Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Halfway: Highs and Lows of the World Track & Field Championships!

Well, we're halfway through the World Track & Field Championships in Daegu, South Korea. NBS/Universal Sports scheduled an unprecedented number of hours of coverage and this has been on my radar most of the year. Not only is this a World Championships, but it is also the year preceding an Olympic year. Stakes are high, favorites will be established.

Before getting into my personal highs and lows through this halfway point, let me just say that track and field coverage needs a MAJOR face-lift if it is ever going to be relevant or effective in promoting the sport. This is not football, or basketball or even baseball. Networks need to talk to athletes and avid fans to determine the best way to entertain and inform, before it's too late and a wonderful Olympic opportunity is missed (this topic, by the way, will have to be a whole other blog, some other day!).

Downers.
First and foremost - the coverage. Early coverage was hideous, especially when shots of fans and coaches took precedence over real live action in the distance events. I cannot believe how little of the Woman's marathon and both 10,000 meter races was shown. Somewhere north of 60 million people in this country run or jog. Millions race distances from 5K to the marathon and distance races get little more than a slight nod from the networks. Problem: they don't know how to cover them. So, hey network..... ASK runners and fans! The only thing NBC/Universal did right was to enlist Toni Reavis and Josh Cox for the commentary (even then they had them in some hole in the wall studio FAR away from the actual action). And while I'm on that topic, with the number of commercials being carried every 6-10 minutes, couldn't you afford to have all of your commentators in Korea?
Toni and Josh (uppers amidst the biggest downer)

Other downers:  Allyson Felix getting nipped in the 400 meters, Usain Bolt's false start (now I am not the biggest Bolt fan, but it was sad to see the event without its superstar), and the Robles DQ in the hurdles (the biggest loser there was Liu Xiang who would have won). The time difference is very frustrating as night is day and day is night. I will get used to it, but by then, it's over. It was sad to see Shalane Flanagan drop back in the 10K, but nothing could have been tougher than beating the Kenyans in that race.

Vivian Cheruiyot
Amy Hastings
Trey Hardee & Ashton Eaton
Uppers.  There are plenty. Loved watching the Kenyans sweep the Woman's marathon and 10K. Made me want to hoist my Kenyan flag (didn't want to scare the neighbors, though)! The advancing to the finals of Lauren Fleshman, Amy Hastings, Emma Coburn, Jenny Barringer-Simpson, and Morgan Uceny shows the building strength of female American distance runners. The competitiveness of the Kirani James/LaShawn Merritt 400 meter dual was great. The coverage of both the Men's Decathlon (shout outs to Trey Hardee and Ashton Eaton for going 1-2) and woman's Heptathlon (Wow, is Tatyana Chernova some kind of an athlete or what?) were excellent. An impressive win for Carmelita Jeter in the 100 illustrated close to the perfectly executed race. David Rudisha showed unmatched power in the 800 and Mo Farah came, oh so close, in the Men's 10K.

I'm sure I am missing some of my other Uppers, but I reserve the right to add them later.

Tatyana Chernova
On the whole, the biggest Upper is the meet itself. The greatest track and field athletes in the world meeting in one of the greatest sports events held every two years is enough for me. I'll live through the bad coverage and the occasional disappointment by one of my favorites. But, compared to the dark ages when I competed, the breadth of coverage is awesome. Television (even poor television) and websites like Flotrack, Track and Field News and the iaaf site have been a Godsend.

 I'm looking forward to an exciting final half of the meet. How about you? Enjoy!


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