Saturday, August 29, 2015

Melissa, Ashton and Cheering Chinese

Sometimes you get lucky when covering these events.

The very first time Track and Field News linked to an article of mine, it was two summers ago after the Harry Jerome and Victoria International meets in Canada. The focus was on several athletes and on their quest to achieve the World Championships “A” standard.

The first athlete I wrote about was Melissa Bishop, who shrieked when she crossed the finish line and saw her time: 1:59.76, her first time under two minutes, and an automatic qualifier for the 2013 World Championships.

She was not on anyone’s radar screen for a medal here until the semi-final rounds when she ran 1:57.52 to win the deepest qualifying round in World Championships history (1:58.50 did not make the finals out of this semi).

Tonight she won silver, just .09 out of what would have been one of the most improbable golds at these championships.

As it is, it’s one of the most improbable silvers.

All of you claiming to have had her in your top three in your prediction contests likely know “O Canada” by heart.

Ashton Eaton’s javelin throw was key to putting him in position to go after his world record in the decathlon; his second throw - had it been fair - would have made his task in the 1500m much easier.

Many on press row thought he had thrown in the towel on the first lap, and it was clear after two laps he was well behind the pace needed to break his own world record. But Eaton, as he had in his world record in the US Olympic Trials in 2012, played a waiting game. Turns out he was just warming up.

Eaton unleashed a tremendous kick in the last 300m and stopped the clock at 4:17.52, just under the 4:18.25 he needed. He added 6 points to his best-ever score, which now stands at 9045.

Chinese Athletes at Worlds
After not having struck gold during their own Olympics in 2008, China did so in the women’s 20k racewalk when Hong Liu won gold – and Xiuzhi Lu added silver for good measure. China has seven medals in these championships, one gold, five silver, and one bronze.

Tonight’s crowd reaction to the men’s sprint relay silver was among the most compelling I’ve heard in the eight World Championships I’ve attended.

Deep-throated, visceral, a soul-touching sound.

Last Sunday, China’s Bingtian Su made the 100m final and finished last.

You shoulda heard ‘em for 9th.

I’m sitting in the Bird's Nest and am certainly feeling wistful in this inevitable moment of departure.

I'm working on a reflection about the meet and these remarkable three months since the press pass came my way; I need a little time, distance, and a sunny airplane ride across the Pacific to complete it. 

In the meantime, I’ll close with this: for this experience, I am grateful beyond words.

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