The next stop on the Diamond League series is Lausanne. And for the first time this season I was actually salivating in anticipation of a DL meet as it held the promise of a real sprint showdown among the men. After Walter Dix blazed 19.72 to run toe to toe with Tyson Gay, Lausanne sat waiting with Usain Bolt set to take to the track. And in this league of half meets whereas New York only had the men’s 100 and Eugene only the men’s 200, Lausanne was to have the men’s 200 & 400.
To add to my excitement, the gentle curves of Lausanne have spurred several very fast 200’s – most notably in 2006 when the 200 exploded back into prominence as Xavier Carter (19.63), Tyson Gay (19.70), Usain Bolt (19.88) and Wallace Spearmon (19.90) took the event back into the 19.6/19.7 realm after the sport went 10 years without a time under 19.70. Since then this track has seen nothing but sterling marks with Gay (19.78, ‘07), and Bolt (19.63, ‘08 & 19.59, ‘09) taking advantage of the wide bend. Even as far back as 1996, Ato Boldon had run 19.85 here.
So the thought of WR holder Bolt taking on the up and coming Dix on what has become 200 meter Mecca was like visions of sugar plums dancing in my head. But it would appear that upon Dix’ completion of his race in Eugene, he joined the ranks of the truly elite, and now the Big 3 (Bolt, Gay, Powell) has become a Big 4. At least it looks that way, because the Big 3 don’t race often and Dix now seems to be one to avoid judging by the events of the days since Pre.
As I stated, Lausanne has had the men’s 200 & 400 on it’s schedule since the schedule was released. And up through the Provisional start list of July 3rd (the date of Pre) that’s how it stood with Bolt & Dix slated to go against each other with Carter, Mullings and Martina also in the mix. It was announced on July 6th, however, that although Bolt is fully recovered from his injuries, that he would be running the 100 to avoid further injuries. What? What 100? There is no 100 scheduled in Lausanne! But when I went back to confirm the start lists, lo and behold a 100 was apparently added on July 6th, replete with patsies – I mean competitors.
Now, I can respect injuries and protecting oneself from injury. But once again we rob the fans of a great race – and to do so we’ve had a race created out of thin air, which gives all the wrong signals. it says that the sport will support athletes not running head to head (reminds me of the ‘06 Prefontaine Classic that for the only time ever ran two separate 100 meter races so that Asafa Powell and Justin Gatlin didn’t have to go head to head). It also says that some athletes have control while others are just along for the ride. But mostly it says that this sport is more about money than anything else. A topic I’m going to address after Lausanne.
As for the Lausanne 200, if Bolt is not ready to compete then that’s fine. Then he can sit out a while longer and come back when he’s ready. If at that time he is still rusty as Gay was then a loss is a possibility – it is after all part of the sport. But to create an event for a single athlete is wrong, I don’t care who the athlete is. Especially when it perpetuates this game of “Duck, Duck, Goose” that is played by the world’s elite male sprinters.
The world’s elite sprinters can’t run head to head any more. Heaven forbid that they lose – they may shrivel up and die! Elite sprinters can only show up and run against each other when ALL the conditions are perfect. Powell and Gay raced every week in ‘06 until Gay became elite. After that it was majors only in ‘07 & ‘08 and no races yet this year. Bolt and Gay ran against each other all the time in ‘05, ‘06 & ‘07. Bolt blew up in ‘08 and all we got in ‘09 was Berlin and we’re not scheduled to see them on the track again until August 27th of this year!
There are many things that are impeding the progress of the sport of track and field. One of the big ones is the lack of competition among the world’s top male sprinters. Every era that has thrived has done so on the backs (feet) of the thoroughbreds of the sport going at it with regularity. Jim Hines, Charlie Greene, John Carlos, and Tommie Smith in the ‘60’s. Steve Williams, Don Quarrie, Silvio Leonard, Hasley Crawford and Harvey Glance in the 70’s. James Sanford, Carl Lewis, Calvin Smith, Stanley Floyd, Raymond Stewart, and Ben Johnson in the 80’s. Carl Lewis, Linford Christie, Leroy Burrell, Dennis Mitchell, Donovan Bailey, Bruny Surin, Ato Boldon, Maurice Greene and Frankie Fredericks in the 90’s. It’s no coincidence that attendance at meets was high, and there were a lot more meets during these eras. And the funny thing is that some of the most revered names in the sport reside among that list – competing often and even losing didn’t seem to harm their legacies.
There is an old saying that “pride goeth before a fall”, and in the world of track and field it seems that the pride of simply competing for bragging rights went bye bye and in it’s wake the sport continues to fall! Because for today’s sprinters it seems to be less about pride and bragging rights, than it is about money and rankings. In the process a few have gotten wealthy, most are struggling to survive, and the fans are almost always left out in the cold. As we will be on Thursday when we watch Bolt run a makeshift 100 while Dix attempts to improve his PR in the 200. And WE will be left to wonder what would have happened had they actually raced.