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Being a track fan is hard as there are so many meets. Each week we try to make sense of it all with our Week That Was. If you missed any of the meets in Paris, Heusden, Liege or Lucerne, we provide you with easy access to full coverage of them in the table below. But insight into what it all means is what you want and we provide that after the table below. This week we give praise to Jerry Schumacher's boys and US women's 800 runners but have to heap scorn on Canada and
some of the US men's 800 meter runners. Along the way, we give you a math lesson, remind you that Kenyans are people, too and try to get to the bottom of the Kenyan 10k controversy by actually making calls across the globe.
Our US Men's Performer of the Week is Matt Tegenkamp. A 13:07.97 2nd-place showing is very good, particularly considering it wasn't done in totally still conditions. Hard to complain about that (except in our minds, the commentary of that race and the race itself was very boring) and it raises hopes that down the road he might take a crack at Bob Kennedy's 12:58.21 American record.
We also were pleased to see him racing in Europe. Last year, he (and a lot of Americans - more on that below) didn't touch foot in Europe or race at all from the Olympic Trials on June 30th to the Olympics on August 20th. How can you expect to be sharp without a rust buster and how can the sport be popular if no one ever races?
Our only complaint is that he didn't run in a Golden League meet and
mix it up with the really big boys, but we certainly know that he needed the A standard. It's hard to critique a 13:07 season opener in windy conditions (post-race interview on right, race video here), but we'd like to see Tegenkamp even more confident at the end of his races. Sure, some of the guys in the field were sub-13:00 guys, but Tegenkamp is at their level. With 200m to go, he's got to start acting like he's going to win the race instead of being happy to get second or third. When he does that, we'll
see his full
One who did mix it up with the big boys was Tegenkamp's training partner, Chris Solinksy, who was 4th in the Golden League 3k in Paris. A very good showing for him and a great week for the Jerry Schumacher-coached men as, in addition to Tegenkamp and Solinsky, Evan Jager and Jonathon
Riley took down the B heats of the 1,500 and 5ks, respectively, in Heusden. Our gripe there: Why weren't those guys in the A heat? You've got an Olympian and World Championships team member running in the B heat of a low key meet? At least they ran pretty well and we imagine the confidence boost for Jager is big.
Matt Tegenkamp Talks After His 13:07
The post-race interview of Tegenkamp after his 13:07 in Heusden was great. Unlike a lot of interviews, we think there is a lot to be learned from both what the interviewer and interviewee said. We loved how the interviewer said the following about what it means that Tegenkamp is American: "You are American, there are no limits, you will go for the medal."
Being American, we sometimes forget that the rest of the world is impressed by the notions that Americans somewhat
uniquely believe anything is possible. But the biggest wisdom of advice came from Tegenkamp himself. Each week we try to provide you free coaching advice and our Free Coaching Tip of The Week comes from Matt himself talking about training, "It's a progression and you have to worry about stacking year after year after year together. I had a good '06 and '07 and I thought it would come easy in '08 and it did not and it cost me at the Olympics."
accurate. Training is about progressing year after year and sticking to it year after year. So many people think it's about the last six weeks. No, it's also about the last six years.
Thumbs Up to many of the American women in the 5k in Liege last week. Julie Culley deserves praise for making her first Worlds team by running the B standard in Liege, when she set an 11-second PR of 15:21. Renee Metivier-Baillee, who was only 9th at USAs (but also ran
the 1,500 at USAs),
deserves praise for winning the race in 15:20. But also a Thumbs Up as well to Illinois' Angela Bizzarri,who struggled in Liege (5th in 15:57). She deserves praise for having a superb 2009 season, where she won NCAAs and was 3rd at USAs. She also deserves praise for calling it a season and telling Culley she is officially on the Worlds team. Bizzarri had a great year, but
there are few youngsters that are wise enough to realize that running the first round of Worlds and getting obliterated accomplishes little for a college athlete. Getting ready for your final season of NCAA competition is the smart move.
Did anyone besides us realize that the person finishing in 6th in Liege in 15:58 was none other than the 2004 world cross-country champion - Benita Johnson of Australia? The 30-year-old is really struggling these days. The 2004 world XC champion hasn't had a decent year sine 2006, when she ran 15:13 and 31:14, but even those times are a long way off of her 14:47.60 NR from 2002 and 30:37.68 national record from 2003. She's not too old, as shown
by the waves made by an even older guy this week, illustrated by our next blurb. *Liege Results
Big Talk From A Kenyan Marathoner
If you talk big, you'd better produce. Well if that adage is true, then 31-year-old Duncan Kibet had better run fast in this fall's Berlin Marathon. How about this quote from the flashy Kenyan national record holder at 2:04:27?: "I will stand a high chance of attaining the feat (sub-2:03:59) if Haile Gebrselassie goes for the world record ...Whether I win or not, I need the time and Haile is my only challenger." More:
Duncan Kibet Talks Big About Getting The WR In Berlin
Dix Finally Settles
Double Olympic sprint medallist Walter Dix finally settled his dispute with agent Kimberly Holland. While we don't know the specifics of what was going on, we found the following description in the AP recap of the settlement to be bizarre: "(Dix's) side's claim was that Holland wasn't the sole reason Dix got the
Nike contract, and that she wasn't entitled to her 20 percent
commission of the deal worth between $4 million to $5 million over a
Of course, the agent isn't the sole reason why Dix got a Nike contract, but hello - that's how the process works. If you don't want to pay the agent 20%, then sign a different contract or negotiate without an agent.
We can understand why athletes turning pro think it's ridiculous they might have to turn over 20% of their income to an agent. An athlete with the earning potential of Dix could always try and reduce the commission of the agent. Competition works both ways.
might have 60 athletes and rake in a ton of dough while the athlete who actually performs makes less. But those athletes that think
they don't need an agent in track and field don't know how the sport works.
Recently, we at LetsRun.com were told about a Beijing Olympic finalist who didn't have an agent, as her coach didn't like them, since he viewed agents as vultures who encourage athletes to race more often than he might like. Well, the coach negotiated a shoe deal for her after Beijing, which she was about to sign. At the last minute, she decided to get an agent's opinion on the deal. His verdict? I can get you three times as much
- which is what happened. Walter Dix Finally Resolves His Dispute With Agent Kimberly Holland
Kenyans Are People, Too
Thumbs Up to American Public Radio's Jon Miller for traveling to Kenya to write/record a fantastic piece on 2009 Boston Marathon winner Salina Kosgei. His motives for the piece were something we here at LetsRun.com 100% support. As Miller wrote, "I wanted to show that Kenyan runners, who
have dominated the sport for
the last 20 years, are people, not machines. And I wanted to learn
about the odd economics of this peculiarly demanding job."
His written piece and audio piece on Kosgei are well worth 5-10 minutes of your time. Kosgei's Boston win over Dire Tune and Kara Goucher may not have been the story that Nike or the American public wanted, but it was remarkable nonetheless. The real secret to the Kenyans' success? Miller says it's simple: "They work so hard and they want it so much."
Americans in "the Kenyans are
so much more talented" camp may not like that answer, but there is some truth to it. Five years ago, Kosgei was a largely unknown, run-of-the-mill, basically failed middle distance runner with modest PRs of 2:03/4:19/15:01. With no better alternatives, Kosgei moved up to the marathon and the rest is history. How many Ameican 800 meter runners try the marathon? APR's Marketplace Highlights 2009 1-Second Boston Marathon Champion
The Transitive Property Of Sprinting
Ever wonder why in this day and age of calculators and computers, kids still are taught the basics of math? Well, we can tell you - so you can understand track and field. It looks like Usain Bolt and Tyson Gay won't race each other prior to the World Championships, but thanks to the transitive property, we will be able to figure out who is in better form. Gay has already raced Asafa Powell once this year and they'll race again on July 31st in Stockholm. On July
24th in London, Bolt and Powell will race. Hopefully, somebody who has the basics of math down can tell us who is in better form after those two races. *Gay/Powell To Race July 31st Next Friday In Stockholm *Asafa Powell & Usain Bolt To Race On July 24th
Thumbs Down To Canada. Yes, that's right. Well, not the entire country, but Athletics Canada or whatever they call themselves up north of border. Why the venom? Well, it's an absolute joke that Nate Brannen isn't on the Worlds team for Canada. If the guy were an American, we'd all be pumped as he's in very good shape
and a very good candidate for the final. We might all be wondering if he could somehow sneak in there and get a medal like his training partner Nick Willis.
Instead, because he lives in Canada, he might not make the team. Why?
Well, some would tell you (and Brannen himself said in the flo-track interview on the right) that it's because he doesn't have the Berlin A standard of 3:36.20. But that's not true. The IAAF accepts times from 2008 and 2009 and Brannen ran 3:34.65 last year.
The problem is that the Canadians in their infinite wisdom don't accept times from 2008.
This year, Brannen has been even more competitive than he's ever been on the pro circuit and appears likely to make the 12-person World Athletics final at the end of the year. Twice in the mile this year, he's run under the equivalent of 3:36.20, as he ran 3:52.63 for 3rd at the Pre Classic and 3:53.18 for 6th in Oslo. A 3:53.50 mile is equal to a 3:36.20, but Canada doesn't accept mile conversions either. This whole
for Brannen makes us irate, as on so many levels it shows what is wrong with our sport. How can the public at large be expected to be fans of the sport if some of the top athletes aren't allowed to compete at the biggest stage due to bureaucratic stupidity? We are so mad we are going to give a second Thumbs Down to both Athletics Canada and the IAAF for being so stupid as to not accept 3:53.50 miles as A standard times. If you want to make track more popular, please get rid of the 1,500 altogether or
at the very least start accepting mile times for the 1,500.
While we're at it, we want to praise Brannen for saying he's not going to chase the standard. He's going to stick to his plan and run the mile in London and hope somehow that the 1,500 split is sub-3:36.20. Then he's going to run the 1k in Stockholm. There is no point to wear yourself out chasing the standard so that when you do show up at Worlds, you have nothing left in the tank. We won't be upset, though, if Brannen kicks it in 109 meters early
in London but find it ridiculous that the IAAF will accept 1,500 splits within the middle of a mile but not accept mile conversions. So basically the IAAF is encouraging people like Brannen to make a mockery of the race by kicking early. Thank you bureaucrats once again!
Thumbs Down to Us for Screwing Up: Canada Does Accept Mile Conversions
7. Where allowed by the Selection Criteria and relevant Games and/or international approval organizer, for the 1500m event, converted mile performances to 1500m, based on IAAF Scoring Tables equivalencies, will be accepted for the purpose of achieving repeated A or B standards. Converted standard performances are acceptable regardless of any electronic performance which may be recorded at the 1500m mark.
That is good news and a sensible policy. Someone needs to get the word out to Nate.
The US Women's Performance of the Week?
That's easy. For the 2nd straight week, a US athlete earned a shock win in the women's 800 in a Golden League meet. This time, the winner was former US steeplechase record holder Anna Willard, who ran 1:58.80 to win in Paris. Since the top six all broke 2:00, we bet that last week's Golden League winner
Maggie Vessey is cursing the fact that she was a late scratch due to a minor injury (hamstring?). Vessey still needs the A standard of 2:00.00 to go to Worlds. Speaking of 2:00.00, it wouldn't surprise us to see Cornell alum Morgan Uceny get it by the end of the summer. Uceny, who missed all of the fall with injury, is clearly coming into fitness, as she ran 2:00.95 in Heusden last week. Heading into USA's last month, Uceny hadn't run faster than 2:04.15.
Not a good week for US men 800 meter runners, however. Certainly disappointing for US fans to see Khadevis Robinson run only 1:46.47 in Paris, just six days after KD ran 1:44.47 in a glorified practice. Although to us, the performance wasn't as bad as some were making it out to be, as third in the Golden League and only .62 behind the Olympic silver medallist isn't too shabby. And traveling form LA to Paris couldn't
The US champion Nick
Symmonds didn't fare too much better, as he only ran 1:46.60 for fourth in Lucerne. As disappointing as the performance was, we are thrilled to see him racing in Europe. Why he tried to go from the finals of the US Olympic Trials on June 30th to the Olympic Games on August 20th without a race last year was mystifying to us.
Plus fans of the sports need to see the stars race. If Worlds is the only race that matters, then the sport will be dead sooner rather than later. Alan Where Art Thou?
Speaking of hamstring issues, is anyone besides us wonderng "Where in the hell is Alan Webb?" July is almost over and the guy hasn't been seen since scratching out of the finals of USAs with what was reported to be a minor hamstring issue? We hope to get in touch with Webb's people this week to find out what is going on, but if you know the scoop, please email us.
This week, Athletics Kenya, which has made more than its share of completely idiotic moves over the years, topped even itself. We certainly understand why they are worried about athletes over-racing before Worlds, but this week they went too far. They dropped the top two finishers at their 10k trials, Sammy Kitwara and Gideon Ngatuny, from the World Championships team because they ran road races after the Kenyan Trials.
The question is, "Why
do this?" If you like conspiracy theories, this one is as good of one that we have seen, although it's simply not true. We've talked to a few people who are very well-connected in Kenya and it's our belief that basically what happened was that it was Athletics Kenya being Athletics Kenya. Good luck if you can really explain it.
Remember, this is the same outfit that last
year kicked their Olympic flag bearer, Grace Momanyi, off of the Olympic 10k team one or two days before the race, officially because she was suppposedly lazy and skipping practice (but if that was the case, why would you pick her to be the flagbearer in the 1st place?) but likely because of some tribal rivalry. Yes, that's right. They kicked the flag bearer off the team.
We think we forgot to talk about that last year but it's true. To read a great article on how the whole affair devastated Momanyi, please click here.
What do we think happened this year? Well,
Kenya may not have been pleased with the results of the 10k trials and thus wanted an excuse
to come up with a different
team, particularly since they themselves may have been the ones responsible for the trials outcome.
Apparently all spring, there has been debate as to when the 10k trials would be held in Kenya. At one point, it was going to be in July with the rest of the events, and then it was going to be in June. Apparently within a month of the trials, the top agents and athletes had no idea when it truly was going to be held. Once the June date was announced, several agents/athletes got together and requested
that it be moved back to July.
Many people were given the impression it would be moved back to July, but in the end that did not happen. Ergo, a slew of Kenyans who were out of the country had to fly in at the last minute. Considering it might take weeks to get used to racing at altitude, it's no surprise that Athletics Kenya might not have been happy with the results of the 10k Trials. But it's way easier to use the
agents as scapegoats than it is to publicly confess the following: "We made a mistake. Our inability to set a firm date for the 10k trials messed up our trials and we want different runners on the team."
So Athletics Kenya did what they always do - blame the agents and greedy runners. As one agent told us, Athletics Kenya seemingly operates under the following motto:
"When things go poorly, they blame the agents. When things go great, they
But let a few things be clear. It appears that Sammy Kitwara's claim that no one told him not to race after the Trials is true. The Standard quoted Kitwara as saying, "They had not told me it was wrong to compete after selection and since it was my first time in the team, I saw nothing wrong in running in a 10km race. Even in the meeting we held with the federation just before the trials, no information on whether we would be allowed to compete afterwards was given and since I saw other runners compete abroad, I decided to go."
A well-placed source agreed and told us that no one had been told not to race after the Trials. He said that one might look back at past precedent and realize that
Athletics Kenya didn't want them to race, but that it hadn't been clearly stated in 2009. As he said, "There were no rules. The guys weren't told they couldn't run a race."
we have learned that money/bribes were almost certainly not a
factor as we spoke to one agent who told us, "I've never offered Athletics Kenya money and they've never asked me for money. I'd swear on my life."
So what is really happening? Who knows. Probably Athletics Kenya just wanted different people on the 10,000m team and once they saw athletes running road races, they went ballistic, as apparently they view road-races as "the devil."
Paris One More Time
The big news of the week, as we alluded to up top, was the Paris Golden League meet and Usain Bolt running 9.79 in the rain and Bekele's dispatching of Lagat over 3k. If you don't think we did the meet justice here, you should read our recap of the meet. If you just have a little time, watch Bolt's beauty below.
1) NPR's Marketplace Highlights 2009 1-Second Boston Marathon Champion Salina Kosgei This
is a really interesting look at what life is like for Kosgei, who spent
a dozen years toiling as a mid-distance runner before finding success
in the marathon. NPR's journalist, charged with investigating running
as a profession, spent
4 days with Kosgei in Kenya. Find out what it's like to go from a very
good runner to a Boston Champion.
3) What Bolt Brings To A Meet
People are willing to pay to see Bolt because he is becoming a one-man
spectacle unlike any other. Just as we turned on the Paris meet on
Friday, Bolt was getting a standing ovation while walking on the track
for 100m in his hoodie.