AS THE LATEST World Championships ever held (the previous late-date staging was Rome ’87, which wrapped up a month earlier, on September 6), Doha brought with it the distinction of being the only WC meet never to be followed by major European Circuit action.
Today’s question for debate is whether that was a good thing or a bad thing.
If you think of track in the same way you think of the major team sports (think baseball, basketball, football or hockey), which award climactic trophies and then call it quits for the year, the logic of having no more meets after the World Championships is perfectly clear. Everything that went before the WC can be viewed as regular-season competition, and when that is wrapped, the very best (and a bit of a supporting cast) move on to the playoffs. Depending on the event, there are 1, 2, 3 or 4 rounds of competition and the champion is crowned. The cream has risen to the top in orderly fashion, and now it’s time to start thinking about next year. That was my initial reaction after Doha was a wrap. What a way to wrap up a season!
But it only took a day or so before my never-satisfied evil twin came alive, complaining, “I want more.”
As a monster fan of the shot, I especially wanted to see Kovacs & Co. go at it (at least) one more time. How about more Naser vs. Miller-Uibo in the 400, with SMU this time sticking closer to Naser in the early going? After winning an historic 1500/10,000 double, how about a WR shot in the 3000 or 5000 (or both!) for Sifan Hassan? How could one not want yet another battle of Kendricks vs. Duplantis in the vault? Pressed by McLaughlin, might Muhammad get another 400H WR… or might McLaughlin take it away from her? What about a century matchup between Coleman and Lyles?
Late in the year as it already was when Doha wrapped, it seems such a shame to have wasted the chance for all these great talents to get at least one more opportunity to showcase their skills at peak level. Yes, we know that some—even if their physical shape might still be at an apex—will be emotionally spent, but history has shown us that a significant number are well able to really bring it in a post-WC (or OG) setting. There have been no end of majestic Zürich and Brussels meets that fell in that window.
Evil twin would also argue that it would do nothing but good for the sport to have kept us alive a little bit longer in the public eye, pulling together as many of the sport’s high-enders in one place at least one more time.
Doha was obviously unique, and not likely to be duplicated. Still, it does open the door to thinking about a revamped IAAF timetable (“calendar reform”; one of Seb Coe’s favorite topics) which would find the WC moved to where it would be the end of the season.
Much of such thinking is moot, because it only applies half the time, of course. The dating of the Olympics is out of the IAAF’s hands and in the fourth year of the quadrennium there is no World Champs anyway. But in the two glorious years in which there is one, which option would you prefer? WC is staged in midsummer and is followed by all kinds of invitationals? WC is the last meet of the year, in late August and/or early September? WC is last meet, with a “showcase” meet to follow? I vote—at least I do today—for the third option. The WC may have been a sumptuous banquet, but please give me one last nosh before I turn in.
Opening Pandora’s Medal Box
Color me cruel, but I wasn’t thrilled by the extra Doha bronze medals awarded in the men’s 110H and hammer. To recap, Orlando Ortega was 5th across the line in the hurdles but was given a bronze because of an obstruction call on Omar McLeod, and both Bence Halász and Wojciech Nowicki were both given bronzes after a missed foul call on the former. While I’m understanding what happened, both rulings required too much in the way of we-feel-sorry-for-the-guy judgment calls.
Yes, the Spaniard probably would have finished in the medals had he not been banged by McLeod, but this is the hurdles, folks, and they get in the way all the time, and the hurdlers themselves frequently clash (perhaps more frequently when McLeod is involved?). Just ask Xiang Liu about the gold he probably lost after a grabbing incident at Daegu in ’11. Should we go back and retroactively upgrade him to a co-gold with Jason Richardson?
In the hammer it was discovered via video evidence after the competition that Halász had clearly fouled on his first attempt and that mark should be removed, upping Nowicki to the third podium spot. But, ruled the judges in a bit of groundbreaking revisionism, the Hungarian’s approach to his next 5 throws had been colored by his big first one, so he should sorta get credit for it. Enough for a medal. By that rationale, Wenxiu Zhang should get a bronze from the ’12 Olympics, where the competition ended with her in 3rd, but post-event machinations reinstated a Betty Heidler mark and Zhang was demoted. The Chinese protested, saying she would have approached her final attempt differently had she known she wasn’t really in 3rd. No, I don’t think Zhang should have been elevated in any fashion, just as I don’t believe the extra bronzes should have been awarded in Doha.
I worry about what kind of precedent has been set for letting the heart rule in tough situations.□