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Monday, September 06, 2010

Sunday Evening Decathlete: Special Monday Edition

It's a holiday weekend  You wouldn't have read this until Tuesday anyway.

What did we learn this week?

USA men's 4x100 relays in the forseeable future will have Wallace Spearmon on the second leg and Tyson Gay on the third.  That's the way it was for the USA team in Zurich, and that's how they ran on the Americas team at the Continental Cup, and both times it worked out well.  That it was done twice in a row cannot be coincidence.  In an excellent piece on how national teams should put together 4x100 relay teams, Conway Hill laid out the skills necessary for each leg and how they differ from the individual 100 meter event.  Second and third legs need not be great starters but must finish well, with second being better on the straight than the turn and vice versa for third.  This describes Spearmon and Gay very well.

As to who will run the other legs, it's anyone's guess.  When he's healthy, no doubt Walter Dix will be on the relay.  Most people would presume anchor, but I can see a strategy where leading him and putting the weakest leg last could pay off.  If that weakest leg is an unflappable icewater-in-the-veins type, then it might be to the USA's advantage to try to get him the baton ahead of Asafa Powell, Jamaica's presumed anchor leg.  Powell runs very well when no one is in his field of vision in the last half of the race and noticeably tightens up when someone is there.  If our runners could put him in that position, then they might be able to win with an inferior crew of sprinters--something the USA has never before done, because only three or four times in history have we had an opponent with superior speed.

Valerie (Vili) Adams may make the Diamond League more interesting next year.  At yesterday's Continental Cup shot put competition, the defending World and Olympic champion beat rival Nadzeya Ostapchuk.  This is notable not only because it was the first defeat of the season for Ostapchuk, but because Adams threw a distance better than all but three of Ostapchuk's 2010 results.  In March, Adams fired her lifelong coach and hired a new one, and it took until now for the new techniques to really make a difference.

In another excellent piece on how to make the Diamond League sparkle, friend of the blog Martin Bingisser summed up the successes and failures of the new circuit.  But basically it comes down to this: it was an attempt to force the best two or three athletes in each event to meet with regularity and excitement.  Sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn't.  In this event it didn't, not because they failed to face off but because it was so one-sided.  I really thought Adams and Ostapchuk would be a barnburner this year...but next year it just might be.

IAAF Radio is really good.  I've said this before but it bears saying again.  I like sports on the radio.  Some of them are made for it (baseball, hockey) and some don't translate as well (football, basketball).  I think track lies somewhere in between.  But what's so good about IAAF Radio is that you feel like you're there.  The sounds of the stadium filter through so much better than on TV or a webcast.  Whenever Blanka Vlasic was jumping yesterday, the Croatian crowd went nuts.  When she was readying for her world record attempts, you could hear a pin drop.  I'll bet it wasn't as obvious on the Universal Sports coverage.  IAAF Radio uses some very good announcers, too, such as Peter Matthews.

Doug Logan may be off the hot seat.  "To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time." "The dog did nothing in the night-time." "That was the curious incident," remarked Sherlock HolmesRecall some six or more weeks ago, when USATF President Stephanie Hightower met with CEO Logan and said his performance must improve or he'd be fired.  What have we heard since then?  Not a thing.  He stopped writing his blog, he's barely twittered, and not been seen in public much either.  But he's still on the job.  I think one of the things the Board of Directors wanted was for him to shut up, and he's obviously done so.  As for whatever else they wanted, who knows.  It probably had to do with lack of signing sponsors, but maybe the BOD finally figured out that we're in a nasty recession and there's not a lot of dollars out there to get.

Dave Zirin's next book will be a biography of John Carlos.  This came to me via my brother, who saw Zirin plugging his current tome, Bad Sports: How Owners Are Ruining the Games We Love on C-SPAN's Book TV.  Zirin is a proud leftist who has called for boycotts and written things like A People's History of Sports in the United States (with the blessing of Howard Zinn).  My personal politics are in the same zone as Zirin's (if not to his left) but I think a lot of his writing searches for things that aren't there.  Thus I'm a bit leery of him writing a book on John Carlos, the sprinter most famous for being part of the 1968 Olympic Black Power salute.

As you may or may not know, that grew out of a movement that called itself the Olympic Project for Human Rights.  The principle organizers were Tommie Smith and Lee Evans, men whose biographies have already been written.  From what I've read, Carlos was seen as a bit of an interloper and opportunist, someone who took more credit than he deserved.  Since 1968, he and Smith haven't been on good terms because at some point Carlos began claiming he let Smith win the Olympic 200.  While Carlos' life both before and after the '68 Olympics speak a lot about racism and opportunity in the USA, it does reduce his standing as a political figure to address those other issues.  This is because his standing was something overblown by Carlos himself.  It will be interesting to see if Zirin glosses over that or not.

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