The oldest track & field blog on the internet

Sunday, May 31, 2009

What's On Tomorrow

The Fanny Blankers-Koen Games, an IAAF Grand Prix meet, will be held in Hengelo, Holland, on Sunday.
Meet website / IAAF page / Webcast link
IAAF preview
All-Africa.com / Athletics Weekly / Times of India

The Boston Marathon will be rerun on Universal Sports from 3 to 5 p.m.

The Great City Games, where Usain Bolt won the 150-meter street sprint in record time, will be rerun on Universal Sports from 7:30 to 8 p.m.

The Stockholm Marathon will be rerun on Universal Sports from 8 to 10 p.m.

Chariots of Fire will be on HDNet Movies from 6 to 8:15 p.m.

The Pac-10 Championships will be rerun on Fox College Sports Pacific from 4 to 6 a.m., and Fox College Sports Midwest from 4 to 6 p.m.

Friday, May 29, 2009

More on What Are Sports For?

Two days ago I answered Jeff MacGregor's question What are sports for? In the meantime, I discussed the topic with my brother. No stranger he to deep thinking.

He identified three basic things: tribalism, drama, and transcendence.

Tribalism is very connected to team sports, and explains why the USA, among the most individualistic societies on earth, prefers them over individual sports. It's why the Olympics are the most meaningful of track competitions--the national team thing means something to the more casual observer--and I think track & field ignores this at its own peril.

Tribalism is also the single biggest reason sports fans will turn a blind eye towards doping. It's OK if our guys are doing it, they're just keeping up with the competition. And then there's the issue of simple blind loyalty, which I noted a couple of years ago:
...a friend who is an Indians fan was very defensive about Albert Belle when he played for Cleveland, but once he left the team she said "Thank God I don't have to be an apologist for that jackass anymore". (One can glean a deep understanding of political attitudes amongst ordinary Americans by observing this type of behavior; in this perspective, Fox News finally makes sense.) Bonds is so distasteful a character that quite a few Giants fans still won't stick up for him.
USATF (or TAC, as it was known back then) did cover up doping and aid the USOC in doing so back in the 1980s because otherwise our athletes were at a competitive disadvantage against the Communists.

Drama is that stuff that Jim McKay talked about at the beginning of Wild, Wild World of Sports: "Spanning the globe to bring you the constant variety of sport… the thrill of victory… and the agony of defeat… the human drama of athletic competition". Doping can cheapen this, but only somewhat. If you only look at sports as theater, then the main difference between the Boston Marathon and WWE is whether or not the outcome is unknown. And you have to admit, pro wrestling is capable of some mighty fine working-class kabuki theater. Yet few of us would call it real sports.

It's in transcendence that doping is the most damaging. All of us can recall amazing sports happenings, be they by the greatest professionals or commonplace high schoolers, that would be cheapened if they were something less than ordinary human beings doing extraordinary things. They are heroes because their superpowers were not stolen, but granted by their maker and/or earned by blood, sweat and tears.

World Rankings Update--Hurdles

MEN
110m Hurdles

1. David Oliver, USA, 70
2. Terrence Trammell, USA, 51
3. Joel Brown, USA, 35
4. Ryan Wilson, USA, 32
5. Shamar Sands, BAH, 29
6. Dexter Faulk, USA, 26
7. Antwon Hicks, USA, 23
8. Evgeniy Borisov, RUS, 18
9. Shi Dongpeng, CHN, 16
10. Ryan Brathwaite, BAR, 15
Wilson continues to move up the rankings. He’s lost only once this year (to Trammell) and beat Brown in Brazil last Sunday. Shi won twice this week in China.

400m Hurdles
1. Isa Phillips, JAM, 37
2. Javier Culson, PUR, 32
3. Kerron Clement, USA, 29
4. Tristan Thomas, AUS, 24
5. LaRon Bennett, USA, 14
6. Brendan Cole, AUS, 13
7. Mahau Sugimachi, BRA, 12
8. Angelo Taylor, USA, 10
8. Bandar Yahya Shraheli, KSA, 10
10. Kenji Narisako , JPN, 9
Phillips moves to #1 after he won in Brazil last week with the year’s best time; he was followed across the line by Bennett and Sugimachi.

WOMEN
100m Hurdles
1. LoLo Jones, USA, 28
2. Priscilla Lopes-Schliep, CAN, 24
3. Sally McLellan, AUS, 20
4. Danielle Carruthers, USA, 16
5. Damu Cherry, USA, 12
5. Dawn Harper, USA, 12
7. Natalya Ivoninskaya, KAZ, 12
8. Lacena Golding-Clarke, JAM, 10
9. Perdita Felicien, CAN, 9
9. Yvette Lewis, USA, 9
Nothing of any importance happened this week.

400m Hurdles
1. Sheena Tosta, USA, 33
2. Lashinda Demus, USA, 16
3. Dominique Darden, USA, 15
3. Tiffany Ross-Williams, USA, 15
5. Nickiesha Wilson, JAM, 11
Tosta won in Brazil on Sunday.

Six at Eleven

RW Daily News has all the headlines: Reebok Grand Prix mania, Wanjiru skipping the Worlds to concentrate on breaking the marathon World Record, Freihofer’s preview, and more.

SPIKES mag: Barbora Špotakova talks about Jan Zelezny.

Scott Bush asks What’s Our Story?

Dwain Chambers is getting into meets, but they’re not big ones.

Lashawn Merritt is ready to tackle Bolt if the Jamaican moves up to the 400.

Threadspotting: Who deserves to be in the English Athletics Hall of Fame?

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Fantasy League Outlook

Need some help in USATF's Pick N' Win game? I'm here to help.

Percentages are the portion of players who have picked that athlete (as of noon Thursday).

MEN
Visa 100m

Asafa Powell, 62%
Darvis Patton, 18%
Travis Padgett, 7%
Leroy Dixon, 3%
Michael Rodgers, 2%
Daniel Bailey, 2%
Richard Thompson, 2%
Derrick Atkins, 1%
Michael Frater, 1%
Steve Mullings, 1%
Yohon Blake, 1%
Preston Perry, 0%
Ivory Williams, 0%
Alonso Edward, 0%
Brendan Christian, 0%
Nesta Carter, 0%
Trell Kimmons, 0%
Aaron Armstrong, 0%
Winston Barnes, 0%
Analysis: This all comes down to Powell, and whether or not he will run. You can change your picks up until noon (EDT) on Saturday. I'm going to play it safe and not pick him, and give up a few points if he does in order to avoid a goose egg if he doesn't. In his absence it's a toss-up between Darvis Patton, Mike Rodgers and Daniel Bailey. I'm going to go with the latter.

Western Union 200m
Tyson Gay, 63%
Wallace Spearmon, 17%
Jeremy Wariner, 10%
Xavier Carter, 9%
Lionel Larry, 2%
Rodney Martin, 0%
David Neville, 0%
Chris Williams, 0%
Analysis: Provided Gay is in shape and healthy, he should be a pretty safe pick. He could be beaten by Spearmon, but I doubt it.

Nutrilite 400m
LaShawn Merritt, 87%
Kerron Clement, 9%
Andrew Rock, 1%
Andrae Williams, 1%
Tabarie Henry, 1%
Chris Brown, 1%
Renny Quow, 0%
Ricardo Chambers, 0%
Analysis: Clement is a stud 400 hurdler, but even he is overmatched here. Merritt will win, as the only guy who could touch him is in the 200.

NY Running Comp 800m
Khadevis Robinson, 56%
Lopez Lomong, 15%
Gary Reed, 10%
Boaz Lalang, 5%
David Krummenacker, 4%
Brandon Shaw, 2%
Christian Smith, 2%
Nate Brannen, 2%
Duane Solomon, 2%
Jonathan Johnson, 1%
Dustin Emrani, 1%
Analysis: This will come down to Lalang and Reed. Lalang hasn't run since indoors, and he was beaten in his opener there, but went on to beat Bungei and Borzakovskiy. If he's anywhere near his best he'll win, and if not he'll still finish high.

Reebok 1500m
Alan Webb, 52%
Leonel Manzano, 11%
Nicholas Kemboi, 8%
Chris Lukezic, 7%
Peter Vanderwesthuizen, 5%
Henok Legesse, 4%
Rob Myers, 4%
Kevin Sullivan, 3%
Pablo Solares, 2%
Moise Joseph, 2%
Juan Van Deventer, 1%
Taylor Milne, 1%
Reda Ait Douida, 0%
Andrew Bumbalough, 0%
Analysis: This is a tough call, as no one stands out above the others. You could take a chance on Henok Legesse, the double Ethiopian champ (800 and 1500). Vanderwesthuizen has run well in the last two VISA tour meets and is a safe pick. Just don't take Webb--upside is good, but the downside...

5000m
Bernard Lagat, 77%
Gebre Gebremariam, 5%
Josphat Boit, 3%
Sam Chelanga, 3%
Bekana Daba, 2%
Micah Kogo, 2%
Edwin Soi, 2%
Haron Lagat, 1%
Dejen Gebremeskel, 1%
Aron Rono, 1%
Habtamu Fikadu, 1%
Juan Luis Barrios, 1%
Nick McCormick, 0%
Jorge Torres, 0%
Seth Summerside, 0%
Seth Pilkington, 0%
Sahle Warga, 0%
Analysis: This is going to be the most interesting race in the whole meet. You've got the defending world champs in cross country (Gebremariam) and 5000 meters (Lagat) and there are others who are capable of beating them both (Kogo, Soi). I'm going against the grain and taking Gebremariam due to my new Fantasy League rule: if an Ethiopian shows up at the start line, he's ready to run near his best.

110m Hurdles
Terrence Trammell, 85%
Antwon Hicks, 5%
David Payne, 5%
Aries Merritt, 2%
Eric Mitchum, 1%
Richard Phillips, 1%
Jerome Miller, 0%
Shamar Sands, 0%
Ladji Doucoure, 0%
Ryan Brathwaite, 0%
Analysis: Trammell.

Reebok 400m Hurdles
Angelo Taylor, 52%
Bershawn Jackson, 32%
Michael Tinsley, 3%
Derrick Williams, 3%
Javier Coulson, 3%
Brandon Johnson, 2%
James Carter, 2%
Reggie Rucker, 1%
Kenneth Ferguson, 1%
Dean Griffiths, 0%
Danny McFarlane, 0%
Reuben McCoy, 0%
Markino Buckley, 0%
Analysis: Tinsley and Taylor are good choices, but I think there's going to be an upset. Learn the name "Javier Culson" because he'll be first across the line on Saturday.

USATF Javelin
Sean Furey, 27%
Adam Montague, 17%
Bobby Smith, 14%
Justin St Clair, 13%
Dan Gale, 10%
Barry Krammes, 9%
Joshua Kaehler, 9%
Analysis: Pick 'em.

WOMEN
Visa 100m
Veronica Campbell-Brown, 43%
Carmelita Jeter, 27%
Muna Lee, 8%
Lauryn Williams, 7%
Torri Edwards, 5%
Bianca Knight, 3%
Marshevet Hooker, 2%
Angela Williams, 1%
Debbie Ferguson, 1%
Sheri-Ann Brooks, 1%
Kelly-Ann Baptiste, 1%
Shalonda Solomon, 1%
Tahesia Harrigan, 0%
Carol Rodriguez, 0%
Gloria Asumnu, 0%
Schillonie Calvert, 0%
Muriel Hurtis-Houairi, 0%
Analysis: VCB's exploits in Florida last weekend lead me to believe she'll beat Jeter, but it will be closer than a lot of people think it will be.

200m
Bianca Knight, 38%
Lauryn Williams, 28%
Shalonda Solomon, 17%
Debbie Ferguson, 9%
Simone Facey, 3%
Aleen Bailey, 3%
Muriel Hurtis-Houairi, 1%
Cydonie Mothersill, 1%
Analysis: I don't have a clear favorite here, but I think I'm going with Knight. Bailey or Mothersill would be good upset picks.

Nutrilite 400m
Allyson Felix, 83%
Natasha Hastings, 9%
Shericka Williams, 2%
Monica Hargrove, 2%
Novlene Williams-Mills, 1%
Shana Cox, 1%
Shereefa Lloyd, 1%
Nadia Cunningham, 0%
Analysis: Felix. Duh.

800m
Hazel Clark, 43%
Kenia Sinclair, 21%
Anna Willard, 12%
Alysia Johnson, 6%
Katie Waits, 5%
Erin Donohue, 4%
Nikeya Green, 3%
Rebecca Johnstone, 2%
Sophia Smellie, 1%
Maggie Vessey, 1%
Jesse Carlin, 1%
Morgan Uceny, 0%
Analysis: Sinclair, hands down.

Reebok 1500m
Sally Kipyego, 32%
Mestawot Tadesse, 14%
Vivian Cheruiyot, 13%
Lindsey Gallo, 12%
Christin Wurth-Thomas, 12%
Treniere Clement, 4%
Amy Mortimer, 3%
Malika Akkaoui, 3%
Lauren Hagans, 2%
Julia Howard, 2%
Kalkidan Gezahegne, 1%
Roisin McGettigan, 1%
Malindi Elmore, 0%
Renee Metivier-Baillie, 0%
Deidre Byrne, 0%
Analysis: Cheruiyot is so much better than anyone else in the race.

NYRR 5000m
Tirunesh Dibaba, 56%
Genzebe Dibaba, 13%
Jen Rhines, 9%
Katie McGregor, 4%
Carrie Tollefson, 4%
Kim Smith, 4%
Linet Masai, 3%
Korene Hinds, 2%
Barbara Parker, 2%
Maureen McCandless, 1%
Delilah DiCrescenzo, 1%
Marina Muncan, 1%
Emily Brown, 0%
Julie Culley, 0%
Mardrea Hyman, 0%
Analysis: According to my new Ethiopian rule, you have to take Tiru Dibaba. Which you would have done anyway.

Irie JAM 400m Hurdle
Tiffany Ross-Williams, 61%
Melanie Walker, 15%
Latosha Wallace, 5%
Nickiesha Wilson, 4%
Ajoke Odumosu, 4%
Angel Perkins, 3%
Nicole Dumpson, 2%
Kaliese Spencer, 2%
Christine Spence, 1%
Tasha Danvers, 1%
Shevon Stoddart, 1%
Miriam Barnes, 0%
Angela Morosanu, 0%
Analysis: Walker is the defending Olympic champ, and while it's her season opener in the hurdles, no one else in the race has run particularly fast yet. A no-brainer.

Reebok Long Jump
Grace Upshaw, 45%
Carolina Kluft, 27%
Tianna Madison, 12%
Brianna Glenn, 8%
Jovanee Jarrett, 7%
Ruky Abdulai, 0%
Analysis: This is tough. No one has shown particularly good form yet save Upshaw. The real confounding variable is Kluft, who has yet to compete in 2009. I'd have to go with her, though.

Nutrilite Pole Vault
Jenn Stuczynski, 89%
Stacy Dragila, 4%
Lacy Janson, 1%
Becky Holliday, 1%
Jillian Schwartz, 1%
April Steiner-Bennett, 1%
Shuying Gao, 1%
Chelsea Johnson, 1%
Analysis: Stuczynski.

USATF Shot Put
Michelle Carter, 40%
Jillian Camarena, 17%
Elizabeth Wanless, 8%
Cleopatra Borel-Brown, 7%
Chandra Brewer, 7%
Jessica Pressley, 7%
Rachel Jansen, 6%
Kristin Heaston, 5%
Abigail Ruston, 3%
Analysis: I'm betting this will come down to Wanless, Camarena, and Borel-Brown. I'm going with the latter.

USATF Discus
Stephanie Brown Trafton, 53%
Suzy Powell Roos, 22%
Summer Pierson, 8%
Gia Lewis, 7%
Becky Breisch, 5%
Aretha Thurmond, 4%
Analysis: Brown-Trafton is the defending Olympic champ and threw the world leader last weekend. Easy pick.

What's On the Weekend


Professional

The Reebok Grand Prix, an IAAF Grand Prix meet and the fourth stop in the VISA Championship Series, will be held in Icahn Stadium on Randalls Island, NY on Saturday.
NBC will have live coverage from 4:30 to 6 p.m.
Let's Run is running a free ticket contest, aka the "five o'clock free crack giveaway".
Meet website / IAAF page / USATF page
IAAF preview / USATF preview
USA Today / AP / Guardian / Athletics Weekly / Jamaica Gleaner / South Florida Caribbean News / EthioBlog

Freihofer’s Run for Women, an IAAF Silver Label road race, will be run in Albany, NY on Saturday.
Race website / IAAF preview
Albany Times-Union / Runner's Web

The Rock N' Roll San Diego Marathon will be run on Sunday. Ryan Hall and Josh Cox will pace a Brit trying to beat his son and win a bar bet.
Race website
Runner's Web / Union-Tribune / San Diego Sports News

The 34th Hypo-Meeting, an IAAF Combined Events Challenge competition, will be held in Götzis, Austria, on Saturday and Sunday.
Meet website / IAAF page
IAAF preview

The 12th Na Rynek marsz z TNT, an IAAF Race Walking Challenge competition, will be held in Krakow, Poland, on Saturday.
Event website / IAAF preview

The Asian AA Grand Prix will come to Hong Kong for an IAAF permit meet on Saturday.
Meet website / IAAF page

The International Meeting Memorial Artur Takac, an EAA permit meet, will be held in Belgrade, Serbia, on Friday.
Meet website / EAA preview

Anhalt 2009, another EAA permit meet, will be held in Dessau, Germany on Saturday.
Meet website (in German) / EAA preview

The first-ever America's Cup of Combined Events will take place in Havana on Saturday and Sunday.
Meet website / USATF preview


College
The NCAA Regional Championships will be held on Friday and Saturday. The qualifying format: the top five in each region automatically advance to the NCAA championships (3 for relays). Beyond that, those finishing sixth through 12th tin each regional will be eligible for an "at-large" bid to the championships based on best marks made during the season.

East Regional: Greensboro, NC
Meet info
Start lists: men / women

Mideast Regional: Louisville, KY
Meet info
Start lists: men / women

Midwest Regional: Norman, OK
Meet website
Start lists: men / women

West Regional: Eugene, OR
Meet info
Start lists: men / women


High School

The Great Southwest Track & Field Classic will be held in Albuquerque, NM on Thursday through Saturday.
Meet website

The Golden South Classic will be held in Orlando on Saturday.
Meet website / Dyestat page
Orlando Sentinel


TV

The Reebok Grand Prix will be covered live on NBC from 4:30 to 6 p.m. on Saturday.

The Stockholm Marathon will be shown in a same-day tape-delay format on Universal Sports from 3 to 5 p.m. on Sunday.

The Pac-10 Championships will be rerun on Fox College Sports Pacific from 8 to 10 a.m. and 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. on Friday, 1 to 3 a.m. and 6 to 8 p.m. on Saturday, and 6 to 8 a.m., 2 to 4 p.m. and 10 p.m. to midnight on Sunday; and on Fox College Sports Central from noon to 1:30 p.m. on Saturday and 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Sunday.

The Big Ten Outdoor Championships will be rerun on the Big Ten Network from 9 p.m. to midnight on Friday.

The Big Ten Women’s Indoor Championships will be rerun on the Big Ten Network from midnight to 2 a.m. on Friday.

The Big Ten Men’s Indoor Championships will be rerun on the Big Ten Network from 2 to 4 a.m. Friday.

The Big 12 Championships will be rerun on Fox College Sports Central from 3 to 5 p.m. Friday, 6 to 8 a.m. on Saturday, noon to 2 p.m. on Sunday.

The Los Angeles Marathon will be rerun on Universal Sports from 1 to 3 a.m. on Friday.

The Doha Super Grand Prix meet will be rerun on Universal Sports from 3 to 6 a.m. on Saturday.

1972 Munich Olympic Games: Bud Greenspan Remembers will be shown on Showtime Extreme from 8:45 to 10:30 a.m. Saturday.

Six at Eleven

RW Daily has all the headlines.

Run the Roads has released its first weekly USA distance rankings.

New (to me, at least) website: Running is Funny. Rates decently high on the chuckle meter.

Minnesota thrower: Diabetic, computer nerd, Big Ten shot champ.

Former hurdle champ Jana Rawlinson is planning a comeback this year.

Threadspotting: Barringer v. Willard

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Bidding Update

Michael Jordan is starring in a TV public service announcement promoting the Chicago '16 bid airing on local Chicago stations.

Tokyo '16 leaders have recently said that their bid won't be hurt by low public support, or the destabilizing effect of recent North Korean nuke tests. Sounds like somebody is trying to lower expectations. I think we can count them out.

Toronto leaders bidding for the 2015 Pan-Am Games have said their biggest obstacle is "smugness". I'd love to take a trip up to The Queen City to take them in.

What Are Sports For?

When I came home from school today, I turned on the tube and Chariots of Fire was on one of the HD channels. So I sat and watched it. I haven't seen it for a while, and never in HD.

A lot of people think this, the 1981 Oscar winner for Best Picture, is an overrated film. I've always liked it. I'm not sure why; my ancestry is heavily English and Scottish, so maybe that's part of it. But also, it's a very idea-heavy film, and I'm into thinking about ideas.

This is why I'm so affected by a recent ESPN Page 2 column. Jeff MacGregor, who writes This Sporting Life, asked What are sports for?

Baseball is finally having its crisis of confidence that track & field had twenty years ago. As such, baseball writers are asking philosophical questions about whether PEDs should be legal, and why or why not. As an extension, MacGregor asks what purpose modern professional sports serve: to teach moral lessons, or to provide an entertaining diversion?

Of course, the truth is both, and neither. One thing that it does is allow us to think the best of ourselves, or at least those we believe ourselves to be associated with. Watching the movie, I found myself singing along to Gilbert & Sullivan's For He Is An Englishman, feeling proud to call myself of English heritage. My college roommate once posed the question of why we feel this pride, when every nation on the earth has done horrible things to other people as well as its own. My reply was that we think of the best of our history, and hope to emulate it. For mine, it would be prevailing in WWII, after a massive struggle just to survive.

In any case, sports allow us to feel a pride at the success an athlete or team with whom we feel a connection. Examples are New Englanders and their Red Sox, or Clevelanders to their Browns, and so on in hundreds of ways. Besides a connection to our city, or school, or country, we have a connection to the fans of that same team. But this still doesn't answer the question of whether PEDs should be banned or tolerated.

Throughout Chariots, this question of what are sports for? is brought up again and again. Harold Abrahams, the outsider Jew at Cambridge, the ultimate insider's school, has to answer it multiple times. More or less, he cannot be a full man without striving to be the best he could be. As sports fans, few things incense us more than teams or athletes who give less than their best effort.

And we don't mean any mamby-pamby feel-good "oh, just so you tried your hardest" stuff. It is the driving to the very edge of your capabilities that is the essence of competing as an athlete, or watching them compete. We want to find our best (or see theirs). In other words, the true meaning of sports is not the triumph but the struggle. But that still doesn't answer the question of whether PEDs should be banned or tolerated.

The IOC banned doping in 1972 mostly because they feared literally killing their golden geese. In 1967, Tom Simpson died during the Tour de France when he took amphetamines before a mountain stage. Without controls many athletes would likely dope themselves to death. So there are those who say we should allow doping if done safely and under the supervision of a doctor--to which I reply, in what way is that easier to police than our current complete ban on doping? Given the opportunity, just enough people will take short-term gain over long-term viability to screw the whole system, which is more or less why financial markets need regulation.

But none of this gets to the real reason why the majority who don't like doping find it so distasteful. It's not intellectual, it's visceral. We must look to Eric Liddell, the Scottish long sprinter in Chariots. He was a dedicated missionary, whose wife found his running a distraction to their religious calling. In the film he told her he must continue to compete in sports because "I believe God made me for a purpose. But He also made me fast. And when I run, I feel His pleasure." PEDs are an attempt, as coach Sam Mussabini said, to "put in what God left out".

Yeah, yeah, excessive moralizing. I don't think so. I think it's a religious person's way of explaining an experience sports fans have with regularity and probably seek more than any other thing. It's the slack-jawed amazement we have at seeing the fantastic things athletes do. Be it Mine That Bird winning at 50-1, or a buzzer-beater 3-point shot, or a Statue of Liberty play to win in overtime, they make us ten years old again. The top two for me were seeing the Carl Lewis / Mike Powell long jump duel at the 1991 Worlds, and being 20 feet away from Tyson Gay's stunning runs at the 2007 USATF Championships.

PEDs alter hormonal profiles to ones that are unnatural, so the athletes are no longer human beings as we know them. They rob us of that awe, that child-like wonder.

World Rankings Update -- Middle Distance

MEN
800 meters

1. Abubaker Kaki, SUD, 114
2. Ismail Ahmed Ismail, SUD, 80
3. Yuriy Borzakovskiy, RUS, 61
4. Wilfred Bungei, KEN, 56
5. Haron Keitany, KEN, 54
6. Mehdi Baala, FRA, 47
7. Kleberson Davide, BRA, 43
8. Asbel Kipruto Kiprop, KEN, 40
8. Boaz Kiplagat Lalang, KEN, 40
8. Mohammed Al Salhi, KSA, 40
In Rabat, Morocco, last week, Kaki reaffirmed his status as the world’s leader. Upstart Davide was upset by compatriate Fabiano Peçanha in Brazil on Saturday, but scored enough to get into the top ten.

1500 meters / Mile
1. Haron Keitany, KEN, 142
2. Augustine Choge, KEN, 116
3. Bernard Lagat, USA, 106
4. Deresse Mekonen, ETH, 89
5. Mehdi Baala, FRA, 83
6. Belal Mansoor Ali, BRN, 63
6. Daniel Kipchirchir Komen, KEN, 63
8. Bouabdellah Tahri, FRA, 55
8. Mo Farah, GBR, 55
10. Mekonnen Gebremedhin, ETH, 54
Mekonen won a fast race in Rabat, which bumped him up one spot.

WOMEN
800 meters
1. Mariya Savinova, RUS, 98
2. Oksana Zbrozhek, RUS, 90
3. Elisa Cusma Piccione, ITA, 56
4. Anna Alminova, RUS, 54
5. Jennifer Meadows, GBR, 43
6. Tetiana Petlyuk, UKR, 42
7. Marilyn Okoro, GBR, 32
8. Irina Maracheva, RUS, 30
9. Sylwia Ejdys, POL, 17
10. Ekaterina Kostetskaya, RUS, 14
Meadows won in Rabat on Saturday, which moves her up from sixth to fifth.

1500 meters
1. Anna Alminova, RUS, 139
2. Vivian Cheruiyot, KEN, 71
3. Oksana Zbrozhek, RUS, 57
4. Anna Willard, USA, 53
5. Jenny Barringer, USA, 42
6. Nuria Fernández, ESP, 39
7. Kara Goucher, USA, 38
8. Gelete Burka, ETH, 30
9. Maryam Yusuf Jamal, BRN, 29
10. Sally Kipyego, KEN, 29
No changes since last week.

Six at Eleven

RW Daily News has all the headlines.

Scott Bush blogs about educating the fan

PreRace Jitters has a Reebok Grand Prix coverage page as well as six things you ought to know about Lionel Larry.

USATF have put Jill Geer and Ivan Cropper in new administrative roles, and the USOC has hired Ari Fleischer, a former White House press secretary (a job title which really means “expert liar”).

The Jamaicans are serious: their Fair Trade Commission is investigating a meet where stars were slated to compete but did not show.

Threadspotting: Attendance at US meets

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

World Rankings Update -- Sprints

Note that any reference to times are after adjustments for wind & altitude.

MEN
100 meters
1. Daniel Bailey, ANT, 98
2. Michael Rodgers, USA, 98
3. Dwain Chambers, GBR, 52
4. Darvis Patton, USA, 50
4. Monzavous Edwards, USA, 50
6. Trindon Holliday, LSU, 47
7. Usain Bolt, JAM, 41
8. Travis Padgett, USA, 40
9. Mark Jelks, USA, 34
10. Brendan Christian, ANT, 32
Bailey and Rodgers went 1-2 in Brazil on Sunday, both breaking 10 seconds.

200 meters
1. Brendan Christian, ANT, 51
1. Michael Rodgers, USA, 51
3. LaShawn Merritt, USA, 45
4. Darvis Patton, USA, 34
5. Monzavous Edwards, USA, 33
6. Ivory Williams, USA, 27
7. Marvin Anderson, JAM, 24
8. Steve Mullings, JAM, 22
9. Ainsley Waugh, JAM, 17
9. Rodney Martin, USA, 17
Anderson won the Grand Prix race in Brazil, his first notable race of the year, with Edwards second. Christian and Rodgers did well enough in their wake to tie for the top ranking.

400 meters
1. Jeremy Wariner, USA, 49
2. LaShawn Merritt, USA, 44
3. Sean Wroe, AUS, 26
4. Andrae Williams, BAH, 23
5. Gil Roberts, Tex Tech, 23
6. Renny Quow, TRI, 16
7. Greg Nixon, USA, 14
7. Tabarie Henry, Bart JC, 14
9. Ato Stephens, TRI, 11
9. Michael Bingham, USA, 11
Not much happened this week in the 400 except some fast times at the JuCo national championships, moving a Texas A&M-bound Henry into the top ten.

WOMEN
100 meters
1. Carmelita Jeter, USA, 61
2. Kerron Stewart, JAM, 49
3. Veronica Campbell-Brown, JAM, 32
4. LaVerne Jones-Ferrette, ISV, 31
5. Sally McLellan, AUS, 23
6. Porscha Lucas, Tex A&M, 20
7. Murielle Ahoure, Miami (FL), 17
7. Stephanie Durst, USA, 17
9. Bianca Knight, USA, 10
9. Brianna Glenn, USA, 10
9. Vida Anim, GHA, 10
Campbell-Brown made her seasonal debut at a small meet on Saturday and put up the year’s best marks in the process. Jones-Ferrette won in Brazil.

200 meters
1. Laverne Jones-Ferrette, ISV, 37
2. Carmelita Jeter, USA, 36
3. Kerron Stewart, JAM, 33
4. Porscha Lucas, Tex A&M, 20
5. Allyson Felix, USA, 18
6. Brianna Glenn, USA, 17
6. Kelly-Ann Baptiste, TRI, 17
6. Murielle Ahoure, Mia (FL), 17
9. Bianca Knight, USA, 16
9. Shericka Williams, JAM, 16
Jones-Ferrette put up the year’s best time in Brazil on Sunday, with Baptiste in second.

400 meters
1. Antonina Krivoshapka, RUS, 34
2. Allyson Felix, USA, 22
3. Tamsyn Lewis, AUS, 21
4. Bobby-Gaye Wilkins, JAM, 20
5. Aliann Pompey, GUY, 16
6. Amantle Montsho, BOT, 13
7. Debbie Dunn, USA, 13
8. Novlene Williams-Mills, JAM, 10
9. Monica Hargrove, USA, 9
10. Shareefa Lloyd, USA, 8
Wilkins, Pompey and Dunn were the top three in the Grand Prix meet in Brazil on Sunday.

Six at Eleven

RW Daily News has all the headlines, including the weekend road results in LA, Boulder and London.

The IAAF’s online fantasy league is up and running again. The first competition is on June 14th.

PreRace Jitters’ new podcast is up, with a preview of the Reebok Grand Prix.

And Running has some funny thoughts on endurance sports.

Bolt’s presence at the new pro meet in Toronto is being called a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Threadspotting: USA dominates 400, sucks at 800. What gives?

Monday, May 25, 2009

In The Bleachers

World Rankings Update - Walks

MEN
20k Walk
1. Valeriy Borchin, RUS, 214
2. Hao Wang, CHN, 154
3. Eder Sánchez, MEX, 153
4. Francisco Javier Fernández, ESP, 143
5. Erik Tysse, NOR, 133
6. Giorgio Rubino, ITA, 128
7. Jared Talent, AUS, 119
8. Jianbo Li, CHN, 112
9. Pyotr Trofimov, RUS, 93
10. Aleksandr Yargunkin, RUS, 84
Yesterday's European Racewalking Cup had remarkably little effect on these rankings; only Rubino, the winner, took part.

50k Walk
1. Denis Nizhegorodov, RUS, 162
2. Zhao Chengliang, CHN, 144
3. Francisco Javier Fernández, ESP, 138
4. Yohan Diniz, FRA, 124
5. Matej Toth, SVK, 110
6. Trond Nymark, NOR, 108
7. Yuri Andronov, RUS, 100
8. Yuki Yamakazi, JPN, 96
9. Jesus Angel Garcia, ESP, 84
10. Sergey Bakulin, RUS, 82
Nizhegorodov won comfortably at the Euro Cup over Garcia (second) and Andronov (third).

WOMEN
20k Walk
1. Olga Kaniskina, RUS, 223
2. Kjersti Plätzer, NOR, 192
3. Anisya Kirdyapkina, RUS, 132
4. Vera Sokolova, RUS, 114
5. Yelena Shumkina, RUS, 108
6. Elisa Rigaudo, ITA, 105
7. Vera Santos, POR, 102
8. Inês Henriques, POR, 98
9. Larisa Emelyanova, RUS, 93
10. Sabine Krantz, GER, 78
10. Jiang Jing, CHN, 78
The Euro Cup winner, Spain's Maria Vasco, doesn't come close to cracking the top ten. It was a big upset as Russian Kirdyapkina was second.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

World Rankings Update - Throws

MEN
Shot Put
Christian Cantwell USA 87
Reese Hoffa USA 62
Dan Taylor USA 60
Tomas Majewski POL 55
Adam Nelson USA 29
Dorian Scott JAM 24
Sultan Abdulmajeed Al-Hebshi KSA 20
Russ Winger USA 19
Pavel Sofyin RUS 16
Dylan Armstrong CAN 15
Taylor put up the year's leading throw on Saturday, but Cantwell and Hoffa still lead him on depth of performance. Armstrong's win in Halle, Germany today put him into the top ten.

Discus Throw
Gerd Kanter EST 125
Yennifer Frank Casañas ESP 22
Piotr Malachowski POL 20
Zoltán Kövágó HUN 16
Robert Harting GER 7
Kanter and Casañas took the top spots in Suzhou, China yesterday; the next three took the top sports in Halle.

Hammer Throw
Krisztián Pars HUN 72
Primož Kozmus SLO 34
Marco Lingua ITA 28
Dilshod Nazarov TJK 28
András Haklits CRO 14
Pars won in Halle; the next four were all in action today in the Grand Prix meet in Belem, Brazil, with Kozmus coming out the winner.

Javelin Throw
Vadims Vasilevskis LAT 38
Stuart Farquhar NZL 27
Andreas Thorkildsen NOR 20
Eriks Rags LAT 15
Kärlis Alainis LAT 15
Vasileskis put up a big throw of 90.71 yesterday in Latvia.

WOMEN
Shot Put
Valerie Vili NZL 228
Denise Hinrichs GER 109
Natallia Mikhnevich BLR 86
Lijiao Gong CHN 83
Anca Heltne ROU 82
Misleydis González CUB 77
Mailin Vargas CUB 62
Petra Lammert GER 60
Nadine Kleinert GER 45
Nadzeya Ostapchuk BLR 42
Vili continues to dominate this event to a ridiculous degree. Today she beat Mikhnevich, González and Vargas in Brazil and now owns all of the year's six longest throws. Kleinert beat Hinrichs in Halle today while Gong threw well to win in Suzhou.

Discus Throw
Yarisley Collado CUB 56
Yarelis Barrios CUB 54
Nicoleta Grasu ROU 50
Aimin Song CHN 46
Aretha Thurmond USA 43
Dani Samuels AUS 32
Beatrice Faumina NZL 26
Becky Breisch USA 22
Olena Antonova UKR 16
Stephanie Brown-Trafton USA 16
Barrios beat Collado in Brazil today, while Song won in China yesterday.

Hammer Throw
Anita Wlodarczyk POL 98
Betty Heidler GER 90
Martina Hrasnová SVK 79
Kathrin Klaas GER 37
Marina Marghiev MDA 34
Jennifer Dahlgren ARG 24
Sultana Frizell CAN 19
Clarissa Claretti ITA 18
Stéphanie Falzon FRA 18
Iryna Sekachova UKR 17
The top four were all in action today in Halle, with Wlodarczyk coming out the winner over Heidler.

Javelin Throw
Osleidys Menéndez CUB 52
Mariya Abakumova RUS 50
Yanet Cruz CUB 47
Kimberley Mickle AUS 42
Monica Stoian ROU 32
Christina Obergföll GER 30
Maria Nicoleta Negoita ROU 18
Alessandra Resende BRA 16
Steffi Nerius GER 14
Martina Ratej SLO 13
Vira Rebryk UKR 13
Menéndez took the Grand Prix competition in Brazil today over Cruz. Obergföll started her season in Halle today with a win and the world-leading throw, leaving Nerius and Abakumova in her wake.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Adam Jacobs Gone

Adam Jacobs died unexpectedly last night.

A bit over a year ago I mostly abandoned this blog to work for TheFinalSprint.com, the site he founded. After a while I decided I didn't like having a boss and came back here, but it wasn't because of Adam. He was an enthusiastic supporter of the sport, and also put together the Running Film Festival that took place in Eugene during the Olympic Trials.

We can never have enough people like him, and now we have one less. Tragic.

World Rankings Update -- Jumps

MEN
High Jump

1. Ivan Ukhov, RUS, 172
2. Jesse Williams, USA, 102
3. Andra Manson, USA, 72
4. Aleksandr Shustov, RUS, 46.5
5. Linus Thörnblad, SWE, 40.5
6. Yaroslav Rybakov, RUS, 33
7. Aleksey Dmitrik, RUS, 31
8. Tora Harris, USA, 30
9. Andrey Tereshin, RUS, 27.5
10. Raul Spank, GER, 27
The only change in the last week is Spank moving into the top ten.

Pole Vault
1. Steve Hooker, AUS, 184
2. Pavel Gerasimov, RUS, 52
3. Renaud Lavillenie, FRA, 43
4. Alexander Straub, GER, 36
5. Derek Miles, USA, 33.5
6. Evgeniy Lukyanenko, RUS, 32
7. Alhaji Jeng, SWE, 22
8. Jeremy Scott , USA, 20
9. Giovanni Lanaro , MEX, 17.5
10. Tobias Scherbarth, GER, 17

Long Jump
1. Sebastian Bayer, GER, 64
2. Dwight Phillips, USA, 54
3. Marcin Starzak, POL, 22
4. Nils Winter, GER, 21
5. Fabrice Lapierre, AUS, 20
5. Ibrahim Camejo, CUB, 20
7. Mitchell Watt, AUS, 19
8. Loúis Tsátoumas, GRE, 14
8. Randall Flimmons, USA, 14
8. Salim Sdiri, FRA, 14
Phillips’ big jump at the Adidas Classic places him second. Camejo took a first and a second in Brazil this week to move into the top ten.

Triple Jump
1. Arnie David Girat, CUB, 144
2. Alexis Copello, CUB, 91
3. Yoandris Betanzos, CUB, 84
4. Teddy Tamgho, FRA, 66
5. Fabrizio Donato, ITA, 51
6. Osniel Tosca, CUB, 28
7. Jadel Gregorio, BRA, 27
8. Nelson Évora, POR, 23
9. Igor Spasovkhodski, RUS, 22
10. Leevan Sands, BAH, 21
Girat won three times in Brazil in the last week, with outstanding distances each time. His two compatriates had mixed results; Olympic and World champ Évora had a pair of thirds.

WOMEN
High Jump

1. Blanka Vlašic, CRO, 192
2. Ariane Friedrich, GER, 137
3. Ruth Beitia, ESP, 53
4. Irina Gordeeva, RUS, 48.5
5. Viktoriya Klyugina, RUS, 42.5
6. Svetlana Shkolina, RUS, 27
7. Amy Acuff, USA, 17
7. Deirdre Mullen, USA, 17
9. Chaunte Howard, USA, 16
10. Iva Strakova, CZR, 13
10. Destinee Hooker, USA, 13
Vlašic had another big jump this week.

Pole Vault
1. Elena Isinbaeva, RUS, 106
2. Jennifer Stuczynski, USA, 99
3. Yuliya Golubchikova, RUS, 60.5
4. Silke Spiegelburg, GER, 48
5. Fabiana Murer, BRA, 41
6. Stacy Dragila, USA, 26
7. Aleksandra Kiryashova, RUS, 23.5
8. Monika Pyrek, POL, 23.5
9. Anna Battke, GER, 18.5
10. Anna Rogowska, POL, 10
Stuczynski and Dragila vaulted well for first and second at the Adidas Classic.

Long Jump
1. Olga Kucherenko, RUS, 81
2. Brittney Reese, USA, 73
3. Elena Sokolova, RUS, 51
4. Maurren Higa Maggi, BRA, 39
5. Funmi Jimoh, USA, 37
6. Ksenija Balta, EST, 34
7. Yarianny Argüelles, CUB, 33
8. Keila Costa, BRA, 25
9. Akiba McKinney, USA, 17
9. Hyleas Fountain, USA, 17
Reese is for real, and will be a contender to win at the World Championships. Maggi won in Rio over her last weekend, and those two along with Kucherenko are my early-season medal favorites.

Friday, May 22, 2009

New Book on the Market

One-time Track & Field News managing editor Jeff Hollobaugh has just come out with a running novel. Blurb:

A victim of the barbarous social scene at Shiawassee High School, Riley Matthews dreams only of a normal home life, a decent mile race, and perhaps a date. Instead, Riley's final semester is marked by a mom on the brink of a breakdown, a school stunned by the bloodthirsty Kult of Fatality, and a collection of the scariest misfits in the school: mutant halfwit wrestlers, jailbirds, emo porn girls, slashers... not to mention his usual assortment of geekish friends. Can he make it to the finish line in one piece?

Me likey. A novel about an unpretentious average high school runner.

More info available at the author's website.

World Rankings Update -- Hurdles

MEN
110 hurdles
1. David Oliver, USA, 70
2. Terrence Trammell, USA, 51
3. Joel Brown, USA, 31
4. Shamar Sands, BAH, 29
5. Ryan Wilson, USA, 26
6. Antwon Hicks, USA, 23
7. Dexter Faulk, USA, 22
8. Evgeniy Borisov, RUS, 18
9. Ryan Brathwaite, BAR, 15
10. Gregory Sedoc, NED, 12
Moving up quick is Ryan Wilson, who won two races in Brazil this week

400 hurdles
1. Javier Culson, PUR, 32
2. Kerron Clement, USA, 29
3. Tristan Thomas, AUS, 24
4. Isa Phillips, JAM, 15
5. Brendan Cole, AUS, 13
Due to a set of misplaced hurdles in Carson (doh!) the results of the race will not count for ranking purposes (although the times can). This puts Javier Culson atop the rankings. He won in Puerto Rico over the weekend and beat Clement earlier this year.

WOMEN
100 hurdles

1. LoLo Jones, USA, 28
2. Priscilla Lopes-Schliep, CAN, 24
3. Sally McLellan, AUS, 20
4. Danielle Carruthers, USA, 16
5. Damu Cherry, USA, 12
5. Dawn Harper, USA, 12
7. Lacena Golding-Clarke, JAM, 10
8. Perdita Felicien, CAN, 9
8. Yvette Lewis, USA, 9
10. Andrea Bliss, JAM, 8
Carruthers and Harper both won their weekend races; Golding-Clarke and Felicien both took seconds.

400 hurdles
1. Lashinda Demus, USA, 16
2. Tiffany Ross-Williams, USA, 15
3. Sheena Tosta , USA, 13
4. Dominique Darden, USA, 12
5. Miriam Barnes, USA, 7
No change from last week.

Six at Eleven

Really jumping the gun today.

RW Daily News has all the headlines, including a proposal to eliminate NCAA track regionals.

Asafa Powell say's he'll run in next week's Reebok Grand Prix, despite rumors to the contrary.

Top Jamaican sprint coach Stephen Francis says if a youngster from the island gets a US scholarship offer, s/he should take it.

Scott Bush says track needs a youth movement.

Run the Roads interviews Rebecca Donaghue.

Threadspotting: 220 straightaway races

Thursday, May 21, 2009

What's On the Weekend

Professional

The Grande Premio Brasil Caixa de Atletismo, an IAAF Grand Prix meet, will take place in Belém, Brazil, on Sunday.
Meet website (in Portugese) / IAAF page
IAAF preview
3 News New Zealand / Agency Para de Noticias

The 2nd Meeting International Mohammed VI, an IAAF Permit meet, will take place in Rabat, Morocco on Saturday.
Meet website (in French) / IAAF page
IAAF preview

There will be an IAAF Permit meet in Suzhou, China on Saturday as part of the Asian AA Grand Prix tour.
IAAF page / IAAF preview

The Ottawa Marathon and Nordion 10k, both IAAF Silver Label road races, will be held in the Canadian capital on Sunday.
Race website / IAAF Preview
Ottawa Citizen

The Bolder Boulder 10k will be run on its traditional Memorial Day date.
Race website
Let’s Run / Daily Camera

The BUPA London 10,000 road race will also take place on Monday.
Race website / IAAF preview
Press association / Athletics Weekly

A revamped Los Angeles marathon will be run in the City of Angels on Monday. The race will be covered live on LA’s NBC affiliate (channel 4) as well as at NBCLA.com and Universal Sports.com.
Race website / Webcast link
PR newswire / Universal Sports

The 8th European Cup of Race Walking will take place in Metz, France, on Saturday.
Race website / EAA preview /IAAF preview

The Comrades Marathon, the most popular ultra in the world, will be run from Pietermaritzburg to Durban, South Africa, on Sunday.
Race website
All-Africa.com / SouthAfrica.info / The Witness / Sowetan

College

The NCAA Division II championships are in San Angelo, TX on the campus of Angelo State University.
Meet website / Live blog

The NCAA Division III championships are in Marietta, OH on the campus of Marietta College.
Meet website / Denver Post

The NAIA championships are in Edwardsville, IL on the campus of Southern Illinois University.
Meet website

TV

The Big Ten Championships will be broadcast (in HD!) on the Big Ten Network from 5 to 8 p.m. on Sunday and midnight to 3 a.m. Monday.

The Big 12 Championships will be broadcast on Fox College Sports Central from 10:30 to 12:30 p.m. Friday, 6 to 8 a.m. Saturday, 5 to 6:30 p.m. Sunday, and 6 to 8 a.m. Monday. Many local Fox Sports Net affiliates will also carry the meet; check your local listings.

The Pac-10 Championships will be broadcast on Fox College Sports Pacific from 3 to 5 p.m. and 8 to 10 p.m. Friday and 5 to 7 p.m. Saturday. Many local Fox Sports Net affiliates will also carry the meet; check your local listings.

The SEC Championships will be broadcast on Fox College Sports Pacific from 3 to 5 a.m. Sunday. Many local Fox Sports Net affiliates will also carry the meet; check your local listings.

The Los Angeles Marathon will be carried live at UniversalSports.com on Monday at 10 a.m. Eastern time.

Bud Greenspan's Athens 2004: Stories of Olympic Glory will be shown on Showtime Extreme from 6:05 to 7:45 a.m. and 6:05 to 7:45 p.m. Sunday

Sydney 2000 Olympics: Bud Greenspan's Gold From Down Under will be shown on Showtime Family Zone from 7:15 to 9:15 a.m. and 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. Sunday.

World Rankings Update -- Long Distances

MEN
Steeplechase
1. Paul Kipsiele Koech, KEN, 132
2. Ezekiel Kemboi, KEN, 96
3. Brimin Kipruto, KEN, 60
4. Tarek Mubarek Taher, BRN, 52
5. Elija Celimo Kiptegere, KEN, 48
6. Mike Kipyego, KEN, 38
7. Benjamin Kiplagat, KEN, 24
7. Roba Gary, ETH, 24
9. Ruben Ramolefi, RSA, 20
10. Collins Kosgei, KEN, 14

3k-5k
1. Abreham Cherkos, ETH, 154
2. Paul Kipsiele Koech, KEN, 153
3. Mo Farah, GBR, 132
4. Shedrack Kibet Korir, KEN, 126
5. Daniel Kipchirchir Komen, KEN, 115
6. Bouabdellah Tahri, FRA, 94
7. Eliud Kipchoge, KEN, 92
8. Thomas Pkemei Longosiwa, KEN, 92
9. Bernard Lagat, USA, 89
10. Augustine Kiprono Choge, KEN, 84

5k-10k
1. Sammy Kitawara , KEN, 120
2. Gebre Gebremariam, ETH, 114
3. Abreham Cherkos, KEN, 110
4. Moses Kipsoro, KEN, 107
5. Wilson Kipsang, KEN, 102
6. Paul Kipsiele Koech, KEN, 100
7. Eliud Kipchoge, KEN, 85
8. Bekana Daba, ETH, 82
9. Mark Kosgey Kiptoo, KEN, 74
9. Sam Chelanga, Liberty, 74

WOMEN
Steeplechase

1. Lindsey Anderson, USA, 80
2. Ruth Bisibori Nyangau, KEN, 74
3. Zemzem Ahmed, ETH, 62
4. Anna Willard, USA, 50
4. Sofia Assefa, ETH, 50
6. Nicole Bush, Mich St, 46
7. Lindsay Allen, USA, 44
8. Habiba Ghribi, TUN, 42
9. Mekdes Bekele, ETH, 36
10. Ancuta Bobcel, ROU, 30
Anderson is at the top because she’s run more top-level races (three) than anyone else.

3k-5k
1. Meseret Defar, ETH, 222
2. Vivian Cheruiyot, KEN, 146
3. Anna Alminova, RUS, 132
4. Jennifer Barringer, Colorado, 76
5. Kara Goucher, USA, 64
6. Mary Teresa Cullen, IRL, 60
7. Aheza Kiros, ETH, 56
8. Jessica Augusto, POR, 55
9. Nuria Fernández, ESP, 50
10. Sara Moreira, POR, 46
Kiros’ win at the Adidas Classic moves her into the top ten.

5k-10k
1. Vivian Cheruiyot, KEN, 152
2. Meseret Defar, ETH, 134
3. Florence Kiplagat , KEN, 126
4. Linet Masai, KEN, 99
5. Shalane Flanagan, USA, 79
6. Mestawet Tufa, ETH, 75
7. Hilda Kibet, NED, 66
8. Jessica Augusto, POR, 65
9. Jennifer Barringer, Colorado, 64
10. Linet Chepkurui, KEN, 63

Six at Eleven

I jumped the gun a bit.

RW Daily News has all the headlines.

Big triple jumps at the IAAF Permit Meet in Uberlandia, Brazil.

Blogger Alan Abrahamson writes an open letter to Doug Logan.

The LA Marathon moves in a new direction.

SPIKES mag looks at some other track & field events that have moved to the street.

Threadspotting: LA Coliseum for sale?

New Chief of Performance

News out of Indy this morning: USATF has named 1984 Olympic 100-meter hurdles champ Benita Fitzgerald Mosley as its new Chief of Sport Performance.

Fitzgerald Mosley...helped put together a blisteringly critical report of the U.S. track and field team's performance after the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing as a member of an independent panel that included famed sprinter Carl Lewis.

Among more than a dozen recommendations in the report, which blamed the U.S. team's debacle-filled Olympic performance on disorganized coaching and a lack of professionalism by athletes, was the appointment of a general manager of sports performance to take charge of an area the report deemed to be in "chaos."

Fitzgerald Mosley was considered an ideal choice for the post because, despite her close connection to track and field, she had remained apart from USATF politics and policies since she retired as an athlete in 1988, giving her a desirable distance and independence, according to one of the sources. She also was considered among the most clear-thinking, incisive and diplomatic members of the nine-person panel that authored the report, the source said.

Garry Hill on her selection:
By all accounts BFM has been delightfully competent everywhere she has served. And the sport serves itself well by being on the cutting edge of minority hiring.

I just wish it hadn't been such a predictable choice. Meaning her heavy USOC connection. The Colorado Springs gang's presence is now certainly very heavy in Indy.

What connection?
Fitzgerald Mosley was president of the Women's Sports Foundation Board of Trustees in 1997-98, and remains a member of the board. She also has overseen the direction of the U.S. Olympic Committee's training centers, considered a valuable trait as the USATF seeks to improve its training opportunities for athletes.

More to come.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Anti-Doping News

From the front page of Track & Field News comes this breaking story...
Another positive doping in athletics. Now was the Spanish Onyia

Josephine Onyia the Spanish athlete tested positive for clenbuterol, an anabolic substance for the purpose, after a mark of 12.54 in winning the 100 meters hurdles of proof on September 13 last, the World Athletics Final in Stuttgart.

The case is in the hands of the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), which appealed the International Athletics Federation (IAAF) disagreed with the decision to acquit adopted by the Spanish Federation in view of the important questions surrounding the case.

Hey, Google translator can be a bit funny at times.

What are those important questions?
This is a veterinary product for the fattening of cattle...

Sources close to the investigation believe that doubts arise for two reasons: first, because the amount of clenbuterol appeared minimal, and secondly, because two days before and two days later went Onyia controls with negative results.

Supporters claim that his defense may be a case of ingestion of contaminated meat.
Onyia is not a superstar, but has run quite well on occasion. This one may be thorny; the article says that levels of clenbuterol as low as Onyia's are generally not reported and are not required to be, but in this case it was.

Pre Classic Middle Distance Fields Announced

How fortuitous. And lucky too.

Today I posted my current rankings for men's and women's middle distances. Today the fields for those same events at the Prefontaine Classic were announced.

So here they are, as currently ranked in my system...

800 METERS (MEN)
2. Ahmad Ismail (Sudan)
3. Yuriy Borzakovskiy (Russia)
8. Boaz Lalang (Kenya)
15. Khadevis Robinson
27. Nick Symmonds
30. Christian Smith
24, 1500m Alfred Yego (Kenya)
**Gary Reed (Canada)
**Amine Laalou (Morocco)
So far as I know, the last three will make their seasonal debut at 800 in Eugene. Reed split a respectable 1:45.73 at the Penn Relays.

800 METERS (WOMEN)
11. Hazel Clark
20. Kenia Sinclair (Jamaica)
24. Alice Schmidt
34. Jemma Simpson (Great Britain)
**Pamela Jelimo (Kenya)
**Janet Jepkosgei (Kenya)
**Alysia Johnson
**Tatyana Andrianova (Russia)
The two Kenyans have not yet started their season, but are pretty much everyone's favorites to be the world's best.

1500 METERS (WOMEN)
1. Anna Alminova (Russia)
4. Jenny Barringer
5. Nuria Fernandez (Spain)
7. Gelete Burka (Ethiopia)
14. Anna Willard
28. Shayne Culpepper
48. Meskerem Assefa (Ethiopia)
55. Nancy Lagat (Kenya)
6, 5k-10k Shalane Flanagan
13, 800m Treniere Clement
21, 3k-5k Shannon Rowbury
34, 800m Christin Wurth-Thomas
**Erin Donohue
Very, very deep. The best women's 1500 race yet this year.

BOWERMAN MILE (MEN)
1. Haron Keitany (Kenya)
6. Belal Mansoor (Bahrain)
19. Shedrack Korir (Kenya)
27. Alan Webb
45. Peter van der Westhuisen (S Africa)
47. Nate Brannen (Canada)
58. Josephat Kithii (Kenya)
58. Juan van Deventer (South Africa)
62. Lopez Lomong
7, 800m Asbel Kiprop (Kenya)
**Leonel Manzano
**Nicholas Kemboi (Kenya)
**Evan Jager
**Henok Legesse (Ethiopia)

Two things to consider: my World Rankings only take into account what has already happened, so early-season rankings should be taken with a grain of salt. For the most part, these reflect the indoor season, which was long enough ago to not have a huge amount of predictive power. Also, the rankings have less meaning the further down the list you go.

But no matter how you look at it, the Prefontaine Classic deserves its inclusion in the new Diamon League.

What's On Tomorrow

The Pac-10 Championships will be on Fox College Sports Pacific from noon to 2 p.m. and 8 to 10 p.m. (Eastern time). Many Fox Sports Net affiliates will also broadcast the meet; check local listings for time and channel.

The Big XII Championships will likewise be on many Fox Sports Net affiliates; again, check your local listings for time and channel.

The Doha Super Grand Prix will be rerun on Universal Sports from 5 to 8 p.m.

World Rankings Update -- Middle Distance

MEN
800 meters
1. Abubaker Kaki, SUD, 100
2. Ismail Ahmed Ismail, SUD, 80
3. Yuriy Borzakovskiy, RUS, 61
4. Wilfred Bungei, KEN, 56
5. Haron Keitany, KEN, 54
6. Mehdi Baala, FRA, 47
7. Asbel Kipruto Kiprop, KEN, 40
7. Boaz Kiplagat Lalang, KEN, 40
9. Belal Mansoor Ali, BRN, 34
10. Abraham Chepkirwok, UGA, 33
No one in the top ten raced last week.

1500 meters / Mile
1. Haron Keitany, KEN, 142
2. Augustine Choge, KEN, 116
3. Bernard Lagat, USA, 106
4. Mehdi Baala, FRA, 83
5. Deresse Mekonen, ETH, 74
6. Belal Mansoor Ali, BRN, 63
6. Daniel Kipchirchir Komen, KEN, 63
8. Bouabdellah Tahri, FRA, 55
8. Mo Farah, GBR, 55
10. Mekonnen Gebremedhin, ETH, 54
Only Lagat raced last week; at the Adidas Classic, he confirmed his status as the best miler in the western hemisphere.

WOMEN
800 meters
1. Mariya Savinova, RUS, 98
2. Oksana Zbrozhek, RUS, 90
3. Elisa Cusma Piccione, ITA, 56
4. Anna Alminova, RUS, 54
5. Tetiana Petlyuk, UKR, 42
6. Jennifer Meadows, GBR, 37
7. Marilyn Okoro, GBR, 32
8. Irina Maracheva, RUS, 30
9. Sylwia Ejdys, POL, 17
10. Katie Waits, USA, 12
The only change from last week is Katie Waits, who moved into the tenth spot.

1500 meters
1. Anna Alminova, RUS, 139
2. Vivian Cheruiyot, KEN, 71
3. Oksana Zbrozhek, RUS, 57
4. Jenny Barringer, USA, 42
5. Nuria Fernández, ESP, 39
6. Kara Goucher, USA, 38
7. Gelete Burka, ETH, 30
8. Maryam Yusuf Jamal, BRN, 29
8. Sally Kipyego, KEN, 29
10. Sylwia Ejdys, POL, 24
No changes since last week.

Six at Eleven

RW Daily News has the headlines, including the LA Marathon’s $100,000 men-versus-women challenge.

The Science of Sport guys break down Bolt’s “world record” 150 meter race.

CBS News reviews the new Born To Run book.

The Dallas News looks at Jeremy Wariner reuniting with Clyde Hart.

Javelin superstar Barbora Spotakova released her biography, titled Bara.

Threadspotting: High school star Marquise Goodwin to double up on the gridiron and track at Texas

20 Years Ago Today


1989 Northwest Ohio District Champions.

Hint: I'm the white kid.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

What's On Tomorrow

The Grande Prêmio Caixa/SESI de Atletismo, an IAAF Permit meet, will take place tomorrow in Uberlândia, Brazil.
Meet website (in Portugese) / IAAF page
IAAF preview

The Adidas Track Classic will be rerun on ESPNU from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m.

Six at Eleven

RW Daily News has all the headlines.

Let’s Run looks back at the week, mostly on collegiate conference championship meets.

Steve Cram asks if the Manchester Street 150 is the future of track, or just a circus event.

Scott Bush thinks maybe US distance runners need to race more.

A new book adds to the Jack Lovelock enigma.

Threadspotting: Ohio State track is not making the most of considerable in-state talent.

World Rankings Update -- Sprints

There was a lot of action over the weekend, so let’s see how things have changed since last Tuesday. Note that any times I refer to are after correcting for the effects of wind and altitude.

MEN
100 meters
1. Daniel Bailey, ANT, 73
2. Michael Rodgers, USA, 58
3. Dwain Chambers, GBR, 52
4. Darvis Patton, USA, 50
5. Trindon Holliday, LSU, 47
6. Usain Bolt, JAM, 41
7. Travis Padgett, USA, 40
8. Mark Jelks, USA, 34
9. Steve Mullings, JAM, 31
10. Richard Thompson, TRI, 30
The biggest move up the rankings were made by Mike Rodgers, who ran 10.08 to win in Rio on Sunday, and Trindon Holliday, who won a deep SEC championship in 10.01. Usain Bolt makes his debut in the top ten after Sunday’s impressive 150 meter exhibition race. Doc Patton beat top-ranked Bailey in Carson on Saturday night, but not by enough to make a big dent in his points lead.

200 meters
1, LaShawn Merritt, USA, 45
2. Brendan Christian, ANT, 36
3. Darvis Patton, USA, 34
4. Michael Rodgers, USA, 32
5. Ivory Williams, USA, 27
6. Steve Mullings, JAM, 22
7. Rodney Martin, USA, 17
8. Mark Jelks, USA, 14
8. Xavier Carter, USA, 14
Merritt was impressive in Carson on Saturday, posting the year’s best time with a 20.04, and moves into the top ranking. Brendan Christian takes over #2 after a win in Puerto Rico on Saturday.

400 meters
1. Jeremy Wariner, USA, 49
2. LaShawn Merritt, USA, 44
3. Sean Wroe, AUS, 26
4. Andrae Williams, BAH, 23
4. Gil Roberts, Tex Tech, 23
6. Renny Quow, TRI, 16
7. Greg Nixon, USA, 14
8. Ato Stephens, TRI, 11
8. Michael Bingham, USA, 11
10. Chris Brown, BAH, 10
Wariner’s 44.66 win in Carson on Saturday puts him atop the rankings...for now. He and Merritt have not met head-to-head and it will be a war every time they do. Andrae Williams has quietly put together a nice month of May with 45.04, 45.21, and 45.07. Roberts of Texas Tech ran 44.86 at the Big 12 championships.

WOMEN
100 meters

1. Carmelita Jeter, USA, 61
2. Kerron Stewart, JAM, 49
3. Sally McLellan, AUS, 23
4. Porscha Lucas, Tex A&M, 20
5. Stephanie Durst, USA, 17
5. Murielle Ahoure, Miami (FL), 17
7. Bianca Knight, USA, 10
7. Brianna Glenn, USA, 10
7. LaVerne Jones-Ferrette, ISV, 10
7. Vida Anim, GHA, 10
Jeter had another fine run, 11.03, to win the Adidas Classic in Carson on Saturday night.

200 meters
1. Carmelita Jeter, USA, 36
2. Kerron Stewart, JAM, 33
3. Porscha Lucas, USA, 20
4. Allyson Felix, USA, 18
5. Murielle Ahoure, USA, 17
6. Bianca Knight, USA, 16
6. Brianna Glenn, USA, 16
6. Shericka Williams, JAM, 16
9. Laverne Jones Ferrette, ISV, 12
10. Melissa Breen, AUS, 10
Allyson Felix made her seasonal debut in this event in Carson, with a world-leading 22.48.

400 meters
1. Antonina Krivoshapka, RUS, 34
2. Allyson Felix, USA, 22
3. Tamsyn Lewis, AUS, 21
4. Amantle Montsho, BOT, 13
5. Novlene Williams-Mills, JAM, 10
6. Aliann Pompey, GUY, 9
6. Monica Hargrove, USA, 9
8. Shareefa Lloyd, USA, 8
9. Latosha Wallace , USA, 7
9. Natasha Hastings, USA, 7

Monday, May 18, 2009

Anti-Doping News

From the AP: Event canceled after competitors flee
BRUSSELS -- The Belgian bodybuilding championship has been canceled after doping officials showed up and all the competitors fled.

A doping official says bodybuilders just grabbed their gear and ran off when he came into the room.

"I have never seen anything like it and hope never to see anything like it again," doping official Hans Cooman said Monday.

Twenty bodybuilders were entered in the weekend competition.

Cooman says the sport has a history of doping "and this incident didn't do its reputation any good."

During testing of bodybuilding events last year, doping authorities of northern Belgium's Flanders region found that three-quarters of the competitors tested positive.

Bolt Street Race

We had three pro track meets over the weekend, dozens of collegiate conference championships, and several top-end road races. And none of them are as big of news as Usain Bolt’s crushing victory in a totally unofficial 150-meter street race.

For the record, the results:
Men
100m wind: 0.1; 150m wind: 1.1
1, Usain Bolt JAM 14.35 (50m: 5.65 / 100m: 9.91 / 'flying' last 100m: 8.70) World Best
2, Marlon Devonish GBR 15.07 (5.77 / 10.27 / 9.30)
3, Ivory Williams USA 15.08 (5.79 / 10.26 / 9.29)
4, Rikki Fifton GBR 15.13 (5.78 / 10.28 / 9.35)

Yes, they had two wind gauges. They did this right.

Now, what the heck is 14.35 “worth” for 100 or 200 meters?

There’s a nifty online calculator that interpolates the IAAF scoring tables for any nonstandard distance, such as 150 meters. It says 14.35 for 150 meters is worth:

9.41 - 100m
19.05 - 200m

which we all recognize as bullshit the moment we see it. Bolt was running very well, but it wasn’t the single greatest achievement in sprinting history. But why doesn’t this work? The IAAF scoring tables only include the 200 meters around a turn, and this was 150 on the straight. So the math is fairly screwed up.

Still, if you look only at the first 100 meters, Bolt’s time is the best of the year by .09 seconds. When you factor in wind and altitude (which adds a great deal of meaning), he’s still .02 ahead of Walter Dix. I’d have to guess that if it was just 100 meters, he would have been somewhere in the 9.8x range, maybe 9.7x. Which is awfully darn fast for something that’s basically just a circus event.

Six at Eleven

RW Daily News has all the weekend headlines from the track and roads.

President Obama calls on Larry Rawson to resign, cits ban on torture.

Coaching changes: Dathan Ritzenhein splits from Brad Hudson, Jeremy Wariner regroups with Clyde Hart.

Joe Battaglia identifies the winners and losers at Saturday’s Adidas Track Classic.

An IOC insider says the 2016 games are Chicago’s to lose...off the record, of course.

Threadspotting: Larry Rawson has to go.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Adidas Track Classic

My thoughts on the Adidas Track Classic and its telecast...

Los Angeles has proven multiple times that it cannot support an NFL team or a major marathon. I think it's time to conclude the same is true of a professional track and field meet.

The meet seemed to be a comedy of errors. Not a single sprint or hurdle race could get off without a false start. The 8th hurdle in the men's 400 race was misplaced. Larry Rawson was even more atrocious than usual, mistaking Nate Brannen for Chris Lukezic (you know, all those white people look alike). The pole vault runup was in too poor of shape to allow Jen Stuczynski any real chance at a PR/AR.

Nobody on the other side of the TV screen from us seems to know or care what viewers want to see. While they did do a decent job of using field events to fill up down time between running events, two of those field events (men's discus and women's triple jump) were totally ignored, and the other two were shot using amateurish camera angles. The women's 800 was run before the broadcast started, and could easily have filled three minutes of air time, but of course they didn't use it at all. It's like they finish every meet saying "Thank God that's over" instead of "What could we do better?"

In the men's 100, I said it was a toss-up between Patton and Bailey. They were first and second. Of course, I picked the wrong one.

In the men's 200, I thought Spearmon might pose a challenge for Merritt, but Spearmon dropped out and Merritt flattened the field. At this point I don't think Jeremy Wariner has any realistic chance of beating Merritt without going back to Clyde Hart -- and apparently he doesn't either.

In the men's 400, 1500, 5k, 110 hurdles, 400 hurdles and long jump I picked the right winners, and anyone in the VISA Pick & Win game who didn't just isn't paying attention.

In the women's 400 meters, I picked against the grain, going with Novlene Williams over favorite Natasha Hastings. Wrong choice.

In the women's 800, I picked Kenia Sinclair, and then she dropped out in favor of the 1500. In her absence I went with USATF indoor champ Katie Waits and got burned (she was fourth). In the 1500, my instinct was to pick Sinclair, but I thought "no, she's not a miler" and took Mestawot Tadesse instead. Dumb. Sinclair won it.

In the women's 5000, I didn't really think Shalane Flanagan was going to win, but I thought she'd be dependable for second at worst. And boy, was I wrong. She had a horrible day. Lesson learned: in a US invitational race of 3k or longer, never pick against the Ethiopian. If they show up at the start line they're always ready to run.

In the women's 100 hurdles, I had picked Priscilla Lopes-Schliep but she dropped out. After that I wasn't sure who to take. I went with Vonette Dixon...bad, bad idea.

In the men's discus and women's triple jump, I correctly identified the duels that occurred but picked the wrong one to win. In the women's 100, 200, pole vault and steeplechase I picked the obvious winners.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Great Minds Think Alike

Almost daily, I update my own World Rankings in this space. Sometimes it seems like I'm only doing it for myself.

Now the New York Times tells us Jack Kerouac did the same, but on a far grander scale.
Almost all his life Jack Kerouac had a hobby that even close friends and fellow Beats like Allen Ginsberg and William S. Burroughs never knew about. He obsessively played a fantasy baseball game of his own invention, charting the exploits of made-up players like Wino Love, Warby Pepper, Heinie Twiett, Phegus Cody and Zagg Parker, who toiled on imaginary teams named either for cars (the Pittsburgh Plymouths and New York Chevvies, for example) or for colors (the Boston Grays and Cincinnati Blacks).

He collected their stats, analyzed their performances and, as a teenager, when he played most ardently, wrote about them in homemade newsletters and broadsides. He even covered financial news and imaginary contract disputes. During those same teenage years, he also ran a fantasy horse-racing circuit, complete with illustrated tout sheets and racing reports. He created imaginary owners, imaginary jockeys, imaginary track conditions.

Best Birthday Ever

This week I got to work at our City Championships on Tuesday (junior high), Wednesday and Friday (high school). I always do announcing, which is the absolute best job to have at a track meet. I can't believe they pay me to do this.

The high school meet's team battles were not close, but the individual event competitions at times were fantastic. We had six meet records broken, two of which dated from the 1970s. Cody Riffle (Toledo St. John's Jesuit) took out those old marks with 61' 3 1/2" in the shot and 170' 6" in the discus.

Moise Frisch (Toledo Whitmer), a Haitian adopted by a locally famous-for-15-minutes family, won a pair of tough distance battles with Kevin Yarnell (Toledo St. John's). In the 1600, the two battled hammer-and-tongs for nearly the entire last lap before Frisch pulled away to win by just under a second in 4:15.35. Their rematch in the 800 saw Yarnell take it out in 56.5 while Frisch patiently waited and ran him down in the last 200, winning 1:54.68 to 1:55.16. Frisch has not signed a letter of intent -- Kentucky is interested but has made no offer yet -- and whoever does get him is going to steal a stud. Mark my words, you will see him scoring at the NCAA within three years.

Neither of these was the real highlight, though. Superstar Erik Kynard (Toledo Rogers) started off with a 110 hurdle win, then went over to the high jump and made only three attempts: 6'10", 7' 1", and 7' 3 1/2", all easy clearances. Long-time high jump official Don Standish, not one for hyperbole, swears Kynard made the last one by four inches. From where I was, I could definitely see good daylight between Kynard and the bar. He then quit to go and win the 300 hurdles.

And to top it off, my sister-in-law got me a case of Little Kings, and on Sunday I'll go watch the Big Ten Championships in Columbus.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Six at Eleven

RW Daily News has the headlines: weekend previews, the USA World Championships men’s marathon team, and more.

A blogger asks What happened to [Illinois] track & field?

Kenya released its World Championships marathon teams.

Scot Bush discusses rebuilding track & field communities.

Renaldo and ManU got a visit from Usain Bolt.

Threadspotting: What is the strangest track you know of?

David versus Goliath

Recently, Malcolm Galdwell (of The Tipping Point, Blink, and Outliers fame) wrote a piece for the New Yorker on David vs. Goliath situations and how unconventional strategies are crucial to increasing an underdog’s chances of success.

The part that has gotten the most ink...er, electrons, in the sports blogosphere is an insistence that the full-court press can even the odds in an unbalanced basketball matchup. In a follow-up back and forth with ESPN’s Bill Simmons, he states
After my piece ran in The New Yorker, one of the most common responses I got was people saying, well, the reason more people don't use the press is that it can be beaten with a well-coached team and a good point guard. That is (A) absolutely true and (B) beside the point. The press doesn't guarantee victory. It simply represents the underdog's best chance of victory. It raises their odds from zero to maybe 50-50. I think, in fact, that you can argue that a pressing team is always going to have real difficulty against a truly elite team. But so what? Everyone, regardless of how they play, is going to have real difficulty against truly elite teams. It's not a strategy for being the best. It's a strategy for being better. I never thought Louisville -- or, for that matter, Missouri -- had a realistic shot at winning it all in the NCAAs this year. But if neither of those teams pressed, they wouldn't have been there in the first place.
So the gist of what he’s saying is that when you know you’re going to lose under normal strategies, there’s no harm in trying something wildly different. The worst that can happen is what’s nearly certain to happen anyway. I think he’s sticking to the press because of a singular lack of other examples in basketball.

Back when I was in high school, we had one. The second-best team in our league, Macomber, was without their center for an extended period of time due to mono, and were simply undermanned when they went up against the top team, St. Francis—who happened to be ranked #1 in Ohio going into the game. Macomber had a potent weapon, a freshman you may have heard of named Jimmy Jackson (a long-time NBA vet and current Big Ten Network analyst) but he wasn’t going to be enough by himself.

So they tried something different. Macomber held the ball. The final score was 13 to 11 in favor of Macomber, who then advanced to and won the league championship game. Oh, people were pissed. They said it was unsportsmanlike. But it was completely within the rules and used the one favorable imbalance—point guard—to neutralize the other eleven unfavorable ones.

So how does this apply to track & field? In general, strategy doesn’t play much of a role. The better athlete on the day of competition nearly always wins, and strategy mostly plays a role in that you don’t want to screw it up. (See Richards, Sanya).

There are examples of innovation in track & field, Dick Fosbury being the most famous example. In the shot put, there was the O’Brien shift and the Oldfield spin, and in the pole vault and javelin there were various innovations in materials and technology. But all of these represent serendipitous discovery of the best way to do things which were soon copied by everyone, not truly unconventional strategies that neutralize wide variances in ability.

On a more ordinary level, unconventional strategies can play a role. The standard setup for a high school team is to have the fastest kids running the sprints, the next fastest in the hurdles and 400, the next group in the middle distance, and the slowest in the long distances. And the only way you can win your league this way is to have superior levels of talent up and down the line. Furthermore, you’ll never discover the next Renaldo Nehemiah or Bernard Lagat that way.

Of course, a good coach will understand where an athlete’s true talents lie and direct them to whatever event that is. And if your team happens to be completely devoid of any real speed, you may end up completely abandoning the sprint relays in favor of the 800 and 300 hurdles and so forth—events that, around here at least, tend not to be terribly deep because they’re unglamorous and take some talent but also take a lot of hard work and guts. And that’s one of the things Gladwell touches on in his article: if your talent is inferior, not only must your strategy take this into account, but you must also work harder than your opponents. Much harder.

There is one famous example of a successful unconventional strategy in the annals of Olympic track & field, one that uses all of the elements Gladwell talks about.

In 1966 and 1967, Jim Ryun dominated the 1500 meters and mile in a way that has never been surpassed, before or since. He was the ultimate Goliath. There were issues he took into the 1968 Olympics, leg injuries and mono, but he had recovered from them and was still Jim F***ing Ryun.

Despite the Olympics being held at more than 7300 feet of altitude, and Kip Keino having lived his whole life in similarly thin air, he still thought he needed an unconventional strategy to win. Teammate Ben Jipcho took the pace out hard for the first lap while Keino and Ryun hung back. On the second lap, Keino surged to the front while Ryun continued to hang back. On the third lap Keino went for broke, and put so much distance on Ryun that the race was essentially over.

While I think the race was Ryun’s to win, Keino did make him face a moment of truth about 800 or 900 meters into it where he hesitated and lost. Keino’s strategy was unconventional, and made the most of his strength (endurance at altitude) and the least of his weakness (lack of finishing speed). He was willing to suffer the agonies of the damned and take an all-or-nothing risk while Ryun did not, who as the heavy favorite was expected to see anything but gold as failure.

But also, Keino did something that the establishment questioned in terms of its sportsmanship. Gladwell:
This is the second half of the insurgent’s creed. Insurgents work harder than Goliath. But their other advantage is that they will do what is “socially horrifying”—they will challenge the conventions about how battles are supposed to be fought. All the things that distinguish the ideal basketball player are acts of skill and coördination. When the game becomes about effort over ability, it becomes unrecognizable—a shocking mixture of broken plays and flailing limbs and usually competent players panicking and throwing the ball out of bounds. You have to be outside the establishment—a foreigner new to the game or a skinny kid from New York at the end of the bench—to have the audacity to play it that way.
The Kenyan’s teamwork was considered by some to be outside the bounds of fair play. Jipcho himself thought so within a few years. But such collusion is totally and completely within the rules, and the Keino still had to run faster than Ryun in order to win the race. But he managed to do it on his terms instead of Ryun’s terms.

And that’s the whole idea that Gladwell is getting at: if you’re supposed to lose, at least put yourself in charge of the situation.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

SI Looks At Supplements

If you're like me -- know nothing about "nutritional supplements" beyond multivitamins and fish-oil capsules -- this Sports Illustrated article titled What You Don't Know May Kill You is fascinating and frightening.

This sidebar item is not something NBC wants you to know:
David Jenkins won an Olympic silver medal in 1972 as part of the British 400-meter relay team. Fifteen years later he pleaded guilty to his role in a major smuggling operation that brought approximately $70 million worth of steroids across the border from Mexico into the U.S. While awaiting sentencing he started selling protein powders from home. Jenkins was sentenced to seven years in prison but got out in six months and in 1993 founded Next Nutrition, based in Carlsbad, Calif. One of the company's most popular products was Ultimate Orange, the supplement containing ephedra that two teammates of Northwestern football player Rashidi Wheeler said he took about an hour before he collapsed on a practice field and died in August 2001. Today the company, renamed Next Proteins, makes Designer Whey, the official protein supplement of NBC's weight-loss reality show, The Biggest Loser. Jenkins is Next Protein's president and CEO.
Biggest Loser trainer Jillian Michaels has called this stuff "garbage" on her weekly radio show (she didn't call it out by name since her employment might be jeopardized by doing so).

I had no interest in nutritional supplements before I read the article, but now I wouldn't touch them with a 10-foot pole.