Thursday, August 18, 2011

Why the Intermission – and Other Questions


Today is August 18th. The last big meet on the circuit was in London back on August 5-6th. The World Championships are STILL a week and a half away – starting August 27th. Can someone tell me why we have such a LONG break before the World Championships?

We’re looking at a 3 week break with no track and field, smack dab in the middle of the European Circuit – the heart of the sport’s most visible time of the year! We’re talking about a marketing fiasco of the highest order. I’m not sure how you sell the general public on watching your World Championships when your athletes are on the shelf for the better part of a month. Can you imagine the NFL waiting 3 weeks between the final playoff game and the Super Bowl? No way, because they found out that two weeks was a bit too long!

Three weeks with no meets – and nothing to fill the time. No major press conferences. No seminars. No athlete roasts. No Hall of Fame induction ceremonies. Nothing. Leaving the most fanatical of track fans going crazy. I’ve had several friends call, just to talk about track because they’re going nuts waiting!

And unfortunately the topic that keeps coming up is the recent drug tests coming out of the Jamaican and U.S. Trials – Steve Mullings & Michael Rodgers! Which brings up another question: what took so long? How long does it take to get drug results back? I can tell you from my own experiences with companies where I’ve had individuals tested that 24 – 48 hours is quite common to expect to receive results – it’s science but not rocket science!

As a matter of fact, for those of you who remember Seoul in ‘88, Ben’s samples were tested, he was notified, “B” sample tested, and he was removed from Seoul, DURING THE OLYMPICS! All within three days if memory serves me, because Carl Lewis went from 100 runner up, to gold medalist by the start of the rounds of the 200!

This is a critical question, because the long lag creates many problems. For one the coaches should know within a reasonable amount of time who is and isn’t on the team. Especially with respect to the relay pools as the 4x1 squads need as much time together as they can get. And one would think that the athletes should know – both those that will want to defend themselves in sufficient enough time to retain their positions, as well as  those that may be moved up from just missing the team to making the team. In either case their summer schedules could be greatly affected/altered by knowing they are or aren’t going to be competing at Worlds.

Not to mention that, like the lag time between London and Daegu, this is another huge marketing fiasco in my opinion. Not only do you have a three week block with no activity in the sport before the biggest meet of the year, but you go into Daegu with everyone discussing drug suspensions! Who got popped. Who’s now off the team, or maybe not off the team. Trying to schedule hurried hearings and get “B”samples tested. Bottom line, the most audible topic prior to this year’s World Championships is surrounding the drug issue – a topic that continues to hang like an anchor around the neck of this sport. An issue that should have been taken care of well before the European season hit full stride!

See what happens when track fans get bored! So much for my intermission rant.

Of course all is not doom and gloom. As I get back to looking at trying to predict the outcomes in Korea, there are many other questions. For example how is this long layoff going to affect the athletes? Will it benefit athletes that seemed to be struggling earlier with form/fitness? Will the extra time help athletes on the mend from injuries or minor niggles? Or will those that had been riding the crest of a peak, now lose it?

And the “break” aside, will this be the year that the African juggernaut in the distances gets broken up? Can Mo Farah and Bernard Lagat crash the distance party? Is Mitchell Watt ready for gold? And with both the U.S. and Jamaican relays disrupted personnel wise, who is the favorite? With nine days left, tomorrow I’ll get back to trying to answer these and a few other questions before the starting gun goes off in Deagu.

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