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Track & Field

Track & Field (183)

Thursday, 17 September 2015 21:08

In Praise of Dafne Schippers

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Dafne Schippers has had a spectacular World Championships. Her 100 meter NR went from 10.92 to 10.83 to 10.81 here! And then, that amazing 200 meters.
On Friday night, there were some spectacular events, from the surprises of the 100m and 110m hurdles races to the 200 meters. My favorite had to be the women's 200 meters. (I will write about the long jump later, so patience, kind readers).
Thursday, 17 September 2015 21:05

Always Stick Around for Taylor's Last Jump!

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Christian Taylor is a clutch jumper, among many things. This guy can pull out a final effort that wins competitions. I forgot that, in Lausanne, after Christian had leaped 18.02 meters on his fifth jump and looked away. On his sixth jump in Lausanne, Christian Taylor leaped 18.06 meters!
So, I was prepared in Beijing, I watched each jump of Pedro Pichardo and Christian Taylor.
And what a magnificent night!
Thursday, 17 September 2015 21:00

Rudisha is the Man!

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After having watched David Rudisha set the WR and win the gold medal in 2012 in London, I believed that I had seen the future of middle distance running. After that, a 1:40 for 800 meters was not too far off!
And then...
David Rudisha showed he was human. He was injured and found that cycle of injuries and fitness challenges that all of us find sometime in our careers. The only problem is, most of us are not the world record holders for 800 meters.
The battle back from injuries, for athletes of all levels, is very difficult.
For a world record holder, it has to be madness.
When speaking to David Rudisha, it is not apparent, at first, if it was difficult. But, it was. In 2013, Rudisha spent most of the year injured. In 2014, he was beat by runners he had destroyed before, and his second in the Commonwealth Games was a high watermark for Rudisha. He noted that he was happy to compete there, but he obviously did not like getting beat by Nijel Amos.
"I have learned that what I was missing from my training was the speed work. When I would do 300 meter repeats in 35 seconds, my knee would hurt. In 2015, I have been able to do 100 meter repeats, 150 repeats, 200 meters and 300 meters in 33 seconds, and there was no pain." A smile erupted on David Rudisha's face when he told this writer about that revelation.
The speed work gave him confidence. The lack of pain, a friend for the past 18 months, must have also allowed him to feel good.
In the rounds, Nijel Amos did not make them out. Mo Ama was disqualified for a rule violation. Part of the job for an elite athlete is to make it through the rounds.
As the Steve Forbert song from the 1970s noted (Cellophane City), " you can not win, if you do not play."
Rudisha had two formidable opponents: Adam Kszczot, the European champion, who is a masterful tactician. And most importantly, the new find of the year, Amel Tuka, from Bosnia Herzogovina, who caught all the fast guys in Monaco.
How would the front runner face these guys?
And that was what was truly special about David's race on Wednesday.
He did the absolute opposite of what everyone expected: He controlled the pace, took it slow, wait, pedestrian, an agonizing 54 second first lap. It kept him in control, and in the game.
When David Rudisha started to use that renewed 33 second 300 meter speed and that 22 second 200 meter speed, he was flying. But so, was Amel Tuka, who took off, after having been in a bit of a box, with 300 meters to go.
Rudisha began to fly, running his last full lap in 51.7, but that last 200 meters was where the damage was truly done: he covered that in just a shade ove 24 seconds.
" I felt confident and fast, " is how a smiling David Rudisha would speak about it on the afternoon after his glorious run.
"I was here to win, and this was the focus of my year," the soft spoken Rudisha told this writer.
In speaking to Wilson Kipketer, the former World Record holder and 1995 World Champion last April 2014, Wilson had noted a fear that David Rudisha might try and come back too quickly. " Coming back to great shape takes much time, " is how Wilson spoke, " I was not patient, and I had some tough times trying to return to my world record fitness."
David Rudisha is the zen master of the 800 meters. A man of quiet confidence, who has amazing endurance, amazing speed, and super human drive, David Rudisha knows that, still, he is not in WR shape, but he hopes to reach again before Rio.
As one knows, all eyes are on Rio for the 2016 Olympics.
David Rudisha has his focus.
A focus he never gave up on.


Thursday, 17 September 2015 20:52

A Night of Peaks and Valleys in Beijing

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A night with some strange turns and twists on Day 3 of the World Championships. As David Hunter, one of team in Beijing noted, " Northern Ohio will be very excited tonight, with Shawn Barber's gold medal in the pole vault and Emily Infeld's bronze in the 10,000 meters!"
And that was an understatement.
Pole Vault: Shawn Barber Upsets
The pole vault was supposed to be a done deal. Renaud Lavillenie has been jumping great, and cleared 6.05m in June and 6.03 in London. In the London Diamond League, Shawn Barber, fresh from his Pan Am gold medal, cleared all four of his heights in London, up to and including 5.93 meters, and finally missed at 6.03 meters. Lavillenie cleared 6.03 meters, missing at 6.10 meters.
Thursday, 17 September 2015 20:40

Finally a Race Lives Up to the Hype: Bolt vs. Gatlin

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The strength of our sport is also its greatest weakness.
Sometimes, hyped up races do not live up to their hype.
Sometimes, the whispers of world records hurt when a race is satisfying without a fast time.
The Men's 100 meter final may have been, one of the finest races I have ever seen. And in the current controversies in our sport, when we need to celebrate racing and competition, and stop the hype of WR this, and WR that, this race was all about the racing. And there was some serious racing in this meeting of nine of the finest sprinters in the world.
The semi finals just added to the drama of the evening.
In the first semi final, Usain Bolt slipped about five meters into the race, Perhaps the best way to describe this was that Usain Bolt clipped his toes, and seemed to wake up, and ran hard. He did not get into the race until more than midway and had to lunge hard, winning in 9.96, with Andre De Grasse of Canada in 9.96 as well. A close call for Bolt. Many of us thought, what does this mean for the final? Bingtian Su of China recieved a roar from 50,000 screaming Chinese fans as he set an NR of 9.99. We guess that training camp with Loren Seagrave must have paid off for Mr. Su. He also made the final!
When asked later in the evening about the semi finals, Usain noted, " I just stumbled, but I knew...all I had to do was to compose myself and run my race! I talked to my coach (Glen Mills) and he said, Relax, and that's pretty much what I did."
In the second of the semi finals, Justin Gatlin ran 9.77, in a legal wind, and stopped running fifteen meters out. Mike Rodgers ran 9.86, a seasonal best, to take second. After watching Justin Gatlin win his semi final with such ease, I thought that he would decimate the field in the final.
In the third semi final, Tyson Gay won , with Asafa Powell in second. Tyson ran 9.96, with Powell in 9.97, and his 92nd sub ten second 100 meters.
The field was finalized and it would be Jimmy Vicaut, Bingtian Su, Asafa Powell, Tyson Gay, Mike Rodgers, Trayvon Bromell, Andre De Grasse, Usain Bolt and Justin Gatlin.
The final introduction and build up took some time. An exciting hammer throw had taken place just before and a really competitive shot put, where the lead changed four times, were part of the evening.
The introductions gave each of the nine sprinters their time. Bingtian Su had a loud roar from the crowd. Each athelte received applause, but Usain Bolt and Justin Gatlin recieved the most. Observing Usain Bolt, one could see that he was as close to stress as he gets. A solomn face for a few moments, then the raising of eyebrows, the cutting up in front of the camera. I wondered to myself, " was he preparing to lose?"
I had forgotten who I was watching.
The race went off with out an issue. For once, Usain Bolt got out well, and was flying down the track. It was a close race, as Justin Gatlin was out well, with Mike Rodgers, Jimmy Vicaut following.
Justin Gatlin was leading the race around 70 meters. Andre De Grasse and Trayvon Bromell were racing hard, and close to each other. About 70 meters, Usain Bolt looked over to his right, and sensed Gatlin was leading. With a huge pumping action of his arms, and increase in his stride length, Bolt began to use his natural advantages, of strength and stride length and churned up the track, eating up Gatlin's lead in a few meters.
Bolt was not only sprinting well, he was preparing to lean into the finish, as all good sprinters do. So was Gatlin, though he seemed to be, in the heat of this race, leaning about ten meters too early.
As Bolt's final strides put him just ahead of Gatlin, his lean at the tape sealed the deal, and a true race for the ages—one where nine of the finest sprinters duel and two battle it out, was seen by 50,000 fans in Beijing and a billion fans around the world!
Bolt won in 9.79, with Gatlin taking second in 9.80.
Trayvon Bromell and Andre De Grasse tied for the bronze in 9.92. Mike Rodgers was fifth in 9.94. Tyson Gay and Asafa Powell ran 10.00, with Gay getting the nod for sixth and Powell for seventh. Jimmy Vicaut, the French record holder and European leader, was eighth in 10.00, and Bingtian Su was ninth in 10.06.
A very satisfying race on many levels.
Now with Bolt's win in 2015 added to his wins in 2013 and 2009, this must be a most satisfying victory for the Jamaican superstar and a portent of exciting battles to come!
After the 100 meter final, I ventured into the Press Conference Room, in the bowels of the Bird's Nest. Gatlin was pretty relaxed. "Look, if I’m going to lose to anyone, it would have to be to Usain. I had a nice run this past couple years, and I needed to run the last part of the race well. I lost the race in the last five meters,” noted Gatlin.
In fact, after speaking with BBC World Service, I learned a few other details about the race. Rick Simms, Bolt’s manager, told Jamaican writers that he believed Bolt, in leaning a bit too early at the finish, that he nearly gave the race to Gatlin.
I am of another belief. In the heat of battle, sometimes decisions are made that don’t make sense in review. The first two fast rounds run by Justin Gatlin, while exciting, may have worn him out. He was so much in control after the first and semis, that many were convinced he would decimate Bolt.
In fact, Gatlin, getting some nervous energy out, may have worn himself out just enough to give a bit Usain a bit of the power.
The final was tough, and Bolt was playing on his turf. On Usain's beach, you have to be careful. The next time that Gatlin battles Bolt, my guess is he’ll be better equipped to race the fastest man in the world.
The next question to be answered is whether both men will race the 200 meters!
By Larry Eder,

On Day 6 of the World Champs in Beijing, Allyson Felix took the 400 meters out crazy fast. In doing so, she ended the chances of her toughest rival, Christine Ohuruoghu—she of the perfect final straight running—who ran out of gas. Felix floated from 200m to 300m, then, put on the gas and ran away from the field to finish in a PB of 49.26. To celebrate, here’s a great article on Felix and her legacy by Dave Hunter. Enjoy! 

The IAAF World Championships, Beijing 2015 could potentially be the biggest world championship in the 15 editions of the event, which started in 1983 and ranks among the world’s leading sport's events.

With one week to go, the final entries indicate that 207 IAAF Member Federations will send representatives to the Chinese capital for the most important sporting event of the year.

The previous highest number of participating federations was 203, at the last championships in Moscow two years ago.

No less than 1936 athletes (1043 men and 893 women) have been entered. 

Although the number of athletes that will finally participate in Beijing will be slightly less, as is normal, this figure still compares favourably with the current highest total of 1895 who competed at the 2009 championships in Berlin.

The numbers have been boosted by the IAAF’s innovative system introduced ahead of these championships of inviting athletes who had not already been entered by the deadline of midnight (Central European Time) Monday 10 August, on the basis of them being among the best ranked in their event (apart from in long distance and walking disciplines) in order to bring an event up to an optimum number of competitors as established by the IAAF.

More about the entry system and standards can be read here.

With just one week to go, the IAAF World Championships, Beijing 2015 is expected to set the standard for the sport's future championships, with the world's best athletes going through their paces in the same magnificent Bird’s Nest stadium that was the centrepiece for the 2008 Olympic Games.

As already announced, the Bird’s Nest stadium will be full for all the evening sessions across the nine days, with an audience of 50,000 spectators.

Courtesy of IAAF

The 3rd annual American Track League meet is set to be the best edition yet with multiple global stars making their final tune-ups prior to heading to Beijing China for the IAAF World Championships later in August.

The 40th Lausanne Athletissima Meeting was a lesson in what is great about our sport, and sometimes, memorable. 
Records are nice, but give me competition any day.
The Movenpick Hotel, in Lausanne, Switzerland, located across the street from Lake Geneva, is the meeting place of all for the Athletissima meeting. Coaches, trainers, managers, footwear managers, fans and yes, athletes everywhere. 
There was a good crew of Americans in Paris on July 4, but the American hordes were in Lausanne most definitely. For many Americans, the U.S. Champs is more than physically exhausting: it’s emotionally difficult. 
Why do I love Lausanne? Let me count the ways:
By Larry Eder
Jimmy Vicaut has been a star in France for some time. On July 4, however, when he followed Asafa Powell across the line, taking second at the AREVA Paris and running 9.86, he moved to another level. 
Vicaut was now the fastest sprinter in Europe, having equalled the European record of 9.86. L'Equipe dedicated much ink to Monsieur Vicaut for the next week. 

Nicolas Herbelot, senior writer for L'Equipe and I wondered out loud, how Vicaut would do through the rounds. 
Christophe Lemaitre has, which is unusual for him, some injuries this year. 
I went to the city of Lille, in the north of France to see the French Elite Championships, and specifically Vicaut, Lemaitre and the French hurdle crew. 
On Day Two, the weather was just about perfect for sprinting: a bit cool, and with little wind. 
The stadium was filled with 6000+ fans, and Christophe Lemaitre was in the first round of the 100 meters. After two false starts, Lemaitre was looking, well, disgusted. 
Once his round took off, Lemaitre looked great! His start was good, and about thirty meters, his head came up and his long stride put him out of reach of the rest of his round, as he ran 10.22, and looked very good. 
In the second round, Jimmy Vicaut looked good as well; no false starts. Vicaut's start is not his best section of the race, but as he lifts his head and pumps his arms, his speed and finish over the last thirty meters is something to be seen. Even though he shut it down about 80 meters, Vicaut ran 10.19. 
When the gun off in the men’s 100m finals, Christophe Lemaitre got out fine, and even was ahead of Jimmy Vicaut until 30 meters. At 30 meters, Vicaut put his head up and began to pump his arms and churn the track up, short stride after quick short stride. While Lemaitre's stride length is much longer, Vicaut’s turnover is much faster. At 70 meters, Lemaitre and Vicaut are together.
Then the afterburner comes on and Vicaut bursts away from Christophe Lemaitre, winning in 9.92. Lemaitre takes second in 10.07.
For Lemaitre, this as his first race without pain since he injured himself on a 250-meter training track in Russia where the turns were quite tight. It took three weeks to heal, and last week, Christophe, under the watchful eyes of his coach, ran accelerations on Tuesday and Thursday. 
The weather was good and Lemaitre’s coach’s translator told us that he wants to run the 200 meters on Sunday, but we’ll have to wait and see.
Christophe Lemaitre wins 200m in stirring battle with Jimmy Vicaut at Championnats de France, by Larry Eder
Jimmy Vicaut and Christophe Lemaitre are fine sprinters. Vicaut is the European leader over 100 meters. Lemaitre should be the European leader and medal contender over 200 meters. 
They were both in Lille for different reasons: Vicaut on the hunt for a 200 meter qualifier, and Lemaitre to make sure he was okay to race. 
Both got their answers.
The Championnats de France Elite had nice crowds: approximately 6,000 on Saturday and probably 8,000 on Sunday. 
The draws were all of the finals, but especially the 110-meter hurdles, the men's pole vault, women's 200 meters, men's 800 meters, and of course, the final event, the men's 200 meters. 
The 110-meter hurdles we just wrote about: Garfield Darien smoothly won that race in 13.17 and Pascal Martinot-Lagarde, intent on defeating Dmitri Bascou, did not even see it coming. 
The 800m men's race was won by by Pierre Ambroise-Bosse, the French NR holder, who cooly came from last at 300 meters after getting shoved a bit, to hit 400 meters in 53.09. He didn’t take the lead until after the 500-meter mark, and then it was all over. Ambroise-Bosse, in his third 800 meters in 72 hours, won in 1:46.07. He put his arms out and slowed the last fifty meters, as he could have run 1:45 in his sleep today. 
Renaud Lavillenie cleared 5.70 meters and 5.85 meters on his first attempts. He made three attempts at 6 meters. His first was a run through the pit. His second was a total stall, but his third was close and it should give him confidence. 
Rabelais said it, I believe, some people reside in the gutters, while some are looking for the stars. Lavillenie is trying to reach the stars; this guy thinks 6 meters or higher each meet. It’s a strength, but in Champs, can be a weakness. He will need to temper in Beijing. 
In the 200 meter rounds, Jimmy Vicaut won the first semi final in 20.64, letting up. Jeffrey John was second in 20.82, Pierre Vincent in 21.12 for third, and Eli Mensah Boampong was fourth in 21.38. All four qualified for the final. 
In the second 200 meter heat, Christophe Lemaitre came into the turn fine, and let up down the straight, running 20.76 with Aziz Ouhadi (MAR), 21.00, Ben Bassaw, 21.02, and Pierre-alexis Pessonneaux in fourth in 21.22. All four going through to the final. 
Let’s add some drama to this already operatic race. In June, Christophe Lemaitre, he who rarely gets injured, hurt himself during the warm up on a small, 250-meter track in Russia as he prepared for the European Team Championships. Three weeks of worry; three weeks of recuperation. Under the ever-watchful eye of his coach, Pierre Carraz, an old school guy if there ever was one, Lemaitre recuperated. 
Last week, on two occasions, Lemaitre ran acceleration drills and they were promising. Hoping for warm weather, but not too warm, Carraz prepared his pupil to double, but, one at a time. 
This is where the old school stuff comes in. Coaching is both art and science. If you have too much of one, and none of the other, you are screwed. Coach is salesman, preacher, confessor, and trainer. 
Carraz, if I could ever understand his damn French, is all of that. His friends tell us that he watches Christophe like a hawk, but gives him enough rope to develop self-confidence and have an honest view of his development. 
Under other less watchful eyes, Lemaitre would have been squandered. Under Carraz, Lemaitre knows that if he takes his time and stays patient, he’ll be battling for the gold in 2020 and 2024. Time is on his side. 
Christophe came through the 100 meter unscathed. His 10.07, behind Jimmy Vicaut, was a seasonal best. 
His first round in the 200 meters, in 20.76, was not painful, but it did look like it took a bit of effort and reminded the young French sprinter that he must manage his final effort in two hours. 
The final, dear friends, was a thing of beauty. 
Jimmy Vicaut started on the inside of Christophe Lemaitre. As they came off the turn, Lemaitre had a slight lead, but Vicaut, again, testing his new found fitness and health, was cautiously pulling up next to Lemaitre. Vicaut looked like he could have gone by Lemaitre, but Monsieur Lemaitre was not going to let that happen. 
At about 150 meters, Lemaitre let loose that long stride, perfectly timing his finish and moved ahead for good, taking the lead by 180 meters and holding it, winning in 20.28. 
Vicaut was running hard himself and that 9.92 (and 9.86 on July 4), plus four rounds in two days, took something out of him. He tied his personal best of 20.42, taking second. He needs 20.38 to be considered for Beijing, per the FFA. 
For Lemaitre, the 100m and 200m at the Championnats de France elite were all part of the road to Beijing, where he will be ready.
For Vicaut, his 100m and 200m showed that he can run rounds and stay healthy, all important considerations for Beijing. 
The French have two star sprinters. 
Over the next six weeks, we’ll observe these two champions and see how they will battle the Jamaicans, Americans and few others for spots on the medal stands in Beijing, August 22-28.
Au revoir from Lille Metropole!