oregon men win the DMR.): Saturday Recap (Tennessee women win the 4X800 relay to sweep the distance relay for the second year in a row. Oregon wins the 4Xmile, but Robby Andrews leads Virginia over Oregon in the 4X800 to prevent an Oregon distance relay sweep. USA vs the World coverage.):

Flotrack Coverage (videos of virtually every race):

Complete Results (with embedded videos from the Penn Relays website):