Sunday, October 6, 2019

Somalia's Sister

The greatest athlete in Doha was far from the track.

by Mark Cullen
Copyright 2019 Mark Cullen and Trackerati.com. All rights Reserved.

Doha hotel.

Tall Dutchman, born of Somalia.

We speak of track and field, but that’s not why he’s here.

His younger sister was in the wrong place at the wrong time when a suicide bomber detonated herself in Somalia, where a rash of such attacks have taken place this year.

Among the survivors, his sister is most grievously wounded, with extensive injuries to her left face, her left shoulder, her left hip.

Here to reclaim her young adulthood.

Two days later, the lobby, a tap on my shoulder.

The tall Dutchman with his entire entourage.

This is my sister, he says, as she extends her hand from her wheelchair.

I encounter their mother at breakfast every morning, a towering familial fortress of strength and reserve. I glance and nod, my daily brief greeting.

Impenetrable.

On a day, she holds my eye.

On another, a barely perceptible nod.

Ten days sweep by.

At breakfast, a movement captures my attention. A woman is using a walker.

Her daughter.

Mother follows.

She waves.


Saturday, October 5, 2019

Imaginary Outcome

by Mark Cullen
Copyright 2019 Mark Cullen and Trackerati.com. All rights Reserved.
Joe Kovacs
75-2/22.91
Historic Gold
Photo: Getty Images for IAAF
Last night IAAF issued a results sheet for the men's shot put. It must be a test page to make sure the system is working. On it, they have an imaginary outcome, and you can tell that the techies preparing it had a lot of fun.

It has Joe Kovacs winning in 75-2/22.91. I know there are a lot of guys throwing over 22.00/72-2 1/4 these days, but this has the winning throw almost a meter farther. I know Kovacs has been off the radar screen a bit, if you can imagine a radar not picking up Kovacs, but he's an unlikely pick for gold.

It has Ryan Crouser and Tom Walsh tied at the same distance one centimeter behind. Great to have techies who know the sport so well because this scenario tests the system's ability to break a tie on the countback, and it nailed it.

Interesting, too, that it should be Crouser and Walsh they have behind Joltin' Joe. They must have included the Prefontaine Classic results in their algorithm. There, Crouser and Walsh were co-favories, and Brazil's Darlan Romani was the unlikely winner.

Here, same scenario, different champion. At least this time Track and Field News hadn't asked me to write a feature on the winner. They did at Pre, and I was really well prepared for my story on Crouser or Walsh.

The whole idea of three guys throwing within one centimeter of each other is absurdly fun and creative. Can you imagine ever seeing an outcome like that? You and I could go outside right now - just the two of us -  and take several dozen throws with a shot and we'd never tie.

Statistically improbable.

Physcially, even more so.

Well, good one on you, mates. It was lots of fun to read this. But I have a deadline and the humor is wearing thin.

Would someone please send me the real results?


Friday, October 4, 2019

A Night at the Stadium

by Mark Cullen
Copyright 2019 Mark Cullen and Trackerati.com. All rights Reserved.
Mutaz Essa Barshim
Hometown High Jump Hero
This evening I titled my post "A Night at the Stadium" before the competition began. The general idea was to reflect what happens on any given evening of World Championship track and field. From semi-final race strategy to the interruption of the men's high jump by a medal ceremony, I wanted write without a plan and respond to what was happening in the stadium. But I'll save these for my next post and write this instead.

On my way into Doha, at the airport, I ran into a young man named Daniel and his wife. While waiting for luggage we struck up a conversation, and he grew quite interested in the championships. I urged him to come for even one night, and he picked this night, of all nights, a night of nights.

A world record by Dalilah Muhammad in the 400m hurdles, her second of the year. The crowning comeback win of Mutaz Essa Barshim of Qatar in the men's high jump in front of a raucous home crowd - a year's recovery from serious injury that had many doubting a return at all. A steeplechase win by the resurgent Conseslus Kipruto - by a thrilling one one-hundredth of a second. And a discus title by Cuba's Yaime Perez in her 6th attempt at a global medal. Her last major title? 2010 World Junior gold.

In a week overshadowed by drugs, Daniel chose the best night of these championships. Here's what I wrote to Daniel:

"I am so pleased that you chose tonight of all nights. To see a world record is something rare and special - when someone does something that no one else has done before.

"And Barshim on top of that - a packed house rocking and roaring.
This was track and field at its best."

So, Daniel, there's hope for this troubled sport yet. Keep on coming back. I can't always promise a night like this, but I can promise that each will be memorable in its own way. It's worked for me for 48 years.
Dahlilah Muhammad (52.16) and Sydney McLaughlin (52.23)
2xWorld Record setter with #2 all-time

Photo Credits: Getty Images for IAAF




Updated 1:47pm 10/5/2019 to include last paragraph.

Doha Dhaze - #1

Air pollution, heat, humidity, a heat index to top all - none stood in the way of a successful start to the World Track and Field Championships - yet.

As I write this, the women's marathon will start in two hours, and while I have pledged to myself that I'll watch in person one of the five midnight events, it won't be this one a starting the Championships by being on a course until 3:00am in this heat and humidity does not seem like a good idea. For someone just standing there, much less running 26 miles.

IAAF has decided to go ahead with tonight's race, and it's telling that a decision had to be made. In a press release this afternoon, IAAF made a revealing comment; read carefully and see if you see what I see.

"Any decision to alter the starting time of the event will be made by 10:30pm, on the recommendation of the IAAF Medical Delegate, who also has the authority to withdraw any athlete before or during the event if he believes the athlete is experiencing any type of severe distress."

Let's check this out: "...has the authority to withdraw any athlete before... the event..." In other words, if an athlete is so cooked by the very act of being outside before the race has even begun..."

I hope this ends well; I fear greatly that it may not.

In better news, DeAnna Price led all qualifiers in the women's hammer to remain the favorite going into Saturday's final. Gwen Berry joined her by finishing 10th of 12, and Brooke Andersen, plagued by injury at the end of the season, ended her memorable 2019 run by finishing out of the top 12. Nonetheless, Anderson is now #3 on the US all-time list and the 24 year-old is still quite young for this event. Nothing but tremendous potential here.

Price delivered a message before competition even began with a sector-splitting warmup toss that had to have left an impression on her competitors. "It was really nice," she said. "That's how it's been; that's how we've been practicing."

Gwen Berry was pleased to advance even though she seemed a bit off her earlier season form. "I was a little nervous," she explained. "I feel like I should have warmed up a little more maybe because once we got into the call room we couldn't warm up, so I'll have to take that into consideration for tomorrow."

"I feel confident about tomorrow," she said. "I got in the ring and shook out the nerves, so I'll do better tomorrow."

Brooke Andersen, "I've had some injuries come up the past few months because it's been such a long season... Unfortunately, some of them acted up before my warmups...I haven't been able to practice the last few weeks as well as I would want to."

"Right now it's hard to think of all my great accomplishments this season because this was the one thing I was working towards all season and it didn't go how I pictured it. But I definitely had a great season overall and I'm really appreciative for the season I did have and all the accomplishments I did have along the way. It's hard to see them right now - I'm just so bummed."

While her clear goal for 2020 is the Tokyo Olympics, "Right now I'll rest and take some time off and get back to it in a few weeks."

"I'm one of the youngest in the field," she reflected, but takes away the knowledge that this World Championships experience can be of substantial benefit to her as early as next year. I'll take away the experiences like going through the motions like getting through the call room and taking few warmups. It's always a little but different in each international meet.

"I've gotta get used to the net being so close," she said, "and I've got to get used to the competition feel. Being here on this  international stage - track feels way different than being at home is the US. Track is definitely more... they love track over here! They love track over here! It's great coming over here and the atmosphere - you get the whole stadium effect with all the people clapping for you. It's a really good experience for us to come over here and get all this international experience before Tokyo."

"The ring when I tested it felt faster than it did today, so it was a little funky for me. It felt a little bit slower. I didn't mind it - I just wasn't necessarily prepared for the switch up. I don't know if it was the humidity... but it's overall a great facility definitely one of the better ones I've competed in so far internationally in my experience so far - in my rookie year!"


Thursday, October 3, 2019

Sometimes You Go to the Mall and This Happens

IAAF Heritage Exhibition Brings Out the Stars
by Mark Cullen
Photos and Text Copyright 2019 Mark Cullen and Trackerati.com. 
All rights Reserved.
Heritage - and Heritage in the Making
Brianne Theisen-Eaton
Jakob Ingebrigtsen
Filip Ingebrigtsen
Ashton Eaton


IAAF Heritage's Doha display is a tour de force of track and field history. Curator and Director Chris Turner has staged an extensive, masterful display of track and field history. 


Yesterday, I rounded a corner on my way to the Heritage reception and found the Eatons and the Ingebrigtsens engaged in cheerful conversation. They weren't the only ones here.
Olympic decathlon gold medalist Daley Thompson, center,
and 2x World cross country champion, John Treacy, right

Mike Powell, World record holder and World champion, long jump

The Heritage display will conclude its six-month run next Monday, October 7, at Doha's City Center Mall. This is must see territory for every track fan here for the World Championships. https://www.iaaf.org/heritage/news/heritage-collection-doha-eaton-ashton-brianne

Ashton Eaton
World and Olympic Champion, Decathlon

Eamonn Coghlan, 1983 World 5000m champion, 
making a point with IAAF CEO Jon Ridgeon

Chris Turner, IAAF Heritage Director
For heritage, note Ashton Eaton, Brianne Theisen-Eaton, 
and Mike Powell in the picture.

My favorite IAAF Heritage moment
Morocco's Nezha Bidouane taking a photo of her own display
Ostrava, Czech Republic, 2018
2x World champion, 400m hurdles

The University of Oregon's track and field bureau, which is onsite here in Doha with four students under the direction of instructor Lori Shontz, conducted extensive interviews with many of the sport's legends in attendance, most especially a lengthy, engaging one with Thiessen-Eaton. They will be posting their work on their website at https://sojctrack.uoregon.edu/
Brianne Theisen-Eaton, 2016 World Indoor Champion, Heptathlon
 University of Oregon School of Journalism Track Bureau students
Brett Taylor, Brooklynn Loiselle, Alex West, Nate Mann

It just goes to show that at the reception, you can always get what you want.


Tuesday, October 1, 2019

OUCH!

by Mark Cullen
Copyright 2019 Mark Cullen and Trackerati.com. 
All rights Reserved.

A single-sentence press release from IAAF

"On the request of USATF, the IAAF can confirm that Mr Alberto Salazar’s IAAF World Championships accreditation has been deactivated."

Teacher's assessment:

Clear focus, crisp writing, to the point.
Effective cause and effect sequence.
Proper placement of comma.
Clear understanding of possessive and where to place apostrophe.
Razor-like use of "deactivated."
Invokes high moral and ethical standards
Restores integrity, trust and believability to track and field performances.

Aspirational.

A+