Osaka Notes, Day 3, by Mary Nicole Nazzaro


In this column, Nicole writes about the women's sprint race, the confusion surrounding the finish and the positive thoughts on the slowest winning time in championship history.

Osaka Notes
By Mary NicoleNazzaro
Day 3: Monday, August 27, 2007

Here's a great way to end a great night of track and field: a five-way photo finish for the women's 100-meter gold medal.

And not just for the obvious reason: the drama, the excitement, the nail-biting finish to four rounds of superior, world-class competition. But for another, more subtle reason as well – after years of drug scandals that have brought so many sprint champions' names into disrepute, it's great to see the top women in the world so close together – and so far away from some of the eyebrow-raising times of the past.

The winning time? 11.01, the slowest in world championship history. Christopher Clarey of the New York Times beat us to the punch on this one: he noted in his report on the race that slow is good when it comes to the sprints, because it's clear to longtime observers of the sport that at least some of the winning times of the past have to have been chemically enhanced. I couldn't agree more.

The margin of victory? Can you count in thousandths of a second? That's what it would take, because the yellow flash of Jamaican Veronica Campbell's singlet slipped past the red, white and blue of 2005 world champion Lauryn Williams by less than the width of a butterfly's wings. Both were timed officially in 11.01 seconds.

Those sitting on the finish line knew Williams was in the mix for gold when the women lunged to the finish line. She appeared to have bested the field by the tiniest of margins, so when Torri Edwards' name briefly popped up on the scoreboard as the gold medalist, heads began to shake. Then, Williams' name came up, listed in second plce. Then Veronica Campbell and Williams, then Edwards' name disappeared…it started to feel like the photo-finish judges were pulling names out of a hat.

Journalists' scoreboards finally showed the result, minutes before the stadium Jumbotrons did: Campbell first, Williams second, American Carmelita Jeter third in a personal-best 11.02 seconds, Edwards fourth, and Belgian Kim Gevaert fifth. Total margin of difference from first through fifth places: four hundredths of a second. Add in sixth-place finisher Christine Arron ( 11.08), and the difference between the first six women was .07 seconds. Six women, six bodies, six histories, six different paths of getting here to Osaka after a lifetime of work – and a blink of an eyelash was all that separated them.

Now that's a sprint race to enjoy, because even though it would be naïve to think that drugs have been eradicated from the sport after BALCO and Justin Gatlin and all the rest, this race just felt right. If the sport isn't totally clean yet, it feels like it's getting there – and if all we ever do anymore is watch amazing women run 100-meter dashes in 11 seconds, well, that will be just fine by me.

M. NicoleNazzaro
The China Sports Blog:

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