Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Hearing Crickets

Olympic Champion Thomas Rohler Gives Continental Cup the Context It Needs

Copyright 2018, Mark Cullen/Trackerati.com, All Rights Reserved
Thomas Rohler
Olympic, European, Continental Cup Gold Medalist
photo Getty Images/IAAF
A higher level of understanding of the scoring system led to a more enjoyable second day of Ostrava's Continental Cup.

A central goal for the 2022 Continental Cup is a more clearly understood format, one which doesn't take fans and observers a day to learn.

At the same time, preservation of the team concept - and one which doesn't have athletes competing against their own team members until the final round - is essential.

A format that's well-understood before the meet begins is not too much to ask; one which applies equally to all events is what's needed most.

The Continental Cup is a format in which team plays a central role in this otherwise individual sport, and in a way it usually does not at its upper echelons. The team aspect is well-understood at collegiate and school levels, especially with the NCAA in the United States.

Here the teams are Africa, Europe, Asia-Pacific, and Americas.

In a post-meet interview, Olympic, European, and Continental Cup javelin champion Thomas Rohler (Ger) gave an interesting critique of the format, but also saw it as an event which builds interest in athletics world wide.

The men's javelin serves as an interesting case study of the flaws of the format.

In the 3rd of 5 rounds, Rohler and local favorite, Czech Jakub Vadlejch, both members of the European team, went head-to-head for the opportunity to advance.

As Rohler says so well below, it is awkward to be forced to try to knock your teammate out of the competition so early - it goes against the team philosophy that is central to this competition. (If you're going head-to-head against a teammate in the 5th and final round, at least you're assuring your team 1st and 2nd place points.)

Surely this can be structured so that head-to-head competition between teammates comes only in the last round.

Rohler scored his final round win over Asia team member Cheng Chao-Tsun of Chinese Taipei, 87.07-81.81 (285-8 to 268-50).

"We knew that it was going to be close," said Rohler. "It was challenging. We all had just one throw to warm up in here due to TV times. I knew what I was capable of but I also knew that Jakub was always a strong contender. I tried to do a good throw but not a too risky throw which is actually what I did the whole competition because of this model.

"The core identity of javelin throwing is taking super high risk. We love this game of winning and losing being so close, and here with the new models you have to have performances from round to round to round so there's no room for risk, so I'm super happy with the 87m at the end with the precise throw and not too much risk.

"It's hard to understand from the outside," he continued. "This is what I really feel about it. It's a team event - Jakub and me we're good friends. We've been trying to be a team but the problem is the goal of the first three rounds is to kick out your team. That's weird.

"So I would love something about points better. If someone is really good in something, why not give them the bonus for being good at something. It's the same in school: if somebody's good at something he gets a Mark 1, if not, he's out. There's no soft rules, so I would look for something about point systems."

On the other hand, he says, this was a terrific spectator event.

"Being out there competing is fun. It's like everything is so quick. It's a little bit early (in the day), it's hard to concentrate out there.

"Yesterday I was a spectator and that's the other part of the game. I was sitting there. It was pure excitement. There was something going on all around the stadium. I was watching here, there - there was always action. If you can attract people with this end of season kind of format, why not? Why not?"

Why not, indeed.

Of his season, Rohler said, "2018 was really good to me. It was an exciting year. Every competition was really challenging due to my competitors.

"We had a year where you would travel to competitions and you never knew who was going to win. It was great for the spectators. It was also tough for the athletes because keeping the level up that high all season from May to September was challenging.

"I mean this is what our sports is about, this is why we became an athlete. This is why we are out here: we are getting ready to perform, but at the end we are only human, and I'm also happy that I was able to finish here in a really good manner."

I'll leave the last word to my colleague and good friend, Dave Hunter.

When the men's javelin came to round three and Jakub Vadlejch (84.76/278-1) took the lead over Rohler, the Czech spectators, who had only 4 entrants in the Cup, went wild.

However, Rohler's masterful response 86.39 (283-5) eliminated his Team Europe comrade, and the stadium went from raucous revelry to disappointed, deafening silence.

Said Hunter, "I'm hearing crickets."

Far better to hear crickets after the 5th round than the 3rd.

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