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:
Suhr Now “Semi-Retired”
Although she subsequently produced a fine 15-9¼ (4.81) for 3rd at the USATF Indoor, in early February vault great Jenn Suhr told local TV station WROC that she was “semiretired.”
She explained that she and husband/ coach Rick “got into RVing, we got into hiking and going around and visiting different places in New York State and close by.
“I enjoy that a lot and it’s just so much more peaceful than putting everything you have into one meet and living and dying by your marks and your results, so right now, we’re just enjoying life.”
The 3-time Olympian, now 36, said of a possible run at Tokyo ’20, “That’s a long ways away.”
NCAA Bids Reopen
With construction delayed on the renovation of Oregon’s track in preparation for its hosting of the ’21 World Championships, the NCAA Track & Field Committee has announced that the hosting of the ’19 & ’20 NCAAs—originally slated for historic Hayward Field—is again open for bidding.
The window for application will only open for 6 weeks, with new bids being due on March 30.
In ’13, Oregon was awarded the right to host meets through ’21. While the ’21 meet is not open for rebidding at this point, the USTFCCCA website now lists it as tba.
That year’s meet will be an historic one, marking the 100th anniversary of the meet’s debut (the first official championship in any NCAA sport).
Vin Lananna, in his role as associate AD for Oregon, said the track renovations will be completed by ’20. “We will rebid to host the 2020 NCAA Championships on what we believe will be the most innovative, first-class track facility,” he said.
London’s New “World Cup”
The British federation will host a new teamcompetition meet offering $2 million in prize money in London in July.
The Athletics World Cup—not to be confused with the discontinued IAAF’s World Cup team affair staged 10 times 1977–06—will include 8 nations deemed the sport’s strongest: host Great Britain, the U.S., China, France, Germany, Jamaica & South Africa.
With one competitor per team in each event, a slate of standard men’s and women’s track disciplines 100–1500 plus a full complement of field events will entertain fans in the two-evening meet (July 14–15) in a followup to last summer’s highly successful London edition of the World Championships.
The fixture has the IAAF’s imprimatur, with President Seb Coe having described the concept as “one of the exciting innovative events we are seeing in our sport” and predicting “a fast-paced and exhilarating experience for athletes and fans.”
The meet will have some brutal competition, going head-to-head with the Wimbledon final and the final in that other World Cup, the one of the soccer variety.
Advice For King Ches From El G
Edward Cheserek’s No. 2 all-time indoor mile performance (see p. 22) got a lot of attention, especially given the Oregon alum’s history of emphasizing the 5000 and 10,000 in past outdoor seasons.
Ches says the longer distances are his primary targets this spring and summer, as well.
One esteemed observer, no less than 1500/mile World Record holder Hicham El Guerrouj, has urged him to reconsider.
“Congratulations to Edward @King- Cheserek extraordinary performance,” El G tweeted. “I advise you to focus only on the 1500m&mile.”
Subsequent to his telling reporters that his 3:49.44 in Boston might be his last mile race, Ches told T&FN he will consider running more 1500s and miles in the months and years ahead.
Cuts To Olympic Track?
The Olympic Charter limits participation at the Summer Games to approximately 10,500 athletes and so with an oversubscribed total of 10,616 set for Tokyo ’20, talk of cuts for Paris ’24 and beyond once again raises the prospect track could see its quota reduced.
For Tokyo existing sports retained full complements as baseball/softball, karate, skateboarding, sport climbing and surfing were added.
But Olympic Games Delivery Executive Steering Committee chair John Coates is calling for a haircut in the future.
At the PyeongChang Winter Games, Coates noted, “we are asking for all of these savings but then we are giving a host the opportunity to add new sports for their Games with athletes in addition to that number.”
Boxing, with 286 spots, could be axed altogether over a range of controversies. Failing that, quotas for track and other sports may be pared.
“Informally those discussions are taking place,” Coates said.
There are at least 3 ways cuts to track could come: elimination of an event (or events); reduction of numbers of qualifiers per event; restricting nations to 2 contestants per event. Or even some combination thereof.
Saunders Steps Away
“Mama raised a fighter and know I will be back.” That’s Raven Saunders’ recent declaration on Twitter.
Ole Miss has announced the shot’s Collegiate Record holder is “stepping away from the track for a time as she returns to full health.”
The Rio Olympian provided clarification with her subsequent tweet: “Thank you for all of the kind words and support through this tough period. I am using this time to focus on myself and getting back to full health.
“To my fellow athletes you don’t always have to act like you have it all together. As a college student athlete times can get very hard. Take the time to focus on your mental health as you would the physical.”
Quoting Psalm 23:4—”Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”—Saunders closed with a hashtag: #Tokyo2020.
IAAF Looks At The Kenyan Fed
IAAF Ethics Board delegates have visited Kenya this winter to finalize the investigation of four former Athletics Kenya officials, according to the Nairobi Daily Nation.
The erstwhile federation officers— President Isaiah Kiplagat (who since passed away), Vice President David Okeyo, Treasurer Joseph Kinyua—and CEO Isaac Mwangi have been subjects of Ethics Board scrutiny since late ’15.
An unnamed source told the newspaper that Ethics Board investigators “are focusing mainly on the alleged doping and financial scandals involving the officials.”
Pending conclusion of the disciplinary process, the Ethics Board has called its activities in Kenya as “part of a process of bringing these matters to a fair and expeditious conclusion whilst ensuring that all relevant evidence and matters are brought to light and considered…”
New EPO Tests Coming?
Developing technologies may lead to EPO tests that can reach farther back into athletes’ pasts. At least that’s what the IOC hopes.
While current controls for banned blood-boosting drugs are effective for a week or less after a cheat takes a dose, IOC medical and scientific director Richard Budgett, speaking at the Winter Olympics, expressed optimism for more effective screens in the future.
“At least there is a test, but a test that can detect the use weeks or months before would be ideal,” Budgett said. “There is the promise of that, with the ‘omics’ test, which uses ‘proteomics’ and ‘metabolomics.’
“The theory is there, but putting it into practice is hard.”
The IOC and WADA are supporting research to develop the theory into reality.
Mayer Covets Eaton’s WR
Ashton Eaton’s successor as top active decathlete, Kevin Mayer, took the world title and No. 1 World Ranking last year. Now the 26-year-old Frenchman, who is No. 6 on the all-time list with his 8834 Rio Olympics score, seeks that other Eaton possession, the World Record.
While Mayer says the European title this summer is a higher priority than the World Indoor heptathlon, he has produced a couple of nice PRs this winter: 7.79 in the 60H and 18-4½ (5.60) in the vault, the latter 8 inches above Eaton’s career best.
“I have gained more power thanks to my work in the gym this year and the seven strides to the first hurdle is getting more and more easy,” he said in January.
Where would Mayer like to improve? He cites the long jump. “I still have technical work to do—the approach to the board in order to jump to my best ability,” he told L’Équipe.
And the 1500, where his PR of 4:18.04 dates back to ’12.
Gatlin Prepares For ’18
Reunited with coach Brooks Johnson, his guide in 2010 & ’11, veteran sprinter Justin Gatlin is set to open ’18 with a race over 150m in Pretoria, South Africa, on March 8.
The 36-year-old world 100 gold medalist, who fired former coach Dennis Mitchell after a tabloid sting embroiled Mitchell in charges of intent to aid the doping of a purported movie actor (T&FN, December), remains committed to a race with Father Time toward his fourth Olympics in ’20.
“I want to be able to end my career winning a gold medal,” Gatlin told the Pensacola News Journal. “But it is so hard to make Team USA in any Olympics in any venue, in any sport.”
Having to can Mitchell, his coach the past 6 seasons, Gatlin admitted, “was a big loss.”
But, he added, “I also learned that one single coach does not define who I am as an athlete. I have to have responsibility for me as a person.”