Facts, Not Fiction

 
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    How distance running has changed...
    #1
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    It was interesting to see on the front page the article about world rankings and the old TFN 1947 rankings. Being an avid distance running fan I couldn't help but notice the 800m, 1500m and steeple names that were in those were by far from Europe and especially Sweden and Finland.

    How things have changed over the years...now the dominance is countries that had zero people ranking in the distance races back then...Kenya and Ethiopia. And Sweden and Finland now days are pretty much zero.
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    #2
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    I think Sweden's strength at the time can be partly attributed to their neutrality during WWII. Finland's was something of a continuation of a tradition that included the likes of Kolehmainen, Nurmi, Ritola, Salminen and Iso-Hollo. Nowadays neither country is particularly prominent in distance running even at a European level.

    Talking of Europe, for many years, the greatest 10000m race for depth was at the 1978 European Champs in Prague. I think there are still quite a number of national records still standing from that race.
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    The same thing can be said of every event. T&F used to be a sport dominated by developed nations; now it's a lot more global.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Trickstat View Post
    I think Sweden's strength at the time can be partly attributed to their neutrality during WWII.
    Absolutely, and not just in distance running; Sweden went from 1 medal in '32 and 2 medals in '36 to 13 medals in '48, and then fell back to 3 medals in '52. Same story at the Euros; Sweden topped the medal table in '46.

    Sweden did have a tradition, of course; they won bags of medals in 1912 and 1920, too, and had many great distance runners like Svanberg, Ahlgren, Ljungström, Zander, Backman, Wide etc.; but during WW2, every other country went backwards and Sweden just kept progressing.

    That said, of course that was also a great generation of athletes; WW1 didn't give Sweden as much of a boost, and I think that's mostly just coincidence, they happened not to have a great crop of athletes in 1920. (Still won 14 medals, mind you...)
    Last edited by LopenUupunut; 01-06-2020 at 11:30 AM. Reason: stray "in"
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    The WW2 argument makes so much sense when you look back, I'd never though of that before (though I had never really thought about those specific years in athletics).

    The Nordic countries will always put their effort into winter sports though, athletics is such a minor sport for those nations, they could be so much better. It's crazy when you think back to the Norwegian NCs last year, and Therese Johaug, one of the best female cross-country skiers in the world, won the 10,000m in 32:20....in flats/trainers, on a hot summers day, having not stepped on an athletics track for 11 years, and after setting off at a ridiculous pace (and constantly checking her stop watch, like, literally every 100m). She's 31 now, but it's not hard to imagine she could have been absolutely world class had she chosen athletics not cross-country skiing. It's always argued that cross-country skiers are some of the fittest sports men & women on the planet, with a combination of amazing aerobic capacity but also strength, who knows what talents in that sport could have been fantastic athletes. (I'd like to have seen her race 5k, I think her time would have been even higher on the world lists)

    Here's a vid of her at the NCs: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ytOTNq5q6To

    As for the sport becoming more global, of course, this is true, and I think the big athletics nations are now pretty much established, but it does also come in swings and round abouts for others: SWE had a purple patch with Olson, Kluft and Bergqvist; UGA are having a bit of a high point now, as have BOT, RSA had their purple patch in the 90's/early 00's etc.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wiederganger View Post
    It's always argued that cross-country skiers are some of the fittest sports men & women on the planet, with a combination of amazing aerobic capacity but also strength, who knows what talents in that sport could have been fantastic athletes. (I'd like to have seen her race 5k, I think her time would have been even higher on the world lists)
    XC skiing is more about upper-body strength, though, and the top skiers are heavier (more muscled) than world-class distance runners. Johaug is definitely slimmer than most in her sport. I'm not sure someone like Marit Bjorgen would have done as well on the track.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Powell View Post
    XC skiing is more about upper-body strength, though, and the top skiers are heavier (more muscled) than world-class distance runners. Johaug is definitely slimmer than most in her sport. I'm not sure someone like Marit Bjorgen would have done as well on the track.
    They are more muscled because the event requires it, but that doesn't mean they couldn't be great runners if they had trained for distance running instead. I'd say x skiing is about total body strength, not upper-body strength, but of course compared to running it requires more upper body work. Double poling obviously is driven by the upper body, but that is only really used at the start and during the flat finish. However, it is still ultimately an endurance sport, albeit strength & endurance.
    Maybe something like cross country running, with hills and jumps, would be more suited to that type of athlete.

    Bjorgen is pretty amazing, and more muscled than most skiers. To me, she is one of those rare sports people that could turn their hand to a number of sports, I imagine in her prime she could have done respectable times in a 60m sprint as well as a 10k, and some decent performances on track or road cycling too. Maybe even been a speedskater had she the inclination. She's a right little powerhouse, and yeah, she has more of a cross fitter look, than a marathon runner.

    For those unaware of her, google her name, and you'll see some great pics of her training which illustrate her physique, as well as that now infamous awards photo, which shows her huge biceps. But I do think she's definitely on the extreme side of female skiers.
    Last edited by Wiederganger; 01-07-2020 at 09:27 AM.
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    BTW, I think I read somewhere that Johaug is planning on competing in this year's EC in Paris. That's going to be interesting to watch. I believe she has the potential to be competitive there.
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    #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wiederganger View Post
    The Nordic countries will always put their effort into winter sports though, athletics is such a minor sport for those nations, they could be so much better.
    At least in Finland athletics used to be the No. 1 sport, and it is still among the most popular televised spectator sports, even though the level of the athletes is lousy.
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    #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wiederganger View Post
    The WW2 argument makes so much sense when you look back, I'd never though of that before (though I had never really thought about those specific years in athletics).

    The Nordic countries will always put their effort into winter sports though, athletics is such a minor sport for those nations, they could be so much better. It's crazy when you think back to the Norwegian NCs last year, and Therese Johaug, one of the best female cross-country skiers in the world, won the 10,000m in 32:20....in flats/trainers, on a hot summers day, having not stepped on an athletics track for 11 years, and after setting off at a ridiculous pace (and constantly checking her stop watch, like, literally every 100m). She's 31 now, but it's not hard to imagine she could have been absolutely world class had she chosen athletics not cross-country skiing. It's always argued that cross-country skiers are some of the fittest sports men & women on the planet, with a combination of amazing aerobic capacity but also strength, who knows what talents in that sport could have been fantastic athletes. (I'd like to have seen her race 5k, I think her time would have been even higher on the world lists)

    Here's a vid of her at the NCs: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ytOTNq5q6To

    As for the sport becoming more global, of course, this is true, and I think the big athletics nations are now pretty much established, but it does also come in swings and round abouts for others: SWE had a purple patch with Olson, Kluft and Bergqvist; UGA are having a bit of a high point now, as have BOT, RSA had their purple patch in the 90's/early 00's etc.
    I really don't think winter sports and athletics compete much with each other much in Sweden, they rather live side by side peacefully and in the grand scheme of things neither is close to being the biggest sport. However the winter sports, and cross-country skiing in particular, are enjoying a lot of economic success and opportunity due to TV deals and media exposure. But you would be surprised how small the winters sports in Sweden are in sheer participation numbers. The numbers in athletics are multiple times bigger, than all of the winter sports combined.

    Perhaps a few endurance talents especially on the women's side tend to go for cross-country skiing over running if they choose between the two(the likes of Ebba Andersson and Frida Karlsson both competed at Junior championships in T&F) but mostly that's just a matter of geographics. Most easily explained; if you're from the north you ski, and if you're from the south you run. Of the entire Swedish team in Doha I can only count one athlete(out of 25) from Northern Sweden and that was Erika Kinsey, who lives in the USA. All the runners came from Stockholm and southwards.

    T&F is a quite big and popular summer sport in Sweden, but it's not where the money is that's for sure. Still, the good amount of kids it attracts will always give a few world class athletes at the other end that are willing to pay the price.
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