Many cyclists have a running background which means that when the World Track and Field Championships come around every two years our interest shifts from two wheels to two legs. Currently, the World Championships are being held in Berlin and run through Sunday. You can catch the action on Versus during the week and NBC on the weekend.
As usual, the Worlds are producing some great races and world records. Usain Bolt of Jamaica, the triple gold medalist (100m, 200m, 4x100m relay) from Beijing where he set world and Olympic records in his three events, provided the early excitement with a world record in the 100m running 9.58 which is really, really fast.
Americans have been winning a few races as well, witness Sanya Richards in the women's 400m and Kerron Clement in the men's 400m hurdles, but some of the best performances have occurred in races where the Americans didn't win.
In the 100m, Tyson Gay lost to Usain Bolt, but ran 9.71 which is also really, really fast and a new American record. Only one man has ever run faster than Gay and it shouldn't be too hard to figure out who that is. So, while Gay was unable to defend his 2007 World Championship, he still ran his fastest race ever. Not Bad.
In the distance events, Dathan Ritzenheim finished 5th in the 10000m behind a bunch of Ethiopians and an Eritrean, but his 27:22 is a personal best for the Coloradoan. Then there is Jenny Barringer who looked to be out of contention in the women's steeplechase, but when she crossed the line in fifth, she lowered her American record by a whopping ten seconds.
These performances, while not medal-worthy, are what the World Championships are all about. You come to the Worlds hoping to be able to give your best and while most athletes will not be standing on the podium, if you set a personal best, then you have given all you could.
The Olympics are over, long live the Olympics. Now that the Beijing (Peking for those who get confused easily) Games are over I have to say that I have two Olympic moments. The first was the USA's come-from-behind win in the men's 4x100 freestyle relay. Forget that it kept Michael Phelps drive for eight golds alive, the win typified what relays are all about, a team putting it all together and being greater than the sum of its parts. My second Olympic moment was Usain Bolt's WR in the 200m. Yeah, the boy also won the 100m in WR time, but in the 200, we got to see him run all the way to the line and actually lean at the tape. If I was a male sprinter, I would get myself a very good agent and start picking my races well. Bolt is going to be the Federer/Woods/Lance of the next generation of sprinters with everybody else racing for second place.
I thought Sanya Richard's catching the Russians to win the women's 4x400 was also exciting and coupled with the men's victory in the same event restored a bit of US pride after the debacles in the 4x100. Did you catch Jeremy Wariner's relay split at 43.2? That is how you silence the critics. Too bad he came up short in the open 400.
What happened to Bernard Legat? The double 2007 World Champion (that's just last year) got skunked and looked bad doing it. If the USA can't even draft a ringer to do well in the distance events what are we to do? USA Track and Field won only one medal from the 800m on up and that was a bronze by Shalane Flanagan in the women's 10000m. Yikes, it's tough being a USA distance runner these days regardless of your country of origin.
I still think they should toss out race walking. Either that or add a new event, the 400m run while carrying a piano on your back. Time for this sport to go, let's face it, they are all running and just hoping not to get caught before the finish line.
Oh yeah, for the ladies, I think the men in the beach volleyball event should play with their shirts off. If the women have to play in bikinis it seems only fair.
Judged sports have to go as well. Yeah, I know gymnastics and diving are graceful and all that so let's have an exhibition for those sports and forget about the medals. It's not supposed to be about the medals anyway.
And, along those lines, I think they should stop playing the national anthem of the country who wins. It is about sport, let's try to keep the nationalistic aspect out of it. Distance runner Kenny Moore once opined that everyone should compete in white t-shirts and black shorts.
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