In no particular order, here are some of the most significant points of the compass for our sport in 2008:
Most impressive performances, Male Track & Field: Usain Bolt
Usain's wins at 100 meters, 200 meters and third leg on the 4 x 100 meter relay team in Beijing kept 91,000 fans screaming and cheering. His all out run over the 200 meters, running 19.30 showed that he is capable of much more! His personality, and the following he has on You Tube should make his sponsors drool. It also should show our sports' sponsors and media how exciting track & field athletes can be! Usain even had a choreographer for his Lighting bolt dance after his wins!
Most dominating field athlete, Women: Yelena Isinbayeva
Isinbayeva sets Olympic record and World record. She also has someone to be upset with (Jenn Stuczynski). Now confidant in her coaching, Dmitiy Petrov, Yelena does not like to share the stage with anyone. Should be some great pole vault wars coming up in the next few years.
Isinbayeva knows how to court the fans, the media and perform at the right time. Petrov makes sure that she trains well, knows her event and is ready to perform. Attractive, communicative, and at the top of her game, adidas wisely chose her to be part of their icon campaign. She is the global pole vault goddess.
Biggest Upset in Beijing: Stephanie Trafton Brown
Stephanie Trafton Brown won the first US gold medal in the women's discus since 1932. She did it in hot and humid conditions on her first throw and won by nearly three feet! Then, as she is being cheered in Beijing, her local paper, the San Jose Mercury News, apparently put their writers on auto pilot and trashed her performance, suggesting that Stefanie won because there was a field of senior citizens and current Arena football players competing against her. Stephanie did it the old fashioned way, she earned it.
Queen of the Distances: Tirunesh Dibaba
Plain and simple, Tirunesh Dibaba's double at 10k and 5k in Beijing was a tremendous accomplishment. It shows that Dibaba, on her day is virtually unbeatable. She ran a very fast 10,000 meters and a very boring 5,000 meters, but, in the heat, and at the end of 20,000 meters of racing, Dibaba's swift change of gears over the last five hundred meters makes her move with 200 meters to go, flying to the finish. The crowds love her racing style and she will keep the fans coming for years to come!
One of my favorite moments at past Reebok Indoor meetings has been watching Dibaba race indoors. Her stride is golden-she is made for distance racing. Her fearless sprints at the end of races bring the crowds to their feet!
Most important new sponsorship for the future of sport: adidas and their eleven year sponsorship of the IAAF.
Face it, to sponsor a global federation, one needs infrastructure, the desire to succeed and a love of the sport. adidas is one of the few companies that can accomplish such a sponsorship structure. It is good for the IAAF and good for the sport.
Promoting the sport and marketing of our global sport is key to our sports' future success. We applaud the companies that take a long term approach to supporting our sport, through federations, events, athletes and coaching clinics. (also, I really liked the picture, a great branding of the federation, sponsor and sport).
Most successful Olympic Trials in US: Eugene 2008
The entire Eugene 2008 team, plus Nike, should take a bow for this one. Great trials, wonderful track, great crowd. I stayed in the dorm and had a blast. Easy to get around the the Villard Street Pub was the meeting place each night. A great team, tremendous competitions, and the best showcase of the sport in a very long time...
Best Indoor Track & Field Meet, Production, Performances: Reebok Boston
For over a decade, Global Athletics & Management has made this indoor meet a fixture on the global scene. Great facility at Reggie Lewis and the crowd is second to none. The difference between the Reebok Boston meet and the US Indoor champs three weeks later is, excitement and snoring time.
The Global Athletics & Management put on the heart of the US elite indoor and two of the four elite Outdoor meets in the US each year. Their jobs are thankless, and the team takes care of the tiniest details to make the meets a success in North America. Kudos to the GAM team and their sponsors for a job well done.
Most Important Outdoor elite meeting of year: Nike Prefontaine Classic
Without Tom Jordan, this meet would not be around. Without Tom Jordan's support from Nike's John Capriotti, this meet would not have flourished. Titanic mile races, amazing shot put competitions, startling pole vault competitions, but the moment for me, in all of those years, was this past year with Kenenisa Bekele running the 10,000 meters. It was just another world. I was not sure if I was in Hengelo or Eugene, as Bekele pursued his goal of a world record. Jordan and Nike have given track fans the best outdoor meet in the U.S., come rain, fog or cold, and the 15-18,000 fans love the three hours of total sports entertainment.
Why is it so important? Because year in, year out, this meet reminds the $18 billion company called Nike that they were founded out the back of an old station wagon, by a few guys selling shoes to a few guys running laps around a few tartan tracks around the U.S., trying to run more laps in less time. The Nike Pre Classic celebrates performance and our sport as entertainment. My guess is the late Steve Prefontaine would be proud that such an event is held in his honor each year. Nice job, Tom, Cap and the team.
Most devastating finish in a major championship: Kenenisa Bekele in 5,000 meters in Beijing: Running one sixty second lap, then a second, then a third, then a FOURTH, then a 53 second lap to the finish, Bekele destroyed the field and completed the first double for 5,000 meters, 10,000 meters since his late countrymen, Miruts Yifter, who won in 1980 in Moscow.
His solo 10,000 meters at the Nike Prefontaine had me standing at the fence in amazement as Bekele ran 63 after 63 lap.
Race I wanted to see in 2008, but will have to wait for: Usain Bolt, Asafa Powell and Tyson Gay,
For many reasons, mostly injuries, neither Powell or Gay were there this season. No matter, it was Usain's year, but sure hope that somone can give Usain some competition. For my money, that is Tyson Gay.
Race that gave me goose bumps: Women's Olympic 10,000 meters-Shalane Flanagan did not know she was in third. Great race, from Tirunesh Dibaba showing her racing prowess to Flanagan's superb third and American record. Watching Shalane's face as she realized that she had won an Olympic medal was worth the humidity that night.
Honorable mention: US Trials, Men's 800 meters, with three Oregon kids making the team, I have not heard a crowd go so nuts as Symmonds did the hockey move to take the lead, Wheating came up from seventh and Christian Smith pulled the Lazurus move-literally coming back from the dead zone to take third place.
Hustle award: Nick Willis in the men's 1,500 meters, taking the bronze in Beijing--if there is an example of how to race, and that there are three medals in Olympic races, then look no farther than Nick Willis, who battled back from a DQ in Valencia for the world indoor 1,500 meters to take bronze in the last steps of the 1,500 meter final and holding off Frenchman Baali.
Most competitive series of races in 2008: La Shawn Merrit vs. Jeremy Wariner--these guys duked it out around the globe in 2008, and La Shawn got his individual gold medal. But, neither is going away, which means hot, hot, hot 400 meter action in 2009! It is all about the competition!
It also again shows that fans want to see-head to head competitions, close races and athletes putting it all on the line, event after event. The 400 meters for men delivered in 2008.
Best Marketed Event, roads or track is...BAA Boston Marathon
Under the guidance of Guy Morse, and the day to day work of Jack Fleming, Marc Chalfour and their team, the Boston marathon is singularly the best marketed event in all of our sport. adidas iconic outdoor signage, apparel and local print ads brand the event as THE MARATHON to run. The historic nature of the event, the press conferences, especially, the Mayor's Breakfast, gives Boston its due. The imagery, the branding is better, in my mind, than anything else adidas does all year long.
2009 will be an even more impressive year with the signing of Ryan Hall and Kara Goucher. If Americans can win at Boston, then New York, and someday, Chicago,
the sport goes to another level in this country. Congrats to the BAA, John Hancock (Manu Life), and adidas on a job well done!
Best Choreographed Restructuring of a Federation: Doug Logan
Logan had big shoes to fill when he replaced Craig Masback this past July ( Masback left USATF in January after a decade as CEO). Logan showed right away he knew how to use a blog: he also knew how to play politics in such a Balkanized environment. First, he let his staff do their jobs, and he went about meeting people, players, as he perceived them in the sport. He became a familiar face at major events. Secondly, he kept the bloodshed down in Reno, getting the restructuring approved, and delivered a dead-on convention ending speech. Recently, Logan named a COO to handle the day to day management, and if Logan's previous job performances are any indication, to manage and streamline the staff. Logan sees his job as focusing on the big picture-and he has a lot to do there: new sponsors, new championships, and miles to go before he sleeps.
Award for tightest campaign win: Stephanie Hightower
Closely won races are fascinating to watch but tough to live through. Ms. Hightower
has done both. She showed class and smarts encouraging all, including the folks who voted for her competitor, to work together. That is good for the sport.
Ms. Hightower is now President of USA Track & Field. With Logan and Hightower, USATF has two strong willed, practiced politicians devoted to making the sport work. The key word is relevance. Hightower needs to insure that USATF stays independent and relevant enough to engender new sponsors and new media support.
Stephanie is a former elite athlete, who knows that track meets have sprinters, jumpers, throwers and distance runners. She also knows that these athletes are personable and have great stories. The key will be to give those stories life between Olympic years.
And our final award for 2008, the Comeback of the Year Award to...Carey Pinkowski
The 2007 Bank of America Chicago marathon had some very bad karma, and hot weather, and there were many back seat quarterbacks. Instead of loosing control, Carey Pinkowski and his team not only managed two new major sponsors, Bank of America and Nike, but also prepared for the worst (Carey was seen at more than one hydration stop at another marathon), and dealt with the 2008 warm weather.
The difference between 2007 and 2008-- the team was prepared. Carey spoke with confidence at his event, his team made the right decisions and the media applauded their efforts. The 2008 Bank of America Chicago Marathon erased the 2007 fiasco and a confident and prepared Carey Pinkowski and his team should be congratulated for their effort!
So, those are some of my favorite moments in our sport in 2008. Write in and give us your series and win a Beijing t shirt and hat!
I wanted to especially thank the sponsors, agents and athletes who have worked with us to make the sport more transparent to the fans and, in the end, more relevant to the fans and the athletics community.
See you at the track, on the roads or on the expo floor in 2009!
Happy Holidays from http://www.runblogrun.com