Tag Archives: 800m

Track Beauty of the Week: Molly Beckwith

Molly Beckwith is this week’s Track Beauty!

The United States is not just the world’s last remaining superpower, it is also the world’s foremost athletics nation. A strong testament to this lofty standing is the American resurgence in middle- and long-distance running – events that have been dominated for so long by East and Northern Africans and the occasional Russian talent.

Article by Joboy Quintos

Click this link to read the full article…

Track Beauty of the Week: Ingvill Måkestad Bovim

Ingvill Måkestad Bovim is this week’s Track Beauty!

Måkestad Bovim is Norway’s best middle distance runner. She holds the Norwegian records in both the 800m (1:59.82, 2010) and the rarely run 1000m (2:36.7, 2011). [1] Ingvill’s 1500m run personal best is 4:02.20, only two seconds from the legendary Grete Waitz’s national record. As a junior, she specialized in the two-lap event before shifting to the longer distance as she grew older.

Click this link to read the full article…

Saudi Arabia’s First Female Olympians

This is historic. Saudi Arabia will be sending two female athletes to the London Olympics. The oil-rich Middle Eastern kingdom was the last to heed the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) moves to end sexual discrimination in sport, following Qatar and Brunei. Judoka Wodjan Ali Seraj Abdulrahim Shahrkhani and middle distance runner Sarah Attar will the first Saudi female Olympians.

Click here to read the full article…

Class Acts: Bryan Clay and Jenny Meadows

Photo from Nigel Chadwick

The American and British Olympic selection systems are vastly different. Those who finish in the top three at the U.S. Olympic Trials, provided they had met the “A” standard in their events, are automatically selected. It is a no-nonsense, cutthroat method that leaves no room for appeal. The British model is a lot more complex. Prospective athletes still compete at the U.K. Olympic Trials, but there is plenty of room for subjective selections. Those who had met the “A” standard, even in meets outside of the U.K. Trials, have the upper hand.

The Americans have considerable depth of talent, so perhaps an unforgiving approach is ideal. The British, in contrast, have a smaller pool of available athletes. The two systems, although imperfect, seem properly suitable for the two countries.

 

Clay (L) and Meadows (R). (Photos from Erik van Leeuwen and Jonathan Charters)

Bryan Clay, the defending decathlon champion from Beijing, bungled the sprint hurdles and the discus events at the U.S. Trials. Clay finished in 12th place, his points total was considerably less than the “A” standard. He has not met the Olympic benchmark prior to Eugene.

Jenny Meadows‘ case is similar. Meadows is an 800m bronze medalist from the 2009 World Championships and the reigning European Indoor Champion. Although she had run the required “A” standard, Meadows was left out of the final lineup for Team GB, having missed the U.K. Trials and the European Championships due to injury. The British selectors chose the up an coming Lynsey Sharpinstead, despite having only “B” standard credentials.

Following Clay’s shock exit from Olympic contention, track fans clamored for Clay to complete an “A” standard decathlon. The loyal fans reasoned that the Olympic qualifying window extends up to 8 July, whereas the USATF’s self-imposed deadline is the end of each particular event.

Clay, in a statement posted at the USATF website, chose to stick with the rules:

“My love of the sport compels me to preserve its integrity… Though it pains me, I believe that the USATF Committee’s decision to take only two decathletes to London is the right one. Ultimately, it is in the best interest of the sport to keep the integrity of the rules in place, and to support and uphold the decisions of the USATF Committee.”

Click here to read Clay’s full statement

Meadows could have lodged an appeal for her inclusion. Since “B” standard athletes could only be sent if there are no “A” standard athletes in the lineup, a favorable ruling would drop the 21-year old Sharp out of the Olympic Games. In a BBC interview, Meadows said:

“I find it difficult [to appeal] the selection. Usually three ‘A’ standard runners are selected and there are currently four of us. So for me to appeal I would basically deselect Lynsey and I haven’t got the heart to do that.”

Click here to read the BBC article

The Beijing Olympics could have been Clay’s (32) and Meadows’ (31) last chance to compete at the quadrennial event. Despite the desire to represent their respective countries in the Olympics, the two acted selflessly in respect for the integrity of the sport and for a fellow athlete. In a sport where drug cheats cast a dark shadow, these acts of fair play, sportsmanship, and commendable conduct truly stand out.

I salute Bryan Clay and Jenny Meadows for being class acts.

Track Beauty of the Week: Katya Kostetskaya Екатерина Костецкая

Katya Kostetskaya (Ekaterina Kostetskaya Екатерина Костецкая) is this week’s track beauty!

She had a tremendously successful career as a junior intermediate hurdler, winning the European Junior title in 2003. A year later, she followed this up with a more prestigious win at the World Junior Championships in Grossetto, running a personal best of 55.55s to top the final.

Photo from Zimbio/Getty Images

Katya attended Texas State University for her college degree. While in the United States, her IAAF records indicate that she dabbled in the 100m hurdles and the 800m run, clocking respectable times in both events. Her 2003 best in the two-lap race (2:05.95) was quite impressive for the then 16-year old.

Kostetskaya eventually specialized in the 800m when she turned professional. She is well-known in Australia for being the girlfriend of 2008 Olympic Pole vault champion Steve Hooker. Her achievements speak for themselves, though, as the Russian belongs to the elite of middle distance running.

She placed 2nd at the 2011 European Team Championships, helping Russia wrest the overall crown yet again. Kostetskaya qualified for the highly competitive 800m final in the recently concluded World Championships in Daegu, notching a respectable fifth place.

Article by Joboy Quintos

Track Beauty of the Week: Karin Storbacka

Karin Storbacka is this week’s track beauty!

The Finn is a versatile talent, competing in the 400m dash and the 800m run. Through the years, Storbacka had Finnish national titles in the 400m dash, the 4x400m relay and the 800m run.

 

Photos from karinstorbacka.fi

She dished out a classy performance at the 2009 Finnish Championships, where she won double titles in the 400m dash (53.87s) and the 800m run (2:05.11), ala the great Alberto Juantorena. Storbacka also added a 4x100m relay bronze medal to her formidable haul.

The in-form Finn reached the 800m semi-finals of the 2009 European Indoor Championships in Torino, running 2:05.17 in qualifying. Storbacka failed to advance, however, as she placed sixth in her semi-final.

Most recently, she competed at the 1st League of the European Team Championships in held Izmir, Turkey. Storbacka finished in ninth place (2:08.76). At the end of the two-day hostilities, Finland ranked eighth in a field of twelve countries, failing to advance to the more prestigious Super League.

Article by Joboy Quintos

Track Beauty of the Week: Gabrielle Anderson

Gabrielle Anderson is this week’s track beauty!

Anderson finished 7th in the 1500m run at the 2010 U.S. Outdoor Championships. With a personal best of 4:06.46 in the 1500m, Anderson is amongst the elite of her event.

The American middle distance runner stands out from her peers because she is a cancer-survivor – not once, but twice. In March 2009, she was diagnosed with adenoid cystic carcinoma. Gabrielle went under the knife to remove the cancerous growth. She also underwent weeks of radiation therapy, foregoing her fifth year of eligibility in the NCAA.

Read the Universal Sports feature on Gabrielle Anderson

In light of these uniquely unorthodox circumstances, the NCAA allowed her to compete next season. Anderson did not disappoint, lodging twin silver medals in the 800m and the 1500m. In September 2010, Anderson finished in 13th place at the prestigious 5th Avenue Mile – barely two years after learning she has cancer.

In 2011, Anderson ran a lifetime best of 4:06.77  in London. She shaved off three-hundredths of a second from her 2011 best last May 2011 (4:06.46). Coming into the cutthroat U.S. Olympic Trials in Eugene, Oregon, Gabrielle is ranked fifth among all entries.

Read: Gabrielle Anderson Dreaming Big”

Updates on Gabrielle’s campaign to follow. The semis and finals are scheduled on 29 June and 1 July. Click this link for the event schedules.

Read: “Former Gopher Gabriele Anderson emboldened by cancer surgeries”

Regardless of the outcome of the Olympic Trials, one thing is for sure: Gabrielle Anderson is an inspiration. The mere fact that she was able return to the sport faster, stronger, and a lot better – considering her illness – is a remarkable story in itself.

Godspeed, Gabrielle!

Additional Links:

All-Athletics Profile

IAAF Biography

David Rudisha sets new 800m WR!

Before I went to bed last night, I saw some tweets saying that 21-year old David Rudisha, this year’s world leader at 1:41.51, had broken the Kenyan-born Wilson Kipketer’s world record (at the ISTAF Berlin meet held at the historic Olympiastadion). I scoured the net for news articles and video clips, but I wasn’t able to find any.

Kipketer’s erstwhile world record was special. And a little out of this world, considering the fact that before Rudisha, only three men had gone below the 1:42-barrier.

One has to credit the superb pace-making of Rudisha’s teammate, Sammy Tangui, who ran the first lap blazing at 48.68s! Rudisha was alone at second place, with the rest of the pack comfortably behind. By the 450m mark, the Kenyan took matters into his own hands. He was unchallenged as he made like a man possessed to the finish line, rewriting the record books.

Additional link:

IAAF article

Photo credits:

IAAF

Video credits:

ISTAF Berlin

Alberto Juantorena’s 400m/800m Golden Double

The 100m/200m double in elite track & field competitions is a significant achievement in itself. Great athletes like Jesse Owens, Carl Lewis and Usain Bolt had won the twin sprints at the Olympics. The 200m/400m combination is a much challenging pairing. In major meets, only Marie Jose Perec and the iconic Michael Johnson stand out as successful conquerors of the aforesaid sprint distances. A couple of years ago, Johnson’s heir apparent, Jeremy Wariner, attempted the double unsuccessfully. The lactic acid-filled 400m race is a much different race than the 200m dash, than the half lap is to the century dash.

But then again, the 200m/400m double is not as fearsome as the 400m/800m pairing. In the history of the Olympics (as well as all the other majors – the World Championships, the European Championships, etc.), only Alberto “El Caballo” Juantorena has achieved this unusual combination of gold medals. The Australian Tamsyn Lewis had reached some measure of success in the said distances, but certainly not at the level of Juantorena’s.

Before I did the hurdles, my first event was the quarter-mile. In my readings as high school junior, the great Cuban became one of my first larger-than-life athletics heroes. Juantorena, originally a 400m sprinter, revolutionized how the 800m was run. At the 1976 Montreal Olympics, he went out like a madman on the first lap of the 800m final, taking full advantage of his sprinter’s speed. The towering Cuban ran a 50.85s 400m split, his long strides clearly evident as he overpowered the field in a then world-record time of 1:43.50. He held on for a memorable gold medal, a world record at that. I can almost imagine the shock and awe of the orthodox middle distance runners at such a bold move. El Caballo followed this up with scorching hot 44.26s, the fastest 400m run at low altitude at that time.

Even though Juantorena never replicated his stellar form in Montreal (he finished a distant fourth in the 400m dash in Moscow 1980), the Cuban’s 400m-800m double remains unprecedented. Even in the youth and juniors divisions, one will be hard pressed to find examples of such eminent talent. Perhaps its because of the inherent difference between the two events. Whereas, the 100m, 200m and 400m are all sprinting events, the 800m is a middle distance event. A sub-10 second sprinter, for instance, possesses the necessary leg power to power his way to a low 45-second or a sub-45 second 400m dash. Tyson Gay is the epitome of the all-around sprinter, having bests of 9.69s, 19.58s and 44.89s in the three events.

The 400m and 800m are light-years apart. The former is classified as a “dash” while the latter is a “run.” The distance doubles, the time required to finish the distance more than doubles. For a quarter-miler – a sprinter who digs deep, but a sprinter nonetheless – such a change of pace can be disconcerting. Not everyone is as dauntless as El Caballo. In my readings the past half-decade, I can say that I’m astute with track & field history. But I have never encountered an elite level athlete attempting to duplicate Juantorena’s feat.

What makes Juantorena special? It has to be in his long-strides and powerfully-built body. A former basketball player, Juantorena had a 9-foot (2.75m) stride. This combination of free-flowing, rhythmic strides and a sprinter’s natural affinity for speed overwhelmed his competitors, who were mostly tactical middle distance runners. Down the homestretch, the wiry middle distance specialists had no answer to the White Lightning’s long-striding, fast-finishing ways.

Winning multiple Olympic track & field golds is not as easy as bagging multiple swimming golds. Unlike in swimming, the disciplines in athletics possesses inherently vast differences in terms of energy utilization and technical proficiency. Track & field may never see the likes of a Michael Phelps, but it has its fair share of multiple medalists in the likes of Emil Zatopek (5000m, 10,000m, Marathon), Carl Lewis (100m, 200m, Long Jump, 4x100m), Usain Bolt (100m, 200m, 4x100m), Michael Johnson (200m, 400m, 4x400m) and Alberto Juantorena, whose gold medal winning ways in Montreal 1976 are truly legendary, a feat that would take generations to emulate.

Additional links:

IOC profile (Juantorena)

Wiki

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