Tuesday 1 September 2015

World Athletics Championships: A look back

With the Athletics World Championships over, I thought I'd have a quick look back at some of my highlights.

I don't want to talk about doping, I know it's an important issue but it's the athletes and the performances that really matter so that's what I want to focus on.

Stand out performances.

It's too easy to focus on Usain Bolt, even though his performances in the 100m and 200m were exceptional. The same goes for Mo Farah, instead I wanted to highlight some other performances which caught my eye.

Dafne Schippers

A silver in the 100m and gold in the 200m winning with the 3rd fastest time in history. I think she made the right choice to give the Heptathlon up. Schippers has proven the Europeans can compete and beat the best of the Americans and Jamaicans.

Dina Asher-Smith.

Surely the future face of British athletics. She's had an amazing season running under 11:00 seconds for the 100m and finally breaking Kathy Cook's 200m records set back in the 1982.

Wayde van Niekerk

One of the great 400m of all time. Certainly didn't expect South Africa's Wayde van Niekerk to win but look at the time - no wonder he had to be taken to hospital after collapsing after the race! Anytime someone runs the 400m under 44 seconds it's always a special event.

Allyson Felix

I remember Michael Johnson saying that there is only room for one global star in athletics and we all know who that is. A certain Mr Usain Bolt.

But in the world of athletics Allyson Felix is a superstar! her ability over 100, 200 and 400m is exceptional. She's been around for so long, competing in major championships since she was a teenager and her record is incredible. Her performance in the 3rd leg of the 4x400m relay will live long in the memory. It was sensational.

Felix with her 4x400 teammates

Greg Rutherford

You can tell from some of his interviews that Rutherford doesn't feel he's got the respect he deserves for his performances over the last few years. He's probably right but after winning here in Beijing and holding the World, European, Commonwealth and Olympic titles there can be no more debate about his talent.

I think his problem is that coming into the Olympics in 2012 the general public weren't really aware of him and I didn't know he was in such good form coming into that competition. His problem is that the long jump doesn't have the same profile as it used to when the likes of Carl Lewis and Mike Powell were around.

Secondly, we don't see people consistently jumping over 8.50 and up towards the world record mark of 8.95. I think if Rutherford was jumping 8.60 - 8.70 his profile would have been higher. But the thing that really matters is that he delivers when it matters and for that he deserves all the respect for his achievements.

Breaking down the stereotypes

In athletics we get used to seeing certain countries dominate in certain sports. The USA and Jamaica in the sprints, East Africans in the distance events, and Europeans in the field events. One thing that stood out for me in this Championship is that we've seen different nations succeed in events that we might of previously thought unlikely.

I've noticed both China and Japan are producing good sprinters and this was confirmed with the Chinese winning a silver medal in the mens 4x100m relay.

Kenya emerged from their middle and long distance 'ghetto' with Julius Yego winning the Javelin and Nicholas Bett winning the mens 400m hurdles!

In the distance events America has been producing a number of good distance runners for a few years now even though they didn't manage to win a medal last week.

In the sprints we had Dafne Schippers coming second in the 100m and winning the 200m in the 3rd fastest time in history and Russia's Segey Shubenkov winning the 110m hurdles. It just proves that white European sprinters can run just as quickly as the Americans and Caribbeans.

I think one of the reasons I've highlighted this is that it's easy to become lazy and make assumptions that certain countries and races of people are naturally better at some events and sports than others. If Kenya's Julius Yego thought that as a Kenyan he could only run distance races he would never have become World Javelin champion. Like wise, Dafne Schippers could have stuck with the Hepthalon if she didn't think she could ever beat the Americans and Jamaicans.

The sports that we do and excel in are related to culture, opportunity, hard work and training just as much as natural talent and ability. Jamaica's success at sprinting has encouraged kids in Jamaica to emulate their winning sprinters the same in Kenya and Ethiopia with distance running but these things are not set in stone.

Japan and China have proved that East Asians can run fast and in Britain with the success of Mo Farah there's probably kids out there that can see themselves having a go at the distance events and not thinking it's just for East Africans.

Its' good to see that different countries are winning events outside their perceived natural strengths, it makes athletics more interesting and more competitive.

I'm already looking forward to seeing some Jamaican long distance runners and a Chinese sprinter running under 10 seconds. You might laugh but there's no law saying it can't happen.

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