LAST LAP — April

HERE’S THIS MONTH’S collection of short takes on generally off-track activities that have gone/will go a long way towards shaping the way the sport is headed.

Shaunae Miller-Uibo is disappointed that her prospects for Tokyo celebrating will have to be for either the 200 or 400, but not both. (KIRBY LEE/IMAGE OF SPORT)

Penn Adopts A 3-Part Format

One of the sport’s major rites of spring, the Penn Relays, won’t be back in its usual massive incarnation this year, but organizers are planning a trio of meets to fill the gap.

Says Penn AD M. Grace Calhoun “We remain hopeful that we will be able to provide some competitive opportunities for as many athletes as possible who have missed out on so much this past year. Splitting the meet into three distinct group of participants provides the greatest opportunity to host safe competition.”

A 1-day college-only meet will be held on the usual weekend, April 24. Invitees would include Div. I, II and III schools in the Philadelphia region.

An open/professional meet would be held prior to the Olympic Trials qualifying deadlines, while a prep meet would take place over the summer. Dates and details on both will be announced later.

As noted in last month’s issue, the Mt. SAC Relays first announced a spread-out schedule across multiple weekends, then shortly thereafter canceled collegiate competition. The Elite Division is now set for May 09, with the preps on May 14–15.



World Indoor Tour Wild Card Winners

During this year’s 5-meet WA World Indoor Tour, 11 events — 5 men, 6 women — were given special status, with the overall points winner in each of the events winning a $10,000 bonus. Even more importantly, the winners also earned Wild Card entries to the ’22 World Indoor to be held in Belgrade, Serbia. That means their nation will be able to have 3 entries in an event instead of 2 (assuming all have made standard).

Next year’s series will find the men’s and women’s events reversing. This year’s winners:

Women:
60 — Javianne Oliver (US)
800 — Habitam Alemu (Ethiopia)
3000 — Lemlem Hailu (Ethiopia)
Pole Vault — Iryna Zhuk (Belarus)
Triple Jump — Liadagmis Povea (Cuba)
Shot — Auriol Dongmo (Portugal)

Men:
400 — Pavel Maslák (Czechia)
1500 — Selemon Barega (Ethiopia)
60 Hurdles — Grant Holloway (US)
High Jump — Gianmarco Tamberi (Italy)
Long Jump — Juan Miguel Echevarría (Cuba)


No Long-Sprint Doubles For Women In Tokyo

Reigning Olympic 400 champ Shaunae Miller-Uibo would like to go for a 200/400 double in Tokyo, but unlike Michael Johnson in ’96 she hasn’t gotten any sympathy from the powers that be.

The road to such a double in Japan is markedly harder for women than it would be for any man who would like to try it. The men, for instance will have an extra day’s rest before the 400 final. As well, the overlapping of the two events means that SMU would twice have to run on consecutive days in pursuit of the double. The men would only have to run twice on a single day.

“As much as I wanted a new title in the 200m, I also wanted to defend my Olympic one,” Miller-Uibo said in early March. “The guys have an opportunity where their events don’t clash and so all we were asking for was an opportunity to double.”

Now the 26-year-old Bahamian says she will likely focus only on the 200 and a battle with Dina Asher-Smith, saying, “She’s a great competitor. I think we’ll bring the best out of each other.”

A Reuters report on the double noted archly, “Miller-Uibo’s comments come days after World Athletics announced a series of pledges to ‘further advance the role of girls and women’ in the sport.”


Ruling Bodies Appeal The Naser Decision

World 400 gold medalist Salwa Eid Naser is not off the hook yet. Though exonerated by the AIU for her missed tests (“Last Lap,” November/December), both WADA and WA have appealed the decision to CAS.

The appeals have been consolidated and the hearing has been set for April 22–23. Both organizations want Naser to be slapped with a 2-year suspension which would keep her out of the Olympic Games.

It had been revealed that before Naser won her gold medal in ’19 she had missed three doping tests that year and somehow was not provisionally suspended. She missed a fourth test in January ’20.



No Jabs For Former World Champ Yohan Blake

Jamaica’s Yohan Blake created a stir when he said that he has no intention of taking a vaccine for C19.

The 31-year-old sprint great, winner of 4 Olympic medals, told the Kingston Gleaner, “My mind still stays strong; I don’t want the vaccine. I would rather miss the Olympics than take the vaccine. I am happy. I don’t want to get into it right now, but I have my reasons.”

Those “reasons” apparently have little to do with medical science, since the 4 vaccines in use in North America have phenomenally high success rates at keeping people from serious illness and death from C19.


So What Does Coe Think About Super-Shoes?

WA boss Seb Coe recently balanced a fine line between saying that new shoe technology is no big deal and that the shoes will help create a World Record boom in Tokyo.

Speaking at the opening of the Museum Of World Athletics, Coe drew a link from the prehistoric spikes of Jesse Owens to the current models, saying, “We want to reflect every generation, and every innovation that has marked the history of our sport, certainly in modern times.

“Do I think they will be responsible for a clutch of World Records in Tokyo? The answer is that I hope we have a clutch of World Records in Tokyo and I think they will reflect a whole series of interlocking factors that go to high-class performance.”

He added, “But I readily concede that the creativity of the shoe companies is unlikely to inhibit those performances. And yes, World Records are always being broken.”


WA Launches Virtual Museum

Pandemic or not, the Museum Of World Athletics (hereafter to be known as MOWA) is open for business. It is WA’s claim that this is the world’s first sports museum that exists solely in the digital world.

Working with dcSPORT, a digital sport company, WA used 3D technology to create a “building” with rooms with the various exhibits. Visitors can roam freely through more than 60 exhibits and explore text, photos and videos.

Said Seb Coe at the virtual ribbon-cutting, “We are delighted to be the first international sport federation to bring a 3D virtual sports museum to a global audience. Through MOWA, sport and museums fans from around the world will, without the geographical limitations of a physical location, be able to discover the fascinating history of athletics, and the amazing achievements of our athletes.

“It is particularly exciting to launch this project at a time when the pandemic has limited the ability of fans to attend sporting events or visit museums in person.”

The museum can be found at www.worldathletics.org/mowa.


A New Excuse: Fake Car Crash

Kenya’s Nelly Jepkosgei won’t win an 800m gold medal any time soon, but she’s in contention to take the gold for cheekiness after faking a car crash in an attempt to get a missed drug test excused.

The 29-year-old newly-minted Bahraini has a best of 1:58.96 and would be eligible to represent her new country in August.

The AIU charges that she claimed her sister had been hospitalized after a traffic accident in Kenya and that she had to rush to see her, missing her test in March ’20. Their investigation revealed that Kenyan police had no record of such a crash and the hospital confirmed that the apparent medical documents that Jepkosgei provided the AIU were forged.

Her ban will be 3 years instead of the standard 4, because she confessed to tampering with evidence.

On a related note, distance runner Florence Jepkosgei Chepsoi became the first Kenyan to be found guilty in a criminal court. She received a 1-year community service sentence for faking documents as part of her defense of a doping charge.


A Roadmap For A Russian Return

The return of the Russians to the athletic fold is in process, with Seb Coe saying he welcomes the roadmap for Russia’s return after a years-long debacle that centered around the nation’s doping program and subsequent coverups.

A task force delivered the plan to the WA Council in late February, calling it “a detailed roadmap to rebuild trust.” It was approved unanimously.

Task force chair Rune Anderson said, “the plan is fit for the purpose of embedding in Russian athletics the deep-rooted change in culture that Council has been demanding for the past 5 years.”

Said Coe, “This is not the end but the beginning of a long journey, with an incredible amount of work for RusAF to do to rebuild trust. The international experts believe the team that is now in place will be able to deliver on the milestones they have put in place.”

Consequently, the Council will allow up to 10 Russians to compete in World Athletic Series events and the Tokyo Olympics, sans national flag and anthem.


Tokyo Notebook

As near as anyone can tell, as of the end of March the Olympics remain a go for this summer. One measure of the organizers’ commitment is the restarting of the Torch Relay, which was put on a back shelf last year when it attracted crowds which were decidedly unsafe in a pandemic.

The new start of the relay was March 25 in Fukushima. The public was warned that the event could be suspended again if crowds showed up again. Spectators were banned and the event was live-streamed…

Meanwhile, Tokyo 2020 president Seiko Hashimoto is trying to rally public support around the Games, saying, “We will do whatever it takes” to make the event successful and safe. She noted that decisions still need to be made on venue capacities and volunteer placement…

COVID emergency restrictions in the Tokyo area ended on March 21 as pandemic levels generally dropped, though the Tokyo governor urged the public not to become complacent…

Organizers are considering an increase in testing frequency for the 11,000 athletes expected to compete. They have already committed to spending $900 million on measures to combat the spread of the coronavirus. ◻︎

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