Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Track Shorts

Dwain Chambers (GBR) finished off his fast weekend in Turin with a European Championship over 60 meters with a nice 6.46. Chambers is the only man to run under 6.50 this season, doing so twice in Turin. His run sets him up to potentially run in the 9.8x range for 100 meters outdoors. Making him a potential challenger to the top sprinters including Usain Bolt (JAM), Tyson Gay (US), Asafa Powell (JAM), Richard Thompson(TRI) and Walter Dix (US). Setting up quite a quandary for the sport, as Chambers is the first individual to compete faster after a ban that he was competing before the ban.

Britain's response has been to maintain its position that he will not be allowed to compete in the Olympics. Although they WILL allow him to compete in the World Championships in Berlin. But take note - they will not allow him to run on the 4x1 in Berlin, ostensibly because he won’t be able to be part of the team in London! Now that's what I call cutting off your nose to spite your face! And the real irony here is that Christine Ohuruogu also served a doping suspension. However, SHE came off suspension and competed in the World Championships in 2007 (400 and 4x4) and then was allowed to compete in the Beijing Olympics in 2008! Like I said in a previous post, this sport has a problem with equity when it comes to doping policy.

Who is Sebastian Bayer? The German Long Jumper hit a bomb with his 8.71m (28' 7") win in Turin. How huge was it? He entered the season with an outdoor PB of 8.15m (26' 9") from last season. His improvement to 8.17m (26' 9.75") prior to Turin gave no indication that anything of the sort was on the horizon. Now suddenly he is on par with Carl Lewis! Bayer's mark smashed the previous European Record of 8.56m (28' 1") set by Yago Lamela (ESP)back in 1999! The European Outdoor Record is held by Robert Emmiyan (ARM), one of only four jumpers to eclipse 29' with his PB 8.86m (29' 1"), set in 1987. It will be very interesting to see what Bayer does outdoors. Was this a Beamon one shot bomb, or the beginning of a huge career? Europe hasn't seen a dominant horizontal jumper on the men's side since the retirement of British triple jumper Jonathan Edwards.

One of my favorite track and field sites is facing closure due to the economy - Trackshark. An excellent site that I frequent daily. Tom Borish has done a wonderful job and if the site indeed shuts down it will be sorely missed. I sincerely hope that Tom can somehow find the funding he needs to keep the site at its present stature.

USATF CEO Doug Logan has stated that he believes our athletes should receive bonuses for PB's set at the Olympics, and lesser bonuses for seasons bests. While it’s a nice thought, why are we still only talking about the Olympics? Do we not realize that the sport has WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS? Twice as many in a four year cycle than Olympics. And World Championships competition and performances are every bit as good as those in the Olympics! A nice idea to be sure, but shouldn't we be looking at ways to get these athletes funded on a regular basis so that they can do the work necessary to do their best at the Olympics AND World Championships?

How many more athletes would be able to progress and reach their potential if they had solid funding to train? The key, in my humble opinion, is trying to fund development! Right now, you have to be a star very early in your career to draw the attention of the shoe companies and secure enough funding to continue forward. If you're not world class before you leave college, getting there afterwards is a very tough road! I think our athletes would appreciate some help getting there even more than a payment of appreciation AFTER the job has already been done.

With the goal apparently focused on medal counts, if you want more medals you have to get more athletes in medal contention. Relying on a handful of athletes to always be there is not the recipe for success. It would have been real nice last year, for example, to have another sprinter ready to step up when Tyson Gay went down last year. Three Tyson Gay's instead of just one should be the goal. Not just paying Tyson to do his best in one meet! If we focus on development - which would mean getting athletes paid to train - performances, medals, accolades will be the byproduct. Right now we're looking at putting the cart before the horse.

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