Saturday, March 26, 2016

Meeting Nike's Phil Knight at World Indoors

Phil Knight: "Bill Bowerman Put the Soles on These Shoes!"

"Bill Bowerman put the soles on these shoes!"
Karl Eagleman photo
"You won't believe what I have in this bag!"

"Try me!" said Phil Knight

I brought the highlights of my early Nike running shoe and memorabilia collection with me to the World Indoor Athletics Championships in Portland.

At USATFs the week before, I introduced myself to Adam Schmenck, producer of USATF's "The Cool Down," and offered to bring key parts of my collection to Worlds.

Adam arranged for me to be interviewed by Dan O'Brien, 1996 Olympic and three-time World decathlon champion, in the final segment of the World Championships "Cool Down" shows. (see interview here:

I had long hoped to meet Phil Knight and to read him the story of what happened between Steve Prefontaine and me on the day Pre won the Olympic Trials 5,000m in 1972. And naturally, I wanted to show Knight my shoe and memorabilia collection.

Giving the inventory lists of my Nike shoes
and memorabilia collection to Phil Knight.
USATF's Karl Eagleman is at left.
Adam Schmenk photo
Shortly after filming the interview with O'Brien, I ran into Knight as he entered the arena. Remarkably, after wanting to meet him for 45 years, when I finally did I was carrying a bag with the 5 rarest shoes in my right hand and a clipboard with inventory lists for the entire collection in my left.

I showed him two pairs, the Bowerman waffle iron shoes (which I'm holding on the right of the first photo), and an unusual pair of Blue Ribbon Sports (Knight's company that morphed into Nike) shoes that has the original BRS soles replaced with waffle material.

"Bill Bowerman put the soles on these shoes!" exclaimed Knight.

I pulled the inventory lists off my clipboard and handed them to Knight, along with my card.

I turned to the Prefontaine story and let Knight know how much I had always hoped for the opportunity to read it to him.

Beaming, he said, "Well, we can make that happen."


Sunday, March 20, 2016

Epic Day in Portland

With gold in the 4x400m men's and women's relays, gold by Matthew Centrowitz in the 1500m, gold by high schooler Vashti Cunningham in the high jump, gold by Marquis Dendy in the long jump, silver by Ryan Hill in the 3,000m, silver by Ajee Wilson in the 800m, and bronze by Shannon Rowbury in the 3,000m, the United States gave a definitive performance at the World Championships in Portland today. This will serve as a springboard into an Olympic year and will alter the perception left from a lackluster team performance at the Bejing World Championships last summer.

Certainly there were non-US highlights today, most especially Genzebe Dibaba's 7+ second win over Ethiopian teammate Meseret Defar in the women's 3,000m. But the story of these championships is of a deep and resurgent US team.

I will continue writing about this meet; there are many stories to tell.

Special note of thanks to Kyle and Carol.

World Indoors Day 3

It's very simple, really, this sport of ours. Boris Berian, Curtis Beach, and Michelle Carter demonstrated just how simple - and challenging - it can be on the third day of the World Indoor Championships in Portland, OR, on Saturday.

Last week Berian seemed to have fulfilled his enormous potential by winning his first US title at 800m. Try topping that with a World title. He sprinted to the lead of this remarkably deep field, never relinquished it, and burned off the kicks of even the world's greatest kickers like World outdoor champion, Mohammed Aman (ETH), with his gutsy, assertive - and brave - wire to wire run to a World title. That he pulled along teammate Chris Solinksky to a bronze topped a first-ever1-3 for the US in this event.

Curtis Beach sat in 6th place with the 1000m run to go in the men's heptathlon. A former US national high school record holder in the decathlon (with both JR and SR implements), Beach needed to leapfrog his way to 3rd to put himself on the world scene once again after 3 years of fighting injury. He negative split the first four of five laps: 29.93, 29.84, 29.41, 29.36, and he came home in 30.50. Germany's Mathias Brugger meanwhile ran the 1000m over four seconds faster than he ever had before and nipped Beach for bronze by only 8 points, 6126-6118.

Meanwhile, Michelle Carter (US), a multiple US champion in the shot put who had been a steady presence on the international scene until her bronze at the World Championships in Beijing last summer, pulled out a classic last-throw win with a new US record of 66' 3 3/4". This breaks the previous record by 1' 1/2", a truly massive improvement.

Run faster, yes; throw farther, yes. It usually works, but not when 6 other events come into play, as they did for Beach in the heptathlon. A stumble in the hurdles likely cost him bronze. "I'd rather get 4th with that effort than anything higher with a mediocre effort," said Beach.

"I'm just happy to be in my mid-20s and compete in track and field. A lot of my friends have awesome jobs, but if they had the chance they would probably be doing track! I'm just happy to wake up every day and go out and train and that's the truth. I'm already ahead of the game and I'm loving it."

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Gold at First, Gold at Last

Arriving at the Oregon Convention Center for the 2016 World Indoor T+F Championships was a little like coming home to my Dutch relatives - I was greeted by waves of orange, the Dutch national color. Here was a sea of volunteers in bright orange shirts. Even my souvenir backpack is visible from Mars.

Gold at Last
The first full day of competition saw three-time World silver medalist Brianne Thiesen-Eaton join her husband, Ashton, as a World Champion. The Canadian pentathlete - a University of Oregon graduate - ran a thrilling 800m in front of a raucous crowd to win her first World title. In 3rd place with the 800m run to go - and more importantly, 150 points behind - Thiesen-Eaton rallied to an indoor personal best 2:09.99 to win by 34 points and send the partisan crowd into a frenzy.

The golden couple, indeed.

Gold at First
In a recent interview, Trayvon Bromell (US), spoke bravely about his decision to, well, take the money and run. He turned professional after medaling in the 100m at the outdoor World Championships in Beijing last August. Clearly, he missed his college coaches, missed his trainer, missed his teammates and missed being part of a team.

Perhaps not quite so much today. He now stands as the newly crowned World Champion of the 60m dash. Bromell won against a loaded field that included Jamaica's Asafa Powell, who in spite of a stellar 6.44 in the semi-finals, just missed his long-sought World title by 3/100th of a second. 9/100 separated 1st from 8th.

Bromell is 20.

Gold Forever?
That's what Thomas Walsh's (NZ) shot put competitors may well be asking, and with good reason. Walsh unleashed the greatest series of throws in indoor shot put history to win going away in 21.78m/71' 5.5". So dominant was he that 5 of his 6 throws would have won the competition. His 21.78 is his personal record, indoors or out.

Notable in his achievement is that there is no indoor track and field in New Zealand. In the past two years he has thrown indoors 4 times (including practice), and his total number of times in the wooden ring in his career he counts as "maybe 10."

His only disappointment? Walsh's coach had promised to grow a handlebar mustache if he threw 21.80.

After such a dominating performance, it's important to still have goals.

Up tonight is New Zealand's multiple World and Olympic gold medalist Valerie Adams in the shot put, with the distinct possibility of the island nation claiming both golds. She is coming back from serious injury... is she all the way back?

Saturday, March 12, 2016

High School Star Vashti Cunningham Soars to World High Jump Lead

Vashti Cunningham - already a high school high jump prodigy - set the US national high school record of 6'5" and then improved it to 6' 6.25" at the US Senior Indoor Nationals in Portland this evening. The latter is the highest jump in the world this year. A breakout star, the high school senior was poised and confident in her post-competition interviews. When asked what she expects to do at Worlds next week, she replied, "6'7", 6'8" - whatever it takes to win."

Other highlights:

A remarkably deep women's pole vault saw 5 over 15' 3". Sandi Morris set two personal bests on her way to upsetting Olympic gold medalist Jenn Suhr with her 16' 2.75" clearance. Suhr was over 16' as well, while Demi Payne took 3rd in 15' 11".

John Nunn seems to be recovering from his 50k Olympic qualifying race better than Galen Rupp is recovering from his marathon. He won the men's 3,000m race walk today. He grabbed the lead on the first lap, and while he had company from Nick Christie early in the 3rd kilometer, Nunn sped away and was never really headed.

An exciting women's long jump saw veteran Britney Reese win in 22' 7 1/4", with Janay DeLoach 2nd in 21' 9 1/2". Ajee Wilson dominated the women's 800m and won by over a second and a half in 2:00.87. Local favorite Matt Centrowitz ran from the front and controlled the men's 1500m until the last lap when Robby Andrews made it interesting by passing Centrowitz - who passed him back! Centrowitz won by .07 in 3:44.33.

Kurt Roberts won a thrilling men's shot put over veteran Reese Hoffa. Only one centimeter - 1/4 of an inch - separated the two. Roberts' winning mark was 65' 10.5".

Brenda Martinez stepped up to the 1500m and became national champion with a 1.6 second victory over Corey McGee in 4:08.37.

Boris Berian fulfilled his potential with his first national championship at 800m.

Friday, March 11, 2016

USATF Indoors

A brief note to let you know that I'll be reporting from the USATF Indoor National Championships on Saturday, March 12, at the Oregon Convention Center in Portland, OR.

Meanwhile, here's is a link to Jesse Squires' brilliant NCAA/USATF Fri/Sat schedule: