Here’s this month’s collection of generally off-track activities that have gone a long way towards shaping the way the sport is headed:
Bolt Knows What Track Needs
The only thing our sport needs, says Usain Bolt, is another Usain Bolt.
Well, not in so many words, exactly. Speaking at a press conference for the Commonwealth Games, the Jamaican legend referenced the need for the sport to showcase major stars. “The sport needs somebody else to really step up and be that person,” he said. “So it’s a wide-open playing field. It’s just that person. Step up and then do it.”
Asked if he had anybody in mind, he explained, “It’s definitely going to take time. It’s not always going to be like this, I know that much. I’ve said to a few of the athletes that ‘This is your time.’ ”
His own place in the sport, he feels, is already secured. “I’m still track & field, so no matter if they talk about me, I’m still part of the sport.”
Texas To Host NCAA In ’19 & ’20
Oregon was originally slated to be the site of the NCAA Championships through ’21, but after Eugene won the ’21 World Champs bid and new-stadium construction became an issue, the Ducks had to drop out and bidding reopened for ’19 & ’20.
The winner was Texas. With a seating capacity of 20,000, its stadium is one of the largest track facilities in the nation, and hosted the ’04 edition of the NCAA.
“This is an exciting moment for Texas,” said the Longhorns’ interim Head Coach, Tonja Buford-Bailey. “Mike A. Myers Stadium is among the best track venues in the nation and I’m just excited to showcase our facility and our amazing city of Austin as we welcome the best track & field athletes here to compete for championships.
“Our fans are dedicated and have shown great support for track & field by filling the stands each year for Texas Relays, and I know they will do us proud and make Myers Stadium an incredible atmosphere for these national championship meets.”
Who Gets To Keep The Trophy?
This summer’s first-ever Athletics World Cup (not to be confused with past meets which went off under a similar name), will be offering what London organizers are calling the “most valuable sporting trophy ever.”
The winning team from among the 8 contending nations—China, France, Germany, Great Britain, Jamaica, Poland, South Africa, United States—will get the big prize.
Called the Global Platinum Trophy, the cup will cost over $250,000, with parts covered in actual platinum, which these days is selling for about $900 an ounce.
Says Niels de Vos, CEO of the meet, “The Athletics World Cup is all about the highest level of team competition, between the world’s top athletics nations.
“To celebrate this, we wanted to create exceptional awards that are unlike any existing rewards. By using the world’s most precious metal, platinum, we have created a unique edge to the event, which is sure to excite athletes across the world.”
We have to wonder if the athletes involved—if given a vote—wouldn’t choose to melt the trophy down and split the proceeds of the platinum sale?
’19 & ’20 USATF Indoors To Staten Island
USATF’s next two national indoor championships meets will have a first-time host as the Ocean Breeze facility on New York City’s Staten Island is set to go.
“I am proud to welcome world-class track & field athletes from across the country,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “The City is committed to producing an unforgettable event for all who travel to Staten Island for this elite competition.”
Ocean Breeze, which opened in ’15, features a 200m banked track and is IAAF-certified. It hosted the last two editions of the USATF Youth Indoor Championships.
Bad Boy Walk Coach Could Put Russia In Trouble
Viktor Chegin, implicated in more than 30 doping cases and banned for life by Russian doping authorities (RUSADA) in March of ’16, is apparently back coaching walkers.
RUSADA investigators sent to check out a national team training camp in Karakol, Kyrgyzstan, discovered that Chegin—the coach of many international medalists—was part of the support staff.
Monaco’s reaction to the news was predictably strong. The IAAF’s Russia taskforce announced, “If it is confirmed that Russian race walkers are still working with Viktor Chegin, despite them having been specifically warned not to do so following his life ban from the sport, then it would appear that there has been no real change in culture in Russian track & field.
“It is hard to see how these athletes could be permitted to return to international competition without threatening the integrity of that competition.”
Walsh Chasing Shot World Record
World champion Tom Walsh of New Zealand wants the best mark ever in the shot. With a list-leading PR this year of 74-4½ (22.67), he’s not quite 18 inches away from Randy Barnes’s official standard of 75-10¼ (23.12) set in ’90. Since Barnes had a positive steroid test that year, T&FN recognizes Ulf Timmermann’s 75-8 (23.06) from ’88 at the top of the all-time list.
When Walsh tossed his PR, which moved him to No. 5 on the all-time list, American putter Ryan Whiting, who finished 2nd in the competition, said, “For me, what he did today was the ‘clean’ World Record.
“All the guys in the ‘80s and ‘90s were as dirty as can be, and I think Tom’s now the top of what you’ve seen as a clean shot putter.”
Walsh told Ian Anderson of New Zealand Stuff, “I hate that. Look, the World Record is 23.12. He may have been done for drugs… but it is the World Record, and I intend to break that World Record.
“If it was a dirty World Record, it wouldn’t be there, would it?”
As to when he might challenge Barnes’ mark, the powerful Kiwi made no predictions, saying only, “I don’t like to try and throw distance. As soon as I start thinking about the outcome, that’s when it starts going wrong.”
Tyrese Cooper Runs Afoul Of The Law
Florida’s State Meet may be missing one of it’s biggest stars. Sprint phenom Tyrese Cooper ran into trouble at the end of April when he was arrested for trying to steal cars near the Miami International Airport.
Cooper, still just a junior, is one of the top prospects in the nation with bests of 10.36, 20.51 and 45.23. As a frosh and soph he won a total of 5 All-America spots in the three dashes. He won New Balance titles indoors and out last year at 200 & 400, along with the USATF Junior 200.
He was arrested along with three companions at a ground transportation hub. He was charged with possession of burglary tools, criminal mischief and loitering and prowling.
“Wrong place, wrong time, wrong crowd,” he said to a local-TV news crew, insisting that he is not a criminal.
He’s out on bail, but at press time it was unclear whether or not he will participate at State.
Hurdle Vet DHN Gets Ready To Retire
Dawn Harper Nelson will be hanging up her spikes at the end of the season. The ’08 Olympic champion in the 100 hurdles, she has World Ranked 9 of the last 10 years.
She told Gene Cherry of Reuters, “Since I was a child, there were always three things I wanted: To be an Olympic gold medalist, a wife and a mom.
“Right now, I am two for three and I’m feeling the urge to be someone’s mom. So this is it for me.”
She will be 34 when the season closes, and even though she has won two Olympic medals and made a pair of World Championships podiums, there are a couple more things she wants: “I want to run a personal best—it’s 12.37 now—and win the Diamond League final.”
An NCAA Indoor Champs In Virginia?
Virginia Beach is hoping to become a major indoor track & field center, with ambitious plans to put a state-of-the-art hydraulic track into a new sports center.
In a presentation, Mayor Will Sessoms said that the NCAA Indoor would be one of the meets they hope to land, with the advantage that Virginia Beach would be neutral ground.
City officials had originally planned a $40 million addition to the city’s Convention Center. Now with the $15 million track add-on, the sports center may be a freestanding venue.
The extra cost, city manager Ron Williams told the Virginian-Pilot, will be covered by track’s marketability: “Indoor track is one of the fastest growing sports in the indoor market.
“We fully believe that, essentially, this center makes us the amateur sports capital of the East Coast. We’re being aspirational.”