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

My Thoughts on the World Relay Championships

Jun 21st, 2014
4:21 pm PST

Conway Tyson PicFocusing on coaching my high school kids, I missed discussing the early season to date, primarily the Diamond League and the World Relays Championship. That’s a lot of action/discussion, so will tackle one then the other and will start with the World Relays Championships since the subject has already come up.

While I think that having some sort of relay championship sounds like a great idea in principle, with everything done by this sport it really comes down to execution – and in my opinion the execution was horrible. Yes, I said horrible. I know that will incite some people to call me negative – because I don’t just praise everything done by the sport. But I have to say that one of the biggest problems this sport has is the inability to be critical of itself. Everything the sport does is supposed to be applauded, when in reality the sport makes a lot of mistakes. And in my humble opinion many were made with this endeavor.

For starters, calling it a World Championships was just wrong. Perhaps calling it an "Invitational" or "Meeting" would have been more appropriate, because for the most part the attendance was not indicative of true global championships quality. We didn’t get the "best" relay squads that most nations could have put forth – certainly not the ones we would have seen in an Olympics or at a World Championships. That in and of itself says much about how these "Relays" were perceived by those charged with putting squads together.

That could start with the fact that it was being held at the beginning of the year! Very difficult for any country to really put their best people together so early in the season. For one, the truly elite are either waiting to really be hitting their stride around Nationals time; or they are focusing on making money in the off season as there is nothing to really peak for – and clearly no one saw this as an event that required a peak. IF this were a true "World Championships" it would have been held nearer the end the season, giving countries, and their athletes, the opportunity to at least get through their national championships and select their best foursomes for the competition. After all, at the end of the day "championships" are only as big as the people that are competing in them – and this one was missing far too many big names!

It was also missing a proper television distribution – at least here in the U.S. Only a handful of American fans had access to this meet, as Universal Sports is NOT available through most major cable carriers. To make matters worse, it was blocked here via normal Internet channels. AND to make it even worse, most of the videos available are not downloadable here in the U.S.. Meaning only we true die hard fans would scour the ‘net to find clips of the event after the fact. This is NOT how a "global championship" is supposed to be presented. A global event needs to either be on one of the major networks or ESPN. Am outlet that reaches the masses. There also needs to be concessions that allow Internet access in this country.

There was also the attitude shown by USATF regarding participation in the event. No offense to the athletes that participated, but for the most part the selections came across as the afterthoughts of a group looking to fill slots with warm bodies instead of the world’s preeminent track team looking to display it’s best wares. We used entry level elite athletes in many cases, indicating that we saw this as a development quality and not championship quality competition. And it showed with yet another set of botched handoffs! Personally as a coach I’d rather leave a lane empty than put an inferior product on the track. We continue to come across amateurish in that regards. Visions of athletes in Beijing taking the track in handwritten race bibs came to mind as friends twice texted me that the U.S. failed to complete another pass.

I would love to see relays run much more often on the global stage. The Diamond League should have relays, but then they have enough difficulty getting athletes on the track as it is. Certainly a global relay championships could be one of the most exciting events to hit the planet. What took place however in this case didn’t fit that description.

Hopefully the powers that be have had, or will have, a list event meeting to go over the meet and discuss the meet; what worked and what didn’t; and look at how to improve the meet overall. Because it is an idea that needs to be continued.

Speaking of championships, it’s nationals time. So going to take a look at Nationals before putting in my two cents on the Diamond League to date.

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