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Sunday, February 28, 2010

Sunday Evening Decathlete

What did we learn this week?

We should pray that ESPN wins the rights to the next Olympic cycle. Key quote in a NY Times article exploring the coming bidding war:
“I don’t think nonlive is sports fan-friendly,” said John Skipper, ESPN’s executive vice president for content.

The fundamental difference in philosophy pits NBC, an old-line broadcaster with cable and online properties, against ESPN, a cable empire that is heavily steeped in digital technology but has never carried the Olympics.

“It’s hard for me to imagine, in our culture, not showing events live,” Skipper said.
In short, ESPN would likely cover the Olympics like a sports event, whereas NBC has covered it like reality TV. Also, given ESPN's penchant for self-promotion, they'd start covering track more seriously.

Kenyan middle-distance guys have serious speed. Buried in the results of the Sydney Track Classic was a notable third place in the men's 400 meters.
David Rudisha, KEN, 45.50
Nice time. He handily beat David Neville. Now, both of them are in early-season training and not particularly sharp. But Neville is 400 specialist, and Rudisha runs the 800. Neville is an Olympic bronze medalist; Rudisha is the African record holder. Lesson: if you want to run 1:42.01, you'd better be able beat a guy with a 44.61 PR.

Usain Bolt is unbelievable. He ran a few legs for his club team at the Gibson Relays, twice on the 4x100 and once on the 4x400. In the latter he got the stick some 20m behind the lead and proceeded to run 43.58 and came up just short of the victory.

A number of items need to be taken into account. A running start gives him an advantage of about 0.75 seconds as compared to an open 400. It only puts him #11 on the all-time relay split list, behind people like Denis Alekseyev (who?). But it was his third race of the day on a rather ordinary running surface. And it's February. A monster.

Bettman, are you paying attention? The players called this Olympics the greatest hockey tournament of all time, and it just had the most exciting of all imaginable outcomes, an overtime rematch of the two nations who host the NHL. The pros just got two weeks of the kind of publicity you can't buy. The league is not certain it will continue to participate in Olympic hockey; I hope they understand that they need the excitement and exposure it generates.

Elevation didn't matter. Distance runners raised a stink about the mile-high elevation at the USATF indoor championships and how it would give sprinters and hurdlers an unfair advantage in the VISA Championship Series points standings. Turned out the winners were throwers, Amber Campbell in the women's weight and Christian Cantwell in the men's shot. The coach bitching the most? John Cook, whose once-leading athlete Shannon Rowbury didn't even win either of the races she entered.

Conference meets kick ass. Big XII: five points separated the top three men's teams. Conference USA: women's title came down to the 4x400. SEC: Arkansas' men clinched the win in the second-to-last event. Other minor conferences had similar tight battles. Letting people know about this kind of exciting action is where college track is really missing out.

Debbie Dunn is ascending quick. The most notable upset of the meet at the USATF indoors was Debbie Dunn's 400 win. The time was very good, although the altitude was a big help. The surprise came in her beating Allyson Felix. "Beating Allyson Felix" is a phrase generally reserved for a select few; the club just got a new inductee.

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