No matter how you look at the results from today’s Weltklasse Diamond League meet in Zurich — to me it seemed a little down after the highs of Rio — this much is unassailable: the Americans are there, in the hunt, fighting for the top places. Not just in the sprints, hurdles, jumps and throws, but increasingly in the middle and long distance events as well.
They might not get always get there, as with Evan Jager in the 5000 (3rd in 13:16). But he wasn’t afraid to go with the pacer, open a big margin, and at least force Ethiopia’s Hagos Gebrhiwet (and fellow Yank Paul Chelimo) to run him down in the final lap.
And how about Shannon Rowbury in the 1500 (1st, 3:57.78), closing hard and feisty on the inside against Laura Muir (and let’s not forget the Brits in this, either). And Jenny Simpson collapsing to secure a close fourth in 3:58, leaving Olympic champ Faith Kipyegon of Kenya faltering to seventh (4:01) which denied her the Diamond race season title.
So much of training and racing is in the head, and for years — primarily the 1990s — Americans didn’t think they could do it in the face of the East Africa onslaught.
I was talking to San Diego’s best ever distance man, Thom Hunt, in Balboa Park the other day as he trained two of his charges in a series of grass-topped 800s and 1000s.
Thom remembered the days of training over at Mission Bay when there were four sub-4:00 guys, and six sub-2:20 marathoners in force, and San Diego wasn’t even considered one of the big-time training bases, just a gathering of strivers looking for opportunities and support.
Racing like life is a series of self-fulfilling prophecies. And once you have the belief, the results will follow, both positively and negatively.
This 2016 season with its 32 medals in Rio seems the fulfillment of the American training camp revolution, a 15-year process that has seen talent teaming with talent in various hotbeds around the country, each building their base then honing their edge on a large supportive wheel. Add in coaching, nutrition, cross-training and voila!
Now we can look at Emma Coburn’s run in the Zurich women’s steeplechase (3rd, 9:17) and see she’s maybe a little past her due date after the long, Rio medal-winning season.
Imagine what the kids coming into the sport now will achieve with this as their baseline motivation and future expectation?