FROM THE EDITOR — The Diamond League Gets Creative

THE WAY THAT DIAMOND LEAGUE CEO Peter Stastny explained his group’s long jump experiment this summer sounds perfectly logical on the surface: “This format is likely to award athletes who have the ability to perform under the most intense pressure. We think it will bring more drama to the field events as nothing will be decided until the very last performance.”

As noted in our news stories on the DL affairs in Stockholm and Doha, in all 3 of the LJ competitions the best-sixth-round-jump-decides-the-order system changed the order of top-3 finish over the traditional best-mark-period protocol. But did it bring any more excitement to the proceedings? Without a packed house to cheer/boo it’s hard to know. It did nothing for me.

But Stastny is right about the need to “bring more drama” to field events, even if this doesn’t prove to be the way to go. Color me as continuing to be a huge fan of raising the profile of jumps and throws.

(Note: Under the WA rules which came into effect last November, the old proscription against using “alternative formats” in the Olympics & World Championships has been removed, meaning that this kind of experimentation is now possible down the road at the highest level in all disciplines.)

Slipping the final attempts in a field event in a preprogrammed window in the program where there’s no running going on isn’t a new concept. It was tried at the World Indoor in Portland in ’16 (with 4 athletes instead of 3). I thought it worked terrifically well, although there were legitimate gripes from athletes about having to make attempts too close together. Adding a bit of time between attempts is achieved easily enough.

The Pre Classic has for quite a few years now programmed its timetable so that the final round of the men’s shot stands solo. There’s no reason that at least one event couldn’t be singled out in each DL meet (given the tight nature of the DL’s standard TV window, it couldn’t be done for all field events).

When I talk about improving presentation in “field events” I’m talking about the throws and the horizontal jumps. The HJ and PV are just terrific as they are and should stay that way. Absolutely no tinkering!

But wouldn’t it be interesting to apply vertical-jump thinking to the other field events in the high-end pro meets (i.e., DL Circuit and above, where the technical resources exist)? A progression of distances that need to be reached with 3 attempts. A laser marker on the landing area that indicates make/miss; instant gratification like that which makes the HJ/PV so appealing.

In the shot, for example, use half-meter increments starting at 20.00 (65-7½). Thence to 20.50 (67‑3¼), 21.00 (68-10¾), 21.50 (70-6½), 22.00 (72-2¼) and—oh wait, now Ryan Crouser finally enters the competition?—22.50 (73-10). All throws are measured, so nobody loses a PR or record of any other kind, and if a tiebreaker is needed, best put from throughout the whole competition.

Don’t like that method? I’ve got a Plan B! I’m not wedded to any particular set of numbers (and it could be different for a DL meet than for an OG/WC): the key—as with Plan A—is to whittle down the number of performers as the competition progresses.

As a hypothetical example, in the OG/WC take your standard 12-person field and have the standard 6 rounds:
•Everybody is guaranteed 2 attempts.
•At the end of round 2 the field is cut from 12 to 8
•At the end of round 3 from 8 to 6 (with an attendant reordering as usual)
*At the end of round 4 cut from 6 to 4
At end of round 5 cut from 4 to 3
•The 3 medalists then have a final go

More throws for the stars, fewer for the bottom-enders, same as elemental concept as now, but made more elite. There’s gotta be some way for more people to realize that the sport is field & track, not track & field.

Electronic Rabbits Move To The Fore

I’ve written multiple columns through the years which concluded with “death to all rabbits.” Personally, even though I’m very much a numbers kind of fan, I’d much rather watch a “tactical” 3:55 mile than a rabbited 3:50 one.

So it didn’t exactly thrill me when the Diamond League rolled out high tech pacing lights this summer.

This was hardly a new concept, of course. Those of an age will recall that when the ITA came on the scene in the early ’70s, it used pacer lights.

Of course, the now-primitive system used by that fledgling professional group wasn’t always reliable. As John Gillespie wrote in our coverage of the Portland ’75 stop on the ITA circuit, “To the chagrin of ITA officials, the winning time was announced as 1:51.6 even though Ken Swenson beat the pacer lights (announced as a record pace of 1:50), by at least a second. It should be noted, however, that the electronic device was coming off a difficult double, having nearly lapped Ben Jipcho and the field earlier in the 2M.”

So I was doubly less than thrilled to see human rabbits chasing electronic ones in Europe this summer. Was that a race I just watched or was it merely a parade? I suspect I’m in a minority in this regard however, and if the fans—be they in person or watching over the air—get a kick out of it, then I’m grudgingly for it.

Hopefully WA’s tacit acceptance of pacing lights for World Records will spark a realization that its ongoing prohibition against mixed-sex bests on the track is totally illogical. That bit of hypocrisy came upon the scene with the 1977–78 edition of the IAAF rulebook. It eventually expanded to the roads, with the creation of two sets of WRs, having a subset for women-only races.

Why not the same treatment for track events? Or better yet, since pacer lights are a far superior aid to women’s pacing than any man could be, why not just get rid of that mixed-sex codicil for both road and track? Not every meet can afford to have pacer lights, but why should they be prevented from using an inferior technology?

Mixed wishes to all rabbits! ◻︎