Thursday, June 26, 2014

Throws and Cons

US track and field enthusiasts – and shot put devotees in particular – have been treated to two engaging fan experiences this past month.

At the Prefontaine Classic, the men’s Diamond League shot put was opened to the Distance Night in Eugene crowd, and hundreds of fans streamed onto the infield and watched putters from mere meters away.
Sacramento’s memorable backdrop was the State Capitol building, a spectacular location if you can get it. In an imaginative and inspired approach to engaging capital city office workers who had never seen a track and field event before, meet officials were big winners when it came to bringing new fans to the sport.
In Eugene, track fans already were inside the stadium when they were invited to join the throwers. When it came to preaching to the choir, the choir sang from the infield.
The energy of the Sacramento competition was so high that it might actually have adversely affected the competition itself. Men’s practice throws over 72 feet were the order of the day, yet in the competition itself there were only two throws over 70’. Even winner Joe Kovacs said in his post-meet interview to the crowd that he might have saved more for the event itself.
Props to the person who chose the music, as the loud, insistent beat of 70s and 80s rock anthems did much to create the energy of the event. What’s a shot competition without a little Ozzy Osbourne and Black Sabbath? This is not a question I ever thought I’d be asking myself. It was especially fun to match songs to performances; for example, when Albert Fournette took the ring, he found himself spinning to “You Give Love a Bad Name.” Would that be appropriate for a world record or a foul?! He fouled.
It must strike the rest of the athletics world as odd that the United States would hold its national championships in a facility that cannot accomodate throwing events (update 6/28: except the discus) inside the stadium. This should especially be a major consideration when it comes to the awarding of future US Olympic Trials, though even repeated Trials host Eugene has the hammer adjacent to Hayward Field. Where does the hammer go if Eugene wins its bid for the World Championships?
Nonetheless, Sacramento meet organizers can bask in the glory of Wednesday’s tremendous success. If Sacramento wins the US Olympic Trials, I’m just trying to imagine where the hammer would go. The Capital Mall landscapers might object.

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