Six Takeaways From The 2013 Paris Diamond League Press Conference

by July 5, 2013 Paris, France Last night the Diamond League Circuit was in Lausanne. After pulling an all-nighter and catching the 6:30 am train, LRC and the Diamond League shifted 300 miles northwest to Paris. I rolled into Paris just in time for Friday’s press events in advance of Saturday’s 2013 Meeting Areva […]

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July 5, 2013
Paris, France

Last night the Diamond League Circuit was in Lausanne. After pulling an all-nighter and catching the 6:30 am train, LRC and the Diamond League shifted 300 miles northwest to Paris. I rolled into Paris just in time for Friday’s press events in advance of Saturday’s 2013 Meeting Areva (formerly the Meeting Gaz de France). The good news is the meet is already sold out so expect over 50,000 fans to be in attendance.

I gleaned some info on some of the sprinters and field eventers LRC usually doesn’t spend too much time covering. Plus some news that might apply to Kenenisa Bekele.

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1. Tirunesh Dibaba Will Not Race Her Sister at 5000m Here, More Explanations on Ethiopian Selection Team, Kenenisa Bekele May be Out of Worlds

Genzebe Dibaba is no longer racing the 5000 here. She appeared on the initial start lists but is no longer racing her older sister – the three-time Olympic champion – Tirunesh.

Tirunesh Dibaba is the arguably the greatest female distance track runner ever, yet she is having to look over her shoulder at younger sister Genzebe who has run well this year at 1500m and 5000m. Genzebe has the better speed.

Every time Genzebe’s name came up at the press conference today, Tirunesh would smile/giggle. She basically had the same reaction when we asked her in Eugene about her sister as well. We’re not sure exactly what it means but there certainly seems to be some amusement that her kid sister is now a legitimate rival.

“I have been running for a long time. I have got 4 gold medals at the World Championships. I’m not going to give her a free lunch. She has to compete with me and she has to beat me,” Tirunesh said.

Tirunesh also said the Ethiopian world’s selection process is based on your season’s best time. Tariku Bekele indicated time was paramount last night as well. If that’s the case, and it was last year, then Kenenisa Bekele will not be running the World Championships this year as he is only 4th fastest Ethiopian at 10,000m.

2. Is Frenchman Maihiedine Mekhissi-Benabbad the Favorite in the Steeple Tomorrow?

Double Olympic champ Ezekiel Kemboi pointed out Frenchman Maihiedine Mekhissi-Benabbad has run 3:33 for 1500m and 4:56 for 2000m in the last 10 days. Mekhissi-Benabbad has also won the last two Olympic steeple silver medals, so he is no slouch and he definitely has Kemboi’s attention.

Despite all his global titles, Kemboi has only been sub 8:00 twice in his life. Mekhissi-Benabbad is trying to become the first non-African sub 8:00.

Paul Koech did not attend the press conference, and originally LRC thought that meant he wasn’t running, but the races’ rabbit and friend of LRC, Haron Lagat, emailed us to say the speedy Kenyan Koech who has gone sub 8:00 nine times is in the field. Koech often runs fast but bombs at the Championships while Kemboi and Mekhissi-Benabbad do the opposite. Kemboi said it’s hard to train to do both. He said, “It’s hard to balance your training for sub 8:00 and also for major championships. I think tomorrow with our last (international) race before the World Championships with good pace makers we can run sub 8:00.”

Kemboi is anticipating the day he soon makes his marathon debut as well. He said it’s up to his coach but could happen next year. If Koech goes sub 8:00 he’ll tie Saif Shaheen for the most number of sub 8:00’s ever.

(sorry for not editing out Mekhissi-Benabbad’s French answers)

3. Shelly-Ann-Fraser Pryce: From Rags to Riches

Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce (SAFP) grew up dirt poor in a single parent family. When asked how many brothers and sisters she said she has two “on my mom’s side.” Then she laughed and indicated she could have a lot more on her dad’s side of the family.

Her dreams as a child weren’t for double Olympic 100m gold, but rather to have her own room to decorate. Fraser-Pryce got the double Olympic gold, but that wasn’t all she got last year. She also got her collegiate degree. All these years, she has not just been running fast, she was also going to college on the side.

Now, she is able to just focus on athletics and we’ll see how it turns out. “This year I’m a full time, athlete for the first time in my life. It changes a lot in my mental approach. I can be more focused on training and spend time to stretch and prevent injuries… I’m still undefeated this season but I haven’t got a big time so far.”

One thing SAFP won’t be doing is watching her own races.  She said she hates watching her own races, because she is a perfectionist and even sometimes think she looks fat. She said, “I never do anything right for me.” She tries not to watch her own races, which makes sure her coach, not herself, is the one coaching her.

Interview with SAFP below. She’s got a big personality and also has a hair extension business on the side. So if you want crazy hair like hers, she can take care of that.

4. Don’t Worry if You Missed the Diamond League Meet Last Night on TV, Aries Merritt Missed it To

I asked Merritt if he saw David Oliver‘s 13.03 world leading performance in Lausanne. Merritt said he saw the results, but not the race. He had a valid excuse. The Diamond League is now televised in France on the new sports network BeIN Sport, which is an affiliate of Al-Jazeera. BeIN Sport has spent big bucks this year to the rights to many properties , including the French football (soccer) league, FrenchLigue 1, as well as the Diamond League. The problem with BeIN sport is they are so new they don’t have a lot of carriage yet, so the meet couldn’t be watched at Merritt’s hotel.

Don’t worry, the French and Monaco Diamond League meets are on Canal+ in France, another network.

Merritt said he’s been injured twice this year, once indoors and once out. Both injuries were related to his same hamstring. He said he pushed too hard indoors wanting to get the world indoor record,  and then outdoors said he was in sub 13.00 shape when he got injured. The 12.80 World Record holder hasn’t run faster than 13.22 so far this year, but isn’t too worried as he made the Worlds team with one week of hurdle training after getting over the latest injury.

5. English Gardner Was More Pampered at Oregon Than She Is As a Pro

After leaving Oregon after her junior year last month, English Gardner is now in the Nike stable coached by the famed John Smith. She must be living the easy life right?  Think again. Gardner said, “At Oregon they definitely spoiled us. It was definitely different having to step out on your own (as a pro), not having someone there holding you hand.”

The New Jersey Girl who got her start in Carl Lewis‘ track club, and became a transplant Oregonian has recently relocated to LA. Gardner has a lot of love from Oregon as that is where she developed as a runner. LA definitely has the better weather. “I remember the first week of practice (wondering), ‘Man I don’t know what this bright thing in the sky (the sun) is'”, she said.

She gets a really big test versus SAFP before 50,000 plus fans Saturday. Gardner rose to the occasion at USAs. Maybe that’s because her mom has been predicting great things for her since she was in the womb. Gardner explained how she got her name. She said her mom said she was “the most restless baby she’s ever carried.” Her mom “had an epiphany that whatever she was carrying was going to be something phenomenal. She wanted a name that people would never forget and would sound rich over the intercom. So she came up with English Gardner.”  Video below.

6. The Women’s High Jumpers Are Inspired by Bohdan Bondarenko’s Enthusiasm and Freedom

Ukrainian Bohdan Bondarenko nearly broke the world record last night in the men’s high jump. And unlike Aries Merritt, the women’s high jumpers were watching him perform on tv. What the veterans Anna Chicherova and Blanka Vlasic saw from Bondarenko was inspiring. A youngster jumping with passion.

Chicherova stressed the point in a positive way that, “He (Bondarenko) didn’t know what he was doing.” She praised his “freedom” and how it reminded her when she was younger and jumped with emotion.

Brigetta Barrett is the new comer in the ranks, being a recent University of Arizona graduate and Olympic silver medallist. She definitely has a lot of personality and emotion. She dropped some “snap”, “shiz hiz,” and a “yeah, yeah” into her answers to keep the press, Chicherova and Vlasic entertained. Barrett’s coach Sheldon Blockburger holds Barrett back in practice, not letting her put the bar at ridiculous heights, and not letting her attempt the AR at USAs last month. They’ve got a relationship that works and Blockburger will keep working with Barrett even though she’s moved to California so she can be closer to the entertainment scene. Barrett not only sung the national anthem at NCAAs this year, she’s now taking acting classes in California.

Blanka Vlasic is returning from injury this year and that helps her bring some of the joy and excitement back to jumping. She said at Rome, “my hands were shaking from excitement” from competing again. Should be a great high jump on Saturday between these three. Joint presser below.


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