Friday, September 3, 2021

Tired Legs

Note: this website was down for several weeks and I sincerely apologize for that. Thank you, loyal readers, for returning to the fold! Special thanks to Jake Willard for assuring the joyous reunion of Trackerati's content with its domain name.

I am resuming with an article I posted on Facebook during the Prefontaine Classic:

Sifan Hassan
22:35 on August 20, 2021 
after her 5,000m world record attempt at the Prefontaine Classic
Mark Cullen photo

Tired Legs

During the Olympic Games, many worried that multiple event athletes like Sifan Hassan or Katie Ledecky might 'explode' from all the racing - that there might be a physical or mental breaking point. While that, quite fortunately, hasn't happened, late last evening Sifan Hassan acknowledged feeling fatigue in her legs as early as the 3rd lap of her 5,000m world record quest at the Prefontaine Classic. This after her double gold with a frosting of bronze at the Olympic Games in Tokyo.

"I'm not fresh," she acknowledged.

"It was actually physically the hardest. I was so tired and I had to push to the limit."

She then said, quite cheerfully, that she'll be racing in the Diamond League soon. When one reporter suggested that being only 5 seconds off her PB and recording a seasonal best was, when all is said and done, not a half-bad result, Hassan offered perhaps unexpected perspective by saying, "I'm really happy! I was so tired ... I'm proud of today and I push myself, and I think Tokyo made me stronger." She was, indeed, quite pleased that she finished the race.

While the pace lights eventually became irrelevant to this race, she likes them nonetheless.

"If I don't feel OK, I can do without lights. It's good, actually, to have it," she said, but she did not feel discouraged when the pace lights got ahead of her.

Of the enthusiastic and supportive Hayward Field crowd, Hassan said, "I'm so happy to see them... because I have so many fans everywhere," and she looks forward to her return to Hayward in 2022.

On a night when a world record attempt was the focus of the meet, Hassan gently reminded us that there was much to celebrate in a 14:27.89.

There were three PBs behind her, most notably Alicia Monson's nineteen second drop from 15:07.65 14:48.49.

Meanwhile, Francine Niyonsaba took the measure of a star-studded world class field in the 2 mile, as her 9:00.75 left 5k and 10k world record holder Letesenbet Gidey and two-time world 5k champion Hellen Obiri in her wake.

Rebecca Mehra won the North American 1500m in 4:06.35.

New Zealand’s Geordie Beamish found himself a surprise winner of the International Mile in a stellar 3:54.86, while Craig Engels revealed a fundamental misunderstanding of the relationship of athletes to Hayward Field fans: Dude, they wave at you.

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Golden Disc

Valarie Allman won the gold medal in the discus on Tuesday. The Stanford graduate nailed her first throw at 68.98/226-4 and was never headed in the diffcult conditions, which featured a Helsinki-esque downpour during which the event was suspended.

Germany's Kristin Pudenz picked a mighty fine time to record a personal best and won silver with her 219-4/66.86. Cuba's Jaime Perez was the defending world champion, and her 215-7/65.72 won her first Olympic medal.

In early 2020, Allman's coach Zeb Zion, the assistant at the University of Texas (and someone who should really renegotiate his contract now that he has coached an Olympic gold medalist) posted a video on Twitter of Allman's first throw of the year. This was over 17 months ago.

Here is the link to that video:

And here is my response:

Did you notice? That discus landed on the podium. #Tokyo2020 #TokyoOlympics @McthrowsDotcom #ThrowsBySion @GreyhoundPrezX
Quote Tweet
Zebulon R. Sion
First full throw of 2020 for @vallman123 Fire#ThrowsBySion #Discus #Athletics Tokyo

Meanwhile, a note about the next several days... I was about to post this when a certain 400m hurdle race took place. There's another one tonight and I urge you all to watch. With the current and former world record holders going head-to-head in a matchup that is every bit as good as Warholm/Benjamin, Dalilah Muhammad and Sydney McGloughlin - and Holland's Femke Bol - are sure to light up Olympic Stadium once again.

I now move into a two-day period of writing for Track and Field News, and I'll post links to my hammer throw articles for them once they're posted. See you all on Thursday - and keep watching!

Monday, August 2, 2021

The Signature Moment of These Games

Every year Sports Illustrated chooses their Sportspeople of the Year. 

The 2021 competition is now over.

With their historic decision to share gold in the men's high jump, Mutazz Essa Barshim (Qatar) and Gianmarco Tamberi (Italy) made SI's job much easier. 

Nothing will top this this year, though it's not a reason to stop trying. 

Consider the worldwide reaction to the decision of these two close friends. 

Consider that Gamberi used his cast as his place marker for determining his steps, as if to thumb his nose at the injury.

Such profound admiration they have for each other.

Such deep and abiding respect.

Such caring during their respective devastating injuries, ones which for others might well have been career-ending.

The signature moment of these Games.

Sunday, August 1, 2021

Finally - Finals!

After an extra year's wait and much anticipation, the first multiple-finals day of Olympic competition did not disappoint. 

Elaine Thompson-Herah sped to a 10.61 win in the 100m, a time so fast it knocked even Florence Griffith-Joyner's name off the masthead as Olympic record holder. Legend Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce was second in 10.74, with Jamaican teammate Shericka Jackson third in 10.76. The depth of these times is remarkable, as is the Jamaican sweep - though a Jamaican sweep in the sprints is no longer a surprise. 

Their times rank #2, 8, and 11 on the world all-time list, and many are saying that this is the greatest women's 100m ever run. Tough to disagree, with the usual caveats for time (era), place (dirt track or Mondo), and shoe company. 

Meanwhile, the 4x100m world record is just as nervous as the other 7 teams in the sprint relay final.

Each of the medalists in the shot put has a story. China's Gong Lijiao won her third medal but got to stand on the podium for the first time. The other two times she advanced to the podium only after drug cheats ahead of her were DQed, long after the competition was over. Dame Valerie Adams (NZ) won bronze, her 4th Olympic medal, two of which are gold. Did I mention her 4 World Championship titles?

Raven Saunders (US) won silver. The courageous 3-time NCAA champ at the University of Mississippi, Saunders experienced a rough transition from collegiate to international competition. She was one of the first to come out publicly about the need for mental health awareness among elite athletes. Her path was cause for much concern; online, she was open and brutally honest about her struggle. 

With a newfound sense of her purpose - as well as her place - in the sport, she displayed in Tokyo a return to the confidence she exhibited early in her career.

Saunders made the most of her Olympic experience: not only did she win silver, she wore a "Joker" mask that got international attention as it went wild on Twitter. More seriously, she is direct in taking on anti-gay venom online. However, her online sweep is broad; she lamented her looming return to US toilet seats, the ones in Japan apparently having spoiled her for life. 

Highly recommended is her Twitter feed @ravenHULKSaunders. Do yourself a favor and follow her. She misses nothing.

(Update: no sooner had I posted this than I was made aware of Saunders' podium protest. I've not been seeking out medal ceremonies - perhaps I should.)

Sweden's Daniel Stahl was an expected winner of discus gold. It always helps to be grounded in the familiar in international meets far away from home. Training partner Simon Pettersson surprised no one more than himself by joining his close friend on the podium with silver and a discus 1-2 for Sweden.

Meanwhile, the path to 100m gold now seems to be through the 400m. Both Shericka Jackson (bronze) and Fred Kerley (silver) were 400m specialists before they stepped down (or up, depending on your point of view) to the 100m. How does 400m experience affect 100m performance? 

The 100m does not have single components in the Olympics in the same way a one-race invitational would. Rather, it rewards a combination of strength and speed as the event progresses through four rounds over the course of a day and a half. Strength helps. It's not uncommon for the finals to be slower than the semis, but this time around, the finals times were astonishing:


Imagine running 10.76 in your 4th race in a day and a half - and getting bronze!

In the US Olympics Trials women's 100m, the speed was in the semi-finals (3rd round), not the finals (4th).

Semis         Finals
10.64         10.86
10.83         10.99
10.84         11.03
10.95         11.11
10.96         11.15
10.96         11.16
10.98         11.20
11.03         11.22

Finally, Poland's surprise victory in the mixed 4x400m relay has been cause for much national celebration. And it's always a surprise when, no matter the format, a US 4x400 team is 3rd. But the Athletes of the Day are clearly the silver-medal winning team from the Dominican Republic. 

They were as unlikely to win silver as, say, an Italian winning the men's 100m. Who could ever imagine that?! (With apologies to Pietro Minnea...!)

Friday, July 30, 2021

Off and Running

With only one final in the books, the sport of track and field can at least claim a near classic. 21 year old Selemon Barega won the men's 10,000 meter race, holding off Uganda's dynamic duo of Joseph Cheptegai (24) and Jacob Kiplimo (20). Hard to believe these are Uganda's first track and field distance medals as Cheptegai has already won World track and cross country championships and set world records at both 5,000 + 10,000 meters. 

Barega was a relative unknown when he won the Diamond League final at 5,000m at age 18 in Brussels. He ran 4:01.1 per mile pace (pause and absorb that) for the entire race, and 3:58.88 for the last 5 laps!

Here was my take on that race, which I was beyond privileged to see in person; take a moment to absorb these epic stats:

There was considerable conversation about the chances of the US runners in a race in which they historically have not done so well (forgive me for saying so the day after the 57th anniversary of Billy Mills' astonishing win!). 

Why? Because they ran so well in blazing heat in Eugene to make the team to begin with. So it was not an entire surprise to see Grant Fisher finish 5th, but it certainly was a welcome one. With so much emphasis on shoes and surfaces and pacing lights, it's refreshing to know that a brilliantly executed strategy still has its place, for Barega as well as Fisher.

In the runup to the Olympics, there was, quite understandably, much emphasis on Covid. In the bid process for the Games, there was much discussion of the weather.

If not for Covid, the weather might be dominating Olympic conversation. It played a huge role in making the 10,000m a race rather than a time trial. US 400m hurdles runner, Anna Cockrell, said after her first round race today, "It's soupy out here," and "I'm burning up." Please credit this as the only publication to mention Cockrell without mentioning her teammates.

The empty stadium might well have played a role in an 800m heat. Immediately after the gun went off, a runner stopped as the sound of the starter's gun ricochet around the stadium. There was, however, no recall gun, but the race was restarted nonetheless. 

The day was marred when the whispers of the last 24 hours unfortunately came true. Rumors abounded that there had been a positive drug test of a major athlete. Sorry that it's Nigeria's Blessing Okagbare, nabbed for HGH - human growth hormone. 

Okagbare has had a lengthy career at the top, and I'll note her age - 32 - only to make that point that it's not unusual for athletes to take performance enhancers after the age of 30, presumably to extend careers and the attendant income-producing opportunities.

Meanwhile, on days when it's 90F and with 80% humidity in Tokyo, I hereby declare that it's tacky to call first-rounds 'heats' or paces 'torrid.' 

Thursday, July 29, 2021

Dateline: The Couch

 Greetings track fans. Greetings field fans. The hardiest among you will be watching the 1st round of the women's 100m right now. This is where the Olympics is the Olympics. Athletes from around the world come in search of PBs, national records, and glories yet to be defined. They've traveled a long way and under possibly fearful conditions. 

Someone comes in with a PB of 12.25 and leaves at 11.74, never to advance but having done herself and her country proud. This is the Olympics, and we'll know better 10 days from now if it all will have been worthwhile. She thinks so.

I'm approaching these Games a bit differently than I have in all but one of the previous eight. The predictions I have done in the past will morph into commentary about the events as they progress, most especially once we know the finalists. But I will comment on those results and try to give them some context. Here in the Pacific time zone finals begin as early as 4:15 am. Have I mentioned I'm old?! 

I have an epic schedule on Tuesday and Wednesday when I'll be covering the women's and men's hammer throws for Track and Field News - all of a sudden the fifth time I'll be covering majors for the magazine. That went fast. The women's final begins on Tuesday at 4:35 am Pacific - with a deadline 12 hours after the event finishes! Wednesday: rinse and repeat, only with a 4:15 am start.

While I hope we can all revel - sooner or later - in the achievements of these remarkable athletes, I'm well aware that that enthusiasm might well be muted, especially at first. Imagine the crowd reaction - had there been a crowd - in the first men's steeplechase heat today when Japan's Ryuji Miura unexpectedly shattered the national record with his 8:09.92, which is fast even without barriers. Suddenly he's someone to watch - someone totally unexpected - and the excitement grows. 

Looking forward to having that excitement grow with you over the course of the next 10 days. Thanks for checking in.

Monday, June 28, 2021

Hammerfest Part Deux: DeAnna Price Sets the American Record - Twice!

 Epic Women's Hammer: Track and Field News has posted my report on the remarkable women's hammer throw at the US Olympic Track and Field Trials. DeAnna Price twice set the American Record in the second 'hammerfest' of the week! The article is available at:

Sunday, June 27, 2021

The Talented Prefontaines: Steve and Linda

In honor of the men's Olympic Trials 5,000m race today at Hayward Field, I am posting "Steve" - the story of what happened between Steve Prefontaine and me the day he won the 1972 Olympic Trials 5000m.

Here, too, is the link to my article "Linda Prefontaine's Tour de Pre" in which you'll discover just how talented the entire family is:

And the link to the Tour de Pre Facebook page, which includes tour  registration information:

Linda Prefontaine 
Billy Mills
at the 
Prefontaine Murals
Coos Bay, Oregon

Photo: Mark Cullen

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Hammerfest! Rudy Winkler Sets the American Record

Epic Men's Hammer: Track and Field News has posted my report on the remarkable men's hammer throw at the US Olympic Track and Field Trials. Rudy Winkler set the American Record in what became a festival-like atmosphere on the southern periphery of Hayward Field. The article is available at:

Friday, June 18, 2021

The Shot Heard 'Round the World

This one had been brewing for a long time.

Ryan Crouser shattered the world shot put record with his prodigious 4th round throw of 76' 8 1/4" / 23.37 at today's US Olympic Track and Field Trials in Eugene, Oregon.

Photo Credit: Tim Healy TrackTown USA

The Rio 2016 Olympic gold medalist, long seen as the heir apparent of the world shot put record, ended the suspense with a throw so perfect he was celebrating before it landed. Fellow competitors hugged him before the mark was posted. They knew.

"That's it right there!" screamed Payton Otterdahl while embracing Crouser. 

Photo Credit: Andy Eberhardt for Track Town USA

Crouser demolished the previous world record by 10". His performance was part of an epic competition in which there were 14 throws over 70'.

71-8 (21.84) got you only 5th! Just ask Shore AC's Josh Awotunde, whose personal best did just that.

Darrell Hill was a heartbreaking 4th by only 1", while Payton Otterdahl realized his early potential by making his first Olympic Team with his 5th round 71'11"/21.92 personal best to finish 3rd.

2019 World Champion Joe Kovacs had a remarkable no-foul 6-throw series in which each throw exceeded 70'. He gained a firm footing on second place with his 5th round 73-3 1/2/22.34 to make his second Olympic team. 

The US sends an exceptionally - historically - deep shot put team to the Olympic Games. 

Crouser had presaged his memorable mark with a Trials record 22.92/75-2.5 in the afternoon qualifying, his 2nd best throw ever.

Crouser's worldwide competitors should be worried. In thorough analysis of his technique today, Crouser was balanced in describing what he had done well and what he could do better.

However, he said, "...that was nowhere near the perfect throw."

~by Mark Cullen

Saturday, June 12, 2021

Hammer Time at NCAAs

I've been covering the NCAA women's and men's hammer throws for Track and Field News in Eugene this week. 

Two scintillating competitions highlighted by Camryn Rogers' two Collegiate Records!

Here are links to my two articles:

Florida's NCAA Hammer Champion Thomas Mardal
photo courtesy of NCAA

A request for a photo of Camryn Rogers is pending.

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

The House that Waffles Built

Welcome World!

As the international track and field/athletics world celebrates the opening - or re-opening - of Eugene's Hayward Field, I am posting several photos I have taken of Hayward Field in its differing iterations since 2014. Also posted is Bill Bowerman's statement from 1973 in which he thanks sponsors for the rebuilding of the West Grandstand. Yes, we have been down this road before!

In addition, in the left and right columns you'll find
treasures from my collection of track and field memorabilia which I acquired during my years at the University of Oregon in the early 1970s. There is a direct connection between the waffle-soled shoes you see here and the construction of the new Hayward Field. Without those shoes, is there a new stadium?

I began running in Bill Bowerman's beginning running class in the fall of '71 and saved everything: 28 pairs of shoes, including a pair from the waffle iron, and over 220 items, including programs, posters, t-shirts, autographs, and Blue Ribbon Sports and Nike memorabilia. I'll be adding to these columns steadily as the Olympic Trials (2021) and then the World Championships (2022) approach. In the meantime, I hope these treasures help to get you charged up for track and field again!


Waiting for Opening Day

Almost There!

1975 thank you note from Bill Bowerman to sponsors 
for their support of the rebuilding of the West Grandstand.
From the program for the Oregon Twilight Meet
April 26, 1975
See program cover in left column.

Oregon Daily Emerald
May 18, 1973

The Venerable East Grandstand

July 21, 2014, 11:20 pm
The night before the beginning of the World Junior Championships

Photo credits

Memorabilia from the Cullen Collection 
(left and right-hand columns):
 Devan Kirk

Hayward Field: Mark Cullen

Copyright 2021 All Rights Reserved