No record for Bekele, but Sweet 16 for Mutola
In spite of all the hype about a potential world record on the books for the 2008 Prefontaine Classic, including moving the start time to 9:30 local time as apparently that is when the wind conditions were most favorable, it was not to be, and Kenenisa Bekele instead ran a strong 26:25.97 to clock the fastest ever time on US soil.
A strong start, but legs enough only to cane the field
At four km Bekele was just three seconds off pace at 10:33, and hit halfway in a cool 13:10. He ran away from the field, but slowed down the stretch to finish just eight seconds too slow for the record. It was a valiant attempt as he ran in true Bekele style---solo and in front of everyone, including his two teammates Ibrahim Jeilan and Maregu Zewdie. Although they were nearly a minute back (27:13.85 and 27:14.13, respectively), they completed an Ethiopian sweep of the race.
It is probably just where Bekele wants to be, actually. Hitting world-record form 8-10 weeks prior to Beijing would signify an early peak, and one that would be extremely difficult to maintain over so many races. Instead, this will likely give Bekele crucial feedback about his form and training to date, just in time to implement some final tweaks over the summer to hit (even better) form in August. It is apparently Bekele's last 10,000 m race prior to Beijing, and given his performance today he looks to be in a perfect position to take gold come August.
Worse than the "Chinese Water Torture"---Chinese Hurdler Mind Games?
After pulling out last week in New York, Liu Xiang false started in his race (the second one in the race and therefore an automatic DQ), leaving questions about his current form. Said Xiang, "My speed is so fast I did not realise I had the false start." However, on the boards over at LetsRun.com many suspect that it was a ploy to relieve Xiang of the pressure of competing as his countryman was the first to false start in that race.
Generally we are not a fan of conspiracy theories, but this one sounds plausible! The pressure on Xiang is incredible, and surely he must feel it in some way, shape, or form. Given such intense pressure it is not surprising the antics that people can get up to. Ploy or not, though, we must now await his next race to see how he stacks up against the field.
Mutola completes her 16 year string of wins
Incredibly, even after showing some weakness in the past 12 months in the twilight of her career, Maria Mutola went on to finish the job she started in Eugene, Oregon, 16 years ago. That was when she first won at the Prefontaine Classic, although it was over 1500 m. Yet victory for her was a recurring theme of this meeting every year since, save 2002 when she did not compete. Her string of wins includes 12 over 800 m, three wins over 1000 m, and one win at 1500 m. An astounding 16 straight victories for Mutola caps an amazing career in the women's 800 m.
Her 1:59.24 was a far cry from her best of 1:55.19, but to demonstrate such consistency is truly remarkable. Mutola will compete in Beijing to make it her sixth straight Olympic appearance. We do not fancy her chances for gold, but nevertheless she is a remarkable athlete and we hope she does well in her final Olympic Games.
A look ahead to Beijing - Where should they be?
The interesting thing about these races and any subsequent ones in the next two weeks is that they represent the last tune up for athletes hoping to peak in Beijing. This is because any training they complete in the run up to August will not produce results in June or July as it takes some weeks to make all the physiological adaptations.
Bekele looks to be in a good position, as does Allyson Felix who finished a distance fourth in the women's 100 m in 11.06. Admittedly the 200 m and 400 m are more of Felix's events, but her foray into the 100 m at the Pre meet this year was surely a chance to check her speed and form. The feedback these athletes take away from their races this weekend (including those who ran in Oslo---Jeremy Wariner broke 44 s) is invaluable. Athlete and coach now sit down identify what exactly they must improve prior to Beijing, and will go on to complete very specific training over the next 8-10 weeks which they and their coaches think will provide them that winning advantage come crunch time in August.
So watch your favorite athletes now, as the form they produce in the next 1-2 weeks will be telling down the stretch.
A look ahead - Dauphine Libere and a wrap on Fatigue
We have not focused much on cycling this year at The Science of Sport, and in fact the Giro d'Italia came and went without a peep from The Sports Scientists! However the Dauphine Libere kicked off today in France, and this race is known for predicting performance in le Tour which starts on 5 July this year. Levi Leipheimer took the prologue on the opening day, but lots of racing lies ahead in this tough eight-stage race.
We will also try to put a wrap on our Fatigue series. This was an incredibly challenging one to write as the topic is complex and wide, hence the length of the posts and the series in general. However we hope to cap the series with an "executive summary," watch out for that soon!
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Monday, June 09, 2008
No record for Bekele, but Sweet 16 for Mutola