Monday, September 5, 2011

Daegu 2011 – General Comments and Awards

That was an interesting nine days of track and field. The results are well known at this point, as they’ve been reported by everyone all over the globe – including here. What I want to take a look at over the next several days, or more, are my interpretations of the results. I will be taking a closer look at some of the names from the meet; some the happenings during the meet; and the affect those results will have on the sport going forward.
imageI want to start by handing out some “Awards” from this World Championships, but first a few comments on Daegu itself. I’m a big proponent of holding the World Championships in as many different locations as possible, so that we spread the exposure of track and field beyond the nations of the “European Circuiimaget – or as the Brits say “The Commercial Circuit”. In doing that however, we must also do our best to ensure that our locations are conducive to producing the best performances possible from out athletes. To that end I’m not sure that Daegu was a great location – because for the majority of this meet the results themselves were far below what we see in most Diamond League level meet, let alone previous World Championships.
The one obvious reason was the winds, which for the majority of the nine days of competition were consistently blowing into the faces of the athletes. As a result the high profile sprints and hurdle events took a beating results wise. For most of this meet I was asked over and over if Daegu was a slow track – and my response was that it should be fast as it’s a Mondo surface and Mondo is simply, fast. We finally saw just how fast on the final days of the meet when the winds let up and we got some sterling races – most notably the men’s 200, women’s 100 hurdles and the 4x1 relays.

The other aspect of the weather that seemed to have a detrimental effect on the competition and results was the humidity. In talking with friends that were fortunate enough to be in Daegu for all or portions of this meet everyone said that the humidity was murder. High humidity takes a toll on everyone – sprinters, middle & long distance runners and field event performers alike.

So while I’m a huge advocate for taking this meet to as many varied locations as possible, I would also implore the IAAF that in addition to evaluating the general applications of those cities wishing to be host sites, that they also do extensive research into the weather patterns of the area – because it’s important that the sport is always presenting its best face when we get the opportunity to showcase our athletes to the world – and global media.

Which brings me to a comment that I’ve made before – it’s time to become a true World Championships and stop emulating the setup of the Olympic Games. The run in round of the sprints was the perfect example of what I mean, as we spent several races with athletes that really didn’t belong in this level of competition! As I’ve said on more than one occasion, the Olympics were created as a gathering of all the World’s nations to celebrate “brotherhood” – the ultimate global celebration where EVERYONE is invited to participate. It’s time for the World Championships to evolve into the Ultimate Global Track Meet, where the BEST of the world gather to clash for the title of the world’s best in each event. When you include athletes that would have trouble getting out of the rounds of most state high school championships, AND leave home athletes that could possibly make a final or semifinal at the World Championships in their event but they happen to not be in the top three in their country, you fall far short of that goal! It’s time that we saw the best athletes regardless of nationality competing in this meet.

One final comment on presentation, we need to get back to qualifying rounds that eliminate athletes based on how they finished against the competition and get away from “first two and next fastest three” type rounds – especially in the sprints where the times are heavily affected by the conditions – primarily the wind. At the very least we need to put an end to the three semifinal situation. Run two semifinals. The first four across the line move on to the final. You balance the semis and let them go at it and settle it on the track, not the results sheets!

Now for my “awards”. The first couple are pretty standard, the rest reflect my interpretations of the meet.

Athlete of the Meet

Men – Usain Bolt: False started out of the 100, but came back to run the #4 time ever in the 200 (19.40) and anchor the WR setting 4x1 (37.04). The sport wanted him to headline this meet, and while the mark was missed in the first half of the meet, he came through with flying colors in the final few days.

Women – Allyson Felix: With silver in the 400, bronze in the 200 and gold in both relays, Felix was the busiest and most productive athlete in the meet, male or female. There were individual performances that outshined her, but no one competed at a higher level for nine days than did Ms. Felix.


Performance of the Meet


Men – Christian Taylor: His winning jump of 17.96m/58‘ 11.25” he became the #5 all-time performer in the event – with #4 Willie Banks (17.97m) & #3 Teddy Tamgho (17.98) only marginally farther – barely .03M short of 59 feet.

Women – Sally Pearson: Her 12.28 in the 100 hurdles moved her to #4 all time as only the 4th person in history to run under 13.30. She was only .07 off the WR, but given that the three women in front of her on the all-time list all competed for programs that were known to sponsor PED use, Pearson’s mark is most likely the fastest “legal” performance of all time – which would make her the only individual WR setter in this meet, sort of.

Favorite Moment of the Meet


Men: LaShawn Merritt’s come from behind anchor leg to win the 4x4 for the U.S. – extending the U.S.’s winning streak in the 4x4 to 10 meets and counting!

Women: The women’s 4x4. Leading off with Sanya Richards Ross and Allyson Felix, the squad lead from the gun and never looked back in one of the most dominating moments of the meet for the U.S.

Biggest Disappointment of the Meet


Men: Darvis Patton falling in the men’s 4x1. With most people completely discounting the U.S. chances of competing with the Jamaican squad, they were running toe to toe with the Jamaicans – until Patton ran into the British anchor and went sprawling to the track! At the very least the team was probably headed to a new AR, at the worst we extended our streak of NOT finishing this race to three majors in a row – and four of the last five!

Women: Morgan Uceny’s fall in the 1500 meters. Unlike Patton who was in control of his own destiny, Uceny had another athlete fall right into her and take her out as she was running a solid tactical race. Teammate Jenny Simpson came through to win unexpected gold in the event, but Uceny had earned the right to compete for that gold as she was having the kind of season that ends in #1 rankings. She had PR’d, won major races, and beaten top level athletes – something rarely done by U.S. middle distance runners. Then there was “the fall”.

Biggest Surprise of the Meet


Men: Matt Centrowitz’ bronze medal in the 1500 meters: With Leonel Manzano & Andrew Wheating (2010’s best US milers) looking like shells of themselves in Daegu, it looked like another blanking for U.S. milers. Then along came Centrowitz who ran as smart a race as I’ve seen an American male miler run in some time. Only 3:36.92 at the start of the year, no one would have thought he would make the final in Daegu, let alone win a medal.

Women: Jenny Simpson’s gold medal in the 1500 meters: With Uceny running like a champion, and Simpson looking nothing like the woman that broke four minutes in ’09, it was Uceny that was on everyone’s radar to challenge for the gold medal. And when Uceny went down with some 500 meters to go American chances at a medal went down with her – or so I thought. Simpson never lost her poise, continued to run well, and outkicked the field down the stretch to win not just a medal, but the gold medal.

Most Pleasant Surprise of the Meet


Men: The U.S. 1-3 in the triple jump. The best American finish ever in this event at the World Championships was a gold and bronze finish in 1991 with all-time greats Kenny Harrison (17.78m/58’ 4”) & Mike Conley (17.62m/57’ 9.75”) turning the trick. Entering Daegu with young “college kids” Christian Taylor & Will Claye in their first ever global major, who would’ve thought they would replicate Harrison & Conley? But that’s exactly what they did with Taylor oh so close to 59 feet and Claye out over 57 feet. Suddenly one of our weakest events has become one of our strongest, as only the 1-2 finish of Hardee & Eaton in the decathlon was better!

Women: Alysia Montano & Maggie Vessey in the 800 meters. Mantano didn’t win. She didn’t even medal. But at 1:57.48 she missed the podium by only .06 sec. More importantly she and Maggie Vessey put U.S. female half milers back in play on the global stage. It was the first time we’ve been as close as 4th in the World Championships since 1999 – and the first time we’ve ever had two women in the final! That’s major progress for U.S. middle distance running.

Next up, my Report Card on the U.S. team in Daegu.

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