2015 Malmo Games: A new meeting of innovative athletics, by Larry Eder

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The Malmo Games site, 24 February 2015, photo by Larry Eder

If you wanted to start a new meeting in Sweden, or, quite frankly, anywhere else on our little planet, you would be hard pressed to find a better team. 

Bengt Bendeus, a former Swedish shot putter, and successful international businessman, ran the Malmo Games in the 1980s and 1990s. Rajne Soderberg was the prime mover behind the two plus successful decades of the DN Galan Meeting in Stockholm. MAI, the local, iconic track club, has secured the permit for the meeting. Bengt Bendeus, Rajne Soderberg, long time MAI club official and meet manager Lasse Johnson, along with well respected manager of athletes Daniel Wessfeldt formed Malmo Athletic International, to develop their innovative track meeting. 

In our sport of athletics, we are creatures of both comfort and habit. We do not like changes, and we suspect most who suggest change. A sport with a huge tradition, a sport that is the most popular Olympic sport, a sport tried by most children around the world, but also, a sport that has one leg in the 19th century, and seems to apologize, many times for dealing in the modern era of sports as entertainment. 

In the year of 2015, the global sport is looking at huge changes. Leadership at the top of the sport is changing, with two candidates who represent different ideas and approaches to the sport. As the sport looks for new sponsors and new approaches, athletics seems to be shooting itself in the foot as it has not figured out if it is entertainment or pure sport. The money that comes to major sports who combine sports and entertainment is quite intruiging, but many track fans have concerns about the modern era of sports. 

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Kim Collins, Glasgow 2014, photo by PhotoRun.net

And then, there are the rules. Altitude influenced marks, World records, world bests-all of this confuses the general sports fan. And, dear readers, if we want to success as a global sport, we need to convince the sports fan who likes American or European football, cricket, US professional sports that athletics is fun to watch and fun to attend an actual event. 

Rajne Soderberg, Bengt Bendeus, Lasse Johnson and Daniel Wessfeldt get that. Last night, over a late dinner of Hungarian sausages at a little local haunt in Malmo, Sweden, I was fortunate to meet with Bengt, Daniel and Lasse, and talk track a bit. 

Successful people, who love athletics, Bengt, Lasse and Daniel have put energy, financial support and much time in developing this meet with their partner, Rajne Soderberg. 

The meet is a fascinating combination of old and new. One would call the meet a sprint-jump event. The elite events include the 60 meters for men and women, the 60 meter hurdles for men and women, the long jump for women, the high jump for men and the pole vault for men. That schedule will be held from 7.45 PM to 9.50 PM. 

The earlier session includes Women's pole vault, Men's Long jump, women's high jump, boys and girls 60m, for ages 14, 16 and Boys and girls 13 races as well. That session is from 5 PM to 7:30 PM. 

The Malmo Games will feature the fastest, and highest in their events in 2015. Kim Collins, 2003 World Champion, and all of 38, is leading the world at 60 meters, with a time of 6.47. Mike Rodgers, Daniel Bailey, Trell Kimmons (6.45 PB), are all here. 

In the men's 60m hurdles, Orlando Ortega of Cuba, has run 6.45 in 2015! He is challenged by Dayron Robles, Cuban Olympic gold medalist, Aries Merritt, London gold medalist and WR holder over 110m hurdles, along with David Oliver, 2014 World Champion gold medalist.

The men's high jump features the Asian record holder, Mutaz Essa Barshim, of Qatar, who cleared 2.41 meters last week in Dublin, Ireland, at the ATHLONE meeting. His challenged by Ivan Ukhov, who has cleared 2.42m, and has cleared 2.31m this season. Barshim was also one of the two men who battled at the historic adidas GP in New York, back in June 2014, where he and Bohdan Bondarenko both cleared 2.42m in same event. 

The Men's Pole vault is all about Renaud Lavillenie, the world record holder and a man who has won European, Olympic and World Championship medals, and who has cleared six meters four times in 2015 already! Piotr Lisek, Poland, and Robert Sobera, Poland, have both cleared 5.87m and 5.81m respectively this winter. Renaud Lavillenie told us today that he wants to be "invincible". 

On the women's side, Murielle Ahoure, CIV, has run 7.05 this season, the fastest in the world. Murielle told us today " I do not worry about times, I worry about racing." With a PB of 6.99, watch out!  Muna Lee, US, who has run 7.18, and Natalia Pohrebniak, Ukraine, has run 7.21, lead the field challenging Ahoure. 

Sharika Nelvis, who just won the Sainsbury's Birmingham Indoor GP on February 21, leads the world at 7.87 for the 60 meter hurdles. She is challenged by Alina Talay, Belarus, who has run 7.88. Tiffany Porter, European Champion, and Lucy Hatton, GBR, who has been hurdling quite well. 

The Womens' Long jump will be lead by Christabel Nettey, Canada, the world leader and new Canadian record holder at 6.99 meters, with Funmi Jimoh, USA (6.74m), Irena Spanoviv, Serbia ((6.78m), and Eloyse Lesuer, France, a fine jumper is also featured in the field. 

Renaud Lavillenie, Lausanne 2014, Photo By PhotoRun.net

The long jump and other horizontal jumps are a challenge with fouls due to over stepping on the fault line. The long jump board will be "20 cm wide and the take off in front of the board will be measured from the edge of the board. This means the person who actually jumps the longest will win, not the person whose take off is as close to the fault line." This innovation and those words are from Rajne Soderberg, the meeting director. 

The sprint-jump meet makes sense. We have distance only meets in the US that have made sense. And there are facilities and locales that would embrace such an event as what the Malmo Games are proposing.

In a soon-to-be published interview with Mr. Soderberg, Rajne suggests that innovations such as this, and the innovative track, with sprints, jumps (and shot put could be done), is the way that sports facilities that want track meets that are appealing to sports fans and use some innovation, and also with facility limitations can keep or bring in an athletics meeting.

"Our facility is a general sports arena. It has music, it has ice hockey, and now it has indoor track & field." noted Rajne Soderberg.

The meeting is about twelve hours away. Soderberg, Bendeus, Wessfeldt, Johnson, and the MAI club have put much effort, money and time into making their new Malmo Games a success! 

We think that they are on to something innovative and fun. 

Just what we need in athletics. 

For more on the 2015 Malmo Games, please go to www.malmogames.com. 

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