M. Nicole Nazzaro is one of my favorite writers. She wrote for us for many years, and has now returned to cover the Moscow world championships. Nicole sees the world a bit differently that other writerss, part of that is because of her relationship with the country of Russia. A writer who can communicate such complicated messages, but also communicate her love of the sport and a deep comprehension of how insidious drugs in sports can be and its affect on the sports culture, is unusual.
World Championships, Day 2: What it Costs
by M. Nicole Nazzaro
We see the glamour shots. The big stadiums, the races, the sponsors, the national team uniforms, and the international life. We see the perfect, athletic bodies, the big smiles on the medal stand, and the adulation.
What we don’t often see is what it costs.
For Mo Farah and Dathan Ritzenhein, first and tenth in yesterday’s men’s 10,000m final, it means seeing a lot less of their families than they’d like. Ritzenhein was packing his bags almost from the moment he stepped off the Luzhniki Stadium track. “[I’m taking] one day tomorrow to see Red Square, then I’ll go home and see my family. It’s been a month without them, so I’m looking forward to seeing them.”
For Farah, Olympic gold medalist and world champion, the separation is even more bittersweet. At his post-race press conference last night, the Briton shared that he’s away so much training in Oregon that his younger children don’t always recognize him when he comes home.
And then there’s Sarah Brown.
Brown, the American 1500-meter runner who was first on the depth chart when Treniere Moser pulled out of the world meet on Thursday, was in Massachusetts to prepare for Saturday’s elite mile at the legendary Falmouth Road Race. Around noon that day (eight p.m. Moscow time), she got a call: could she get to Moscow by Saturday morning?
Here’s what it took. Brown had to (1) get to New York by 5 p.m. that day, packed with passport and visa paperwork in hand; (2) apply for a Russian visa before the office closed; (3) book a seat on a flight from New York to Moscow for Friday; (4) go back to the Russian visa office to get her passport and visa on Friday morning; and (5) get to the airport on time for her flight. She arrived in Moscow at 8 a.m. Saturday morning – thirty-six hours after she got the call in Falmouth that a spot on the world team awaited her.
Her schedule from the time she landed? “Massage, ice, nap, dinner, sleep, race!” she said. “Normally I have insomnia, but this time I was able to sleep. No staring at the ceiling!”
Brown gutted out a strong effort in her heat, staying just close enough to the lead pack in a fast race to advance on time. She’ll get at least one more opportunity to run here when the 1500-meter semifinals are held on Tuesday evening.
“I had big goals for Falmouth,” she said this morning. “But this is the opportunity of a lifetime for me. I was trying not to give myself any excuses. Between getting over the jet lag and knowing I get stronger as rounds go on, I’m hoping that that’s a sign and that I’ll be able to get some pop in my legs to start sprinting with some of those girls.”
Sometimes this elite-athlete life is bittersweet. And sometimes it’s pretty great. But we saw in the last two days how much this life can cost. We’re just hoping Sarah gets some sleep tonight – and that by the time this article hits the Internet, Dathan and Mo are hanging out with their kids.
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