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

Out With the Old, in With Something New?

Dec 15th, 2013
10:12 am PST

Conway Tyson PicWe’ve got about a week and a half  until Christmas, then another week until the calendar turns to 2014. Somehow it seems like a long way back to Moscow and it feels like it’s been a very long year in general.

I’ve not posted in a couple weeks or so because I’ve been reflecting back on the season, trying to figure out just what I wanted to say, because to be honest it hasn’t been my favorite season ever. Far too much negativity as the issue of drug use in the sport hung like a heavy cloud over things all year and permeated this year’s World Championships.

This in a year I had determined I would attempt to be less negative about the sport. As I reflect back, however this sport IS full of issues that need to be addressed. Perhaps the single biggest problem is the fact that nearly everyone associated with track and field either wants to pretend the problems don’t exist and find it easier to look the other way; don’t want to speak out about the issues because of fear of reprisal; or simply have no idea about the history of the sport and how good things once were.

Clearly however, track and field has problems. Few athletes are known outside the sport. Companies are not knocking down the door looking to be sponsors. Our identity is still too closely linked to the Olympics. Drugs are still too often mentioned in conjunction with track and field.  And there are far too many empty seats in the stands and meets disappearing from the schedule.  If track and field was a corporation the CEO would be holding emergency meetings; department heads would be losing their jobs; and a restructuring would be imminent if not already in progress!

So I’m going to stop trying to be the nice guy of 2013, and going back to telling it like I see it. Because clearly when I have my sunglasses on I can see what most of you aren’t looking at. Then again my lenses are ice blue and NOT rose colored. Those that don’t like my opinion don’t have to read. After all it is MY opinion, not group consensus.

So, let me start by giving a shout out to the athletes I feel were the best of 2013 – Brianna Rollins and Bohdan Bondarenko. I know those aren’t the popular picks, but that’s another pet peeve of mine lately, everything in this sport is moving towards popularity – and no one had better seasons than this pair.

Rollins was undefeated. All year, indoors and out. Including indoor forays into the deuce and quarter. She was world leader in the 60 hurdles indoors and 100 hurdles outdoors. Rollins won her first World title in Moscow against a field that included Sally Pearson and Dawn Harper – two of history’s best. The icing on the cake is that she moved to #13 all time indoors, and most impressively =#3 all time outdoors in the 100 hurdles – only .05 off a WR that once looked like it would last forever. Who had a better season? Before you say Shelly Ann Fraser Pryce, take note she was defeated, and would have had to run 10.59 or better to equal Rollins on the clock = based on the Heptathlon scoring tables. That doesn’t take into account Felix’ injury in the WC 200 final. I’m just saying.

Bondarenko was nearly as impressive. His only failing was a single loss in his second meet of the year. That loss came not because his opponent jumped higher, but because he took one more jump at a lower height – he actually equaled the winning height as well as the meet record! That was his single "failure" of the year. He won everything else in sight including the World Championships. In the process he became the equal third highest jumper in history at a lofty 2.41m (7′ 10.75") a feat he accomplished in two separate meets on the year. These accomplishments came while competing against arguably the best group of jumpers the sport had witnessed at one time.  As I said with Rolling, who truly had a better season? Yes, Bolt is the popular pick. However, his path was made clear with Gay, Blake, and Powell all on the sidelines, and his marks were ok but average when compared against both himself and the trio I just named. And he would have to have equaled his WR in the 100 and set a new WR of 19.02 in the deuce to equate to Bondarkenko’s two high jump marks of 2.41m – based on the Decathlon scoring tables. Not to mention that Bondarkenko’s season of excellence came against much superior competition. Again, I’m just saying.

Yes, there are more popular picks that have been and could be made, but no one did it better than this pair in 2013. Period.

That’s how the season went. I may or may not do a rankings. Frankly there are more important things to discuss and there will be plenty of rankings.  And again to be honest, popularity is ruining rankings for me. I do however, have a list of ten things I’d like to see happen in the sport in 2014 – and I’ll be closing out 2013 and starting 2014 with them. In no particular order they are:

1. USATF develop major sponsorships
2. USATF submit a bid to host A MAJOR championship meet
3. The IRAQ call the most heinous anti doing violating countries on the carpet
4. USATF hold a sprint summit
5. The IAAF give the World Championships a makeover ahead of 2015
6. The NBA revamp the Regional qualifying meet system
7. USATF restructure
8. The IAAF get out of the anti doping business and get about the business of building the sport
9. WADA rewrite the anti doping code
10. Jamaica Institute a proper anti doping program

Finally, there were some positive things in 2013. The emergence of youngsters Mary Cain and Ajee Wilson is going to make the US strong for years to come in the middle distances. Ditto the emergence of Britain’s Adam Gemili – it’s nice to see Britain with a strong young sprinter again. The spectacular return from injury of France’s Teddy Tamgho in the triple jump to become only the third man in history over 59 feet was awesome! The men’s high jump has become one of my favorite events with its stellar depth. Nice to see Bryshon Nellum close out his collegiate career with a title, and LaShawn Merritt remind the world that he is still running. Talking about female hurdlers, Zuzana Hejnova was undefeated, fast, and undefeated including Worlds and has to be in any discussion of best season. As does Valerie Adam with another undefeated, dominant season.

So that’s how I saw the end of the season. Now which topic do I tackle first?


“The truth doesn’t need you to recognize it for it to be so“ – Hobbs
"There are two ways to be fooled. One is to believe what isn’t true; the other is to refuse to believe what is true." – Soren Kierkegaard

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