Saturday, May 27, 2017

How It's Done

On a night dedicated to Olympic marathon legend and women’s distance running pioneer Joan Benoit Samuelson, the distance runners upheld her tradition with pride.

“I ran my own race and continue to do so to this day,” said the inaugural women’s marathon gold medalist. “I’m a ‘has been’ who still has a passion for the sport.”

She marveled at the athletes around her and their stories.

“It’s all about the story. I hope we don’t lose sight of the storytelling.”

In 1984, she showed the world how it's done.

Ethiopia’s Genzebe Dibaba ran a stellar 14:25.22 5,000m, and while she came short of her announced world record attempt on her sister Tirunesh’s 14:11.15, she gave an impressive display of mental toughness as she ran unheaded most of the way.

Kenya’s Celliphine Chespol upset world record holder Ruth Chebet in the 3,000m steeplechase and ran 8:58.78, the fastest-ever on US soil. Just missing the sub-9:00 mark was compatriot Beatrice Chepkoech in 9:00.70. Chespol lost her shoe on the penultimate water jump, put it back on, and sprinted back over the last 500m to win. She is 18.

Emma Coburn missed her US steeplechase record by .33 seconds with her 9:07.96. “I should have leaned,” she said, “and I would have had the record.”

Teenage sensation Tamari Davis ran 23.21 from lane 2 to upset a distinguished field of high school sprinters.

And what defines teenage?

She is 14.

In 8th grade.

Charlene Lipsey broke 2:00 minutes for the first time in winning the women’s USATF High Performance 800m run, while Brittney Reese jumped 7.01m in the long jump to edge rival Tianna Bartoletta by 18 cm.

Tomorrow is a packed day with some of the deepest fields ever assembled outside the World and Olympic championships. 9 events in this meet have the gold, silver, and bronze medalists from Rio.

Meanwhile, I learned much from two interview experiences.

Tatsiana Khaladovich threw the javelin 66.30 to win by more than a meter over China’s emerging star Shiying Liu.

I had looked forward to interviewing Khaladovich after not having had the opportunity in Rio.

Today it went something like this:

“I don’t speak English, sorry. “

As I’m a little rusty on my Belarussian, that interview went up in smoke.

I’m going to print verbatim what I wrote in the media tent; read on for what happened next.

From the media tent:

China’s Shiying Liu was prepared for the interviews, even though she doesn’t speak a word of English. She had a translator with her (unclear if this was her coach), and she answered every question with aplomb. Her translator was equally gracious and patient, and I left wondering if there were any better ambassadors of their country’s sport in the house this evening – and that’s saying a lot given the plethora of athletes who fit that bill so well.

It was impressive to see the Chinese so well-prepared for the important aspects of the meet beyond the competition venues.

Some mark China’s rise in track and field from the Beijing Olympics; others mark their arrival at the 2015 World Championships.

Either way, this country knows what it’s doing.

And then:

I packed up my tech gear and walked straight into the Chinese translator!

Turns out he is Yujia “Tony” Dou and he is a reporter for the Chinese national team. He is the Founder and Chief Editor of Top Athletics We-Media of China, and he also runs a track and field camp. He travels with the team and supports them especially, he said, when the team sends only a few athletes to a meet.

He handed me his card after I had given him mine, and the exchange reminded me that I am off my card presentation game.

I certainly should have remembered the etiquette from Beijing: thumbs on top, two fingers below, and always - always - presented with a bow.

Together, Liu and Dou showed every delegation how it's done.

Correction: I said on twitter tonight that Chespol was the first under 9:00 in the steeplechase in a US race. Not so. Ruth Jebet ducked under by .03 last year at the Pre Meet. Chespol is indeed now the fastest ever on US soil.


  1. Samuelson is someone with the kind of dedication and spirit, that I inspire to have. Her commitment to her sport is truly commendable and aspirational!

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