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Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Legalize Doping!




WADA was established in 1999 as an international independent agency composed and funded equally by the sport movement and governments of the world. Its key activities include scientific research, education, development of anti-doping capacities, and monitoring of the World Anti Doping Code (Code) – the document harmonizing anti-doping policies in all sports and all countries. WADA is a Swiss private law Foundation. Its seat is in Lausanne, Switzerland, and its headquarters are in Montreal, Canada.   
WADA works towards a vision of a world where all athletes compete in a doping-free sporting environment.”

This statement is taken directly from the ‘about WADA’ page on the World Anti-doping Agency website.  Nowhere on here does it mention that its major purpose is to catch drug-cheats. 

The WADA ‘Strategic Objectives are as follows:

  1. Provide comprehensive leadership on current and emerging issues and in the communication of effective strategies and programs in the campaign for doping-free sport.
  2. Achieve compliance by all anti-doping and international sport organizations with the Code to honour the rights of clean athletes and maintain the integrity of sport.
  3. Generate universal involvement of public authorities and public leaders in the campaign against doping in sport, and in particular encourage national laws to allow the sharing of evidence gathered or collected through investigations and inquiries by appropriate bodies.
  4. Promote an international framework for education programs that instill the values of doping-free sport.
  5. Promote universal awareness of the ethical aspects and health, legal and social consequences of doping so that stakeholders use that knowledge in their interaction with and education of athletes to prevent doping, protect health and the integrity of sport.
  6. Implement an international scientific research program and foster an international scientific research environment and expert network that monitors and predicts trends in doping science and actively promotes reliable research outcomes in the effective development, improvement and implementation of detection methods.
  7. Lead, assist and perform oversight so that every accredited anti-doping laboratory performs at a level consistent with international standards.
  8. Be a respected organization whose corporate governance and operating standards reflect international best practice. 

Nowhere on this list does it state that one of their objectives is to catch doping athletes.  

WADA President John Fahey states: “WADA is committed to protecting the rights of clean athletes, where hard work and talent are justly recognized and doping cheats are exposed for what they are. Clean sport is fundamental to a healthy society and sets the best example for future generations of athletes.”, without - again - mentioning the mandate of catching dirty athletes.

Again... Why - in WADA’s own words - does it not mention the importance of catching the cheaters?  

Because that is not the issue.  The whole point of drug testing, and the existence of organizations like WADA, USADA, UKAD, etc. is to protect those who do not wish to dope.  Those who choose to compete drug-free.  

The whole purpose of doping controls is to act as a deterrent.  Ross Tucker, in his excellent overview of the Lance Armstrong case, urges folk to ‘recognize the bigger picture’ - ‘that we cannot give up because we are not yet 100% perfect.  The drug-testers are not catching everyone.  Not yet.  But there are far fewer athletes doping now than there was five years ago.  And ten years ago. And twenty years ago...

It’s a process.  It takes time.  And we must be patient.  

The real problems arise when the sport governing bodies are complicit to these doping acts.  There are numerous cases of athletes being ‘protected’ - either by their IGBs, their NGBs, or perhaps even their national anti-doping organizations (either through bribery or otherwise).  Examples of this are obvious with a little study of some Eastern European National Championships, for example.  When all these organizations decide that drug-free sport is indeed the number one goal for amateur sport.  When fairness rules the roost over money.  Then will we see real change.  Real progression.  But we’re on the right road.  Blood tests and Biological Passports are the beginning.  Relying on after-the-fact evidence from either witnesses or newer technologies is the way forward.  The Lance case is huge in this regard.  The first time the public at large has heard of an athlete getting caught without actually failing a test.

But I digress...


My friend Dr Jason Ross, in his excellent blog TrainOutPain, recently wrote on the perils of doping, and - referring to a recent Forbes Magazine article called ‘Why it’s time to legalize steroids in pro sports (which, by the way, I thought was terrible.  A very poorly written article by some dude who clearly does not understand the issue at all...shame on a supposedly reputable magazine for posting this drivel) - concluded that he would be all for legalizing its use: “Let them go at it.  We would start to witness what the peak of the human condition could achieve.  Great physical performances.  Or perhaps, it would just be legal, and not much would actually be different.  It depends on how cynical you are I guess.  I fall on the scale of either super cynical or on a true believing day just very cynical.”

Sorry Jay - I couldn’t disagree more.  Jason’s a super-smart dude, and I agree totally with much of the rest of his blog-post; but this statement totally misses the point: by legalizing doping in sport, you are not creating a more level playing field - as is the oft-repeated statement.  Instead, you punish those who would prefer to compete clean.  

Tucker identifies three reasons why the ‘level playing field axiom’ is bogus:
  1. The athlete who is willing to take the most risk - who is perhaps able to afford the most, and best drugs - will obviously have an advantage over those who do not.
  2. Drugs affect different people in vastly different ways.  Just because anabolics worked well for Ben Johnson, does not mean they will work well for you.
  3. It’s dishonest!  Tucker cites the example of Bernie Madoff - the Wall Street trader who stole millions from his clients.  He argues ‘If every single investment banker on Wall Street was dishonest and committing fraud, does that mean that none are in the wrong?  Are Madoff and Stanford less guilty because fraud is widespread?  If a student cheats on an exam to get into University, is that condoned as long as he's not the only one cheating?



International cycling was a laughing stock just a few years ago.  It was clear to even the most casual observer that many/most/all competitors were doping.  But, with recent improvements in drug-testing procedures (EPO blood testing - introduced in 2002 - and Biological Passports - introduced in 2007 - being the main two that have affected cycling), we now see a much cleaner sport; one where the non-cheating athlete will feel he has an opportunity to actually compete.  And perhaps even to win.

And isn’t THAT the point?

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

amateur athlete funding...the real dope: #WeDemandChange



Elana Meyers is a bobsled athlete from the United States.  I was lucky enough to coach her for a couple of years, leading up to her bronze medal performance at the Vancouver-Whistler Winter Olympic Games in 2010.  After a few years as one of the world’s best push athletes, Elana has now been driving for the last two seasons, culminating in a World Championship bronze medal this past February in Lake Placid, New York.  

The following is a guest post from Elana, and follows up on yesterday’s post on #WeDemandChange.  The public perception of the financial details of amateur sport is often misguided.  Here, Elana sheds some light on the reality:


amateur athlete funding...the real dope: #WeDemandChange - a guest-post by Elana Meyers

With the London 2012 Olympics just finishing, throughout the course of these Games there has been much discussion about the finances of Olympic athletes and their families.  

See here, and here, for more details.


So what can you make out of all of this?  Well, here's my take:  

The finances of Olympic athletes in the US is a very complex issue.  On one end you have superstars like LeBron James, Michael Phelps, and now Gabby Douglas, just to name a few, making millions; but these are very, very few of the Olympic athletes who represent the U.S.  Think about it, out of the 529 2012 US Olympians, how many can you name?  Probably not a lot, but each of these athletes have spent great amounts of money to reach their goals, have racked up huge credit cards bills, their families have taken out second mortgages or sacrificed in other ways,  in order to reach their Olympic dream.  And so many others have done the exact same thing, only to get to Olympic Trials and not make the US Olympic team.  Not only will the majority of US Olympians never make back from their sports what they spend, but for those who spend just as much - if not more - and don't make the team, they don't even get the reward of being able to call themselves Olympians.  All many of these once Olympic hopefuls have to show for their years of commitment to a dream is staggering debt.  

Some facts:

1.  The US Government does not financially support the United States Olympic Committee (USOC), the Committee that as part of the International Olympic Committee, nominates the US Olympic team and funds all their sports and activities.  The US Government does not give any money to athletes or to our sports.  The USOC is funded by sponsorship and private donations, as well as TV and broadcasting rights, that accounts for billions of dollars 

2.  Very few Olympic athletes make the millions you see the top most marketable athletes making.  Most Olympic athletes make very little money, spend most of their savings on their sport, and rack up debt during their sport.  I do not have my own house because I cannot afford it and many other Olympians don't either in order to keep competing in their sport. The majority of us are not balling out of control and have to find creative ways to raise funds in order to keep competing in our sports.

3.  The USOC gives money to each individual sport Federation for the operation of their sports.  For example, every year the United States Bobsled and Skeleton Federation receives funds from the USOC to not only pay its coaches, but also fund its season and provide athlete support.  The decision of how exactly these funds are used is up to the officials of the sport, including in bobsled our CEO, High Performance Director, and our coaches.  The majority of this funding received is spent on funding the travel and expenses for the season for our teams to compete on World Cup tour, which leaves little to nothing left for bobsledders and skeleton athletes on lower development circuits (bobsled is one of the most expensive sports in the USOC).

4.  On the developmental bobsled and skeleton tours, the tours that are required in order to move up the ranks in these sports, are self-funded.  These tours require travel throughout the US and Europe in order to gain experience to contend for a spot on the National Team.  These tours are quite expensive, as you must make sure you have a sled (a bobsled to purchase can cost up to $100,000), all your equipment (our runners- blades- alone cost $5400 a set), provide all your necessary travel, and any related training expenses.  Luckily, our Federation is usually able to accommodate all athletes with sleds, but shipping a sled may cost over $3,000.  In just 1/2 a season as a beginner pilot, I had expenses over $16,000.

5.  The USOC does provide some athlete support in the form of stipends.  These stipends differ from Federation to Federation and are very dependent on your ranking.  If your ranking drops, so does your stipend.  Stipends are given monthly and each federation chooses how to allocate their stipends differently.  In bobsled, the athletes receiving the highest stipends are the one's winning the most medals. 

6.  Athletes do not receive pay-cheques other than the small stipends, which may or may not be adequate to cover living expenses. Athletes must find other ways to support themselves.  One of the main ways to do this is through sponsorship.  However, sponsorship is hard to come by.  I have an Olympic medal, an agent, and have been actively doing PR and appearances for 3 years and yet have no sponsors other than a few product sponsors.  I also host my own fundraisers and rely on donations (to which I'm very grateful to all my supporters). 

7.  The USOC also provides health insurance, but this is also based on rank.  If your rank drops, so does your health insurance.  Also, not all athletes are able to get health insurance.  How many are able depends per federation, but once again, the highest ranked athletes receive health insurance.

8.  The USOC has a partnership with Adecco USA to give athletes the opportunity to work a flexible schedule and train full time.  Most athletes training for the Olympics train over 40 hours per week, so there really is not time to work, but the program is there none-the-less.  I am in the program and struggle to fit hours in because of my hectic schedule, but have the opportunity to make a little money when I can.

9.  The USOC provides housing for some athletes at Olympic Training Centers.  There are 3 Olympic Training Centers in the US and each has a limited amount of bed space.   The ability to get a bed also depends on ranking, with higher ranked athletes having greater access than lower ranked.  However, some Federations choose to use the beds they have for developmental athletes, which leaves the higher ranked athletes out.  Also, not all federations get beds in an Olympic Training Center, as these beds are also dependent on the strength of the sport.  Sports that aren't performing as well receive less beds, leaving those athletes out.  At the Olympic Training Center, food and housing are covered.  Housing differs per rank, some athletes are guaranteed housing for a year, while others live week to week hoping each week they still have housing.  The Olympic Training Centers also try to raise revenue for the USOC, so often beds are filled with organizations willing to pay, like cross country camps here in Lake Placid.

10.  The USOC has many sponsors and some of these sponsors offer athletes discounts and savings.  Also, some of these sponsors provide athlete support by giving athletes the opportunity to make appearances for small earnings.  For example, DeVry University has joined with the USOC to help athletes find a way to earn a degree while competing.  I am part of the program and am currently working toward my MBA. 

Elana with driver Erin Pac after winning Bronze at Whistler Olympic Games

As you can see, this is a very complex issue with many different parts, and everything is based on rank.  In sports like bobsled however, rank can only be accomplished after working your way through the development circuit and then making the National Team.  Working your way to the National Team is something that is funded completely on your own, and unlike track where all you need is a pair of shoes, the expenses in bobsled can be staggering - in the tens of thousands of dollars a season.  Even once you are on the National Team, the expenses are still immense.  Last season I was the number 1 ranked pilot on the US Women's Bobsled team and won a medal at World Championships, but spent over $13,000 on bobsled expenses. 


So I've presented all the facts - nothing to agree or disagree with, because it's simply that - just the facts.  (However, if some of my facts are wrong, please let me know!)  One thing is for certain though, as Olympic athletes we are not in it for the fame or the money.  We are in it because we love our sports, and more importantly love our country.  We are honored to represent the USA and no amount of money could take that honor away.  We each go after the greatest honor of all, winning a Gold Medal for your country, regardless of where it leaves us financially.  

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

#WeDemandChange




There is a social media movement afoot that is serving as a rallying cry to amateur athletes the world over to revolt against the IOC, and in particular its laws forbidding athletes from using social media to promote their sponsors.  

A Twitter campaign has been set up in protest of ‘Rule 40’ of the IOC Olympic Charter. Rule 40 was set up to limit athletes “from appearing in advertising during and shortly before the Olympic Games. This helps prevent ambush marketing which might otherwise utilize athletes to create an association with the Games.  The rationale for Rule 40 goes back to the amateur roots of the Olympic movement. The rule ensured that athletes maintained their amateur status. The Games have, of course, moved on and in the majority of sports professional athletes now compete in the Games. However, to prevent unauthorized commercialization of the Games; and to protect the integrity of athletes’ performance at the Games, the IOC places certain limits on how a Participants’ image can be exploited during the Games Period.”

It goes on: “ambush marketers have, in the past, used their association with athletes and NGBs to suggest or imply that they have an association with the Olympic Games. This undermines the exclusivity that Organizing Committees and/ or NOCs can offer official Games and Team sponsors, without whose investment the Games could not happen. The implication of an association with the Games through use of athletes is particularly powerful during and immediately before the Games. To protect against this, Rule 40 therefore places limits on the advertising activities of Participants, solely for the period of, and just before, the Games.”

If found in breach of Rule 40, “Participants who do not comply with Rule 40 may be sanctioned by the IOC in accordance with the Team Members’ Agreement (which provides for wide ranging sanctions, including amongst other things, removal of accreditation and financial penalties). Rule 23 of the Olympic Charter allows sanctions including, ultimately, disqualification from the Games and/or withdrawal of the Participant’s accreditation.”

The IOC and various NOCs also warned that any controversial tweets - for instance those even mentioning “rule 40” - or any other acts of dissent, could result in disqualification and removal of accreditation.  

Often, athletes rely solely on personal and private sponsorship for the pursuit of their sporting careers.  Many countries have no funding programs, while others offer only meagre stipends or scholarships to only the most successful.  American race-walker, Maria Michta writes, on her personal blog: "I have no big brand corporate sponsor who gives me free gear, pays me a salary and gives me a bonus for making it to events like the Olympics...my sponsors are my family, my friends, my high school community, the family of race walkers around the country. My sponsor bonus comes from each and every dollar thrown in my bucket, every donation on my website. Those are the sponsors that I represent.  And because of rules like Rule 40 and others I could not use the image of myself at Olympic Trials or the title U.S. Olympian in any pictures, posts or tweets to fundraise money to help pay for my travel expenses and get my family, the family that has sponsored me from day one, over to London to watch me compete."

So now they are fighting back.  Athletes such as Michta, Sanya Richards-Ross, Brad Walker, and Leo Manzano have been active in a Twitter campaign under the hashtags of  #rule40 and #WeDemandChange.  It gathered pace during the Games.  And now, that the games are over, and the athletes are free to write and speak how they like, it should gain even more momentum.  


The problem is that the IOC has not changed with the times.  It is clear they do not understand the new technology and the part it plays in athletes’ lives.  They are yet to adjust to a marketing strategy that involves direct engagement between athletes and their sponsors and fans.  Marketing and sponsorship has become much more interactive and open since the advent and popularity of Twitter and Facebook, and instead of burying their collective heads in the sand, the IOC need to adjust their own campaigns not only to benefit the athletes, but also themselves.  They are in grave danger of being left at the starting gate.  In Beijing, there were 6 million Twitter users; there are now over 500 million.  But, they fear losing control.  They feel they must protect the ‘integrity’ and future of the ‘Olympic Movement’.  But, by implementing such draconian measures as ‘Rule 40’, it is doing more damage to its own brand than good.  Through the use of social media, athletes have almost unanimously aided in spreading the spirit of the Olympics in a positive way.  Fans and sponsors now - more than ever - feel personally connected to the Olympic Movement, and suppression of this behavior by the IOC is folly.  The IOC has to work with the athletes in developing strategies to best take advantage of ‘new media’, yet still maintain the ‘integrity’ of the Movement.  


Whether or not the efforts of Richards-Ross et. al, will bring the IOC to the table to discuss potential strategies remains to be seen.  If they don’t, then the IOC risk falling even further behind the times.  It’s time they recognized that the new way is not the old way.  Communication has changed.  How we interact with one another has changed.  How athletes relate to their fans and sponsors has definitely changed.  Failing to adapt, the IOC risks alienating athletes even further, and this will eventually be borne out in losing favor with viewers, sponsors, and athletes.  The IOC must remember why it exists.  I applaud the efforts of the #Rule40 and #WeDemandChange athletes.  I just hope the IOC are listening...

Sunday, 12 August 2012

true sport



The 4x100m relay was not a good event for British-Canadians.  Or Canadian-Brits.  Of which I am one.  Or the other.  

Firstly, the British men were disqualified in the heats.  In all likelihood, the foursome would have won a bronze medal.  Instead, Canada went on to finish third in the final.  But as they began their lap of honor - draped in the Maple Leaf - it was announced that they too had been disqualified.   


For a sprinter, there is probably nothing worse than getting DQ’d.  The UK, especially, has a had a tough time of things the last few years.  This year alone, the men’s team was DQ’d at both the European Championships and the Olympic Games.  The women’s team was DQ’d at the European Championships and did not qualify for the Olympic Games because of that DQ.  Both the men’s and women’s teams at the World Junior Championships were DQ’d.  Tough year, for sure.  Upside is it can only get better!  Former (and hopefully future) relay team member, Craig Pickering breaks down the difficulty of relay running on his recent blog-post for the UKA website.

This Olympic DQ was especially frustrating.  I work with two of the relay runners.  Both guys have had outstanding international careers, that have only lacked an Olympic medal.  The excellent chance they had for it on Saturday night may never come again.  

But if you think they feel bad, please spare a thought for the Canadian quartet.  They had actually began their celebratory lap - Canadian flags and all - when they heard the bad news.  From ecstasy to agony doesn’t even begin to describe it.  

To the non-athlete, it is difficult to explain the amount of work that goes into this competition.  Every training session.  Every competition.  For four years.  Leads to this one moment.  Where you have only one chance.  And because of an exchange 2 meters outside the zone - or two steps on the line.  It is all in vain.  And instead of you taking that lap, it’s the Trinidadians - who underperformed...big time.  Totally undeserving.  But who ever said sport was fair?

Extremely commendable was the manner in which all 8 of these athletes acted after the fact.  All handled themselves with dignity, humility, and class.  They took responsibility.  Promised they would learn from this, and move forward with renewed commitment.  True sportsmen.  True champions.  

I, for one, am a proud British-Canadian.  Or Canadian-Brit.  Whatever...

are you inspired?



When the Great Britain delegation travelled to Singapore in 2005 to bid for the 2012 Olympic games, it was promised that they ‘would inspire a generation’.  
Bid leader Sebastian Coe stated that “we can no longer take it for granted that young people will choose sport. Some may lack the facilities. Or the coaches and role models to teach them. Others, in an age of 24-hour entertainment and instant fame, may simply lack the desire. We are determined that a London Games will address that challenge. So London's vision is to reach young people all around the world. To connect them with the inspirational power of the Games. So they are inspired to choose sport.”

Coe outlined three principles which guided the bid:
1. “an electrifying experience for competitors and spectators”.
DONE!

2. to “be your best partners” - essentially, we can do it well, while keeping costs for the IOC and NOCs down.
I don’t even know what this means!

3. “deliver a lasting sporting legacy”.
hmmm...

Tony Blair, echoing Coe, stated that "London will inspire young people around the world and ensure that the Olympic Games remain the dream for future generations."  Blair continued “our vision is to see millions more young people in Britain and across the world participating in sport, and improving their lives as a result of that participation. And London has the power to make that happen.”

And in fact, in a recent interview with Piers Morgan, Blair said his two greatest achievements as PM were the Northern Ireland peace settlement and winning the 2012 Olympic Games Bid.
However - back in 2002, the British Government - led by Prime Minister Tony Blair - produced a strategy document called Game Plan, that said that holding an Olympics would not inspire people to take up sport. "Depending on the scale of the subsidy," the document stated, "it would seem that hosting events is not an effective value-for-money method of achieving ... a sustained increase in mass participation."
The strategy document was based on research showing that no previous Olympic Games has led directly to an increase in people taking part in sport. In fact, the opposite seems to happen. Perhaps intimidated by the Olympic ‘models of perfection’, it seems that the average citizen would continue to prefer to watch sport from their sofas, rather than engaging in it.
Add to this that despite huge investment of public funds since Great Britain won the rights to hold the Games, participation in sport by young people has actually declined. Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt says “we need a radical change in policy to address the deep-seated problem of people dropping out of sport when they leave school.” And so the British Government -  desperate to not follow in the footsteps of past host cities - have launched a billion pound, five-year strategy in the attempt to encourage young people to play sport for life.  NGBs will have direct links to school-based sports clubs.  Expert coaches will run sessions to help create strong ties between clubs and schools.  School sport facilities will be available for public use.  And 450 million pounds will go to the NGBs for their ‘whole sport plans’.  Funding for these NGBs, by the way, will be based entirely on results.  No results - no payments.  As well, funding will only go to organizations that encourage youth participation.  Hunt continues: “our bold approach will see money going to organizations that deliver on youth participation, but also withdrawn quickly from those which fail to meet agreed objectives.”
Well, that’s all well and good...
...I’m glad that a vast majority of the facilities will continue to be used.  And I’m glad that the government seems to be delivering on its promise to continue to invest in sport.  The question is not whether “you are inspired”.  Or whether or not the youth of the country are inspired.  How can you - and they - not be?  Surely, it’s whether this inspiration will lead to a positive impact on the culture of the country.  Will it lead to more youth participation in sport?  Currently, only 22% of British adults engage in any sporting activity (compared to the 55% of say, Finland).  Will this figure rise?  Will it lead to more couch potatoes dragging themselves to the local swimming pool?  Or buying a bike?  And actually riding it once in a while? 
  

Thursday, 9 August 2012

random Olympic thoughts...part deux


Andrew Osagie and David Rudisha
What a night in the stadium!  I’m a sprint coach, so you would think the 200m would be the highlight for me.  But not tonight.  I’m sure everyone will agree that the 800m race was the highlight of the Games so far (at least for track and field fans).  David Rudisha broke the world record.  6 other athletes set personal bests.  Our British finalist, Andrew Osagie, set a 7/10ths PB.  With a time that would have medalled in the last 3 Olympic Games.  And came last!  When he came back to the warm-up track after his round of interviews, he couldn’t do much more than just shrug his shoulders, stating that it was just an ‘honor to be a part of that race’.  By the way, I watched Rudisha warm up.  It was very technical, so you may want to take notes now.  He jogged (very slowly) around the track for about 40 minutes.  And....that was it.

Shame Kenya are not going to be in the 4x400m Final after being DQ'ed.  I really wanted to see what Rudisha could do there.  And the talk of a potential Bolt-Rudisha 4x400 meeting is now off - especially since Jamaica won't be there either, after a clearly unfit Jermaine Gonzalez failed to finish his leg. 


There’s talk of a future 400m race between Rudisha and Bolt.  I personally don’t think it would be much of a race, but it would blow away the Bailey-Johnson 150 from 1997 in interest and marketing opportunities. 

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Speaking of warm-ups, here is a video of the 200m medallists doing some light strides about 30 minutes into their warm-ups: 

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Following in the vain of the St Kitts Olympic Committee: 
OK - I didn’t know about this one at all, and was notified by my friend Ross Dominikovich, a former Kiwi bobsledder.  Apparently, the New Zealand Olympic Committee (NZOC) ‘forgot’ to register World Champion and Gold Medal favorite shot putter Valerie Adams.  Adams didn’t find out about this until she went to check which qualifying pool she was in the day before her competition.  Lacking sleep, frustrated, an inability to access certain training facilities, and the overall stress of this incident possibly (probably) aided in Adams under-performing, and getting beat to the Gold Medal by Belarusian John Goodman....At this point, the NZOC has yet to offer an apology to Adams.  Bizarre. And I still don't understand why they killed Ostapchuk off of 'Treme'...
Ross also relayed a story to me about some of the same guys from NZOC who decided to take the bobsleigh team bus skiing during the Salt lake City Olympic Games.  On race day!  They showed up at the bob track in between heats, and wanted to sit in the sled and take some photos!  Idiots.

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I had a nice lunch with Jimson Lee from speedendurance.com yesterday (he even treated!).  If you haven’t yet been to his site, check it out (not that he needs my recommendations - he apparently is getting in excess of 18,000 viewers a day!).  He blogs pretty proficiently, and has a few guest posters (including myself in the near future), who together offer up a heap of interesting info.  His goal with the site is simply to share knowledge freely and build constructive global conversations.   

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In other news, Bolt is the first ever to repeat in the deuce.  Will Clay only the third ever to medal in both the long and the triple (the last being Naoto Najima  in 1936).  And, with no Kenya in the 4x400m Final, we now have to put up with another day of 'Blade Runner'-watch.  I really don't think that Pistorius should be allowed to compete, but I dig this picture all the same:
Oscar Pistorius with young girl at Lee Valley in North London



Tuesday, 7 August 2012

some random Olympic thoughts...

Kim Collins carrying the flag for St Kitts and Nevis in the 2012 Opening Ceremonies


The picture below is of me at the Olympic Track just before the 100m semi-finals.  We had three sprinters in the semis - all performing really well, but not quite having enough to make it through to the final.  So I left.  And went home.  Skipped the final.  Which I thought would be the fastest race in history.  Which - on average of placings - it was.  So - in 50 years time - when a million people will claim to have been there - at the fastest race in history - I won't be one of them.  I was on the Tube.  On the Piccadilly Line.  Somewhere between Finsbury Park and Wood Green.  I must be crazy, you say?  No - not crazy.  Just find it difficult to get real excited about a field of guys that make the likes of Carl Lewis, Frankie Fredericks, Donovan Bailey, Linford Christie, et. al., look like jokers.  Lewis - arguably the most gifted athlete of all-time - spent a decade dropping his PB down to 9.86 from 10 flat.  Sub10 runs were a rarity.  If a guy broke through a few times in his career, he could be considered a legend.  Not any more...



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I signed my first autograph at the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympic Winter Games.  Most probably it was a young boy who had mistaken me for an athlete, so I tried to explain to him that he didn’t want my signature.  That I was ONLY a coach.  But he didn’t understand, and insisted I sign, so I did.  After going through a similar sequence of events a few more times, I learned that it’s easier to just sign it ('Stuart McMillan - coach') than to try to explain why they shouldn’t want it, so thereafter I have just signed. This is now my fourth Olympic Games.  I have signed more autographs, and posed for more pictures for this one than all of the others combined.  By far. The excitement began to grow as we arrived at the Faro airport from our Holding Camp in Portugal.  And just grew from there, until our police escort through customs and baggage handling in London.  And squeezing a bunch of venues together like LOCOG have done at the Olympic Park has proved to heighten the intensity of the excitement even more. Who knew the Brits were so positive?  So energetic? So patriotic?  I almost feel like I'm in the States. But with more knowledeable supporters. 

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Kim Collins flew home today.  This really saddens me.  I met Kim in 1999 at Texas Relays in Austin.  Class guy then.  Class guy now.  You won't find a single person in the track and field world who has a bad thing to say about Kim. But his Federation decided to kick him off the Olympic Team, with their NOC General Secretary, Alphonso Bridgewater, stating "we are unaware of his whereabouts".  The greatest athlete in the history of their country. Probably the only reason why you have even heard of St Kitts. Their flag bearer. Three times. Instead of giving coaching accreditation to his wife/coach - who is also personal coach to two of the other other four athletes on the team - the St Kitts' Federation accredit 9 officials. For the five athletes. Unfortunately, this crap happens all the time. My good friend, Donovan Bailey, asks how many of the people in the stadium come to watch the officials? How many come to watch the coaches?  The therapists?  Etc... But the St Kitts Federation have forgotten that. If Kim was an arrogant guy. A difficult guy to work with. Then these idiots STILL should be bending over backwards to do everything they can to make him happy. But he's not. He's a great guy. A guy who left the Olympic Village to spend a couple of days with his family. And he didn't tell his Olympic Committee.  And so - because the fans just can't wait to see Alphonso and his 8 buddies march in the Closing Ceremonies. They give him the boot. Send one of the most respected athletes in the sport home. From his fifth Olympic Games. One he does not get to compete in. Idiots

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Besides the St Kitts' Federation, know who else forgets that these venues are full because of the athletes? The IAAF.  In their infinite wisdom, they decided to throw Algerian middle distance runner Taoufik Makhloufi out of the Games for not providing 'a bona fide effort' in the 800m heat. Makhloufi, who won his 1500m semi-final on Sunday, had been forced to run in the two lap race after his team failed to withdraw him from it by the deadline.  This was a big mistake by his Federation, as the schedule wouldn’t have allowed him to compete in both distances.  Unlike the Badminton World Federation, who disqualified 8 players for reportedly “not using one's best efforts to win a match” though, at least the IAAF realized their folly, and eventually reinstated him (don’t ask me HOW that happened, by the way - apparently, an IAAF doctor checked him out, and ruled that he was unfit to run the 800m heat.   A day later (about an hour ago), he blew the field away in what I thought was a very strange race). 

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British sprinter, James Ellington was knocked out in the heats this morning of the 200m. James is a gifted sprinter, trains super-hard, has a great attitude, and a good coach and group to train with. I have no doubt he will be back. It's just hard to imagine the type of pressures that you feel when 80,000 people are screaming for you. And millions are rooting for you on TV. After 4 years of struggle. And it comes down to ONE race. In the biggest race of my one and a half year sprinting career - an indoor 300m University Meet in Saskatoon, Canada in the early 90s against a bunch of nobodies - I choked big-time. There were a few hundred people in the stands (they had not come to see me - they were actually there to watch a pretty decent Invitational portion of the meet which started a little later), including a few of my friends. After a pretty strong first 80m, I spent the next 220m trying to figure out who had surgically removed my legs.  And replaced them with small tree branches. Not that I was very fast anyway. In fact I was pretty terrible. And I'm glad I choked. It was the race that convinced me that my talents lay elsewhere (well - actually, that was probably due more to my friends Donovan and Ken telling me to never embarrass them like that ever again, and if I did, they would no longer be my friends; and since these were my only two friends - still are my only two friends, come to think of it - and I didn't want to go through the rest of my life totally friend-less, I listened. And quit.  And began to coach full-time). 

James will be back. No doubt. I spoke with Donovan Bailey after the race, and he asked me who that 'Ellington guy' was. Because even in these circumstances, he identified that here was a truly talented dude.  Whether or not we see him running 19.2 in a couple of years, though....

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Possibly bad taste, but the tweet of the week has go to go to Welsh discus thrower, Brett Morse.  After failing to qualify for the discus final, Morse tweeted (since removed): "I've had a bad day, but at least I don't look like Ostapchuk" (google her, if you don't know).

The Olympic Stadium this evening.  That's VCB cooling down after her 200m semi.