Sunday, August 23, 2015

Beijing Buzz - Sunday Morning, 8/23 - Day 2

It’s a steamy morning in Beijing. The temperature is 77F/27C and the humidity is 74%. For fans there’s a helpful breeze in the stadium, but it didn’t help the men's 20 kilometer racewalkers this morning. They had a surprising 08:45 start time – surprising that it was that late. The men’s marathon yesterday started at a more merciful 07:35, not that it ultimately helped much.

Spain’s Miguel Angel Lopez overtook China’s Zhan Wang in the very late stages of today’s 20k walk to win in a personal best of 1:19:14. A huge surprise in the bronze medal position was Canada’s Benjamin Thorne in a national record 1:19:57.

With three under 1:20 for the medals, the next three walkers finished under 1:21. The next ten came in in the next minute – a remarkably deep field.

How do you know you’re at Worlds? 16th place is 1:21:56.

The Men’s 400m heats were spectacular. In the first, four men broke 45.00. 

In the second, Yousef Masrahi (Saudi Arabia) and Rusheen McDonald (Jamaica) tied at 43.93, with Botswana’s Isaac Makwala 3rd in 44.19.

Olympic finals are jealous.

Great Britain’s ace Martyn Rooney scored a PB 44.45 in 4th, and The Netherlands’ Liemarvin Bonevacia set a national record of 44.72 in 5th. Czechoslovakia’s Pavel Maslak was the only member of this heat not to advance; his 45.16 would have won the 5th heat. Kicking himself for the rest of his life for missing this epic race will be Israel’s Donald Sanford, who did not start.

Stat maven K Ken Nakamura said, “This is the greatest first round 400m in history. The 400m has the potential to be the highlight of the meet.”

Women’s 100m
Not to be outdone, Torie Bowie (US) stepped to the line in the women’s 100m rounds in her first major meet appearance.

“Today, I wanted to stay relaxed” she said. “This is my first major championships and I came out here extremely nervous today. I had to constantly tell myself to relax, focus, do what you’ve been doing in training. My main goal was to try to execute the first 20 meters of my race because everyone knows it’s my weakness, it’s been my weakness. And I’ve worked really hard the past two weeks to try to correct it.”

She won in 10.88, the fastest first-round women’s 100m in the 15 iterations of these championships.

Men’s Shot Put
The usual suspects are through to tonight’s final; Joe Kovacs (US), David Storl (GER), and Reese Hoffa (US) all met the automatic qualifying mark of 20.65/67-9. Last to qualify was New Zealand’s young phenom with the fetching name of Jacko Gill. He edged out the US’s Jordan Clarke by 5cm.

It will be a throwing fan’s dream tonight as the men’s hammer throw and shot put finals unwind.

Women’s Heptathlon
Unfortunately, today’s biggest news was Katarina Johnson-Thompson’s failure to record a legal mark in the long jump. In silver medal position at the time, she appeared to have jumped the longest jump of the meet, but after several minutes’ review by officials, it was determined she had - barely - scratched. She now has the second lowest score of those remaining in the competition, but much to her credit, she competed in the javelin which followed, and seems determined to complete the competition with its final event, the 800m, this evening.

Meanwhile, here’s an example of what life can be like for prominent track and field athletes worldwide. 

Here is David Macharia in the Daily Nation, which covers East and Central Africa. This is after a mixed day for Kenya yesterday when its men’s marathoners did not medal, yet their men’s 10k team went 2-3-4. (Bolding is mine.)

"The 10,000m trio of Geoffrey Kamworor, Paul Tanui, and Bedan Karoki salvaged some Kenyan pride on Day One of the 2015 World Athletics Championships here after a horror show in the men's Marathon. After a disappointing performance in the first event of the day, where the highly-fancied team of Wilson Kipsang, Dennis Kimetto and Mark Korir went AWOL on the road, Kenya ended the day with some hope."

No pressure.

(Thanks to Track and Field News for the link.)

At US Nationals in Eugene, by the luck of the draw of which cards were placed next to each other for seating assignments, my press row compatriot to my left was Steve Ritchie of the Statesman Journal of Salem, Oregon. He covers athletes from Salem to Bend, with a stop in Prineville, Ashton Eaton’s hometown. Steve and I hit it off in Eugene and looked forward to staying in touch.

I had started my writing from Beijing with a reflection on the process by which my press pass came about, and vowed that that would be the last of my ‘can you believe this coincidence’ stories – for this meet, anyway.

Steve is sitting next to me. 

Granted, press row seats are assigned by nation, but still… the US delegation occupies a number of rows.

On my other side? K Ken Nakamura, one of the world’s greatest track and field statisticians.

I’ll fight you for my seat!

*From now on I'll be referring to the press section by its more contemporary name: the media tribune. Believe me, it's far more than one row.

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