Christian Taylor

On the start line now: 11 years, big upside

On the start line now: 11 years, big upside

LONDON — Somewhere, some 8- or 9- or 10-year-old kid is in her or his backyard, throwing or running or jumping and dreaming big dreams about maybe someday being, say, Allyson Felix, lithe and elegant, or Tianna Bartoletta, fast and focused, or maybe Christian Taylor or Ryan Crouser, guys who produce when the spotlight is brightest.

Never, perhaps, has track and field found itself at such an intriguing intersection, indeed one suddenly filled with potential.

There are the kids, and their dreams. There is the sport, with its many documented woes. There is also, genuinely, because of the award of the 2024 and 2028 Summer Olympics, opportunity, and particularly in the United States.

If a track meet happens in the forest, does it make a sound?

If a track meet happens in the forest, does it make a sound?

The 43rd edition of the Prefontaine Classic went down over the weekend at historic Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon. Pre is purportedly the leading professional track meet in the United States, the only American stop of the year on the world track and field tour, what is now called the Diamond League.

Eugene, for those who have never been, is surrounded by foothills and forests — literally, forests — to the south, east and west. Thus this philosophical question: if a track meet happens in the forest but it barely makes a sound anywhere else, then — what?

Justin Gatlin, on track for 2016

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EUGENE, Oregon — Before Saturday's big race at the 42nd Prefontaine Classic, the men's 100 meters, Justin Gatlin's coach, Dennis Mitchell, offered just a few words.

Nothing about times. No 9.5-craziness, no records this or that.

"Coach just gave me a handshake and said, 'Lay one down,' " Gatlin would say later.

Gatlin laid down a wind-aided 9.88 for the win. This was a no-doubter. Gatlin crossed the line with his left arm raised, index finger pointed to the sky: No. 1. At least on a Saturday in May in Eugene. More, here in Eugene next month at the U.S. Trials and presumably in August in Rio, to come.

Justin Gatlin meets the press after Saturday's 100

The men's 100 capped a day of sun-splashed performances at the Prefontaine Classic, the one and only major U.S. outdoor stop on the international track and field circuit, with athletes aiming to round into shape for the 2016 Summer Games and, for the Americans, the Trials, back here at historic Hayward Field.

The 2016 Pre, before 13,223, termed by house announcers a sell-out crowd -- not so much, as pockets and patches of bare seats throughout the stands would attest -- marked the second act of a four-part track and field drama this year in Oregon. Part one: the 2016 world indoors in March in Portland. Part three: the 2016 NCAA championships, in about 10 days. Part four: the U.S. Olympic Trials, in late June and early July.

What organizers called a "sell-out": bare spots in the stands at the end of the main straightaway

A number of stars proved no-shows at the 2016 Pre, citing injury or otherwise. Among them: U.S. sprint champion Allyson Felix, American long-distance runner and Olympic silver-medalist Galen Rupp and Ethiopian distance standout Genzebe Dibaba.

Those who did turn up put on, especially for May in an Olympic year, a first-rate show:

In the women's 100 hurdles, American Keni Harrison ripped off an American-record 12.24, the second-fastest time ever. Only Yordanka Donkova of Bulgaria, in 12.21 in 1988, has ever run faster. Brianna Rollins, who had held the American record, 12.26 in 2013, finished second Saturday in 12.53.

Emma Coburn also set an American record, in the women's 3k steeplechase, 9:10.76; Bahrain's Ruth Jebet won the race in 8:59.97, just four-hundredths ahead of Hyvin Kiyeng of Kenya. American Boris Berian won the men's 800 in a convincing 1:44.2; just a couple years ago was slinging hamburgers at McDonald's; in March, he won the world indoor 800; a few days ago, the Berian saga took on yet another dimension over a contract dispute with Nike.

In the women's 100, American English Gardner ran 10.81 for the win, with two-time Olympic champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce of Jamaica eighth and last, in 11.18; in the women's 200, American Tori Bowie ran 21.99, best in the world in 2016, with Holland's Dafne Schippers second in a really-not-that-close 22.11.

Kirani James of Grenada and LaShawn Merritt of the United States added another chapter to their extraordinary rivalry in the men's 400, James winning in 44.22, Merritt just behind in 44.39.

Jamaica's Omar McLeod continued his 2016 dominance in the men's 110 hurdles, winning in 13.06; Americans went 1-2-3 in the men's 400 hurdles (Michael Tinsley with the victory) and the triple jump (Will Claye going 17.56 meters, or 57 feet, 7 1/2 inches on his sixth and final jump, celebrating with a leap over the hurdle set up for the women's steeplechase, only to see Christian Taylor, next, go 17.76 meters, or 58-3 1/4, the two of them meeting after for a quick embrace).

In the men's javelin, Africans went 1-2: Ihab Adbelrahman of Egypt went 87.37, or 286-08; Kenya's Julius Yego took second in 84.68, 277-10.

Without Dibaba in the women's 1500, Faith Chepngeti Kipyegon of Kenya ran a Hayward Field record, 3:56.41. The prior mark: 3:57.05, from Hellen Obiri of Kenya. On Friday evening, Obiri, running this year in the Pre at the 5k, won in 14:32.02.

Also Friday evening, Brittney Reese won the women's long jump, in 6.92 meters, 22 feet 8 1/2 inches; Joe Kovacs the men's shot put, in 22.13 meters, 72-7 1/4; Alysia Montaño-Johnson the women's 800, in 2:00.78; and Mo Farah, the British distance star, the men's 10,000 meters, in 26:53.71. The top five guys in that 10k all crossed in under 27 minutes.

And then there was Gatlin, who figures heading into the Trials and Rio to have the spotlight trained on him, big time -- both for who he is and how, for most people who know about Gatlin's realistic quest to take down Usain Bolt, the way it all turned out in 2015.

At the 2015 Diamond League meet in Doha, Qatar, two weeks before last year’s Pre, Gatlin went 9.74. Only four guys have — ever — gone faster: Bolt, 9.58 in Berlin in 2009; the American Tyson Gay, 9.69, Shanghai, 2009; 2011 100 world champion Yohan Blake of Jamaica, also 9.69, at the Athletissima meet in Lausanne, Switzerland, 2012; Asafa Powell, also Jamaican and the first racer in history to run sub-10 more than 100 times, 9.72, Athletissima, 2008.

No less than five times in 2015 did Gatlin run faster than 9.79.

Back for the 2015 worlds at the Bird’s Nest in Beijing, where Bolt had raced to Olympic gold in 2008, Gatlin settled into the blocks in Lane 7 with a win streak that stretched past two dozen.

The year, and even the rounds, pointed to Gatlin. He had cruised through, winning his semifinal in 9.77. Bolt had stumbled in his semi, collecting himself late to win in 9.96.

Then, though, came the electricity of the final itself.

Gatlin got off to a slow-ish start. Even so, midway through the race, Gatlin held the lead.

Midway through the race, Justin Gatlin had the lead in the 2015 worlds 100 over Usain Bolt, in yellow jersey // Getty Images

Then, though, came another stumble.

This time, it was Gatlin, trying to hold off Bolt, in Lane 5.

Maybe 20 meters from the line, Gatlin lost his form.

Bolt won, in 9.79.

Gatlin took second, in 9.80, one-hundredth of a second back.

A stumble about 20 meters out cost Gatlin the race, with Bolt, Lane 5, winning by one-hundredth of a second // Getty Images

Asked Friday at a pre-Pre news conference on how many occasions he has watched the 2015 worlds final, Gatlin said, “Countless times. I can’t lie about it,” adding, “I have to make sure I study what I did wrong and also what I did right, and also my opponents as well.

“It was,” he said, “a learning curve for me.”

Sure. But, specifically, how?

“One thing I learned,” he said, “is you can’t be too greedy in trying to get speed. There’s a certain point in the race where it’s humanly impossible for a person to get any faster. So, for me, it’s just to maintain that speed, stay in control of my technique and just go straight through the finish line.”

And this:

The American sprinter Mike Rodgers typically gets out to a fabulous start. Powell performs the race's technical transitions as well as anyone, ever. The Canadian Andre DeGrasse and Gay are going to, in Gatlin’s words, “come like a bat out of hell toward the end of the race.”

“So,” he said, “these are things that you predict — weeks before the race even starts.”

Gatlin didn’t run the 100 at the 2015 Pre. Instead, he focused on the 200, which he won in a — to use his word —blazing 19.68. Gay won the 100 in a comeback statement, 9.98.

For Gatlin, by design, aiming toward the 2016 U.S. Trials and Rio, this Olympic year has gotten off to a considerably slower start.

“The 100 meters,” Gatlin said, “it’s a crazy race. It’s about balance. You don’t want to take too much away from your start and have a powerful finish, because now you’re behind. So you have to have a good solid start. You have to have a good strong finish.”

He also said, “Going into this season, you see me having good starts. The times haven’t been as blazing as last year. But you can see the strength of me coming on at the end.

“I think maybe in Beijing,” meaning this year’s race, at the May 18 IAAF World Challenge event, “Mike Rodgers had a step or two on me coming out of the blocks. I just stayed calm and just commanded the race the second half.”

Gatlin won that 100 in 9.94, Rodgers crossing in 9.97.

“It’s like blinking,” Gatlin said of the various parts of a well-executed 100.

Meaning this:

The ordinary person typically doesn’t think about blinking but, rather, just does it: “Blink, blink, blink,” he said. In the same way, the time to process what the component parts of that well-run 100, and how and why, is in training. When it’s race day, it’s go time.

Just go. That’s how you run the 100 in the blink of an eye.

Gatlin went on, crafting a new analogy, referring to the champion boxer:  “I’m taking it almost like a Floyd Mayweather kind of — taking it round by round,” adding that he was “learning my technique, learning my craft, sharpening my skills and have my strongest round be the last round, the finals. Last year,” another boxing reference, ”I came out like a Mike Tyson — just swinging, knocking everything down.

“This year, I really — on a time level — don’t have a point to prove. I’ve shown the world I can run consistent, fast time. I’m strong, and I’m dominant. So this time I just want to make sure I get to the big dance, and I’m ready.”

The world lead coming into Saturday’s race at venerable Hayward Field in the 100: 9.91, by Qatar’s Femi Ogunode, at a meet April 22 in Gainesville, Florida.

Gatlin after the 100 with NBC's Lewis Johnson

And with fans, who waited patiently in the sun for autographs and selfies

Gatlin, in Lane 3 on Saturday, broke well, keeping an eye of sorts on Ameer Webb, in Lane 6, who has a solid Hayward history and had been running well, obviously in shape, early this year.

By halfway, the race was essentially over, assuming Gatlin could keep it together.

No problem.

The wind, which had been under the legal limit of 2.0 meters per second, blew just above during the race: 2.6. That made Gatlin's 9.88 wind-aided. After flashing that No. 1 sign, Gatlin jogged with the finish line tape wrapped around his neck, like a Bar Mitzvah streamer -- all to big applause.

Powell took second, in 9.94; Gay, third, in 9.98.

Rodgers got fourth, in 9.99; Ogunode, fifth, in 10.02; Webb, sixth, 10.03. China's Bingtian Su took seventh, 10.04. DeGrasse, who tied for third at least year's worlds, came up eighth, 10.05.

"I think all my races this year have been really calm and really relaxed," Gatlin said afterward, clutching a pair of Kenyan flag-colored flip-flops that a fan had thrown him.

Relaying the essence of many discussions with Mitchell, his coach, Gatlin has sought to make the course for 2016 elegantly simple:

“We just want to win. That is the motto for this year: just win. You know, it’s not about predicting what time is going to win, or [is going to get] the gold medal. It’s about getting on that line, competing, executing your race. Once you come across the line, you look across at the board and can be shocked like everyone else at the good time.”

That is yet more evidence of maturity and experience talking.

A lot of water has run under a lot of bridges since Gatlin was just 22 and won gold at the Athens 2004 Olympics in the 100, in 9.85.

In February, he turned 34.

The “20-something Justin was just happy to be there,” he said.

“You know, I think the 30-something Justin understands that now he is leaving behind a legacy — for himself, his family and his fans. So it’s something that’s a little bit more important. When I step to the line, I’ve got to make sure I’m not too antsy but at the same time not too calm, and not suck myself into the ambiance of the stadium and celebrating before the race is even over.”

Rivals, respect: Bolt comes up big, again, in 200

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BEIJING — Usain Bolt defeated Justin Gatlin in the men’s 200 Thursday night at the 2015 world track and field championships, running the best time in the world this year, 19.55 seconds, to win hands-down.

If the result of this big-time showdown had been the other way around, if Gatlin had won, would earthquakes and tsunamis roil the planet? Would sinkholes swallow up large towns? Meteors flash across the sky?

Of course not.

Gatlin finished in 19.74. Just as he did in the 100 Sunday night, Gatlin lost his form — this time, about six steps from the finish — but managed to keep it together enough for second.

Usain Bolt wins the men's 200 // Getty Images

What happened Thursday, same as Sunday, amounted to great sport and, no small thing, great theater. Bolt yet again proved his worth. And Gatlin proved he is a worthy rival.

That’s great for track and field.

Gatlin on Bolt: "I have nothing against Usain. He is a great competitor. A competitor as myself — you know, you look for that. You look to be able to get pushed to your limits, to get pushed to the best times you can run.

"At the end of the day," Gatlin continued, "when you are like 45, 50 years old, and you retire, you want to look back and say, you know what? That guy right there, you helped make history with this guy, helped push him and he pushed you to be a better athlete."

 "I have no problem with Justin Gatlin," Bolt said. "He is a competitor."

If Bolt doesn't have a problem with Gatlin, this simple question: why should anyone else?

Bolt also said of Gatlin, "He talks a lot. I have noticed over the years. But that’s just who he is. I’ve noticed that in the lead-up to a championship, he’s going to say a lot of stuff. But after the championships, he confuses you, you feel like he is your best friend."

Track and field too often can find itself in a marginalized niche, a once-every-two- or four-years-thing. The 200, and other events Thursday, offered precisely what the sport needs: big-time stars, and rivalries, and expressed respect.

Allyson Felix, for instance, moving up from the 200 to the 400, exploded from the start in Lane 6 and put on a sprinting clinic to win in 49.26, a 2015 world-best time. Shaunae Miller of the Bahamas took second in 49.67, Shericka Jackson of Jamaica third in 49.99.

The 400 victory made for the ninth world championship gold of Felix’s stellar career. Let the debate begin now in earnest about whether the schedule at next summer's Rio Olympics can be shuffled around so that she can run both the 200 and 400.

In a news conference, Felix was asked the secret not just to her success but her longevity. Simple, she said -- "to be hungry, to be passionate" about sprinting and winning.

Allyson Felix winning the 400 // Getty Images

In the triple jump, American Christian Taylor, the 2012 Olympic gold medalist, set a new American record, 18.21 meters, or 59 feet, 9 inches, in a competition that -- right before the women's 400 and men's 200 -- seemingly captivated everyone at the Bird’s Nest.

That 18.21 is the second-longest jump in history. Britain’s Jonathan Edwards went 18.29, 60-0 1/4, in 1995. The American record had stood for 19 years: 18.09, 59-4 1/4, Kenny Harrison, to win Olympic gold in Atlanta in 1996.

Christian Taylor after winning the triple jump // Getty Images

Second went to Cuba’s Pedro Pichardo, 17.73, 58-2.

"It was a great fight," Taylor said. "I saved it until my last jump."

The 2008 Olympic champ, Portugal’s Nelson Evora, grabbed third on his final jump, a season-best 17.52, or 57-5 3/4. The American Omar Craddock had to settle for fourth, 17.37, 57 feet even.

On Sunday in that 100, Bolt had defeated Gatlin by one-hundredth of a second in a race that far too many billed as a contest between “good” and “evil,” Bolt caricatured as “good” in this made-up morality farce, Gatlin as “evil.”

As things got underway Thursday night, Bolt, announced to a huge roar, kissed the “Jamaica” on his jersey. Gatlin made kissing motions, then “ran” with his hands, also greeted by cheers.

For all the noise about the 100, the 200 has long been Bolt’s preferred race. In Lane 6, he got out of the blocks without incident — he can be a slow starter but not Thursday — and then, coming down the stretch, powered home for the victory, the fifth-fastest 200 ever.

The last time Bolt had run a 200 under 19.6? August 23, 2012.

"The 100 is really for the people, for my coach," Bolt said, "and the 200 is for me."

Earlier this year, Gatlin had run a 19.57. But not this night.

That 19.74, however, is no small thing: it made for the second-fastest non-Bolt time ever at a world championships. The American Walter Dix ran 19.53 at the worlds in Daegu, South Korea, in 2011.

Third place Thursday went to South Africa's Anaso Jobodwana. He ran a national-record 19.87.

The photo finish of the men's 200, with Usain Bolt way ahead // photo courtesy Seiko

To reiterate the obvious:

Bolt runs big on the big stage, and has ever since he burst onto the world scene here at the Bird’s Nest in those Olympics seven long years ago. But for his false start at those 2011 Daegu worlds, he has won virtually everything — 100, 200, 4x100 — at every major meet since, worlds or Olympics. (The U.S. team won the 4x100 at the World Relays this past May, Gatlin running second for the Americans, Bolt anchor for the Jamaicans.)

Bolt is also thoroughly charismatic. He has made “To Di World” a pose recognized the world over.

Bolt got tangled up with a cameraman amid the post-race festivities. No harm, no foul, he said: "I'm fine. It's all fine."

Post-race, a barefoot Bolt doing his thing // Getty Images

The two-dimensional depiction of Bolt as “good,” it must be emphasized, depends on two things:

One, that he is running clean.

The most, though, that anyone can say about Bolt that he has never tested positive.

That is a long, long way from a guarantee of anything.

To be clear, that's by way of explanation, not accusation; moreover, it must be stressed that nothing has surfaced that would link Bolt to anything undue.

That said, when it comes to the Jamaican track and field landscape, no one, least of all in the media, can be assured of any guarantees; that's too much of an ask given the structural deficiencies that have plagued the Jamaican anti-doping infrastructure, and its woeful lack of testing over the years.

The second point to consider: track and field is not, as some like the chief sports feature writer for the Daily Telegraph, the English newspaper, would have it, a moralistic reflection on athletic piety or purity.

It never has been.

The history of the ancient Olympics in Greece makes that plain.

As David Wallechinsky writes in his authoritative book on the modern Games, "The use of performance-enhancing drugs and concoctions by athletes is nothing new,” noting that the winner of the 1904 Olympic marathon, Thomas Hicks, an English-born brass worker from Cambridge, Massachusetts, “was administered multiple doses of strychnine and brandy during the race.”

Fast forward to Ben Johnson in Seoul, in 1988.

And the BALCO scandal in the United States some 12 years ago.

And allegations now about blood doping in countries around the world.

Track and field, like any enterprise, has its good points — its very, very good points, indeed — and some not so good.

This, then, is what follows logically:

Things in track and field, as in all spheres in life, are not simply susceptible to a reduction of good and bad, black and white, yes or no.

If Bolt can be depicted as a hero — have at it, if you want to.

The same, though, for Gatlin — for years, he has been a study in humility and courage, working his way back from the embarrassment and shame, indeed the mortification, of two doping positives.

Redemption is just as powerful a lesson as anything, and for anyone. Who goes through life without mistakes?

Gatlin’s agent, Renaldo Nehemiah, told the BBC,  “He has humbled himself for months and months. It was never widely reported so people don't believe he has made amends or apologized."

Late Thursday, Nehemiah in an interview, said, "Consider the woman who’s afraid the man who’s coming home is going to beat her -- she's reading all this, realizing [Gatlin] is a fighter, he’s standing tall.

"That’s where the lessons can be learned. There are so many people who can look at this and say, wow, this guy has persevered through relentless criticism -- criticism that was heaped on him unfairly."

To carry the inquiry further — if Bolt is the “saviour of the sport,” as the British track and field Athletics Weekly blared in its front-page headline after the 100, what would have been the case had Gatlin prevailed Thursday night? Would Bolt personally be to blame for any and all ills the sport might confront?

Of course not. This is why the entire construct is not just completely absurd and over-the-top ridiculous but entirely unfair — to Bolt, to Gatlin and, moreover, anyone.

Further, what gets lost in the depiction of Bolt as “good” or Gatlin as “evil” is elemental: facts.

And with facts come context.

And nuance.

In the real world, these things matter.

Anyone in the public eye deserve these things, at the very least.

Gatlin’s first positive test came in 2001, when he was 19, for prescription medicine he was taking for attention-deficit disorder.

As for the second, a testosterone pop in 2006, it makes much more sense upon a read of the record — all of which is publicly available in a federal courthouse in Pensacola, Florida — to infer that the positive test may well have resulted from a shot or a pill, administered by assistant coach Randall Evans, the injection witnessed in person by coach Trevor Graham.

Graham is of course one of the central figures in the BALCO case.

There is no support in the record for the assertion that a massage therapist rubbed steroid cream on Gatlin. That theory, according to the documents, came from Graham.

Facts. They really matter, or at least you’d like to think so.

In that same column in the Telegraph, written by the paper’s chief sports feature writer, under a headline that declares Gatlin is a “bothersome impediment to athletics’ rehabilitation in the eyes of a jaded public” — absolutely not one bit of which is supported by any factual assertion — the column declares about Gatlin, “He has not had to reimburse any of the money that he earned during the time when he was found to have doped.”

Nehemiah, Sunday night, under the Bird’s Nest: “He never stole any money. When he got banned, he never ran another race.”

The set-up to that line about Gatlin’s finances, again from the Telegraph column: “What exactly constitutes payback in his case?” Then, after the line about reimbursement: “The damage he has suffered is purely reputational. This, when it comes to administering any kind of potent deterrent to dopers, is not enough.”

In Gatlin’s 2007 hearing stemming from the 2006 test, Nehemiah would testify that the second test cost Gatlin “5, 6 million dollars.” Gatlin, Nehemiah said, had grossed $1.549 million in 2005; projections in 2006 alone, the agent said, were for “anywhere from $2.5 to $3 million.”

As for payback?

Why is any sort of “payback” a thing? Payback does not equal deterrence. That is simply illogical, it being a maxim of legal theory that sanctions exist for four purposes: retribution, incapacitation, deterrence and rehabilitation.

Payback is not making someone a villain because it suits an easy narrative. That’s grossly unfair.

At any rate, you want deterrence?

Five to six million dollars and four years out, humbling yourself by teaching 8-year-olds in and around Atlanta how to run — that’s powerful deterrence.

You know what else is important in reporting about these kinds of things? Consistency.

Another high-profile sprinter who got busted in the BALCO scandal, as all familiar with track and field would know: the British star Dwain Chambers.

After a lot of legal to and fro, Chambers was ultimately cleared again to run.

Earlier this year, the Telegraph included Gatlin on a list of what it called “the most hated sportsmen in the world,” a “sport-by-sport breakdown of the most loathsome individuals.”

Indeed, in the piece published Wednesday: "Any drugs cheats who decide to revive their careers must accept that it is their lot to endure a reception rife with suspicion and innuendo."

Here, just last year, after he won the British 100 meter championship, was this same newspaper, a different reporter at the byline, hero-making on Chambers:

“After the athletics season last year Chambers climbed Mont Blanc in support of the charity Teens Unite and he revealed the experience had given him the mental strength to keeping racing. ‘I’ve climbed many mountains, haven’t I? And fallen down a few,’ he said. ‘But I still keep standing. Climbing that mountain was for a different cause, but it showed me a lot about myself. That was a lot of pressure. I was scared, because any false slip I was a goner. I had to keep my wits about me. But doing that made me believe and understand that I can do anything.

‘I was totally out of my comfort zone, walking 250 [meters] up an hour. It normally takes me about 25 seconds to do that. But it was a real test of character for me and it’s given me the ability to still come out here and compete.’ "

Even more, last August from the European track and field championships in Zurich, here was the writer now designated the chief sports feature writer, after first describing Chambers as “avowedly reformed and ever-complex”:

“Once ostracized, Chambers has been accepted back into the fold due to the apparent sincerity of his contrition.”

Fair is, you know, fair.

Recognizing what he was up against coming into this meet, Gatlin acknowledged late Thursday, "It was never my intent to come to these championships and and try win over any fans or change the view of who I am. My intent was to come here and compete to the best of my abilities. That's what my job is.

"I think the people saw a different view of me: you know, I'm just a competitor, man. I have no ill will toward Usain, no ill will towards anybody. We have all worked very, very hard all season long, just trying to stay away from injury. And just get out there and run 9 seconds, run 19 seconds, and get on that podium. Mission accomplished.

"I came out of here with some hardware," he said. Now it's time "to get ready for the 4x100 and get ready for Rio."

Where Bolt and Gatlin, all things being equal, get to go at each other again. It's all good.

Bahamas rocks, U.S. rolls

NASSAU, Bahamas — The crowd was loud for the local boys’ 4x400 race. That was with Thomas A. Robinson Stadium not even maybe one-quarter full. With 19 people in line downstairs for the Kings of Jerk chicken ($10) and pork ($12), it would be more than an hour until the pros took to the blue Mondo track, two more after after that until the Bahamas Golden Knights, with three of the four guys who won Olympic gold in London two years ago in the 4x4, lining it up. Then the place all but erupted.

It’s a no-brainer why the IAAF is coming back here next year for the follow-up edition of the World Relays.

LaShawn Merritt, left, after winning the men's 4x400 relay, holding off Michael Mathieu // photo Getty Images

Next year’s meet will be held earlier, the first weekend in May, straight after the Penn Relays. The Youth Olympic Games this summer in Nanjing, China, will feature mixed boys and girls relays, and who knows how that will play for the 2015 event in Nassau? Maybe, too, there might be medleys or sprint hurdles. It’s clear, too, that there need to be more women’s teams in the 4x1500.

But these are all nice problems to have.

Because, frankly, every track meet should be like this.

This meet had passion.

Unlike, for instance, the first few days of last year’s world championships in Moscow, where Luzhniki Stadium was way too empty, here Robinson was alive and jamming. It was 79 years to the day that Jesse Owens had done his thing, tying or setting four world records in the space of 45 minutes at the Big Ten championships, and all of a sudden Sunday track and field was vital again.

They went crazy here, cheering loud and long for the consolation final in the men’s 400, won by the Belgians. The consolation final!

Passion is what track and field needs.

Passion is what the Bahamas delivered, along with great weather, spectacular scenery, a Junkanoo band, fantastic hospitality, first-rate facilities and a fast track that produced three world records, 37 national records and, overall, saw the U.S. team — and especially the U.S. women — dominate the meet.

One world record came Sunday night in the men’s 4x1500, courtesy of — who else — the Kenyans. Two came Saturday, in the women’s 4x1500 and in the men’s 4x200.

The Kenyan men destroyed the 4x1500 record by more than 14 seconds. The new time: 14:22.22.

Asbel Kiprop ran a 3:32.3 anchor. He pointed the baton at the finish line. After the victory ceremony, the Kenyans threw their flowers to the crowd. More roars.

The U.S., anchored by Leo Manzano, ran an American-record 14.40.80. Ethiopia — which had to battle visa issues just to get here — finished third, in 14:41.22.

As for the U.S. women:

On Saturday, the 4x100 team won in 41.88.

Then came victories Sunday in the:

— 4x400, keyed by a killer third leg from Natasha Hastings, in 3:21.73.

Sanya Richards-Ross after the U.S. women's winning 4x400 relay // photo Getty Images

— 4x800, with Chanelle Price leading off and Brenda Martinez anchoring, in 8:01.58. Kenya finished second.

"It started to get loud and I just wanted to bleed for my teammates,” Martinez would say afterwards.

— 4x200, in 1:29.45, with Great Britain second, 17-hundredths back. Jamaica took third in 1:30.04, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce anchoring.

Gold in the 100, 200, 400, 800 — and silver, after a fall, in the 1500.

There was one other U.S. victory Sunday.

Just not one the crowd came to see.

The Bahamas’ line-up in the men’s 4x400 featured Demetrius Pinder, Michael Mathieu and Chris Brown, just like two years ago in London. LaToy Williams subbed for Ramon Miller. Williams opened it up; Pinder ran second, as usual; Brown, third (he had run first in London); Mathieu would close it out.

The U.S. countered with David Verburg; Tony McQuay; 2012 Olympic triple jump champion Christian Taylor, who also runs a mean 400; and LaShawn Merritt, who is the 2008 Olympic as well as 2009 and 2013 world champion in the 400.

Merritt is also a gold medalist at the 2007, 2009, 2011 and 2013 4x400 relays.

It takes nothing — repeat, nothing — away from the Bahamas gold in 2012 to note that LaShawn Merritt was hurt and did not run in London.

The Bahamas defeated the U.S. in April at the Penn Relays; the U.S. has never lost to the same team twice in a row in the men’s 4x4.

By the time Brown handed off to Mathieu, the Bahamas had a four-meter lead. The music was at full roar. The place was jumping. It was loud. It was exciting. It was great theater.

The men’s 4x4 was, simply put, an advertisement for track and field.

Merritt is 27, 28 at the end of June. He has been through it and come out the other side. Not just on the track but, as has been well-documented, off. He has matured and is as mentally tough a customer in not just this sport but any sport.

He tried a move at 250 meters. Nothing there. So he settled in and waited, behind Mathieu, for the turn.

And then just turned it on.

Down the stretch, LaShawn Merritt showed why he is one of the great 400 runners in history.

He didn’t just run Mathieu down, he buried him.

The clock read 2:57.25 when Merritt crossed first, the crowd suddenly very, very quiet.

Mathieu crossed next, in 2:57.59. Trinidad & Tobago took third, in 2:58.34.

Merritt’s final split: 43.8.

Mathieu’s: 44.6.

“Of course we felt some pressure,” Merritt said later. “It was a big business for us. The Bahamian guys sometimes do trash-talking so we wanted to come out here and, in front of their fans, prove that we’re the best in the world.”

The U.S. men didn’t get the chance to challenge almighty Jamaica in the men’s 4x1. Anchored by Yohan Blake, the Jamaicans won in 37.77. The Americans didn’t run in the final. They had been disqualified in the heats — the result of yet another bad pass, this time Trell Kimmons to Rakieem Salaam, Man 2 to Man 3 on the backstretch.

By the time the pass got completed, the guys were way out of the zone. Obvious DQ.

The men’s 4x2 team had been DQ’d Saturday for another out-of-zone pass.

It surely will prove little consolation that the Jamaican 4x4 team Sunday dropped the baton.

Some context:

Of the last 11 major championships, world or Olympic, including these Relays, dating back to 2001, the U.S. men’s 4x1 team has been DQ’d or DNF’d five times — again, out five of 11.

It’s six of 11 if you include the retroactive doping DQ for the 2001 team.

There is only one word for that: unacceptable.

What is far more problematic is that USA Track & Field has been down this institutional road before. See, for instance, the Project 30 report from 2009.

Looking ahead now to the world championships in Beijing in 2015 and to the Rio Summer Games in 2016, and even beyond, one of the key action points going forward for USATF has to be addressing its sprint relay issues.

Some of what happened here may be, simply, that runners took off too early. That can happen.

Then again, it may also be the case that USATF would be well-advised to name a relay coach — someone in charge of just the relays — and get this right.

There is ample history for any reasonable person to argue that USATF is dysfunctional and incapable of this or that.

There’s also the counter-argument that, at some level, USATF must be doing something right. The 29 medals U.S. athletes won at the London Games didn’t just happen.

Duffy Mahoney, USATF’s high-performance director, has been involved in track and field for decades.

He was alternately sanguine about the DQ’s and resolute about the need to get results.

“Life,” he said, “is what happens to you while you are making plans.”

He also said that the possibility of a full-on relay coach is “one of the beginnings of the solution.”

Who that might be, of course, is a mystery.

It’s hugely unlikely to be Jon Drummond. He is now enmeshed in all kinds of legal complexities involving the Tyson Gay matter. Beyond which — to think that Drummond is the only person in the United States who can coach up the relays is absurd.

Dennis Mitchell served here. On the one hand, the women won, and for the most part they were not the Olympic A-listers. But, again, the men had issues. And Mitchell has a significant PR issue because of his doping ties.

The relays involve timing, communication and confidence. And more.

As Manteo Mitchell, a courageous silver medalist at the London 2012 for the U.S. team in the 4x400 relay, posted on Twitter Sunday within minutes after the 4x100 debacle, without further comment, “Too many egos in one group.”

The Jamaicans seemingly have proven you don’t need group therapy to run the sprint relays. The Americans shouldn’t, either.

A light rain began to fall late Sunday as they wrapped it all up here, the Americans pondering what’s next, the IAAF exuberant.

“In the ‘sun, sea and sand paradise’ that the Bahamas markets itself, we have experienced a true sporting paradise which has excelled beyond our expectations,” Lamine Diack, the IAAF president, said. “The people have embraced the IAAF World Relays and the noise of their support will be left ringing in our memories for many years to come.”

As the rain fell, Timothy Munnings, the director of sports in the Bahamas’ ministry of youth, sports and culture, walked through the stands.

He stopped to talk with some journalists, asking — earnestly — how the event had gone.

“Thank you for coming,” he said. “Next year, you’ve got to be back.”

 

Relay oops -- U.S. does it again, twice

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NASSAU, Bahamas — A Bahamian Junkanoo band rocked and rolled in the end zone. The crowd went jetplane-loud when the local heroes, the Bahamas men’s 4x400 team, went around the track. Two world records went down in about 30 minutes. It was a great night for track and field at the first edition of the IAAF World Relays.

It was also a rough night for the U.S. team, one that ought to raise, yet again, the same tiresome, frustrating questions:

How can Americans be so good at thumbs on a cellphone but manage to be so bad at passing a stick around the track in a relay? Just to pick one team, how can the Jamaicans manage to, you know, get around the track so well and so fast?

Three of the four U.S. 4x1500 racers seeking a quiet moment after the race

There were, to be sure, bright spots for the United States:

The U.S. women won the 4x100 in 41.88 seconds. Sanya Richards-Ross, in a return to the bright lights of track and field after medical woes with her toes, ran a devastating second lap in the heats of the 4x400, opening up a 1.4-second lead on the Jamaicans, to power the U.S. women to victory in their heat. In the men’s 4x400 heats, London 2012 triple jump champion Christian Taylor ran a fantastic anchor leg to hold off Jamaica’s Rusheen McDonald by eight-hundredths of a second.

Yet in a bewildering case of déjà vu all over again, and again, in incidents that awakened the echoes of bungled handoffs and bad passes past, the U.S. team managed not once but twice to screw it up, first in the women’s 4x1500 relay — which seems almost unimaginable — and then in the men’s 4x200.

In the women’s 4x1500, the Kenyans took down the world record by more than 30 seconds. That’s a wow.

The mark had been 17:05.72, set just a few days ago in Nairobi. Everyone knew coming in that the record was soft, and anticipation was high for a duel between the Kenyans and Americans.

Indeed, Heather Kampf, who would run first for the United States, sent out a tweet before the race that said, “Running with a baton is like carrying around the hearts of your teammates while racing. Can’t wait!”

It all seemed to be going so well. And then — boom, Katie Mackey, running the second leg, was on the ground.

“I just did what we did in practice,” Mackey said afterward. “Looked back at Heather,” who was coming in for the pass, “and moved up a little bit to the inside, and next thing I know — the Australian is right in front of me, so I kind of tripped and went down.

“But my first thought was, it is track, anything can happen, you have to get up and try to get back into the race. I think I did it. We love the Bahamas!”

The trip-and-fall cost Mackey at least four seconds. Four seconds meant 25 meters, at least. There went the duel.

The Kenyans crushed the field — by the end, Helen Obiri would lap Romania’s Lenuta Ptronela Simiuc — and the world record, finishing in 16:33.58.

The Americans got up and back into it, beating the old record, too, finishing in an American-record 16.55.33.

“We felt the music throughout the race,” from the marching band, “and we felt the support of the crowd,” Obiri said.

“We are excited to have broken the world record for the second time this year,” Mercy Cherono, who ran the opening leg, said. “I am so happy and proud for my team and the time we ran today. It was important to win for our country.”

About a half-hour later, up came the men’s 4x2. American Curtis Mitchell, passing to Ameer Webb, Man 2 to Man 3, couldn’t swing it cleanly. They wobbled together past the exchange zone and that was that.

Webb, Mitchell said afterward, “had a big stop,” adding, “We almost crashed. I was nearly over him. It was just poor execution.”

Not that it would have mattered much to the result — the Jamaicans, anchored by Yohan Blake, blazed to a world-record 1:18.63, breaking the old mark, set 20 years ago, in April 1994, by five-hundredths of a second.

Unofficially, Blake’s split, and this may be the best we are ever going to do in knowing what he ran on the blue track here: 19-flat. Keep in mind, too, that the 200 world record, held by Bolt, is 19.19, set at the 2009 Berlin world championships.

Of course, Blake had a flying start Saturday night and Bolt had to start from the blocks, so the two are a little bit apples and oranges.

The Jamaican 1:18.63 is particularly notable because it means Carl Lewis' name is now gone from another line in the record books. You can still find the Santa Monica Track Club on the line that says sprint medley, 1985, 3:10.76 -- Lewis led that one off.

It’s notable, too, because, of course, Usain Bolt did not race. He is not here. And, still, the Jamaicans killed it.

The Americans, scoreboard said, would have finished third.

So meaningless.

Saint Kitts and Nevis ended up taking second; France was elevated to third.

“It shows Jamaica’s depth in sprints is spectacular,” Nickel Ashmeade, who ran leadoff, said. “No offense to anyone but there is no one like Jamaica. We have depth all around and keep getting better all the time.”

Bolt has his “lightning” pose. Blake does a “beast” thing. He did the beast thing a lot after the race but tends to speak quietly.

He said, “We just worried about getting the stick around the track. We know we have the speed to take care of everything else.”

This is where the Jamaicans are so different than the Americans.

It’s all mindset.

The Jamaicans genuinely seem to be having fun when they are racing.

Why, in the relays, do the Americans too often seem to be running as if thinking too much? Like they are executing some middle-management strategy?

“We ended up changing the relay last-minute,” Maurice Mitchell, who ran the first leg, said. “But, you know, it is what it is.”

Why a last-minute change, he was asked? “I’m not really sure. It’s coach’s decision.”

Asked to elaborate, Mitchell said, “I’m not really, fully — really know about what was going on. I just tried to do my job on the first leg.”

All of this, the communication issues and confidence woes they can engender, are well-documented in the 2009 Project 30 report — turn to Page 20.

In anticipation of just this sort of thing happening again, however, a few intrepid journalists on Friday did some math:

Since 2001, there have been 10 major championships — Olympics or worlds. The U.S. 4x1 men, as a for instance, have been DQ’d or DNF’d in five. One was for retroactive doping, 2001, so if you want to be picky, the number of field-of-play disasters is four of 10.

Listen to the way the Jamaicans and Americans talked Saturday night, after they had run, about the way each prepared for their races:

Warren Weir, second leg, Jamaican 4x2, half-jokingly: “We stayed home, ate ice cream and played video games.” Then, for real: “No, seriously, we all did our separate preparations because we are in different camps. We just did some baton exchanges on this track to test it out.”

Ashmeade: “We came out here yesterday and did a set of baton passes. That’s all.”

Now, Tianna Bartoletta, leadoff on the winning U.S. women’s 4x1 team:

“I would say we tried to really build trust among one another and communication because there are a lot of different variables between practice and race day.

“We really worked on being loud with our communication, either saying, ‘Wait,’ or, ‘Go,’ or, ‘Stick,’ and being really consistent with that so that under any circumstance or any situation we could get the baton around the track.”

It worked for them, right?

 

Straight talk about Qatar

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They held a track meet Friday on a typically warm and balmy evening in Doha, the opening Diamond League event of the 2013 season. It was sensational. American long jumper Brittney Reese, the 2012 Olympic gold medalist, sailed out to a personal best, 7.25 meters, or 23 feet, 9 1/2 inches. It was the best jump by an American in 15 years.

Another London gold medalist, David Rudisha of Kenya, won again, in 1:43.87, considerably slower than his world-record 1:40.91 at the Games. That was to be expected for an early-season outing. Even so, he beat Mohammed Aman of Ethiopa -- who had beaten him last year in Zurich -- by more than half a second.

In the women's 400, Amantle Montsho of Botswana defeated Allyson Felix in a rematch of their thrilling encounter at the 2011 world championships in Daegu, South Korea; Felix hadn't lost in Doha in 10 races but, then again, hadn't run the 400 in a meet since Daegu. Montsho crossed Friday night in 49.88, Felix in 50.19. Britain's Christine Ohuruogu, the London silver medalist, took third, in 50.53.

In all, there were 11 world-leading performances. More than two dozen Olympians made the meet.

The focus Friday in Doha was on track and field. Nothing else. It just goes to show -- again -- that when given a chance, the Qataris know how to put on a big-time sports event where the athletes are front and center.

It's a mystery why so much of the world -- still -- views what is going on in Doha with such suspicion.

It's as if having money is a bad thing.

Like, why?

That is stupid thinking and ought to stop.

This is not naiveté.

If there is evidence of misconduct or wrongdoing, then it should be produced, and examined for everyone to see.

If there is not, then what is at issue is stereotyping, or worse -- and that really needs to stop. Because, as Fahad Ebrahim Juma, the director of planning and development for the Qatar Olympic Committee said in a recent interview in Doha, "Believe it or not, the Middle East is part of this earth."

One day, there are going to be Olympic Games in the Middle East.

Maybe they will be in Istanbul in 2020. The International Olympic Committee is going to vote this September on the 2020 site; Istanbul is in the mix, along with Tokyo and Madrid.

If Istanbul doesn't make it, Doha -- which bid for 2016 and 2020 but was cut -- will surely bid for 2024. Maybe even if Istanbul does make it. Who knows?

Of course, Qatar will stage soccer's World Cup in 2022.

Again, if there is documentable evidence of misconduct or wrongdoing in the Qatari World Cup bid, bring it on.

Until then, here is some of the evidence of what is actually going on in Qatar:

The country is being developed, and rapidly, according to a "National Vision 2030" plan that includes sport as one of its key pillars.

Part of the strategy involves international outreach. In 1993, Qatar staged two international sports events. In 2002, 10. This year, 40. The 2020 objective, 50.

Next year, it will stage the world swimming short-course championships; in 2015, the world handball championships; in 2016, the road cycling championships.

The Qataris announced Friday they intend to bid for the 2019 world track and field championships; they tried for 2017 but lost to London.

Another element of the 2030 plan is an internal focus. An Olympic program in the country's schools drew 5,000 students in 2008 -- 1,500 girls and 3,500 boys. This year, roughly 21,900 students -- 7,555 girls, 14,345 boys.

At the London Games, Qatar sent women to the Games for the first time -- four. But it's not as if there aren't Qatari female athletes. More than 200 Qatari women competed at the 2006 Asian Games. The Qataris are, for the most part, trying to get their female athletes to the Games by qualifying them the way every other nation does, not just by accepting wild-card invitations in swimming and track.

The nation's flag-bearer at the opening ceremony in London: female shooter Bahiya al-Hamad.

Yes, you can see women in veils in Doha. But, this spring at the QMA Gallery at Katara, near the upscale West Bay development, you could also have taken in the "Hey Ya!" photo and video exhibit -- shots of Arabic women in swimsuits; gymnastics leotards; sports bras, shorts and track spikes; whatever.

You could also have taken in a production across town of the Greek tragedy, "Medea," put on by Northwestern University in Qatar. Northwestern is one of several leading institutions with branch campuses in Qatar -- others include Texas A&M, Carnegie Mellon, Virginia Commonwealth, Georgetown's foreign service school and Cornell's medical school.

You could have gone shopping at the Villagio mall. It has an ice rink in it. And a food court. And every shop-'til-you-drop outlet you can imagine. It's right next to the Aspire complex, with a 50,000-seat stadium and a sports-specific hospital. They put on the 2010 world indoor track and field championships at Aspire.

Or -- and this is where the Qataris got their latest round of bad press -- you could have taken in the "Olympics: Past and Present" Exhibit in a temporary hall close to the Museum of Islamic Art. The show will run there until June 30; it's due eventually to be housed in a Qatar Olympic and Sports Museum.

The exhibit, which opened in March, is split into two parts, one highlighting ancient Olympia, the other the modern Games. On display are some 1,200 items, including over 600 from Greece and international museums.

There's a mini-Olympic stadium. There are Olympic posters and mascots. There is every Olympic torch -- including the super hard-to-find Helsinki 1952 torch.

The display, put together by Dr. Christian Wacker, a German historian, is genuine. It is engaging. Most important, it doesn't skirt the truth -- it confronts the honest realities that, for instance, the Games have had boycotts and been shadowed by doping problems.

All that, and the one thing that the European press bothered to write about -- which then made the English-language wire services -- is some nude statues?

A compromise -- a fabric six feet in front of the statues -- didn't suit the Greek Culture Ministry. So the antiquities were a no-go, and reportedly shipped back to Athens, where it somehow became a story.

Why? Because cultural sensitivities in Doha are, on some level, different than in Athens? Who got together and decided that cultural standards in Athens make the world go around?

The controversy is all the more incredible given that this exhibit is -- again -- literally in the shadow of one of the world's finest exhibits of Islamic art.

Beyond which -- there is nudity in the exhibit, including a lovely small bronze.

Four Olympic champions, meanwhile, were among those touring the show on Wednesday: Felix, Reese, American triple-jumper Christian Taylor and Jamaican sprinter Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce.

It was normal.

Then they, and a bunch of other top athletes, went out Friday night and ran. Normal.

"I love racing in Doha," said Kellie Wells, the London bronze medalist in the women's 100 hurdles, who finished second Friday, behind London silver medalist Dawn Harper-Nelson.

Harper-Nelson ran a world-leading 12.6; Wells ran a season-best 12.73. "It's always great to run here," Wells said. "Every single time."

 

'...Big things' for 2011 U.S. track team

DAEGU, South Korea -- Christian Taylor, 21 years old, won the triple jump Sunday at the 2011 track championships with an audacious leap of 17.96 meters, 58 feet, 11 1/4 inches, the fifth-best in history. He declared afterward, in the tone of a respectful competitor, not a jerk, "I came to win." Will Claye is just 20 years old. Both Claye and Taylor were going to be seniors at the University of Florida until turning pro. What are the odds that these would be the two guys finishing 1-3 at the worlds in the same event? Yet that's what happened, Claye jumping a personal-best 17.5, or 57-5. He said, "We came out here, did our best and ended up doing big things."

The American team did, indeed, do big things.

First and foremost, it topped the medal table, with 25, the second-highest medal total at a worlds for Team USA, one shy of the 26 won by the 1991 and 2007 teams.

But for the thoroughly unexpected, the American team actually could have reached the elusive 30 mark, which would have been sweet validation indeed for Doug Logan, the vanquished former chief executive of USA Track & Field, who had said all along that 30 was eminently do-able -- only to get sent packing before the plans he had put in place to get to 30 could be realized.

The Americans put four men in the final 12 in shot put, an event the U.S. has dominated in recent years. None got a medal. The U.S. has also been strong in the 400-meter men's hurdles; no medals there in Daegu despite two finalists. The Americans took home no medals in pole-vaulting, men's or women's, a traditional strength.

And, once again, in the very last event of the championships, the men's 400 relay, an event won by the Jamaicans -- anchored by Usain Bolt -- in world-record time, 37.04, the American men did not get through without disaster.

The 2008 Olympics, the 2009 world champs and now these 2011 worlds -- all DQs. This one involved a collision on the final exchange involving American Darvis Patton and Britain's Harry Aikines-Aryeetey. Details, even after repeated viewings of the tape, remain sketchy.

"I felt his big knee in my arm," Aikines-Aryeetey said in a television interview.

Under no circumstances would the Americans have beaten the Jamaicans. Even so, Justin Gatlin, who had run the second leg, said, "You can't tell me we weren't going to set an American record."

Stepping back to assess the U.S. team's "big things" over the nine days of the meet:

The 12 medals won by the U.S. women are the most-ever; the 1993 team won 11.

Allyson Felix didn't win individual gold in her 200/400 double. But she did win silver in the 400, bronze in the 200 and gold in both the 400 and 1600 relays. Four is the most medals ever won by a woman at one meet; American Gwen Torrance, Kathrin Krabbe of Germany and Marita Koch of East Germany also won four.

If Felix had been a country, the four medals she won would have tied her for seventh on the 2011 medals chart.

Also: those four medals lift Felix's career world-championships total won to 10. That ties her with Carl Lewis for most medals won by an American.

Jenny Simpson, 25 and still a newlywed (last October), won the first gold for the United States in the women's 1500 since 1983. Then, a couple days later, Matthew Centrowitz, 21, a fifth-year senior at Oregon, won bronze in the 1500.

The U.S. men swept the high jump, long jump and triple jump golds. The U.S. men -- Trey Hardee and Ashton Eaton -- went 1-2 in the decathlon. Dwight Phillips' long jump victory was his fourth at the worlds, to go along with his 2004 Olympic gold.

Phillips is 33, turning 34 in October. Bernard Lagat, who took silver Sunday night in the 5000, is 36, turning 37 in December. Lagat is the 2007 5000 and 1500 champ and, as well, the 2009 1500 bronze and 5000 silver medalist; he won silver at the 2004 Games in Athens when he was still running for Kenya.

Lagat, Phillips, Simpson, Centrowitz -- they illustrate the mix of veteran and younger talent that made up this team. That same sort of mix is likely to be on display next year for the United States track team at the Olympics in London.

"If Jenny can do it … if Matt can do it … if Bernard can still do it … I'm proud of my team," Lagat said.

Taylor, asked about the U.S. men sweeping the jumps, said, "It's about time. That's what I would say. Like I said, to have Dwight in the same group and having that family -- you know it's like, I wouldn't say a brother, but he's kind of old, so kind of like a dad! I mean, it's just been a great experience.

"The U.S. definitely represented and showed the world that we are the best team in the world."

So -- what does this performance here in Daegu mean for London?

Maybe a lot and perhaps very little.

LaShawn Merritt, the 2008 400 gold medalist, took silver in the event here and anchored the gold medal-winning 1600 relay. His future remains uncertain pending the outcome of litigation stemming from a 21-month doping-related suspension he has already served.

Tyson Gay, who had been America's best 100 and 200 sprinter, was hurt. Jeremy Wariner, the 2004 400 gold medalist -- hurt. Chris Solinsky, the 10,000-meter American record-holder -- hurt. Bryan Clay, the 2008 Olympic decathlon champ -- hurt. Standout hurdler Lolo Jones -- hurt. None of them competed here.

Do any or all of them make it to London? No one can predict.

Who knows whether Gay, who has struggled to stay healthy, can get fit?

Beyond which -- the brutal nature of the U.S. Trials, in which you're top-three or you stay home -- allows for no sentiment.

Just ask Phillips. He finished fourth at the Trials in 2008.

Or Simpson. "I mean, all this can do is bolster my confidence," she said.

But now Daegu is over, and London awaits. And she said, "I'm very cognizant of the fact this doesn't mean that I'm any shoo-in for any race following this."