So, I asked all of our columnists from Moscow to write about their experiences and their top ten, top five, ratings of Moscow, or all of the above.
2013 World Outdoor Track & Field Championships / Moscow Notebook
Magical Moskva Moments: The Top Ten
August 26, 2013
You know you have witnessed a truly spectacular championship when it is difficult to select only ten highlights from the abundance of special track & field moments. It wasn’t easy to assemble these – and reasonable minds could unquestionably choose other great performances not listed below. But here is my top ten – in reverse order, of course!
10. Kiplagat Repeats: It is never easy to replicate a championship win. And it might be the toughest to do so in the marathon. But Edna Kiplagat did just that – prevailing once again in a mid-afternoon steam bath to successfully defend her marathon title – a feat no woman has ever accomplished at the world championships. After patiently stalking Italy’s Valeria Straneo along the picturesque, antiquity-strewn course which stretched along the Moscow River, Edna The Great unleashed a vicious acceleration at the 40K mark to quickly vanquish the Italian and ensure that her crown would be retained. The roars from the crowd that heralded her entrance into Luzhniki Stadium will likely be remembered by the two-time champion forever.
9. Old School East-West High Jump: It was an event that conjured up throw-back memories. The women’s HJ felt like an old fashioned east-west Cold War high jump battle as America’s Brigetta Barrett took on a pack of Russians led by Olympic gold medalist Anna Chicherova. You could close your eyes and almost see Valeriy Brumel and John Thomas straddling over bars and landing in saw dust. An awkward, abortive, and unsuccessful third attempt by Barrett at 2.03m [6’7Â¾”] relegated her to the silver as a Russian – Svetlana Shkolina, not Chickerova – grabbed the gold.
8. Menkov’s Russian Field Day: As it often did throughout these championships, the rabid Luzhniki Stadium crowd lifted one of its own to yet another pinnacle performance. Veteran Russian long jump star Alexandr Menkov – amid a stirring battle with Netherland’s Ignisious Gaisah – rode crowd inspiration to a 5th round leap of 8.56m [28’1″]. Menkov’s startling jump was a world-leading mark which settled the affair and gave the Russian the gold. Menkov’s winning leap was the longest since Dwight Phillips jumped 8.61m [28’2Â¾”] back in July of 2009.
7. Hammer Time: The Russians love their field events. And it was never more evident than when the home country’s hammer goddess Tatyana Lysenko entered the ring. The Russian – locked in a gripping battle with Poland’s Anita Wlodarczyk – was happy to have the crowd’s support. With her adoring countrymen and country women roaring their approval with each of her throws, the towering and stunningly beautiful Russian grabbed the lead and the gold medal when she responded with a prodigious 4th round bomb of 78.80m [258’6Â¼”] – a championship record throw that has only been exceeded by Betty Heidler’s world record heave of 79.42m [260’6Â¾”].
6. Oliver’s Hurdle Redemption: About three years ago, David Oliver was at the top of his game and on top of the world. The American high hurdler had just completed a magical season – dominating his event in a championship-less competitive year. He was rewarded by being recognized as the consensus athlete of the year. But as can happen in this sometime-cruel sport, Oliver’s performances then drooped. It is hard to claw back in track & field and for many such discouragement can douse the athlete’s competitive fire. Not so with David Oliver. Never visibly shakened, Oliver stayed after it and worked hard to refine his craft. For Oliver, 2013 turned into the type of year he likely envisioned as worked on his comeback. After a season of gratifying times and victories – at Beijing, Lausanne, and London – David Oliver secured the ultimate redemption. He turned back the world’s best to win a championship gold in the 110H, and by one of the largest margins ever.
5. Symmonds Gets His Medal: With no championship baubles to show after a consistent career of stellar 800m racing, Nick Symmonds was a man on a mission in Moscow. Running smartly through the rounds, the American blazed an energy-conserving path to the final. Symmonds eschewed his trademark sit-and-kick strategy in the final – forsaking what he believed could be a faster time for the opportunity to be perfectly positioned for the final 100. It worked. With a clear pathway over the final straightaway, the 5-time national champion at last secured his medal – a silver – finishing just a step behind a fast-closing Mohammed Aman. The slow motion replay of Symmonds focused grimace blossoming into a broad smile just as he crosses the finish line is an image that will linger for a long time.
4. A Vault Battle For The Ages: It is rare indeed when a highly-hyped athletic showdown lives up to its pre-event expectations. The women’s pole vault did. Jenn Suhr knew she would be dueling in hostile territory. “I’ve never before evoked cheers when one of my jumps failed,” she noted. But the reigning Olympic gold medalist never blinked, she just tired. “By the time we jumped at 4.89m [16’5″], I was out of gas,” Suhr confessed in explaining her three misses a that height. Meanwhile, Elena Ishinbaeva – each of her attempts cheered lustily by the raucous partisan crowd – simply wouldn’t be beaten in her home country. The legendary vault czarina – who clearly savors the big stage – cleared 4.89m on first attempt to cap a stirring winning performance that will long be remembered.
3. Bondarenko Flirts With 2.46m: Undaunted by a high jump field that was truly impressive, Bohdan Bondarenko opened high – 2.29m [7’6″] – jumped cleanly and infrequently and saved his best for stunning heights when his competitors were either gone or on the ropes. Once the Russian had the gold medal in his back pocket, the capacity crowd at Luzhniki Stadium was provided a rare treat as the currently-peerless Bondarenko fearlessly attacked a would-be world record 2.46m [8′ 3/4″]. Two attempts in front of the hushed crowd were tantalizingly close. And the inability to witness a world record hardly tarnished a high jump performance few will ever forget.
2. The Bolt Slam: Usain Bolt makes it look so easy. But it isn’t – or more sprint legendary sprinters would have done it. Triple golds – in the 100m, the 200m, and the 4×100 relay – don’t come easy. Call it the Bolt Slam. And the legendary sprinter with Ali’s confident swagger and broad-based international popularity did it again – with ease. Back in ’08, many track aficionados understandably had to be convinced, needed to see if Bolt could display longevity. Five nearly blemish-free years later, growing numbers are ready to crown the Jamaican sprinter as the greatest of all time. It is mind boggling to contemplate, but had Usain Bolt avoided that one brief lapse in concentration in Daegu, he would have pulled off the Bolt Slam on the world stage five consecutive times.
1. Farah’s Distance Double / Double: First in the 10,000 and then in the 5,000, Great Britain’s Mo Farah found himself with one kilometer remaining in a cluster of world class runners packed closer than Russian nesting dolls. Both times he found a way to weave through traffic and shift to a gear that none of the others
could match. In winning both events in close finishes, Farah matched a world championship / Olympic distance double achieved only by one other – the great Kenenisa Bekele who held all four golds in 2009. Mohammed Farah has that rare distance running quality that cannot be taught or gained through training. It is the heart of a lion – that impenetrable will that will allow an athlete to push to incredible limits to avoid defeat, to ensure victory. And in Moscow, not even a collection of Africans supposedly working together could find a strategy that would crack Farah.
Honorable Mention – A Personal Pinnacle Moment: With St. Basil’s Cathedral majestically illuminated just several hundred meters away, my wife Margaret and I took in a late night al fresco meal on a veranda adjacent to Red Square. While enjoying a drink and conversation, we suddenly noticed that the restaurant’s sound system was softly playing “Evening Prayer” from Hansel and Gretel. That gentle piece had served as the processional at the wedding of our daughter Marie. I had walked our oldest child down the aisle to that composition just two weeks earlier. As we concluded our meal, the Kremlin Chimes – Moscow’s official clock atop the 15th century Spasskaya Tower which looms over this historic square – tolled midnight. This Red Square moment will not make anyone else’s top ten list. But for my bride and me, it was truly magical.