Beijing on TV, A view from the US, Day 5, by Jeff Benjamin


Coe_Sebastian-World15.JPgSeb Coe, photo by

This is Jeff Benjamin's Day 5 review of the American TV broadcast. He has watched Universal and NBC and has had some nice comments and insights. I am happy that there is TV in US.

Beijing on TV - a view from the States - day 5- from Jeff Benjamin
Out of Mondays' doldrums of the British- led coverage of semis and qualifiers came the return Tuesday morning ( but evening in Beijing) of the NBC broadcast crew of Tom Hammond, Ato Boldon, Craig Masback, Lewis Johnson and Todd Harris. Each of them were ready to go before the packed Bird's Nest stadium, as semis and especially finals would be contested.
But first the show opened with the gold medal ceremony for the women's 100 meters champion Shelly Fraser-Price.
Then, it was on to the women's 400 semis where all the focus was on Allyson Felix who accelerated quick in the beginning, leading Boldon to proclaim that he thought it was maybe Felix's fastest 200 ever through a 400! In the post run interview Johnson ( who is no stranger on the track as he competed in middle distances in meets around the world during the 80's) pressed Felix who basically spoke low key about challenging herself.
Mixed in with the women's discus, was the men's 200 meters semi. American
Isaiah Young ran out of gas in the last 30 meters finishing sixth and out. Boldon seemed very disappointed in his assessment as he seemed to be expecting better things for Young. Usain Bolt easily dominated his heat and then it was Justin Gatlin's turn, where Boldon talked of his "chance for redemption" , perhaps in more ways than one.
As Gatlin also dominated his heat this viewer wonders, especially in the humble and respectful way he's been conducting himself, if NBC is also looking for redemption for Gatlin. In the sports world, many American fans (don't forget "fan" is short for fanatic!) are very forgiving of athletes. Whether it's A-Rod, Andy Petite, or even Pete Rose, when they come across as sincere, fans almost always seem to welcome them back with open arms. Say what you want about Gatlin, he's definitely following the same script.
It may be working too as evidenced by acclaimed writer Alan Abrahamson in his column today:
An excellent part of the broadcast shown was the performace of Jianan Wang of China in the Long Jump as he leapt 26' 10" before the roaring hometown crowd to net the Bronze and leading two other Chinese athletes into the final! Winner Greg Rutherford leapt 27' 1" (8.41 meters) for the victory.
Then, an interview was taking place among Hammond, Boldon, and Masback, but it wasn't with just anybody. In an approximately ten minute live session running legend Sebastian Coe, the newly-elected President of the IAAF. Coe discussed many subjects, in trying to take the sport to the next level.
This viewer felt the whole hopeful and positive atmosphere present as Lord Coe stressed the strength of the sport worldwide. "It's a strong sport in 224 countries... And it is hard to come out of the World Championships with a medal", he said. But he also talked of the difficulty of getting young fans to grow with the sport. "It's a profound challenge", Coe said as he also stated that he will be leaning
heavily on the London 2012 experience.
" The way we engage young people is through new media", continued Lord Coe.
" I have 4 kids ages 24 and under and they consume information in a different way. We need to understand young people"
Referring to more involvement in the sport itself Coe said ,"Our top priority is to don't move forward as a two or three tier sport"
Coe continues by stating that," the Potential is huge and the challenges are equally large. " Coe also felt that national federations, even going down to local levels, should be allowed to grow locally and not always led directly from Monaco.
"The IAAF has to become more flexible"
Coe was then asked about the upcoming men's 800 where he liked David Rudisha. "I think he's found a little more confidence," concluded the former 800 world record holder, who now holds the Sport in his hands.
It was also very cool to see Masback with Coe, as it brought back memories of Coe's first World Record over the Mile. When Coe won that Bislett Dream Mile in 1979 running 3:49, finishing in a very fast 3:52 was none other than Masback, who ran the race of HIS life on that fateful day.
But before that epic showdown took place there was quite a bit of fanfare and competition left to go! In the men's 400 Hurdles Finals Nicholas Bett became the first Kenyan under 48 seconds (47.79) and the first Kenyan to ever win a Gold medal in this event! The American hope Michael Tinsley hit the 8 th hurdle and sadly finishing out of the medals.
A real slow pace (77 second first 400) began the Women's 1500 which eventually led to front running through 600 meters by the Americans Jenny Simpson and Shannon Rowbury. Masback then said a great line, alluding to the race as similar to improv theater. "You have to ready for anything."
But Masback, stating that Ethipiopian Genzebe Dibaba ( who, under coach Jama Aden had done a peak workout of 800's with the last one run in 1:58!) would go with 2 laps to go, was also prophetic as that's what the worlds' greatest 1500 runner did. In clocking the last 800 in 1:57, Dibaba emulated her sister, who Masback stated won two Olympic golds here in in the same Beijing track in 2008.
Post-race, Johnson interviewed Simpson who got clipped with two laps to go and kicked off her loose shoe with 600 to go. While Simpson did talk of possible jostling and chopping steps as possible team tactics she also stated that when she kicked it off she did so in a way so she "didn't want to impede anyone's race."
As for losing the shoe Simpson said,"there was No way I'm not going to finish as everyone passed me. I'll try and get them next time."
Masback had his doubts about Rudisha as the leaders passed the 400 meter mark in a pedestrian 54 seconds. But then, the tall Kenyan sped it up with 250 to go and dominated his trademark event once again in 1:45.84, running the last 400 in 51seconds!
Masback very magnanimously said that while Rudisha's 2012 London World record was impressive, "This was also impressive ...A different sort of strategy."
As the broadcast concluded with Greg Rutherford's Long Jump and Cuban Denia Canallero' Discus Golds, this viewer felt satisfied that NBC really had a good day of coverage, both on and off the track.
Can they up the ante tomorrow? Stay tuned ...

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