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

It’s July Where Are We?

Jul 2nd, 2013
5:24 pm PDT

PlaceholderThis has been a very interesting year so far. Lots of transition going on throughout the sport. Rising athletes. Injured athletes. Athletes returning from injury. More transition than usual in the year following the Games it seems. Then of course there are the usual off the track issues such as drugs, which never seem to go away. So many things that I don’t know where to begin, so rather than say a lot about one thing, today I’m going to take a stab at saying a little about a lot of things – starting with the Diamond League which gives us a Fourth of July meet in Lausanne in two days time.

While I’m excited about Lausanne on Thursday, and another meet to watch, I’m also starting to feel like there might be too many Diamond League meets. Yes I said it, too many meets! Why? Believe it or not, not enough talent. Don’t get me wrong I’m not saying the athletes we see each week aren’t talented. But this is the league that promised huge matchups among the major players on a regular basis. And yes we’re getting that in some events, but the marquee events and names are still lacking. Perhaps fewer meets with full schedules and the biggest names would be better?

Speaking of big names, VCB has tested positive and is facing a ban. One, I’m a big VCB fan and hope that she is somehow vindicated. Having said that I’m going to say what many have thought, that if this were a big name American it would be getting Paula Deen / Trayvon Martin type headlines and hype. Which says that we still have lots of issues with drugs in this sport, chief among them how the issue is dealt with publicly. I’m just sayin.

Speaking of drugs and problems in the sport, the more we talk about countries like Jamaica and Kenya – they too have some issues on the table – the clearer it becomes that we have an inequity in doping agencies with some federations being afforded the luxury of little to no true testing scrutiny. How can they be when they don’t have the facilities with which to test? If the sport wants to talk about credibility, this must be changed.

Let’s talk about credibility and change for a minute, because the sport is undergoing change and some veterans are on the verge of losing their truly elite cred. Kenenisa Bekele, Asafa Powell, Wallace Spearmon, Angelo Taylor, Jeremy Wariner, Dwight Phillips. Are were watching a blip on the radar or the end of the road?

What’s happened to Morgan Uceny? Injury worse than first thought? She’s been nothing like the woman of the previous two or three seasons. Racing style is even different.

Ditto Andrew Wheating – I thought he was ready to take on the world a couple seasons ago. Might as well add Robbie Andrews while I’m at it.

Anyone seen Anna Pierce lately? I’m looking for a sighting – you know the real Anna Pierce. And how about Kristin Wurth Thomas – I really miss her style! Heart.

Speaking of injuries worse than first thought, what’s up with Yohan Blake? Last I heard he was headed to Germany for more diagnosis.

Welcome back Tyson Gay. Tyson is back as good as ever, and I’m beginning to wonder if this rash of injuries, individuals changing racing plans, athletes opting for surgery, and some folk just not racing is indicative of a massive case of Tysonisreallybackitis running through the sport? The sport needs Tyson Gay because Usain Bolt needs a rival. Any sport is better off with at least two stars battling for wins/glory/accolades, because then you have something to sell. My question is can Usain/Tyson this year be as big as Ben/Carl in ’88? Because that rivalry was nearly transcendent of the sport.

Speaking of rivalries, what happened to the men’s 110 high hurdles! Two years ago we were looking at a big three  (Robles/Liu/Oliver)  that somehow disintegrated, yet transformed last year into a two man show (Merritt/Richardson) and resulted in a sterling individual season and new WR (12.80). Now we’re back to square one and starting from scratch with average times and no clear leader heading into Worlds.

Flip over to the women and Brianna Rollins is this year’s version of the 2012 Aries Merritt and one of the sports most ancient records could take a tumble. I’m going to risk looking like a fool and climb out on that limb and say I think she can run 12.15! Behind her Queen Harrison and Nia Ali have stepped up nicely. Young talent taking over.

That said, can Kimberlyn Duncan repeat her National title run against Allyson Felix in Moscow? That would be on the level of Joe Deloach winning Trials and Games over Carl Lewis in ’88 – that was a good year.

That reminds me. With all the shuffling around and changes in the sprints this year, what can we expect from the relays? What will Jamaica v United States look like in the 4x1s? And will the US have enough fire power to bring home the 4x4s?

Does anyone other than me think Barshim Mutaz can go 8 feet? Sometimes he makes it look so easy! Ditto Christian Taylor, when he’s on it looks like 60 feet is once again in reach.

Wow, I guess now you know why I try to stick to one topic at a time – once I get going it’s hard to stop! Let’s see how Lausanne plays out on Thursday. With a little luck, we could have track and field fireworks on the Fourth of July!

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7 Responses to “It’s July Where Are We?”

  1. Waynebo says:

    Wow, that was a mouthful :-)

    I haven’t seen her enough to have a strong opinion, but I think Uceny’s spirit may be broken. All the blood sweat & tears of killing yourself in training just to reach the final lap in the finals of THE race of the year and get tripped… 2 years in a row? In your prime… Whew! that’s tough to come back from mentally. Not sure I could do it.

    Angelo Taylor – I knew he was done before London and the way he got walked down in the 4×400 just confirmed it. I still think it was a horrible call to put a 35 year-old on the anchor. Had he run 2nd leg, I think things might have played out differently. He had a great career though, I must give him props for that.

    Jeremy Wariner – His demise frustrates me the most because of his age. He should still be up there with Merritt & James. He lost something mentally in 2008 that he never got back. Has been on a slow, steady decline since then. No longer elite status. Just another guy running mid-45′s. I hope something re-lights the fire in him while he’s still young enough to go sub-44.

    Wallace Spearmon – Has never lived up to that 19.65 he ran back in 2006. Seems like he went downhill when he stopped training with Tyson Gay. He should be running 19.6′s now. I think his time as an elite 200 guy is over. should have been running 19.6 or better in the last Olympic cycle and claimed more hardware.

    Perhaps Wheating has injuries that we don’t know about. He’s nowhere near what he looked like coming out of college. Mystery man right now… Powell doesn’t really matter. Not mentally strong enough to win anything major.

    The US will re-claim the 4×400 title because the teams that can make it close don’t have a guy on anchor that can go 43-low if necessary. We do. Merritt will close the deal (if healthy). No Merritt, not so sure…

    • CHill says:

      Uceny I’m afraid may be suffering from loss of spirit .. Amazing how much a day or two can alter everything ..

      London pretty much said that Angelo was done, but he’s been known to come back before .. This season looks like no coming back ..

      I agree that he hasn’t been the Spearmon is an enigma to me .. since he and Tyson stopped training.. but have you noticed that since the rise of Bolt in’08 he’s seemed satisfied playing the role of “side kick” ..

      Warner should never have made the coaching change .. It wasn’t broke, so he broke it .. One of histories worst moves ..

      Wheating .. No clue .. I know he’s had injuries but they seemed minor .. Maybe there’s no such thing ..

      Powell I totally agree ..

      4×4 I feel good about .. We also have McQuay, and I think the kids Hall and Mance will be just fine .. No one else has as much ..

  2. Waynebo says:

    You’re right about Spearmon. I think it comes down to this. Healthy and fully fit, Tyson Gay believes he has a legitimate chance at beating Bolt. Deep down, I think Spearmon knows that even at his best,he’s still Running for silver – that makes all the difference in the world.

    That coaching change in ’08 cost Wariner the WR as well as his place in history. He was well on his way to being in the 400m G.O.A.T. argument. Now he’s just a guy who was the man for a few years.

    • CHill says:

      Everyone talks about sports in terms of physical ability .. But so much comes down to Mental and “Environment” – coaching and teammates ..

      Tyson and Spearmon together were a perfect training pair .. Like Tommie Smith & Lee Evans, James Sanford & Clancy Edwards, Carl Lewis & Leroy Burrell, and Bolt & Blake .. You don’t get those often and when you do they’re special and should be kept together .. Not sure why the “break up” but Spearmon’s the one that left and it was just as damaging in my opinion as Wariner’s move ..

      Mentally you can see that Tyson WANTS IT .. Same with Bolt, Blake, Gatlin – you see it all out there on the track .. My problem with Spearmon is that lack of commitment to working the turn !! When you’re winning its one thing, but when you start losing and it’s clear why you fix it when you really want it – or at least you make the attempt ..

      Steve Williams once said “My strength is my weakness” … He knew it and worked on trying to be closer early – then killed em with his finish .. Spearmon hasn’t done that ..

      Wariner gave it all away .. Over money .. Didn’t want to pay the man that made him .. Lots of athletes in many sports think it’s THEM – they forget how they got there .. Yes you have ability, but it takes the right coach, and sometimes situation, to bring it out and hone it !!

      Wariner was smart enough to go to the man that polished MJ .. He wasn’t smart enough to stay .. I remember him saying that Ford had all the same workouts .. But it’s not what’s on paper, it’s how those workouts are administered .. It’s the critical eye .. Knowing when to pump it up or back it down – or maybe even shut it down .. It’s the little things that aren’t on the paper – the things in the head .. And the interpersonal between coach and athlete – the right fit .. That’s worth its weight in gold – medals ..

      • Waynebo says:

        Well said. In a sport of tenths and hundreths of a second, the nuances that us average Joes can’t see make a huge difference and we have witnessed it in the demise of 2 sprinters with elite talent.

  3. Nick C says:

    great stuff, CHill and Waynebo.

    I loved watching Angelo run, especially in 2008. He did a great relay leg to help ice the victory, just a power runner.

    in 2012, he was clearly laboring. During the London IH, he had the lead off the final turn and tied up. Yet the coaches STILL kept him on the anchor leg in the 4×4? No margin for error, and it cost us the race.

    Tremendous athlete over his career. Wish it ended better for him. But heck, still a HIGHLY decorated Olympian with lots of hardware.

    • CHill says:

      Angelo had a great career .. Probably top 5 in the hurdles, and #1 combo flat/hurdles .. From talking to members of the coaching staff I think the thought was that without the hurdles he would get it done because there would be less energy expended on the flat .. That and his competitive nature .. The mind was there but the body wasn’t willing ..

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