Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Continental Cup Review

Croatia's Blanka Vlasic competes in the women's high jump at the IAAF Continental Cup 2010 in Split September 5, 2010. REUTERS/Matko Biljak (CROATIA - Tags: SPORT ATHLETICS)

After watching the Continental Cup this weekend, I am more convinced than ever that it’s time to move on with something else. Watching the meet the stands were very sparsely populated, and the sport had to have lost money on the event if attendance is any indication. Probably because it’s just difficult for paying patrons to get behind what is supposed to be a championship level event that is missing so many championship level athletes. And while I love the idea of bringing more of a team aspect to the sport, continental teams are just too broad for most people to truly feel connected with. Especially when the teams are so heavily limited by how many individuals from a country can participate.

I’m also curious how the IAAF planned on promoting the to the world when they provided an audio feed but no video feed for the event? Audio feeds may have been state of the art in say the 1990’s, but this is the year 2010 and an audio only feed was almost an insult. And given that there are ways to find video feeds on the internet, it would have made more sense to the IAAF to simply provide one and bring the audience in. Just another step in the wrong direction for a sport that continues to do that with far too much regularity.

Performance wise the competition was good, but not great. Mostly, in my opinion, because that four team, one athlete per nation, concept really hindered the depth of the fields. Of course there are some athletes in this sport that just show up and perform no matter the occasion. Which gave us some highlights in spite of the set up of the meet itself. One of those was Blanka Vlasic who got to compete at home and put on a show for her hometown fans. Blanka won the competition (of course) and set a new PR 2.05m (6’ 8.75”) in the process. She gave the crowd a thrill by going for a WR 2.10 (6’ 10.75”), but unfortunately in spite of all the love in the stands she was unable to conquer that height.

Jeremy Wariner continued to show that he is once again the man to beat in the 400 meters as he won the event in 44.22 – his second fastest time of the year. Wariner is positioned nicely heading into 2011 with the world once again chasing after him. Similar to David Oliver who continued his unbeaten streak with a 13.11 (-1.1) that left plenty of daylight between he and the field. Oliver has had no peers this year, running fast and winning with plenty of room to spare. I hope that next season brings good health to Dayron Robles, Liu Xiang and Terrence Trammell so that he can get that push that will put him over the WR hump.

Something that David Rudisha was able to do twice already this season. And the ease with which he handled the field in Split – running 1:43.32 in cruise control – says that given good health there is much more in store from the man that may be the most dominating athlete on the planet right now. Christian Cantwell was back on the winning track with a huge 21.87m (71’ 9”) toss. While not as dominant as Rudisha, Bernard Lagat demonstrated that there might not be anyone as adept at handling a slow pace as he is, as  Lagat twice took “tactical” paces and turned them into a double victory over 3000 and 5000 meters. Wallace Spearmon gave notice that he is healthy and ready to compete over half a lap as he romped to a half second win with another sub 20 second run – 19.95. And Christophe Lemaitre showed that he is indeed a strong competitor with a win here to go with his European title.

But even with a very close women’s 100 meter hurdles race (won by up and coming Sally Pearson) and two very closely contested 4x4 relays to close out the meet, there was a lack of overall excitement. There are four years until the next scheduled meet, and hopefully the sport can figure out what to do to create a more exciting meet in what is currently the “off season” of the sport.



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