Bob Ramsak, the hardest working journalist on the track circuit, is everywhere this summer. His daily updates from Osaka were priceless in terms of info and knowledge of events. In the following article he notes that Zurich dropped pacemakers and increased the prize pot. The idea that runners will learn to compete again will make the sport more competitive and show off its most important asset–the ability for the fans to se the best in their event compete head on!
TRACK PROFILE Report #687
NIXING PACEMAKERS AND INCREASING PRIZE POT, ZURICH INTRODUCES NEW ONE-DAY MEET APPROACH
By Bob Ramsak
(c) 2007 TRACK PROFILE Report, all rights reserved
ZURICH â€“ When the IAAF Golden Series resumes on Friday night, Zurichâ€™s rebuilt state-of-the-art Letzigrund Stadium wonâ€™t be the only new development at one of the worldâ€™s richest single-day meetings. For the first time in the sportâ€™s professional era, the annual Weltklasse competition will not employ the services of pacemakers.
And that suits Bernard Lagat, the recently minted world champion at 1500 and 5000 meters, just fine.
â€œItâ€™s fantastic,â€ said Lagat, who will contest the 3000 on Friday. â€œPeople always run fast and they get personal bests with pacemakers, but then again itâ€™s so important that the race becomes tactical.â€
â€œFans want to see who is going to win,â€ Lagat, who ended a 99 year middle distance gold medal drought for the U.S. when he captured the 1500 title, continued. â€œBecause when thereâ€™s a pacemaker, they know Kenenisa Bekele is going to win, or as Hicham El Guerrouj used to win. But now, with no pacemakers itâ€™s up to somebody else. Itâ€™s going to make us learn how to run these races. And the athletes who donâ€™t run well with pacemakers, can do extremely well when the race is controlled without pacemakers. It helps athletes of all styles. We learn and we appreciate every kind of race that way.â€
Lagatâ€™s race will largely be a rerun of the Osaka 5000, with the five men who finished behind him on Sunday returning to action in Zurich: Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge, Uganda’s Moses Kipsiro, rising American star Matt Tegenkamp, Ethiopian Tariku Bekele, and Briton Mo Farah. It will also provide an opportunity for Australian Craig Mottram to bounce back from his poor performance. The defending bronze medallist and a solid pre-meet medal favorite, Mottram was never in the hunt and finished a distant 13th in the 15-man field.
With Lagat contesting the longer race, and Rashid Ramzi and Shedrack Korir, the Osaka silver and bronze medalists, respectively, taking the weekend off, Zurich organizers have nonetheless lured half of the 14 men who reached the world championships 1500m final.
The man with perhaps the most to prove is Frenchman Mehdi Baala, who was disqualified in his Osaka semi-final for barreling through the field in the raceâ€™s waning moments. But so does U.S. champion Alan Webb, the world leader at 3:30.54 after his win in the Paris Golden League fixture, who was eighth in Osaka after barely squeaking into the final. Kenyan speedster Daniel Kipchirchir Komen will also seek redemption after missing his second straight world championships final.
Janeth Jepkosgei and Maryam Yusuf Jamal, the recently crowned 800 and 1500 meter world champions, vividly illustrated in Osaka that races for major titles neednâ€™t necessarily be slow. And both contests will be largely remembered as among the finest of the championships.
Jepkosgei, whose gutsy gun-to-tape performance in Osaka resulted in a 1:56:04 Kenyan national record, returns to action where sheâ€™ll face Spaniard Mayte Martinez, the Osaka bronze medallist, Russian Olga Kotlyarova and Sloveniaâ€™s Brigita Langerholc, fourth and fifth in Osaka.
Another anticipated Osaka rematch comes in the 1500 as well, where Jamal, an Ethiopian-born Bahraini who lives and trains in Switzerland, will again face Russia’s world leader Yelena Soboleva, the Osaka runner-up, and Ukraine’s Iryna Lishchinska, the world bronze medallist. In all, eight of the top-10 finishers from Osaka will toe the line.
Another new development introduced by Zurich organizers, and met with mixed feelings by some athletes and managers, is a redesign of their prize money and appearance fee structure. Prize money will be doubled this year to nearly $1.4 million, distributed evenly among all events. The promotional payments, or appearance fees, were cut in half from 2006, but not eliminated entirely. Organizers have also assured that no athlete leaves Zurich empty-handed. Each athlete participating on the main program will receive a promotional payment of $1000, and those in the national events, receiving half that amount.
Three athletes remain alive in the hunt for a slice of the $1 million IAAF Golden League Jackpot: Russian pole vault star Yelena Isinbayeva, American 100m hurdles world champion Michelle Perry, and American Sanya Richards in the 400.
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