A Haiku to celebrate the first day of track:
Track is ready to start
Driving in fast taxi is
Not good on stomach
(look I know it is Japanese poetry, but bear with me),
Second, an aside:I could always tell my dear father was getting into the Christmas spirit when, on Saturdays, during our house chores, he would put on the Johnny Mathis album of Christmas Carols. The song that comes to mind is that tome, ” Wonderful time of the
Well, real sports fans, that time of the year, every four years is here and with the increase in media opportunities even the peacock network sees the future and it is-more than 1,000 hours of TV more than any previous telecast! With all of those hours, the women’s 10,000 will even be shown!
But this is a happy time, so bear with me. Our first day in the Bird’s Nest started early, about six in the morning local as I zipped into the city of Beijing via taxi, flying along the highway like Steve McQueen racing through San Francisco in Bullit ( greatest chase scenes ever, and in a real car, a Mustang!), except no one was shooting at me. However, we did manage to set an unofficial world record, of twenty six minutes from Shinyi to the MPC.
Once I was able to get my breathing back to normal, and clearned myself, I grabbed some caffeine at McCafe, my newest addiction ( how can you not smile at nice Chinese young women with berets on saying, ” Ni Ha” or something like that?).
Oh, on my way to my seats in the stadium, I averted an international incident, but you will have to read about it at the bottom of the page….
August 15, 2008
9 AM local time
8 PM CST
Day One, session One of Track & Field
Larry’s Journey to the Bird’s Nest
The walk between the Main Press Centre and National Stadium, aka Bird’s Nest is to be 500 meters-I beg to disagree. My guess is it is about a nice mile or so, but with the clouds out, and low humidity, this sports fan was about to take his clothes off and do an interpretive dance, but I knew the machine guns would come out then.
I did get two soldiers, with machine guns to smile and wave this morning. I must admit, while I see alot of security, it is mostly young gentlemen who are probably more scared of me than I of them. I did see a small personnel carrier blocking a street the other day, but that moved. Seemed too many tourists were stopping to take pictures next to the armed vehicle.
So, there were no Media signs as I entered the stadium, so I did what I always do, smile and wave. I got past four sets of security guys and even stood next to Yelena Isinbayeva and her coach before an observant young volunteer told me that my credential was not to be in the area. She did let me take a picture and showed me where to go to my seats.
In all honesty, I have found the volunteers, the security and the Chinese people as fascinated with me as I am with them. I am not putting flowers down gun barrels or anything, but I do feel that this whole Olympic we are the world, we are the champions, global village, everyone using a Visa debit card ( Tom, did I do that well?), thing is pretty good even if I did not win ten medals.
If you did not pay several thousand dollars for a room, phones and chairs, apparently, unlike any other major championship, your seats were up for who every in media could fight over them. I found my seats, in the second row and declared them a sovreign part of the United States. With my computer, phone, Olympic fact book and sunglasses, I was all set.
The women’s heptathlon is the first event of the Beijing Games in the the sport of track & field, one of the original sports of the Olympic Games. There are about 60,000 people in the 91,000 capacity stadium and the sun is shining brightly on a warm, quite humid day. It is tolerable though, as the rain yesterday cooled everything off and we are very thankful for that!
Last night was a collapse night. After six days of sleeping a few hours, checking in on the office, writing from here, meeting with advertisers here, I fell asleep in my taxi, made it back to the condo and fell asleep about 7 pm. When James O’Brien called an hour later for dinner, I declined and woke up every two or three hours. About two in the morning, I got a call from the states on Cal Track, dealt with that and fell back to sleep until nearly six am. About then, I headed into Beijing, driving in a taxi, hell bent, I believe, on setting a new land speed record. We made the MPC in the half the normal time!
After an espresso at the McCafe, I headed over to the Bird’s Nest, the colloquial term for the National Stadium, where the next ten days of my life will be spent, sun worshipping and offering a broiled carp, an perhaps some Ma Tofu to the gods of track & field in morning and evening sessions.
My estimation of this crowd is that most have never been to an athletics meet. I came in with a group of second and third graders from Beijing, on a field trip. A nice healthy crowd for a morning session!
Men’s Shot Put qualifying
Yesterday, the word got out that Adam Nelson had hurt a rib muscle and was in much pain. He sure did not show it this morning, as he clobbered a 20.56m, the longest throw of the day, in the first round. Nelson qualified on his first throw, as had Reese Hoffa, with his 20.41m. World Indoor Champ Christian Cantwell threw 20.11m and will have to go to round two for another throw. Twelve move to the shot final tonight, and the auto qualifier is 20.40 meters.
Will Nelson be able to call on the focus that has made him a medalist in EVERY World Championship and Olympics since 2000 ? That is, 2000 and 2004 silver medals, silvers in 2001, 2003 and 2007,World Champion in 2005. Is he pulling an Oerter? Remember, Al Oerter was never the favorite and always injured in his four Olympic gold discus medal performances.
Christian Cantwell took a second throw and hit 20.48 meters, to make the auto qualifier. All three Americans have moved on.
Tomas Majewski lead the qualifiers with a personal best of 21.04m, with Nelson in second in 20.562, Mikhnevich of Belarus in third in 20.48, Christian Cantwell as fourth qualifier in 20.48m, Dave Armstrong of Canada in fifth and Reese Hoffa as sixth qualifier.
The final is at seven in the evening tonight. My picks: Nelson, Hoffa, Cantwell, Mikhnevich, Majewski. If Cantwell can put it all together, he will win the shot. That is the Big if.
So, in qualifying group A, the food chain is Tomasz Majewski of Poland, in 21.04 meters, a personal best, Christian Cantwell in second qualifying postion with 20.11m, 20.48m, Dylan Armstrong of Canada with 20.43m, Reese Hoffa of the US in fourth with 20.41m. Pavel Sof’in of Russia threw 20.29m, and the last qualifier would be Yuriy Bialou of Belarus with 20.02.
Christian Cantwell had this to say, ” Now I have made the final, I can put my feet up…My throw is always better in the evening, so I am super excited because I know it will only get better…I will start enjoying it (the Games) in the morning, hopefully, I will be wearing my medal…In the USA, you would be an idiot to use drugs, I hope everyone cheating gets caught, in the end, keep it clean…tonight is shaping up to be big for USA shot put. Atmosphere is not my style. It is the achievement. It is what it is, and I am happy to be here. I won’t take it for granted.”
In qualifying group B, the food chain broke out like this: Adam Nelson with a 20.56m leader, Andrei MIkhnevich of Belarus, who has the longest throw in Europe, hit 20.48m on his second throw, Pavel Lyzhyn of Belarus with 20.36m, Yuriy Bilonog of Ukraine with 20.16m, Netherlands Rutger Smith, who threw 20.13m, and Ivan Yushkov of Russia in 20.02m.
Reese Hoffa, the king of understatement, noted in the mixed zone: ” I just used muscle. I want to focus some more on my technique..I was a little flat, but it got over the line. So that is all that matters….I feel very good, I have expended very little energy, so I think I have a lot to give in the final. ”
Adam Nelson, the two time silver medalist, observed, ” It is too early in the morning for me, as long as it is over the automatic qualification. Then it is ok. I am feeling OK. It is a case of mind over matter. If I breathe or turn the wrong way, Iit bothers me. I am off for therapy right now.”
Note that USA and Belarus have three qualifiers.
Hyleas Fountain takes the lead, running 12.78 for the 100 m hurdles!
Final heat of the Heptathlon 100 meter hurdles
In the last heat of the 100 meter hurdles, Hyleas Fountain, Kelly Sotherton and Diane PIckler. Fountain won in 12.78 for 1158 points. Fountain leads her competition by 28 points. Kelly Sotherton was fourth in 13.18 at 1097 points. Diana Pickler, the third placer in the US Olympic Trials, had a disappointing hurdles race, running 14.28 for her and a point total of 939 points, which puts her 36th in the field of 43.
Pickler just was out of the race over the second half and nearly collapsed at the finish.
Hyleas Fountain of the US is the person to beat here. After the first event, with her 12.78 for the 100 meter hurdles, where she looked focused, fast and her timing was on. Fountain leads with 1158. Canada’s Jessica Zelinka ran a fine 12.97 for 1129 points. Anna Bogdanova of Russia, in third with her time of 13.09 and 1111 points is very dangerous, and a multi event veteran. Kelly Sotherton of Great Britian is in fourth with her 13.18, for 1097. Jackie Johnson of the US is in fifth, with her 13.22 for 1091 points. In sixth is Lyudmila Blonska, with a 13.31 in the 100 m hurdles and 1078 points. Blonska is also a player in the heptathlon medal food chain.
Diana Pickler is 36th of 42 remaining athletes, with her sub par 14.28 for 939 points. Irina Naumenko of Kazakstan did not finish the hurdles and retired from the competition.
Fountain, responded to queries in the mixed zone as follows: I think it is wide open. It is anybody’s day…I ran faster that I wanted (expected?). It was not as fast as the Olympic Trials…but it was a really good race…It is hotter (here) than at home, I have spent a long time training indoors, so I felt the heat a bit this morning.”
The next event in the heptathlon is the high jump. Note that twelve of the forty two finishers had personal bests, with eight more seasonal bests. Among the PBS were places two, three and four overall…the track is fast….
Men’s 100 meters, first heat
So, this is where the World’s fastest man is determined. Who will it be? Usain Bolt, the world record holder, Asafa Powell, the world record holder, Tyson Gay, the American record holder or someone completely different? There are also some wily vets in this race as well, like 2003 World Champion Kim Collins of St. Kitts.
In the first round, Usain Bolt of Jamaica got out to a pedestrian start, hit his stride about fifty meters, took the lead, then shut it down at seventy meters and coasted to a 10.20 for the 100 meter first heat win. Bolt’s reaction time was .186, while the average in his heat was .157. Bolt is huge and fast. Once he gets control of his speed, he will be devastating.
In the second round, Asafa Powell ot out of the blocks and lead, start to finish, jogging the last half to the fastest time of the day in 10.16. Kim Collins, the 2003 champion, ran 10.17 for second and Craig Pickering, the British sprinter, was third in 10.20. Asafa Powell looks uncomfortable running slow. Collins said after heat two, ” I am taking no prisoners. I am taking no chances this time.” Craig Pickering the third placer had this to say, ” I’d like to be the best in the field, but with the equivalents of Usain Bolt, I think I ran OK> I ran my second best time of the season, which is positive.
Richard Thompson of Trinidad won in heat three with his 10.24 despite very slow start. ” I definitely need to get a better start in the rest of my runs” noted Mr. Thompson. France’s Martial Mbandjock ran 10.26 for second in heat three.
Michale Frater of Jamaica ran 10.15, the fastest of the morning so far, observed” I am not exactly satisfied with my performance. I need to work on my technical execution and keep my head down longer at the start of the race.” Pierre Brown of Canada was second in 10.22.
Heat five answered several questions. Tyson Gay, who got out of the blocks pretty fast, won his heat in 10.22. OLusoji Fasuba of Nigeria ran 10.29 for second with Jose Carlos Moreira of Brazil in third in 10.29. Like Bolt and Powell before him, Tyson Gay let his feet do the talking this morning. On TV in the US, Ato Boldon, the NBC commentator noted that he had asked Tyson when the last time he felt any pain in his leg, and it was two weeks ago. That is very good.
Tyron Edgar of Great Britian ran the morning’s fastest round in 10.13. Darvis Patton, second place in the US Olympic Trials, ran 10.25 for second. In this race, the huge roar of 80,000 plus Chinese fans could be heard as HU Kai, a Chinese sprinter finished fourth in 10.39 and moved on, much to the satisfaction of the crowd. ” Doc ” Patton commented: I am satisfied with it. I thought that my main competition was France and Great Britian, so I thought we would be the top three.”
Francis Obikwelu, of Portugal, the 2006 double gold medalist at the Europeans, ran 10.25 to lead Obinna Metu of Nigeria and Walter Dix of the U.S. Obikwelu false started out of 2007 in Osaka and admitted that was on his mind, : “I feel a little bit aftraid of false starts. It reminds me of what happened to me in Osaka. At that time, I had two false starts, so I am a bit scared of false starts…I enjoyed ( my performance) very much. I know I am very fast and I felt very good during the race.” In the third place, Walter Dix, a newly minted pro runner courtesy of NIke, said that : “I am going to keep running and see what happens.”
Derrick Atkins of the Bahamas ran 10.28 to take heat 8 with Andrey Epishin of Russia in 10.34. In heat nine, Francis Samuel of Qatar ran 10.40 for the win, with Mark Burns of Trinidad in 10.46 .
The last of ten heats was won by Churandy Martina who ran 10.35 over Naoki Tuskahara.
The second round of the hundred meters will happen tonight at 7:52 pm.
Women’s 800 meters, first round
In heat one, Svetlana Kuska went through 62.93, with Agnes Samaria of Nambia leading at the six hundred meters in 1:33.33. Running a nice 29 second last 200 meters, Kluska showed why she is a medal contender with her time of 2:10.67.
In heat two, Yuliya Krevsun of the Ukraine let Sviatlana Usovich push the pace in 58.53 for 400 meters, and at the 600 meters in 1:30.07, with Krevsun, Jenny Meadows of Great Briitan and Tatiana Andrianova in tow. A mass finish, with Yuliya Krevsun in 2:00.21, Tatiana Andrianova of Russia in second in 2:00.31, Jennifer Meadows of Great Britian in third in 2:00.33 and Sviatlana Usovich of Belarus in fourth in 2:00.33. Alice Schmidt of the US hit about 59 seconds for the 400 meters, but was not in the fight, taking sixth in 2:02.33.
In heat three, Pamela Jelimo, she of world leader 1:54.98 fame, sat on Kenia Sinclair of Jamaica through a 62.68 for 400 meters and then took over the lead at 600 meters, hit in 1:34.40 and ran a nifty 29 second last 200 meters for a final time of 2:03.18 for the win. Kenia Sinclair took second, Elodie Guegan of France was third.
In heat four Maria Mutola, who has run in every Olympics and World Championship since 1992, I believe, let Tamsyn Lewis, the World indoor champ from Australia, lead in 57.93 and took over at the 600 meter sin 1:29.00. The fastest heat so far, Mutola ran 1:58.91 for first, Marilyn Okoro of Great Britain ran 1:59.01 for second, Lucia Klocova of Slovakia ran 1:59.42 for third, Tamsyn Lewis was fourth in 1:59.67 and Neisha Bernard-Thomas was fifth in 2:00.09 for the last qualifying place and a national record for Grenada!
Nicole Teter, the fourth placer in the US Olympic Trials, came to Beijing based on her A standard. She apparently was injured as she started the race, made it about seventy meters and jogged off the track in tears, not able to complete the race.
In heat five, Zulia Calatayud of Cuba took the lead with a 400 meter time of 60.47. Hazel Clark-Riley made a move just before six hundred meters, hitting 1:31.00, but it was short lived. Catalyud went by, then Hasna Benhassi of Morocco, then Ekaterina Kostetskaya of Russia, then Olga Cristea went by. Calatayud ran 2:00.34 for first, Behnassi ran 2:00.51 for second, Ekaterina Kostetskaya of Russia ran 2:00.54 for third, and Olga Cristea ran 2:00.59, her personal best for the final qualifier. Clark-Riley dropped off with fifty to go, to 2:01.59 for fifth place.
In heat six, Janeth Kipkosgei Busienei of Kenya took the win in 1:59.72 with Tetiana Petliuk of Ukraine, Brigita Langerhold of Slovania, Egle Balciunaite of Lithuania and Elisa Cusma Piccione of Italy as the last qualifier for this round.
No Americans moved on from this first round. I do understand the injury issue, but American women half milers are just not getting how to race on the world stage. This is not a fun run or a marathon, where the joy is in finishing. Olympics are about racing, the top athletes of the world compete against each other to see who is the best in the world, or perhaps I was mistaken…
Men’s Hammer throw qualifying
This little machine, managed by remote control takes the hammers back to the
athletes! Technology is so cool!:
Japan’s Koji Murofushi, the 2004 silver medalist, is healthy again and qualified on his first throw, with a nice 78.16. Kristian Pars of Hungary took the lead with his 80.07 monster the farther ever thrown in China with the sixteen pound ball on a chain. Only Murofushi and Pars had auto qualifiers in first group of the hammer qualifiers.
In the second group, Szymon Ziolkowski of Poland lead the qualifiers with 79.55m. Primosz Kozmus of Slovania threw 79.44m. Ivan Tsikhan of Belarus, the world champion from Osaka, was the third qualifier at 79.26m. Olli-Pekka Karjalainen of Finland was fourth in 77.07m, Vadim Devyatovskiy of Belarus had the fifth qualifier in this group in 76.95m. In sixth, LIbor Charfreitag of Slovak Republic threw 76.61m, and James Steacy of Canada threw 76.32 m for the last qualifier in seventh place.
After that, Markus Esser of Germany threw 77.60 to move to the final, with Andras Haklits of Croatia, Dilshod Nazarov of Tajikistan.
As strange as it sounds, some hammer throwers have groupies. Consider the case of Koji Murofushi of Japan, all six foot five inches of him. In events in Japan, several buses of young women hammer fans will follow Mr. Murofushi to track meets during the season.
Koji was injured last year, due to training hard after finishing grad school and getting injured in the process. He finally got into shape but just did not have the long throw to take a medal in Osaka. He is well liked by his comrades in the hammer. Here is what he had to say after the hammer: ” Everything is good but the final there will be great competition. I trained hard for a few years to participate in this event. It is a great feeling to be here…I got my qualification today on one throw. But this is not my best, merely enough for me to get in to the finals. I need everybody’s support!
Women’s heptathlon, Event two, High jump
Hyleas Fountain got her personal best of 1.89 meters, with 1084 points to lead the competition in 2251. Anna Bogdanova is second, Lyudmila Blonska is third and Kelly Sotherton is fifth at 2, 113 points. I will do a write up on the high jump in a bit.
Final thoughts for day one, session one:
A great crowd, and a great first session. The weather was nearly perfect, so the track gods are happy right now. In order to keep that happiness, I am heading out to offer some beverages and perhaps lunch in their honor. See you in five hours. Long day today, sports fans!
More to come sportsfans, but for your edification, please check out the following sites: