Mare Dibaba running for gold, photo by PhotoRun.net
For nearly ten days, Jeff Benjamin wrote a daily column on US coverage of the World Champs on television. Jeff is a track fan, and he had access to Universal as well as NBC.
This is his last column on the final two days of the World Championships. Jeff did a wonderful job in detaling the highlights and lowlights, in his eyes of the broadcasts.
In the end, successful sports television is story telling. The talent needs to weave a story of the athletes and the story of the events. While I believe that American coverage is getting better, I hope that NBC understands how many people love the sport.
Jeff Benjamin is right on his commentary. There were strong moments and there were moments of improvement. Special thanks to Jeff Benjamin, a long time writer for American Athletics, American Track & Field and RunBlogRun. His help is invaluable.
We would love to hear your comments. Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org. We will pass them on to the appropriate networks!
The Grand Finale!
Beijing on TV–The Last 2 Days
By Jeff Benjamin
OK, I confess. With the NBC package of events being shown during daytime U.S.
time slots on Saturday and Sunday, it meant to viewers that all the events
would be televised here same-day delayed coverage. With as grand a temptation
for this viewer as the internet ( which was not around in mass use back in 1988
at the Seoul Olympic Games), one could not resist. So I entered watching the
last 2 days kind of like the Star Wars geek (which I am one of these as well)
who went to go see Episode 1 on theaters back in 1999!
In my humble opinion this is no fault of anyone’s, it’s just how the time zones work out.
Now On to the TV! NBC’s Saturday afternoon broadcast ( which also was shown on Universal in a
rerun later in the day) opened with a preview of Usain Bolt, Ashton Eaton, and
The team for NBC was Tom Hammond, Ato Boldon and Craig Masback along with Todd Harris.
Asked to reflect upon the sprints, Boldon obviously brought up Bolts’ 100 and 200 performances along with the 200 performance of Schippers.Masback was totally enthralled with Debaba’s 5K performances, noting that her
1:56 closing 800 could win the regular 800!!
The relays were then discussed as Boldon predicted a great battle between Jamaica and the U.S. Masback
then discussed Mo Farrah’s challenges in the 5K. Harris then went on to preview the possibility of Eaton getting the WR in the decathlon.
NBC thenreplayed the Men’s 200, along with the Segway collision.NBC then showed the cameraman later
on presenting Bolt with a wrist bracelet of apology. It was then on to the women’s 800, where after a slow 59 400, Marina Arzamasova led a pack of 3 to win in 1:58.03.
In the slow opening men’s 5K, it was very heartening to see the 3 Americans- Rupp, True and Hill- compete with the pack. Perhaps it showed the potential rise of American distance running in bulk. But that potential would
have to wait for the future as Masback effectively called the race Farah’s to lose, and that did not happen, as it looked like Farah was just toying with the field, pulling away easily with 100 to go.
With Rupp, True and Hall finishing 5-6-7, one must wonder if these guys would ever get together next year and try to lead the American team at the 2016 World XC champs! After commercials it was on to the Men’s Decathlon where Ashton Eaton’s “Unbelievable Courage” (Masback) in going for it in the 1500 gave him a new World Record. Cameras then followed the Decathlon Champ go into the stand to emotionally celebrate his wife and family.
In the Relays, Lewis Johnson explained the ineligibility of Torie Bowie.
It was no contest as the Jamsicans set a national record of 41.08 “Jamaica dominates!” Exclaimed
Then, in the Men’s relay Boldon proclaimed at the finish “Bolt is now 6 for 6 here in Beijing!” after the Jamaican team won. NBC was right on the ball as Boldon and Hammond immediately called out the US team as disqualifed.
The loudest roar in the Birds Nest was for the Chinese team as the crowd initially thought they
netted Bronze, but would later celebrate the news of a Silver instead!!
Bravo to Universal where , later in the evening, announcers Bob Walker, Peter Matthews and Steve Ovett
expertly led the coverage of the women’s marathon . Unlike the men’s marathon earlier in the week, the women’s race was not interrupted with commercials or other events at the wrong times.
This have the viewer a front row seat to one of the greatest finishes in Marathon history, as Mare Dibaba of Ethiopia led a pack of 4 right into the stadium runway, winning by only one second (2:27:35) over Kenyan Helah Kiprop in finish that was historic as well as dramatic!
Now it was on to the last broadcast, an NBC production. Opening up with Allyson Felix’s dominant 400
performance earlier in the week, the show then focused on Genzebe Dibaba in the
5K. With less than 3 laps to go Masback, sounding very surprised, called the race over as Almaz Ayana led
her Ethiopian teammate Dibaba by 20 yards and would go on to win in 14:26.83. Masback then mentioned how hard it may have been for Dibaba to double successfully in both the 1500 and the 5K.
Dibaba really tired down the homestretch as she got the Bronze, losing the Silver to another fellow Ethiopian Teferi in the last few yards. Prior to the Men’s 1500, NBC packed in different goings-on as they showed American Erik Kynard’s failed High Jump, thus not moving on to get a medal. Then it was the Gold Medal ceremony of Ashton Eaton, followed by a replay of the piece earlier in the week of Aries Merritt’s struggle with his upcoming kidney operation, followed by his 110 hurdles race, where he netted a bronze.
At the start of the Men’s 1500, Masback told a great anectdote of how, when Asbel Kiprop was younger he
was serving tea to the great Kip Keino. Kiprop’s dad then asked Keino to take him to his training camp. The rest,
as they might say, was history.
Looking to make his own history was Matt Centrowitz, who, according to Masback, had his pre-race food ritual of dry toast.
History was not changing, however. At the half hit in 1:58 “An honest but not fast pace,” said Masback. It sure
looked like Centrowitz was in in great position surging to the front at the bell lap. Americans Leo Manzano
and Robbie Andrews were in the backpack, but so was Kiprop! Displaying awesome turnover while looking totally relaxed Kiprop cruised past EVERYONE, winning in 3:34.40, easily outdueling his teammate Elijah Manangoi (3:34.63)and the Moroocan Abdala Iguider (3:34.67). An incredulous Masback remarked, “Is he (Kiprop) that good that he can sit in the field 10 meters back and still win?!”
The Women’s Javelin was then shown quick as NBC gave lots of attention to hometown favorite Huihui Lyu, who netted Silver behind the German Kathrina Molitor, who threw 222′ 1″ for victory.
In a critique-like review of the U.S. DQ in the men’s 4X100, Boldon talked of the recent star-crossed history
of the Americans in what was once their hallmark event. “The United States has underperformed,” Boldon said.
He then went on to mention how some of these athletes had outstanding performances in May and June, only to
falter here in the Bird’s Nest in late August, suggestin very respectfully but firmly that these athletes
should contemplate looking over their trainin programs for next year, so as to peak at the right times. (My note–
although a distance running guy, these words uttered by Boldon in my opinion, are Gospel. I do think too many track and field athletes, whether in pursuit of school/club points, poor coaching, or no self-control or discipline, can’t master this art, something shown in the past by athletes like our new IAAF President Sebastian Coe, or even by Usain Bolt -Remember how poorly he was running in June? Well. he peaked when it counted.)
What was real cool and I hope continues in the future was the introduction of each of the women’s national 4X400
teams in a red-carpet, Academy-awards style, setting up drama. It worked, as Jamaica did win the title, despite a
real great split (around 47 seconds!) by Allyson Felix on the 3rd leg, handing off in first to anchorwoman
Francena McCorory, who as Boldon pointd out, “fell apart” in the last straightaway losing to Novlene Williams-Mills
What followed then was the announcement by Todd Harris of a High Jump jump-off for the medals, but then it was on
to the men’s 4X400. Once again introduced on the red carpet, and despite a very fast surge by Jamaican anchorman
Javon Francis with 300 to go, none of the teams could stop the U.S., as Anchorman Lashawn Merritt led the American team to it’s only relay gold (2:57.82), defeating Trinidad and Tobago, and Great Britain. Jamaica fell out of the
Medals in this very race, as Boldon said of Francis’s move, “It turned out to be a suicidal move.” Postrace with
Lewis Johnson, Merritt was asked about next year competitive.”It will be incredible, said Merritt, “and
bigger than this year!
Competiton then concluded on this last broadcast with the High Jump jump-off, which was won by Canadian HJ Canadian Derek Droujn in 7′ 8″ followed by Zhang and Bondarenko who both cleared 7’6″.
The great NBC Crew then gathered for conclusions. The medal table showed that the US surprisingly only earned
6 Gold Medals. Boldon then went on to show how, since the 2008 Olympic Games in this same stadium, Jamaicans Bolt and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce have dominated the sprints, and how these two could make history next year in Rio
as the only sprinters to potentially win 3 Olympic Gold 100 meter races. As for Masback, he called Mo Farrah and
Genzebe Dibaba the “Usain Bolt and Shelly Pryce of the distances!” For Todd Harris, he said his greatest thrill early on was Joe Kovacs winning the shotput, but also the world-record performance of Ashton Eaton.
The program then concluded with a musical video of all the highs and lows of the last 2 magical weeks.
After watching the video and now beginning World Champs withdrawal, one has to hope that NBC and, especially Universal, can make the televised version of the Rio 2016 Games just as concise and successful, along with a little more red-carpet treatment!