Sunday, July 10, 2016

One for the Ages


Thoughts and reflections on the 9th day of the US Olympic Trials

*It’s a given that the Hayward Field crowd response to an Oregon athlete is amplified by the athlete’s Duckness. I had already made a note to write about the crowd’s roar in Devon Allen’s win in the third semi-final of the men’s 110m high hurdles. Then he won the entire event.

Heard anything like that recently? Well, yes – it was much the same with Ducks Jenna Prandini, Ariana Washington, Deajah Stevens, and Galen Rupp all  Saturday afternoon.

Then 41-year-old Bernard Lagat won the men’s 5,000m.

In defiance of aging, Lagat finished off his astonishing 5,000m victory with a 52.82 final lap. Saturday’s roar joins legendary Hayward Field crowd responses to the men’s 2008 800m - when three runners training in Oregon made the Olympic team - and Alan Webb’s 3:53.3 national high school record in the mile in the 2001 Prefontaine Classic.

Oh, yes - there was quite a response several decades ago. Also the men’s 5,000m.

It may well have been 1972 when we last heard an Olympic Trials roar like this.

Lagat, who did not want to end his Hayward Field career on a down-note, was worried after dropping out of both the Olympic Trials 10,000m and this year’s Prefontaine Classic 5,000m. But he kept perspective about the meaning of Saturday’s win to himself and his family.

He wanted “… to win in front of my kids, who had been telling me we had to go. My daughter tells me, ‘Daddy, I want to go back to the Olympics so I can watch gymnastics.’”

*So much rides on so little:

-         Omar Craddock finished 4th in the triple jump, 2”/5cm behind Chris Bernard.

-         Eric Jenkins missed the Olympic team by .06 in the men’s 5,000m. Try timing six one-hundredths by hand on a stopwatch.

-         Aries Merritt and possibly the greatest story of the Olympics: he missed the team by an agonizing 1/100th in the men’s hurdles. The kidney transplant patient - who won bronze at the 2015 Beijing World Championships 4 days before his transplant - was the picture of grace in post-race interviews.

*Chris Lotsbom of Race Results Weekly asked this trenchant question in a twitter post several nights ago: why do Hayward Field fans clap and cheer for athletes who have failed drug tests? Granted, they have served their time in suspensions, but this does not absolve them of their role in cheating. When a LaShawn Merritt or Justin Gatlin wins, my small protest is that I just don’t clap. Sound ineffective? What if we all didn’t clap and cheer? The silence would be deafening – and eloquent.

*Meanwhile, speaking of clapping, I have a peeve of my own: please, no rhythmic clapping or victory cheers when athletes are in their blocks. Do the best fans in the world really need to be told this?

*Galen Rupp showed up bedecked in aerodynamic tape for Saturday’s 5,000m race. If it does, as he claims, reduce air drag by up to 2%, it begs the question of when the line is crossed between using technology for an ethical advantage and when technology helps too much. Swimming had to address this question when full-body suits (based in more buoyant polyurethane material) were banned in 2010 after a wholesale rewriting of the record book once these suits were introduced.

*Special note to Olympic Trials hurdles champion Devon Allen: 

Dude, it’s time to stop playing football. 

The universe has been telling you this for some time now.  You’re the Olympic Trials champion and in the thick of a worldwide discussion of who the Olympic hurdle medalists will be.

This or 9 catches for 94 yards? 


  1. Great article, Mark. Love it. Do you think the home court and crowd give any advantage to Oregon athletes. Did it carry Prandini to victory over Felix?

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