Monday, August 15, 2016

World Records All Over the Place!

Who knew that a lithe 400m runner from South Africa could steal the spotlight from Usain Bolt?

Wayde van Niekerk accomplished that unlikely feat last night in Estadio Olimpico when he set the 400m world record of 43.03.

Van Niekerk broke Michael Johnson's 43.18 set 17 years ago in the World Championships final in Seville; I have the rare privilege of having seen the last two M 400m world records.

This morning Poland's Anita Wlodarczyk shattered her own world record in the hammer throw by 1.21 meters with a remarkable 82.29/269-11.

In a series for the ages, she had three of the top 5 longest throws in history; three times she moved her own previous bests down the lists! It is not overstating it to say that she is competing with herself, as she won by 18-2/5.54.

With that margin, she could win the pole vault.

While the hammer dramatics were taking place, Brunei's Ruth Jebet scared the steeplechase world record when she won in 8:59.75, missing the current world record by less than a second.

Jebet had 70 seconds to complete the last lap - well within her reach - and set the new record, but she slowed dramatically as she approached the finish line, seemingly more from joy than fatigue. After all, she was about to become Olympic champion, and no one else was close.

About that Bolt guy... the atmosphere in the stadium last night was electric, and the anticipation of the men's 100m final so high that the volunteers who brought out the blocks got a wild ovation from the crowd! And with all the anticipation of the 100m, van Niekerk stepped in to show there's more to the world of track and field than Mr. Bolt... and then Mr. Bolt stepped up to remind us that our sport truly can't live without him.

One of my favorite nights in 45 years of track and field.

If you didn't see it last night, you might enjoy my twitter feed of the evening, which includes several photos: @trackerati.

In a rather humorous moment, late in the evening just before the men's 100m started, I got a text message.

"Oh, great," I thought, "someone's responding to my tweets!"

It was our friends at AT+T saying, "Dude, you're blowing your data plan out of the water!"

On a personal note, I am now up to five event coverage assignments for Track and Field News. Two of them are - get this - the women's hammer and the women's steeplechase. Today I covered my first world record and came within a second of covering two at the same time.

Not sure if someone's going to wake me up and tell me that actually I'm at the Oregon Twilight Meet. More like the Twilight Zone, perhaps, but I do know this. I am #livin'thedream.

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