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Monday, December 27, 2010

Superfan's Best of the Year

Time for some end-of-the-year assessments.  Here are my opinions on the best of 2010.  Feel free to disagree and say so in the comments.

Athlete of the year, men's track: David Rudisha. This is pretty obvious. Rudisha completely rewrote the record books in the men's 800 meters, took on all comers, and beat them all without fail. I can't write much that hasn't already been written.  Runner-up and US winner is David Oliver, who put together an undefeated outdoor season in the high hurdles (after an indoor campaign that gave no hint of what was to come).

Track book of the year: Unbroken. While a minority of the tale is about track, it is so good that it overcomes that obstacle.  Beware: it can give you a day or so of post-traumatic symptoms.  Runner-up goes to Track Town, USA, a photo-heavy book profiling the history of track in Eugene which was ineligible for the win due to not being widely available.

Athlete of the year, women's track: Allyson Felix.  No one runner stood out head-and-shoulders above the rest, and so Felix won by her versatility.  She was USATF champ in the 100 (albeit against an inferior field), and the world's best at 200 and 400.  Runner-up goes to Kenya's Nancy Jebet Langat, who won all but two of her 1500 races this year.  Veronica Campbell-Brown could have laid claim to the AOY, but did not race enough to earn it.

Trend of the year: free live webcasts.  Webcasts have been going on since the 2005 Worlds, when WCSN popped into existence to fill a gap in TV coverage.  But all of these were online versions of some kind of TV coverage, either domestic or foreign.  At April's "The Dual" between Ohio State and Michigan, though, FloLive had its debut.  As the year wore on they gave us more and more coverage of track and cross country meets we never would have been able to see otherwise--Mt SAC, Penn, USC at UCLA, Pre-Nats, Pac-10 XC.  Over the summer, gave us live coverage of the USA Running Circuit and continued into the fall with a wide range of cross country meets.  It's getting to the point where sometimes you have to choose between multiple live webcasts.

Athlete of the year, men's field: Christian Cantwell.  He came close to an undefeated season, which is really hard to pull off in his event as shot putters compete with great regularity.  He put up big distances and never avoided the best competition.  Runner-up is javelinist Andreas Thorkildsen.

Track movie of the year: Hood to Coast.  This documentary covers the famous 197-mile road relay in Oregon, and will be in theaters for one night only on Tuesday, January 11.  Even my rust-belt backwater is showing it, so check it out.  Runner-up goes to Into The Wind, an ESPN 30 for 30 film about Terry Fox.

Athlete of the year, women's field: Nadzeya Ostapchuk.  She won all but her last meet of the year, and put up big-time marks.  As an even-less-glamorous-than-most shot putter, she is regularly being denied the recognition she deserves.

New idea of the year: Diamond League.  The idea of the DL was that by limiting the number of times some events could be held in the biggest meets, it would concentrate the talent and create for better competition.  This didn't always work, but I don't think it was the Diamond League's fault.  It was the lack of a major championship that allowed many athletes to either scale back their season (Veronica Campbell-Brown, Meseret Defar, Tirunesh Dibaba), throw in the towel when injury intervened (Usain Bolt, Dayron Robles), or chuck the whole thing entirely (Kenenisa Bekele, Yelena Isinbayeva, Sanya Richards-Ross).  This won't happen in 2011.

What the DL did do, and admirably, was raise the profile of track and field in the mainstream sports press.  Previously, only the Golden League meets got much attention, even though in many cases the Super GP meets had better competition.  The DL doubled the number of meets in the highest category and took some of them outside of Europe to the we'd-really-like-a-bigger-audience-here areas of Asia and the USA.

Comeback athlete of the year: Alysia Johnson.  I have to admit I cribbed this from Flotrack, but it's hard to argue with their choice.  Johnson was among the world's best in the 800 (I predict a #3 ranking from TFN) after missing the 2008 summer season with a broken foot and rebuilding strength in 2009.

Athlete of the year, men's road: Patrick Makau Musyoki.  Three races, three wins: 59:52 in The Hague, 2:04:48 in Rotterdam (4th-fastest ever), and 2:05:08 in Berlin.

Race of the year: Chicago Marathon (men).  Close and thrilling marathon races are rare.  Marathon races where one athlete gaps another multiple times and fails to win are even more rare.  Add them together and it was a real thriller.

Athlete of the year, women's road: Mary Keitany.  Despite a third-place finish in her marathon debut at new York, on the whole she was the best.

Rivalry of the year: Yargelis Savigne and Olga Rypakova.  The two triple jumpers were so closely matched that they tied in the Diamond Race, Savigne coming out ahead in the tiebreaker.  They met eight times and split them 4-4.

Rivalry that wasn't (but looks awesome for 2011): Usain Bolt vs. Tyson Gay.  The superhuman Bolt came back to earth and got a thorough butt-whoopin' by Gay.  And that was the end of it.  But now we, and the mainstream sports press, know the scales are closer to being balanced than anyone thought.

Athlete of the year, non-competitive division: Edison Peña.  The most entertaining Letterman interview I've ever seen.  Getting the entirety of the world behind him in New York.  Performing "Summer Nights" with Olivia Newton-John (I am not making this up).  I suppose if you stare death in the face, and have to wait 69 days to see the sky, and keep on doing your sport just the same, you deserve the "inspirational" moniker.

Athletes of the year, non-track division: Armando Galarraga and Jim Joyce.  The former pitched for the Mud Hens in my city of Toledo, and the latter grew up here and comes home to stay with his mother every time he works a Detroit game.  Everything Cpl. Maxwell Klinger said was wonderful about Toledo is still true, and these two lived it better than words could say.

Worst TV coverage:  adidas Grand Prix (New York).  Half the meet wasn't even covered.  Runner-up in the online division is the NCAA Cross Country Championships, which I understand was atrocious.

Train wreck of the year: Marion Jones.  Say no more.

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