Friends And Family Preview Of Thursday's Track And Field Action (Day 7) At The 2012 Olympics
August 8, 2012
The Olympics are the one opportunity the track and field world has every four years to expand its fan base.
With that objective in mind, each day of the Olympics (although we missed one day due to time constraints), we're going to present to you a "LRC Friends and Family Guide" to the action. It will be a quick overview of what to expect that day in track and field. Hopefully, you can share the link or print it out and hand it to your friends and family that are either casual track and field fans or not track and field fans at all. One guy has already told us he's been emailing to more than 100 people each day.
If they know the storylines behind what they are watching, they will enjoy it a whole lot more and you won't have to drive yourself nuts by starting at square one with them.
Day 7 Thursday:
Highlight #1: Men's 200 Final
Usain Bolt goes for Olympic gold medal #5 (#3 in this Olympics) in the men's 200. Since the world's fastest man won the 100, most people assume he is going to win the 200. We do as well, but it's not a sure thing like everyone thinks. Yohan Blake - his Jamaican training partner - is very good. Last year, he won the 100 at Worlds. Then in a 200 race after Worlds, he almost beat Bolt's World Record, as he ran 19.26 and Bolt's record is 19.19.
And the weird thing is, Blake actually ran faster than Bolt did when he set the WR. They time how long it takes the guys to react to the gun and it took Blake .26 seconds, which is a long time, as most guys react in like .15 seconds. If he'd done that, he'd have run the WR.
The 200 takes a little endurance and Bolt himself admits Blake trains harder than he does. But here's the deal. The 200 is Bolt's favorite event. He doesn't want to lose it. It is must-watch TV.
Highlight #2: Men's 800 Final: David Rudisha Tries To Become A Legend While The Two Americans Try To Medal
The 800 is two laps around the track.
We said before the semifinals that everyone knows who Usain Bolt is. Hopefully after Thursday, everyone will know David Rudisha. Rudisha is Kenya's world record holder in the 800 and normally wins his races by a ton. If he wins by as much as he has been this summer, then he'll definitely be very famous.
Normally in Europe, he has his own personal rabbit (pacesetter) to get in front and set the pace for him in order to run fast times. Here he is all on his own and basically has to be better than everyone else as he likes to run from the front if he doesn't have his pacesetter. So basically he is the rabbit for everyone else, but they normally can't stay with him. But they'll probably all be with him until about halfway on the final turn, when he should start to pull away.
The biggest challengers to Rudisha come from Africa and many of them are teenagers. The second fastest guy in the world is Nijel Amos of Botswana. He's just 18 and has really come out of nowhere this year. But the biggest challenger is probably another 18-year-old - Mohammad Aman of Ethiopia. He is the only guy to have beaten Rudisha in the last two years. He did it last year in some rainy weather. So if the weather is bad on Thursday, he might have a shot. If it's warm and sunny (which is unusual in London), we can't see Rudisha losing. Rudisha's Kenyan teammate Timothy Kitum is even younger at 17 years old, but he's unlikely to win.
There are two Americans in the semifinals. One is the guy you may have seen on some magazine covers, or at least heard of, Nick Symmonds. He's been making waves trying to generate sponsorship. He sold a tattoo on his arm to raise money. He wrote Paris Hilton's dad to ask to take her out on a date - they ended up having lunch.
He's also very good at running two laps of the track, as he's won the US title the last 5 years in a row. He's come close to getting a medal at World Championships, as he was 5th last year and 6th in 2009.
The other American, Duane Solomon, had to run a personal best just to make the team at the Olympic Trials. That was supposed to be the end of his story. But in his next race in Europe, he went out and ran really fast - a big PR - so he's now the 5th-fastest person in American history and even faster than Nick Symmonds. So from almost lucky to make the Olympic team to now seeded #3 in the world in the span of a few weeks. That's a great story. Was it a fluke? It sure doesn't look like it, as he is in the final. Solomon likes to go out in the front, so look for him to be near Rudisha.
Historically, Symmonds has come from behind, but he's been trying to run from the front or closer to the front recently. We think his best bet of getting a medal might be to return to his old ways and just wait until the finishing straight to try to pass the tiring runners.
Two more things about this race: One, the 800 may be the best running event in track and field. It's over pretty quickly, but it's full of strategy and tactics. You can go out fast all alone or come from behind, but in the end normally everyone finishes really close together - like within one or two seconds. There is a chance that Rudisha goes out hard and everyone else just let him go. But that's a bit risky for Rudisha to really go for it, as if you go too fast, you will pay for it at the end. But he said he might try that tactic.
Highlight #3: Men's Decathlon Final: Will Ashton Eaton Get Gold - What About The WR?
The men's decathlon concludes with day two the competition. The competition is where the guys do ten different events over two days (five each day) and get points in each and then the winner is often referred to as the World's Greatest Athlete. Kim Kardashian's step-dad, Bruce Jenner, won the Olympic gold in this event in 1976 with a then-world record.
The US has two gold medal threats this year. Former UT Longhorn Trey Hardee won the last two World Championships golds. That's the good news for him. The bad news for him is that Ashton Eaton of the US broke the world record at the US Trials. Eaton went to Oregon and is just a total class act.
For example, we were talking to a decathlete who competed at the US nationals for the first time in 2011 and he said Eaton went out of his way to introduce him to all of the guys and welcome him to the club. That's one of the neat things about the decathlon. Generally the competitors kind of view it as they are all in it together and battling mainly the event and their own limits first (and each other second). So you see some nice gestures of sportsmanship.
Eaton's interviews at the Olympic Trials were just incredible, as he was very thoughtful. One thing we thought was interesting was when asked about breaking the world record, Eaton admitted he at one point thought maybe he shouldn't have broken it as it was such a big goal of us, he wasn't sure what would drive him down the road.
After the first day, Eaton and Hardee are 1st and 2nd and Eaton assumes well poised to get the gold and possibly the world record. Eaton scored 67 fewer points than he did when he set the record at the Olympic Trials, so there is some chance he could do it again (67 isn't a lot when you score over 9,000 points). The former world record holder Roman Sebrle got hurt and dropped out, but even he was amazed by Eaton, as he said the following about Eaton, "It is time for another man. He is amazing."
One more thing about the decathlon: If Eaton is going for the world record or if it's really close, then the last event (the 1,500 meters) is very exciting. If not, it can be kind of boring as they will often jog and mark their competitors.
Highlight #4: Women's 800 Semis: Caster Semenya Races In Her First Olympics
Caster Semenya Speaking In 2009
The women's 800 will be narrowed down to its final eight competitors on Thursday. NBC will show it because of Caster Semenya and because there are three Americans in it still. The South African Semenya won the world title in 2009 and some people thought she might actually be a man. This website helped break the story to the world, as no one else really knew about the questions relating to her gender and did not think to interview her. You can see the interview we did of her that ended up on Good Morning America (or was it Today?) and has almost a million views now on YouTube.
The young 21-year-old Semenya, who grew up in poverty, has handled everything very well. The IAAF let her come back eventually. Some people think they made her take some sort of hormone treatment, but nothing was ever said about what was or wasn't done. All the IAAF has really done is issue a set of parameters for which one's testosterone levels must be within. In any event, Semenya got the silver at Worlds last year. She credits Nelson Mandela with helping her in her toughest days and she says, "Everything I do, I do it for him. He made me believe in the dark days after my victory."
Semenya hasn't been running great this year and she took it easy in the first round and ran conservatively and finished behind the US champion Alysia Montaņo, who was 4th last year at Worlds and thought to be a medal threat. She's known for wearing a big flower in her hair (video on that here) and has a good story behind her as so many Olympians do. In 2008, she had to leave the Olympic Trials final from a wheelchair after getting injured.
But Montaņo, who was great in her first race of the year, hasn't looked to be in medal form of late.
She likes to go out really hard, so it's fun to watch her try to hold on. In our minds, she goes out too hard. In the first round, she ran her first lap in 55.47 seconds and second in 64.92 seconds. We'd like her to go out no faster than 57 seconds for the first lap.
The favorite may be last year's World Champion Mariya Savinova of Russia or 2008 Olympic champion Palema Jelimo of Kenya. Jelimo was a groundbreaker for Kenyan women, as the country has historically been pretty sexist and their women haven't been nearly as accomplished at running as the men. Jelimo won their first ever women's gold medal in 2008. She also won $1 million for going undefeated that year. Getting that much money was likely a distraction, as men were proposing to her on the street but she's back in great form at the perfect time this year.
Here's a story for you: When LetsRun.com was in Kenya last year and Jelimo was struggling and not running much in big races, we at the last minute tried to set up an interview with her. Originally it was going to work but then it had to be cancelled as she had to go milk her cows. At the time, we were thinking, "Why is someone who won a million dollars milking their own cows?"
Her agent finally moved her to the city so she could focus on running and it seemingly has paid off.
Men's Triple Jump Final: Can An American Win?
The triple jump is a bit weird as it's the event where they hop, skip and jump into the sand. The US is very good at the event right now. The world champion was Christian Taylor. The bronze medallist was Will Claye. They both competed on the same team at Florida in 2010. Taylor is most definitely the man to beat. He's jumped 17.96 meters in the past. The world record is 18.29 and only two men have ever gone past 18.00. We have no idea why they don't measure it in feet or inches, or at least give the Imperial measurement along with the metric one for the benefit of the American fans. It drives us nuts as well. The world record is held by Britain's Jonathan Edwards. He's an interesting guy as he was very religious and originally wouldn't compete on Sundays. He's retired now but lost his faith and became an atheist, or at least agnostic. Not sure why we are telling you that. Maybe because if the world record is broken, they'd likely show you Edwards.
The US could use some more gold medals. The track started off slowly for the US, but on Wednesday we won 7 medals total - the most in a single day since 1992.
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