August 26, 2007. The second day of the 11th IAAF World Athletics Championships started warm, as usual. The crowds were treated to some heroic performances. As it should be, the athletes showed that they can run, jump and throw in any conditions! Some perform better than others. Those we call championes du monde....
August 26, 2007
20 kilometer Race Walk
100 Meter Men's Semi-Final
Heptathlon, long jump and javelin
20k Race Walk
Ecuador's Jefferson Perez has won gold medals at 20k in Paris in 2003 and Helsinki in 2005. He has won the World Cup in 1997, 2002 and 2004. Add to that, gold medals a the Pan Am Game sin 1995, 2003 and 2007. What do you do when you have so much gold: Well, if you are Jefferson Perez, Ecuador's sport royalty, and the greatest mid distance race walker in the world, you defend your title.
There is an art form to running and walking distance races in championships. Some walkers are record setters, and some are competitors. Senor Perez is the latter. The scary notion about Jefferson Perez is that he is a true student of the sport-he has worked with U.S. walkers for many years, and is a very popular athlete on the World circuit.
The late Emil Zatopek once told me about his time coaching. As an elite athlete, he compared himself and his athletes and it was frustrating. " Great athletes do not always make good coaches." Perez is an exception to that principle.
The key to Perez's win in Osaka? Perez credited training in the Italian walking capital of Saluzzo. After Perez won his gold medal at the Pan Am Games in July, he went to Saluzzo and trained with Elisa Rigaudo and Alex Schwazer, two of the top Italian walkers. Perez credited his fellow walkers and the salubrious conditions in Saluzzo as key to his victory! " I found perfect conditions in Saluzzo," commented Perez. Perez also thanked Sandro Damilano, Italy's walking coach, for his thoughtful suggestions during training.
Besides his endurance, Jefferson Perez's true talent is his ability to focus and his ability to find the right time to make his charge to the lead. It is his ability to determine his tactics, picking the right time to make the move and to deal with the pressure of taking the lead, that makes him such a competitor. " The most important thing is to win, not to pursue fast times," noted Perez in the post race interview.
This race was complicated due to the weather. Perez held back until 13 kilometers, when he charged to the front, passing Olympic champion Ivano Brugnetti of Italy, who was beginning to fade. This was after Brugnetti had taken the immediate lead at the start and had built a cushion of seventeen seconds by halfway! Perez had bidded his time, knowing that the heat and the humidity were competitors as well.
A man of immense faith, Jefferson Perez has had tougher walks. In 1996, after becoming the youngest walk gold medalist ever and his country's first Olympic medal, he walked 459 kilometers from Quito to his home town of Cuenca. A promise is a promise and Perez had promised himself if he won gold, he would walk the Pan American highway between the two cities!
Perez fell at the end of the race, dealing with cramps and the weather conditions nearly ended his bid for a third gold medal. But, he persevered!
How will Ecuador consider this amazing medal? Among the countrymen most appreciative of Perez's talent and largesse are the members of the social aid community that he sponsors in Ecuador.
An athlete of immense talent and heart, Jefferson Perez's decisive move at 13 kilometers, his focus on the race and his will kept him going past 17k when he was cramping and not feeling well at all, to an amazing third gold medal at 20 kilometers!
In second place was Francisco Javier Fernandez of Spain, who was originally disqualified after he finished. A Jury of Appeal reinstated Fernandez to the silver medal.
But today, race walk history was made as Jefferson Perez added another gold to his wins from Paris and Helsinki, a three-peat for Ecuador!
1. Jefferson Perez, Ecuador, 1:22.20, 2. Francisco Javier Fernandez, Spain, 1:22.40, 3. Hatem Ghoula, Tunisia, 1:22.40, 4. Eder Sanchez, Mexico, 1:23.36.
On the U.S. news front, Kevin Eastler took 28th with his walk of 1:28:29. Tim Seaman walked 1:33:58 for 31rst place.
For complete results: http://osaka2007.iaaf.org/results/gender=M/discipline=20KR/combCode=hash/roundCode=f/result.html
For related stories:
My dinner with the Swedish TV crew....
Last night, after the meet, I met up with a Swedish TV crew as we were all searching for food at one in the morning. Dave Monte, editor of Race Results Weekly, had been so kind as to help me figure out the subway trains, and we walked over to the Hilton Hotel. From there, I followed a group of Swedes to the only open restaurant in that area of town.
We found a restaurant open until five am, that served, sashimi and pasta Nepolitan. Add a couple of Japanese beers and we were set!
At dinner, the two Swedish tv personalities, one a former athlete of Tom Tellez at the University of Houston, the other, Maria, who was handling the mixed zone for Swedish TV as well as hosting with Robert a wrap up show of the meet each day. Swedish TV was giving the World Champs nine hours a day. " Track & Field is the number one sport in Sweden," noted Robert.
They both told me how most Swedish towns had training centers nearby and the high quality of coaching, plus the overall conditioning that Swedish athletes did give them a strong advantage in the technical events. The training centers, all indoor, are funded by local communities, without goverment assistance!
We were both discussing how great Carolina Kluft is looking and Robert told me that she is looking for the European record today! Her record was set in Paris in 2003. Now that she is healthy, her first day was on record setting pace!
They also told me that there are few professional coaches in Sweden, most are volunteers.
Swedish Public TV covers the Worlds for an average of nienhours a day, plus a Magazine show does a one hour highlight show. Not bad coverage ( for the first time in 24 years, the U.S. has strong TV, with NBC, Versus, plus WCSN.com and IAAF.org video! Anyone who is watching, please send me your comments to [email protected] I would like to get some viewpoints on U.S. coverage!)
Heptathlon, Day 2, the long jump
Well, the Swedish TV crew was right, Carolina Kluft wants the record and sure showed her stuff in the long jump with a series of 6.65, 6.85 and 6.84, giving Kluft 1122 points.
Lyudmilla Blonska of the Ukraine continued her great performance in day two, by just blasting a 6.88 m long jump in round three. The current World indoor champion, Blonska added 1132 points to her total. Blonska was ecstatic! She knew she had taken the silver, barring any blow ups in the javelin. Blonska also had a huge foul, near 7 meters, in round one!
Kelly Sotherton continued her solid performance, with a personal best long jump of .668 m for 1066 points, putting her solidly in third. Jessica Ennis jumped 6.23m, but had been 27 cm behind the board, so she had to be satisfied with the 6.23m and the 953 points, which moved her up the food chain.
Now, for the javelin!
Carolina Kluft of Sweden owns the heptathlon. Let's face it. Kluft can compete with anyone. Lyudmila Blonska is learning that lesson.
In the javelin, Sweden's golden women threw 47.98m for 821 points. This was an adequate throw, placing her sixth in the heptathlon javelin food chain. Lyudmilla Blonksa of the Ukraine made up no ground on Kluft, not coming near her personal best of 50 meters, but throwing a good 47.77m for 817 points. Blonska is clearly in second.
Lillian Schwartzkopf of Germany was the javelin queen tonight, hitting 54.44m for 946 points and a personal best!
As a sign of the love between America and Great Britian, I am personally offering the services of either Peanut Harms or coach Lewis from San Mateo community college. Dear God in heaven, if Jessica Ennis and Kelly Sotherton do not learn how to threw a javelin over 40 meters, I may have to resort to animal sacrifice in Japan. I know, I will give them a carp for good luck! Harms and Lewis could help both of them improve! If this continues, they will have to call former PM Mr. Blair in order that I do not get overly emotional next time I see them compete and you know, send them a postcard beseeching that they get some good sports psych training get past this javelin misfiring!
All jesting aside, Jessica Ennis threw two personal bests, finally hitting 38.07 meters, good for 630 points. Kelly Sotherton, to her credit, at least threw a legal throw, hitting 31.90 meters, for 513 points.
The battle for third comes down to Kelly Sotherton and Austre Skujyte. Skujkte must run within four seconds of Sotherton to keep the bronze. It should be a hard 800 meters!
After six of seven events:
1. Kluft in 6105, 2. Blonska in 5963, 3 Skujke in 5605, 4. Sotherton in 5568,
5. Ennis in 5535, 6. Schwartzkopf in 5514.
Men's 100 meters
After a false start by Craig Pickering of Great Britian, the race got off. Derrick Atkins continued his fine sprinting with a 10.04 for first. Asafa Powell of Jamaica looked calm and relaxed, running 10.08. Slovenia's Matic Osovnikar ran 10.17 for third and Marc Burns of Trinidad took the final qualifying spot in sem one with his time of 10.21.
2003 World Champion Kim Collins did not qualify for the final, finishing fifth in 10.21, a seasonal best. Craig Pickering of Great Britian, after a fine season of sprinting, ran 10.29 for sixth, and did not qualify for the final. Brendan Christian of Antigua ran 10.29 in seventh, and Nobuharu Asahara of Japan, who ran 10.20 for a pesonal best in round one, and has been on Japanese television for the last 24 hours, ran 10.36 and did not advance to the finals.
Tyson has his game face on. He took his time getting settled in the blocks, and then ran his race, taking the second semi final in 10.00, the fastest time of all the qualifiers.
Marlon Devonish of Great Britian continued to be dangerous, with his fine 10.12 and second place. Churandy Martina of Netherland Antilles ran 10.15 for third and Olusoji A. Fasuba of Nigeria took the fourth and final position for the final from this semi, running 10.18.
Mark Lewis-Francis of Great Britian ran 10.19 for fifth and did not move to the final. Anson Henry of Canada, ran a seasonal best of 10.20 for sixth and did not move on. Nesta Carter of Jamaica ran 10.28 for seventh and Clement Campbell of Jamaica took eighth in 10.28 and did not move on to the final.
The next two hours for the sprinters has to be tough. Recovering, staying focused. The way the athletes work is that they warm up 90 minutes out, then sit in room for half an hour, then return to stadium. Not conducive for much else than worrying, the key is to contain one's emotions, focus on the present and remember what they are here for.
Who has their game face on? Who can handle the tension? Who has trained to handle the last two hours, the fear that you have not done something, the normal human fear that you are not ready?
This is where the champion lives and other athletes give up. The difference for the final, for the top three and the other five will be who is most focused and who runs the entire, the entire race. So much can be decided in the last meters. The final is 100 meters, not 999, or 995.
As someone has said, the devil is in the details.
In an interview with Kara Goucher today, she touched on a subject that is fascinating--when the body wants to retire, but the will is what is keeping one in the competition. Goucher spoke about how tired she was with 1200 meters to go, and how she told herself that the race was not over yet. With 500 meters to go, as she was catching the leaders, she had no idea on how Pavey would respond, and with a lap to go, took off, hoping to break her. Her inspired run worked, but how to know? Goucher told us, that going through her mind was the thought that fourth would be cool, but she knew that she had to try her best for the medal. That, is the difference, in crude terms between winning and loosing-engagement. Goucher was confident in her preparation, confident in her coach, confident in her training partners and confident that the nine hours a day she spends training and actively recovering are worth the effort.