The oldest track & field blog on the internet

Friday, August 27, 2010

What's On The Weekend

The Memorial Van Damme, the final meet in the IAAF Diamond League tour, will be held tomorrow at the King Baudouin Stadium in Brussels.
Live web coverage: begins at 2 PM at and
TV coverage: tape-delay broadcasts at 9 PM Friday on Universal Sports, 1 PM Saturday on CBC, and 3 PM Sunday on NBC
Meet website / Start lists and results
Flotrack coverage
IAAF previews: meet preview / Vivian Cheruyiot / Allyson Felix / Christian Cantwell / David Rudisha / Svetlana Bolshakova / Tyson Gay
Athletics Weekly previews: men / women
Caster Semenya analysis from The Telegraph and the AP

The Crim Festival of Races, which includes the USA Championship Men’s 10 Mile race, will take place on Saturday in Flint MI.
Live web coverage: begins at 8:30 AM at

The Internationales Hochsprung-Meeting, a high-jump only competition, takes place from Friday through Sunday in the German city of Eberstadt.

The annual Finland vs. Sweden dual meet, aka Suomi-Ruotsi-maaottelu, takes place on Friday and Sunday in Helsinki's Olympiastadion.

The Rieti 2010, an IAAF World Challenge meet, takes place on Sunday in the Italian city of Rieti.  Tyson Gay will run the 100, and one of the featured races will be yet another matchup between Chris Solinsky and Galen Rupp, this time at 3000 meters.
Meet website / IWC page

Track on TV
USATF Outdoor Championships rerun, 3 PM Friday on Universal Sports
Beijing 2008 – America’s Olympic Glory, 4 AM and 6 PM Sunday on Showtime Family Zone

Around the Web
Runner's World Racing News has all the headlines.

They missed the two biggest:
1) Deena Kastor is pregnant (for the first time) and will miss the NYC Marathon.  In my estimation, her career as a dominant marathoner is over -- by the time she fully regains fitness, she'll be 38 years old.
2) Tyson Gay is mulling a move up to the 400 meters.  If not for individual races, at least for the Olympic relay.  I'm betting he sees the 100 as deep as it's ever been over the next few years and the 400 as unusually weak

AlSal says Alan Webb will break the American Records in the 1500 and mile.  I say he's never going to win a race that requires thinking on his feet.

The Telegraph rips the EAA over willfully ignoring doping suspensions.

Kara Goucher blogs about her husband Adam.

Nice catch by Let's Run: USATF revenue down 22.2% in 2009 (see p. 28).  Of course, everyone's revenue is down these days.

Let's Run analyzes last week's Shaq V.s Tyson Gay show.

Are the Olympics profitable?  No, at least not in the traditional sense.  But one thing often ignored is that the Olympics and other similar events force governments to make long overdue infrastructure improvements and with a deadline.  It's money they should have already spent on the public but haven't.

A compilation of world-class track guys who went to pro football.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Van Damme

Tomorrow’s Van Damme Memorial meet in Brussels will crown the remaining half of the inaugural Diamond League champions. Many of the titles are already clinched, but some others are still in play.

I’m trying out a new rankings system this year, known as the Superfan Rankings. The criteria for ranking high is similar to that of Track and Field News’ world rankings, but with one difference: avoiding tough competition in order to avoid losing is penalized.

While the Brussels meet is not the last one, it’s the last really big one. In order of the meet schedule, here’s how the rankings in each event being run tomorrow could play out.

Women’s discus: Yarelis Barrios leads and cannot be caught.

Men’s shot put: Christian Cantwell leads and cannot be caught. A big throw, something over 22 meters, would help him fend off Tyson Gay and Bershawn Jackson in all-event Athlete of the Year rankings (in which he is currently third).

Women’s triple jump: Right now, Yargeris Sevigne leads over Olga Rypakova. That will reverse if Rypakova wins by anything more than about 6 or 7 centimeters.

Men’s steeplechase: The Diamond League final was last week, and Paul Koech won the title. There’s a steeplechase tomorrow, though. Koech is ranked #2 behind Ezekiel Kemboi, and could go to #1 if he wins with a sub-8:00 clocking.

Men’s 400m hurdles: Bershawn Jackson leads and cannot be caught. If he wins with a 47.40 or better, he would pass Christian Cantwell in the overall rankings.

Women’s 200 meters: Allyson Felix leads and cannot be caught. If she runs a world leader, she’ll pass Jessica Ennis for #2 in the overall rankings.

Men’s pole vault: Renaud Lavillenie leads and cannot be caught.

Women’s high jump: Blanka Vlasic leads and cannot be caught. If she wins, she’ll pass Betty Heidler (currently third) in the all-event Athlete of the Year rankings.

Women’s 800 meters: Mariya Savinova leads and cannot be caught.

Men’s 100 meters: Tyson Gay will pass Asafa Powell for the #1 ranking, unless he false-starts or injures himself. If he runs under 9.75 or so, he would pass Christian Cantwell for third in the all-event Athlete of the Year rankings.

Women’s steeplechase: The #1 ranking is on the line here. Whoever wins between Milcah Chemos and Yuliya Zarudneva will take the top spot.

Men’s 1500 meters: Augustine Choge has this all but sewn up. If he totally bombs, Amine Laalou could take the top spot with a win. Asbel Kiprop also has an outside chance at the top ranking.

Women’s 100m hurdles: Priscilla Lopes-Schliep just about has the #1 ranking sewn up, barring disaster.

Men’s triple jump: Teddy Tamgho leads and cannot be caught.

Men’s javelin: Andreas Thorkildsen leads and cannot be caught.

Men’s 800 meters: David Rudisha has clinched the #1 ranking, and just about clinched #1 in the all-event Athlete of the Year rankings.

Women’s 5000 meters: Vivian Cheruyiot would have to run poorly to lose her #1 ranking, in which case it would go to Sentayehu Ejigu.

Track on TV
Beijing 2008 – America’s Olympic Glory, 7:45 AM on Showtime Family Channel
Diamond League London rerun, 11:30 AM on Universal Sports

Around the Web
Runner's World Racing News has all the headlines: Mary Keitany will run her debut marathon in New York, and weekend previews

Britain's Athletics Weekly says the upcoming Commonwealth Games will be a delight, not a disaster.

SPIKES Magazine interviews Tyson Gay and David Rudisha

An interview with Mo Farah

Doha, Istanbul and Rome have bid for the 2017 IAAF World Championships.  Should the Turkish city win, I have the perfect theme song.

RunnerSpace has video highlights of the recent Leadville Trail 100 and a 10-minute interview with Alan Webb.

Rome 1960: when the Olympics went modern.

Flotrack interviews Debbie Ferguson-McKenzie.

Hometown newspaper features on Morgan Uceny and Christian Cantwell.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Selling Track Fans

Earlier this week Brett Hoover ran some analyses of his blog,  What he found was nothing short of amazing.
Get this, you [HepsTrack readers] are more educated than MENSA’s audience and wealthier than that of Forbes. In fact, this website’s visitors beat every site I looked at in things like percentage of college attendees, grad school attendees, those making $60,000 a year and those making $100k. And you are also younger than the audiences of the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and even ESPN.
OK, sure, it's the Heps -- the Ivy League schools.  The people who follow track in that conference are going to be well educated and have some coin.  But his site was still significantly better in these respects than the visitors to the websites of the Ivy League's institutions.

So are track fans loaded?  Hardly.  Look around at meets and you'll see a pretty good cross-section of the population.  But the real hard-core fans, in my experience, come in two types.

A) Older than Moses.  The kind that won't use e-mail, can't figure out their cable box, and yell "right on!" when Joe Paterno says he doesn't know what Twitter is and doesn't want to find out.  They're the kind that write letters to Track and Field News blaming metrification for track's declining popularity.  They think it's a shame that kids these days never learn how to use a sliderule.

B) Young, even more web-savvy than average for young people, and intensely into the sport.  The kind of people who, if there were no Flotrack or Let's Run or RunnerSpace or Track Geek 2010, would create it.  These people are exactly who advertisers want to reach.  Unfortunately for all parties involved, the advertisers don't know it.  Yet.

Yesterday's results
Meeting Lille Metropole in Villenueve d'Ascq, France
Highlight: Reese Hoffa beat a deep field with three men over 21 meters

What's On Today
The Plzenska tycka 2010 takes place in the Czech town of Plzen.  It's not a particularly big or competitive meet, but it's worth mentioning because of the site.  Plzen, then part of Bohemia, began a city-owned brewery in 1839 and three years later brewed the first modern pilsner beer.  It's now known as Pilsener Urquell and is available around the world.  Bohemian immigrant Augustus Busch brought the style to America and named it after another nearby Bohemian town, Budweis.

What's on TV
USATF Outdoor Championships rerun, 1 PM on Universal Sports
Diamond League London rerun, 9 PM on Universal Sports

Around the web
Runner's World Racing News has all the headlines: AlSal figured out what Lydiard knew 55 years ago, Anglea Bizzari signs with Brooks, more Caster Semenya blather, and so forth.

They miss the biggest headline, namely Usain Bolt signed an undisclosed but record-breaking deal with PUMA.

Let's Run looks back at the week in running.

This week's RunnerSpace Live is available.

Track Focus' weekly podcast is worth your time downloading.

Garry Hill's take on the recently released 2011 Worlds timetable 

Brit javelin thrower impales competitor.  No, really!

Even the Voice of America--remember them, fighting Communism in Europe-- interviewed David Rudisha

Old story: guy claiming work injury gets caught not being injured.  New twist: caught competing in track.

A Tim Broe interview

Brianna Glenn on life in Cologne, which she likes.  She says the city is "open-minded" but fails to mention Exhibit A: it hosted this year's Gay Games.

Lauren Fleshman on cold-weather running  and life in Ireland.  The two posts are probably not coincidental.

Samford starts work on a new track/soccer stadium.  It will seat 1200 with 360 chairback seats.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Sports Without Beer

Earlier today on Twitter, friend of the blog Martin Bingisser asked why the IAAF bans athletes from having ads for beer.  This got me thinking in much broader terms about what domestic track is missing.

Homer Simpson once said "I never realized how boring baseball is without beer".  All major league sports in America rely on beer sales and sponsorship to a great degree, at least in part to create a party-type "we're not really here for the game" atmosphere for people who don't care about what happens on the field.  Without beer, it's hard to imagine these sports being truly "major".  And minor league sports simply could not exist in their current form without beer.

USATF, however, does not tap into this.  It's not because they haven't thought of it.  It's because their hands are tied.  Nearly all track competitions in the USA are held in college facilities, and so they don't have the licenses or means to sell alchohol.  Some of the few non-campus facilties that host major events are the same way, such as Icahn Stadium and the Albuquerque convention center.  Only Madison Square Garden has the type of vendor setup that is part of every other major sporting event.

There are work-arounds.  The 2008 Olympic Trials sold beer in the immediately-outside-the-stadium festival area, and I can't imagine they didn't do the same for the temporary luxury boxes set up at the top of the backstretch.  But it takes a lot of effort, and as such it would be hard for USATF to make it worth a company's money to get them as an official beer sponsor.

Even for non-alcohol sales, most track facilities don't have food and drink sales like real major sports do, where you rarely have to walk more than 100 feet to stuff your face.    And I've only seen one domestic track facilitywith refreshment salespeople walking through the stands--at Ohio Northern University's tiny 500-seat sports center.

What's On Today
The Meeting Lille Metropole, an EAA Premium meet, takes place in the French city of Villenueve D'Ascq.  Of course, the headliner is Christophe Lemaitre.  And it being in France, they will not give you an English version at the meet website.

Track on TV
Diamond League Zurich rerun, noon on Universal Sports

Monday, August 23, 2010

Sunday Evening Decathlete: Special Monday Edition

My Sunday consisted of painting the living room, running with my team, and heading out to the Moose Lodge.  Thus the tardiness.

What did we learn this week?

David Rudisha is fast.  I guess we already knew that, but a new world record is definitely worth noting.  Watch it here.  In the points system I've devised for my Superfan Rankings, 1:41.09 is almost literally off the charts; only Usain Bolt's 100 meters from last year rates higher among running-event world records.  He has more or less clinched the Athlete of the Year award.

Deaths come in threes.  Again, we already knew that.  First came Joseph Chelimo, essentially unknown in this country but a major cog in the Kenyan running machine, who succumbed to a brain tumor.  Then came word that Scott Davis, one of the world's premier stat men, announcers and meet directors, was ill and passed away soon after.  Finally (we hope) there was the great Hal Connolly, an Olympic champion who basically reinvented the hammer throw in the USA, whose death was sudden.

Obits are nice for what they are, but if you really want to appreciate someone's life you must look to those who knew them.  Heartfelt eulogies were written for Scott Davis by Paul Merca (who Davis called "Captain Slapdick") and for Hal Connolly by Martin Bingisser (whose life was changed by Connolly).

The USA can run a relay.  A quickly assembled team of Trell Kimmons, Wallace Spearmon, Tyson Gay and Mike Rodgers almost broke the AR on Friday in Zurich.  Had Walter Dix been available for anchor duty (he's injured), the record would have been gone and approaching Jamaica's world record.  BBC announcers said HSI coach John Smith had been charged with putting it together, and unlike at many recent championships it lined up the best available athletes on the right legs.  Maybe a pro coach like Smith is the right guy to go with for World/Olympic teams, rather than a college coach.  I doubt very much that Smith is swayed by athletes, agents, and the like, and I think some of our other "national team" (read: relay) coaches might be.

Rebellious 80s music is for old fogies.  Like me.  And track writers Larry Eder (who recently mentioned Black Flag in a blog post) and Paul Merca (who recently suggested following Sir Mix-a-Lot on Twitter).  I guess we already knew that too.

No publicity is bad publicity.  More than 2.3 million people watched Tyson Gay run on Tuesday night, based on Nielsen's overnight ratings of Shaq Vs.  While the whole thing was clearly in jest, Gay came off looking like the consummate professional that he is.  And in the 60 meter / 30 meter dash contest (where he spotted O'Neal half the distance), Gay ran an eye-popping 6.08.  This is much faster than the existing world record, suggesting that the race was either hand-timed or actually 60 yards.  Either way, Gay was in rare form.  The show was taped in late June, when he was not yet returning to racing, and says a lot about why he's having such a good season.

Let's Run is a cesspool.  Again, we already knew that.  But, taken in stride, it's an entertaining one.  Witness the pre-Zurich buildup of what Galen Rupp was going to do (sub-13:00, guaranteed) and the "Rupp fan-boy" bashing that ensued.  Then, when he "only" ran 13:07, The Crazy went to another level.

Blessed are the poor.  Just about every major religion tries to teach some version of this, so again we already knew that.  But the vast majority of us who have never lived an extravagant lifestyle, and are instead content with whatever we have, got another lesson this week of how being rich can steal your soul.  The new book Broken Silence of the Elite details the check-kiting scheme that landed Marion Jones and Tim Montgomery in jail.  The catalyst for the plan was Montgomery realizing his running days were soon to come to an end due to the BALCO affair. 
"They messin' with my paper – my lifestyle – how am I gonna maintain my luxurious lifestyle?" Montgomery shrieked over the phone to [drug dealer LaShaun] Robinson. "Ya boy needs to do somethin', because I'm tryin' to maintain this lifestyle for the next 30 years, fam. Ya hear me?"

Football coaches aren't the only ones with athlete headaches.  When you think of college athletes and embarrassing scandals, you almost always think football.  I guess track is moving up in the world.  On Friday, Oregon head coach Vin Lananna had to issue a statement about his new star recruit being hit with a three-month THC suspension.  And then there was the case of a University of Nevada trackster being arrested for prostitution in a Craigslist sting.

The Caster Semenya controversy will never die down.  If not for David Rudisha's amazing run, the only widely-circulated story that would have come out of yesterday's ISTAF meet in Berlin was Semenya's return to top-level racing and the resentment that comes with it.  As usual, the best and clearest writing on the situation comes from the Science of Sport blog.  The biggest problem?  We don't know what, if anything, is different about her this year as compared to last.  Specific details aren't needed, but some general idea is necessary if anyone is to take her seriously.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Latest Round of Conference Realignment

In case you haven't heard, BYU will be going independent for football and taking the remainder of its teams out of the Mountain West and putting them into the WAC.  In a move to keep the conference alive, the MWC raided Fresno State and Nevada (aka Nevada-Reno) from the WAC.

If, like me, you're primarily interested in college track and cross country and have only limited interest in college football and basketball, does any of this matter?  No.  Not in the least.

BYU will win any conference that would have them.  For many reasons, neither the Pac-10 nor the Big 12 wanted the Cougars, which was the catalyst for this move.  And Utah is just a bit too far away from the footprints of the SEC, Big Ten and ACC to even discuss whether they'd be accepted or not.  The Cougars are far superior to all teams outside the five major conferences except, at times, for the harriers from Iona (men) and Villanova (women).

As for the others, they don't matter either.  Nevada doesn't have a men's track program and their women tied for last at this year's WAC Championships.  While the Wolfpack's track is in a 30,000-seat stadium, they haven't hosted a home meet in a very long time.  Fresno State has a nice indoor facility, but remember that the Bulldogs' track program was saved from elimination back in 2003 only because head coach Bob Fraley offered to work for free.  Since then their competitive level hasn't been particularly high.

What's on the weekend
The Thumer Werfertag, an all-throws meet, takes place today (Friday) in the German city of Thum.  That's about all I can tell you because the meet website is German-only.

The Stadionfest takes place today in the German city of Königs Wusterhausen.  Alan Webb will be running, for what it's worth.  Again, the website is German-only.

The Joensuu Games take place tomorrow in the Finnish city of Joensuu.  If you can manage German, try some Finnish.  And if you can read that too...well, aren't you special.

The Internationales Stadionfest, better known as ISTAF, takes place on Sunday in Berlin's Olympiastadion.  The meet was expected to join the initial Diamond League tour but held out and is instead on the World Challenge circuit.
Meet website / start lists / preview
Viewing options: there will be some, but unknown as of yet

The Athletic Bridge 2010, an EAA Classic meet, takes place on Sunday in the Slovakian city of Dubnica nad Vahom.  Hockey fans: special guest will be the Blackhawks' Tomas Kopecky.  No word on whether he'll have the Stanley Cup with him.
Meet website / preview

Track on TV
Beijing 2008 -- America's Olympic Glory, 7:35 PM Friday on Showtime Family Zone
Diamond League Zurich rerun, 10 PM Friday on Universal Sports
Diamond League Zurich (tape-delay package), noon Saturday on CBC
Running the Sahara, 5:15 PM Saturday on Showtime Family Zone

Diamond League Zurich (tape-delay package), 2 PM Sunday on NBC
Diamond League Zurich rerun, 3 PM Sunday on Universal Sports

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Guest Post: Why Zurich is Awesome

Friend of the blog and Swiss thrower Martin Bingisser went to the Weltklasse Zurich meet today and offered up the following guest post.  Additionally over at his own blog he wrote up a piece on the Big Shot competition in Zurich's main train station and the trend to move some throws into more intimate atmospheres.

So read up and think (and set aside your jealousy over his being there and you not).  Be sure to bookmark his blog too.

As a collegiate athlete at the University of Washington, Hayward Field was our second home. Any time we wanted to face a little competition, we hopped in the bus and took the five hour drive south to Eugene. Over the years I've competed there more than a dozen times and also had the pleasure of providing media coverage for the 2004 Prefontaine Classic. Of allof the places I've competed in the world, Eugene is unique and has an environment that I had ne seen matched outside of a major championship...until now.

Last night I attended Weltklasse Zürich at Letzigrund Stadium. I've been to Switzerland at least eight times since 2003, but each time my visit has been in the early summer or late summer, thus always missing what I consider the highlight of the year. The meet itself has a history reaching back 82 years, but it really made a name for itself in the 1950s when it started to produce some world records. In 1960, it produced the first ever 10.0 second run in the 100m dash. Since then, it has produced 25 world records.

Now that I have witnessed the top American track and field meet* at the Prefontaine Classic and the top European track and field meet at Weltklasse Zürich, I think I can sum up what makes the two different. While both are outstanding competitions in their own right, the difference is a matter of scale. Zurich was so much bigger.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Scott Davis, 1943-2010

Scott Davis passed away about three hours ago.

He was one of the best track announcers around.  He was the Mt. SAC Relays director up through 2007, and was the last living founder of the Federation of American Statisticians of Track (FAST).  He was only 67 years old.

Zurich Weltklasse preview

The Weltklasse Zurich, the first of two final meets in the IAAF's Diamond League, will take place tomorrow in the Leitzigrund stadium.
Meet website / schedule / start lists

Viewing options
Live webcasts will be at and at 2 PM tomorrow (Thursday).
TV broadcasts will be tape-delayed: Sunday at 2 PM on NBC and Saturday at noon on CBC.

Two events have already taken place, the men's and women's shot put. Meet organizers have followed the "take the field events to the people" trend and set up shop in the RailCity/Zürich Main Station, with three-time World Champion shot putter Werner Guenthor announcing. To no one's surprise, Nadzeya Ostapchuk and Christian Cantwell won and secured the first-ever Diamond Trophies.

Friend of the blog Martin Bingisser, a Swiss hammer thrower who resides in the Seattle area, will do a guest post here.  As a member of the sponsoring club, he has special insight on what makes meets like the one in Zurich so much better than even our best domestic competitions.

This being the final meet for the events contested, the Diamond Trophies will be awarded.

Track and Field News has the rundown on who's got how many points; Joe Battaglia at Universal Sports breaks it down further for us, as does Britain's Athletics Weekly in separate posts for men and women.

What I've been working on this year is a world rankings system that rewards athletes for facing tough competition more than it penalizes them for losing. While there will be more competition this season, this is probably the last big one and the last chance to make a major shift in the standings. So let's see how things break down.

Men's 200: Walter Dix is ranked #1. Wallace Spearmon would have to win and run in the 19.7 range to overtake the lead, unless Dix falters and doesn't take runner-up position. I'm pretty sure Dix will retain his top ranking, because Yohan Blake is going to kick both of their asses.

Men's 400: Top-ranked Jeremy Wariner could be surpassed if Jermaine Gonzalez wins by more than a tenth of a second.

Men's Steeple: The top three in the rankings, Paul Kipsiele Koech, Brimin Kipruto and Ezekiel Kemboi, are all entered. They are so tightly bunched in points that pretty much whoever is tops out of those three will become the new leader.

Men's 5k: My system breaks things down into 3k-5k and 5k-10k rankings. Rabbited 5k races count for both; last year this meet didn't have a rabbit and I'm unsure about this year. In any case, Imane Merga would have to really screw up to lose his top ranking in either category.

Men's 110 Hurdles: David Oliver cannot lost his #1 ranking. But if he wins with something in the 12.96 range or better, he'll overtake David Rudisha for #1 in the all-events ranking.

Men's High Jump: Ivan Ukhov leads and cannot be caught.

Men's Long Jump: Dwight Phillips leads and cannot be caught.

Men's Discus Throw: Piotr Malachowski leads, but if Gerd Kanter wins by anything more than a few centimeters he'll become the new #1.

Women's 100: The only way Carmelita Jeter could lose her top spot is to false-start or pull a hamstring.

Women's 400: Debbie Dunn leads, but Allyson Felix could become #1 if she wins with either an impressive time or with Dunn failing to hold second.

Women's 1500: Nancy Lagat leads and cannot be caught.

Women's 100 Hurdles: Lolo Jones leads and will continue to do so barring disaster. Sally Pearson has run very well over the last few meets but is strangely not invited.

Women's 400 Hurdles: Kaleise Spencer leads and will keep it barring disaster.

Women's Pole Vault: Fabiana Murer leads and cannot be caught.

Women's Long Jump: Brittney Reese leads, and while she could be caught by Darya Klishina it is highly unlikely.

Women's Javelin Throw: Barbora Špotáková leads and cannot be caught.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Sunday Evening Decathlete

What did we learn this week?

How quickly sprint dominance changes.  About two weeks ago, people wondered if Usain Bolt could ever be beaten again.  Last week Tyson Gay beat Bolt in an upset; this week he outdid all in history (when environment taken into account) but Bolt's two out-of-this-world championship wins and Gay's own runner-up-while-injured at one of them.  Well before that race, Ato Boldon argued that Gay is a much more serious threat to Bolt than anyone realized, and Gay's run at London proved the point.  Barring strange occurrence, Gay will regain his Track and Field News #1 ranking he held in 2006 and 2007, before the ascendance of Bolt.

This is the best possible thing that could ever have happened to track and field.  A legitimate battle will be joined, with the outcome in doubt, any time these two titans meet in the sport's single most-popular event.  That they will meet infrequently outside of championship competition is a good thing, because media attention will be focused like a laser when they do.  They even portray the sporting culture of their respective nations, with Bolt's Jamaican-style exuberance contrasted with Gay's American-style "just win, baby".

Yohan Blake is now in the top row of sprinters.  The 20-year-old Jamaican ran 9.89 in cool weather with a headwind in London, and three weeks previous had nearly run down Gay over 200 meters.  While the sprint picture can turn on a dime (see above), right now I see only four contenders for three 100-meter medals in the next few years.  Those are the three Jamaicans (Bolt, Powell, Blake) and Tyson Gay.

Andrew Wheating may be forcing Nick Symmond's hand.  Symmonds tends to run the 800 meters in the Yuri Borzakovsky style, laying well back early and making a late rush.  It's a style that works very well when the pace is suicidal, but otherwise tends to leave athletes in no situation to win.  I don't know when Symmonds developed this style; recall that he was a D-III runner in college so hardly anyone outside of the west coast ever saw him run back then.  But it was a style that was effective when he was first coming up the ranks and mainly competing against Khadevis Robinson for domestic prominence, and now Symmonds is so much better than any other American that he can beat them all running however he wants.

Until now.  Andrew Wheating beat Symmonds in two of their last three meetings.  On Friday, Wheating started off back in the back but was third at the bell with Symmonds in tow.  They both only caught one more athlete in the last lap, finishing second and third.  This is not Symmonds' style.  He may have to change his style if he wants to remain the best American half-miler, and this week may have been the beginning.

National team success pays off.  The Diamond League meet in London's Crystal Palace sold out its 32,000 tickets well in advance of the meet.  Sales picked up after the European Championships, where the UK team outdid all but the very highest expectations.  Like it or not, national team competition is what drives interest of all but the most involved fans.

Kara Patterson is a competitor.  Her record this year stands at six wins (all in North America) and two runner-ups (all in Europe).  She went from basically a nobody on the world level to someone who is still (at least theoretically) in the Diamond League trophy hunt.  Better yet: in four of her five "major" competitions, her last throw was her best (and in the other her best was her second-last).  On Friday she came up only nine centimeters (less than two inches) short of the win.  At this point in time, she has to be considered a medal favorite for the next Worlds and Olympics, whereas at the beginning of the year the women's javelin was possibly the weakest event for Team USA.  If there was a "breakthrough athlete of the year" award or "we never thought we would be able to get something here for Project 30" award, Patterson would win it.

Christian Cantwell isn't unbeatable.  He took third in the shot put at the Diamond League meet in London, ending a 20-meet win streak and getting his first loss of the season.  He did fly in that same day, though, so maybe he's only beatable under extreme conditions.  It essentially ends his chance of being Track and Field News' Athlete of the Year, as they heavily reward undefeated seasons.  My system does not penalize a single loss quite so much; note that Cantwell has competed in 19 meets compared to 11 for David Oliver and 8 for David Rudisha.  I think that's a bit unfair to field-eventers, and it's reflected in the fact that a shot putter has been the male Athlete of the Year just once (Randy Matson, 1970).

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Weekend Ahead

The Aviva London Grand Prix, a Diamond League meet, will take place at the Crystal Palace stadium on Friday and Saturday. 

Featured races inlcude Tyson Gay versus Walter Dix over 100 meters and Bernard Lagat versus Mo Farah and Galen Rupp over 3000 meters, although I think the men's 400 meters may be the most interesting of them all.

A big medal haul at the Euros has paid off, as both days of the meet sold out well in advance.

Live webcasts will be at 2 PM Friday and 9:30 AM Saturday at, and at 2 PM Friday and 10:30 AM Saturday at

Tape-delay TV coverage will be at 10:30 PM Friday and 5 PM Saturday on Universal Sports, and at 2 PM Saturday on CBC.

Meet website / Start lists / Flotrack coverage

The IAAF previews the meet, and talks up Tyson Gay and David Oliver, while Joe Battaglia lists eight races to watch.

Mo Farah learns from the Kenyans; there will be Jamaicans galore at the London meet but no Veronica Campbell-Brown; in her absence Allyson Felix will try for a double

The Falmouth Road Race will take place on Sunday, on its traditional 7.1 mile route from Cape Cod to Woods Hole.
Race website
On Saturday the Falmouth Invitational Mile will be held, featuring Nick Willis.

Track on TV
See above for the Diamond League London schedule
Diamond League Monaco rerun, 10 AM Friday on Universal Sports
Diamond League Stockholm rerun, 5 PM Friday on Universal Sports

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Teams That Twitter

It's getting close to back to school time.  I'm down to twelve days myself.  No doubt there will be some new thing the kids are doing.

I finally started doing Twitter a month or so ago.  As you might assume, I've got a massive list of twitterers I follow, from athletes to sportswriters to federations and all kinds of others.

Whereas the original use of Twitter was mostly to announce the often mundane topics of everyday life (example: "My pastrami on rye was pretty good"), it rapidly became used as a news and PR service.  College athletic departments are almost universally wise to this (bus surprisingly not all of them).  Where they're really on the ball, each sport has its own twitter page.  You can see where I'm going with this.

It's actually quite useful this way.  I recently found out that Texas A&M will host LSU for an indoor dual meet because I saw it on Twitter.  That's going to be a great meet.

I perused the webpages of the teams in the major conferences and compiled a list of their track-specific twitter pages.  What I find rather dismaying is that for the colleges that do have separate twitters for each sport, more often than not the track program does not participate.  It does fall on the coach (or his/her designee) to do the tweets, but the thing about Twitter is that it doesn't take a lot of time and can be done pretty much anywhere you can get cell phone reception.  Not surprisingly, the track programs that do Twitter are often the ones known to outhustle their competition.

Duke @DukeTrackField
Florida State @FSU_track
North Carolina @tarheeldistance (coach, not official university)
North Carolina State @PackTrackField (never been used)
Virginia @UVA_Track

Big East
DePaul @DePaulXCandTF
Lousiville @louisvilletrack
Miami (FL) @MiamiTrack
Notre Dame @NotreDameXCTF
Providence @PCXCTRACK
St. John’s @STJ_Track_XC
South Florida @USFTrack

Big Ten
Illinois @IlliniTrackXC
Michigan @michigan_track
Penn State @JessRiden (director of T&F)
Wisconsin @Badger_Track

Big Twelve
Iowa State @ISUtrackXC
Missouri @MissouTigersTF
Nebraska @NUTrackandField
Texas (men) @TexasMTF
Texas A&M @aggietrk

Conference USA
Central Florida @UCF_Track
Houston @UHCougarTF

Conference @HepsTrack
Princeton @PrincetonTrack

Mountain West
Air Force @AirForceFalcons
Colorado State @CSURAMSTRACK
TCU @TCUTrackField
Utah @Utah_trackfield

Arizona State @SunDevilTFXC
Cal-Berkeley @Cal_Track
Washington @uwtrack
Surprisingly, Oregon does not do track-specific Twittering, but there's
@vinlananna and @Track_Town_USA and during track season sportswriter @KenGoe is you go-to Duck track guy

Alabama @AlabamaTrack
Florida @GZTrackField
Kentucky @KentuckyTrack
LSU @LSUTrackField
Ole Miss @CoachJoeWalker
Mississippi State @msutrackschmidt

If I've missed any, put 'em in the comments section.

What's On
Tomorrow the Copenhagen Athletic Games take place in the Danish capital.

Track on TV
Diamond League Monaco rerun, 5 PM tomorrow on Universal Sports
Diamond League Stockholm rerun, 1:30 AM Friday on Universal Sports
Great City Games rerun, 1 AM Friday on Universal Sports
Running the Sahara, 11:20 AM and 11:45 PM tomorrow on Showtime Family Zone

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Sunday Evening Decathlete

What did we learn this week?

Stars + Upset = Awesome.  Tyson Gay beating Usain Bolt was a great race to see. What I liked even more was the attention it got.  You would expect zero mainstream domestic sports media attention for an overseas invitational in a non-Olympics/Worlds year and which saw no world records.  This race, on the other hand, was the lead story on SportsCenter.  In any sport, a rare and highly anticipated matchup of top athletes/teams which results in an upset is about the biggest non-championship attention you can get.  So the fact that this was the year's first pairing of Bolt and Gay was probably a good thing for track.  Think about it: the Celtics and the Lakers only meet twice during the regular season, which makes it a very big deal when they do.

It cost an awful lot to get this matchup together.  The DN Galan's sponsors got their money's worth of exposure and then some.  This matchup was supposed to happen a week later at the Aviva London Grand Prix--and no doubt Aviva (the world's fifth-largest insurance company) is making their displeasure known to Parliament, as British tax laws pushed Bolt out of that meet.

As for Asafa Powell, I like what was posted at the Track and Field News message board: "I don't believe that Asafa [faked injury], because if there's one thing that he has proven throughout his career, it's that he is not afraid to lose". You could take that as a not-so-subtle dig at Powell's lack of form in big races.

Bolt is playing a different sponsorship game. Earlier this week, SI's Brian Cazanueve wrote a brief preview of the race, warning that late pullouts were a possibility. "Since athletes often duck and dodge rivals to protect their reputation, Bolt's participation is further sign that -- with his most recent defeat coming in 2008 -- he has no serious challengers."  We now know that was a misreading of the matchup, and in retrospect Bolt's pre-race statements that no one is unbeatable were probably signals that he knew he wasn't in top form.  But I knew right at the time that Cazanueve also misread Bolt's motivations.

If Bolt was ripe for defeat, then why did he agree to the matchup?  Because he's playing a completely different game from any other trackster when it comes to earning money.  He has gone beyond a mere athlete and is now a full-blown celebrity.  His public appearances in the days leading up to his two most-recent Diamond League outings have been mobbed.  PUMA is selling the Bolt Collection of "sportswear" (the kind you wear while watching sports rather than doing them, which is where the real money is).  They hype his upcoming races as part of the advertising spree and he unveils a new one-time signature jersey for each race.  Others have something to lose by being beaten, while Bolt has something to lose by not being seen.  To PUMA, Bolt's defeat was even better than a win, because in the celebrity game there is no such thing as bad publicity.

US distance running fortunes...a dose of realism.  You can't call a one-second PR a breakthrough race for Chris Solinsky, but Friday's fifth-place finish  in the 5k in 12:55.53 was another step up for him  He said he was disappointed in himself, as he didn't take charge of the race at a point when he could have.  With two laps to go, he was one of six runners still in contention, and looked ready to take the lead with 300 meters to go.  But he did not, and only beat one of those six when it came around to the homestretch.  His post-race interview at Flotrack made it clear that he met his product goals (fast time) and missed his process goals (racing style).

Galen Rupp was entered in the race, and there was talk of him being able to break 13:00.  He tripped and fell with about 3 laps to go and saw no reason to continue.  He was behind the group of six that had made the break when that happened, so I'm not sure whether that would have been in the offing, although he had been making up ground.

The New Big Thing, Andrew Wheating, was entered in the 800.  What would he be able to do after a major breakthrough in the 1500 two weeks ago?  As it turns out, he ran out into lane two all the way around the penultimate turn, got bumped and tangled up after that, and beat only one guy (one running his first race of the year, BTW).  In other words, rookie mistakes.  He's got a lot to learn.  One of marked differences I see between American runners and their African foes is how often they compete.  Our guys just don't race all that often, and the Kenyans do.  So in addition to all the other advantages they have, they tend to be more tactically astute.  There is no race where this is more important than the 800.  Noting how Wheating was outfoxed twice this year by a vastly inferior runner (Virginia frosh Robbie Andrews), I think he needs a ton more races.  I worry that he'll not get them and waste opportunities at the next Worlds and Olympics due to the conservative nature of his coach, Vin Lannana.

Universal Sports sucks.  My cable company doesn't carry their TV channel, and if they did I'd watch the live webcasts anyway.  The TV coverage uses the same lame American announcers (Ato, you're good but everyone else has to go) and loses a lot of action during commercials.  The webcasts, on the other hand, are direct from the BBC and kick ass.

That is, when you can see them.  There were major difficulties starting off each of the last two webcasts, costing viewers anywhere from the first ten to fifty minutes of action.  There tend to be lots of freeze-ups during inopportune times as well; lots of viewers reported such right as the featured men's 100 race was getting ready to go, and if it weren't for the two false starts most of us wouldn't have seen it.  We pay good money for these webcasts; it's not like they can't make them work right, they simply choose not to.

I sent them a nasty e-mail telling them the problems I had, and that I hoped ESPN won the next round of IOC and IAAF broadcast rights bidding.  If you're as upset as I am, try letting Universal Sports know.  Better yet, send something to Saucony, the sponsor of the most recent webcast.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Superfan Rankings Update: Shot Put

After today's Big Shot competition, how do the leaders stack up?

1. Christian Cantwell USA 345
2. Ryan Whiting USA 216
3. Andrei Mikhnevich BLR 213
4. Dylan Armstrong CAN 212
5. Tomasz Majewski POL 185
6. Ralf Bartels GER 168
7. Reese Hoffa USA 163
8. Cory Martin USA 148
9. Pavel Lyzhyn BLR 94
10. Adam Nelson USA 83
11. Maris Urtans LAT 66
12. Russ Winger USA 63
12. David Storl GER 63
14. Dan Taylor USA 52
15. Noah Bryant USA 29
16. Marco Schmidt GER 23
17. Marco Fortes POR 15
18. Andriy Semenov UKR 10
18. Jakub Giza POL 10
20. Dorian Scott JAM 9
Cantwell is still in third in the all-event point standings, but is now just one point behind David Oliver. Armstrong's poor showing today dropped him behind Mikhnevich.  While Cantwell is uncatchable, runner-up is very much in play as only four points separate three throwers.

1. Nadzeya Ostapchuk BLR 383
2. Valerie Vili NZL 291
3. Natallia Mikhnevich BLR 243
4. Nadine Kleinert GER 163
5. Anna Avdeeva RUS 145
6. Jillian Camarena-Williams USA 121
7. Misleydis González CUB 118
8. Petra Lammert GER 105
9. Yanina Privalinskaya-Karolchik BLR 99
10. Anca Heltne ROU 82
11. Olga Ivanova RUS 75
12. Denise Hinrichs GER 65
13. Gong Lijiao CHN 55
13. Michelle Carter USA 55
15. Cleopatra Borel-Brown TRI 44
16. Sarah Stevens USA 26
17. Josephine Terlecki GER 25
18. Christina Schwanitz GER 23
19. Chiara Rosa ITA 20
19. Anna Omarova RUS 20
Osatapchuk's win added another two points to her total. Jessica Ennis, closest to Ostapchuk in the all-event standings, announced today that she's done competing for the season, so the Belarussian has essentially clinched the Athlete of the Year honors.

Duck, Duck, Goose

About two weeks ago it was announced that the Dagen Nyheter Galan, Stockholm's stop on the Diamond League tour, would get the three top-tier men's 100m sprinters--Usain Bolt, Tyson Gay and Asafa Powell--all lined up against each other for the first time in 2010.  My reaction was "It's going to happen?  Really?  Really happen?"

SI's Brian Cazanueve reflected this skepticism when he wrote "this one isn't official until all the hamstrings and egos are actually in the starting blocks".  As no doubt you already know, Asafa Powell has pulled out citing injury.

At Let's Run, it was said that Powell was the first to blink.  My reply was since he races like a wimp, it's hardly surprising that he chickened out.  This may not be fair to Powell; he could really be injured, as he'd mentioned a niggle two weeks ago.  But in professional sports, which are by definition dependent on support of the public, the truth isn't nearly as important as the perception.  We've seen athletes duck and dodge each other so many times over the years that we always suspect ego-driven motives.

Even worse is what the larger world of the sports press and sports fans think about track and field.  This kind of gamesmanship leads many to see our stars as, in the words of UK head coach Charles Van Commenee, a "bunch of pussies and wankers".  It would have been far better to announce Bolt and Gay as definite entries and Powell as a possible one.  There would have been little to no bad PR as a result of Powell's pullout.  But it wouldn't have made for splashy headlines and advance ticket sales a week ago.  The DN Galan came out a winner, but track & field came out a loser.

Let me give you another similar but different example.  Walter Dix was originally announced as running against Tyson Gay at the Monaco Diamond League meet but withdrew because he and the meet organizers could not come to terms of agreement for appearance fees.  Ato Boldon specifically called Dix out on this during the Universal Sports telecast and called him greedy.  TFN editor Garry Hill, in a rather snotty post, came to his defense and blamed meet management.  Regardless of why it happened, the fact is that he was in and then he was out.  Brett Farve (deservedly) gets scorned for this once a year, but track seems to see this kind of wavering every week.

In the short term, it's good for meet promoters to announce that this star or that star will show up even if he (or, more rarely, she) later drops out, as it leads to greater initial news coverage and ticket sales.  But for the sport as a whole, this kind of thing is very bad.  It leads to the image that track is full of prima donnas and money grubbers on all sides.  It is a big, big problem and is to our great detriment.

If it is to be stopped, then how?  Meet promoters don't suffer, at least in immediate terms.  The adidas GP in New York sold out a week ahead when people thought both Bolt and Gay were going to come.  At least in that situation it was legitimate injuries that kept them both out.  If other motives had been suspected, it would have created detrimental long-term effects toward pro track meets in New York and elsewhere, both with the press and the paying public.

For their part, athletes need to do what they can to maintain their earning potential and protect their bodies.  But again, even the iron men who never miss a meet will suffer if others play the duck-and-dodge game because track as a whole will suffer.

One way is to make it worth everyone's while to change the predominant system to late additions of stars who are initially unsure instead of late scratches.  Athletes could be forced to sit out the next Diamond League meet after a late scratch (which, in the case of real injury, they likely would do anyway).  The balance of power between workers (athletes) and management (meet organizers) could be maintained if late scratches were seriously penalized in proposed end-of-the-year evaluations of meets used to determine which of them are to retain their Diamond League status.  It would be hard to make this fly, though, and even harder to make it honest.

But another possible solution is to change the incentives system.  Track and Field News does end of the year rankings that reportedly figure heavily into many athletes' sponsorship contracts.  One of their primary criteria is a favorable win/loss record.  This exacerbates the problem, as it's usually better for a top athlete to duck a rival than to risk losing.  Their Athlete of the Year rankings also heavily reward undefeated or rarely-defeated athletes.  So when these are your only ways of ranking athletes, it simply does not pay for them to regularly face off against the best competition they can find.  While it's a fine system on its own, it does fall victim to a sort of Campbell's Law, in which athletes can manipulate it for their own short-term gain... and the whole sport's loss. 

My Superfan Rankings are similar to those from Track and Field News, with a few notable differences.  One is that they are constantly updated, rather than done at the end of the year.  More importantly, you simply cannot rank highly if you avoid the top competition.  It is better to be second or third in a tough race than to win a lesser one.

One example is Andrei Mikhnevich, the Belarussian shot putter.  Barring weird results over the next month, he'll rank #2 in the event according to Track and Field News.  In my rankings he's only #4 because he has avoided the European circuit alltogether, facing off against the best athletes just twice. 

As for Powell, he is currently #6 in the overall Athlete of the Year rankings.  But by missing tomorrow's race he will almost assuredly drop out of the top ten.  Had he run and finished third, he probably would have stayed on the leader board.

What's On
The Big Shot competition takes place in Stockholm's Kungstradgarden.  It's the lead-in for tomorrow's DN Galan meet.  Or actually, it's already taken place.  Winners were Christian Cantwell and Nadzeya Ostapchuk.  No word on who won the celebrity shot put competition.

Tomorrow the in-stadium portion of the DN Galan takes place in the Stockholms Olympiastadion.  It is one of my favorite meets of the year, because every time the camera shows the crowd I see people with my exact hair--an experience I've had only in watching old ABBA videos and paging through the IKEA catalog.  And yet I have no known Swedish or Scandinavian ancestry.
TV coverage will be at 8 PM Friday on Universal Sports, and at 2 PM Saturday on CBC
Live webcasts will begin at 2 PM Friday at and
Meet homepage
Previews from the IAAF, USATF, Let's Run, Universal Sports
Press conference highlights
Let's Run big-money star-studded Match Game, I mean prediction contest
Ato Boldon says Powell was always the third wheel
Lolo Jones (100H) focused on points standings; Emma Green (HJ) the lone Swedish star in the meet
Bolt's fancy new togs
Domestic subtext: Galen Rupp v. Chris Solinsky in the 5k

Track on TV
Gateshead Diamond League rerun, 7 PM on Universal Sports

Further reading
Runner's World Racing News has all the headlines, including a look at Maine's Beach to Beacon 10k.

Brianna Glenn (LJ) blogs about dining on the track circuit.  I recall a similar experience on my college team, where the upperclassmen basically ignored us freshmen.  Two weeks into my that first year, one of them saw me at a campus function and said "Jesse Squire, how the hell are you?" to which I replied "You know my name!"  He is still one of my very best friends.

UK news: Jessica Ennis (hep) is done competing for the season, but Phillips Idowu (TJ) is one of the rare stars committing to the Commonwealth Games.

Team USA goes to Germany for the Thorpe Cup, a team decathlon competition.

Track & Field News released its annual relay rankings, and thinks the return of Justin Gatlin (100m) was faster than it might appear.

The IAAF will assist in setting up a high-altitude training center in Uganda, including a Tartan-surfaced track.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Superfan Rankings Update: Women's Overall Leaders

Who's leading the chase for the Athlete of the Year honors?

1. Nadzeya Ostapchuk (BLR/SP) 381
2. Jessica Ennis (GBR/Hep) 345
3. Milcah Chemos (KEN/Stpl) 321
4. Blanka Vlašic (CRO/HJ) 316
5. Betty Heidler (GER/HT) 314
6. Anita Wlodarczyk (POL/HT) 309
7. Fabiana Murer (BRA/PV) 302
8. Valerie Vili (NZL/SP) 291
9. Tatyana Lysenko (RUS/HT) 274
10. Barbora Špotáková (CZE/JT) 272

This is a very field-event heavy bunch, with only one purely running-event athlete and six throwers.

Ostapchuk is undefeated, has thrown very far, and has repeatedly faced up against Vili. The Kiwi is undefeated against all others and also throwing very far.

Ennis has won all three of her multis this year, all against top competition, and with good marks each time. It would require breaking Jackie Joyner-Kersee's world record for the Brit to overtake Ostapchuk, though.

Steepler Chemos lost only her opening race and has faced stiff competition in all of her races.

Vlasic has lost a few times, which will happen when you compete as much as high jumpers do, but she hasn't failed in any of the biggest meets. You can pretty much say the same about Murer.

There are three hammer-throwers in here, which tells you a lot about the level of competition this year. Euro champ Heidler is barely ahead of Wlodarczyk, who broke the World Record earlier this year.

Špotáková has gone through a rough patch lately, taking only bronze at the European Championships, but built up enough in the early-going that she still rates in the top ten. She'll be overtaken quickly if she doesn't get it turned around.

What's on today
The BIGBANK Estonian GP Final, an EAA Area Permit meet, takes place in Rakvere.  This is the return to racing for Justin Gatlin.  You can read stories about the whole situation from Sports Illustrated, Britain's Telegraph, and Reuters.

The Malmö GP, another EAA Area Permit meet, takes place in the Swedish city of the same name.
Meet website

Track on TV
Diamond League Gateshead rerun, 3 PM on Universal Sports

Other reading
Runner's World's Racing News rounds up the weekend action
UK Athletics head Niels De Vos says athletics is blossoming in Britain
Spikes Mag runs down the winners and losers from the Euros
Two articles looking back to 50 years ago: the LA Times on Ralph Boston breaking Jesse Owen's record, and SI's Joe Posnanski with very long and very good look at Rafer Johnson
The Bay Area Track Club's Peter Gilmore looks at the growth of track and field
Blog posts from David Oliver on making the cover of TFN, and from Brianna Glenn on being the laughingstock of Germans.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Superfan Rankings Update: Men's Overall Leaders

After Championship Week, how do the points stack up?

1. David Lekuta Rudisha (KEN/800m) 362
2. David Oliver (USA/110H) 346
3. Christian Cantwell (USA/SP) 341
4. Ivan Ukhov (RUS/HJ) 315
5. Andreas Thorkildsen (NOR/JT) 312
6. Asafa Powell (JAM/sprints) 303
7. Bershawn Jackson (USA/400H) 287
8. Renaud Lavillenie (FRA/PV) 282
9. Usain Bolt (JAM/sprints) 280
10. Dwight Phillips (USA/LJ) 273

Rudisha's stunning 1:42.84 at the African Championships gives him the inside track to the Athlete of the Year. How much altitude hinders the 800, if at all, is hard to quantify, but running that fast without a pacemaker has rarely if ever been done.

Ukhov's silver medal was a missed opportunity for him. Thorkildsen can pass him only with a mark in excess of 90 meters, or with continued Ukhov shortcomings.

Lavillenie enters the top ten with a Euro gold medal and a big mark. Bolt will move up the rankings soon, and in a big way. But he'll need some really fast times to bust into the top three.

Sunday Evening Decathlete: Special Monday Edition

Back in the 80s, when ABC broadcast a Thursday NFL game, they called it "Monday Night Football: Special Thursday Edition". So my version of Monday-morning quarterbacking gets a similar title when it gets delayed a bit.

What did we learn during Championship Week?

Christophe Lemaitre has arrived. The young French sprinter became the first man in European Championships history to win the 100/200/4x100 triple. The manner in which he won the individual sprints was just as impressive as the wins: left in the blocks in the 100, he remained calm and stormed past the field, and in the 200 he ran down Christian Malcolm and pipped him at the line. He's a competitor and one with nerves of steel.

None of this, however, means he's a first-tier sprinter. That's reserved for Bolt, Gay and Powell alone, and no one appears ready to crash their party just yet. Lemaitre is probably not yet a part of the second-tier either, as he'd be unlikely to make a World Championships final at his current form. With him, it's the anticipation of what may be coming in the next few years that's so exciting. He's got an awful lot of work to do, as he's probably the most-raw sub-10 sprinter in recent memory, but if the moxie and the coaching are available then he'll be a great sprinter someday.

The big winners were the British and French men and the Russian women. The latter comes as no surprise, as the Russkies have had the best women's program for some sixty years or so. The former two, however, are the best thing that could have happened to European track...excuse me, athletics. The popularity of athletics has been on a consistent downward trend in the UK over at least fifteen years. In France, while track has been a bit more popular, it's still been a bit less than it could be. Both countries had severe disappointments in the World Cup, and both have the population and the wealth such that a boost in support for athletics there would have a significant knock-on effect to athletes and meets elsewhere.

It was pretty nice to see how it was done as well. Athletics is a sport that both depends on and celebrates diversity. Europe has become more diverse, but probably nowhere more so than in Britain and France. And when you look at the faces of their European Championships heroes, they certainly do not all look alike.

The big losers were Germany and Spain. Sure, the Germans were fourth on the medal table, but after last year's huge successes in Berlin it seemed like a bit of a letdown. Spain was sixth in overall medals and tied for seventh in golds, but you'd think the home team would get a bit more of a bump than that, and their medals came in a very narrow range of events. This could also explain the championships' relatively poor attendance.

Charles Van Commenee deserves some praise. Just exactly how much credit should go to the head coach of UK Athetics' Olympic program, or any national coach, is open to debate. But under his not-quite-two-year-old leadership, the national team's medal counts have gone from a twenty-year low in 2006 to a sixteen-year high in 2009 and a record high in 2010. His team goal of 14 medals for this week was eclipsed by over a third. And all of this with many top athletes injured (or, in the case of Paula Radcliffe, out for other reasons). Of course, in football-mad Britain, his leadership is being compared and contrasted with that of national coach Fabio Copello and Real Madrid and former Chelsea coach Jose Mourinho (aka "The Special One"). That people are even taking the trouble to make the connection tells you a lot about how seriously the Euro results are being taken. When hired, he was seen as prickly and demanding and there were many doubters. As it's a lot easier for a national coach to screw up a team than to make it into a winner, the doubters have to be discounted. And he is widely credited by athletes and sportswriters alike for raising the expectations for success. In other much is it going to cost us to get him over to this side of the Atlantic?

Maybe a Worlds should go to Africa. This week, the president of the African Athletics Confederation said that the success of the World Cup has encouraged the continent into bidding for the 2017 IAAF World Championships. A Moroccan city such as Rabat is seen as the most likely candidate, as it's got the best infrastructure both in general and in the track-specific kind. But based on this week's African Championships, I'd at least give Nairobi a passing thought. Why? Turnout was huge. Several times Nyayo Stadium was packed to its 30,000-seat limit and then some with thousands more turned away. Police feared a riot because people couldn't get into a track meet. A TFN discussion board member said he'd never seen a crowd as thoroughly into a 10k race as it was this week. There are few places on the earth where you'd get as much enthusiasm for track and field as in the Kenyan highlands. It won't happen, for the elevation reason alone, but going to a championship meet of some kind at Nyayo is now on my bucket list.

A little more about the Doug Logan situation. The first, and as far as I know the only, sportswriter to shed any real light on the Doug Logan's possible ouster as USATF CEO is the Chicago Tribune's Philip Hersh. He identified the issues on which Logan is being criticized as "sponsorships, athlete relations and expenditures". He noted that the board of directors similarly went after his predecessor, Craig Masback, in 2004 and 2007. Masback survived both of those. But most important is what Hersh said about the timing and the larger issues in play:
Dumping Logan without just cause likely would not sit too well with the USOC, which spent several years hectoring USA Track & Field to reform its governance -- that reform occurred in December, 2008 -- and telling the board to stop meddling in the federation's day-to-day affairs [such as this]...

And imagine how financially reckless it would be in these economic times for the board to fire Logan willy-nilly with an estimated $1 million -- and a severance fee -- left on a contract that expires in 2013.
Hersh's analysis came down to "the old axiom that the only amateurs left in the Olympics are those running them."

The influence of shoe companies is...interesting. Let's Run's TXRunnerGirl, via Facebook: "This fall, the Foo Fighters will record a new album and Alan Webb will race again. Did I take a dip in the Hot Tub Time Machine?" Alan Webb is making a much-anticipated return to racing next week, and of course the press needed to be told about it. In distance running, that means Oregon newspapers and Runner's World.

In the Portland Tribune article, we were told a lot about the form problems that Webb had developed and the efforts coach Alberto Salazar put into fixing them, much of it including barefoot running. Born To Run author Christopher McDougall noted in his blog that the Runner's World summary of that article was conspicuously missing something...any reference to barefoot work.

Now, I've been a bit skeptical that the running shoe industry is one big monolith foisting unnecessary crap on all us runners, and that Runner's World is the monolith's shill. But then I started thinking. McDougall's book was a runaway hit like nothing since The Complete Book of Running. He was interviewed on The Daily Show, for crying out loud. And he and his story have barely been in the pages of Runner's World if at all. I was quite surprised to find out from my local running shop that the heavily-advertised Newton shoes don't sell much, while they can't keep the nearly unadvertised Vibrams in stock because they sell out so fast.

I tell you one thing, though: one of McDougall's tricks works. The single best way to kill a young kid's football/basketball hunched-over running style is to make them run barefoot on pavement for a few hundred yards. Within seconds they learn how to run right.

Merlene Ottey is our Gordie Howe. Yes, this woman is fifty years old. She won an Olympic medal when Leonid Brezhnev was still in power. The Jamaican-turned Slovenian ran on her national team's 4x100 at the European Championships, and said she still wants to keep going when she's 60. She's got a little while to go before she catches up with Mr. Hockey, as he played a full 80-game NHL season at age 51 and a single shift in the IHL at age 69. But the attitude is the same.