LAST LAP — July

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.

The hurdles were in the right place when Sydney McLaughlin set her WR of 51.46 in Tokyo. (KIRBY LEE/IMAGE OF SPORT)

Lots Of World Champs Coverage By NBC

U.S. fans who can’t make it to Eugene in July for the first World Championships to be held in the United States shouldn’t lack for coverage. NBCUniversal will be using various digital platforms to televise 43 hours — including 4 nights of primetime weekend coverage — plus “extreme” streaming.

Peacock will stream all sessions, including the live network coverage. The USA Network will cover full competition sessions during primetime weekdays, while CNBC will offer some coverage on the first weekend. So far, however, there has been no mention of dedicated field event streams, an add-on high on any hardcore fan’s wish list.


McLaughlin Hurdles 51.61 The Hard Way

Getting your step pattern down is essential to fast times in the 400H. It was no help then for Sydney McLaughlin in her seasonal debut at the Music City ATL in Nashville when a barrier was set at the wrong spot.

In her yearly debut in her flagship event McLaughlin was running smoothly with a 14-stride pattern when she stuttered and took 16 to clear No. 5 and 13 for the next one. Turned out the fifth hurdle had been set about 5m too far down the track.

Despite the disruption, the 22-year-old superstar regained her composure and produced the No. 3 time in history, 51.61, just 0.15 off her WR.

T&FN (and other stats-keeping bodies) will treat the mark as legal, since if anything she was slowed by the situation, not unfairly aided.


Track’s Oldest Olympian Passes

Olympic historian Bill Mallon notes that the oldest living track Olympian, Marko Račič, died on May 27 at 102 years old (plus 32 days). The Slovenian 400 runner — who represented Yugoslavia in the ’48 Games — made it to the quarterfinals of the 400, and also ran in the heats of the 4×4. And in a sign of the times behind the Iron Curtain, he was accompanied not by a coach, but by a “political agent” to ensure he did not stray in capitalistic London.

With Račič’s passing, the mantle of the current oldest track & field Olympian passes to France’s Janine Magnin-Lamouche, who competed in the 80H in the ’48 Games, and is set to turn 102 in August. Overall, notes Mallon, there are 6 centenarian track Olympians, including one American, 100-year old Herb Douglas, bronze medalist in the ’48 LJ.



Ross Joins Coaching-Go-Round

When Tennessee announced after the SEC that track director Beth Alford-Sullivan wouldn’t have her contract renewed it set off a round of domino falling.

North Carolina A&T head Duane Ross was hired to replace her. The former world class hurdler was at the end of another banner season . Reportedly, Ross will be earning $450K a year, plus bonuses, in his move to Knoxville.

Ross’s departure won’t leave A&T high and dry, as several weeks later came the news that another former hurdle great, ’96 Olympic champion Allen Johnson, had been hired to guide the Aggies. Johnson comes from 6 seasons of coaching the sprinters and hurdlers at NC State.

Speculation about the future of the younger Ross, 2-time NCAA 400 champ Randolph, spiked with debate over whether he would go pro or move to Knoxville. With 2 seasons of outdoor eligibility left, he announced his decision to compete for the Vols.

“It was hard leaving what we built for a decade,” said Randolph in a Father’s Day announcement.


Włodarczyk Hammers Car Thief

Hammer great Anita Włodarczyk will miss the World Championships as well as the remainder of the season after incurring a serious injury in the most unexpected of ways.
The 36-year-old Pole surprised a thief in the act of breaking into her car. She sprinted after him, in the process tearing a hamstring. “The adrenaline was such that I didn’t even feel it,” she said.

Reportedly she caught the man, and held him until police arrived. The cost was high, as the hamstring required surgery days later.

“Sometimes my fate has other plans,” she said. “My track & field season is over. I have always emerged victorious from every injury and now I believe that it will also be the same.

“I remember very well what it was like two years before Tokyo, when I had knee surgeries, I went on a long, labor-intensive path to return to the sport, to return to the Olympic podium. Now I have great motivation to repeat it and in two years to stand on the podium in Paris again.”


What Future For London’s Stadium?

In an ongoing debate over the fate of track in London’s Olympic stadium, Seb Coe is insisting that our sport’s presence remain.

This comes amidst negotiations between UK Athletics and the stadium owners. When the original deal was set after the facility was built for the ’12 Olympics, the stadium had agreed to give UKA access to the facility for a month every summer for 50 years.

Now the proprietors want out of that arrangement, in the hopes of using more space for soccer seating. They are negotiating a payoff to UK Athletics to get out of the deal.

But Coe says, “We want to keep a world-class track & field facility in London. It would be bizarre not to. I want London to remain a stopping point for international athletics.”

However, the WA head says he will not intervene in the talks: “I’m going to let this follow its natural course.”


Russia Still Out Of The WC

World Athletics has made it clear that it will not consider a change to its policy barring Russia and its ally Belarus from the World Championships, not unless there is a sudden — and one would expect, satisfactory — end to the invasion of Ukraine.

When asked for clarification, WA officials pointed reporters to their March 01 statement, which outlines the policy.

Said Seb Coe at the time, “Anyone who knows me will understand that imposing sanctions on athletes because of the actions of their government goes against the grain. I have railed against the practice of politicians targeting athletes and sport to make political points when other sectors continue about their business.

“This is different as governments, business and other international organizations have imposed sanctions and measures against Russia across all sectors. Sport has to step up and join these efforts to end this war and restore peace. We cannot and should not sit this one out.”


Lasitskene Not Happy With Ban

Top-rated high jumper Mariya Lasitskene didn’t hold back in writing an open letter to the IOC protesting the exclusion of Russian athletes from international sport.

In part, she said, “What you did was not to stop the war, but on the contrary, it gave birth to a new one, around and inside the sports, which is impossible to contain.”

Earlier in the document, she said, “Over the last 7 years I have not been able to compete in international competitions for about 4 years in total.” Pre-invasion, of course, Russians were subject to blanket bans after the uncovering of state-sponsored doping.

The Olympic champ voiced her sympathy and support for Ukrainian athletes, saying of her competitors, “I still don’t know what to say to them or how to look into their eyes. They and their friends and relatives are experiencing what no human being should ever have to feel. I am sure nothing of this never should have happened.”

In the end, her plea focused on her feeling that athletes should not be punished for their nationality.

However, Lasitskene’s stress didn’t evoke sympathy from rival Yuliya Levchenko of Ukraine, who responded on Instagram: “Do you think that sport is more important than the right to live? You are not allowed because you are a Russian?! And they kill us, simply because we are Ukrainians! Do you feel the difference?!”


Robyn Stevens Fighting With USATF Over Q

Will the best American walker be able to compete at the Worlds? That’s the crux of the debate that is currently lighting up the walk scene, according to reporting by Ken Stone in the San Diego Times.

Robyn Stevens, who ranked No. 1 in the U.S. at 20K last year, has already walked an American Record 2:49:29 for the 35K this year. That came on April 23. At the U.S. Trials for the distance on January 16, Stevens had dropped out with a glute injury.

As the only U.S. woman who has met the WC qualifying standard, Stevens should be an automatic pick, think some. However, Diane Graham-Henry, chair of USATF’s walk committee, says that the rules are being followed correctly as Stevens did not get a finish time at the Trials.
Stevens claims that the selection procedures that Henry referenced were not released until two months after the Trials. “So how does that make sense?”

Her situation for 20K is also complicated. Stevens, thinking she could nail down a spot in the 35K by competing in Dudince, skipped the U.S. 20K Championships that weekend.

Ron Daniel, former walk chair, told Stone that Maria Michta-Coffey was selected for the ’19 Worlds without having competed in the Trials race, because under the policy at the time, she had made the world standard when no other American had.

Since the story broke, Stevens has filed a grievance with USATF.


Meanwhile, In Oregon…

Oregon is gearing up for the World Champs, with most nearby communities (and some not so near) reporting that their hotel rooms have been spoken for…

Organizers are projecting the event’s first time being hosted in the United States will result in 55,000 visitors to the area. That has a huge economic impact, with some Eugene hotels reportedly tripling their usual rates…

Overall the economic impact is estimated to hit $52 million — that’s the amount visitors are expected to spend. A 7-year-old economic impact report was even rosier, projecting that indirectly, the effects of the meet could generate $224 million in spending…

Some of the spending has started early, as organizers estimate that 15-20 nations are already setting up training camps for the days before the meet, giving their athletes the opportunity to fine-tune while getting acclimated to the weather and time zone. ◻︎

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