17 September, 2016

This site is an incontrovertible must

I cannot believe I have never given a link to one of the best sites for athletics fans out there: Watch Athletics

They have a collection of videos of all (well, most) the international meetings of track and field. So, if you are like myself, without tv access to Diamond League competitions, the only solution is to watch the videos on Watch Athletics. (The "no access" thing needs some clarification. When I am in Greece there is simply no channel giving the Diamond League events: they are too expensive for a crisis stricken country. We can consider ourselves lucky that the official tv channels are offering european and world championships as well as olympic games. When I am in France, I cannot watch the Diamond League program because it is behind a paywall and it is out of the question that I pay for this).

Most of the videos of Watch Athletics are on YouTube. However accessing them through the site simplifies everything since you do not have to search for them among the zillions of videos of YouTube. (And, yes, I know that Google, the owner of YouTube, is excellent at searching, but I still prefer the simpler solution).

03 September, 2016

My Olympic Report (2016). Second part: field and combined events

Nobody will be surprised by the fact that I will begin this second part of my report on the Rio Olympics with the victory of E. Stefanidi in women's pole vault. 

Stefanidi vaulting for gold

In a breathtaking competition, which saw the local favourite and 2011 world champion F. Murer no-heighting at the qualifying round while the 2012 gold medalist, J. Suhr and the reigning world champion Y. Silva could not go beyond 4.60, Stefanidi kept her composure and won the competition with a jump at 4.85. S. Morris came close to the gold medal with a narrowly missed jump at 4.90 m but had to contend with silver on count-back at 4.85 m. E. McCartney of New Zealand was 3rd with 4.80 at just 19 years of age. 

Stefanidi with Bolt

The great absent from this competition was, of course, the world record holder and multiple olympic and world champion Ye. Isinbayeva. During the Olympics she was elected as member of the athletes commission of the IOC. Speaking after her election she congratulated the medalists but voiced her unhappiness for not having being able to fight for a third gold medal. Her only remark I will object to is when she added that "the greek girl won with 4.85 m and my best performance this season was 4.90 m". Well, Stefanidi has also jumped 4.90 m this year and Morris even higher at 4.95 m.

Men's pole vault was a sad affair indeed. At the crucial point of the competition the brazilian spectators started booing R. Lavillenie while he was preparing for his attempts. I do not know whether this had anything to do with Lavillenie missing out at 6.03 and 6.08 m and having to contend himself with a silver medal. But at least in Rio he managed an exemplary competition. Simply, this time, T. Braz da Silva was better and won gold. 

One laughs, the other cries

Lavillenie who apparently does not know the history of his own discipline compared the incident to Jesse Owens being booed at the Olympics in 1936. I cannot imagine how he could invent this ridiculous comparison. Owens was never booed in Berlin. The one incident Lavillenie should have referred to is the famous "Kozakiewicz gesture" in the 1980 Moscow Olympics. The local crowd were encouraging K. Volkov while booing, whistling and jeering at V. Kozakiewicz (and in fact also at T. Slusarski who in the end shared the silver medal). But Kozakiewicz went on to win the gold medal breaking the world record and giving the soviet crowd the finger.

The famous Kozakiewicz gesture

Had Lavillenie won he could have done the same. But he didn't win.

Men's high jump did not live up to expectations. The title went to the world champion D. Drouin, with a jump of 2.38 m, while M Barshim and B. Bondarenko had to settle for silver and bronze with jumps of 2.36 and 2.33 m respectively. The absence of G. Tamberi, who injured himself less than a month before the Olympics was definitely felt.

Women's high jump was interesting in a perverse way. The first four jumpers cleared 1.97 m and went no further with R. Beitia (who is obtaining her best results since, in 2012 already 33 years old, she decided not to retire after all), M. Demireva and B. Vlasic sharing gold, silver and bronze respectively. We have to go back to the Moscow, 1980, Olympics, where S. Simeoni won with 1.97 m, in order to find an olympic women's gold won with a performance of less than 2 m. On the other hand, in the heptathlon competition two jumpers, N. Thiam and K. Johnson-Thompson managed to clear a world heptathlon best 1.98 m, i.e. one cm higher than at the specific high jump competition. 

Thiam and Johnson-Thompson after their 1.98 m jump

The funny thing is that this highly improbable situation has already occurred. At the 1924 olympic pentathlon (that was the last time this event was held) R. LeGendre jumped a world record 7.765 m in the pentathlon's long jump. (He went on to win the pentathlon bronze medal but since he was not selected for the long jump he had to watch D. Hubbard win in 7.445 m). 

I will not enter into any details concerning men's long jump. I am convinced that the discipline is in deep crisis since the retirement of M. Powell, C. Lewis and I. Pedroso. Gold medals at the 8.30-8.40 m bracket are so '70s: A. Robinson won in 1976 with 8.35 and L. Dombrowski in 1980 with 8.54 m. I prefer, and by far, interest myself in women's long jump. Before the Olympics, my preferred jumper, I. Spanovic of Serbia had declared that she hoped to be able to jump between 7.10 and 7.20 m and that this should suffice for a medal, possibly gold. She was right on target. 
I. Spanovic jumping in Rio

She jumped 7.08 m securing bronze and a jump of 7.20 m would have been enough for gold since T. Bartoletta won with 7.17 m, B. Reese being second with 7.15 m. (In fact, Spanovic had one jump well beyond 7.20 m but unfortunately she fouled by one small centimetre).

Reese, Bartoletta and Spanovic

Triple jump saw another favourite of mine win gold. C. Ibargüen has been trusting the highest place on the podium since 2013 but was still missing olympic gold (she was second at the 2012, London, Olympics). With a jump of 15.17 m she dominated the competition but the danger is present. Y. Rojas, of Venezuela, is just 20 years old and has a record of 15.02 m (to be compared to Ibargüen's 15.31 m). In Rio she jumped 14.98 m for second place. While it is clear that she has a great potential I do not like her style in the least. Contrary to Ibargüen's, her jumps are not at all pleasant to the eye. Does this mean that she has a potential for improvement? If yes, then sky is the limit for this young athlete. 

Rojas and Ibargüen in action

P. Mamona confirmed her Amsterdam success with a 14.65 m national record, while one of my preferred athletes, Bulgaria's G. Petrova is having a difficult year and exited the competition at the qualifying round.

C. Taylor won easily the men's triple jump event with a 17.86 m jump, W. Claye taking silver with 17.76 m. However with P.P. Pichardo and T. Tamgho absent due to injuries the event had lost a good part of its interest. 

C. Taylor jumping in Rio

What is impressive is that Taylor won his 2012 jumping left-left-right and then he changed foot for injury reasons jumping right-right-left reaching 18.21 m and winning a second olympic title.

I have been following V. Adams' come-back from injury throughout the year and when she started being regular over 20 m I was quite confident that she was going to win at the Games. Her 20.42 m  in the women's shot put competition should have sufficed were it not for the exceptional throw of M. Carter with 20.63 m at the very last attempt. Well, that's life.

Adams and Carter

I have already commented on the men's shot put won by R. Crouser with a 22.52 m throw. Once more T. Majewski managed to beat D. Storl at the Olympics but this time they were 6th and 7th respectively. I was relatively disappointed by the lacklustre performances of O. Richards (bronze medalist at the 2015 World's) and the two young throwers J. Gill, K. Bukowiecki, considered to be the future of the event. 

If one jamaican's (Richards) performance was disappointing, what can one say about that of the other great jamaican thrower, F. Dacres who with a 68 m personal record managed to throw just over 50 m in the qualifying round? I followed his efforts on tv (after all he was one of the favourites) and they were simply pathetic. It seems that a cut in his right index finger reopened and did not allow him to throw properly. So, now wait for next year. 

F. Dacres, looking as if he were behind the bars

Still, Dacres absence from the final did not make the competition less fascinating. Coming into the last throw the future winner, C. Harting, was 3rd but before his turn arrived he was pushed down to 5th. So for him it was medal or bust. And then he managed a huge throw of 38.37 m winning the gold medal. His brother, R. Harting, won the 2012 olympic gold with a 68.27 m throw at his 5th attempt. Coming back injury he qualified for the Games but he could not go past the qualifying round.

The Harting brothers, Robert and Cristoph

Women's discus throw was business as usual for S. Perkovic who managed just one valid throw in the final, but her 69.21 m sufficed for her to prevail over M. Robert-Michon, who, in turn, with a french national record of 66.73 m, managed to beat the world champion, D. Caballero. My disappointment here was the abysmal performance of the second cuban thrower, Y. Pérez. Her qualification throw of 65.38 m would have sufficed for bronze, but in the final she managed to foul all her throws. Despite this bum note I am still convinced that Pérez has a great potential and I will keep an eye open for her.

With Spotakova and Obergföll at the verge of retirement and with Abakhumova already retired (and, sadly, implicated in some doping scandal) women's javelin throw has become a free for all. Performances that would not lead to a place in the final are now sufficient for a medal. This year's 66.18 m gold medal throw of S. Kolak is the shortest one since the introduction of the new implement. The only thrower I distinguished was M. Andrejcyk of Poland who threw a national record of 67.11 m at the qualifying round but could not repeat it in the final and had to settle for 4th just 2 cm (or, for the purists, 3 cm) less than what would have won her the bronze medal (or 15 cm for silver).

M. Andrejcyk throwing in Rio

When K. Walcott won the 2012 Olympic Games at 19 years of age everybody shrugged away his victory as a lucky throw in a particularly windy day. It is true that his 84.58 m winning throw was the shortest one since the Seoul, 1988, Olympics. But then Walcott matured. He threw over 90 m and coming to Rio dominated the qualifying round with a massive 88.68 m throw. He did less well in the final where he had to settle for bronze, with 85.38. Still, if there are people out there having still doubts as to whether Walcott is a great athlete I would advise them to stop interesting themselves in athletics and take up embroidery. Speaking of great throwers, J. Yego who has been rather discreet this season was second with a 88.24 m throw. Unfortunately he hurt himself and had to drop out of the competition after his fourth throw. Concerning the winner, T. Röhler I would like to remind here what I had written in my comments on the European Championships

"The huge surprise of the event was the 5th place of this year's world leader T. Röhler. I think that this was the first time Röhler was entering a major competition as the favourite and he does not have yet the experience allowing him to channel his stress in a constructive way. Who knows, his bad european experience might be helpful for him at the Rio Olympics".

It turned out that I nailed it. 

Yego, Röhler and Walcott

And, lest I forget it, I have been crossing my fingers for Pitkämäki to be eliminated and he obliged. At 34 it is high time for him to retire and allow us to wipe his name out of our minds.

Men's hammer throw reserved us the biggest surprise of the Games. The one undisputed favourite P. Fajdek, the current wold champion, who is dominating the discipline these last years managed just a 72 m throw and could not qualify. D. Nazarov of Tajikistan was the winner with 78.68 m which is the worst gold medal performance since 1984 (and, remember, that was a boycott year). Women's hammer throw on the other hand was the exact opposite. Not only did the great favourite A. Wlodarczyk win the competition but she rewarded us with a 82.29 m world record. It was a short-lived one: two weeks later Wlodarczyk improved it to 82.98 m. She has now the 20 best performances of all time (counting ancillary marks) and she is the only thrower above 80 m.

A. Wlodarczyk throwing in Rio

Both decathlon and heptathlon were great competitions. If you are following my blog you should have noticed by now my passion for combined events. Men's decathlon saw the crowning of A. Eaton who is unbeaten since 2012. His 8893 points score is an olympic record (in fact a tie with that of Dvorak from 2004). D. Warner with 8666 points had to settle for 3rd, the silver medal going to K. Mayer of France who crushed the old national record with 8834 points. I consider Mayer the true successor to Eaton (and Warner). While the latter are essentially runners, Mayer is a jumper-thrower, a profile that I particularly like in decathletes. 

 Warner, Eaton and Mayer

L. Bourrada in 5th place established a new African record and L. Suárez, after two bronze medals in 2008 and 2012 had to contend himself with a 6th place. I will be keeping an eye open for the two decathletes from Grenada, K. Felix and L. Victor (who, by the way, are brothers). The day they improve their pole vault and their 1500 m they can make miracles.

While in the decathlon the surprise was that of Mayer's second place, in the heptathlon it is the victory of N. Thiam who was unexpected. I have been following Thiam's progress for years and I was always hoping that one day she was going to realise her great potential. Still what she did in Rio was beyond anything I could imagine (or hope for). Competing with a slight elbow injury she managed great throws in both the shot put (were usually she does OK) and the javelin (where usually she does so-so). Her jumps were superb: 1.98 m at the high jump and 6.58 m at the long jump secured her more than 1000 points each time. (Should I spell it out for you? Thiam is a jumper-thrower). Coming into the 800 m I was somewhat anxious because I have seen in the past Thiam losing a medal because of a mediocre 800 m. Not this time. She ran a respectable 2:16.54 and while J. Ennis-Hill scored a hundred points more than Thiam in this event she had to relinquish her olympic title. 

Nafissatou Thiam, celebrating

Thiam's 6810 overall score while not as good as Ennis' 6955 in London or Kluft's 6952 in Athens, is still better than Dobrynska's 6733 in Beijing, Lewis 6584 in Sydney and Shouaa's 6780 in Atlanta. Ennis was second with 6775 points and Theisen-Eaton third, winning her first olympic medal with 6653 points. K. Johnson-Thompson's 6th place, despite a 1.98 m national record at high jump, was slightly disappointing (KJT is a runner-jumper but definitely no thrower). Among the european athletes who participated at the European Championships the one who did spectacularly better was G. Zsivoczky-Farkas: her 6442 points in Rio would have sufficed for a bronze medal in Amsterdam. And since I talked about them in my European's report I should not forget here the three heptathletes from the Netherlands: Vetter, Broersen and Visser. They finished 10th, 13th and 19th. Vetter scored 6394 points, 232 less than her Amsterdam performance. She was only the 8th european. And I am now convinced that Broersen is hampered by some injury. Otherwise how can one explain that she jumped 1.77 m in Rio (1.74 m in Amsterdam) when she has a 1.94 m personal record? Anyhow, she scored 239 points less than her personal record (and Visser did even worse scoring 277 points less). I will close the analysis of the women's heptathlon commenting on an athlete who has a great talent and still managed to finish at the 20th place: A. Jones of the Barbados. 

A. Jones and J. Ennis-Hill

With 3964 points she was at 3rd place at the end of the first day. Had she performed at her record level at long jump and 800 m (I know, it is not easy, but for argument's sake let us accept it) she would have scored 6561 points at 5th place just behind L. Ikauniece-Adminina. Instead she jumped just 6.30 m, slipping to 4th place, followed by a 42 m javelin throw which ended her at 6th, whereupon she decided to jog through the 800 m in 2:41.12, losing 14 places in the process. I believe that Jones, who is just 21, once she learns how to throw the javelin, will be able to compete with the best heptathletes out there. To my eyes she is a runner-jumper-thrower who only lacks technique (and perhaps determination).

With three world records the 2016 Olympic Games were an excellent vintage. Two more world records were broken one before the Games by K. Harrison (who could not participate because of the harsh US trials rules) and by R. Jebet (who won without taking undue risks and went on to break the record in a more tame competition). Two more world records could have been broken, that of women's 800 m (but more on this in some future post) and of women's 5000 m. The latter is still a possibility and if it occurs I will definitely present my analysis and comments.

01 September, 2016

My Olympic Report (2016). First part: track events

Again the time difference between Greece and Brazil made it very hard to follow the evening session live. With one exception (men's 100 m) I watched everything time-shifted and followed the finals already knowing the result. Still, this did not make the competitions less interesting. On the contrary, it allowed me to watch out for the most important instants. So, here is an account of my impressions along with a dash of technical discussion.

Last year I started my account on the World Championships saying that U. Bolt is the best sprinter ever. Not only has he made this clear once more at the Games but I think that now even the more fanatic Gatlin admirers are compelled to admit this basic truth. Bolt is the best sprinter who has ever existed. B. Hayes could have rivalled with him over 100 m. T. Smith could have given him a hard time over 200 m. But nobody could have dominated the two distances the way Bolt does. So, Bolt squashed the competition, and Gatlin had to settle for silver (which is already too much for a double doping offender). The nice surprise was the flourishing of A. De Grasse who is now a convincing heir to U. Bolt. (The other such heir, Y. Blake, was back from seasons plagued by injuries and had to contend himself with a fourth place). An unpleasant surprise was the lacklustre performance of T. Brommel who had, last year, tied with De Grasse for the bronze medal in the World's.

The 100 m final

The 200 m turned out to be Gatlin's Waterloo. Trying to play Bolt, he eased up over the last few metres of the semi-final and ended up third with a non-qualifying time. Well, when you do not have Bolt's class, don't try to imitate him. In fact Bolt did just the same thing in his semi, easing up with De Grasse coming hard after him. Still Bolt won and crossed the line smiling and shaking his finger at De Grasse. 

Bolt and De Grasse in the semi-final

With Gatlin eliminated there were several runners who could pine for a bronze medal, Bolt and De Grasse trusting gold and silver. Finally it was C. Lemaître who prevailed beating A. Gemili and C. Martina by scant milliseconds. 

Bolt and Lemaître in the 200 m final

I have already written on the absurdity of milliseconds. To my eyes all three runners should have shared the bronze medal. 

The men's 200 m photofinish

But, be that as it may, I am very happy for Lemaître who managed his exploit while not being in his best shape as he was in 2011 or 2012.

Women's sprint races were dominated by E. Thompson. People were thinking of T. Bowie, S-A. Frazer-Pryce and D. Schippers as possible contenders for the title. Myself, I was thinking about a duel of Thompson and Schippers over the longer distance. Well, nothing such happened. 

Women's 200 m final

Thompson crushed both events winning by a 0.12 s margin the 100 m and by 0.10 s the 200 m. The funny thing is that she was rather astonished by her easy victories. 

Thompson and Ta Lou in the 100 m final

I was very happy with M.J. TaLou's brilliant performance in both finals and a little sad that she lost the bronze medal over the shorter distance for a few milliseconds (those pesky milliseconds again). 

The women's 100 m photofinish

My other preferred Ivorian runner, M. Ahouré, could not find her 10.78 form and was eliminated in the semis. One nice surprise was the presence of I. Lalova-Collio in the 200 m final, 12 years after the Athens Games, where she finished 4th and 5th in the two sprint events.

Both men's and women's 400 m were fascinating events. One year after his world title W. Van Niekerk won the olympic gold, crushing the opposition and establishing a new world record. The former olympic champion, K. James, finished 0.73 s behind for second place. Go here to watch the video, you will not regret it. Van Niekerk ran in lane 8 and thus knew only approximately where the others were. And when he entered the final stretch he just flied away from his rivals. 

Van Niekerk at the 400 m final

Van Niekerk has the same age as James and so we can look forward to more duels of the two quarter-milers. I was expecting a somewhat better result from the second runner from Grenada, B. Taplin, but the one athlete who really impressed me was K. Sibanda of Botswana who ran 44.25 s for 5th place at just 18 years of age. It is clear that men's 400 m is becoming a very competitive discipline (and one can thus easily understand why Bolt has always resisted the temptation to move up to that distance).

Women's race was a dramatic one. A. Felix had prepared the Games with the hope to triple her individual gold medals. The USATF had even twisted the arm of the organising committee in order to make the programme compatible with a 200-400 m double for Felix. The first disaster, for Felix, struck at the US Trials were she finished 4th over 200 m and could not make the team. So, only the 400 m remained. And there she happened across S. Miller, from Bahamas, who was second behind her in last year's World's. Miller in lane 7 ran a suicidal race and was caught up by Felix with 30 m to go. 

The impressive dive of Miller

But she hang on and while trying to dip for the finish line she tripped and dived across finishing 0.07 s ahead of Felix. 

and the photofinish

My two favourite runners F. Gueï of France (european 2016) silver medalist) and K. Mupopo of Zambia (african 2016 champion) made mediocre appearances and exited at the semi-finals. I was hoping for something better.

D. Rudisha is a lucky guy. After being hampered by injuries during three difficult years, 2013-2015, during which he managed just to win a tactical 800 m in the 2015 World's, he came back to shape and won hands down the olympic 800 m title with a respectable 1:42.15. T Makhloufi of Algeria, the 2012 1500 m olympic gold medalist, was second and P.A. Bosse of France once again failed to grab a medal finishing 4th. Women's 800 m deserves a special article and I promise to write it in a near future. To my eyes one thing is clear: There were at best 7 women present in the final.

I will not discuss the men's 1500 m. For me this race was a shame. One has to go back to 1932 (where L. Beccali won in 3:51.2) in order to find a winning time slower than the 3:50.00 of Rio. One had the impression to see decathletes running the 1500 m. Naturally, the final lap was a 50 s one. Naturally, some favourites were left without medal. Well, it serves them right. I hope we will never see such a ridiculous race again. Women's race was not much better. Again the athletes started at a snail's pace but at least the pace picked up over the last two laps. G. Dibaba the pre-race favourite was roundly beaten by Kenya's F. Kipyegon, with G. Simpson, the 2011 world champion winning bronze. The indoor world champion, S. Hassan of the Netherlands, had to settle for 5th, while Britain's L. Muir, who a few days later ran a world leading 3:55.22, could only finish 7th.

Men's 5 and 10 km were won by M. Farah, unbeaten in the Olympics or the World's over both distances since 2012. Enough said. Women's long distances were another story altogether. Everything started at the very first day with the final of 10000 m. Ayana imposed her own rhythm on the other competitors and flew away from the pack. She passed at mid-point in 14:47.1 running the second half in 14:30.4 for a final time of 29:17.45. She eclipsed J. Wang's record of 29:31.78 which had been standing for over 20 years. The incredible race of Ayana "hoovered up" the two other medalists V. Cheruiyot to an impressive 29:32.53 and T. Dibaba, the two-times olympic gold medalist, to a personal best of 29:42.56. 

The winners of women's 10000 m

Even the 4th finisher A. Aprot Mawonuna of Kenya ran below 30 min, with 29.53.51. All women finishing in the 13 first places registered a personal best, with a world master's record for J. Pavey at 15 place and 8 national records in all. Rarely have I seen such an exciting 10 km. But then things got somewhat bizarre. Notice that Ayana ran the second 5 km of the race in 14:30.4. (Of course Wang in her 1993 record had done even better with a first 5 km in 15:05.90 and a second one in 14:25.88). So all of us were expecting a fantastic 5000 m. After all, Ayana's 10 km record is equivalent to a sub-14 min 5 km. But in the race Ayana could manage only a 14:33.59 finishing 3rd and was beaten by the two kenyans: V. Cheruiyot in 14:26.17 and H. Onsando Obiri in 14:29.77. Ayana accelerated after the first kilometre but with one kilometre to go she was passed by the two kenyans and gave the impression of vulnerability. I don't know what to say. In fact I will wait for Ayana's Brussels Golden League 5000 m before voicing my suspicions.

Kenya won both men's and women's Marathon races with E. Kipchoge and J. Sumgong. Last year's world champion, 20 year old G. Gebreslassie from Erythrea, finished 4th establishing thus beyond doubt that last year's victory was not a short-lived firework. In the women's race three sets of twins finished the race: Hahner from Germany, Kim from North Korea and two of the Luik triplets from Estonia (the third one unfortunately dropped out of the race and missed thus what would have been a Guinness record).

Jamaica won easily men's 4x100 m relay with Bolt obtaining thus a magical triple-triple. The US team observed the tradition by getting disqualified. In fact the last time the americans won a medal was in the 2007 World's. (But, to be fair, they lost their 2012 silver medal on a doping offense by T. Gay). I have devoted a special article to the women's 4x100 m relay so there is no need to repeat myself here. The US teams won both the 4x400 m relays. I was a little bit sad at the end of the men's relay where the super-human effort of Kevin Borlée did not suffice in order to grab an olympic medal for Belgium. In any case, the belgian team is today the number one team in Europe.

Men's 4x400 m final

My favourite for the 110 m hurdles, O. McLeod, did win and rather easily at that. Still in the high hurdles nothing is guaranteed and the recent misfortune of McLeod, sprawled on the track after the 10th hurdle in this year's Monaco Diamond League competition, showed that even the best hurdlers should fear the hurdles. Part of the heats took place under a pouring rain and the chief judge ordered a repechage to be held in order to give a second chance to athletes who had to face the heavy rain. One of the athletes who managed to qualify in terrible conditions was M. Trajkovic of Cyprus who went on to qualify for the final (after having done the same in the European championships a month earlier). His race in the heats is really worth watching, but I guess it will be very difficult to find.

McLeod with Bascou and Martinot-Lagarde

By the harsh rules of the US Trials K. Harrison, who finished 6th could not make the olympic team despite being the best performer of the year. She proved that she was the best by breaking the world record a few weeks before the Olympics erasing a 28-year old record with a time of 12.20 s. Still, she had to watch from afar her teammates make history as they did a clean sweep of the olympic medals. I was expecting B. Rollins and N. Ali, outdoors and indoors world champions respectively, to be on the podium but I could not vouch for K. Castlin whom I did not know. Still she did manage to grab bronze, Rollings and Ali getting gold and silver respectively. I really do like the photo of the three girls celebrating their victory.

Castlin, Rollins and Ali

In the 400 m hurdles, K. Clement, world champion in 2007 and 2009, obtained his first gold olympic medal (he already had a silver from 2008). The reigning world champion N. Bett of Kenya stumbled on the last hurdle and was disqualified in the heats. Another kenyan, B. Tumuti finished second improving Bett's record by 0.01 s. J. Culson, one of the favourites was disqualified in the final for false start. In the European championships I had noticed a norwegian hurdler, K. Warholm. He was present in Rio and won his heat in a national record time. However in the semis he did the same mistake as in Amsterdam, running too fast over the first half and thus could not make it to the final. I am going to keep an eye open for him in the future.

Having watched the heats of the women's 400 m hurdles I was convinced that D. Muhammad was going to win, which she went on to do without being challenged in the least. The surprise came from the second place of the european champion S. Petersen of Denmark. The 2013 and 2015 world champion Z. Hejnova could only manage a 4th place, her bronze medal from London being thus her only olympic podium. 

The 3000 m steeplechase was once more a kenyan affair. Since 1968 Kenya has conserved the olympic title, with the exception of the years of boycott, 1976 and 1980. On two occasions, 1992 and 2004, kenyans athletes secured all three medals. In Rio things were a little bit complicated. E. Kemboi, the 2004 and 2012 Olympic champion (and 2009, 2011, 2013, 2015 world champion as well) finished third, whereupon he announced his decision to retire from athletics. However following a protest by the french team he was disqualified for stepping outside the track (and thus the bronze medal went to M. Mekhissi-Benabbad who had finished 4th). That was a harsh decision and the move of the french team somewhat petty. Mekhissi, a multiple olympic, world and european medalist did not need that controversial medal, all the more so since he had lost his european 2014 gold after a questionable protest for having removed his shirt in celebration on the home straight.

Women's 3000 m steeplechase got me thinking. Why on earth do the kenyans let their best athletes leave, to run under foreign nationalities? I could understand it if they did it for their second-best athletes but let a champion like R. Jebet run for Bahrain is preposterous. So what happened is that Jebet won the olympic title in a "cautious" 8:59.75 and a week later, in the Paris Diamond League competition she smashed the world record with 8:52.78. As a consequence, now, both men's and women's records of steeplechase are held by kenyans running for foreign countries. (Qatar's world record holder with 7:53.63, Saif Saaeed Shaheen is in fact Stephen Cherono. He became a Qatari citizen in 2003, but was barred from competing in the 2004 Olympics, due to the refusal of the kenyan federation to allow him run. He established his world record shortly after the Games in a race where he beat the olympic champion E. Kemboi). Anyhow, the women's Rio steeplechase race was a great one with all athletes from 3rd to 9th place registering personal bests (season's best for S. Assefa in 5th).

If you have followed closely the presentation you will certainly have noticed that something is missing: race-walking. I will never report on this unnatural discipline, despite the fact that I consider race-walkers on par with the other athletes. It is just, as I have explained, that this discipline should not have existed as a competition one.