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Track & Field

Track & Field (183)

Thursday, 01 September 2016 15:21

Molly Huddle Sets 30:13.17 AR in Oly 10,000m

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BY LARRY EDER—What was so spectacular about Molly Huddle's race was her ability to pull herself back from the precipice. At 4000m, Molly Huddle was near AR pace for her own 5000 meter record! She slowed the pace down, hitting the 5000m in 14:55, nine seconds behind Alice Nawowuma and Almaz Ayana. When Ayana took off after 5,000 meters, Molly Huddle was twenty meters off the seventh placer, but moved past two in the final 4000 meters. Molly Huddle was rewarded with a 30:13.72 for the 10,000m, a new American record!
 
Now owning the 5000m and 10,000m American records, Molly Huddle caps off a fine summer of racing where she won both the 10,000m and 5,000m at the U.S. Olympic Trials. We look forward to her debut over the marathon in the TCS New York City Marathon!
Tuesday, 30 August 2016 21:31

Best Quotes of the 2016 Olympic Games

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Compiled by Elliott Denman—From Opening Ceremonies to Closing, Olympians and those who'd done all the work giving them the opportunity to be Olympians, spewed out the contents of their hearts and of their souls, telling their stories of success and success's opposites. They divulged their emotions as they felt it at the moments of greatest drama, letting the rest of the world know just how they felt about the goings-on at the critical stages of the events they'd just experienced.
By Elliott Denman—Kids of America, we sure hope you were watching.
 
Boys and girls, we sure hope you got to check out Christian Taylor, Will Claye and Keturah Orji in action at Estadio Olimpico.
 
They were agile, athletic, astounding. Sensational and sizzling.
 
They not only doubled the fun for all of us at the Games, they tripled it.
 
They did it playing the old-older-oldest of children's street games - the hop, skip and jump.
 
And making all of us proud along the way.
 
Taylor and Claye placed 1-2 in the men's version of "El Triplo" for a second straight Games. Taylor's winning jump came in round one; he and Claye would far outclass the rest of the world the rest of the way.
 
And Orji showed us that this wasn't just a boys game.
 
For eons, it seems, American women have never been able to catch on to the knack of getting this thing done right.
 
It took a bright young lady out of New Jersey and now Georgia (the University of, to be precise), Keturah Orji, to show us that a U.S. female athlete selecting the triple as her sporting specialty wasn't embarking on a mission Impossible.
 
Keturah - biblically named, for the third wife of Abraham - not only smashed her own American record but came within a silly three centimeters of actually placing third and medaling, which would have translated in any language - which they do routinely here at the Games -into a big slice of American athletic history.
 
The best any American woman had ever finished in the triple, which has been on the Olympic program for women since 1984, was 10th.
 
Taylor's ties over the years have been to New York, Georgia and Florida (the University of, where he and Claye were teammates.) Now, global notable that he is, those ties go Trans-Atlantic, to England and The Netherlands, as he follows the workaday assignments of his renowned coach, Rana Rieder.
 
Double Dutch? No, Taylor triples it.
 
Will Claye's ties over the years have been to Arizona, Florida (with Taylor) and Oklahoma.
He's more than OK, too. While he couldn't match Taylor for a second straight Games - the margin between them was just ten centimeters - he's not giving up the chase, either.
 
Both frown on the mere thought of giving this thing up without at least one more Olympic Games in their resumes. Both have already vowed to be in Tokyo in 2020 - and what a perfect vision that would be.
 
Speaking of vows, Claye traveled in that direction here, too. At some point in his personal road to Rio, he'd packed an engagement ring in his luggage.
 
And he then presented it to his beloved, the hurdler Queen Harrison, after his podium appearance for the silver.
 
Obvious moral of this story-within-a-story: Where there's a Will, there's a way.
 
For the two-time silver medalist, this will be no short-term relationship.
It's the real thing. She will not be his Queen for a day.
 
Many American track and field fans of more recent vintage can tell you of the
exploits of such as Al Joyner, Mike Conley, and Kenny Harrison.
 
Just in case not, we'll remind you that Al Joyner (brother of the great Jackie; widower of the late-great Flo-Jo) struck gold at Los Angeles in 1984; Mike Conley won at Barcelona in 1992, and Kenny Harrison set the still-standing Olympic record with his win at Atlanta in 1996.
 
"Sure, I'm aware of all of them, and how great they were; they were role models for me," said Taylor.
 
But, Mr. T, have you ever heard of Meyer Prinstein?
 
"Well, errrr, no," he had to admit.
 
Told that Prinstein, a New Yorker and a Syracuse University guy, had tripled to
Olympic golds in both 1900 (Paris) and 1904 (St. Louis), along with snaring a gold and a silver in his long jumps, Taylor's response was "oh, wow..."
 
So that did not make him the first American to double the triple after all.
Moving right along, another check of the five-ringed archives will tell you that just one man has ever tripled the triple, and that was Victor Saneyev of the Soviet Union at Mexico City in 1968, Munich in 1972, and Monteal in 1976.
 
Two others have done the Paso Doble, you might say: Brazil's immortal Adhemar Ferreira da Silva at Helsinki in 1952 and Melbourne 1956, who was followed by Poland's Jozef Schmidt atop the podium at Rome in 1960 and Tokyo in 1964.
 
When all had quieted down, Taylor said "This is what I live for, this is what pushes me. I will continue to push, the season is not over and I'm healthy. I take everything into consideration, I have a phenomenal coach and I trust the program."
 
He also had a phenomenal but foul leap - maybe world record-long - in the final round to fuel his desire to keep on tripling for years to come.
 
With role models like these, along with the sheer fun of it all, maybe
a great promoter-person - certainly there is some such individual out there somewhere - can elevate El Triplo into the next great national fad.
 
Maybe even in the class of the hula hoop, and needing no such equipment, either.
 
As the Nostalgia Central website tells us about the hula hoop: "The Hula Hoop is the standard by which all fads are measured. Somewhere inside that plastic ring lay the key to the hearts of a generation, and the Hula Hoop won those hearts like no toy before or since."
 
That so, fad fans of the world, would you please unite; you have nothing to lose but your hoops. Go take a hop, a skip and a jump; keep smiling through each phase, and dream big, Olympic big.
 
Big enough to discover new talent in some interesting locations. 
 
Tripoli, for instance.
 
 
One of the finest and most prolific writers in our sport, Elliott Denman has written about our sport since 1956, when he represented the US in 1956 Olympic Games at the 50k race walk, the longest event on the Olympic schedule. A close observer of the sport, Elliott writes about all of our sport, combining the skills of a well-honed writer with the style of ee Cummings. 
 
By Larry Eder—Matt Centrowitz ended a 108-year-old drought in the men's 1500 meters for the U.S. on Sat., Aug. 20, 2016. Centrowitz did it by controlling the race from before the 200 meters on, and putting down one of the finest last laps in the history of Olympic final. It took just 50.25 seconds for Centrowitz to cover the last 400 meters as nearly 60,000 fans screamed from the stands of Engenhao Stadio Olimpico!
 
Here’s how we saw the race build and finish at a crescendo with the young, talented, and tactical Matt Centrowitz taking the gold, against one of the finest fields in the 1500 meters in many an Olympic Games.
 
 
The 1,500 meters started out slow and got slower. 
 
With so many athletes who should have known better, the race was so slow by 200 meters, that Matt Centrowitz was at the front, a position he would not relinquish until the very end, well, actually past the finish! In so doing, Centrowitz managed something no American had done since 1908. The best U.S. finish being a silver in 1968 by the great Jim Ryun, who had called to wish Matt good luck before the race.
 
Centrowitz took the lead just after 200 meters, and stayed right there. He hit 400 meters in 66.83, with Taoufik Maklhoufi, Algeria, 2012 London gold medalist and 2016 800m silver medalist, and Ayanleh Souleiman, Djibouti, always dangerous, who has the 800m bronze from Moscow 2013 to prove it. 
 
Sitting in the very back was Asbel Kiprop of Kenya, the man everyone thought was going to win. Nick Willis, New Zealand, the 2008 Olympic silver medalist at 1500 meters, and the 2016 World Indoor bronze medalist. Nick has lots of experience and brutal finishing speed. Also in the mix was Nate Brannen, Canada, always dangerous. Of the latter two, their coach Ron Warhurst told me a few days before, "If I don't get them into the final, then I’m not that good a coach."
 
Centrowitz was managing a fast-moving train, and keeping that train very slow.
 
The 800 meters was hit in 2:16.59-yes, that is slow. The slow pace continued and Centrowitz continued to control the pace. Those finely honed elbows were in place, tuned over all of the indoor races Centrowitz had run as a high schooler. That’s one of the things about Matt Centrowtiz, Jr. that I have always liked: he seldom gets in bad positioning when the medals are on the line. Centro continued that modus operandi in this race. How close was it? Just before the 800-meter mark, Ronal Kwemoi, Kenya, who should have been a player, hit the track and would end up finishing last.
 
The problem was, the rest of the world was on Centrowitz's back. Asbel Kiprop was moving up and, as the field came close to the bell, all the players were there: Makhloufi, Iguider, Kiprop, Bustos of Spain, Ben Blankenship of the U.S.
 
After the race, Centrowitz told USATF: "I didn't know how this race was going to be. After about the first 800 and no one went around me, I said, ‘Okay we're getting now into latter stages where I can't let anyone get around me at this point.’ Early on, if someone came around me, I'd be content with that. Souleiman kind of pulled up, kind of went around me but kind of left the inside. I've made that maneuver before at previous world championships and I saw that he left it open. I thought ‘We’re going into the last lap right now, it's now or never’ [so] I took my opening and went from there."
 
As the field hit the bell lap in 3:00.00 flat, one knew the pace had to quicken. Centrowitz, began the long drive for home. His speed is deceptive.  and he was churning up the track and controlling the race. No one could get by him on the back stretch. Souleiman made the toughest move with less than 200 meters to go, but there was no way Centrowitz would let him get by—it was running for medals now!
 
Off the final turn, Centrowitz was flying down the track. Makhloufi tried to get by but he was held at second, as all the rest tried. Kiprop began to move, his long legs and tall frame moving fast, but he just didn’t have the gear he had used so many times before, and finished sixth. Abdalaati Iguider, Morocco has serious finishing speed and his 50.58 last lap got him fifth. Ayanleh Souleiman ran 50.29 gave the Djibouti star fourth.
 
Best movers? Willis stayed in perfect position the entire final straight, knowing that he who moves last wins the big prize. He used that finish—built on the track at Michigan under the watchful eye of Ron Warhurst—with precision and took the bronze, with a 50.24 last lap, just missing the silver. Willis's bronze medal put a large smile on the Kiwi's face!
 
Makhloui, the 2012 defending champion would be closest, but he could not get the top position, as that was reserved today for Matt Centrowitz. Makhloufi took silver, in 3:50.11. Yep, that was slow, the slowest since 1932 Olympics.
 
But as John Walker, 1976 Olympic bronze medalist once noted, one preferred a field full of senior citizens. Finishing time didn’t matter. All that mattered was who won gold, silver, and bronze.
 
And for the first time since 1908, a U.S. runner had earned the gold. Centrowitz ran 50.25 for the last 400 meters, getting the jump on the field and putting so much lactate in their legs that most couldn’t challenge those few feet of advantage.
 
At the finish, Centrowitz exclaimed to his father, "Are you kidding me?" His father, Matt Centrowitz, Sr., a fine coach and a fine runner in his own right (and former American record holder), was a bit more profane, "Are you **** kidding me?"using a a bit more colorful language in the exchange.
 
I’m taken to two final comments. Back in May 2012, I was in the Amsterdam airport with Dathan Ritzenhein, after he’d run 27:51 at Hengelo. We were speaking about the then-very young Centrowitz. Dathan told me that Alberto Salazar, their coach, believed that Matt was one of his most talented runners. A few weeks later, I wrote on runblogrun: "Matthew Centrowitz had the talent, the speed, and yes, the arrogance, to win it all."
 
I’m sure glad that Matt Centrowitz won the 2016 Olympic gold medal, as it has not been often, in track & field prognostications, that I’m right.
By Dave Hunter 
Everyone loves the 4x100 meter relay. Fans relish the spectacle, the electricity of this furious event which really is four mini-races all packaged in a 40 second presentation. With both the men's and the women's short relay finals being held Friday night, those who love track & field were prepared for a double dose of the event that requires both speed and execution. In the end, they got it all: the good, the bad and the ugly.
 
First up was the women's 4x1 and the continuing melodrama with the American quartet. Thursday morning's preliminary round featured the roller derby-like incident on the backstretch when the Yanks' second pass from Allyson Felix to English Gardner was spoiled when the incoming Felix was knocked off stride by an adjacent, encroaching Brazilian sprinter. After a desperate baton toss, a hurried stick retrieval, a jogged last place finish, and a successful protest, Team USA was granted a most unusual re-run. After 8 hours to recompose themselves, the American women shined. In the 7:00 p.m. solo re-run, Team USA posted a 41.77 clocking - faster than all of the morning qualifiers - earning the USA a spot in the final and sending China to the sidelines. Ah, but taking China's place meant taking their lane assignment as well - the dreaded Lane 1, complete with tighter turns and that always-pesky curb. Rejuvenated by the rare second chance, the U.S. women were unfazed when relegated to the least desirable lane. "It's our new normal," quipped leadoff runner Tianna Bartoletta.
 
After skirting elimination, the American women stepped back onto the track the following day for the 4x100 meter final to do battle with Jamaica and 6 other world-class teams. 
 
Experienced Bartoletta set the tone early, getting the out quickly and giving the American women the lead as she passed crisply to Felix. The lead for Team USA grew as Felix raced down the backstretch and handed off cleanly to English Gardner who roared around the curve. Even with a safe third exchange to Tori Bowie - stepping in to replace Morolake Akinosun who anchored in the preliminary round - the American women had a meaningful lead over Jamaica as the anchor runners took flight. They needed it. Shelley Anne Fraser-Pryce closed hard, but was held off by Bowie who crossed the line first in 41.01, followed by Jamaica [41.36] and Great Britain [41.77]. The victory was a glorious one for Team USA - their time representing the #2 all-time performance and setting a new Lane 1 world record. In the always-fickle 4x100 meter relay where all teams are flirting with disaster, the short relay is indeed a beautiful sight to behold when executed flawlessly. And the USA women did just that to grab the gold. Squad leader Allyson Felix best summarized the quartet's emotional roller coaster ride to the gold medal: "I think yesterday proved that you never know what you're going to get. Sometimes adversity makes you stronger. We each have had a rocky road here, kind of a different journey, a unique experience. We just came together, just wanted to keep going."
 
20 minutes later and energized by the glittering performance of the USA women's relay team, the American fans in the Olympic Stadium were in a festive mood, eager to see what the men's 4x100 relay team - which had posted the fastest time in the preliminary round - could do in its final. The exuberance of the USA faithful in the stands was short lived. Veteran leadoff man Mike Rodgers generated his usual quick start and executed what appeared to be an efficient pass to 100m silver medalist Justin Gatlin who powered down the backstretch. The exchange from Gatlin to Tyson Gay was balky, but at least the baton stayed off the track. As Gay motored around the curve, it was clear that Jamaica - in the outside lane next to the Americans - would be giving its anchorman Usain Bolt a lead. At the final pass, Bolt had a two step margin over U.S. anchor Trayvon Bromell. That's all the world's all-time greatest sprinter needed as he raced full bore all the way through the line, crossing in 37.27 for the win and the completion of the "Triple Triple" - the third consecutive Bolt Slam of Olympic victories in the 100m, the 200m, and the 4x100m relay. Meanwhile, Japan - overlooked by the track aficionados, yet riding superior stick exchanges into medal contention - found itself in 2nd at the final pass. Bromell - who grabbed the baton in 3rd - struggled down the homestretch, unable to catch Japan [37.60] as Bromell was .02 back at the line. Japan's silver medal performance was affirmation that a slower foursome with exquisite passing technique can beat a faster quartet with substandard exchange zone execution. Remember: the ingredients for success are speed and execution.
 
While four flag-draped Americans danced around the track to celebrate what they believed was their bronze medal performance, Olympic track officials were studying the race recording. Here's what they found: Team USA's first exchange was in violation as Gatlin commenced his acceleration outside of the clearly-marked acceleration zone and the Rodgers-to-Gatlin pass was completed before the exchange zone. Oops.
 
But wait there's more: Bromell also committed a lane violation. And here's the worst aspect: It turns out Bromell ran the anchor leg with a severe ankle injury that was known by the USA coaching staff! Why in the world would the USA coaching staff ever allow an injured athlete already facing Achilles surgery to race when Marvin Bracy - the reigning world indoor 60m champion - is healthy and available? That thoughtless decision - which was neither in the best interests of Team USA or of Bromell, who could have faced further, more serious or permanent injury - should be subject to further investigation. With an array of violations from which to choose, the officials DQ'd the USA foursome. This disqualification of the USA men - the 6th such self-inflicted wound by the men's 4x1 in the last 7 World Championships and Olympic Games - was learned by American track & field fans as they checked their apps while riding trains back to their hotels.
 
The remedy for this pathetic situation cannot be clearer: the United States cannot expect to win gold - or even capture a medal of any color - just by throwing together 4 admittedly-speedy athletes. Those athletes must also be committed to ego-free intensive training and practice under the watchful eye of an experienced coach with authority to assemble the best sprinter foursome that combines both speed and excellent exchange zone execution. Under any other approach, American athletes - and its track & field fans - are destined to endure a continued, unending string of disastrous relay team performances.
 
Dave Hunter, who ran his marathon P.R. of 2:31:40 on the highly revered Boston Marathon course back in the Paleozoic era, is a track and field announcer, broadcaster, and journalist.
 

Aug. 13, 2016, Engenhau Stadium—by Larry Eder

The Long Jump in 2012 London was won by Greg Rutherford of Great Britain. Two years later, he won the European Champs and Commonwealth Games and in 2015, Greg won the World Championships in Beijing. An affable cheerleader for the event, Rutherford wanted very much to defend his title in Rio.

 

Several athletes, including a couple of Americans, had other ideas. After the incredibly deep long jump competition at the US Olympic Trials, Jeff Henderson and Jarrion Lawson had some crazy long jumps and I wondered how that would translate into Rio. Either the US jumpers would be dominating or they would be flat from the Trials.

 

The first round of jumping looked like this:  Jeff Henderson had jumped 8.20m, Jarrion Lawson was at 8.19m, defending champion Greg Rutherford, was at 8.18m, and Luvo Manyonga was at 8.16 meters. It was already a close one.

 

After the second round, Jianan Wang, CHN, jumped 8.17m, to join the tight race making jumpers at 8.20m, 8.19m, 8.18m, 8.17m, 8.16m! Marks by Jarrion Lawson (8.15m) and Rutherford (8.11m) fell short of their first-round efforts.

 

Net change after round 3: Jarrion Lawson took the lead with 8.25m, Rutherford responded with 8.22m, and Henderson jumped 8.10m.

 

Round 4 saw Greg Rutherford take the lead with an 8.26-meter leap until Luvo Manyonga, RSA, the world junior champion from Monton, blew it all open with his 8.28 meter jump to take the lead.

 

In round five, Rutherford responded with a leap of 8.09 meters. Then, Luvo Manyonga, already in the lead, jumped 8.37 meters, to cement his lead, and Henderson responded with 8.22 meters.

 

The final round is where it all shook out. Rutherford jumped 8.29 meters to cement his bronze medal. Henderson gave it all he had and leaped 8.38 meters, taking the lead by one centimeter

 

On his last chance to reclaim the lead, Manyonga fouled, and Lawson’s final jump was long but his hand trailed, and he was measured at a much shorter 7.78m.

 

Final results: Henderson taking the gold with 8.38m, silver was won by Manyonga (8.37m), and Rutherford received the bronze with his 8.29m.

 

I spoke to Jeff Henderson a couple days later to congratulate him on his performance. He was still basking in the coolness of his Olympic victory. The long jump was an excellent competition, and lived up to the Rio Olympic hype.

 

 

Larry Eder has has a 44-year involvement in the sports of athletics, as an athlete, coach, magazing publisher and now as a journalist and blogger. 

By Dave Hunter
 
Yesterday at the Olympic Stadium as the USA women's 4x100 meter relay team was preparing to compete in their preliminary round, you could look around the stands and easily identify the American fans. They were the ones - in fearful anticipation - who were averting their gaze, shielding their eyes, afraid to witness yet another Team USA relay disaster.
 
The team the USA was sending out onto the track made sense. Tianna Bartoletta - fresh off her clutch, gold medal long jump performance the night before - was scheduled to lead off, just as she had done in the 2012 Games when the Yanks grabbed the gold with a world record performance. She would then hand off to the veteran Allison Felix who would race the backstretch before handing off to English Gardner to run the curve. The former Oregon star would then pass to Olympic newbie anchor Morolake Akinosun. Keen observers anticipated that when - or if - the Americans would make the final, a rested Tori Bowie would step in for Akinosun to run the anchor.
 
As the heat got underway, the seasoned Bartoletta got out well and flew around the curve. It was clear the Americans had the early lead. The first exchange between two veterans was just what you'd expect - conservatively scripted and carefully performed. Felix looked solid down the backstretch.
 
But then it happened.
 
As Felix was sailing toward Gardner who was just beginning to take off, the team on USA's outside - Brazil - was executing its exchange. Not uncommonly, Brazil's third sprinter was crouched in the left section of her lane to give her incoming teammate maximum room to perform the handoff. But Brazil's outgoing third athlete was too far left, stepping on the line between the host team and the US and causing her elbow to make contact with the incoming Felix on the inner lane. As the Brazilian elbowed Felix, the American athlete - still in full flight and preparing to hand to the accelerating Gardner - was jostled and thrown off stride. Slowed, Felix could not reach Gardner to hand off the baton. Understandably flustered and running out of exchange zone real estate, Felix attempted an awkward shovel pass - actually attempting to toss the stick into her teammate's open hand as Gardner - looking straight ahead - was tearing into the curve. As in football, forward laterals are not permitted in track & and field. Pandemonium resulted: Felix crashed into the halting Gardner, the baton went flying, and the USA women's relay hopes went down the drain. Or so it seemed....
 
After the baton was retrieved and the US loped in to cross the line in 1::06.71, the Americans filed a protest alleging obstruction by Brazil. "I got bumped coming into the exchange zone. It just completely threw me off balance," explained Felix afterward in the mixed zone. "I tried to hold it together to get it to English. Maybe, if I had one more step I could've, but I was falling as I was going through." Upon review, the host team was disqualified and - in a nearly unprecedented move - the U.S. women were granted an unusual remedy. They would be given a single-team re-run - a "do-over" as the kids would say - to be held before the start of the evening session later the same day. For the additional opportunity to be fruitful, the American women would have to run faster than the Chinese quartet which captured the last time qualifier with a 42.70 in the morning session. This time the Americans got it right. Running in the first Olympic race with only one entrant since 1908, the U.S. women got the stick around, clocking 41.77 - the fastest semi-final time - to unseat China and gain a Lane 1 spot in today's final.
 
Stick exchanges are an integral part of our sport. The baton pass is a relay race procedure which - if honed through practice - is not intrinsically difficult. Attend the Penn Relays and you'll witness hundreds of teams - many of them high school squads - execute precise passes all day long. The difficult element is the ability to coolly perform this maneuver in the heat of the battle. Baton exchanges are the track & field equivalent of the last-second field goal attempt to capture the Super Bowl trophy, the basketball foul shot with no time left on the clock to win a playoff game, the 8 foot putt to win the Masters.
 
So what does Team USA need to do to master this - as many other nations have? Two steps come readily to mind. First of all, Team USA must abandon the notion that the team's relay coach position can be treated like a ceremonial appointment to be conferred as a reward upon an aging American sprinter. Team USA needs to secure the services of a proven, no-nonsense sprint and relay coach. Our country is replete with experienced and knowledgeable individuals who have a firm understanding of sprint mechanics and exchange zone best practices. A case in point would be veteran coach Loren Seagrave, an international consultant, Director of Track & Field and Cross Country, and the Director of Speed and Movement at IMG Academy. After being retained by China to work with their young and promising sprinters and to harness their relay teams, Seagrave prepared China's sprinters to perform at the highest level at last August's World Championships in Beijing. Primed through Seagrave's guidance, sprinter Bingtian Su made the 100 meter final. And the Chinese men's 4x100 meter relay team crossed the line third in the Beijing final and were actually awarded the silver medal. How is that possible, you ask? The second team across the line - the US of A - was disqualified for passing outside of the zone.
 
A second, essential ingredient for relay team success is practice - and lots of it. Successful place kickers, basketball players, and golfers spend endless hours cultivating the poise and muscle memory necessary to ensure perfect field goal, foul shot, and putting execution when that big moment is upon them. Sprint squads from other nations do so as well - devoting countless hours perfecting timing and stick passing . It is manifestly apparent that our athletes to do not attend to this to the degree necessary to skirt disaster. To those who would yelp that our sprinters actually do devote sufficient time and attention preparing properly and religiously, the endless string of big stage gaffes suggests otherwise.
 
There is little reason to believe that USA relay team disasters can be averted until changes such as these - and others - are implemented.
 
As for the current United States' women's 4 x 100 meter relay team, they have been granted one of the rarest opportunities in track & field: a second chance. The American women responded with gusto last night by achieving a time qualifier in a most-unusual single team re-run. Tonight we will see if the women's sprint quartet can take full advantage of this second chance by performing under pressure and executing precisely in a filled stadium against 7 other world-class quartets. Resist the instinct to look away.
 
 
Dave Hunter, who ran his marathon P.R. of 2:31:40 on the highly revered Boston Marathon course back in the Paleozoic era, is a track and field announcer, broadcaster, and journalist.
Tuesday, 02 August 2016 00:34

IAAF President Coe and the Rio Olympics

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The Summer Olympics are a week away, and many are scrambling. I'm scrambling to find housing that's not only secure but that doesn't take half of the day to get to the Olympic track stadium. I'm not at all worried about Zika virus. I'm worried about getting mugged, and making it back and forth to the stadium without losing phones and computers. I must say, in the previous Summer Olympics I have attended, being shived for a iPhone 6, has not been top on my list of worries. 

But all that pales in comparison to the 18 days that lie ahead for Sebastian Coe, the President of the IAAF.

Seb Coe spent much of his formative years as a high performance athlete who was coached by his father, and followed at a microscopic level by the British press. The skills he learned then, the friends he made, the hard learned impressions with media, are all there today.

They're the reason why he survives and, in fact, thrives in times of crisis.

I recall asking Mr. Coe at the Beijing World Champs about his plans for innovation. Seb was quite confident that he could change things rather quickly. Little did he know the maelstrom that would take over the sport, where Lamine Diack and his family would fill the media of the world, and Coe would be accused of everything but being responsible for global warming. Some, even his friends,  worried if President Coe could weather the storm.

But Coe was persistent and focused. His strengths are his weaknesses and his weaknesses are his strengths. His calm confidence annoys the hell out of some people, but it's that same calm confidence helped Coe weather the proverbial storm.

There are two major issues that Coe has to deal with, and that his legacy will be based on. One is the Russian crisis. Facts are that Seb Coe, in his leadership of the IAAF, has kept the Russian Athletics Federation out of the 2016 Summer Olympics because of their absolutely planned and focused system of doping for their athletes. This system was not done overnight, but is a well-thought-out, supported system of doping to keep Russian athletes at the top the sports world.

The pressure that Coe received cannot be underestimated. Russian president Vladimir Putin is a formidable adversary and he's not a happy camper. Many of his finest athletes will not be seen in Rio, and the IAAF is the one who, even as the athletics federation was being buried in the press, stood firm and kept Russia out of Olympic track & field. And, for the world—not NBC's world—track & field is the biggest draw of the summer Olympics.

As long as Coe stays firm here, and also provides the clear program for Russia to re enter the family of sporting nations, the IAAF will continue to improve its visibility in the world of sports and sporting sponsors.

The IOC has other issues to deal with, too deep and voluminous to discuss here. I will save that for my twenty hours of travel to Rio.

My other concern for Coe is this: CAS has provided the IAAF with a huge problem, which will be focused, quite unfairly, on Caster Semenya. Due to a lack of understanding and perhaps a bit of copping out, CAS no longer requires female athletes who have higher testosterone amounts than most of the women that they compete with, to take medication that supresses said testosterone. Caster Semenya will, more than likely, win the 400 meters and 800 meters. She may also break the 800 meter record. One year ago, she could not break two minutes.

How does IAAF deal with this?

In Rio, Coe must walk through some minefields while protecting Semenya from the hateful things and booing that punctuated 2009. He also has to, with his team, show CAS why, for sport to be both fair and clean, standards for testosterone in women's sports need to be reassessed.

With Russian athletes being banned and the women's 800 meters, and perhaps 400 meters, televised for all the world to see, Zika will be long forgotten in Rio.

For President Coe, he just needs to remember Moscow 1980. Most of what he needs to remember he learned there, in between his silver medal in the 800 meters and his gold medal in the 1,500 meters.

The sport—hell, the world of sport—needs his leadership.

Tuesday, 02 August 2016 00:32

Bolt in Rio

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RIO DE JANEIRO (BRA): Agencies are informing that World fastest man Usain Bolt touched down in Rio de Janeiro on Wednesday night. The Jamaican sprinter arrived at Rio International Airport at 9.02pm local time, after a transatlantic flight from London, where he competed in the Anniversary Games last week. Bolt was greeted by a scrum of media, excited airport staff and members of the public. He briefly posed for photos but said nothing before being whisked off in a private car. "I know the sport needs me to win and come out on top,"says Usain Bolt. He joined with the rest of the Jamaican team members - including Asafa Powell and Yohan Blake - who are already at a pre-Games training camp, which is based at a nearby naval academy. (Alfonz Juck, EME News)

RunBlogRun opines: Usain Bolt is one of my favorites. He is a few years old than my son, Adam, and I get a kick out of how he comports himself. Usain has a sense of humor, as well as prodigious talent, and a work ethic. Anyone who thinks the guy has not puked along the side of the track in Jamaica, after he survives one of Coach Francis's workouts, is hallucinating. One does not run world records at 100 meters or 200 meters without a lot of hard work, talent and drive. Why does everyone love Usain? Because he has fun, and he shares his fun, his victories and his joy of life with his fans. Hell, in Glasgow, Scotland, the guy even tried Haegis (something I ate for seventeen straight days)! Keeping sport light is part of why he is so beloved. And in an Olympics where Zika virus, water pollution, muggings, Russian sports doping, IOC appeasement of said Russian sports federations, global politics has reared its ugly head, we will need some athletes with great smiles, huge talents and big hearts. 

We live in a world where the fingers on total destruction seem to be possessed, more and more by absolute madmen. For eighteen days, every four years, the world deserves those nearly three weeks of sports to be uninterupted by all the detritus I noted above. But, alas, we are human. When I feel really concerned, I think of Venuste Nyongabo, the 5000 meter champion from 1996, the first champion from his country, Burundi, which was in a civil war in 1995 and not much better in 1996. Venuste won the World Champs 1,500m in 1995, and then, won his country's first medal in 1996 in the Olympics. He had seen terrible things in his country, but his focus, his hard won victories and his smile afterwards said much to the world. 

Athletes like Usain Bolt remind us that sports should be fun. That is what I am looking forward to, August 12-21.

By Mark Winitz

If her past three track and field seasons are any indication, U.S. multi-event athlete Barbara Nwaba is poised to turn heads in an important Olympic year. The 2012 graduate of University of California, Santa Barbara, who competes for the heptathlon and decathlon focused Santa Barbara Track Club, won the heptathlon at the 2015 U.S. Outdoor Track and Field Championships while scoring a personal record 6,500 points. That score ranked her #6 in the world last year, and #1 in the U.S. Only five U.S. athletes in history have turned in higher scores for the seven-event heptathlon competition composed of the 100m hurdles, high jump, shot put, 200m, long jump, javelin, and 800m. Of course, the U.S. and world all-time list is headed by legendary Jackie Joyner-Kersee who scored the current world record of 7,291 in 1988 at the Olympic Games in Seoul, South Korea.

Last March, at the 2016 U.S. Indoor Combined Events Championships in Portland, Nwaba, age 27, captured the win in the indoor pentathlon (composed of five events) with 4,415 points, a personal best. That was followed by a fourth place overall and top American performance at the IAAF World Indoor Championships with 4,661 points, another personal best. Then, switching to outdoors, on May 29 she placed fifth and top American with a 6,360-point heptathlon at the prestigious international Hypo Meeting in Götzis, Austria which is billed as the most prestigious meet for multi-event athletes outside of the Olympic Games. Canada's Brianne Theisen Eaton--a favored contender for a medal in Rio--won the event with 6,765 points.

How has Nwaba acquired the multiple, refined skills to sit near the top of the world in multi events? Where did she come from and where is she headed at the relatively young athletic age of 27? Let's find out.

Nwaba was born and raised in Los Angeles by parents who moved to the U.S. from Nigeria. She is the oldest in a family of six brothers and sisters. In elementary school, she was heavily active in an after school sports program organized by LA's Best which involves children in a different sports activity every month. She graduated from LA's University High School in 2007 where she competed in the California State Track and Field Championships as both a Junior and Senior, in the 300m hurdles and high jump. Nwaba was recruited by the University of California, Santa Barbara where she graduated in 2012 with a Sociology degree.

It was at UC Santa Barbara where Nwaba first met Josh Priester, the coach that guides her today. Following a successful multi-event athletic career at George Fox University, Priester was hired by UC Santa Barbara in 2008 to coach the sprints, hurdles, and combined events. Nwaba was in her sophomore year at UCSB after competing in the hurdles and high jump as a freshman. 

"I distinctly remembered our first coach-athlete meeting," Priester recalled. "I found that Barbara had done some high jumping in high school. I took one look at her and thought she was probably going to be able to take up the throws because she is a big, strong girl. I asked her 'what do you think about training for the heptathlon?' Her first question was 'what's the heptathlon?' So, I explained all the events and told her that there was an 800 at the end of it. She wasn't too excited about that. Ironically, Nwaba had the fastest 800m time (2:07.13) in the world last year for the heptathlon."

Priester served as the Associate Director of Track & Field at UCSB until the summer of 2012 when he left the college. That Fall, Priester and Nwaba formed the Women's Athletic Performance Foundation, a non-profit organization specifically to support U.S. female elite multi-event athletes. In 2013, the organization evolved into Women's Athletic Performance Foundation "doing business as" Santa Barbara Track Club, to include male multi-eventers. 

"The driving force behind the whole thing is to improve the heptathlon and pentathlon in the U.S.," Priester said.

And, what is Priester's general coaching philosophy that he employs to successfully develop Nwaba and some of the other finest combined event athletes in the nation?

"There's no cookie cutter approach to training for the decathlon or heptathlon," Priester believes. "Some athletes can handle a lot more volume than others. So, the most important thing is getting to know the person and not just the athlete. In my opinion, the athletics take care of themselves when you truly have the best interests of the person in mind. The nature of the decathlon is eliminating weaknesses over time. If you can eliminate weaknesses and have an even keel you can do really well in the multis."

Priester's club now includes 12 open division athletes. Watch for at least four of them at the upcoming U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials: heptathletes Nwaba (who is the top women's automatic qualifier) plus Lindsay Lettow and Lindsay Schwartz, and decathlete Tom FitzSimons (who will likely compete based on minimum field sizes).

Under Priester's direction, the organization also organizes a youth section of the club that currently has over 125 youth athletes who are guided and mentored by the club's elite/open athletes, plus track and field and cross country camps and clinics for youth and high school athletes, and private and group training programs. Santa Barbara Track Club also organizes the Sam Adams Combined Events Invitational--all at Westmont College in Santa Barbara where SBTC trains. Priester currently works as an Assistant Track and Field Coach at Westmont, an NAIA member school.

Both Ashton Eaton (the reigning world record holder in the decathlon and indoor heptathlon) and his wife, Brianne Theisen-Eaton (the Canadian heptathlon record holder) spend much of each winter and spring training in Santa Barbara, hosted by Westmont College and the Santa Barbara Track Club.

The SBTC and its athletes, including Barbara Nwaba, are sponsored by ABEO biomechanical footwear.

 

 

We caught up with Nwaba two weeks before the start of the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials and asked her some questions about her training, progress to date, and her outlook for the Trials and beyond. The interview is below.

Q: Barbara, how did the Santa Barbara Track Club come about with you and Josh?

During the last few months of my Senior year (at UCSB) Josh told me that he was thinking about starting his own non-profit and giving me and other athletes a situation where I could train and live without struggling too much. Luckily, my athletics at UCSB went well. Otherwise, I didn't know where I was going to go. Because, with the multi events, it's really hard to find a post-collegiate training situation. 

 

Q: Yes, you're certainly blessed in that respect--having other multi-eventers to train with. On any particular day, do you focus your training on one specific event as a group? Or, are you spread over the track in groups, working on different events?

In the Fall, we're pretty much all together. That's when we do a lot of our general conditioning work. We're not doing a lot of technical work yet. The wintertime is when we start doing a little more technical work and we usually do it all together at that point. In the spring, it gets a little harder because everyone is on different pages depending on their competition schedule.

 

It's great having a group that's pretty much all on the national stage. When we first started the club it was only me and it was really hard. I was asking 'Is this what professional track life is like? I want someone else out here with me.'

 

Q: Can you describe what a typical in-season training week looks like for you?

Yes, we have Sundays off. We come back on Monday where we have shot put. We start with a little longer warmup, going through a netball series of drills. After that we do some grass running to shake off the rust from the weekend--maybe some 200s combined with a couple of 100-meter striders. Tuesdays and Thursdays are a little harder where we do two technical events and work out up to four hours. Tuesday is long jump and sprints. Wednesday is our active recovery day so everything is non-impact. We can go on the bike, stationary bike, or ElliptiGO® (outdoor elliptical bicycle). Thursdays is hurdles, high jump, and a little bit of grass running. And, on Tuesdays and Thursdays we always go to the weight room and lift: A lot of Olympic lifting and cleans, bench press, inclines, netball, plus a lot of plyometrics. Fridays are javelin and our 800 or 1, 500 meter workouts. We also might lift on Fridays or have active recovery again.

 

Q: How important is it for you to work with other athletes during your workouts? How do the other athletes in SBTC support you during workouts?

It's definitely a huge benefit having other athletes with you. All of us have different talents and specialties. Like, my best event is high jump. The long jump is usually one of my tougher events. But Lindsay Lettow is an awesome long jumper. So, every now and then, when something my coach is telling me isn't really clicking, maybe she sees something and she might say 'Hey, Barb, maybe if you try this...' So, if you're willing to accept it, everyone can give you cues to help you get better. That's, definitely a huge benefit.

 

Even just watching other athletes, seeing how they go through the process--say, like wow, the way she turns her foot is something that I never do, That's definitely been a big help because I'm very much a visual learner.

 

Q: Coach Priester has guided you since your collegiate days. What are the key aspects of his guidance that have contributed the most to your development?

I think, a lot of it is his positive outlook. He was a multi-eventer himself, so he is very aware of the mentality that must have when you compete. Especially, if things go bad, he's, like, Hey, you're fine. Look at the bigger picture. He's the person that always believes more than I thought I was capable of. If sometimes I feel like this is it for me he'll come in and be, like: This is where I see you in the future. This is where you'll be if you just keep on the path you're going. I see you at this level. He's always upbeat. That energy, you just feed off it.

 

Q: You've experienced steady improvements over the past several years, to the point where you were ranked sixth in the world last year in the hep and first in the U.S. with a 6,500-point outing at the 2015 U.S. Outdoor Champs. Can you tell me what's contributed the most to these improvements?

It's definitely the time I've spent in the sport. Just learning the events is the biggest part for any multi-event athlete. For example, a single-event athlete, such as a long jumper, might hit the runway three or four times a week. Well, multi-eventers can only hit the runway once because we have other events to work on, The more time we spend at any particular event, the better we get at it. Most of my success to date is just patience and time and knowing that if you just keep at it things will get better.

 

Also, having the experience at big meets. I've been competing at the U.S. Championships since my junior year in college when I redshirted. Also, learning how to just step back, be yourself, relax, and do your own thing...and the points will just happen.

 

Q: In a seven-event competition such as the heptathlon how do you keep your focus on the event that you're competing in, without thinking about what happened in the previous event or what's coming up next?

No matter what the outcome in a specific event, I have to process what happened and park it. You need to reflect on what happened in any particular event when the meet is over. You can't waste energy on events that are already finished. Plus, in practice, we go through a progression for each event. For example, I know the specific warm-ups I need to do for every specific event. If I just go through those steps, I know I'll be fine. I'll know my mindset has changed to 'OK, now I'm specifically a 200-meter runner,' or 'now, I'm just a long jumper and nothing else matters.' If I constantly practice this in training I know I'll be OK. 

 

Q: Do you want to talk about your experience at the outdoor World Championships in Bejiing last year? You recorded new PRs in the javelin and shot put, but the hurdles posed a bit of a challenge. What did you learn from your experience?

Editor's Note: Nwaba had a heartbreaking hurdles race--the hep's first event of the day. She mis-stepped hurdle one, then hit hurdles two and five going down both times. She did not finish the race, lost valuable points, and ultimately finished 27th in the hep competition.

 

It you're talking about experience, that was pretty much the biggest stage I've ever been on. I was seeing all these amazing athletes all around me. So, I almost felt that I was out of my element when I went into the hurdles. I was nervous. I think I just pressed too much in that race. I'd never taken an eighth step into the first hurdle. It just came out of nowhere. But continuing on to complete the competition was essential. I knew that it was the best practice that I could get going into an Olympic year. I was very proud of myself about everything else I was able to do at Outdoor Worlds.

 

Q: Moving ahead a little, to this year's big outdoor season, you had an excellent opener outdoors at the Hypo meet in Austria among a number of the best heptathletes in the world. That fifth place performance must now give you a lot of confidence going into the U.S. Olympic Trials and, hopefully, beyond to Rio.

Definitely if I repeat that kind of performance in Eugene I should be fine. Last year, winning USA's and then competing in the World Championships, I was in awe. Now, I feel like, yes, I belong. There's no need to be in awe, or be afraid. I just need to trust in my abilities. Now, I'm ready to go and just do my own thing.

 

Q: At this point, are you looking a little bit past the Trials? Do I dare ask, if you are competing in Rio, who your biggest competition might be? Brianne Theisen-Eaton?

Definitely. She's just a monster. As far as I can see among the top spots--who really wants it and has been working hard--it's Brianne for sure. She's been at the top for so many years now. It's always been a blast competing against her. Then there's Laura Ikauniece-Admidiņa from Latvia. She placed third at Worlds last year and had a huge PR (6,622 points) in the hep this year (at the Hypo Meeting in Austria). Also, Carolin Schäfer from Germany. So, if I want to get up there on the podium in Rio those are the girls I'll need to contend with.

But right now I'm not focused so much on that moment. Right now, it's just getting through the U.S. Trials and just making sure that I execute there.

 

Q: Barbara, what are your other goals this year besides that big, ultimate goal of representing the U.S. at the Olympic Games?

Yes, the ultimate goal is to make my first Olympic team. I'd also love to go out there, pull it all together, and PR. It would be great to keep climbing up there on the U.S. (all-time) list.

 

Q: And, what are your long-term goals in the sport?

Hopefully, to go another four years and, hopefully, to make two Olympic teams. And, hopefully, to reach the podium at the Olympic Games. Also, to make a lasting impact on the sport. If I can inspire anyone to even try the multi events once, it's an accomplishment because I feel like there is just so much talent in the U.S. and it's definitely growing. You can see that compared to the qualifying standards for the 2012 Trials, and what it takes now to qualify. The women's multis have absolutely exploded, which is awesome for our sport.

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