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Friday, September 14, 2007

Athletics news and reports - Brussels preview

Well, it's been a quite period for athletics, since our almost daily analysis of the IAAF World Champs in Osaka. Last week saw the Zurich Weltklasse, which is usually one of THE great single night athletic meetings. But this year it was afflicted by its close proximity to the World Champs, and a lot of the big names chose to stay away, rather recovering from their exertions in the heat of Osaka. Of those that did compete, there were some very tired performances. Tonight sees the Memorial van Damme, in Brussels, and it promises to be a little more invigorated than the Zurich meeting.

Highlights of the meet include World Record breaker Powell in the 100m (but, sadly, not Tyson Gay), Yelena Isinbayeva and Sanya Richards compete as the final contenders for the Golden League jackpot - Isinbayeva will be especially keen to avoid a repeat of last week's heart stopper. And then the possible highlight is the world record attempt of Kenenisa Bekele in the 10000m. But rather than spend time gazing into our crystal ball, we thought we'd give some news snippets that tie into what we've been discussing in recent weeks.

Craig Mottram - is this finally the truth?

We recently did a post about Craig Mottram, who had such a huge disappointment in the men's 5000m final in Osaka. It's been a mission impossible to pin down the reasons, but his coach recently suggested that the heat was to blame. Our post suggested that blaming the heat for that performance is much like blaming gravity for causing injury when you jump off a building - it's still a choice, and Mottram's team made a choice to avoid the heat of Osaka, which was ultimately to blame. It was therefore a failure of planning and management, not a failure of thermoregulation...

But now it seems that this was not even the reason. Instead, Craig Mottram has admitted that his World Championships were severely hampered by a hamstring injury. I guess we have to be trusting and believe this, but it's peculiar that his coach was mouthing off about one thing and he was talking about another. One would have thought that if the tactic was to avoid talking about the injury (perhaps a noble intention), Mottram would not have written this heartfelt "confession". So one wonders why the detailed explanation of the heat came out only days before...Anyway, we hope Mottram recovers, because he is a great runner and it's terrific for the sport to have him mixing it with the Africans.

Asafa Powell - a new mental approach

In this article, Asafa Powell, fresh off a world record of 9.74secs in Rieti, has spoken about how he may soo be seeing a mental coach in preparation for the Beijing Olympics. His words were: “I think I need someone to work on my mental approach because there is too much pressure on the track, too much expectation. Each time I am on the track, people expect me to win and beat the world record.”

Perhaps, but it's the pressure of wining that seems to afflict him more. But it will be interesting to see what comes of this, and whether the new and improved Powell will stand up to Gay on his shoulder next time they race. Regrettably, it doesn't seem like it will be this year, and that means it's probably going to be Beijing 2008.

Bekele's attempt at the world record

As mentioned, the possible highlight of the meet tonight is Bekele's attempt at the 10km world record. I am highly sceptical that he'll succeed, partly because they have apparently struggled to find a pace maker with the ability to run 5000m in 13:10! But more than this, Bekele just hasn't looked the part over the longer races this year. In the World Champs in Osaka, he struggled to hang onto the leading two, and only the bell and his incredible speed saved him. I suspect that at world record pace, he'd be struggling. His manager, Jos Hermens, has spoken about the expected "super-compensation" after a period of very hard training after his race in Mombasa earlier this year. I'm not so sure this flies...

My personal feeling and read of it (as an outsider, admittedly) is that after his disappointment in those World X-country champs, he resorted to a period of high intensity speed work training, and as a result, managed to rack up two PB's over 3000m, very impressively. But he compromised on the volume of training and as a result, was found slightly wanting in the 10000m final in Osaka. He even admitted this in an interview leading up to World Champs, where he said that before the World X-country, his training had been geared towards 2000m and 3000m indoors, and he found that he was not prepared for the longer race.

It seems the same may have happened recently. I am very doubtful that he's addressed this in the last 2 weeks and so my feeling is that he'll struggle at world record pace. So I expect the first 2km to be at the right tempo, and then it will slow right down and the winning time will probably be closer to 26:50.

The other athlete to watch is Zersenay Tadesse, who I think is a great runner, so tough. And he might be the surprise, if that pace is as fast as they are talking, because he may well be more conditioned for a long distance time-trial. Bekele is up for a race, and that's what he would win.

Should be interesting...

Enjoy, and if anything noteworthy happens, you'll find it here!