The Monday Morning Run
Kevin Sully | On 01, Jul 2013
Most of the major national championships have come and gone which means Diamond League meets are back at full strength. There were also high-level competitions in Ostrava and Edmonton and injury news that could greatly impact the World Championships. Let’s start by recapping the top five races from a busy weekend in track and field.
#1: Mo Farah wins Birmingham Diamond League 5,000
Mo Farah took on several of his biggest rivals on Sunday and dispatched them one by one with a ferocious final 800 meters of 1:51. The result left the track and field world wondering if Farah is beatable this year. In reality, there is no “formula” to beat Farah when he is fit and healthy. Catch him on an off day, maybe. But there is no style of race that is more advantageous to his competitors. At the moment, kicking against him looks especially futile, but attempts to beat him off a fast pace have also been unsuccessful (Monaco 2011, Prefontaine Classic 2011, Prefontaine Classic 2012).
Our own Ben Enowitz recently wrote about the dilemma Farah and others face when strategizing for a race. Much of the post-race chatter surrounded “the Ethiopians” or “the Kenyans” using a more effective race plan to beat him. If such a strategy existed (see above) it is difficult to see the incentive that any individual Ethiopian or Kenyan has in voluntarily being the sacrificial lamb to quicken the pace. Sure, it might increase the odds of someone defeating Farah, but it doesn’t help their own chances. It is assumed because the Ethiopians (or Kenyans, or whomever) wear the same jersey at the major championships that they should work together. Often times they don’t have the same coach or the same racing philosophy.
In short, playing into Farah’s hands and finishing second is a much more desirable outcome than helping the field wear Farah down and placing eighth. Strangely, the two runners in the 10,000 and 5,000 in Moscow who are the most likely to work together don’t even compete for the same country–Farah and Galen Rupp.
#2: Christine Ohuruogu edges Amantle Montsho
On the topic of racing style, Ohuruogu sure has her’s on recall. The 2008 gold medalist bided her time and used her characteristic fast last 100 meters to walk down the field on Sunday. Her time of 50.63 was one one-hundredth better than the previously undefeated Amantle Montsho. Natasha Hastings of the United States finished fourth in 51.44
I don’t anticipate the American women in this event to have the same precipitous drop that the men experienced last year when they failed to qualify anyone to the final of the 400 and finished second in the 4 x 400 relay. Still, they are missing their two medalists from last year (DeeDee Trotter and Sanya Richards-Ross) and the women who made the team (Hastings, Ashley Spencer, Francena McCorory have already raced quite a bit in 2013. Internationally, Montsho, Ohuruogu and Novelene Williams-Mills will make it very difficult for the American women to get a medal in the open 400.
#3: Duane Solomon and Nick Symmonds reunite for a thrilling 800
Last week, Solomon went wire-to-wire to win the US title snapping Nick Symmonds’s five year streak in the event. On Saturday in Edmonton, the pace (and the weather) wasn’t nearly as hot and Symmonds was able to sneak by in the final meters to get the win. Symmonds was helped by the more modest early pace and the thinner field.
How conceivable is it for either of these two to medal is Moscow? Very conceivable, especially if David Rudisha isn’t able to regain all of his super powers by the second week of August. Mohammed Aman of Ethiopia has been the best in Rudisha’s absence. Aman has won several Diamond League races which has to help his confidence, but has he (as the Brits would say) overcooked her early racing schedule. After seeing the back of Rudisha for the better part of three years, the field in Moscow won’t be intimidated by Aman.
#4: Dawn Harper-Nelson wins in Birmingham, Pearson fourth
It is strange to see Sally Pearson finish fourth in a race. Bizarre to watch her be something other than the woman who attacked the hurdles like she resented their very presence on the track, while displaying the grace of Lord Lindsay when he practiced with champagne glasses atop the barriers.
We haven’t seen a beatable Pearson in a very long time. There is still time for her to regain the form that made winning an afterthought, but on Sunday she looked human for the first time since 2010. The hamstring injury that delayed the start of her season until this past week is bringing her back down to earth and into a crowded field of women’s hurdlers. She finished fourth in 12.73 in a race won by Dawn Harper-Nelson. How long has it been since Pearson finished this low in a meet?
The last time Sally Pearson finished 4th or lower (excluding DNFs) was at the 2010 New York DL where she was eighth.
— Statman Jon (@Statman_Jon) June 30, 2013
#5: Blessing Okagbare defeats Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce
In the biggest upset of the weekend Blessing Okagbare stunned Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce in the 200 in Birmingham. The winning margin was almost as surprising as the result itself, 22.55 to 22.72. Carmelita Jeter, who was granted a medical waiver in last week’s US Championship, finished last. Kimberlyn Duncan and Allyson Felix weren’t involved in the race, but have to be encouraged at the result. The time was not extraordinary and Fraser-Pryce is now vulnerable.
Adventures in Rabbiting
This year, we have been chronicling some of the most noteworthy accomplishments of pacesetters. Unfortunately, it has been more for the ways they have inhibited the race than improved it. Runners not following rabbits, rabbits having no concept of pace, time or distance, etc.
The rabbits in the steeplechase races in Ostrava took it to a whole new level. First, let’s start with Clement Kemboi who was scheduled to be the second rabbit for Conseslus Kipruto. I say “was scheduled” because he caught his foot on the first water barrier and has a spectacular fall into the pit. (1:58 in the video)
Kemboi’s belly flop took him out of the race and left Kipruto by himself for much of the race. Tell me again why rabbit can’t run around the barriers?
In the women’s race, rabbit Valentyna Zhudina cleared all the barriers, but didn’t quite time her exit correctly. Zhudina stepped off the track just before a barrier, confusing the runners immediately behind her. Hiwot Ayalew and Etenesh Diro noticed the obstacle just in time to brace themselves for a low speed collision. Both women recovered and finished second and fourth, respectively. (4:40 of video)
Other Ostrava Mishaps
Asafa Powell, and several others in the men’s 100 in Ostrava, didn’t hear a recall gun and ran a full 100 meters. Powell “won” the first race in 9.97. Minutes later, they ran the race again and Powell won again, this time in a slightly slower 10.06. Hell of a workout.
On Sunday morning, the Jamaica Observer reported that Yohan Blake would undergo surgery and the World Championships. A few hours later his manager, Cubie Seegobin, denied those reports to Reuters. Back to the original article from the Observer for a moment, the key quote reads as follows:
“Yohan will have to do surgery soon, so there is no way that he can make the team. The injury is so sensitive that even if he is a real ‘Beast’ he cannot recover from it in time for the World Champs,” the official said.
It has been awhile since I attended a journalism class, but I’m pretty sure your source loses credibility when they try to drop one-liners in between giving you valuable information. While the reporting about the planned surgery may have been premature, Seegobin didn’t give a ringing endorsement of Blake’s health. From the Reuters article:
“The coach has not yet decided on pulling him from the World Championships.”
It is very difficult to even speculate about Blake’s future without knowing the nature or the extent of the injury. If he does miss the World Championships, it would be a huge blow to the Jamaican 4 x 100 relay team who is trying to win their fifth major championship in a row.
Despite numerous reports confirming its validity, the Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association is still waiting for confirmation of Veronica Campbell Brown’s positive “B” sample before moving forward with her case. They will get to it as soon as they discover who won game seven of the NBA Finals.