Olympic Games thoughts;
*After anchoring Jamaica to the gold medal in the 4x100m in a world record time, Usain Bolt’s thoughts on competing at the 2016 Olympics weren’t wholly optimistic:
“I’ve thought about it, I think it is going to be very hard. Yohan is coming through and I’m sure a lot of the other young guys are coming up, so I will see what happens in four years.”
A move to the 400m has been bandied around as Bolt’s possible post-2012 territory even though he’s not a fan of the one-lap race and such plans didn’t seem to figure when he spoke after the 200m:
“I’ve got nothing left to prove. I’ve showed the world I’m the best.”
If he decides to retire before Rio de Janeiro, who could blame him? Bolt’s financially set for life and bear in mind, London was his third Olympic appearance which is on par with the norm for a world-class sprinter. His goals in London were to achieve legendary status which he accomplished by becoming the first athlete to retain their 100m, 200m and 4x100m titles. They might not come to fruition but Bolt holds ambitions away from the track which might also weaken the lure of another four years in a sport where he’s already achieved everything which matters – twice.
*The parity between Beijing and London in the sprinting events was striking with Allyson Felix, Sanya Richards-Ross, Veronica Campbell-Brown and Christine Ohuruogu among the medallists again. Even though retirement doesn’t appear to be on their respective horizons, 2016 would be Felix, Richards-Ross and Ohuruogu’s fourth Games and Campbell-Brown’s fifth. Likewise, Justin Gatlin and Tyson Gay will be 34 and Carmelita Jeter 36 at the next Games which suggests London 2012 could have been the Olympic-swansong for some of the world’s best sprinters of the past decade.Merlene Ottey, Gail Devers and Linford Christie are oft-cited examples of sprinters with longevity at the highest level but they are the exceptions to the rule. True, athletes enjoy greater longevity at the top-level but expect 2016 to play host to some fresh faces in the sprints.
*A change of the guard could become apparent on the track too as three-time Olympians and respective 5000m and 10,000m champions Meseret Defar and Tirunesh Dibaba have aspirations of moving to the roads next year. Their move could leave a dearth on the Ethiopian track team and for all the medals their top athletes have won, the depth is starting to dwindle as the majority of juniors move straight for the marathon with the promise greater financial rewards, albeit perhaps to the detriment of the longevity of an athlete like Defar or Dibaba who have both followed the conventional route of moving through the distances. Only five Ethiopians (including Defar and Dibaba) have broken 15-minutes for 5000m this year while twelve have broken 2:25 for the marathon.
*Caster Semenya was accused of not trying to win the women’s 800m final although subsequent explanations, including Colin Jackson’s which was quickly disregarded by Michael Johnson in the BBC studio, didn’t seem to be based on anything more than rudimentary pop psychology. Semenya wasn’t tipped as a medallist before the Games and while it is true she made a tactical error in the final, accusing Semenya of tanking grossly degrades the achievements of Mariya Savinova, who has been the most consistent 800m runner and the best racer over the past three seasons. The Russian, whose pre-London form was superior to her pre-Daegu form where she won gold in 1:55.87, would have probably still won gold even if Semenya was in closer contention.
*Semenya was by no means the only athlete to misjudge her tactics. Wilson Kipsang’s 14-minute 5km split from 15-20km in the men’s marathon came at least 10km too early and probably put paid to his gold medal aspirations while the leading aspirants in the men’s 5000m ran a foolish race. They didn’t attempt to take the pace on in the early stages even though Mo Farah must have been fatigued from the 10,000m and nobody attempted to get ahead of him with 600m to go, which is when Farah is in his element.
*Race-walking is sometimes unfairly regarded as the poor relative of athletics but the women’s 20km produced a climax just as exciting as any in the track and field programme. On her senior championships debut, Yelena Lashmanova defied her teenage years by producing a perfectly paced race to reel in reigning champion Olga Kaniskina on the final circuit and the 19-year-old was even rewarded with a world record of 1:25:02. While it will never be the most glamorous event of the athletics programme, hopefully race-walking might have gained a few converts.
*Only one athlete surpassed the Olympic A standard in the men’s long jump final so let’s hope this will influence the IAAF to lower the preposterously tough qualifying mark of 8.20m for future global competitions. The lack of consistency across the board in terms of qualifying standards, which there shouldn’t be, is astounding if you consider the women’s 5000m A standard is a modest 15:20.00 which wouldn’t have come close to making the final. The emphasis on streamlining field events also marred the men’s high jump final after the bar was incremented from 2.29m to 2.33m which is, in other words, going from one centimetre above the B standard to two centimetres above the A standard. Six of the fourteen finalists were eliminated at this height which made a somewhat modest 2.29m clearance sufficient for a medal. While the margins sound minimal, going from 2.29m to 2.32m to 2.35m would have probably made for a better spectacle and avoided the anomalous outcome of three athletes sharing a bronze medal.