I’M EXCITED TO SEE that the IAAF and the Daegu organizers have combined to come up with a radically revamped schedule for next year’s World Championships. If you check out a list of the finals (see chart at end) you’ll quickly see what I mean.
First, there’s the return of what is, in essence, a rest day (just one walk; nothing in the stadium). That’s great, bulking up the program on the rest of the days. We hated it when the rest day disappeared in ’95.
But here’s the real biggie. When’s the last time you were at a meet of any level where the 4×4 didn’t finish things off? Like never?
For Americans it can/should likely be viewed as a move in the wrong direction. Why? Psychological reasons: no matter how poorly the rest of a World Champs/Olympic Games may have gone for Uncle Sam’s troops, wrapping things up with a pair of golds in the last two events tends to have U.S. fans and athletes alike leaving town with smiles on their faces.
Not only does this new schedule remove that big plus, it also replaces the 4x4s with the (gulp!) 4x1s. And we know what recent U.S. efforts in that arena have yielded: disaster upon disaster. What’s worse is that even if the U.S. foursomes get the sticks around the track, there’s a very real possibility it will be at best for a pair of silvers, as the Jamaicans remain ascendant. Kind of a lose-lose.
The IAAF shouldn’t be expected to cater to U.S. preferences, of course, so that just needs to be filed into the hard-cheese-for-us department. Even though nobody has come out and said so, it’s obvious to me why the Monaco bunch chose this new timetable: it finishes the meet with Usain Bolt, and how can that be a bad thing?
Actually, easily. Although the Jamaicans haven’t proven to be as fumble-fingered as their brethren to the north, this is an event where disaster lurks around the corner three times in less than 40 seconds. And then repeats it. Imagine the gnashing of IAAF teeth if neither quartet is in the queue when it comes time to mount the podium. Oops.
And in one of those perverse quirks of fate, if they had left things with the 4×4 in its normal spot, the meet may well have closed with Bolt going for his fourth gold. As it is, I suspect now he’ll just be going for three. For two reasons.
•The first is that U.S. 400 fortunes are dropping at the same time that Jamaica’s are rising, meaning the U.S. is no longer a lock. Throw Bolt onto the 4×4 and the islanders are probably favored at this point.
•The second is that the men’s 200 semis begin just 80 minutes before the 4×4 final (Friday). With the 200 final (Saturday) and 4×1 final (Sunday) still to come, do you think we’ll see Bolt racing twice in such proximity before that?
I’m guessing that knocks Bolt off the long relay.
Talk about the law of unintended consequences.
(figure in paren is number of finals that day)
m100, 10,000, 20W, Dec
m110H, PV, HT
w100, 400, SP
m400, 800, DT
wSt, PV, Hept
mSt, 400H, HJ
w1500, 400H, TJ
m4x4, LJ, SP
w200, 5000, JT
m200, 1500, 50W, JT
w100H, 4×4, HJ
m5000, Mar, 4×1, TJ
w800, 4×1, HT