As I said previously, this meet lacked the "Championship" feel for me. I think some of it had to do with the negativity leading up to the meet – the bans. But the competition/performances were lacking.
In retrospect it’s what I predicted early on – a transitional championship dominated primarily by youth. When your meet is dominated numbers wise with youth, you don’t get the "peaked" performances of veterans. So many events were/felt down compared to other major championships this time around.
We did however, get a lot of good competition lead by the veterans in most cases – age it seems does have its advantages! And with a championship meet without world records, or even serious moves up the all time list, the focus was truly on the competition – both a good and a bad thing. Good because it put the sport in the position of showcasing what track and field is about at it’s core. Bad because it showed just how ill prepared the sport is when it comes to focusing on competition.
The sport wasn’t ready for a "match ups" based competition. We started the year with the anticipation of "Bolt v Gay" because that’s how the sport is marketed – the single star carrying the banner for the entire sport. When the match up of the star versus his worthy opponent disintegrated before everyone’s eyes, the IAAF was left with the equivalent of "I got nothin"! So we got a lot of "unsold" exciting events. My top 10 in no particular order:
- The photo finish 400 win of Christine Uhuruogu over Amantle Montsho in the women’s 400.
- The photo finish win of Jehue Gordon over Michael Tinsley in the men’s 400H.
- The final 200 of the men’s 800 with Solomon fading, Symmonds challenging for gold and Aman kicking to the win.
- The upper limits high jump competition between Bondarenko, Barshim, and Drouin.
- The .02m fight in the long jump between Reese and Okagbare.
- The long distance battle in the triple jump between Tamgho and Pichardo with both having identical marks for most of the competition and Tamgho and defending champion Taylor hitting some huge fouls.
- Brianna Rollins’ come from behind win over a resurging Sally Pearson.
- An outstanding men’s pole vault competition with five men within .07m fighting for medals.
- The battle for gold in the men’s javelin between Veseli and Pitkamaki.
- The gold medal battle in the women’s 4×4 between Russia and the United States.
These events epitomized what track and field is about, yet none had been "sold" to the public prior to the start of the meet – and most received zero or passing coverage on NBC! You can’t sell yourself to the general public by missing opportunities to put this type of competition in front of them. Another major faux paux, especially on the part of USATF and NBC who have limited opportunity to promote/present the sport here in the state then miss ideal opportunities when they’re presented.
Also take note that in a meet dominated by youth, it was the veterans who time and time again brought it to the "finish line" in the most exciting fashion! Again,missed opportunities on the sport to market their already known quantities.
While these were the most exciting events there were some other events that were exciting in their own way. Less about the excitement of close, stirring composition but more in terms of "shock". You’ll understand as you look at my list of five most shocking events. Again in no particular order:
- Men’s 400. Not as shocking that Merritt won, at least not to me, as by how James lost. I said multiple times that speed was the advantage in this race and James is more a Juantorena type than an MJ type. What was shocking was James getting completely taken out of his game and allowing Merritt to cruise to gold and others to get on the podium. Coming into Moscow this race required perfect execution. Merritt executed perfectly.
- Women’s 100. While I didn’t pick Fraser to win, winning was never out of the question in an event where a handful of women had shown the ability to get to the top of the podium. The shock was the margin of victory and how poorly the others competed against her. That’s not supposed to happen in a major. Yet once again the gun went off and the race was already over. Fraser was the only one ready for this race – again.
- Men’s Long Jump. This was always an event that could have been decided by playing RoShamBo. And with places 2 thru 6 being separated on average by .02m each the result could’ve been different on any given day. Then there was Victor Menkov who finally separated himself from the pack in this meet by going 8.56m/28′ 1" for both a shocking win and performance. This event has been looking for a leader. Menkov interviewed for the job in Moscow.
- Men’s 110H. Another event in search of an athlete to step forward and lay claim. That happened in a bizarre manner in the final as some of the event’s steadier performers hit hurdles, were off stride, and generally ran poorly in the most important race of the year. Getting out front early and dominating the final was David Oliver who finally hit his stride three seasons after his all conquering 2010 season.
- Men’s Pole Vault. This event made both my exciting and shocking lists. Shocking because all year the gold seemed destined for Renaud Lavillenie who ended up with silver. More shocking was the man who beat him as Raphael Holzdeppe’s teammate Bjorn Otto appeared to be Lavillenie’s primary competition. But as all of these events illustrate, when it comes to championships the ONLY thing that matters is who is most ready on the day.
Finally let me mention those events I found most disappointing. As with life itself, disappointing comes in different forms, so my reasons for disappointment with these events varies. Suffice it to say that you may not have found any or all of these "disappointing".
- Men and women’s 5k & 10k. I know that’s four events and not one, but my reasons for disappointment are identical. I’m used to championship distance races being "tactical" and therefore the times being "slow". It’s rare that we get treated to a race as awesome as Bekele (26:49.57) v Gebrselassie (26:50.77) in Paris in 2003! Times aside however, my disappointment in these races is that four groups of world class runners allowed the favorites to have their way and win with minimal effort. At least make them work for it and pretend to put up a challenge! Yet time after time pace favored the champions who ride relatively easily to wins. This is the world championships, it’s not supposed to be that easy.
- Women’s 200. Allyson Felix’ in race injury lefty us with a lingering "what if", and I hate lingering what ifs! History will show that Shelley Ann Fraser Pryce won the race and completed the double. But conversations will ensue for years to come over who would have won had Felix not gone down – and rightly so as this was an important race for both women and their legacies in the sport. A win for either has them listed among the greatest ever. A loss and that greatness is delayed. What we got was the track equivalent of kissing your sister – Felix doesn’t finish and Fraser Pryce doesn’t defeat her primary competition. So the debate begins – who would have won the full completed race?
- Men and women’s 4×1′s. The reason is obvious, both US teams had major blunders. Yes, I’m disappointed that the US teams lost, but beyond the losses they turned potentially great match up races into Keystone type comedies. That was embarrassing. I’m going to spend some time going into detail about the relays in another post, but this was no way to end the meet – with what could have been great meet closing races becoming amateurish displays. That is not the image this sport needs to have the general public remember in what may be their only view of the sport outside of the Olympics.
Speaking of meet ending events, Usain Bolt aside, why are we not ending the meet with the 4×4′s? I understand that the sport is sick on stupid in trying to promote a single individual, but even in this meet the 4x4s generated excitement - they always do! I’m also curious why the short speed running the men’s and women’s events together - i.e. women’s 100 followed by the men’s 100, women’s deuce followed by men’s deuce, etc. For my money it makes the meet much more exciting crowning Champions back to back. I’m just curious.
That’s my general view on the events. Next I’m going to take a similar look at the individual performances before I get into some specific issues like relays etc.
Tags: World Championships