Sunday, August 23, 2009

World Championships - Closing Weekend

12th IAAF World Athletics Championships - Day Nine

An interesting World Championships for the US came to a close with one more relay disaster, but a lot of promise elsewhere.

After the debacle of the US men's 4x1 squad there was hope that redemption would come in the form of the women's team. But that was not to be as the women also failed to get the baton around the track. This time second leg Alexandria Anderson ran up too quickly on Muna Lee. But if that alone weren't enough Lee pulled up in the process, and had to be taken off the track with an injury - while the squad got to watch their heat go in a pedestrian 43.07! This is two meets in a row that both the men and women's teams failed to make the relay finals. There was a lot of talk after Beijing about the poor job done at relay camps in previous years. But apparently not having any camps at all wasn't the solution either.

Without the US as combatant, the squads from Jamaica had things their own way. For the men there was much anticipation of a potential WR in the 4x1. That, however, was not to be as Jamaica merely cruised to victory in a meet record 37.31 - the #2 time ever. While not as fast compared to all time performances, the Jamaican women still had an easy time in winning in 42.06. The wins gave Jamaica a sweep of the 100 meter related events.

Likewise the US pulled out a sweep of the 400 related events as open winners Lashawn Merritt and Sanya Richards anchored victories in the men and women's 4x4's - the women's 3:17.89 being the 6th best performance in history. With Usain Bolt winning the men's 200 and Allyson Felix the women's, it gives the US and Jamaica an even split in the battle for global sprint gold! A split that we need to look at rectifying in future meets. Something I'll be talking about in future posts.

Likewise in our quest for "30" medals, while we closed well this weekend, we fell well short of the goal. The weekend showed much promise, however, as we won a pair of gold medals in the men and women's long jump - Brittney Reese with a world leading 23' 3.5" jump that was also a personal best. And in the middle distances we added to the medal count as Shannon Rowbury claimed bronze in the women's 1500 while Bernard Lagat turned in a herculean effort in the 5000 running winner Kenenisa Bekele to the line and losing by only .24 - with stitches in his foot! And that women's 1500 saw Christin Wurth Thomas and Anna Willard go 5th and 6th. Giving us three finishers in the top six! Outstanding improvement and huge promise for the future.

But this meet has been another indication of how much the world has caught up, and how poorly we have reacted to the challenge. I hope it finally serves as a wake up call, and a catalyst for true change within our system. And I'm talking about real change and not rhetoric. A year of rhetoric has brought us a total of one FEWER medals than in Beijing - a move in reverse!

Still a few more meets left this season, starting with the always excited Weltklasse in Zurich at the end of this week. But I think its time for some real soul searching for the US. I know I'll be taking a look.

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