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Wednesday, August 05, 2009

The week ahead - forthcoming attractions

Forthcoming attractions as we build up to IAAF World Champs

Tour de France...check. World swimming champs...check. So that's two out of three down, and one to go in the year's big "multi-day" sports events - the IAAF World Championships.

It's been pretty intense for the last few weeks - thanks for all the comments and discussion. I don't think we've ever had such a "comment-heavy" period as the month of July! An even bigger thanks to everyone for making donations - they're very highly appreciated, way more than swimming world records were in Rome last week!

Some great match-ups from Berlin - preliminary thoughts

There is still much to be said, though, starting next weekend when the IAAF World Championships take place in Berlin, Germany. The athletics season really built up nicely during July, and there are some great match-ups on the cards in Berlin: Gay vs Bolt probably tops the bill for spectator value, but there's also Wariner vs Merritt, and some wide-open 800m races to look forward to.

In the women's 800m, a South African (gasp, where did she come from?) athlete, Caster Semenya, heads into Berlin off the back of a 1:56 time in Mauritius, the fastest in the world this year. She takes on last year's revelation, Pamela Jelimo, who started 2009 absolutely disastrously (running nearly 10 seconds off her best from 2008), but has improved gradually throughout the season and might (just) come into shape in Berlin. They both take on 2007s revelation, Janeth Jepkosgei, also of Kenya, who dominated in 2007 and who is the defending champion (it seems a lifetime ago). It is peculiar that the event has thrown up a surprise athlete in each of the last three years. Then there is a host of other women, including Maggie Vessey of the USA to watch - the event has rarely been so open.

The men's 800m is just as open, any one of perhaps eight guys capable of a win, and those two races will (at least for me) provide the most intrigue.

The men's steeplechase will be fascinating, with Mahiedine Mekhissi-Bennabad of France taking on the Kenyans. You may be thinking that this is another hyped up effort to create intrigue around an event that has been utterly dominated by Kenya, but Mekhissi is the real deal - the Olympic silver medallist, which says a lot, and then about a month ago, he took on Ezekiel Kemboi in Paris and dusted him to the tune of about 20m in the final 200m of the race, while celebrating before the final barrier about 80m out! The Kenyans will have to be sharp, especially if the pace is slow, and so that should be a great race.

But, enough projecting, there is plenty of time to tackle those events in much more detail, and so do join us for our athletics analysis towards the end of next week and throughout the World Champs. Sadly, athletics doesn't have power output estimates and VAMs, and it doesn't have clothing that enhances performance, but there'll be something to discuss and analyse, I'm sure!

In the meantime...interview number 2

Until then, there are a few interesting things on the way - building from our interview with Prof Bengt Kayser last week, we've lined up Interview Number 2 for you next week, also on the subject of doping - this time with Prof Yorck Olaf-Schumacher, who is heavily involved in research on blood doping and is one of the members of the independent commission of experts who evaluate the biological passports of the UCI. Join us early next week for that!

The interview post idea is something we'd like to start doing more regularly, to bring you insights and opinions from others in the field of sports science, sports coaching or even athletes, so the next few months might see a good few of those.

So do join us for the month of athletics in August!



Anonymous said...

The Semenya case seems very suspect. How an athlete with very little pedigree or history suddenly jumps onto the scene with a 1:56 800m at the age of 18 after season opening times of 2:13`s boggles the mind! I have heard reports from creditable sources that "she" is under investigation for not quite being what she seems to be! I feel that if she is allowed to compete this is very possibly something that will come back to tarnish South African athletics` name in the future!

Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

Hi Anonymous

I hear you loud and clear, and I would be lying if I said my initial reaction is not the same - being South African, I was taken by surprise. The scale of improvement is dramatic. But, her 2:13 might be the anomaly, and the fact is she might have had best times of say 2:05, 2:03, and then 2:00, now 1:56. That 2:13 may have been the anomaly.

However, on the note of not being what she seems to be, I've heard that too. And trust me, if it comes to pass, I'll be all over it (in fact, I've already started to investigate the physiology behind it - it's very complex, genetically and physiologically, so people may be making accusations without considering the full spectrum of the physiology/endocrinology/anatomy/genetics). So, until it actually comes out, we have to be careful here, because making accusations like that are potentially very, very damaging.

So it's not a question of letting her compete, it's letting her compete without proper investigation. If they do that, and later testing confirms the accusation, then we'll be tarnished. If they test, and she's cleared, then it's fine. Then we should celebrate. But it's too early to tarnish her with that brush.


DrTim said...

Hi guys,

Would love to see an analysis of the marathon. Cause Haile is really going for it this time ... sub 2 hours! Having run sub 3 hours (JUST!) for me that is the highlight.

Now sure what you could look at, but sub 2:50 k's for 42.2 k ... WOW!

Just saw this - http://www.sportsscientists.com/2008/10/15959-sub-2-hour-marathon.html - and will read with delight.


Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

Hi Tim

Which marathon are you talking about? Far as I know, Gebrselassie is not running the World Champs Marathon, but the one in October, same as always. He won't run IAAF World champs because:
a) The appearance money is non-existent
b) There are no pacemakers
c) There is competition...

So he'll take on Berlin in October. I'd be very, very, very surprised if he even breaks 2:03:50 - for him to be talking sub-2 hours is just ridiculous!

Oh, and if you click on the tab above called "Marathon Analysis" (at the top of the page), you can see our posts on all these races - we have tried to analyse the major marathons for the last 3 years, so we've covered Berlin for sure. And yes, we'll definitely cover this one as well!


Frans Rutten said...

"It is peculiar that the event has thrown up a surprise athlete in each of the last three years". wrote Ross.

The women's 800m event is not the only one that suffered quite from the obscuring doping past. Earlier this year, but not that long ago, the world's yearly best performance (1:59) didn't rank in an all-time 1000 best performances list. Can you imagine this?

The rising of three African female 800m athletes, of which two very young, but more important from out of nowhere, could be well planned from other perspective than sport alone. Management of marketing.

What's worrying is that two out of three (Jelimo, but particularly Semanya)are now widespread subject (nasty at times) of dispute regarding their proper gender.
Their rate of progress is also in sharp contrast with modern training principles.

IMO they are only two possibilities: 1. revived past (remember 16 year old Drechsler already decades ago reached the current world long jump top level); or 2. their performances are highly related to their real gender status.

Regarding 2: Then all of a sudden their performances wouldn't look that good at all and would perfectly fit in normal statistics.

What has complicated the matter further is the unheard of relapse of Jelimo this year. Until now there's no reasonable explanation.

Since human performances are also highly subject of physical matter they cannot be executed at random.
There must be a cause at work in order to achieve at two different levels of performing. Jelimo failed at Eugene this year, not because she was out of condition, but simple because she hadn't anymore the 1:54 level, she thought she still had. You can't simply outrule physical sporting laws, not unless you're the only one supported by technology as a swim suit and remember Chris Boardman with his Super Man Position, invented by Grame Obree.

Come to think of it. The GDR doped around 10.000 athletes, not only the top sporters. Would the system been scrupulous enough of having experimented with female gender.