Published on March 9th, 2014 | by Alan Abrahamson
SOPOT, Poland — Let’s say you dropped into Sunday’s final day of the 2014 world indoor track and field championships.
Further, you were a stranger to the sport, maybe kinda-sorta checking it out, a local from here in Sopot or Gdansk.
The program started at 2:50 in the afternoon. It wrapped up a little past 7 in the evening. That’s just over four hours. In those four-plus hours you saw — deep breath now — 14 events, two semifinals and 12 finals, as well as 17 medal ceremonies.
Ethiopia’s Genzebe Dibaba winning the women’s 3k // photo Getty Images
Essentially, you went to the circus. All that was missing was lions, tigers and bears.
This has to change. (more…)
Published on March 8th, 2014 | by Alan Abrahamson
SOPOT, Poland — Over two days, the drama and excitement built, Ashton Eaton chasing his own world record through seven events of the heptathlon.
It came down to, ultimately, the final event, the 1000-meter run. To set a new mark, the math tables said he needed to run a time that was, actually, one second slower than his personal best.
He started off great. The announcer said he seemed on his way. The crowd roared. His wife, Brianne Theisen Eaton, who herself had won silver in the pentathlon the night before, was in the stands, cheering. On the bell lap, he seemed to be digging deep.
He crossed the line. Everyone turned to the clock.
He was one second slow.
Ashton Eaton crossing the finish line in the heptathlon 1000, one second too slow for a world record // photo Getty Images
“I wish I could have gotten the record,” he told the crowd moments later, adding, “I’m not a robot. But I try.”
This all makes for a fascinating case study in success and “failure,” all neatly encapsulated in the person of Ashton Eaton, who — let us all acknowledge — is the gold standard, the most consistent thing going right now in American track and field. (more…)
Published on March 7th, 2014 | by Alan Abrahamson
SOPOT, Poland — From the bang of the first gun Friday, it was crystal-clear Ashton Eaton is truly one of the most remarkable and versatile athletes of our time. On the track, he seemingly does everything so well. Why doesn’t he get more due?
Running in Lane 8 in the 60-meter dash, Eaton got off to a quick start and, outlined in Team USA red against the blue track, an even-faster finish. He crossed in 6.66 seconds, equaling a personal best.
Eaton is of course the 2012 Olympic decathlon champ. He is, too, the decathlon world-record holder. The heptathlon, the indoor version, offers seven events instead of 10. Eaton’s last three heptathlons have produced world records as well — at the last world indoors, in Istanbul in 2012, he racked up 6,645 points.
Ashton Eaton in the long jump portion of the heptathlon // photo Getty Images
To watch Eaton Friday — and, for that matter, the Ethiopian middle distance runner Genzebe Dibaba — is to bear witness to athletic greatness.
Track and field is lucky to have them both.
It is lucky to have anyone, frankly, not named Bolt because the sport cannot be all Usain all the time. Since 2008, when the record-breaking rampage in the sprints began, if most casual fans were asked to name just one track and field athlete the answer would, of course, be Bolt. (more…)
Published on March 6th, 2014 | by Alan Abrahamson
SOPOT, Poland — The Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics rang the bell on a year of imagination and fresh thinking for the International Olympic Committee.
The IOC’s all-members session immediately before the opening ceremony produced, over a day and a half, 211 comments from the floor.
The signal was clear for the new president, Thomas Bach, under the guise of his “Olympic Agenda 2020” program, as the IOC launched itself toward Monaco in December and another all-in assembly — he has a clear mandate for change, the members urging a fresh look at, well, pretty much everything.
In short: Be visionary. Be imaginative. Be creative.
The snowy scene at the 2013 world cross-country championships at Bydgoszcz, Poland // photo Getty Images
So: here Thursday, the question emerged anew as track and field — still the most important of the international sports federations — prepared for its three-day indoor world championships.
Why not cross-country at the Winter Games?
Of course there’s already cross-country skiing at the Winter Olympics.
What about cross-country running? (more…)
Published on February 24th, 2014 | by Alan Abrahamson
There are lots of ways to look at the performance of the U.S. team at the just-concluded Sochi 2014 Winter Games.
The American team won 28 medals, nine gold.
The optimist says that’s great.
The realist’s or optimist’s view of one of life’s many challenges — the funny fix at closing ceremony to the glitch from the opening ceremony // photo Getty Images
The realist says the U.S. not only could have done better but almost surely should have. The International Olympic Committee added 12 new events to the 2014 program, mostly in the so-called action sports, and in those 12 Americans won nine medals. So — what happened around so much of the rest of the team? (more…)