Tag: Usain Bolt

PLAYING THE WHAT-IF GAME

Congratulations to Aaron Braun and Molly Huddle for their victories in the inaugural  .US National Road Racing Championships in Alexandria, Virginia. Both won $20,000 out of the $100,000 prize purse, one of the largest non-marathon paydays in road racing.  At the same time down in Jamaican superstar Usain Bolt was complaining how track’s inability to get beyond its drug scandals is causing him a loss in sponsorship opportunities.  With money emerging as the issue of the day I was reminded of a conversation I had Friday night in La Jolla, California with U.S. marathoner Meb Keflezighi’s agent/brother Merhawi and former Mesa Community College coach and frequent Team USA manager Manny Batista.

Hawi Keflezighi, Erin Whiting, Meb K., Patti Whiting, Bryce Whiting, VP ElliptiGo at "A Night In La Jolla"
Hawi Keflezighi, Erin Whiting, Meb K., Patti Whiting, Bryce Whiting, (VP ElliptiGo) at “A Night In La Jolla”

We were attending “A Night In La Jolla”, the first annual charity event of the MEB Foundation, a glitzy affair that attracted many of the area’s beautiful people – and a few runner types, too.  Meb had just returned from an eight-day trip to Athens with his wife Yordanos to attend the Athens Marathon.  It was his first visit to the Greek capital since his silver medal performance in the 2004 Olympic Marathon.

While perusing the blind raffle items up for bid, and checking out the San Diego glitterati’s definition of “dressy”, the suggested dress code for the evening, Hawi, Manny and I got around to playing the What If game, discussing the huge payday difference between track, road running and the mainstream American sports. (more…)

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STRIVING TO AN IDEAL OF A HIGHER LIFE

The father of the modern Olympic movement, Baron Pierre de Coubertin, defined Olympism to include “adhering to an ideal of a higher life, to strive for perfection.”  An honorable goal, but in today’s commercial world the “higher life” ideal seems more quaint and less important.  For quite some time the credo of the NFL Oakland Raider founder Al Davis, “Just win, baby”, has moved to the top step of the podium.  Yet in the last few days we have seen two young perfection strivers embody de Coubertin’s Olympism ideal quite movingly.

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First, Jamaica’s supreme sprint perfectionist Usain Bolt halted a post-race TV interview following the defense of his 100-meter title to acknowledge the U.S. national anthem being played for Sanya Richards-Ross’s 400-meter gold medal presentation across the stadium.  It would have been fully understandable for the foremost Olympian in London to continue his interview. After all, it wasn’t his national anthem.  But in a totally natural expression of respect, Bolt halted the TV presenter in mid-question to turn in silence and in doing so ascended to a higher station than even his unparalleled athleticism had taken him.

Next came Grenada’s 19 year-old 400-meter star Karani James, elevating both himself and his double-amputee competitor Oscar Pistorius of South Africa by exchanging Olympic bibs after Pistorius was eliminated in their semi-final race.  Like Bolt, the young James – who went on to win the gold the next day – saw past the glitter of gold, and instead embraced a model of courage and dedication that he, too, strove to achieve.

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Now compare Bolt and James with Obama and Romney.  Amidst their less than honorable competition for the oval office, the two cynical pols and their handlers continue to spray the airwaves with negative ads, demonize their opponent, cherry pick quotes and mislead an increasingly frustrated electorate who are simultaneously less equal in education and opportunity, and more culturally polarized as the melting pot has morphed into a salad bar of cultural bins.

As we contemplate the dislocation and enmity that led to the hateful shootings at the Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin this past weekend, we should ask our leaders whether they see their own lack of adhering to a “higher life” standard as being, even in some small way, complicit in the coarsening which contributes to such tragedies.

The Olympic mission, we are told, is “to contribute to building a peaceful and better world by educating youth through sports practiced without discrimination of any kind, in a spirt of friendship, solidarity and fair play.”

Maybe we need a Presidential election mission, but one more along the Baron’s line than the Boss’s.

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AWAITING THE MARQUEE MATCHUPS

Mayweather unloads on Ortiz
    I have been a boxing fan even longer than a track/running fan, watching Gillette’s Friday Night Fights with my father in those halcyon days when black and white television had the jittery faraway look of today’s USA 5 KM Championship internet coverage in Providence, Rhode Island.   But even now I find foot racing and boxing to be at least sporting second cousins. Both require rigorous training, and then the shared goal in competition of trying to stop the other guy from doing to you what you are trying to do to him.
Last night, in Las Vegas Floyd Mayweather Jr. remained unbeaten (42-0) with a controversial fourth round sucker-punch KO of Victor Ortiz to claim the portion of the world welterweight title Ortiz carried into the ring.  Today, in Providence Ben True of Maine bested six-time NCAA D2 champion Aaron Braun ex of Adam State and Kenya’s Sam Chelanga two-time D1 NCAA champion ex of Liberty University, while in Philadelphia Matthew Kisorio defended his Philly Half title against fellow Kenyan Sammy Kitwara in a U.S. all-comers record 58:45 (joined by New Zealand’s Kim Smith’s similar 1:07:11 record performance on the women’s side.) In a side-note, former multiple time NCAA champion out of Colorado, but long injured Adam Goucher qualified for the 2012 Olympic Trials Marathon in Houston with his 1:04:53 time (needed sub-1:05).

Of course, the overt violence of boxing and mano-a-mano nature of the game separates it from the more subtle and less obvious violence of running where the pain and savagery is meted out using pace as the hammer (and head-butting and sneak punches aren’t an issue).  Another difference is that no runner on the planet – no, make that ALL runners together on the planet – don’t earn what Mayweather pulled down for the 11:59 of fighting last night, $25 million, a sum likely to rise when pay-per-view receipts are counted.  For reference, the Samsung Diamond League total payout for the 2011 track and field season is $8 million spread over 32 event champions.  Dartmouth grad Ben True earned the princely sum of $5000 for his USA 5 KM Championship.  (more…)

BOLT’S DQ in DAEGU

     Day two at the IAAF World Track & Field Championships in Daegu, South Korea began with a scintillating last 30 meter sprint in the longest track event, then all but ended before a single foot had been run in the shortest.  Thus did we rise when Ethiopia’s Ibrahim Jeilan overcame England’s brave Mo Farah for the 10,000 meter gold, before swooning in frustration when Usain Bolt was DQ’d for false-starring [sic] in the 100 meters.

So talk all we want about the need for, or the fairness of the false-start rule – The Science of Sport men have a full explication  – Day 2: False starts and flying finishes – what is inarguable is that the current “zero-tolerance” penalty is too onerous a mechanism for the state of the sport to maintain at present.

While there was news of Bolt DQ scrolling below the ESPN Sportscenter show I watched this afternoon, but there was no story, much less an ESPN reporter on site, or an expert panel in Bristol breaking down the races in Daegu.  If your World Championships don’t even make the Sportcenter cut, you are officially off the radar in America.

So, as Bill Maher would say, “Time for New Rules”:

New Rule: In order not to lose our superstars altogether, we shouldn’t disqualify sprinters outright for a false start, we should penalize them.  For championships we penalize by adding time, to be determined, for each false start in subsequent starts.  In doing, so we retain the presence of our stars, but lessen their chances with a burden of their own making.  It’s equitable.

For non-championship exhibitions, even better, a false start would move the athlete’s blocks back and an appropriate distance.  Not perfect, but stimulating.

By penalizing distance, we add a whole new chase element to the sport, and a new distance to time. Young Yohan Blake of Jamaica won the Daegu gold in Bolt’s absence by two meters over Walter Dix of the U.S.  Imagine if Bolt would have had to try to run him down from 102 or 103 meters out?

The idea is to penalize the runner, not penalize the sport.  By maintaining our laboratory sterility, we risk a continuing loss of fans.

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