Jeff Benjamin, track geek that he is, views as much track TV as his lovely wife and daughters permit. A long time writer and friend, Jeff breathes the sport. So, when doesn’t like something, I listen, and so should the broadcasters, who need to try new ways to view the sport, and more options to see our sport. One final thing, track on TV is not about records, but about competition and story telling.
Beijing on TV – A view from the States- Day 7 by Jeff Benjamin
The return of the British crew and Steve Ovett added more energy today, as the meet opened with the Women’s Hammer qualifiers and also qualifying races of the men’s 5K. In the first heat, which only picked up in the final laps, Ben True ran so disciplined and controlled, it was scary, as he seemed to use as little energy as possible to get a guaranteed 2nd spot and qualify for the final.
The next heat turned pretty quick as Mo Farrah and Galen Rupp both advanced with lots of guys under 13:20! Farah was almost tripped up in the final turn as their was a crowd red pack of fast guys there, but, at least to this viewer, lapped runners also seemed to impede the runners as they didn’t get out of lane one, also contributing to possible problems. (Editor’s note: Farah nearly tripped twice).
The men’s Triple Jump qualifiers were next. While some of the national track outfits on these competitors seemed to create a feeling of a fashion show ( have to get attention somehow, which isn’t a bad thing), the talk among the commentators was of American Christian Taylor and his ability to Jonathan Edwards’ world record.
The first few heats of the women’s 800 meter qualifiers were very quick, as it seemed one had to break two minutes to move onto the next round. South African Caster Semenaya looked dead in her heat until literally coming off the final turn to finish 2nd and under two minutes as well, to qualify for the next round. These performances put pressure on the remaing heats as the women subsequently ran around 2 minutes in their heats, with some running 2:01 and getting eliminated!
American Brenda Martinez qualified but US champ Brenda Martinez fell, while Molly Ludlow got the last spot to qualify in 2:00.70!!
Perhaps this is the deepest field of them all?
The Men’s 110 hurdles was awash in false starts and disqualifications, as stated by Peter Mathews and Steve Ovett one could not notice the false starts of the German Alexander John, Czech Petr Svoboda and American Ronnie Ash.
Ash showed no signs of leaving creating, as the commentators stated, lots of anxiousness and tension among the remaining competitors. As the commentator stated when watching the replay in slow motion,
“There was a twitch and he had to go”
But they also stated that Asj remained because he thought he can still run the heat under protest like in te US, but it was not to be.
PS- on an appeal, Svoboda was reinstated.
The Next mornng here (evening in Beijing) brought back the NBC crew as Ato Boldon predicted greatness in the men’s 400 final. “History will be made as we have 5 guys in the final under 44 seconds!”
Todd Harris then talked up the Women’s Pole Vault and, talking about Champion Jenn
Suhr, mentioned how she was using new poles tonight. The Han Solo- Star Wars theme immediately came out in me as I thought, ” I have a bad feeling about this.” Hope I’m wrong.
Then, it was on to the Women’ 400 hurdles final and while a credit was given to Victor Zuzana
Hejnova (53.50), Boldon, as well as this viewer couldn’t be more happier for silver medalist Shamier Little (53.94), who with her studious-style glasses and bright yellow bow, might be showing off a new trend of fashion, intellectualness, and focus onto the scene. As stated quite well by Boldon, “Little found a little bit left in the tank, and from lane 2!”
Interviewed by Johnson postrace, Little and Bronze medal teammate Cassandra Tate (54.02) sounded very low key and talked of hopes for next year in Rio.
Mixed in with some men’s triple jumping was an astounding performance in the Men’s Javelin called by Todd Harris as Julius Yego won Kenyas first ever go and set an African record of 304-2!
The women’s 200 semis was then followed by the men’s 200 semis. NBC then showed a Home of some U.S. teammates saluting andccheeringva surprised and humble Gatlin as he came into thecte hotel after Sundays silver medal 100. Does Gatlin have a chance for redemption from others?
In between Gatlin’s cruised 19.87 semi win where Boldon said he “did a good job of managing his energy”, the shock of Suhr being eliminated from Pole Vault left Harris sounding like he (and the viewer) were in a haze of disbelief.
As Tom Hammond concluded,”The US woes continue”
Like Gatlin, Bolt cruised as well, clocking 19.95.
“It’s My favorite event and I’m not going to lose in my favorite event”, he boldly told Johnson.
The Women’s steeple had 3 Americans led by Emma Coburn but after a slow early pace,
(Interspersed with Women’s Pole Vault action) only Coburn was up there with the Africans, leading the tight group with 2 laps to go.
At the bell the group was still tightly together and Masback dutifully noted how hard the last lap of this event is on the athlete.
“It’s All about sprinting and concentrating and clearing those hurdles,” he said. With 250 to go Ghiribi of Tunisia made a move but the pack, including Conurn all responded. But coming off the final hurdle, Coburn faded and a pack of 3 battled it out as Kenyan Hyvin Jepkemnou( 9:19.11) inched ahead for the gold over Ghiribi and Krause of Germany by a tenth of a second! The last lap, pointed out by Masback, was run in 68 seconds!
Postrace with Johnson, Coburn said quite composed,” I felt amazing with 200 to go but I’m
super disappointed. I hope I can come back to Rio and kick some butt.”
In the Women’s Pole Vault it was Cuban Yarisley Silva who won, and then thrilled the crowd by trying to snatch the meet record. Despite failed attempts, the crowd definitely loved and appreciated her efforts!
The final time hyped up mens 400 where the announcers also acknowledged that it was also the anniversary of the 1999 Michael Johnson World Record of 43.18.
Reflecting back Hammond commented that it was “one of many thrills Johnson has given us throughout the years.
Boldon could barely contain his excitement as the 400 field launched into an explosive start and then saw South African Wayde van Niekerk defeat Lashawn Merritt and Kirani James in a great performance of 43.48!
Boldon, sounding like an excited school kid emphasized, “Guys, this is the 4th fastest time ever run!
For so many years it’s been James versus Merritt and now somebody new has been added to the party, and all 3 were under 44 seconds which has never happened before!”
Postrace with Johnson Merritt (43.65) who along with his Solver also set a PR said,
“This is Fastest group since I’ve been a pro-you try to dig in. As for Rio, “it’s going to be great…we are all warriors”
After the victorious Van Niekerk celebrated with some fans NBC then showed him being taken off on a stretcher prompting Boldon to exclaim,”He Really left it on the track!”
With the upcoming Bolt-Gatlin 200 showdown, as well as Allyson Felix in the 400 coming next episode, this viewer will definitely be present to see if history is made here too!