March 2008 Archives

Liu Xiang will have the weight of all of China on his shoulders this summer, and he showed his stature today as he was the first runner in the Olympic Torch Relay. Sanya Richards is looking at both relays for Beijing (wonder what Alyson Felix is thinking about?).

Liame Diack had some very supportive words for Dwain Chambers, but it will take a legal battle for Chambers to see Beijing as a competitor.

And congrats to Ian Stewart, who was awarded an award by the IAAF in Edinburgh this past weekend. Stewart won the Euro 3k indoor and World Cross all in same month, I believe, among his many honors. Congratulations Mr. Stewart!

The World Cross Country had two firsts-the first time Ethiopia took all four individual medals and first time Africa gets all individual medals. Kenenisa Bekele, despite coming very close to a disasterous lost of a racing spike, in lap two, managed to keep his wits and shoe one and run to his sixth long course title. On the women's side, two Dibaba's won-you will have read on to find out!

Anyone who thinks that any medal in Beijing is sacred has another thought coming. La Shawn Merrit, in his 400 meter opener, ran 44.72 to eclipse the world leading mark of 44.82.

Kenenisa Bekele has a flight delay and did his IAAF press conference for Edinburgh, Scotland via his cell phone, oh technology!

A happy birthday to my brother, Brian, who is all of 45 this year. He is my youngest sibling and we have three sisters as well. A very good prep distance runner, and an even better soccer player, he now focuses his vocation, avocation on the arts: http://www.galleryAD.com

Bob Ramsak reports that the Slovenian Federation upheld their superstar Jolanda Ceplak's two-year doping ban. This is a huge decision. It also shows that, more and more, the Federations are seeing the hard stance that must be taken to save the sport.

Someone said, Joe Henderson, I believe, that cross country is the meeting place of the marathoner and the miler. How true. There is nothing like a good race in the mud and muck over eight to twelve kilometers with your friends, and then carrying on about it for several hours afterwards, assisted by a few stories, and perhaps, some liquid refreshments.

Well, the cast of characters in Edinburgh this weekend, besides the 70 plus teams, will be a whos-who of distance running. From the sold out Distance Running Summit on Friday night, to the open 5k on Sunday morning, to the World Cross on Sunday afternoon, the city of Edinburgh is celebrating one of the most hallowed traditions in the world's oldest sport-the world of cross country running!

Well, what have we today? Sam Jamieson of Australia picked up $40k Australian in winning the richest footrace in Australia, the Post Stawell Gift won by two meters over 120 meters with a six meter mark. His time was 12.09!

Alan Webb will be running Carslbad 5k on April 6. This will be his first race after his stomach issues in the Central Park 8k.

Bryan Clay, the World champ heptathlete, is working on his 400 meter speed this spring-that and staying healthy and that guy could take gold in Beijing!

And the award for draconian practices does not go to China today, but to Senegal, for their continued harassment of Amy Thiam Mbacke, former World Champion, who has been absolutely jerked around for years due to not bowing to the benevolent gentleman who make up the SAF. Wasn't it just a few years ago that Ms. Mbacke was hailed as the first gold medalist from her country in athletics or was I having a senior moment? Well,I was getting tired of hearing about Chinese security forces beating Tibetan monks to death in non violent protests anway. And while the SAFs' treatment is not of the same level as our dear friends in the country with five thousand year written history, just the ability to ruin someones' life that, in this age, is mortifying.

But the real news is the weekend of cross country in Edinburgh, Scotland this weekend. Best wishes to (Steve Jones-mentored) Jorge Torres and Dathan Ritzenhein on a real cross country course!

On the evening of February 16, after I had witnessed Kenenisa Bekele run two miles in a world best of 8:04, with the second mile in 4:01, I had a chance to sell hello to the great athlete. He was sitting at dinner with Jos Hermans his long time advisor and agent, after the Norwich Union GP in Birmingham.

I congratulated Kenenisa on his fine running, and said, " Hope to see you in Valencia." as I had heard he was considering the indoor over the cross country. Kenenisa smiled, but said, " I have to make a decision soon." He smiled, Jos smiled, and I thanked them for their kindness and went on my way.

A few days later, Bekele announced his intention to run Edinburgh. His brother, Tariku, ran a brilliant last 1,000 meters, just over 2:22, ( last 800 in 1;53), to keep the gold medal for the World indoor 3,000 meters in the family on March 9, and 21 days later, the elder Bekele brother will see how he has recovered from Mombasa, and the brutal conditions of last year!

Here is our global news for the day from EME News and Alfons Juck:

It is ironic that the Olympic Torch relay was started in 1936 by the Nazi Government in Germany to further promote their upcoming Olympics. While some repression was already known to the world by 1936, the Olympic flame traveled around the world without any protest. It was the first time that a repressive government had used the Olympic ideals to showcase their political plans.

No one, in this cynical age, thinks that a large part of the Olympic movement is pure as new snow. But, the goal persists: In 776 BCE, the ancient Olympics were used as a way for men to compete and even war between the Greek city states was stopped. When the ancient Olympics were canceled around 329 BCE, the goals had failed, due to man's inhumanity to man, and the greed and cheating that was going on in the Olympic contests.

One of the goals of the Olympic Games is to celebrate sport, celebrate youth and show the world that competition in sport is preferable to war. Most sports fans will put up with the nationalist bravado of most countries as they parade into the Olympic stadiums. And in the last few summer Olympics, while we see and appreciate the countries that host the Games, we were not overrun with propaganda nor have we felt that the Olympic ideal has been completely left in shambles....

The outdoor season is starting with some real fast times! Asafa Powell ran a relaxed 9.72 anchor in his 4 x100 meter relay opener. Jeremy Wariner ran his 44.2 split for 400 meters in his 4 x 400 meters in his second race of the year!

A long and tough season awaits all those who dream of Beijing. Some will make it, some will not. There will be many, many surprises.
In less than four months, seven hundred athletes will vie for the 133 positions on the US Olympic Track & Field team headed for Beijing. The Olympic Trials, to be held in Eugene, Oregon will have races that will in many cases, surpass the races in Beijing. The hardest part of getting to Beijing is making the team for Beijing in the U.S. Think about it-men's 100 meter hurdles, men's 200 meters, men's 400 meters, men's shot put, women's 100 meters, women's 200 meters, ---in each of those races, there will be, left behind, athletes who could make the Olympic finals.

Watch how each athlete starts their seasons. The season is long, and Beijing will be no picnic. Hot, muggy, smoggy, the races and events will take on a different feel as much of the battle on making the finals will be about giving it one's all, heat after heat.

Since 2004, there have been either Olympic champs, World Champs, Euro, Asian Champs each and every year. That four years is longer than most elite athlete's entire careers. However, Beijing will be a real turning point. Watch the athletes who emerge this year, some who showed their stuff in Valencia, some who will show up early in the Golden League...

Two weeks after the World Indoors in Valencia, Spain, the outdoor season is about to erupt. The World Cross Country is about one week away and high school track is less than a month old in the US.

Bernard Lagat will be running the Payton Jordan Invitational on May 4 in Stanford, making their 5,000m, like the 10,000 m, huge races in the Stanford event. Former East German sprinter Marles Gohr, first women under 11 seconds for 100 meters and former world record holder at 400 meters, offers some concerns for athletes competing in Beijing....

Watch how elite athletes turn certain championships down in preparation for Beijing. Powell is running a 4x 100 m in the 50th Anniversary meet of his college in KIngston, Jamaica this weekend.
The week's news, with Kluft out of the heptathlon and Gebrselassis looking to get out of the marathon, and the terrible sand storms in Beijing have made this a prime week for news in athletics.
EME newshound Alfons Juck gives you more to consider on this Good Friday, March 21, 2008:

The Value of Coaches

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My first job in the industry was ad production assistant at the old Runner's World magazine in Mountain View, California. My direct manager was one Derek Clayton, who was the VP of Advertising at RW.
Derek was Irish by birth, English by upbringing and Australian by choice. A former St. Stephen's harrier, Clayton was a contemporary of Ron Clarke. In fact, Clarke and Clayton trained together, from time to time.
One of my treasured memories was sitting with Derek, after work, and discussing his racing and training. I remember the memory that Derek gave me in allowing me to see his sports room. In it were his awards from Fukuoka, his Olympic citation, and his vests from the various clubs he was on.
In our conversations one of the most dominant marathoners of his generation, Derek confided in me that he should have had a coach, that it might have helped him cut back on his injuries and reached what he knew he was capable of. Clayton was a brutal trainer and needed someone to advise him on when to hold back, when to go for it. That person, in any parlance, is a coach, or an adviser..
..

In a news flash early this morning, March 19, Carolina Kluft told the Swedish press that she will not be competing in the heptathlon in Beijing. Instead, she will concentrate on the long and triple jumps....why?, this blogger will attempt an explanation.

In a recent article on the Inside 2012 web site, a tremendous resource for the London 2012 coverage, several stories on Haile Gebrselassie, the dominant distance runner of our generation are emerging.

Yesterday, March 17, Haile spoke in Madrid, supporting the Spanish city's bid for the 2016 Olympic Games. At this time, Chicago and Madrid look to be the top contenders. Inside 2012 noted that Haile had supported the winning bid, London, long before 2012.

The key news here is the story, also on Inside 2012, that the Ethiopian Federation is pressuring Haile to run the marathon in Beijing....

EME News had some good stories this weekend. Haile Gebrselassie won his last road race of the spring, running and winning in Lisbon over the half marathon in 59:15. After that, Mr. G will be training for the track. After his statement that he may not run the marathon in Beijing, the Ethiopian federation made it know that they will decide where Haile runs.

Jorge Torres and Shalane Flanagan won 8 kilometer races in Central Park this past weekend. Both Torres and Flanagan will be dangerous over 10,000 meters this coming spring and at the US Olympic Trials.

My column on Saturday has garnered many comments. In this column, we will follow the questions that I received today. But first, I want to clear up a misconception. No where in the column yesterday, did I suggest or even speak about the medal haul that I believe the Chinese will have in Beijing. The Chinese Olympic committee, who has downplayed the medal expectations, will see huge gains in the medal count in Beijing. Watch the women's distances, throws, walks and marathon, and on the men's side, watch the marathon and the walks.

Let's make this perfectly clear. The school system that was discussed in VF may have problems, but as one commentator said today, " it has taught more people English than anywhere else in the world."

Well, here we go....

The Olympics in Beijing will be one of the great moments in modern Olympic history. The Chinese have been remaking Beijing for nearly a dozen years now, in anticipation for the coming August.

The Summer Olympics will start on August 8, 2008 at 8:08 P.M. Reason? In Mandarin, the number eight sounds like the word "fortune". 500,000 foreigners will be coming to Terminal 3, the new terminal in the Beijing airport, in July and August to visit China during the Beijing Olympics, just what will they find?

In a must-read article in April 2008 issue of Vanity Fair, William Langewiesche wrote Beijing's Olympic Makeover for VF's China Dispatch. If Langewiesche's hypothesis are right, those foreigners will find a homogenized Beijing, hiding much of the truth about a Modern China.

Big news on the world front is Walter Dix with strep throat. The Florida superstar may not make the NCAA Indoor Champs this weekend.

Second, in my mind is Justin Gatlin, trying out for the pro football in U.S. I do think his younger drug conviction over a drug taken for ADD was a bit much, but I am mixed over letting him run in Beijing.

Swedish hurdle goddess Sussana Kallur should be able to begin training in two weeks. Her recent issue with her hamstring has been now called a rupture.

Nice phone call from Bank of America Chicago Marathon stalwart Mike Nishi, excited about the new sponsors and renewed excitement B of A is bringing to this most important event! Watch for some upcoming interviews!

On Thursday, March 13, I had the pleasure of speaking with Bob Schul, the 1964 Olympic gold medalist at 5,000 meters. Schul is the only American EVER to win Olympic gold at 5,000 meters, and he is probably the least known living track and field Olympian.

Bob Schul is planning several get togethers in Eugene with some of his friends, and you, the track fan, are welcome to attend!

Why the Olympics have meaning....

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The World Champs last weekend were a wake up call for many athletes. Some of the new starts who came through Valencia will be seen in Beijing and will make a real showing there.

In my conversations with agents, athlete managers, and the major sponsors, while the medals in World Champs do matter and are part of what a sponsor wants to see in their elite athlete portfolio's, athlete sponsors are looking for two things---less competitions, better performances and most important of all is what the athlete does in an Olympic setting....

While I was over in Valencia, I sat with Alfons Juck, and worked out an agreement for our readers to get his updates a coupld of times a week. Big News is Haile G. not running marathon in Beijing and Usain Bolt focusing on one event in Beijing. Smart decisions in my mind.....

Why our sport misses North America

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The World Indoor Championships in Valencia, Spain were, by any standards, a huge success. With medalists from North America, South America, Europe, Asia and Africa, the 159 countries, representing the largest indoor world championship, it must be pleasing to the IAAF. With TV coverage across the world, with the exception of the U.S.

Why was there no coverage in North America, but our friends at WCSN? How much crack are the networks in the US smoking to not cover a world championship during the buildup to Beijing? And why does the IAAF still not get that a world championship in the US is something they need to really work on? Well, dear readers, I have a few ideas on that! Read on....

It is just before five in the morning local time, Valencia. I have arrived at the airport and am getting ready for my three flights back to Chicago. In my mind the World Indoor Champs was a tremendous success. There was tremendous competition, large, boisterous crowd, fine facility and of course, wonderful athletes with wonderful stories from 159 countries. Here are some of the final events and how I saw them:

The final day of a world championship is planned to be exciting and this was! One more update tonight from Valencia with the final events. This update will fill you in on the 1,500 meters from last night, the heptathlon and some of the best finals I have seen in any championships!

A championship is a rare event. The World Indoor in Valencia, Spain will go down in history for being one of the most competitive ever! The women's triple jump and men's long jump won on one of the last jumps of the competition! A 1,500 meters for men that was part roller derby, part, professional wrestling! And a heptathlon that will not quit! Here is my second part of the evening session, will catch up on Sunday!

What a session! The women's 3,000 meters, where Defar wants to show who is the queen and Kim Smith is showing real guts. In the men's 1,500 meters, who will take the medals? Ramzi, or will Willis surprise? Then, there is the women's pole vault, is Isinbayeva beatable? Can Stuczynski or Feofanova pull an upset? What about the 60 meter hurdles? Will Sussana Kallur set a new record? Can Lo Lo Jones surprise?

We shall see in a few short hours!

This is my catch up session. It is 4.30 pm local time. I finally got out of the stadium and had a nice meal with a friend in a little Spanish restaurant. We had paella Valencia: rabbit, chicken, snails, fish, and a ensalade mistral. Top that off with some real espresso, and I was ready to walk. We did a stroll around the neighborhood as the locals were having their siesta, and the weather was a superb 65-70 degrees F.

Good morning fellow track enthusiasts! It is morning session in Valencia, Spain. So, grab the coffee ( it better be Peets or something good!), some yogurt and sit back and read your fave blogger's diatribes:

Valencia Diaries, 3.08.08

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First, some housekeeping. I misspelled Janeth Jepkosgei, who, in my belief, is the beginning of a new era in women 800 meter runners. Janeth spoke at the AF press conference yesterday! My apologies to Janeth ( all corrected).

The rest of this column are some thoughts on the World Indoor and some waxing on our sport....

What an evening! Was it the shot put, the mens' 1,500 meters heats, the 60 meter finals,
the pentathlon or all of it! You decide. Here is my report from Valencia, Spain on the first evening of the World Championships!

The morning session got off pretty well. The qualifying for the 3000 meter me and womens, women's 60 meter and men's 60 meter, men's shot put, and the womens' triple jump, mens' long jump and first two events of women's pentathlon!

More coverage in ten hours! The men's shot will be awesome tonight!

In which your intrepid blogger flies to Barcelona, walks the airport for three hours, and checks email, writes a few columns and then heads to Valencia on SpanAir.

The battle is on. As I walked through Zurich International Airport (rated number one in Europe), the signage for the European Football Championships is up. Mastercard is using its " Priceless" campaign with strong signage. Soon, Olympic signage will be around the world as well, with Visa, the arch competitor of Mastercard, sponsoring there.

Who will win the Television wars?

Valencia Diaries, 03.06.08

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I started my journey from Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin, with the couple feet of snow we have in the yard beginning to melt. It is almost mud season, but not yet. After a two hour bus drive to Chicago, I headed on Swiss Air to Zurich. Then, it is Zurich to Barcelona, Barcelona to Valencia, arriving about 6.30 pm local time in Spain.

Radcliffe Out of FLORA London

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Due to a toe injury, Paula Radcliffe is out of FLORA London. In my mind, that puts her higher on the food chain for a medal in Beijing. The truth is, an Olympic championship or world championship is a whole different kind of race, and Beijing will be quite difficult. From the muggy conditions, to the challenging air, the marathon will be more than putting one foot in front of another for 26. 2 miles. It will be making one's move at the right time, in the right place and holding on for dear life.

We wish Paula Radcliffe a very speedy recovery.

Okay, the story on the women's side will be many folded, but Susanna Kallur of Sweden is one phenomenal hurdler. I watched her at Norwich Union GP Birmingham three weeks ago and her controlled speed and absolutely flawless hurdling remindes me of Gail Devers on her great days.

Will the U.S. LoLo Jones be able to challenge her? Jones is number two American and seems poised for greatness, should be a tremendous event!

I am also curious to see Isinbayeva, after her streak of 23 wins ending and how she fairs. Jenn Stuczynski of the US, in good shape, and the women's vault, with Feofanova, should be enthralling.

My dream event this weekend may be the women's 1,500 meters with Yelena Soboleva, who is in amazing form! Well, off to another flight, more comments from me real soon!

As I begin my travels to Valencia, Spain, for the World Indoor Athletics Championships, I wanted to keep our reader's levels of excitement up about this record setting event. Bob Ramsak, the IAAF man about the world, and the proprietor of TrackProfile.com, wrote up this superb preview of the men's events for the IAAF.

My take is that this World Indoor champs will be remembered for the beginning of many new careers, and the departures of a few of our stars. Some highly competitive fields and 159 countries sending teams!

Michael Rodgers and David Oliver are indicative of young stars rising in our sport. They are also indicative of the talent in North America, and the opportunities now for young athletes to be professional and take a longer approach to track and field competition.

Rodgers is the sprinter and Oliver is the hurdler. The interview is well done and gives you a view of two of the upcoming stars in our sport. I would not be surprised with both Rodgers and Oliver winning medals this weekend in Valencia, Spain during the World Indoors.

It is one week from the World Indoor Championships in Valencia, Spain, it is two weeks from the NCAA Indoor champs and the conference indoor champs are happening all over the US this weekend. Major marathon season is about to start, and the Honda City of LA Marathon was run on March 2.
Is it ironic, that at the start of the race to Beijing, that Marion Jones and her agent Charlie Wells, are about to start serving their terms?

Nancy Lieberman is, well extraordinary. I am a little biased, as I count her as a friend. I have watched her build a magnificent marathon in St. Louis, now numbering 17-18,000 on the weekend of event, with a team of good friends and volunteers. The interview that follows was done last week. The full interview will appear in the March issue of Missouri Runner, shows how her brain works and how she is rebranding a very successful event.

Nancy has also finished two Wisconsin Ironman triathlons and recently, with her daughter, Elissa Udell, a sports marketing consultant, climbed Mount Kiliminjaro! (The intereview was edited by Diana Minardi Strauss, editor of Mo Runner). We are very excited to provide our readers with this special interview:

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