01 April, 2016

A so-so championship

It was something one should have expected: 2016 being an olympic year most athletes do not focus on the indoor championships. Take for instance Ashton Eaton. Two years ago he "grazed" the world record with a 6632 performance. This year we had to contend with "just" 6470 points. (Of course, one could counter-argue that two years before that, in 2012, an olympic year, he did establish a world record with 6645 points at the World's indoor. However at that time Eaton was not yet the "number one" decathlete in the world and he had to make a name for himself). In fact my theory is that Eaton participated at these championships essentially to be close to his wife, Brianne Theisen-Eaton who was vying for her first global title.

This is not going to be a detailed report on the championships. I will just write about things that I found interesting and talk about athletes that I like to follow. So, let us start with the two greek bronze medals. Katerina Stefanidi proved once more that she has to be reckoned with at Rio. 

Voula Papachristou (why on earth is she writing her name Papahristou), coming back from maternity, obtained the best result of her senior career in the triple jump, an event won by the sensational newcomer Yulimar Rojas from Venezuela. Just like Caterine Ibargüen she is a former high jumper. (I remember that C. Olsson was also a 2.28 m high-jumper, so it would be worth finding out if there are more ex-high-jumpers among the elite of triple jump).

Asafa Powell managed once more to disappoint his admirers. After registering the 5th all-time performance in the heats and semi-final of the 60 m he managed to lose a race that he should have won with flying colours. The women's race was much more balanced. Barbara Pierre had the same performance on the 60 m as Dafne Schippers this winter and her winning the race was not a surprise. In fact I believe that both Schippers and Elaine Thompson (the 200 m silver medalist in last year's Worlds) used the winter season in order to improve their basic speed. I do not know what are the plans of Schippers for this year's European Championships which will be held in the Netherlands, but, given her class, she may treat them as another meeting, perhaps concentrating on just one race. 

I was also glad to see Marie-Josée Ta Lou making the final of the women's 60 m (but then she managed one of the worse starts I have ever seen). Ta Lou and her compatriot Murielle Ahouré are two sprinters I am rooting for and I expect them to be in great shape in Rio, this summer.

I found most men's track events uninteresting with the exception of the 60 m hurdles. Omar McLeod, last year's finalist in the World's and a sub-13 hurdler, won the race in perfect style with, as is now customary for him, his crucifix in his mouth.

Mutaz Barshim was a minor disappointment finishing 4th in men's high jump with a meagre 2.29 m. Renaud Lavillenie managed to jump to the top of the podium after a four year hiatus.  With a 6.02 m performance he dominated the event and showed that he is ready to defend his olympic title at Rio. The minor deceptions in pole vault were the reigning outdoor and indoor world champions Barber and Filippidis who finished 4th and 7th respectively. Tomas Walsh won the men's shot put with an impressive 21.78 m. Five of his six throws were better than the best throw of the silver medalist. In this event a minor disappointment was the 9th place of the other "kiwi" Jacko Gill. At least it seems that his injuries are things of the past and he could do better in Rio.

The one thing I did not understand was why did the IAAF accept 7 teams for the men's 4x400 m obliging the athletes to run a qualifying race in order just to eliminate one team. It would have been so much better to qualify just the best 6 teams even if that would have meant deciding between two teams with equal best performance. Be that as it may, the final was a most spectacular race with Belgium being the unlucky one since the 3rd runner dropped the baton and condemned his team to the last place. 

I was glad to see that Kabange Mupopo from Zambia pursues her career in athletics (she was a football player initially). In Portland she was eliminated in the semis despite having run the 5th best time. Mupopo, a 2014 African vice-champion, is an athlete that I follow closely. Her boyish haircut gives her a rather masculine appearance and some people wonder whether this is another Semenya case. Having watched her interviews it is my conviction that this is not true. While Semenya has a 100 % masculine attitude in her voice and gestures, Mupopo is perfectly girlie. (And if anybody was wondering what are the news on the Semenya front, the rumours are that she is preparing for a 400-800 m double for Rio).

The women's 3000 m was a superb race signalling the come-back of Meseret Defar. But of course even such a great athlete as Defar could not do anything when confronted with the hurricane Genzebe Dibaba. 

Nia Ali managed to retain her title over 60 m hurdles, beating the 2013 world champion over 100 m hurdles Brianna Rollins, just 9 months after giving birth to a boy. Once more she proved that she knows how to be present at the right moment. 

I was really hoping that Ivana Spanovic would this time win her first global title and with a jump at 7.07 m she came very close. Unfortunately for her Britney Reese managed once more to get one great valid jump at 7.22 m just when it counted, redeeming her defeat in last year's outdoor World's. Long jump at Rio will be a most interesting event (and the same applies to the triple jump as well, to say nothing of the pole vault where I expect the two greek athletes to shine).

Though she could manage only a bronze medal Valerie Adams is back. At 19 m she is still vulnerable but if she manages to add the one extra metre to her performance she could be on track for a third olympic gold at Rio.

I would like to finish this post with a superb photo of the pentathlon participants celebrating together the end of their multi-event with Brianne Theisen-Eaton and the two Ukrainian medalists in the centre.

I am particularly happy to see Barbara Nwaba back on track. She was the heptathlete who fell at the 100 m hurdles at last year's world championships and who, despite having no hope for a decent classification, hang on and completed her heptathlon. She finished 4th at Portland but, had she jumped close to her personal record at long jump, she could have managed to grab the bronze medal.

All in all the 2016 World Indoor Championships were far from being unforgettable. The next major appointment are the European Championships to be held at the beginning of July. Some athletes may decide just to ignore them and focus on the Rio Olympics taking place one month later. For others it will be the culminating point of a season if they are sure not to make it to their country's olympic team. In any case I expect to follow them and most probably provide an idiosyncratic report just as the present one.

1 comment:

  1. Great history of Ma's army and his acolytes.