2012 Houston: the final countdown, by Alfons Juck, note by Larry Eder

Joan Benoit Samuelson, 2011 US Olympic Trials Opening Ceremonies,
 by PhotoRun.net

More global news on our sport, and some final tidbits on the Houston 2012. Less than an hour to go!

ROVERETO (ITA): Nine-time European Cross Country champion Sergiy Lebid, a past winner of the Vallagarina Cross Country race, will take on a strong Ethiopian contingent led by Kinde Atanaw and Eshete Mekaska Kassa, who finished respectively third and fifth at the Campaccio IAAF Cross Country race on 6 January at the 35th edition of the Vallagarina Cross Country race on Sunday (8.69 km). It is first European Athletics Permit CC Race of 2012. The Kenyan squad is made up of Mark Bett, Boniface Bii and Julius Rono. Ukrianinan Vasil Matvichuk, who is based in Italy, will also return to the Vallagarina. Italian 5000 metres champion and World University Games bronze medallist Stefano La Rosa and Italian Cross Country veteran Gabriele De Nard will be the top Italian runners in the field. Afera Godfay from Ethiopia, who showed recent good form finishing second at the Boclassic behind Vivian Cheruiyot and third at the Campaccio, starts as the favourite in the women's race (5.59 km) against Rwanda's Agnes Nyiransabimana and Ethiopian Buze Diriba, Hungarian Livia Toth and Italians Federica Dal Ri and Agnes Tschurtschenthaler.

ROTTERDAM (NED): Organizers of the 32nd ABN AMRO Rotterdam Marathon on April 15 have announced their first three stars of the race. Race director Mario Kadiks is hoping the fast course in Rotterdam could produce a world record and has invited Kenyans Moses Mosop, who debuted in Boston last year in 2:03.06 and later won Chicago in 2:05:37. Other top names are Peter Kirui who debuted last autumn in Frankfurt (2:06:31) with beeing 6th in Daegu 10 000 m earlier. Top debut is expected from fast road runner and World half marathon medalist Sammy Kitwara (road bests 27:11 at 10 km and 58:48 at HM). The course will be remeasured before the race and athletes will start 30min earlier than in previous years.

ISTANBUL (TUR): Double olympic medalist and European champion Elvan Abeyelegesse is back in training after giving birth to her daughter Arsema end of July. Her goals are big for 2012. She wants to double in 5000 m and 10 000 m at both European Championships in Helsinki and Olympic Games in London.

BRISBANE (AUS): World athlete of the year Sally Pearson confirmed that she will not only run the relay but also the 100 m at the Brisbane Track Classic on Saturday. The meet will start the 2012 National Athletics Series boasting international relay qualification status and more than one hundred starters in sprint events. Pearson said: "I've decided to run the 100m as well on Saturday now, that's how confident I am in my form and my recovery from my quad scare. It only took me a week or so to get back into some good speed work and the way I am feeling I think I am in quicker shape this year than I was before the world championships. It'll be good to run the relay too. We are currently ranked 14th in the world, we need to be top-16, and if we run a solid time here we can look to sure up our chances for a spot on the Olympic team." Informs Athletics Australia.

HOUSTON (USA): At the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, Deena Kastor went to the starting line of the women's marathon full of hope. Her training had gone exceptionally well, and she felt that she had a chance to earn her second Olympic medal after winning the bronze in Athens four years earlier. "I thought I was the healthiest and fittest I had ever been in my life," Kastor told reporters here today in advance of Saturday's Olympic Trials Marathon. "Little did I know that a bone in my foot was so weak that it was on the verge of breaking. Talk about not having grip on reality at the time." Before she even made it to the 5-kilometer mark, that bone shattered like "a "Popsicle stick breaking and feathering," Kastor said. She immediately sat down, unable to put any weight on the foot which quickly swelled grotesquely. That swelling, she said, actually helped set the bone and ultimately aided her healing process. Kastor would not race again until March, 2009, and not at a high level until the following fall where she finished a credible sixth at the Bank of America Chicago Marathon in 2:28:50. She seemed to be on her way back. Now she is facing the US Olympic Trials race on Saturday. She will face a formidable field led by Shalane Flanagan, Desiree Davila, Kara Goucher, Magdalena Lewy Boulet, and her training partners Amy Hastings and Jen Rhines. In the men race Ryan Hall is the top favorite along with Meb Keflezighi, also to add Dathan Ritzenhein, Jason Hartmann, Brent Vaughn and Abdi Abdirahman.


CLERMONT FERRAND (FRA): The French pole vault circuit Perche Elite continues this weekend in Clermont Ferrand with Capitale Perche. Home athlete Renaud Lavillenie is not yet recovered to jump and will watch from the stands how Romain Mesnil, Emile Denecker and Damien Dossevi battle it out. In the women's field Holly Bleasdale takes on in form Vanessa Boslak reports athle.com.

AMSTERDAM (NED) : Dutch television station NOS is looking for witnesses or images of Fanny Blankers-Koen's goldrush at the 1948 London Olympic Games in order to produce a large scale documentary. Blankers-Koen managed to win no less than 4 medals in the 100m, 200m, 80m hurdles and the 4x100m. The feat deservingly made her the 'Athlete of the century'.

NORDHAUSEN (GER) : US former world shot put champion Adam Nelson has confirmed his participation at the shot put meeting in Nordhausen. The American joins previously confirmed compatriots Christian Cantwell and Reese Hoffa as well as German stars David Storl, Ralf Bartels and Marco Schmidt. Olympic Champion Tomasz Majewski completes the field writes leichtathletik.de.

PARIS (FRA): Sports apparel company Asics has canceled its sponsorship contract with French triple jumper Teddy Tamgho, who is currently serving a six-month ban by France's athletics federation because of a training camp fight with a female athlete.The indoor world-record holder, considered one of France's medal hopes at this year's London Olympics, remains a potential candidate for the games but the federation will make the final decision on whether to actually select him. Tamgho was also fined 1,500€ and must complete 50 hours of community service.

LONDON (GBR): McDonald's officially announced here that it was extending its worldwide Olympic sponsorship until 2020. The announcement was made at the first ever Winter Youth Olympic Games in the presence of IOC President Jacques Rogge and McDonald's President and chief operating officer Don Thompson reports Insidethegames.

LONDON (GBR): Sebastian Coe has insisted that it is vitally important for London 2012 and Glasgow 2014 to work closely together to ensure the strongest possible legacy for the Olympics and Paralympics in England and the Commonwealth Games in Scotland writes Insidethegames. Coe stressed the importance of the once-in-a-lifetime opportunities for Scotland's economy, athletes and communities from both major multisport festivals being staged in the UK within a two-year period and promised to continue to work closely with Glasgow 2014.

JOHANNESBURG (RSA): South African running legend Hendrick Ramaala has quit ASA administration to get his running career back on track. This comes after ASA board appointed former banker Frik Vermaak as new chief executive of the cash-strapped federation. SA media are informing. Ramaala was appointed acting head of administration 12 months ago by the then ASA caretaker boss Ray Mali after the suspension of Molatelo Malehopo. Ramaala is off to the Middle East for the Dubai International Marathon on January 27 where he is hoping to run under two hours and 10 minutes to qualify for the Olympics. Chasing his fifth Olympic Games appearance, Ramaala is still undecided about competing at the London Marathon in April.

EUGENE (USA): Register Guard informs that Eugene's newest hotel hasn't set its official grand opening date yet, but it has about 1,000 room nights booked so far, said Brian Obie, owner of Inn at the 5th, adding, "We haven't opened up (bookings) for the football season yet." On Tuesday, the Inn's aluminum and acrylic sign -- which is 7 feet tall at its highest point -- was ceremoniously hoisted atop the building and lit, creating a new landmark for downtown Eugene. The LED-lit sign was made by a Eugene firm, Image King Signs. The 69-room Inn is hiring a total of 45 full- and part-time employees, with a base of about 30 full-timers, Obie said. "We hired employee No. 31 today," he said Tuesday. Good news for track events in the Track Town.

KINGSTON (JAM): Jamaican 400 m record holder Jermaine Gonzalez says for Guardian that "every day now I'm down at the Racers Track Club here in Jamaica, training. And every day I see my man Usain Bolt, and I always tell him: 'You promised to give us a leg in the 4x4, don't forget it, Usain.' Like all of us at Racers, Usain is training real hard right now, he is in a good place and his mindset is that he is going to run the 4x400m with us at the Olympics. I just hope he doesn't change his mind on that, which is why I keep reminding him of it. The thing is, Usain is only going to want to run the 4x400m if he knows he is going to be competing for that gold medal, so he can go for four golds in one Games." Gonzalez also added that he will start running competitive 4x400m relays around the end of February, and solo 400m a little later on in the year.


TIBERIAS (ISR, Jan 12): To add to the 35th Tiberias marathon the final time of French Patrick Tambwe was rounded to 2:07:29. Second Francis Kibiwott 2:07:31 and third and fourth also sub 2:08. Blacha Terifi Bekede of Ethiopia 2:07:34 and Gemechu Borku Wiru 2:07:42. Dena Gebremehdin Mirach clocked 2:08:27 as fifth. All very fast time and big improvements. Israeli champion Zohar Zemiro was 15th in 2:15:06.
All that in the pouring rain. Top woman was Ethiopian Tinbit Gidey Weldegebriel in 2:44:08.

WICHITA (USA, Jan 12): Jack Whitt cleared 551 at Herm Wilson Invite meet and beat Jordan Scott who vaulted over 541 cm.

KAUNAS (LTU, Jan 12): European indoor pentathlon silver winner Austra Skujyte of Lithuania scored nice three wins at local meet with 8.65 over the hurdles, 180 in the high jump and 611 in the long jump.

BIRMINGHAM (USA, Jan 12): At Blazer Invitational D´Angelo Cherry clocked 6.68 in 60 m heats. Also fast 7.24 for Gloria Asumnu in the women 60 m heats. Asumnu now represents Nigeria.

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