Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Track and Field Brain Teaser

Update: no solutions yet! I'll post the answer to the riddle at the end of the month after the Prefontaine Classic.
  
One of my great highlights of 2013 leads to this track and field brain teaser:

On the evening before the 2013 Pre Classic I gave Olympic discus champ Robert Harting a ride from the airport in Eugene to his hotel. This marks the 4th time in my life I've given a ride to a world class track and field athlete.

They are, in chronological sequence:

Steve Prefontaine
Rick Wohlhuter
Grete Waitz
Robert Harting.

What unites my four passengers?

I will confess that it wasn't until several months after meeting Harting that the question even occurred to me, much less the answer.

Have fun, everyone!

Mark Cullen
Seattle, WA
University of Oregon '75
www.trackerati.com

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Teens for Teens - Weather Forecasts for Nike Cross Nationals

11:35am update - wind chill at start of boys race: 18F
27F plus 9 mph wind


10:05am update - wind chill at start of girls race: 11F
23F plus 14mph wind


2:30am (PST) update: the National Weather Service has cancelled its wind warning for this morning in Portland. However, wind chill remains a factor for this morning's Nike Cross Nationals with a likely wind chill effect in the mid-teens.

Check the "Feels Like" column on this page at weather.com

http://www.weather.com/weather/hourbyhour/graph/Portland+OR+USOR0275:1:US?pagenum=2&nextbeginIndex=6

And here is the National Weather Service's pinpoint forecast for Delta Park; wind chill is posted in the center column:

http://forecast.weather.gov/MapClick.php?lat=45.59283615967698&lon=-122.6729965209961#.UqNMDCeoZHB

For those of you fortunate enough to travel to the meet today, here are two road reports links:

http://www.tripcheck.com/Pages/RCMap.asp?curRegion=14

 - http://www.oregonlive.com/roadreport/

I will update this site at 10:05am and 11:35am with race time wind chill reports for the girls and boys, respectively.




Original post from 12/5 at 5:58pm Pacific time:

Possibly extreme wind chill conditions face the best high school cross country runners in the nation at Saturday's Nike Cross Nationals in Portland, Oregon.  

Two respected weather websites put the likely wind chill at race time at 14-15 F, while the National Weather Service puts it as low as -2 F.

Weather.com (The Weather Channel) predicts 18 F as tonight's low with a high of 30 F on Saturday, with winds at 7 mph, and a wind advisory ending at 6:00am.

Weather Underground pegs Saturday's temperature at 23 F at 11:00am with 7mph winds, with the girls race scheduled to start at 10:05 and the boys at 11:35.

The National Weather Service predicts sunny but windy and cold conditions for Saturday's championship races. Tonight's overnight low is predicted to be 16 F while Saturday's high is predicted to be 25 F. Far worse, wind speed is predicted to be 17-22 mph at race time, with gusts to 37 mph. If these predictions are accurate, wind chill can be as low as -2 F at race time.

Even with the more moderate Weather Underground and Weather Channel predictions, online wind chill calculators suggest that 23 F combined with a 7mph wind results in a wind chill of 14-15 F.

Much will depend on wind speed; check the weather.gov website to see if the wind advisory is lifted at 6:00am, as predicted.

Drivers - especially visitors unfamiliar with Portland - should exercise extreme caution in these unusually cold, icy, and slippery conditions. See the oregonlive.com road report link below.

Links to the weather websites:

http://forecast.weather.gov/MapClick.php?lat=45.57986164558087&lon=-122.66132354736328#.UqJq2ieoZHA 

http://www.weather.com/weather/weekend/Portland+OR+USOR0275:1:US

http://www.weather.com/weather/alerts/localalerts/USOR0275?phenomena=TSL&significance=S&areaid=ORZ006&office=KPQR&etn=0000

http://www.wunderground.com/cgi-bin/findweather/getForecast?query=97201&hourly=1&yday=340&weekday=Saturday

Road conditions:

http://www.oregonlive.com/roadreport/

 Credit to:
- weather websites as indicated above
- http://www.onlineconversion.com/windchill.htm
- http://www.nws.noaa.gov/om/windchill/
- http://www.oregonlive.com/roadreport/

Mark Cullen
Seattle, WA, US

Monday, October 21, 2013

Tribute to My Posse


It’s 8:10am in Moscow and they’re just out the door. It will be two years, maybe four, until I see them again.

Pete and Tammy, Bruce and Grace, Kevin and Mary.

I’ve known Pete and Tammy, Bruce, and Kevin since the 1999 Sevilla World Championships when we met on the last evening. Kevin saw me walk by their restaurant and recognized me from the Track and Field News tour. His grace in taking a moment to come outside and invite me in altered my track and field life.

A few minutes later, World and Olympic javelin champ Trine Hattestad showed up and I thought to myself, “These guys are good.” Her pic with our posse - one Kevin sent me - still graces a bureau in my house.

The posse preceded me; they first met in Goteborg in’95 and have been gathering at these championships ever since.

This group is a slice of American life. Pete and Tammy are from Ohio; Pete inherited his family’s door company, and Tammy retired - but not for long - as a public schools facilities manager. Bruce hails from Michigan and runs the human resources department of a company of 2500 employees, and Grace is a retired nurse. Kevin is an orthopedic surgeon from upstate New York and Mary is a retired pediatrician. I am a teacher and coach from Seattle, and a former athletics director as well. We all work hard and love what we do.

I arrive in Moscow on Monday, delayed by my elderly father’s summer-long illness. As seems to happen every time, I run into one of the gang almost immediately. Bruce sees me in the lobby and greets me with his usual enthusiastic energy. In Edmonton in 2001, I drove all day and half the night and ran into the posse as they returned from a first-night reconnoitering expedition.

“How far did you drive?” they ask.

I have two answers.

For non-track and field fans: 800 miles.

“791.2 miles.”

They smile.

Bruce guides me to Luzhniki Stadium, and after the morning session we gather for lunch. Only an hour into it, Pete observes, “We’re talking about things we’ve never discussed before. Look at us! Retirement, benefits, Social Security…” This generates knowing laughs. I met them when I was 47 and now I’m 61.

On that first day, as we fall into seamless conversation, picking up right where we’d left off in Berlin in ‘09, I realize I’ve never once asked any one of the posse how old they are, and realize it doesn’t matter.

We share a history and a common language. On Friday morning, Russia’s women’s 4x400m relay splits 1:41.49 on their way to qualifying for the final and their golden destiny. I turn to Pete and say, “Rudisha ran faster by himself.” Pete nods.

No explanation needed.

When Amantle Montsho (Bot) eases up at the 400m finish line and loses by .004 to Christine Ohuruogu (GB), I say to Tammy at that evening’s gathering, “Merlene Ottey all over again.” She nods.

No explanation needed.

This restaurant/bar near the Luzhniki Stadium Metro stop becomes our adopted meeting place and hangout every evening after the meet. These places live with me - the engaging places that invite us to stay. In Berlin, the stadium exit area was surrounded by food and beverage stands, and numerous picnic tables invited us to gather. We accepted, almost every night. Here, the fan zone directly outside the stadium is modest in size and appeal, but this restaurant draws us back.

The owner comes to recognize us and every night he pulls out a bottle of sparkling water for me, insisting, “Water with gas from the Caucasus Mountains – this is the best!”

Regardless of label.

Bruce is my Metro coach and Tammy, who is one of the most steadfast and reliable people you’ll ever know, is rightly the head official. Bruce gets me to the stadium on Tuesday, and in future trips Tammy counts subway stops, “Four, then three,” to assure we’ll get back to our hotel without diverting to Siberia. I know I have the right transfer station when I see what I’ve nicknamed the “Tree of Life” sculpture, and it provides me with more occasions for relief than the sculptor might ever have imagined. The subway trips become another focal point for our gatherings, and our relief at finding our hotel every night is, at least initially, palpable.

On Friday we search for late-night dinner and plunge down the steep steps of an Irish restaurant near our hotel. I have gone far too long without food and am feeling the effects. A gracious man translates all of our orders for the server who does not speak English – and we do not speak Russian.

Little on the menu meshes with the way I eat, and I am self-conscious about specifying a healthy meal. The man was an effective translator, and a gleaming piece of salmon arrives surrounded by veggies – no cream, no butter. A Seattleite, I have one of my best salmon dinners in an Irish pub in Moscow.

I feel I should do something helpful in return. “Separate checks in a different language and alphabet would be madness,” I say, and the group jumps at my offer to pay upfront; the rest we work out among ourselves. It all happens very quickly, an indicator of the trust built up over the years.

We continue our conversations: now, the hot dogs, which are only half-covered by the buns; now, the striking fitness of Muscovites and the paucity of paunches – no obesity epidemic here; now, the excessive security and the parlor game of trying to get a soldier to blink; now, the best names of the games - I nominate Trotski of Belarus in the 50k walk. And now, have you ever seen a country drink this much tomato juice?

By Saturday I’m feeling the pangs. At this time in 48 hours, I’ll be into a countdown that will last from 2-4 years, and I note the melancholy moments that indicate that separation is near. We’re not sure who can make it to Beijing in 2015, and upon my return home I learn that those championship dates have been picked for the first week of teaching.

Rats.

OK, then: London – 2017.

Saturday evening’s post-meet gathering proves to be our last as a group… on Sunday I’m fortunate to have breakfast with Grace and to have the opportunity to sing the praises of the nurses who have helped our family so much the past year.

I’m dismayed to miss the group on Sunday evening - my section in the stadium was held for release far longer than theirs - but I know it’s the accumulation of our time together this week that counts, not one visit. I’ll see all but Kevin and Mary, who are at a different hotel, before they leave Monday morning.

I’ve been to the World Championships seven times now. Twice I’ve been very unsure of whether or not I’d come, once due to the funeral of an elderly family friend I’d known since 7th grade, and this time due to my father’s illness. Both times I’ve made it, even for part of it, as I can’t imagine a six or eight year gap. Not on the championships, mind you, but on seeing my friends.

In Paris ’03, when I was delayed due to the funeral, I got there on Thursday and knew my group had to be at one of the Track and Field News hotels, but did not initially know which one. When I finally located it in the early evening, I set out to find them and started walking down nearby streets and looking for them in restaurants. I came down one avenue to a triangular street corner that divided the main street in two. I hesitated, and something told me to take a closer look.

There they were, the whole damn posse.

That I got to sit next to Track and Field News co-founder Cordner Nelson for dinner that night didn’t hurt a bit. Kevin is the ringleader and seemingly knows everyone. I ask Nelson, who has attended every Olympics starting in 1936, what his single favorite moment is.

“Cathy Freeman.”

No explanation needed.

In Helsinki, the fan zone was extensive and there was always something new and interesting to do. The Finnish postal service staffed a booth in which you could have your photo taken and placed on a stamp, a technology that then was brand new.

They’re about to take my picture when I hold up a finger to indicate a pause. I’ve been too embarrassed to take my goofy blue and white Viking horns hat out of its sack, but I figure you only live once, and besides, how many people will ever see my picture on a stamp? When I take the hat out and put it on, the staff goes crazy.

I sign a release for placing my stamp in the Finnish national postal museum.

Cards arrive home with this stamp.

Explanation needed.

On the day of the men’s marathon the hotel elevator - famous for mystery stops - stops at the 6th floor and Pete and Tammy get on. Pete is wearing his Detroit Tigers insignia cap - a trademark for him - a treasured item. I had been on my way to watch the entire race on the course, but this decision is easy for me. We watch most of the marathon at the hotel bar and leave in time to see the finish at the stadium.

On the subway Pete sees a young man wearing a CCCP shirt and non-verbal trade negotiations commence. First goes the hat – Pete, the hat! - and soon Pete’s t-shirt becomes part of the bargain as well. The deal is concluded with a t-shirt exchange outside the Metro stop, and Pete is going to be telling this story for many championships to come, pics and all, with editing interruptions from us.

I can’t wait.



*     *     *


Explanations of “no explanation needed.”

  1. David Rudisha’s 800m world record of 1:40.91 is faster than the combined efforts of the first two legs on Russia’s women’s 4x400m relay in Moscow.
  1. Merlene Ottey was known as the ‘bronze queen’ for the 13 times she won bronze medals in World and Olympic competitions – not to mention the seven silvers. When at last she appeared to have won gold in the 100m in Stuttgart in ’93, she looked to her right at the finish line – and was passed by Gail Devers, who won gold by 1/1000th of a second. Fortunately, Ottey came back to win gold in the 200m in the same championships.
  1. Cathy Freeman – Australia’s Freeman was the heavy favorite to win gold in the 400m at home in Sydney in the 2000 Olympics. Burdened by excessive expectations attached to the fact that she would be the first person of Aboriginal descent to win, Freeman stormed to victory in front of delirious fans. It is the single performance in my lifetime I most wish I had seen in person.
  1. The stamp with the goofy guy in the blue and white Viking hat – do I really need to explain this?! Just imagine receiving a post card from me with this stamp. Never were more double takes taken.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Finding Moscow Again

Sarah Godfroy motions with her hands: “Everyone gather ‘round. Everyone come closer. Sometimes people will join us who are not part of our group.”

It’s 1986, midnight in Moscow, and we have just arrived at Hotel Berlin. Twenty-three students, two teachers, and a handful of parents from Seattle.

It’s January, two days before the Challenger disaster.

The man who was trying to join our group shadowed us everywhere we went. Every tour, every restaurant, the overnight train trip from Moscow to St. Petersburg, the flight out, even, from St. Petersburg to Helsinki.
This was how the Soviet Union stayed at ‘full employment.’

Now every time I say to a Russian, “I was last here in ’86,” the door flies open to a discussion of before and after.

The first time, the Soviet effort to keep us separated from the people we were there to visit was undone by the explosion of the Challenger. Everywhere we went, people approached us on the street and offered genuine sympathy and concern and told us how sorry they were.

Now I am here for the World Track and Field Championships and am trying to find this new and different Moscow.

Still it's not easy, but you do get around and no one follows.

I undertake three epic walks.

The first is designed by Kirill, a smart and thoughtful front desk staffer at my hotel. With a degree in journalism, Kirill is working at the hotel to improve his already excellent English; he knows where he’s going.

I take the Metro to a stop short of Red Square and instead of turning left to the Kremlin, Kirill has me turn right towards a church. It’s getting late but it doesn’t matter.

The sun is setting, the domes are gold, and I have brought my camera.

I do a 6 kilometer ‘block’ which brings me around the Kremlin off the tourist path. In the distance I see the entrance Sarah brought us through on that frigid night twenty-seven years ago. We walked ten minutes from our hotel to Red Square and entered through an arch as the square burst before us.

As I approach the Kremlin this time, it’s not midnight but dusk on a warm evening that brings out walkers, picknickers, readers, and obsessive texters.

On the expansive lawn just ahead of me, a woman is giving her partner an energetic massage. How sweet, I think, how devoted of her to be so generous to him. The new Moscow, where public displays of affection - between straight people - are part and parcel of everyday life.

As the path brings me closer, I realize what’s taking place between them is a bit more than massage… who knew that on this day of only one final - the men’s 50k walk - there was so much action in the field events after all?

Not a chance of this happening in 1986, as this would earn you a one-way ticket into the Gulag.

Red Square is dominated by the Kremlin wall on one side and Gum’s Department store on the other. Then, there was great discomfort in having access to stores, food, and supplies everyday Russians could not get close to. Now, Gum’s is dominated by Western status symbol companies and still I wonder who has access.

A morning walk draws me to the cluster of new skyscrapers that now dominate Moscow’s skyline. A one-hour stroll becomes three and a half as I make numerous detours through neighborhoods on the way. 
I stop at a café whose décor is dominated by heavy red velvet drapes that provide the faux intimacy that attracts us back to our own places like this time and time again.

An enormous graveyard unsettles me. I have strong enough feelings about not wishing to take up any space when I’m gone; if everyone occupies as much space as each person here, what will be left for our descendants? Photos are engraved into headstones, and many have etched autographs of the dearly departed.

I ask Kirill about this place, thinking I’ve stumbled upon a landmark when in fact this graveyard is one of many. “Moscow has millions of people. Moscow has many dead people,” he deadpans with irrefutable logic.

I arrive at the foot of the skyscrapers, expecting a vibrant downtown. There is nothing there. No restaurants or stores, no activity, no interchange. Few people.

“That’s correct,” says Kirill. “It’s barren.”

I wonder what the future holds for these new global status symbols. Moscow will have to figure out what purpose they serve, after the fact of building them.

I stop at a man’s dried fruit and nut store, and here I find the greatest contrast between then and now. Edibles from around the world are available for a few rubles.

His small store is immaculate; this is his dream. I am always struck by the wistfulness I feel at knowing I’ve met someone only once and won’t see him again - knowing he’s left a lasting impression.

Missing in ’86 was any sense of entrepreneurialism or opportunity. With so much attention focused on Russia’s billionaires now, this man’s dream is refreshing to encounter – and to support.

Wish I’d spent a little more.

A healthy foods restaurant half a block from my hotel causes me to abandon quickly my vow to eat in a different restaurant every day. To say that this contrast with ’86 is stark is to put it mildly. Then, bowl after bowl after bowl of borscht caused me to tighten my belt.

A third walk has me on the tourist trail, and on my last full day I walk two kilometers into Gorky Park and back again along the Moskva River. While much is made of the transformation of Gorky Park from carnival camp to Moscow’s answer to Central Park, no one needs convince me. I could sit here and read forever. Except, perhaps, in winter.

I enter a WC and the opening of the door triggers a musical cavalcade - opera in the toilet.

I decide to cross the river. It’s a spectacular day and Moscow unfurls in front of me like the sails on the enormous statue of Peter the Great on a ship. I wave to Pete and find myself back at the cathedral I’d seen at dusk a few nights earlier. I try to enter and commit a cultural faux pas. “No shorts,” says the attendant.

This time I decide to come full circle and retrace our entry into Red Square; I enter through the same archway as at midnight long ago.

Today, the joke is on me as Red Square has been turned into two public areas: one for an equestrian competition, the other enormous temporary stands for a concert.

Who knew that one of the biggest changes would be that now you can obtain a user permit for Red Square?

The neighborhood around my hotel emerges slowly. I come to realize that my quest for finding neighborhoods where ‘the real’ Muscovites live and work was something I needn’t have tied so hard to find. I’ve been living in one all along.

On and near Novoslobodskaya Street - which I’ve nicknamed “Death Alley” due to the freeway-like speeds achieved by motorists on this neighborhood’s main drag - I count five cafes, seven restaurants, and numerous kiosks which seem to be like 7/11s, but in one-tenth the space. There are tech stores, a pharmacy, clothing stores and a Metro stop… everything you’d need to live quite successfully without an automobile.

What strikes me as I stay in the same neighborhood for nine days is that I start to recognize some of the people. Beyond the predictable places like the restaurants and cafes where I’ve liked to hang out, I realize that what appeared to be a fairly transient neighborhood is only busy instead.

Language is my filter, and it’s through Kirill at the hotel and Anja and Albert at the stadium that I get as close to Moscow as I do; it’s their English that makes it possible.

Anja graciously appoints herself my host. Her snacks become mine, and every time a US athlete wins a medal she turns and says, “Congratulations!” On Friday and Saturday, when Russia has colossal medal hauls, I miss some congratulations in return and am kicking myself still.

When it’s time for their two-year-old daughter to leave early one day, Albert takes her home, not Anja.

Things have changed, indeed.

Later that day, when overenthusiastic guards try to keep Anja from joining her daughter, the guards get an earful. Anja is the only one I see break through the barricade without first having thrown a punch.

Communication is more than language and I duck into a neighborhood barbershop and sit for my intercultural haircut – something I’ve done in several countries now. Ludmilla, the barber of Moscow, does not know a word of English and I know as many of Russian. With a few gestures and lots of trust, I yield to her gentle instructions, and find my hair washed before her expert snipping as well as after.

I see my dental hygienist the day after I return. “Where did you get that haircut, Mark? It suits you perfectly. It makes you look younger.” Perhaps we could have stopped after two observations?

I return to an Azerbaijani restaurant where the owner’s English is far better than his menu’s. I want to find out what, exactly, is meant by “moving with yoghurt” as a stand-alone menu item. 

Lamb proves to be the answer, though I note that the menu actually says “moving with a yoghurt,” and this leads to further contemplation of what, exactly, constitutes a single yoghurt – a whole new concept.

Vegetarian dolmas prove unusually chewy - a surprisingly musky taste for grains. I ask again.

Now I’ve had mutton.

So much for three years’ abstinence from red meat.

One evening on a subway platform a man recognizes my distress when I am hopelessly lost. He stops to get out his iPad and shows me my way to the stadium. Plans my route, actually, and does not let me go until he is sure I know the way. 

“Downstairs and left,” he repeats, “downstairs and left.”

On my first night in Moscow I take a cab to Luzhniki Stadium. Never am I touched more than when the driver I’ve communicated with through writing and gestures returns late at night to pick me up.

When I tip him, he wants to know why.

I spend nine days shedding a receding memory of what Russia was like under Communist rule. Many times I begin to think I'm back in the USSR, but I'm not. Mikhail Gorbachev was General Secretary in 1986 and Vladimir Putin leads now - proof that change is not always progress. 

Still, neither prevents me from finding Moscow; my comrades won't allow them to stand in our way.

*   *   *

On my last night, a man ahead of me on the Metro escalator is wearing
plaid shorts with argyle socks.

Guess I’m back in the USSR after all.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Turn Right at Horse

Moscow has not exactly extended the welcome mat for these World Championships of Track and Field.

If this is a model for how Russia plans to welcome the world for the Winter Olympics in Sochi, billions will be watching as infrastructure, information, and management snafus accumulate to embarrass the hosts.

Not to mention the damage the host country’s position on gays - and its dig-in-the-heels response to worldwide blowback on this issue - has already created.

What will it be like in Sochi when the US joins the rest of the world watching the Winter Olympics? If these championships are a preview, those games are in trouble.

Much is made of the low attendance plaguing this meet.

Let’s do the math.

There are upwards of 12,000,000 people in Moscow.

The stadium, which can hold 82,000, is reconfigured for this event to hold about half that number, around 40,000.

40,000 out of 12,000,000 is .0035 of 1% of Moscow’s population.

99.9965% of Moscow can stay home and still the stadium will be full.

Even Usain Bolt can't attract a full house for Sunday evening's 100m final.

A frequently recurring analysis is that it’s vacation time in Russia and Muscovites are at their country dachas. Even pole vault king Sergey Bubka subscribes to a version of this, saying the persistent sunshine has drawn people away.

The socioeconomics - and logic - of this argument are distressing. How many can afford vacation homes when it’s expensive enough to afford one small apartment in Moscow? Are 12 million really on vacation?

If the traffic during my two taxi rides to the stadium is any indication, not exactly all of Moscow has fled to the countryside. Furthermore, many of the stadium seats were occupied by visitors like me - not to mention the thousands of wildly enthusiastic Ukrainians.

The crowds grow during the week, and the IAAF releases attendance figures that compare favorably to the 2011 Worlds in Daegu where… they closed off half the stadium in an unsuccessful effort to make it look more crowded.

That's two championships in a row. Is anyone listening?

Once inside Luzhniki Stadium, the obvious is begged.

Programs and dailies are difficult if not impossible to find. When was the last time you were in a stadium watching an event whose total worldwide viewership is estimated at 5 billion - and the seat rows and numbers were written on the backs of each chair in magic marker? This was true in section D on the second weekend, much to the consternation of hopelessly lost natives as well as visitors.

How nice it would be to see the shotputters. Not just the implement flying out from behind a sign, but how about the throwers as well? It’s a little like watching the skis of a ski jumper without the skier attached.

One afternoon I sleep through my alarm and dash to the Metro, groggy. I turn left when I should have turned right and end up nine stops away from the stadium. I miss the men’s steeplechase; this is damaging.

I do understand full well the responsibility of the tourist (me) to travel well; that is, to be prepared for travel in the host country. Yet even universally recognized diagrams or symbols – of the stadium posted on its subway stops, for example – would indicate some effort on the hosts’ part to make life easier on the visitors whose funds and endorsement they so eagerly seek.

If anyone saves the Sochi Games games it will be the people of Russia who extended themselves to me and others to help us get where we were going (and I will write about these trip and soul-saving wonders in my next post). A man with a tablet saves the day by taking the time to call up a map, and he redirects me to the stadium.

I bow, deeply, in gratitude. I still see the women’s 1500m, so all is not lost.

On the day of the men’s 50k walk, I encounter the foulest portable toilet offense of my traveling life. What would it take to establish and keep a regular schedule of cleaning these out?

Hosts note: these are things your guests remember.

Exiting the stadium becomes a patience tester. The stands are emptied one section at a time. On two nights it takes well over twenty minutes to be released; some fans report thirty.

Soldiers in uniform guard the exits.

Enthusiastically.

They are inflexible with their exit policy.

Once outside the stadium, the meager fan zone begs comparison not only to previous Worlds but to other major meets. Eugene’s 2012 Olympic Trials fan zone far exceeds this one in terms of welcome and engagement. In Eugene, I wanted to stay and explore. Here, there is no place designed to encourage people to gather, and we walk towards the Metro stop.

There, we are greeted by two long lines of soldiers and are funneled towards the subway entrance. I want to bail out to the right to join friends at a nearby restaurant. A young woman in uniform surveys the situation, denies my request, and says, “Turn right at horse.”

I look up.

Indeed, much farther along, another young woman - part of the equestrian corps - is in full military regalia atop an enormous beast near the Metro stop.

I march by dozens of soldiers and do, in fact, turn right at horse.

I understand full well the need for security as well as crowd control. But for crowd control you would need, well… a crowd.

*  *  *

On the second night, still not confident of my Metro-in-Cyrillic abilities,
I take a cab to Luzhniki Stadium.

As we arrive the driver turns to me and says enthusiastically,

“Stadion!!! Football - yes?!"

If the cabbies don’t know the World Championships are in town…





Sunday, August 18, 2013

Cue Bedlam - Moscow Moments from Luzhniki Stadium on Saturday, 8/17


It’s Saturday night in Luzhniki Stadium and the crowd is rockin’.

It’s the second ‘Russia night’ in a row as home country athletes surprise and delight the hometown crowd. 

The rhythmic chant of RUUSSS-EEEEEE-YYYAAA!!!!!!!! will wake me for weeks to come.

Russian success reaches deep beyond the favorites. Yuliya Kondakova PRs in the 100m hurdles for the second consecutive race and advances to the final. No pressure, mind you, as the crowd goes ballistic every time a Russian is introduced, not to mention what happens when they perform well.

The bubble bursts as Kondakova finishes last in the final - but hey, that introduction! I’d wear that around my neck for the next lifetime or two.

Favorite Anna Chicherova falters to tie for third in the high jump. No problem – insert Svetlana Shlokina for gold instead and give the crowd two medals to cheer.

Dimitri Tarabin steals bronze from Kenya’s Julius Yego with his dramatic last throw, thereby ruining a terrific story line about Kenya’s first javelin medal; the year before, Yego became Kenya’s first field event entrant in the Olympics and finished 12th

Ruined? Not for this crowd.

And most memorably, the Russian women take gold in the 4x400m relay as Antonina Krivoshapka fulfills her great potential with the anchor leg of a lifetime.

I’ll not attempt to catalogue every Russian success of this scintillating evening. However, it fairly predictably goes something like this:

A Russian medals: cue bedlam.

One of the unexpected pleasures of my many Worlds is learning the music of national anthems. Two of my favorites are from Jamaica and Russia, the Jamaican beautiful and elegant and the Russian beautiful and majestic.

Not a bad way to end the evening than to have a stadium full of Russians honor their relay team with a harmonized chorus of 40,000.

The Russian relay win is widely viewed as an upset, but I had Russia picked for gold long before the US lost Allyson Felix in this event, just as I had the Russian men for bronze. And I don’t think either pick was a stretch. Why?

National focus.

The Russians have known for years that they would be hosting Worlds. This gave them the opportunity to plan and to focus on earning medals in every possible way so they could be their best on this world stage. After all, the estimated worldwide television audience is over 2 billion (one source has it at 5); the marathon course was clearly designed as a travel brochure for Moscow.

The US waits until nationals to create a relay pool less than two months before Worlds and takes it from there. Handoff practice, anyone?

An awkward 3-4 exchange costs the US dearly in the 4x4. What you don’t want to do is give Krivoshapka hope. In Moscow. Tonight.

Observing that we need a stronger focus on relays is nothing new. It’s just painful to see it cost us again, especially when Russian success highlights the effectiveness of their system and the inefficiencies of ours.

Earlier in the evening I stand outside the stadium and watch the marathoners finish. Champion Stephen Kiprotich streams by, waving vigorously.

I watch several marathoners on the screen, straining to break 2:20. I note to myself how important this milestone is on a hot day like this, no matter the original goal. One of them is Jordan Chipangama of Zambia, who accomplishes this with 2:19:47, 29th place. The crowd claps and cheers at the screen and at his effort.

I feel somewhat disrespectful as I step away from my outside vantage point while runners are still finishing. But it’s time for the hurdles semis, my entrance is blocked by the marathon finish, and I know by now that this will create hurdles of my own in getting to my seat, the Russian military staffing this event not yet having established a reputation for flexibility.

During the evening Ben Rosario of Flagstaff, AZ, US, running entrepreneur, two-time US Olympic marathon trials qualifier, and founder of RunFanShop.com, takes his seat next to me. He is Jordan Chipangama’s coach. He and I speak track and field, and we’re in the zone. It’s the second major meet in a row I’ve met a thoughtful and engaging guy named Ben, and my track and field family grows again.

Ben can’t reach Chipangama on his cell phone, and he tries repeatedly. His concern for his athlete is affecting, and he can only trust that he is being taking care of down below. While Chipangama had hoped for more - he had a 2:10 in mind – all that matters now is that he is OK.

Brianna Rollins wins the 100m hurdles. In consecutive races we have two Olympic champions side-by-side, Dawn Harper-Nelson (2008) and Sally Pearson (2012). Neither wins as young Rollins overcomes a dismal start to win by .06.

As Rollins celebrates, the young Russian mother next to me turns and says, “Congratulations!”

If we could just leave the governments out of this...

Her husband and two-year-old are next to us, and in a gold medal performance, the two-year-old cheerfully withstands a withering setting sun assault without a peep.

I’d stand and sing for her anytime.



Saturday, August 17, 2013

Day 9 - Sun, 8/18 - w Javelin, m Triple Jump, m 1500m, w 800m, w 4x100m, m 4x100m


w Javelin
This year’s women’s javelin looks just like the women’s high jump: two big names at the top, with the field wide open behind them. Germany’s Christina Obergfoll trails Russia’s Maria Abakumova on the yearly list, but head-to-head, Obergfoll has won every contest, including four Diamond League meets, and she is 7-1 overall.

Two metres behind Obergfoll are Linda Stahl of Germany and China’s Huihui Lu. Stahl has been in majors finals three times and won bronze in London. She was fifth in her only Diamond League meet this season (why only one DL meet?) but won 6 others, including the German Championships to hand Obergfoll her only loss.Lu was fifth in London and is certainly one to watch.

Obergfoll has four Olympic and World medals - none of them gold. It’s her time.

  1. Christina Obergfoll, Ger
  2. Maria Abakumova, Rus
  3. Linda Stahl, Ger

m Triple Jump
With gold in Daegu and London, Christian Taylor (US) is going for the triple crown in Moscow. With four Diamond League wins, he has the best competitive record in the event this year – though do note a couple of uncharacteristic third-place finishes. London silver medalist Will Claye was third in Daegu – time to complete the set? Teddy Tamgho France is one of the most consistent performers since 2010; this year in 11 competitions he has four firsts, six seconds, and a third. Reserve a spot for him on the medal stand.

Last year’s World Junior Champion Pedro Pichardo of Cuba leads the outdoor world list at 58’ ½”; while he has jumped close to home for the first half of the season, he sustained his placings with 1st at Lausanne and 3rd at Monaco. One to watch.

Three entries in our all-name competition: Cuba’s Ernesto Reve – jumps an average of approximately two feet farther per competition at home in Cuba but falls off considerably when he competes off the island; for him, winning worlds would be a dream. Youngster Alexiy Fedorov, who always looks good in a hat, may not be quite there yet, but he was a surprise winner of the Russian National Championships. Italy’s Daniel Greco actually leads to world list at half an inch farther than Pichardo; not quite sure how an indoor March mark will stand up. Perhaps he’s been too busy painting?

  1. Christian Taylor (US)
  2. Teddy Tamgho (FR)
  3. Pedro Pichardo (Cuba)

m 1500m
A review of Kenya’s team might come close to a review of the best contenders for medals. Asbel Kiprop is only 25, and yet his Olympic gold medal stretches time back to Beijing, and his World gold updates it to Daegu. A last-minute injury in London saw him finish last when he was heavily favored to win. Now, he is an even stronger favorite to take gold in Moscow. With three convincing Diamond League wins, including his stunning 3:27.72 in Monaco, and a sub-1:50 finish, Kiprop is clearly the man of the hour. He is now within striking distance of the world record of 3:26.00, though that is not likely in a meet of heats.

His teammates Silas Kiplagat and Nixon Chepseba are stars in their own right, and Bethwell Birgen was pulled to a 3:30.77 in the dramatic Monaco meet; it seems that a Kenyan star of the future might have found his present. Kiplagat won the Kenyan Trials as well as silver in Daegu, and he won the Pre meet mile in 3:49.48. Chepseba also made the London final but was 11th ahead of Kiprop – not a great day in the annals of Kenyan distance running.

Ayanleh Souleiman (Dji) won Oslo and Paris, while Ethiopia’s Amon Wote won the DL Birmingham race; 3:49.88 got him 3rd at Pre!

The US Olympic 2-4 duo of Leo Manzano and Matt Centrowitz has been searching for a return to form. Perhaps the last two weeks of no racing will be to their advantage; their withering speed always makes them contenders, and their 2-4 in the London Olympics was better than… yes, any other nation.

  1. Asbel Kiprop,Ken
  2. Silas Kiplagat, Ken
  3. Amon Wote, Eth

w 800m
Everyone’s favorite seems to be Russia’s Maria Savinova, the Olympic and World champion.
She’s had an unusual approach to her season with only three 800s (and a 4x400 leg at the Russian Championships), but she’s confirmed her fitness with a 1:58.75 in early June. She peaks beautifully, and her winning times of 1:55.87 in Daegu and 1:56.19 in London ought to give her competitors pause.

Francine Niyonsaba (Bur) leads the world list with 1:56.72 in Eugene. Brenda Martinez (US) and Janeth Jepkosgei (Ken) followed her in Eugene in 1:58.18 and 1:58.71. Martinez won the London Diamond League race and was second to Alysia Montano in the US title race. Jepkosgei was last in the quick London final, but brings a wealth of experience with a complete set of World medals as well as silver from Beijing. She’s finished 2nd or 3rd in each of four major races this year.

Russia’s Olympic bronze medalist Ekaterina Poistogova is in the mix once again with a sub-2:00 win in Oslo. Morocco’s Malika Akkaoui is peaking well with two wins in her last three races and a stellar 1:57.64 in second behind Francine Niyonsaba (BDI) in Paris.

Niyonsaba, a London finalist 7th, has the best competitive record coming in to Moscow with three Diamond League wins, but, most unfortunately, is out with injury.

US champ Alysia Montano, fifth in London, was only seven tenths away from silver. The five-time US champion showed great fitness in 3rd in Paris in a fast 1:57.75, but followed with a DNF in Madrid

  1. Mariya Savinova, Rus
  2. Malika Akkaoui, Mor
  3. Alysia Montano, US

w 4x100m relay
With a 1-2-3 of English Gardner (10.85), Octavious Freeman (10.87), and Alexandria Anderson (10.91) joined by defending world champ Carmelita Jeter (10.93), the defending Olympic Champs look hard to beat. Great depth with Jeneba Tarmoh and Barbara Pierre should ease the early rounds. With Shelly-Ann Fraser-Price and Kerron Stewart, the Jamaican relay looks like a strong candidate for silver, even with Veronica Campbell-Brown out on a drug violation. Ukraine won Olympic bronze over a Nigerian team anchored by a now-faster Blessing Okagbare. Trinidad and Tobago will want to avenge their Olympic DQ; could be a fascinating matchup between Okagbare and Kelley-Ann Baptiste on anchor. Russia has had this meet as a national training focus for several years; expect a highly disciplined team with perfect passes. Ukraine returns from a bronze in London and with Mariye Ryemeyen having defeated Duncan over 200m in Lausanne.

  1. United States
  2. Jamaica
  3. Trinidad and Tobago

m 4x100m relay
With Bolt (9.85), Carter (9.87), Cole (9.96), and Ashmeade (9.99), Jamaica simply has more depth than the US with Gatlin (9.89), Locke (9.96), Rodgers (9.96) and Silmon (9.98). Did I mention Jamaica’s anchor? It’s wide open for bronze. Interestingly, St. Kitts has three at 10.01 or faster, and Great Britain has an outstanding anchor in James Dasaolu (9.91). Canada returns only two of last year’s bronze DQ team.

  1. Jamaica
  2. United States
  3. St. Kitts






Friday, August 16, 2013

Teardrop of Sunlight - Moscow Moments from Friday, 8/16


The morning sessions of the World and Olympic Championships have always held special appeal.

This is where the stories begin, surprises take place, the obscure line up against the greats, and national records are set by athletes who do not advance but who nonetheless become heroes in their own countries.

Much has been made of the sparseness of the crowds at these World Championships; they are never smaller than at the morning sessions. Yet this provides fans a terrific opportunity to connect more closely with the competitions, their developing storylines, and the thousand subtle moments that create the character of these championships.

There is one inherent difference between the morning and evening sessions: these are qualifiers, not finals; twelve in each field event leave with hope still alive.

Triple jumpers exit two by two after having met the automatic qualifying standard. They wave to the crowd and return appreciation. Javelin throwers who advance on their first attempt are done for the day. That’s it, just one throw.

This morning, the first to leave are those who succeed.

Their performances are greeted with roars from the crowd that belie our small numbers. The acoustics of this stadium amplify even moderate sound. Imagine when the soccer World Cup is here.

What would these championships be without the Ukrainian fans? In two separate sections they sit in massive numbers, their identity created by the blue and yellow shirts they wear in the image of their nation’s flag – rows of blue across the top and even more of yellow below.

Italy and Ukraine engage in the morning’s mightiest battle.

The top two will advance in each of three heats of the women’s 4x400m relay, with the 7th and 8th qualifiers determined by time. In an epic last-lap battle, Italy edges Ukraine by 1/100th of a second for the 2nd spot in this heat. Now Ukraine must wait through the next two rounds to see if they advance on time.

Ultimately, they do not, and that 1/100th will define their year. The human flag dissolves as disappointed Ukrainians head for the exits.

Great Britain’s Adam Gemili shatters his PR with a 20.17 200m – how’s that for breakfast? Brianna Rollins jets down the hurdles runway in 12.55. That’s the breakfast of champions.

Bruno Hortelano takes second in his 200m heat and advances in 20.47, a Spanish national record. That won’t make headlines anywhere but Spain, but oh the reception when he gets home.

The morning’s most engaging moment takes place between 19-year-old World Junior champion Delanno Williams (GBR) and Usain Bolt in their 200m heat.

With meters to go, Bolt looks around and starts to cruise in. He seems a bit surprised to see Williams so close and does a double-take at the temerity of this youngster to challenge him.

Williams break into a huge grin, Bolt does, too – and nods at the youngster. A nod of respect, a nod of appreciation, a nod of inclusion - a welcome into the club.

Many expect Williams to be a star of the future. Without saying a word, Usain Bolt has just said it’s so.

Friday morning dawns cool and sunny in Moscow. As the sun peeks into the stadium through the oval roof, it creates a broad swath of light at the far end which narrows at the near.

Like a teardrop of sunlight, it advances through the stadium, gradually rewarding this morning’s faithful with its welcome embrace.

Day 8 - Sat, 8/17 - m Marathon, w High Jump, m Javelin, w 5,000m, w 4x400m Relay,w 100m Hurdles, w 200m

m Marathon
Tsegaye Kebede (Eth) has won London twice including this year, and set his PR in winning Chicago in 2012. He won bronze in both Beijing and Berlin and is a great major meet competitor. Stephen Kiprotich, UGA, is the Olympic champion; since then, he’s finished 6th at London and run 27:58 for 10k.

Feyisa Lilesa, Eth, won bronze in steamy Daegu; it could be hot and humid in Moscow as well. He has been nipping at the heels of greatness but has yet to put together a major win.

The IAAF website notes that Bernard Koech (Ken) ran a 59:54 half-marathon in Lisbon two months after running 2:05:53 in Dubai in January. True, but he even more remarkably followed that with a 58:41 half marathon in June! A man of steel: fast and strong.

Lelisa Desisa (Eth) owns the world’s top mark on the pancake course in Dubai and then returned to win Boston in April. Is a third all-out effort too much to ask in 8 months? Note that 5 runners in all finished within 8 seconds of each other in Dubai!

I had hoped Geoffrey Mutai, Ken, one of the most consistent of the top-level road runners, would be in this race, but it appears not to be. Winner of Boston and New York in 2011 and Berlin in 2012, this year he has run 27:57 on the track and 27:37 and 27:39 on the roads. Did I mention his 58:58 half-marathon in February? Yowza!

With team running tactics, an Ethiopian sweep is not out of the question.

  1. Bernard Koech, Ken
  2. Tsegaye Kebede, Eth
  3. Lelisa Desisa, Eth

w High Jump
A home win for Anna Chicherova would be hugely popular.The World and Olympic champion also has a silver and two bronzes in her last 5 major meets. She has won four of six competitions this year, and has a 4-1 record against London silver medalist, the effervescent Brigetta Barrett (US). Barrett tops the yearly list at 6’8 ¼” with Chicherova ¾” behind.

In a wide open contest for bronze, Olympic bronze medalist Svetlana Shokolina gives Russia a strong chance of winning two medals. Italy’s young Alessia Trost is third on the worldlist, and Spain’s Ruth Beitia is right behind her. Croatia’s Blanca Vlasic is one of the notable absentees from this championship.

If this were about singing the national anthem, Barrett would win gold for sure.

  1. Anna Chicherova, Rus
  2. Brigetta Barrett,US
  3. Svetlana Shokolina, Rus

w Javelin
This year’s women’s javelin looks just like the women’s high jump: two big names at the top, with the field wide open behind them. Germany’s Christina Obergfoll trails Russia’s Maria Abakumova on the yearly list, but head-to-head, Obergfoll has won every contest, including four Diamond League meets, and she is 7-1 overall.

Two metres behind Obergfoll are Linda Stahl of Germany and China’s Huihui Lu. Stahl has been in majors finals three times and won bronze in London. She was fifth in her only Diamond League meet this season (why only one DL meet?) but won 6 others, including the German Championships to hand Obergfoll her only loss.Lu was fifth in London and is certainly one to watch.

Obergfoll has four Olympic and World medals - none of them gold. It’s her time.

  1. Christina Obergfoll, Ger
  2. Maria Abakumova, Rus
  3. Linda Stahl, Ger

w 5000m
There’s always something of a mystery about who is going to run which distance event, but this year we seem to be in for disappointment as the latest word from Moscow is that Meseret Defar will run only the 5,000m and Tirunesh Dibaba the 10,000m. It’s bad enough that we have so many stars missing from Moscow, but to have them there and dodge each other? The frostiness between the Ethiopians is well-established; is it really better to avoid losing than to walk away with silver? It seems neither wants to risk losing twice. Nonetheless, this makes Meseret Defar a heavy favorite to win at 5k and Tirunesh Dibaba an even stronger favorite to win at 10k.

Few could have been more heavily favored in London than Tirunesh Dibaba in the distances on the track. So when Meseret Defar pulled off her last lap shocker, it seems to have had an impact which ripples all the way to these worlds. Almaz Ayana (Eth) has actually run faster at 5k than her teammate Defar this season, as she was pulled to a 14:25 behind Dibaba’s 14:23 at Paris.

But Defar dusted the field by 6 ½ seconds in Oslo, with Kenya’s Viola Kibiwott next in a very creditable 14:33. Mercy Cherono, Kibiwott’s teammate and Kenyan Trials winner, will be in the mix as well, as she tested Dibaba in Eugene’s 5k and finished only half a second behind.

  1. Meseret Defar, Eth
  2. Almaz Ayana, Eth
  3. Mercy Cherono, Ken

w 4x400m relay
The United States dominated the Olympic 1600m relay by more than 3.5 seconds over Russia. How to make that up for a popular home-town win? Well, for starters, take Sanya Richards-Ross off the US team with injury. Russia and the US are tantalizingly close on paper this year, and this could well come down to how fast hurdlers Natalia Antyukh and LaShinda Demus run. This will be fun in front of the home crowd. Great Britain and Jamaica should duke it out for bronze; Jamaica has 5 under 50.91, while GB has former world and Olympic champ Christine Ohuruogu on anchor.

  1. Russia
  2. United States
  3. Great Britain

w 100m hurdles
Let’s see… NCAA and US champion… US and 2x collegiate record setter this year… 12.26… the #4 performer all-time with = #5 performance. Only .05 away from Yordanka Donkova’s (Bul) 25 year old world record. She has kept a low profile since US nationals with a couple of sharpening races in Switzerland and Finland… good coaching considering the multiple rounds she ran in June. Brianna Rollins is almost 2/10 of a second ahead of the world… and yet their is a question of experience. OK, she’s short on international experience but is used to the collegiate grind.

Much like Aries Merritt on the men’s side, Australia’s Sally Pearson is not having quite the dominant year she had on her way to Olympic gold. She had a busy July as she raced herself back into shape, but she remains almost 4/10 of a second behind Rollins on the yearly list.

Beijing gold medalist Dawn Harper-Nelson has more international experience than teammates Nia Ali and Queen Harrison, though Harrison has compiled a relatively strong competitive record this year. Harper-Nelson has three Diamond League wins to her credit, and only Rollins has more wins overall. The only thing keeping me from picking the veteran over the new star is a significant .27 time differential this season – but that can go in one hurdle, right?

  1. Brianna Rollins, US
  2. Sally Pearson, Aus
  3. Dawn Harper-Nelson, US

m 200m
Bolt seems a lock here as well as he leads the yearly list at 19.73, with teammates Warren Weir, Jason Young, and Nickel Ashmeade forming a stellar 4x200m – if only there were one. This could well be a repeat Jamaican sweep. Wallace Spearmon is not as high on the yearly time list as I’d like to see him, but the US veteran is an outstanding multi-round competitor. Isiah Young’s stellar 19.86 behind Tyson Gay at the US Nationals can’t be overlooked, especially after making the US London Olympic team, and he has recent collegiate multi-round experience.

  1. Usain Bolt (Jam)
  2. Warren Weir (Jam)
  3. Isiah Young (US)










Teardrop of Sunlight - Moscow Moments from Friday, August 16


The morning sessions of the World and Olympic Championships have always held special appeal.

This is where the stories begin, surprises take place, the obscure line up against the greats, and national records are set by athletes who do not advance but who nonetheless become heroes in their own countries.

Much has been made of the sparseness of the crowds at these World Championships; they are never smaller than at the morning sessions. Yet this provides fans a terrific opportunity to connect more closely with the competitions, their developing storylines, and the thousand subtle moments that create the character of these championships.

There is one inherent difference between the morning and evening sessions: these are qualifiers, not finals; twelve in each field event leave with hope still alive.

Triple jumpers exit two by two after having met the automatic qualifying standard. They wave to the crowd and return appreciation. Javelin throwers who advance on their first attempt are done for the day. That’s it, just one throw.

This morning, the first to leave are those who succeed.

Their performances are greeted with roars from the crowd that belie our small numbers. The acoustics of this stadium amplify even moderate sound. Imagine when the soccer World Cup is here.

What would these championships be without the Ukrainian fans? In two separate sections they sit in massive numbers, their identity created by the blue and yellow shirts they wear in the image of their nation’s flag – rows of blue across the top and even more of yellow below.

Italy and Ukraine engage in the morning’s mightiest battle.

The top two will advance in each of three heats of the women’s 4x400m relay, with the 7th and 8th qualifiers determined by time. In an epic last-lap battle, Italy edges Ukraine by 1/100th of a second for the 2nd spot in this heat. Now Ukraine must wait through the next two rounds to see if they advance on time.

Ultimately, they do not, and that 1/100th will define their year. The human flag dissolves as disappointed Ukrainians head for the exits.

Great Britain’s Adam Gemili shatters his PR with a 20.17 200m – how’s that for breakfast? Brianna Rollins jets down the hurdles runway in 12.55. That’s the breakfast of champions.

Bruno Hortelano takes second in his 200m heat and advances in 20.47, a Spanish national record. That won’t make headlines anywhere but Spain, but oh the reception when he gets home.

The morning’s most engaging moment takes place between 19-year-old World Junior champion Delanno Williams (GBR) and Usain Bolt in their 200m heat.

With meters to go, Bolt looks around and starts to cruise in. He seems a bit surprised to see Williams so close and does a double-take at the temerity of this youngster to challenge him.

Williams breaks into a huge grin, Bolt does, too – and nods at the youngster. A nod of respect, a nod of appreciation, a nod of inclusion - a welcome into the club.

Many expect Williams to be a star of the future. Without saying a word, Usain Bolt has just said it’s so.

Friday morning dawns cool and sunny in Moscow. As the sun peeks into the stadium through the oval roof, it creates a broad swath of light at the far end which narrows at the near.

Like a teardrop of sunlight, it advances through the stadium, gradually rewarding this morning’s faithful with its welcome embrace.