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Sunday, August 24, 2008

Day 9 & 10: What Happened


Women's High Jump: This was a very big surprise. Blanka Vlasic had not been beaten in well over a year and had been regularly jumping as high as anyone else's PR. She did not make her first attempt at 2.05 meters, and when Tia Hellebaut made it on her first attempt (tieing her PR in the process) it was basically over. She's also this week's "Separated at Birth":

Now is the time on Sprockets when we dance!

Men's Javelin Throw: Thorkildsen with a world leader and new Olympic Record, then the three Finns in expected order. For an event with a reputation as unpredictable, this one came out unusually to form.

Men's 800 meters: Wilfred Bungei has been so good for so long and never won a championship that you'd figure he wasn't going to be the one this time either. But he was finally in the right place at the right time and won.

Women's 1500 meters: Everyone assumed this was going to be Maryam Jamal's race. But in the last 200 meters it didn't turn out that way. Nancy Lagat was a surprise winner, Iryna Lischysnka had another great championship race, and Jamal faded to fifth. Rowbury was never a factor.

Men's 5000 meters: At last year's Worlds, the pace went very slow until the end, and Bernard Lagat and Matt Tegenkamp sprinted to the USA's second-best ever international 5k finish. Four years ago, Kenenisa Bekele essentially handed the gold to Hicham El Guerrouj under similar circumstances. That's the way the race normally develops without a pacemaker. Beks instead made it an honest 3k race, which meant no one else had a chance, and the American runners who were primed for a mostly-slow-then-very-fast race were not factors at all.

Women's 4x400 relay: Thank you, Allyson Felix. And if Richards has run as smart in the individual 400 as she did here, she'd have two gold medals. This was the fastest relay time since shortly after the demise of the East European doping machines ('93).

Men's 4x400 relay: As always, the contest was USA versus the clock. The clock won.

Men's Marathon: Apparently, the heat and humidity weren't as bad as was thought, else the pace would have crushed all who attempted it. Since eight tried, and five were still there well past 25k, the athletes themselves must have sensed it was nothing like Athens '04, where only the early-race conservative runners medaled. Ritz and Hall, paying too much attention to data and not enough to their inner clock, gave away sure shots at top-eight finishes by dropping back so far in the middle of the race.

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