The CHill Zone of T&F: Conway's View From the Finish Line

What are the Sport’s Best Rivalries (pt2)

Sep 20th, 2012
10:37 am PDT

Allyson Felix2The last time around I took a look at some rivalries on the men’s side of things that l think would be a good sell to build the sport from a marketing perspective. Today I want to broaden that to include the women (and a hybrid) – who actually tend to compete against reach other on a more regular basis than the men.

The first rivalry I want to look at really hasn’t become one yet but I think could be a doozy – Allyson Felix v Shelly Ann Fraser Pryce over 200 meters. Both women have experienced rivalries in other events – Felix v Veronica Campbell Brown over 200, and SAFP v Carmelita Jeter over 100. Both rivalries have been great, but both have a woman on the other side that is beginning to age – Campbell Brown and Jeter. Felix and SAFP on the other hand are both young and talented, and Fraser Pryce has gotten very good in the deuce. With both women beginning their approach to their late 20s they’re ready to hit their prime – which means some sub 22 showdowns could be in store.

Felix is involved in another potential rivalry that I would LOVE to see play out – Felix v Richards Ross over 400 meters. Sanya is the best of the world in the event, and in spite of a few mistakes at Majors has dominated this event for most of the last decade. Allyson, however, has run 49.5 in minimal appearances and has shown in relay action that she may indeed be the best in the world. The problem has been that Felix favors the 200 and needs the speed and rhythm of the 100 to perform her best there. Trying to double in the 200/400 is just hard as Allyson found out in Daegu and Sanya found out in London. But oh would I like to see this pair for just one season doing nothing but running the 400, and going at it in “best out of five” on the season. Perhaps we could find ourselves back in that mid 48 second range once again – or perhaps even lower! Great for the fans, great for TV, great for the sport!

Sanya R-REveryone loves to talk about the sprints, but like the men the women’s short hurdle race has become one of the hottest events on the track. In 2011, Sally Pearson stepped up her game and became #4 all time in the event. This year Dawn Harper became =#7 all time and took Pearson to the photo in London. Suddenly we have a rivalry at a level not seen since the 80s! Both women should have at least one more Olympic cycle in them – that’s at least four more years of sub12.50 racing. I think that is very marketable.

One of my personal all time favorite rivalries was Jackie Joyner Kersee v Heike Dreschler in the long jump. I’m beginning to think that Brittney Reese v Anna Nazarova could be the next big long jump rivalry. Both women are outstanding jumpers. They are approximately the same age. And they bring that East v West vibe to the track. What I like most however, is that Reese has that 24 foot ability and I think Nazarova is competitive enough to push her to it – and possibly beat her in the process. They have all the ingredients to be must see TV.

Speaking of must see TV, a great multi event rivalry can be just that which is why I love the pairing of Jessica Ennis v Tatyana Chernova. Another pair of exceptional athletes who also bring that East v West vibe – and they get eight events and two days of head to head competition to thrill a crowd. Ennis got a lot of publicity competing at home in the Games, but she and Chernova are headline quality regardless of location or event.

Finally there are two great rivalries that get very little opportunity to play out – the men and women’s 4×100 meter relays. When the Jamaican and American men and women take to the track with batons in hand the resulting race is about as exciting as it gets in all of sport. Look no further than London where they produced a pair of WR efforts. Unfortunately we only get to see this once a year. The IAAF should really look at encouraging the inclusion of the 4×1 (& 4×4) into more meets. Perhaps adding it to the Diamond League as a diamond event – with a bit of financial incentive. Now THAT could become be the best rivalry in all of sport!

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10 Responses to “What are the Sport’s Best Rivalries (pt2)”

  1. Malik says:

    Nice idea on the 400 Felix/Richards ross rivalry, but that’s as far as it goes. The 100 is too much more of a lucrative event & helps her 200 speed alot more than the 400 does. Doing the 100, Felix wins twice.

    • CHill says:

      True .. I’ve said before that the 100 compliments her deuce better .. The issue for me is that the quarter may really be her best event ..

  2. Skydance7 says:

    How about the “off year” of 2014 for that series between Felix and Richards-Ross in the 400/200?

    With no World Championships or Olympics to train for, they could deviate from their normal regimen and do a bit of barnstorming—maybe even a match race series…for the sport.

    • CHill says:

      I actually like that idea .. Nothing on the line you can pretty much run whatever .. I think the only issue would be how much they would earn .. But I’ve got to believe Santa does well running the 4 .. And if you package it so it’s a highlight event you should be able to funnel extra money into the event ..

  3. Waynebo says:

    I would definitely love to see more relays at the elite level with something on the line. Perhaps a 5 meet series where the lowest total time wins a large prize so that consistent greatness gets rewarded in addition to the one great performance. As I have mentioned to you before, I would love to see the 4 x 200 run on the elite level. Maybe the Diamond league could work that in or a SMR or DMR with points or money on the line. The problem is that we seem to have leadership that doesn’t really believe in the marketability of the sport itself. They rely soley on individuals and interesting background stories for promotion when those things should just be part of the packag.e

    • CHill says:

      I agree .. Relays may be THE most exciting events in the sport .. Yet at the elite level they are virtually non existent ..

      Look at Olympic qualifying .. Average of best two marks – because they know a country may not run more than that … Ridiculous ..

      The success of Penn is based almost exclusively on the relays … And as I’ve said before, it’s a great way to get the stars on the track without risking their precious win/loss records ..

      I also would love to see the 4×2 internationally .. Some of Penn’s most exciting meets were when the Santa Monica Track Club was going after the record ..

  4. Anderson says:

    IAAF already starting the world relays in 2014:

    • CHill says:

      Yes, I am familiar with that .. A little disappointed they only planned on a 15,000 seat stadium .. Makes me wonder how much they are going to put into it ..

      None the less, the real issue is doing something with regularity .. One meet every four years will not promote the relay events .. We need meets to carry the relays on a regular basis ..

      It’s that, lets throw a bone out there mentality that keeps the sport from moving forward ..

  5. Pipie says:

    So VCB is old now? It will be fun to see your articles next year.

    • CHill says:

      VCB is 30 now .. I still think she has some good seasons left .. The competition is just tougher than it’s ever been in her events ..

      Thank you for reading .. I truly appreciate it ..

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