Monthly Archives: November 2013

Why Adams should have been named AOY

The parochialism associated with the awarding of the IAAF World Athlete of the Year prizes immediately handicapped shot-putter Valerie Adams’ prospects of winning the award in the women’s category in Monte Carlo last night. Since the award inaugurated in 1988, no female thrower has ever been awarded this accolade while the last time a male field-eventer won the award on the men’s side came back in 2000 when Jan Zelezny took the honours.

It’s hard to find a single blemish on Adams’ season in which she went unbeaten (again), won the world outdoor title (again) and the Diamond League jackpot (again). Her consistency was spectacular too, as she surpassed the 20m-barrier in every competition she lined up for. One has to wonder what more she has to do to win the accolade! And it does beg the question will a female thrower ever win this prize because surely if this trend was to be broken, Adams would be the athlete to break the glass ceiling.

Adams is atypical for a thrower. Only a handful of throwers from English-speaking nations have dominated their event and this understandably boosts her marketability and international profile and while hers might not be on par with the sport’s big hitters, her charisma and personality has made her a favourite with British crowds at the IAAF Diamond League stops in Birmingham and London, and across the globe. Her eloquent anti-doping stance surely points to a career in the IAAF or IOC hierarchy post-retirement.

Nobody would argue Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce didn’t have a superb season. She became the first athlete to win a sprint double at the World Championships since 1991 and this was complemented with success on the commercial circuit with Diamond League victories in the 100m and 200m.

It wasn’t a perfect season though. She performed when it mattered but, unlike Adams, a handful of losses still scattered her résumé, including defeats over 100m in London and over 200m in Monaco.

And should track athletes be credited for winning medals in multiple events, including relays, in deciding the destination of these awards? The inherent skill-set isn’t overtly different in contesting 100/200m and 5000/10,000m doubles while field eventers are restricted by (on the whole, at least) only specialising in singular events.

I should add it’s not just the throwers who get a raw deal. Race-walkers and road-runners rarely feature in the shake-up and while this prize is largely immaterial in defining one’s career, wouldn’t most athletics fans prefer a more sober approach and a more inclusive distribution of this accolade?

I hope Adams will be given the respect she deserves when Track & Field News, Athletics International and Athletics Weekly cast their decisions.

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How not to run the New York Marathon

New York is an atypical race on the world road-racing circuit. It is one of the few marathons, and the only one in the World Marathon Majors Series (bar the championships, of course) which doesn’t lavish the elite-runners with the luxury of pacemakers and combined with the undulating gradient of the course, the New York Marathon tends to play to the advantage of the tactically astute runner.

The pre-race favourite in the women’s division in 2011 Mary Keitany could have done with a dollop of the racing know-how of an athlete like Edna Kiplagat or Catherine Ndereba as she admitted afterwards she ‘was not thinking’ after her outrageous start almost certainly cost her the victory.

Having won the London Marathon in the spring in a sub-2:20 time, Keitany was slated as many people’s pre-race favourites. In their pre-race preview, letsrun.com stated ‘the women’s race is Keitany’s to lose’ and while over-confidence might not be readily associated with the timidly-spoken Kenyan, maybe she was guilty of this? She was unrelenting in the first-half, passing through 10km in 31:53, 20km in 1:04:21 and halfway in 1:07:56.

New York isn’t a compatible course for a time-trail, as Keitany was soon to find out, but these splits would be ambitious on any course as she was six-seconds inside Paula Radcliffe’s revered world record-pace at the halfway point.

The second group, comprised of team-mates Firehiwot Dado and Buzunesh Deba from Ethiopia, didn’t make immediate inroads into Keitany’s lead as their pre-race plan surely didn’t consist of passing through halfway in course-record pace at 1:10:13. Both were running a long way inside their respective PBs on an uncompromising course and inevitably, they also began to slow.

Further up the road though, Keitany was coming to a halt. She didn’t wilt immediately but her 5km split between 30-35km fell the wrong side of 18-minutes and her 1:19 lead rapidly evaporated. It would be wrong to say Dado and Deba were making a deliberate bid to close Keitany down as their pace was also slowing but a 5km split of 18:44 between 35-40km showed Keitany had got her race tactics horribly wrong.

To her credit, Keitany did come back to the leaders after being hauled in but her resistance was soon broken after being dropped the second time. An Ethiopian 1-2 looked a certainty and Dado narrowly prevailed ahead of New York resident Deba, 2:23:15 to 2:23:19, with Keitany third In 2:23:38.

After a contrasting 2012 season where she retained her London Marathon title before finishing out of the medals at the Olympic Games on a slightly different course a few months later, Keitany has been out of action this year through maternity leave. A third London Marathon title appears the immediate goal and the New York Marathon will surely feature in her plans in the not too distant future.

No doubt Keitany will have learnt from her experience in 2011 and will treat the course and the distance with a bit more respect next time around.

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