Competition is an examining tool, a measuring stick. It is an auger to uncover the known from the proposed. Unfortunately, in the world of distance running the answers are no longer in question; which is one reason why the public has lost interest in the outcome of the sport’s competitions. What’s to uncover, which anonymous individual from East Africa will be today’s champion? We already know who is going to win before the starter’s pistol is ever fired. Which is why if running ever hopes to reengage the public at large, it must find a way to reframe its competitions.
While the U.S. senior men’s team won a hard-earned silver medal at yesterday’s IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Bydgoszcz, Poland behind Ethiopia’s gold and in front of Kenya’s bronze, given that the Kenyan team was “the weakest in 20 years” according to BBC commentators, the results only underscored their dominance.
Not only did unknown Japhet Korir become the youngest man ever to take the individual men’s gold medal for Kenya, even as the top five places all went to fellow East Africans, the fact that the Kenyan squads — junior and senior, men and women — still won the majority of the day’s other medals over a course which was decidedly not African friendly, testified to the lack of competition offered by the rest of the world.
In fact, many of the old-world cross country powers no longer even sent teams to compete. Germany, Norway, Russia, and France all remained at home rather than make the short trip to neighboring Poland. When its own member federations lose interest, how exactly does the IAAF propose to woo sponsors and attract sports fans? (more…)