Now that the sun has set on the 2013 World Championships in Moscow, let’s give out some “Movie” awards for what stood out, for better or worse, during those 10-days of competition in Russia
In the running for best picture
Producer: Team USA
Supporting cast: Ajee Wilson, Alysia Montano, Brenda Martinez, Duane Solomon, Nick Symmonds, Mary Cain, Jenny Simpson, Matt Centrowitz
This story is sure to be a “box-office” hit with the USA middle distance crew making history in Moscow that no other country has ever been able to do. Over the recent decade, the Africa countries have traditionally dominated the middle-distance and long distance running events at major international championships. The USA usually was bringing up the rear during those races; always celebrating for just getting an athlete into the final – the place meaning absolute bubkiss. Recently, there has been a resurgence of young talent in the middle-distance races for the United States. Over the past few international events, not only has the USA been qualifying individuals for international finals, but making our presence known by being legitimate medal contenders. This resurgence was ignited at the 2011 World Championships when Matt Centrowitz earned a bronze medal in the 1500m run, and Jenny Simpson earning a gold medal in the 1500m run; the first medal in the 1500m run for a United States won since the days of Mary Decker in the 1980′s. I know I was skeptical in thinking it was just a lucky race for Matt and Jenny, and that the USA couldn’t possibly be keeping up with the Kenyans and Ethiopians of the distance world. I ate my words after seeing what the USA did in Moscow. The USA asserted itself as a legit power in the middle-distance world because of this one statistic:
The USA is the only country ever to have a medalist in both the 800m and 1500m for both genders in a World Championship.”
I couldn’t believe my ears when I heard that. USA middle distance crew was arguably the best team ever in a world championships?? No…someone must have us confused for someone else. It wasn’t like we just had one stud in each event that earned their medal and walked off the track; the USA has multiple entries in the finals for each race (besides the men’s 1500m) – including 3 entries in the women’s 800m. Nick Symmonds (men’s 800m silver), Brenda Martinez (women’s 800m bronze), Matt Centrowitz (men’s 1500m silver) and Jenny Simpson (women’s 1500m silver) have brought middle distance a point of pride for Team USA and all of the track fans in the states. The highlight of this blockbuster was the women’s 800m where Brenda Martinez became the first American women to win a medal in the 800m, and Ajee Wilson (19yo) broke an American Junior record. For the first time in a LONG time, the middle distance performances were the highlight of an international meet, and by far out-shadowed the ever-popular sprinting events. I give “Middle-Distance Dominance” 5 stars and two-thumbs up!
Supporting Cast: Brad Walker
This box-office is one that just pisses me off. Being professional in track & field is a very tall task and requires an athlete to maintain a certain level of performance in order to stay sponsored by the certain company they sign with. In some cases, companies can terminate an athlete’s contract without advanced notice and can leave the athlete in limbo. The most recognizable and largest sponsor of track & field in the shoe giant Nike. They have been a great supporter of USA track & field ever since the days of it’s inception in the late 1970′s. They also have very strict, binding contracts that require athletes to maintain a certain level of performance and ranking in order for Nike to keep them under contract. With all the great things that Nike does, the definitely took a nose-dive into the ground with this story. For the better part of the last 8 years, American pole vaulter, Brad Walker, has been the best American vaulter and consistently one of the top vaulters in the world. The American Record Holder has had some recent set backs in the last few years, including a no-mark in the London Olympic final, that has made his contract deal with Nike very fragile, ultimately giving Brad the ultimatum that he could accept Nike’s “gear only” contract or leave the company all together. Walker chose to leave Nike during the 2013 season and competed unattached for the majority of the indoor and outdoor season. After winning another USA outdoor title this past outdoor season, Walker reluctantly signed with Nike before the World Championships; citing that he was interested in the monetary bonus he would receive if he were to medal at Worlds. Back on the Nike train, Walker demonstrated the form that saw him win the World Championships in 2007. While he finished off the podium in 4th place, he definitely put on a great show and represented the USA very well. The story takes a downhill turn when Walker was informed after the competition that Nike dropped his contract on the spot due to Brad placing tape over a defective velcro strap that helped bind his laces down. Nike said that Brad should not have covered up the Nike logo with the tape and thus were terminating his contract.
**Call me crazy…but I would want to make sure I was in the best position to compete at the highest level. If that means taping down a defective velcro strap so I don’t have to worry about the strap flopping around while I’m running, then so-be-it. NEWS FLASH Nike: Brad is moving too damn fast down the runaway for anyone to see your precious logo on the shoes! Not like people can look at the other 50 Nike swooshes on the uniform and know that Brad was a Nike athlete. We are too busy watching the actual performance of the athlete than worrying about the shoes he is wearing.
Anyways, the uproar that ensued on social media following that news was an overwhelming support for Brad Walker and his situation. Brad added fuel to the fire by auctioning off every single piece of clothing and gear on eBay that Nike had ever provided him. I think I stand for most people that we fully support Brad Walker and will be anxious to see what company he signs with in the future. (I’d think it’d be great marketing for Brad to go to Adidas and team up with Jenn Suhr. Having the American Record Holder in both the men’s and women’s pole vault would be a great sales point). While stories like Brad/Nike probably happen more than we know, I applaud Brad for bring some much needed attention to the reality of professionalism in track & field and how extremely difficult and cut-throat it is.
Going Straight to DVD
Supporting cast: All track and field athletes
While there were many fantastic moments during the 2013 World Championships in Moscow from Bolt adding 3 more world titles to his resume to the fantastic finish in the women’s 400m and epic battle in the men’s HJ – the majority of the meet was somewhat forgettable. From the lack of international stars that were not competing, to the lack of attendance and empty stands, to the once again terrible announcing by the NBC commentators, Moscow 2013 certainly will be a world championships that will disappear from my mind here in about 2 weeks. The lack of star power in selected events – mainly due to injuries and PED’s – certainly made some of the events less exciting. The absence of Tyson Gay, Blanka Vlasic, David Rudisha, Veronica Campbell-Brown and many others made it more difficult for the track & field fan to get excited about certain events when half of the field were athletes that were athletes that probably would not have made the finals of their events in the big-name stars were there. But you could also flip that around and say it gave athlete that don’t normally get the opportunity to run in a finals a chance to make the most of their experience.
**I think I speak for most people that while I respect Dwight Stones and his athletic accomplishments, he has to go as an announce! His forgetfulness of the athletes and teams on the track is more evident than ever, and his habit of rambling on about events he has no business announcing is very frustrating. His announcing at NCAAs and USAs was embarrassing and Worlds wasn’t much better.
One instance that comes to mind during the USA outdoor broadcast was during the decathlon 400m. Gunnar Nixon had been in the lead after the HJ and was in the same heat of the 400m as Ashton. It is no secret that the 400m is one of Ashton’s best events and his times are by FAR more world class than 99% of the decathletes. While Ashton ran somewhere in the 46.x – Dwight had the audacity to announce that Gunnar was “..really struggling in lane 2 to finish.” Okay Dwight….let’s see you go run a 48.x second 400m in the humid heat like Gunnar did and we’ll see how well you struggle. Dwight Stones needs to go!!