Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Daegu Schedule


The World Championships schedule is out and is quite different from schedules we’ve seen in the past. The IAAF Competition Committee’s attempt at “modernizing” the schedule.

While  “change” for the sake of change can become a negative rather than a positive – something done with regularity in this sport – this schedule is actually a step in the right direction in my humble opinion.

Many of the changes are cosmetic – trying to balance the number of finals across each day; keeping evening sessions to 3 hours in length; and scheduling qualifying rounds (i.e. first rounds) for morning sessions only.

Some however, are much more substantial. The most substantial being the elimination of the “first round” of the men’s and women’s 100 & 200 – at least for the truly elite! In it’s place will be a “preliminary” round in which those athletes that have not met the “A” or “B” standard compete to attempt to get into the “quarterfinal” round. While many are already complaining that this will deprive fans of seeing Bolt, Gay, Powell, Felix, Jeter, Campbell Brown and other elites in the “first” round I think this is one of the two best changes that were made in the schedule.

Let’s be real. The first round of the sprints is nothing more than a warm up for those athletes that will be contesting the semi finals and finals. Athletes like Bolt, and Gay “hold back” while running 10.2x while lesser athletes are struggling to break 11 seconds. It may sound harsh, but the first round is a matter of eliminating those athletes that were going to be eliminated anyway. Running a preliminary round does two things in my opinion. One, it enables the truly elite to spread their energy better through the rounds – which could ultimately lead to faster semis and finals. Two, it gives the lesser athletes a fighting chance to get out of the first round – similar level athletes competing against each other. While we get one less round with the elite’s, the rounds we do get should be scorchers!

The other change that I think is substantial is that the schedule allows for the 200/400 double. Significant because as the 100 meter times have dropped precipitously, the 200/400 begins to look a lot more attractive (in my opinion) to many athletes. For example, sprinters like Wallace Spearmon (9.96/19.65/45.22) and Xavier Carter (10.09/19.63/44.53) who were in the mix in the 100 when 10.10 might land you a spot in a final, might be much better served going with the 2/4 as opposed to the 1/2. Same for female sprinters like Allyson Felix (10.93/21.81/49.70) and Sanya Richards (10.97/22.17/48.70) who would have been forced to try the 1/2 IF they wanted the opportunity to double, but can now go 2/4 which is a more natural mix for both, as well as others.

So overall I think that the IAAF did a good job on this one. The one change that I am having some difficulty with, however, is closing out the meet with the 4x1 and not the 4x4! Sometimes I feel like tradition should trump modernization – and this is one of those times. Every meet on the planet closes with the 4x4 – from middle school to high school to NCAA’s to an all comers competition. And with good reason as it can often be one of the most stirring battles of the meet. Closing with the 4x1 is just out of place – they should have moved the 4x1 to start off the championships! It’s like having Turducken for Thanksgiving – yes it can be done, but wouldn’t you rather have a nice Turkey?

And while I’m talking about traditions, one thing I would like to see the meet get back to is running the men’s and women’s events concurrently – i.e. one followed by the other. It makes the meet rather disjointed for me to have the men’s final of the 100, then have to wait 24 hours to see the women’s final. Running the rounds through the final concurrently makes for a much more flowing experience – and can lead to a lot more of a dramatic build up to both finals. Especially when you have one exciting run over a distance, only to be followed by another at the same distance – that is doubly exciting! A Felix / Campbell Brown duel over 200 meters followed immediately by a Bolt v Gay dual makes for a day at the track that many would be talking about for the next 24 hours, if not a decade later. To have them on separate days doesn’t spread the excitement but instead dilutes the experience.

Allowing the 200/400 double and eliminating the first round in the sprints are steps in the right direction however. And I do applaud the IAAF on those moves, as they do begin to modernize the World Championships schedule. Now if we would just make it a true World Championships by getting away from the Olympic ideal that everyone should have a chance to compete and make it for the top athletes only in each event, THEN we would be really headed in the right direction. A suggestion I made several months ago along with a few other modernization ideas.

We’ll see how the new changes work. Let me know what you think about the new changes. Like em or hate em?


  1. As usual, I agree with you. One of these organizations really should hire you at least as a consultant. Concluding a track meet with anything other than the 4 x 400 almost seems blasphemous. It's like singing the star spangled banner at the end of a baseball game instead of the beginning. What it really shows, however, is that these decisions are being made by people who don't really love Track & Field. The top criteria for being in a postion to make decisions about T&F should be a passionate love for the sport. They should be people who would be attending track meets even if they didn't work for the IAAF. Yes, all of the other expertise and qualifications matter, but the presence (or lack of) that passion really determines their vision and their perspective on the way the fans will experience the sport. I believe that's what's lacking at the USATF as well.

  2. I would welcome the opportunity to work with any of them .. And I agree that too often decisions seem to be made as if the sport itself isn't being taken into consideration ..