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

World Championships Review–Individuals Pt1

Aug 27th, 2013
9:22 pm PDT

Nick SymmondsNow for the fun part, looking at individual performances – and there were certainly some very good ones. First however, let’s get a bit of perspective by taking a look at medal counts.

The double digit medal earners:

United States 25 total, 6 gold, 14 silver, 5 bronze.
Russia 17 total, 7 gold, 4 silver, 6 bronze
Kenya 12 total, 5 gold, 4 silver, 3 bronze
Ethiopia 10 total, 3 gold, 3 silver, 4 bronze

As expected Russians performed well at home. While traditional European power Germany continues to have difficulty getting back to Eastern Bloc prominence.

In general there was no core of dominant nations, but a relatively even distribution of medals/performances across the board. The biggest surprise in this regard being Kenya who continues to score fewer medals, but is becoming a source of medalists for other countries as athletes gain citizenship elsewhere.

That said, we (US) didn’t do as poorly as it seemed at the time – the issue of course being the relatively low count of gold medals. Given how young the team was however, the numbers look good and bodes well for future events. Given all the changes globally in terms of where the medals are earned, we continue to score well in majors – almost in spite of ourselves.

I’m being critical, but when you consider that we really don’t have an overarching, comprehensive development program for the sport, it’s almost as if Team USA is this enormous pick up squad that we take to major meets .Yes, we have a championship meet that serves as our selection process, but how athletes arrive there is a hodge podge of possibilities. In my personal opinion this is a big reason why we send athletes to meets that show up unfit, injured, or unready for competition – because our "democratic" process doesn’t allow for a system of accountability.

With regard to development however, we depend on "clubs" to get it done . That works to a degree  when you have a Santa Monica Track Club, an HSI, or an Oregon Track Club leading the way and producing medalists with regularity. But even then, a large number of disciplines are left out of the mix. For an example, look no further than Jamaica which has two highly successful "sprint" clubs, but little outside of sprinting/hurdling. We have far too many un/under developed events and athletes in this country – and in areas where we’ve proven to be able to produce quality international talent.Shoring up our holes in the development process should be a major priority at USATF. I have my own thoughts on how to set up a development program in the US – we’re huge in terms of land mass – but that’s for another day.

So what did I think of the individuals in Moscow? I viewed them from four perspectives: some general performance rankings; those who earned new respect from me; those in need of more competition; and those I see making future impact. So let’s get started.

Those Making Future Impact. I saw five young people perform in Moscow that I believe are going to make significant impact on the sport in the future. In no particular order.

 

FUTURE IMPACT

Mary Cain. This young lady has been doing it all year long. I’ve had a lot of people give the length of the collegiate season as the reason many college athletes performed poorly at Worlds, but this barely seventeen year old had been going since January at a world class level! She negotiated the rounds and made the 1500 final, and stuck her nose in it in the final – and she’s just getting started. She’s going to take US middle distance/distance running to the next level and will be heard from for at least the next decade of not longer.

Ajee Wilson. Another "kid" who went to Moscow and ran like a adult. A pair of 2:00 rounds found her making the final, where she crushed the AR of none other than Ms Cain herself with a stunning 1:58.21! She and Cain could become the Dynamic Duo of American middle distance running. Wilson has shown to be as good a talent and a savvy racer in her own right. I expect Wilson to take down the AR in the not too distant future.

Adam Gemili. I remember the days of Britain’s Linford Christie scaring the WR in the 100 and winning gold medals at majors. It’s been slim pickings since then, but I look for that to change with Gemili. Known more for the 100 he got in the deuce and went sub 20 – making himself a double threat! He has the potential to single handedly make Britain a sprint force again and have major impact on global sprint finals for years to come.

Curtis Mitchell. The US is short on sprint talent these days – or should I say fully developed sprint talent. We have lots of talent, it’s just not getting to the next level. Mitchell hit that next level in Moscow. Mitchell is definitely a part of the future in US sprinting. Not simply because he ran 19.97 or because he took bronze. What I like about Mitchell is the hunger he shows – the look in his eyes when he competes, and the voracity with which he runs. He had that look Mo Greene used to have. That intenseness of Linford Christie. Mitchell is old school, and I like old school.

Brianna Rollins. She won gold which is impact in itself, but I see even more in Rollins’ future. I see Skeets Nehemiah in Rollins – someone that is going to take the event to a new level. I see her breaking the WR and dropping it to a new Nehemiah like level (he took the record from 13.21 to 12.93) – taking others to another level of competition with her. She’s young and no where near her prime, and has just enough competition to keep pushing her. She has the potential to dominate for some time.

Then there are those athletes that have been around for a while that I gained a new respect for. Again in no particular order.

 

GAINED NEW RESPECT

Sally Pearson. The mark of a champion is often defined by how they handle adversity. For the past two seasons Pearson was the 100 hurdles, but this year she was coming back from injury while watching a new star emerge in the event. Watching her compete this summer she was nothing close to the woman that won gold in Daegu & London. Then she arrived in Moscow and transformed into a threat for gold – I fully expected her to have difficulty making the final. Sally showed tremendous heart and competitiveness – far more than I thought she had which is why I have new respect for her.

Justin Gatlin. He’s already been through more adversity than most. Olympic & World champion then out of the sport for four years. The struggle back to world class status, and back on the Olympic podium. Gatlin had already gained my respect. But then he went to Moscow and took the race to Bolt in the final. That race, even more than London, cemented Gatlin as one of the premier competitors of the New Millennium. Fearless.

Nick Symmonds. I’ve always liked the steadiness of Nick Symmonds. One of those "lunch pail" carrying type athletes that comes to work every day and you know what you’re going to get from him. He makes national teams. He progresses through the rounds of majors. But then always sitting in the back of the pack, he closes but not enough to get on the podium. More than once I’ve screamed at my TV for Symmonds to engage in the race and give himself a shot. In Moscow he did just that. The result was Symmonds charging around the final bend in the lead, finally crossing the line in silver position. Symmonds entered that final with the intent, not to place, but to win and he came oh so close. For me moving from solid competitor to serious threat.

Christine Ohuruogu. In the past, Ohuruogu has reminded me of athletes from the old Soviet Union – little competition all season long then showing up at a major with just enough to take a title. Nice strategy, but for me the sport is about competition and I like to see champion’s go through the wars like everyone else – one of the reasons I hate that top sprinters don’t race. This year however, we got to see Ohuruogu race throughout the year and she showed up to Moscow with someone else the heavy favorite – and frankly I expected the season to take a bit out of her legs. But there she was in the final, well behind the leaders, making another late charge. A charge that literally lasted until the final step of the race!  When the smoke cleared it was Ohuruogu over Montsho by. 03! After a long season, the rounds, and a final against a tough field Ohuruogu showed that she could indeed go the full distance and bring home gold. Not to mention the heart and competitiveness she showed in that final. Earning my respect as a champion’s champion.

Shelley Ann Fraser Pryce. In 2008 & 2009 Fraser Pryce rode blitzkrieg starts to gold medal 100 victories. In 2011 a "normal" start saw her finish 4th in Daegu.  Back to blitzkrieg in London and gold was her’s once again. The moral to that story – don’t let SAFP get out on you early, and if she does reel her in quickly. Chief rival Carmelita Jeter has employed that strategy successfully on more than one occasion, but injury had her trying to get back to form. But with several young Americans setting PRs and Africans Murielle Ahoure and Blessing Okagbare making huge improvement, the road to gold did not appear easy for SAFP. Once again in the final however, the gun went off and no one was in the same zip code with Fraser Pryce ever – not for a step. Gold is not supposed to come that easily, let alone in an event that’s supposed to come down to hundredths, if not thousandths of a second. She completed a sprint double finishing ahead of the two African sprinters as Allyson Felix went down to injury on the curb. In both races it was Fraser Pryce that was ready – the one who showed up to play. There is a certain amount of  "luck " that happens in every competition – things that happen in your favor that are out of your control.  In order to turn that  "luck" into gold however, you must be prepared for whatever happens on the day. Fraser Pryce has shown repeatedly that when the day that matters most is at hand, she is the most ready – earning increased respect from me.

Carmelita Jeter.  Jeter lost this one in Moscow. As a matter of fact she lost big, as Fraser Pryce ran away with 100 gold.  So how did Jeter gain new respect? Because she got on the podium. Actually because she ran. Jeter has fought injury all season, gamely trying to get back to form. Then just as she was about there, more aggravation. She entered Moscow still nursing injury yet made her way to the final against Fraser Pryce, Okagbare, Ahoure, Gardner, Freeman – the best on the season – and came away with bronze.  She could have tossed in the towel. Could have decided she had no shot. Could have been afraid of embarrassment. Instead she laced em up, lined up and completed like a warrior. Earning a new level of respect from me.

Matthew Centrowitz. There are lots of "faster" milers out there. I’m not sure there are many smarter. Two years ago, Centrowitz made his first appearance on the podium getting bronze in Daegu. Easy to say it was a "lucky" day with several African runners seemingly having a bad day. Then he made the final in London finishing 4th – another bad day for African runners? Now we have Moscow and Centrowitz negotiates his way to silver losing only to Asbel Kiprop who’s clearly been the top miler in the world. Three majors in a row and Centrowitz has been the second most consistent finisher, next to Kiprop. He’s become one of the best racers out there, and possibly the best ever American when it comes to rqcing. Earning him new respect from me.

Jenny Simpson. In 2009 American women made a huge leap in the 1500. Three women placed in the top 6 at Worlds, and three ran sub 4:00 – Jenny was one of those under 4:00, though she didn’t make the team for Worlds. Come 2011 another American miler emerged and went into Daegu as a medal favorite. When the smoke cleared however, from a race marred by falling athletes near the end, it was Simpson emerging with gold! A rough season in 2012 saw her fail to advance in London, but early this session she looked ready to challenge once again. The result, a silver as only yearly leader Aregawi was able to get past her. Like Centrowitz, Simpson has proven that she knows how to navigate the 1500 and earn her way to the podium – as such earning new respect from me.

This is probably more than you wanted at one time, do I’m and here. Next I want to take a look at individuals from the point of view of performances, as well as take a look at a handful of athletes that could use a bit more competition.

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6 Responses to “World Championships Review–Individuals Pt1”

  1. Aurelio Feldman says:

    Great post!
    I just want to talk about the british first.
    I wanted so bad to see Gemili be the real thing for Great Britain. In the last ten years ou fifteen year we saw british sprinter winning world youth and world junior gold medals and not making in the senior ranks. After his great display in London, when he did not make the final for so little and be able to go sub 20 is great.
    Hope he gets better and be able to get world and olympic medals
    And what you can say about Ohuruogu? She have won it all and noboby gave her the respect she deserved so she went to the track and made every single person in the Athletics world watch the most amazing race of the world championships and problably the greatest display of power, control and perseverence. I was a fan before, and I am a bigger fan now!

    • CHill says:

      The whole US v Jamaica thing in the sprints is cool, but the sprint and sport was more fun when there were more nations involved .. Christie (GBR), Bailey & Surin (CAN), Frederick (NAM), Greene and others (USA), Boldon (TRI) was a fun era .. Same with the early 90′s when many of those and the Nigerians were involved – as well as Lewis, Burrell, and other older US sprinters at the time .. The sport needs Britain in the game .. Germany and Russia too .. Because Europe needs involvement in the high profile events for the sport to be successful ..

      And yeah, Ohuruogu hasn’t gotten her due .. She did it all this year – down to the final step ..

  2. Anderson says:

    I like Ajee Wilson’s prospects more so than Mary Cain. I’m actually worried that Cain will suffer an Alan Webb like fate where she throws down some great times but never makes an impact internationally. It will be interesting to see her decision come college time. The only successful US athlete off the top of my head who skipped college for the pros was Felix, but she was an Olympic medalist before she would have even stepped on a campus.
    Ajee isn’t getting neatly as much hype as Cain. And was actually criticized for her decision to go pro instead of going to Florida state. She comes back to not only make the US team, but also come 6th in a WJR over 1 second faster than her PR.

    Also, I love Curtis Mitchell, back to his junior college days, but I’m not convinced he will be one to last or at least be a serious medal threat. He really hasn’t shown serious consistency so I’m waiting for him to seriously back up the medal with some circuit performances or another team/medal.

    • CHill says:

      Cain has something most other prodigies didn’t – Salazar .. He’s bringing her along properly .. as long as she’s with him I have faith .. The one thing that scares me about Mitchell is injuries .. That’s slowed him to this point – just got injured again .. Healthy he’s a beast with a lot of potential .. The kid can run a decent quarter ..

  3. Aurelio Feldman says:

    How about a post about the athletes/events that let us down?

    • CHill says:

      That’s on its way .. Just been very busy .. First XC meet this morning and just got back .. Had to take time out for Zurich – disappointed – and a couple other things .. Will be up before weekend is done ..

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