I know that we’ve just started the World Championship year and are nearly 365 days away from the"Off Season". That’s exactly why I’m talking about it however, because change takes time, and perhaps there’s enough time to implement something that I think would be a benefit to the sport.
You see, right now the Off Season is somewhat of a throwaway year in many respects. There is no championship meet, so many athletes feel that there is little to accomplish. Some females look upon it as a good time to have a child. Other athletes see it as a time to heal injuries or even have surgery. And yet others view it as an opportunity to try out new events or techniques.
All of the above is well and good, but it leaves the sport without the purpose and direction provided by having a championship as the seasonal goal. More importantly it leaves the sport without a marketing focus. Not a good thing for a sport that really can’t afford a "down" season.
However, what if the athletes DID have something meaningful to work towards in 2014 and subsequent Off Seasons? What if there was a "Challenge" out there – a competition if you will – that everyone could participate in. A "Challenge" that would run throughout the year, and would encompass the sport’s brightest stars as well as up & coming talent. A "Challenge" that could be used by the sport and meet promoters as they market their meets. A "Challenge" that would culminate in the crowning of a male & female champion at the end of the season. A "Challenge" that offered a monetary prize to each winner to the tune of say $1,000,000?
Having a year long challenge or competition that could encompass every athlete in the sport regardless of his/her discipline, could provide the sport with a focus for the year, and perhaps the ability to create a huge marketing push that could highlight the sport’s best athletes! Something to work towards perhaps?
Here’s my idea. I would like to create the "Multiple Threat Challenge". A year long competition to run throughout the Off Year, crowning a male & female Multi Threat Champion, and awarding them each a $1,000,000 cash prize.
The rules are simple. The contest is open to everyone. It’s not a sprinter’s competition, or thrower’s competition. It’s not confined to the track or the field. You simply have to compete in three different events during the course of the outdoor season – indoor events do not count. Using a scoring system based on current WRs, all marks made throughout the year are awarded points. Each athlete then uses the highest points earned in each of three different events to come up with his/her "Multiple Threat Challenge" score. At the close of the season, the man and woman with the highest three event score wins $1,000,000!
I say a scoring system based on current WRs, because as I look at the IAAF scoring tables they’re clearly weighted in favor of the men’s sprints. For example, Rudisha’s WR (1:40.92/1296 pts) falls behind 2012 times by Bolt (9.63/1337) & Blake (9.69/1316) – with Gatlin (9.79/1280) just falling short. Aries Merritt’s WR (12.80/1291) is also behind Bolt & Blake’s marks. And Ashton Eaton’s WR 9036 pts is only worth a paltry 1270 pts on the IAAF tables. Even FloJo’s otherworldly 10.49 only gets 1296 pts with the IAAF system.
So I’m thinking that awarding 1000 pts to the current world record in each event, then distributing points based on percentage of the world record per event might be a fairer way to go. the only way to score more than 1000 pts is to break a WR – and the person that breaks a record by the greatest amount would then get “maximum” points.
With the system in place, the possibilities become endless. A sprinter could run the 100, 200 and 400. Or the 200, 400, and try the 800. Or forego the 8 and try the long hurdles. How about an 800/1500 type? Move up to the 5000 or drop down and try the quarter. A "jumper" could go long & triple then opt for the 100, or 200, or even 400! How about a thrower? Perhaps the shot, discus, and javelin – or maybe hammer? A short hurdler could try a pair of sprints, or the long hurdles and a sprint, or a jump! Like I said, the possibilities are nearly endless.
These combinations are not out of the question, and have occurred naturally throughout the years. The most obvious would be Carl Lewis, who ran the short sprints and long lumped. Or a multi eventer like Heike Dreschler who long jumped and ran both sprints. Not so obvious, would be someone like Renaldo Nehemiah who ran the short hurdles and showed much sprint promise in relays. Or a Mike Conley who was outstanding in both jumps AND the 200 meters! Or a Harold Schmid who was world class in the 400H, 400, and 800.
So having athletes do well, at more than just a standard "double" – 100/200, 800/1500, 5000/10000, LJ/TJ, SP/DIS – is certainly not without precedence. Hence the contest involving three events and not just the "standard" two. And we’ve certainly seen several of today’s athletes do well at a third event in passing. Athletes like Usain Bolt, Tyson Gay, Christian Taylor, Allyson Felix, Sanya Richard Ross, Ashton Eaton, and Sally Pearson come to mind. And I drool at the prospect of athletes like David Rudisha, Yohan Blake, and Kimberlyn Duncan seriously trying a third event. By the way, the contests would require only one mark per event – though obviously it would have to be a very good one!
The cool thing about this type of competition however, is the potential for someone other than a headliner to come up and surprise. I can see someone like Abubaker Kaki – who’s already thrown down a serious 1500 meters – or one of the young up and coming female distance runners from Africa surprising. Or a thrower, male or female, that really hasn’t stepped outside their primary event for a while – I remember when the shot/discuss double was common, and who knows with the javelin or hammer. And while the decathlon and heptathlon competitors are typically called the world’s best athletes, could not a Challenge of this nature carry that moniker for marketing purposes?
And that’s what really excites me about this Challenge – the potential to headline the sport’s best ATHLETES (plural) to the world! Suddenly no one single athlete is a runaway, given winner. Now many great athletes are in play. Now you have the potential to pit Bolt v Rudisha v A. Merritt v C. Taylor v L. Merritt on somewhat equal footing. Now we have the potential to have many meets and many events become meaningful throughout the season. How about a meet where Bolt runs the 400, or another where Blake (400), Rudisha (1500?), or C Taylor (400) is looking to take the yearly point lead? Marketing opportunities for the meet and the sport abound! Something that the sport desperately needs.
So there you have it. My thought on pumping up the Off Season. What do you think? Thumbs up or thumbs down?