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Saturday, May 10, 2008

News snippets

Sports news snippets: Athletics news

A brief break from the series on fatigue today - apologies for the lack of posts this week, where work has kept me from sitting down with enough time to put together a legible post! However, I will certainly tackle the next part of the series - Exercise in the Heat - on Monday!

But for today, some news from the world of athletics, which we've missed out on in the last few weeks!

Athletics news - the 2008 season is well underway

The athletics season has gotten off to a rapid start, and last night saw the Doha Grand Prix meeting, which really heralds the arrival of the big leagues, after a series of smaller races (which still threw up some mighty impressive performances).

Perhaps the most noteworthy performance of the year so far is that of Usain Bolt, who ran an incredible 9.76 seconds for the 100m in a Jamaican Invitational Meeting. It's the second fastest time in history, and means that the top two in history are Jamaicans, with Asafa Powell, the seemingly eternally injured world record holder at 9.74 seconds.

For those who don't know the name Usain Bolt, he was the runner-up to Tyson Gay in the 200m final of last year's world championships. What is interesting to note is that it is being reported that his coach had actually been pushing him towards moving up to the 400m event, and only allowed him one more 100m race to reward his 200m performance last year! Needless to say, he'll no doubt run a few more! He was aided by a 1.8m following wind (legal limit is 2), and so it will be interesting to see if he can carry that form for another three months into Beijing.

The Doha Grand Prix meeting

Moving on to the most recent round of performances, and two great results from the Doha Grand Prix in Qatar last night. The Qatar meeting usually lays down some "benchmarks" for the season ahead, and last night, two athletes in particular will have made the world take notice, one perhaps unexpectedly, the other less so.

First, a previously "unheralded" athlete, David Oliver, ran 12.95 seconds for the 110m hurdles. This makes him the 11th athlete in history to break 13 seconds. He believes that with a better start, he could have broken the world record - that's anyone's guess. But looking at the big picture of the 110m hurdles event, what it does is throw another name into the mix for what should be a fascinating event come Beijing.

The reason for the interest is that the 110m hurdles event includes one Liu Xiang, who will surely be under the kind of pressure a track and field athlete has never experienced before. He was made the "pin-up boy" for the Beijing Olympics, and only 1 billion people expect him to win gold! Earlier this year, Dayron Robles threatened some form during the indoor season, but Liu won world indoor gold in a final missing Robles, thanks to a false start. But the addition of Oliver to a mix already including Liu, Robles and 1 billion expectant fans means the 110m hurdles final in Beijing will be an intense 13 seconds!

Allyson Felix - a shining star in women's athletics

With the bad taste of Marion Jones still lingering, perhaps Beijing's Olympic Games needs a heroine. That person may well be Allyson Felix. Last year, we gave Felix our unofficial award as best athelte of the IAAF World Championships - that was an easy decision, because she won the 200m, 4 x 100m, and 4 x 400m titles. Her 400m ability in particular stood out, since it was the event she competed in least, but in addition to her relay gold in Osaka, she did also run a few very noteworthy 400m individual races in 2007.

2008 has begun even more impressively for Felix. In Doha, she ran both the 100m and 400m events, and ran PBs in both. Her 100m time of 10.93 and 400m performance of 49.83 are a clear indication that she will be one of the stars of the Beijing Olympics. Unfortunately for her, she can't attempt the 200m/400m double in Beijing, because the Olympic time-table does not permit it. She might yet have a crack at another double - the 100m/200m double, but Felix's future probably lies in the longer events. Last year, we commented that Felix is something of an odd one out among women sprinters, for she is not overly muscular and runs with a grace and poise that few other women athletes have. It makes her performances all the more impressive.

Impressive and valuable for athletics. We are in a day and age where athletics needs all the profile it can get, and the emergence of athletic legends can only be a positive for the marketing, promotion and profile of the sport. So let's hope that Felix can continue her form until Beijing, and redeem some of the lustre of gold in women's sprinting after some very tarnished performances in the last few Olympic Games!

You can see the full results of the meeting, with event reports, here.


The athletics season is now in full swing, and soon the US and European legs of the IAAF calendar will begin. The Doha meet is an indication that in this Olympic year, some big performances might be expected, and we'll follow the build-up to Beijing closely.