Month: July 2013

MO VERSUS BOLT – MORE PLEASE

It’s become the story of the day, Olympic sprint king Usain Bolt accepting Olympic distance star Mo Farah’s challenge to meet up over 600 meters in a run-off for bragging rights and charity.

Well, big ups to Mo and Usain, because this is exactly what the sport has been needing for quite some time, something new and compelling, something fun and different.  Track & Field (Athletics) has been locked into its sealed laboratory of specific distances and technical events for so long that there are very few “What If” proposition bets like Bolt vs. Farah that ever come up to intrigue an outside audience.

In fact, shouldn’t there be an exhibition race of some sort at every Diamond League meet, something outside the ordinary that pits a world-class This against a world-class That at some agreed upon distance in between?  There ought to be men and women on the track at the same time in some version of a Pursuit Challenge like in cycling, something, anything. (more…)

Advertisements

BRISK BIX 2013

Leonard Korir Captures Bix Title (courtesy Larry Fisher, Quad-City Times)
Kenya’s Leonard Korir Captures 2013 Bix 7 Title (courtesy Larry Fisher, Quad-City Times)

Davenport, Iowa — On a record cool day in America’s heartland, Kenya’s Leonard Korir halted countryman Silas Kipruto’s bid for an unprecedented three-peat at the Quad City Times Bix 7 Road Race today.  But it took a relentless last two mile push and a furious final kick to pull it off for the 2011 NCAA 10,000 meter champion out of Iona College.

“I didn’t think I would win,” said the 26 year-old Korir after getting the better of his taller, more experienced competitor, stopping the clock at 32:15, the eleventh best time in the history of the 39 year-old American road classic.  “I was only hoping for top three.”

On the women’s side, Ethiopia’s 23 year-old Sule Utura used similar late race speed to take the measure of 25 year-old countrywomen Buzunesh Deba 36:34 to 36:39, with 2011 champion Caroline Rotich of Kenya, 29, coming in third in 37:02.  American Meb Keflezighi finished third for the men, 24-seconds behind the winner in his seventh tour of the famed rollercoaster seven-mile course. (more…)

AGENT RESPONDS TO KENYAN CRITICISM

Brendan Reilly with Diane Nukuri-Johnson
Brendan Reilly with Bix 7 contender Diane Nukuri-Johnson (courtesy Daily Camera)

Davenport, Iowa – The 39th Quad City Times Bix 7 Road Race goes off tomorrow, one of the summer’s top races on the U.S. road tour.  Preparing for KWQC-TVs live broadcast (coverage begins at 7 a.m. central time, the race starts at 8 a.m.), I called agent Brendan Reilly (Boulder Wave, Inc.) for an update on his athlete Diane Nukuri-Johnson, winner of the Bay to Breakers 12K in San Francisco and one of the favorites in the Bix7 women’s race.  Soon, however, our talk turned to this week’s news that Athletics Kenya has once again taken a hard line with its athletes in preparation for the upcoming IAAF World Championships in Moscow where Reilly’s client Edna Kiplagat of Kenya will be defending her 2011 world title in the women’s marathon.

As has been reported, Kenyan athletes originally scheduled to compete in today and tomorrow’s Diamond League meeting in London have been withheld by order of their federation  — “London is too close to Moscow and this may burn out our athletes,” Athletics Kenya president Isaiah Kiplagat told Reuters.

This decision comes in the wake of Kenya’s poor showing at last year’s London Olympic Games — they aimed for 12 gold medals, but returned home with only two – David Rudisha in the 800m, and Ezikiel Kemboi in the 3000m steeplechase.  AK came away feeling their athletes had over-raced ahead of time.  Immediately following the Games the federation decreed that any Kenyan marathoner eligible for a position on the 2016 Rio Olympic Marathon squad will not be allowed to participate in a spring marathon before the Rio Games.  These decisions have not been well received within the agent fraternity, and Brendan Reilly, for one, feels his profession is getting something of a bum rap.  (more…)

SCHOOL’S OUT FOR SUMMER – DARN

Kaylyn Rodriguez, 1st grader
Kaylyn Rodriguez, 1st grader

“I want to stay in first grade,” Kaylyn Rodriguez told her dad as she walked up for her final day of the school year at San Diego’s Alice Birney Elementary.  While most kids are anxious for school to be over and summer vacation to begin, Kaylyn is one of those who seemed to look forward to school each day, maybe because she knew how it would begin.

Out behind the long, one story school building that houses grades K-5 is a large grass field ringed by asphalt.  That “track” has become the centerpiece for a year-round pre-school running program that serves as a magnet for Kaylyn and quite a number of the other 570 Birney Bees.

“We started the running club about ten years ago,” explained Coach Carol Lord who was already at her station handing out personalized lap cards as kids bustled all around.  “But it’s when they laid the track two years ago that we began timing mile runs every Wednesday.  We started with 35 kids, and now 250 out of the 570 total enrollment has run at least one mile this year.”

As the kids filtered in through the front gates in the city’s University Heights neighborhood, Kaylyn had already begun doing her laps.  We met Kaylyn and her family last week at the final Summer Nights Track & Field Meet at Lincoln High School where she ran her first competitive 1500 meters.  At the time she had run approximately 85 miles throughout the course of the school year as part of the Birney Running Club, picking up 17 colorful toe tokens that Coach Lord hands out for every five miles run.  Her goal, said Kaylyn, was to earn 20 little feet before the end of the school year.  I decided to come see if she could do it. (more…)

THE BANALITY OF PREJUDICE

In the eye of the beholder
In the eye of the beholder

Since 9/11 targeted all Americans regardless the color of their skin there were some who thought the racial rift that has marked this nation since its birth may finally have been cauterized by the fire of Islamic terrorism in 2001. Instead, Al Qaeda only masked the animus and distrust formed nearly 400 years ago, and that may well require a corresponding number of years to heal, if ever.

And so do the ships continue to pass in the night, just as they did on that rainy February evening in Sanford, Florida where George Zimmerman shot and killed Trayvon Martin because, in the end, neither man could make the leap to understanding the other.

If Martin knew Zimmerman was a neighborhood watch organizer concerned with the safety of the complex, he still might have been upset for being profiled, but he likely wouldn’t have taken a swing at the guy.  If he knew Zimmerman was packing, he would’ve taken friend Rachel Jeantel’s advice and run like hell.  So, too, had Zimmerman known Martin was simply headed to his father’s fiancée’s house down the block after a visit to the local 7-11, he may have remained wary, but likely would have moved on to meet the police — who he had previously called — to say, ‘false alarm, but thanks’.

Instead one young man is dead, the other has a life at least partially ruined, and we as a nation are reminded again of the seeming eradicability of our founding flaw. But whatever else we might say, at least in America our prejudices are evident, black and white (which replaced the red and white preceding it).  In traveling I have seen it first-hand, the same insecurities played out in different accents though often through remarkably similar eyes.

Certainly nothing like the genocides blotting man’s history, but prejudice in less virulent form like the northern Italians looking down at the southern, the English lording over the Irish, the Chinese demeaning the Koreans, the Swedes feeling superior to Finns, or Ethiopians looking down their aquiline noses at the Kenyans, when we speak of the equality of man what we are really measuring is man’s own inhumanity to his fellow man.

For this alone I know Jefferson was right, all men are created equal, just not by virtue of their higher aspirations, rather by the banality of their prejudices. The American model is only more black and white in its current presentation.

The Trayvon Martin – George Zimmerman saga isn’t an American tragedy, it’s an all too human one.

END

TEACH YOUR CHILDREN WELL

Kaylyn Rodriguez
Kaylyn Rodriguez, The Right Stuff (courtesy Betancourt Photography)

What are we asking of our parents and teachers these days?  Where is the “right thing” to be found in a world of moral relativists and sinners, but seemingly devoid of saints?

In the corrosive wake of the decades-long Catholic Church child-abuse scandal, the recently revealed wide-spread secret NSA spying apparatus, and now the George Zimmerman ‘No Fault’ acquittal in Florida, and (lesser for sure) Tyson Gay-Asafa Powell drug failures in track, where, exactly, does one point to fair play and equal justice and not get a cynical smirk in reply?

Last Thursday the final San Diego all-comers Summer Nights Track & Field Meet of the season was staged at Lincoln High School.  There, a wide-range of athletes in both talent and age ran and jumped in a joyous expression of human exertion.  Amidst the scandals and scars of world politics and pro sports there remains a semblance of purity to these all-comers meets where the likes of Asafa Powell and Tyson Gay most likely got their starts, as well. (more…)

ARMED AND DANGEROUS

george zimmerman-trayvon martin     Following the high profile mass shootings in Aurora, Colorado and Newtown, Connecticut the nation’s on-going gun debate has now moved south to Sanford, Florida. There, neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman is on trial for having shot and killed 17 year-old Trayvon Martin during a tragic confrontation on a rainy night in February 2012 at the Retreat at Twin Lakes where they were both in residence at the time.

In the wake of the violence and dislocation endemic to this nation, some have suggested we institute what we might call an “Old West” solution, arm everybody; that will give the “bad guys” pause.  Well, if you may have wondered what effect arming the general public might have on public safety, just look to the Trayvon Martin – George Zimmerman case. (more…)