LAST LAP — November

HERE’S THIS MONTH’S collection of short takes on generally off-track activities that have gone a long way towards shaping the way the sport is headed. Four major items have received their own separate coverage: Mary Cain’s accusations against Alberto Salazar, the creation of a new Diamond League setup and Christian Taylor’s athlete-organizing reaction, and the latest in the Russian saga.

Quite the collection of WR-setting milers showed up in Monaco for a special celebration (l–r): Michel Jazy, Jim Ryun, Filbert Bayi, Seb Coe, John Walker, Steve Cram, Noureddine Morceli & Hicham El Guerrouj. (PHILIPPE FITTE FOR WORLD ATHLETICS)

Milers Mingle In Monaco

The guest list read like a who’s-who of the history of the event, as many of the mile’s living legends gathered at November’s World Athletics Heritage Mile Night. The roster in Monaco included Filbert Bayi, Abdi Bile, Eamonn Coghlan, Steve Cram, Ron Delany, Hicham El Guerrouj, Michel Jazy, Kip Keino, Jim Ryun, John Walker. Altogether 8 of the 10 living World Record setters made it, along with some of the race’s key women, including Paola Pigni Cacchi and Gabriella Dorio.

WA president Seb Coe was part of the proceedings too, of course, and he said, once the stage was full, “Brothers, like you, I am a miler. I have been a miler all my life. But don’t worry this is not a confession at the beginning of a self-help group or preparation for an Oprah interview.”

Peter Snell attempted to attend the gathering despite experiencing a mild heart attack a week earlier. The Kiwi great made it as far as the airport in his home city of Dallas before deciding his doctor’s advice should be heeded.
Despite his absence, the celebration of the event was a hit. Said John Walker—perhaps a tad biased—“The mile is the biggest event.”

NCAA To Ease Rules On Athlete Earnings?

It’s obviously too early to tell what this might look like for track & field, but in late October the NCAA Board Of Governors voted unanimously to allow college athletes to benefit from the use of their names, images and likenesses.
However, the carefully worded NCAA statement isn’t crystal clear, and some have suggested the NCAA has no intent of seeing financial compensation go to its “student-athletes.” Particularly since it came not long after the organization called California Senate Bill 206—the legislation that opened the door to compensation—an “existential threat.” The California policy doesn’t take effect until January ’23, which gives the collegiate rulers plenty of time to craft a new protocol. California Governor Gavin Newsom says the state “will be closely watching as the NCAA’s process moves forward to ensure the rules ultimately adopted are aligned with the legislation we passed this year.”

Budapest’s WC Hosting Confirmed

The ’23 World Championships, set for Hungary’s capital city, has a new set of dates (August 19-27) and also survived a potential roadblock. In mid-October, Budapest swore in a new mayor, Gergely Karácsony, a surprise election winner who said he was not interested in rubber-stamping the venue plans for the event. In return for approving the stadium construction, he demanded that the government increase funding for a health care development program by $163 million. He also insisted that the project must result in an expanded green space for the city, and that any construction along the Danube be of venues that can cater to a variety of public and cultural events, rather than single-use sports sites. The city council voted on the demands in late November and unanimously approved giving the meet a go-ahead, so long as the mayor’s conditions were met.

DHN’s Retirement Was A Short One

That Dawn Harper Nelson departure from the sport last year? Never mind. The ’08 Olympic 100H champion—and ’12 silver medalist—gave birth in April to a daughter and now says she’s coming back for Tokyo 2020. “I know I still have the talent and can do it,” she told Reuters. “The whole time, I didn’t know in my heart if I was done.” In the end, it was her baby girl, Harper Renee, who helped convince the UCLA alum to return to training, even though she’ll be 36 when the Olympic Trials roll around. “I didn’t want Harper to feel like her birth symbolized mom’s dream dying.” She has had discussions about again training with coach Bobby Kersee.

Olympic Roadies Headed To Sapporo

The proposed plan to move next year’s Olympic walks and marathons to avoid Tokyo’s dangerous heat (Last Lap, October) is now a reality. Begrudgingly, Tokyo authorities have agreed to the IOC proposal to head some 500M north to Sapporo, Governor Yuriko Koike saying, “I do not agree with the IOC decision, I will not interfere with the choice made by the authority vested with the right to deliver the final word.” She added, “I would describe what occurred here as a decision without agreement.” Tokyo will not be paying any of the expense of the move, she clarified.
One hitch in the plan is that according to the president of the organizing committee, the men’s marathon might have to be moved from the last day so it won’t interfere with the Closing Ceremony. Toshihiko Seko, the Japanese marathon great who is on the course-redesign committee, disagrees, saying the last day is ideal. The routes are still being negotiated. The organizing committee is pushing for a 13M loop to be run twice. WA has suggested a smaller loop, to be run 6 times.

Update On The Portland Coaching Situation

Sifan Hassan, the dominating 1500/10,000 world champ, says she is looking for a new coach in light of the ban on mentor Alberto Salazar. She plans to stay in Portland. She has remained loyal to Salazar, telling Dutch reporters, “There is no better coach, which makes the choice now for a new one so much more difficult. I want to stay in America because it is difficult to move in an Olympic year. Everything has to be perfect.” Agent Jos Hermens says that they are looking at several possible coaches, “but it must be someone with whom she must click.”

Meanwhile, the Nike Oregon Project athletes who worked with Pete Julian have resolved to stay together. The international group—currently nameless—includes world champ Donavan Brazier as well as Craig Engels, Jessica Hull, Eric Jenkins, Konstanze Klosterhalfen, Sugaru Osako and Shannon Rowbury. That leaves several notable athletes who had worked with Salazar who have not announced their plans: Galen Rupp, Clayton Murphy and Yomif Kejelcha.

Hasay To Be Coached By Radcliffe

Moving on from the Salazar era, Jordan Hasay has named as her new “coach advisor” Paula Radcliffe, the former WR holder in the marathon. “I have always looked up to Paula as a pioneer for what is possible in the marathon, and most importantly in being a kind and inspiring person in life,” she said. “I hope to follow in her footsteps as I continue my journey in the sport.” Radcliffe has not coached before, though her husband, Gary Lough, coaches Mo Farah.

Hasay stayed out of the NOP controversy for the most part, but eventually addressed the Mary Cain situation with Runner’s World, saying, “I really think you can’t point fingers and it’s really easy from the outside to kick Alberto under the bus. People make mistakes. He could have handled it at times differently. He really was doing his best. He wasn’t trying to cause any of the problems that she described. I sympathize with both sides. That’s why it’s hard—I haven’t commented on it—I don’t really have a side. I didn’t experience what she experienced, but I can see how it was so difficult.”

Authorities Still Pursuing The Diack Case

The wheels of justice finally seem to be moving in the long-running case against former IAAF head Lamine Diack and his son, Papa Massata Diack. Both have been charged in the case of hiding Russian drug positives in exchange for money and also facilitating negotiations with Russian sponsors and broadcasters before Moscow’s ’13 staging of the World Championships.

While the father has been under house arrest in Paris since ’15, the son has been back home in Senegal, out of the reach of French prosecutors. Both WA and the IOC have pressured the Senegalese to extradite the younger Diack for a trial that is expected to begin in Paris on January 13. Finally, in early November the younger Diack appeared in court in Dakar to be questioned by a judge in the first step of the extradition process. Not surprisingly, he has denied all of the French charges, which include money laundering and bribery. Also charged in the case are Habib Cissé, Lamine Diack’s former legal advisor, former IAAF anti-doping chief Gabriel Dollé, former Russian fed head Valentin Balakhnichev and Aleksey Melnikov, formerly Russia’s chief distance running coach. ◻︎

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