AT A GLANCE / OCTOBER 2019

Bijay Deka

Bijay Deka, Laxmi win 2019 Shriram Properties Bengaluru Marathon

Bijay Deka is overall winner of the 2019 edition of Shriram Properties Bengaluru Marathon with a timing of 2:35:27.

He was followed by Koji Tanaka in second position with finishing time of 2:40:48. In third position was Mikiyas Yemata Lemlemu, whi finished in 2:45:08.

Earlier this year, Bijay who is from Assam, had topped the amateur category at the 2019 Tata Mumbai Marathon.

In the women’s race in Bengaluru, Laxmi crossed the finish line first with timing of 3:24:10. Shreya Deepak came in second with a timing of 3:36:38. In third position was Bengaluru-based runner Shilpi Sahu with a timing of 3:40:47.

In the half marathon segment, Isaac Kembol Mhemui finished in 1:12:04 to secure the winning position. Anbu Kumar came in second in 1:13:11 and Dhanesh came in third in 1:13:23.

Among women, Preenu Yadav was the winner with a timing of 1:28:56. Aasa T.P. came in second with a 1:29:28 finish and Smitha D.R. came in third with a timing of 1:33:46.

Weather was unusually warm for Bengaluru, said Shilpi Sahu, who finished third overall among women in the marathon. According to her, many runners struggled in the full marathon category because of the humidity.

She said she was surprised with her podium position. “ I can tolerate humidity and warm weather but my training mileage and long runs were not sufficient for this race,’’ she told this blog.

A barefoot runner, she did find some stretches along the route tough.

Nike Oregon Project closed down

Shoe giant Nike has shut down the Nike Oregon Project (NOP) after its head coach Alberto Salazar was banned for four years on grounds of doping violation.

NOP’s website and social media channel have been taken down, BBC reported, October 12.

Salazar’s ban followed an investigation by the US Anti-Doping Agency as well as a court battle.

Salazar plans to appeal against the ruling and Nike has said that it will support the appeal, the report added.

According to Wikipedia, NOP was a group created by Nike in 2001 in Beaverton, Oregon to promote American long distance running.

Germans take top honors at Hawaii Ironman World Championship; Jan Frodeno sets new course record

Triathlete Jan Frodeno of Germany set a new course record at the Ironman World Championship in Hawaii on October 12, 2019.

He completed the three disciplines – swimming, cycling and running – in seven hours, 51 minutes and 13 seconds, bettering the course record by over three minutes. The previous course record was set by the 2018 champion Patrick Lange, also from Germany.

For Frodeno, it was his third win at the world championship. The 2008 Olympic champion was followed by American Tim O’Donnell, who finished the course in 7:59:41. Germany’s Sebastian Kienle came in third with at 8:02:04.

The women’s race was won by Anne Haug. She is the first German woman to win the world championships in Hawaii.

Anne Haug finished the course in 8:40:10. British triathlete Lucy Charles-Barclay claimed the second spot with finish timing of 8:46:44 and Australian Sarah Crawley came in third with 8:48:13.

The race comprises 3.8 kilometers of swimming, 180 kilometers of cycling and 42.2 kilometers of running.

The defending champion from 2018, Patrick Lange, quit during the cycling segment due to fever.

Indian men’s and women’s 4x400m relay teams fail to make it to the final

India’s 4×400 relay teams – men and women – didn’t make it past the heats at the 2019 IAAF World Athletics Championships in Doha, Qatar.

Both heats happed on Day 9 of the event.

From the men’s heats, USA, Colombia, Italy, Great Britain, Jamaica, Belgium, Trinidad & Tobago and France made it to the final. The Indian team with a timing of 3:03.09 minutes placed seventh in a field of eight in heat 2. Overall, they finished 12th from among 15 teams that finished (Botswana was disqualified).

In the women’s heat, teams from Jamaica, Poland, Canada, USA, Great Britain, Ukraine, Netherlands and Belgium made it to the final. The Indian team finishing in 3:29.42 (a season’s best) placed sixth in a field of eight in heat 1. Overall, they were 11th from 15 teams that started.

It is worth noting that coming into the heats, both Indian teams had personal bests (PB) better than some of the toppers that eventually moved to the final. In the men’s category, the PB of the Indian men’s team (3:00.91) was better than that of Colombia and Italy. In the women’s category, the PB of the Indian women’s team (3:26.89) was better than the PBs of Netherlands and Belgium. In terms of season’s best (SB – it indicates whether a team maybe in peak form or not), the Indian men’s team’s SB of 3:02.59 wasn’t as good as that of any of the finalists. Same was the story on the women’s side.

Unlike what happened to the men’s and women’s teams, earlier in the Doha world championships, India’s 4x400m mixed relay team had made it to the finals. They finished seventh in a field of eight teams in the final with a season’s best timing of 3:15.77. Interestingly in the mixed relay, India’s original SB (that is, pre-world championship) of 3:16.47 was better than that of Jamaica, Great Britain, Brazil and Belgium all of who were among the eight teams (including India) that moved into the final. In the heat, India qualified for the final with a new SB of 3:16.14.

Irfan, Devender finish 27th and 36th in Doha

India’s Irfan K. T placed 27th and Devender Singh 36th in the men’s 20km walk at the 2019 IAAF World Athletics Championships in Doha, Qatar.

Altogether 52 race-walkers commenced the event held in warm, humid conditions; 32 degrees Celsius and 73 per cent humidity going by information available on the website of IAAF. Irfan finished in 1:35:21; Devender in 1:41:48. The race was won by Japan’s Toshikazu Yamanishi who took gold in 1:26:34. He was followed to the finish line by authorized neutral athlete Vasiliy Mizinov in 1:26:49. Sweden’s Perseus Karlstrom took the bronze in 1:27:00. Five athletes were disqualified. Seven did not finish the race.

“ I used a towel around my neck, and it made the race a bit easier. When I started to speed up after 7km I expected athletes to follow me. I was surprised and lucky nobody did. I wanted to walk faster in the final 3km but it was impossible. I hope this medal will give me a lot more confidence for Tokyo,” Yamanishi was quoted as saying in IAAF’s race report.

Irfan came to the 2019 world championships having already qualified for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics in the 20km race-walk. He was the first Indian athlete to qualify for the upcoming Olympics; he did that clocking 1:20:57 at the Asian Race Walking Championships, held in Nomi, Japan, where he placed fourth.

Avinash Sable (This photo was downloaded from the Facebook page of Athletics Federation of India [AFI]. It has been cropped for use here. No copyright infringement intended)

Avinash Sable sets new national record, makes it to the final in Doha

Avinash Sable has set a new national record in the 3000m steeplechase.

Running in the third heat of the discipline at the 2019 IAAF World Athletics Championships in Doha, Qatar, he crossed the finish line in 8:25:23 minutes, an improvement on the national record of 8:28:94 he had set earlier in March 2019 at the Federation Cup in Patiala.

The new record of October 1 was despite two setbacks Sable suffered on the steeplechase course for no fault of his. The incidents were successfully appealed by the Athletics Federation of India (AFI) paving the way for the athlete’s eventual inclusion in the final. AFI has tweeted the same.

Soon after the heat commenced, Takele Nigate of Ethiopia (he is the junior world champion in 3000m steeplechase) stumbled and fell taking down a couple of other athletes as well, among them, Sable. While all of them got up and resumed racing, some laps later, Nigate stumbled and slammed into the barrier at the water jump. Once again Sable was nearby. Nigate going down broke his rhythm and he had to pause and get over the barrier.

In spite of both these reversals, Sable managed to work his way back into the lead cluster dominated by the two Kenyan athletes – Conseslus Kipruto and Benjamin Kigen – and Hillary Bor of USA. An athlete passed over quickly in the pre-race introduction during race telecast, Sable’s advance to the lead group came in for mention in the race commentary.

The third heat was won by Kipruto, the defending champion, in 8:19:20 followed by Kigen and Bor; all of them automatically moved up to the finals. Sable finished seventh clocking 8:25:23, a new national record.  As per information on the IAAF website, Sable was overall twentieth in a field of 44 finishers spread across three heats. He did not initially qualify for the finals. However the AFI successfully appealed the setbacks he faced – they amounted to his passage being blocked for no fault of his – and Sable was included in the line-up for the finals, media reports quoting AFI’s tweet on the subject, said.

Hailing from Mandwa in Beed district, Maharashtra, Sable is the first steeplechaser from India to qualify for the IAAF World Athletics Championships after Dina Ram in 1991. His qualification for Doha happened at the March 2019 Federation Cup in Patiala.

P. U. Chitra gets a PB but fails to make it to semi-finals

Running in the second heat of the women’s 1500m at the 2019 IAAF World Athletics Championships in Doha, P. U. Chitra managed a personal best (PB) but couldn’t qualify for the semi-finals.

On October 2, Chitra finished in 4:11:10 minutes, placing eighth out of 12 athletes running that second heat. Overall, the Indian runner ended up 30 in a field of 35. The second heat was topped by Rababe Arafi of Morocco, who covered the distance in 4:08:32.

Chitra’s previous personal best was 4:11:55.

Hailing from Palakkad, Kerala, she had won gold in the same discipline at the 2019 Asian Athletics Championships held in Doha in April. Before that she had secured a bronze medal at the 2018 Asian Games and gold medals at the 2017 Asian Championships and 2016 South Asian Games.

No semi-final ticket for Jinson Johnson

Jinson Johnson finished tenth in the second heat of the men’s 1500m at the 2019 IAAF World Athletics Championships in Doha.

He won’t be in the semi-final.

Johnson appeared to go strong till the last lap of the race, when he began to fade and steadily slip to the rear of the lead group of runners. The second heat was topped by Timothy Cheruiyot of Kenya who clocked 3:36:82. Johnson finished in 3:39:86. He placed tenth in a field of 14 runners in the second heat. His timing in Doha was way outside his personal best in the discipline; 3:35:24 achieved September 1, 2019 in Berlin.

There was a fair amount of pushing and jostling in the heat Johnson was part of. In the first lap itself, the race commentator said that one athlete had taken a stumble. Soon after the bell for the final lap was sounded, Ethiopia’s Teddese Lemi maneuvered past Norway’s Filip Ingebrigtsen to join Cheruiyot in the lead. The Norwegian runner was seen putting out his hand and making contact with the Ethiopian, who fell a stride or so later. The commentator pointed out that it appeared an incident worthy of appeal. The Ethiopian who got up and continued to run, eventually completed in eleventh position.

The top six athletes from the heat qualified automatically for the semi-final.

Overall, across three heats in the men’s 1500m, 43 athletes took to the track on October 4, hoping to qualify for the semi-finals. Johnson’s timing placed him 34th in that larger field.

Nominees for World Athlete of the Year – male and female – announced  

The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) has announced 11 male athletes and 11 female athletes as nominees for World Athlete of the Year in their respective gender category.

The award will be given at the 2019 World Athletics Awards ceremony in Monaco on November 23, separate official statements issued October 14 (for the male category) and 15 (for the female category), said.

The male nominees are: Donavan Brazier (USA): won world 800m title in a championship record of 1:42.34,won Diamond League title, won four of his five outdoor 800m races / Christian Coleman (USA): won world 100m title in a world-leading 9.76, won world 4x100m title in a world-leading 37.10, won four of his five races at 100m / Joshua Cheptegei (UGA): won world cross-country title in Aarhus, won world 10,000m title in a world-leading 26:48.36, won Diamond League 500m title / Timothy Cheruyiot (KEN): won world 1500m title, won Diamond League 1500m title, won 10 of his 11 outdoor races across all distances / Steven Gardiner (BAH): won world 400m title in 43.48, undefeated all year over 400m, ran world-leading 32.26 indoors over 300m / Sam Kendricks (USA): won world pole vault title, cleared a world-leading 6.06m to win the US title, won 12 of his 17 outdoor competitions, including the Diamond League final / Eliud Kipchoge (KEN): won London Marathon in a course record of 2:02:37, ran 1:59:40.2 for 42.195km in Vienna / Noah Lyles (USA): won world 200m and 4x100m titles, ran a world-leading 19.50 in Lausanne to move to fourth on the world all-time list, won Diamond League titles at 100m and 200m / Daniel Stahl (SWE): won the world discus title, threw a world-leading 71.86m to move to fifth on the world all-time list, won 13 of his 16 competitions, including the Diamond League final / Christian Taylor (USA): won the world triple jump title, won Diamond League title, won 10 of his 14 competitions / Karsten Warholm (NOR): won the world 400m hurdles title, undefeated indoors and outdoors at all distances, including at the Diamond League final and the European Indoor Championships, clocked world-leading 46.92, the second-fastest time in history.

The female nominees are:  Beatrice Chepkoech (KEN): won world 3000m steeplechase title in a championship record of 8:57.84, won Diamond League title, won seven of her eight steeplechase races / Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce (JAM): won world 100m and 4x100m titles in world-leading times of 10.71 and 41.44, won Pan-American 200m title, won seven of her 10 races at 100m / Katarina Johnson-Thompson (GBR): won world heptathlon title in a world-leading 6981, undefeated in all combined events competitions, indoors and outdoors, won European indoor pentathlon title with a world-leading 4983 / Sifan Hassan (NED): won world 1500m and 10,000m titles in world-leading times of 3:51.95 and 30:17.62, won Diamond League 1500m and 5000m titles, broke world mile record with 4:12.33 in Monaco / Brigid Kosgei (KEN): set a world record of 2:14:04 to win the Chicago Marathon, won the London Marathon, ran a world-leading 1:05:28 for the half marathon and 1:04:28 on a downhill course / Mariya Lasitskene (ANA): won world high jump title with 2.04m, jumped a world-leading 2.06m in Ostrava, won 21 of her 23 competitions, indoors and outdoors / Malaika Mihambo (GER): won world long jump title with a world-leading 7.30m, won Diamond League title, undefeated outdoors / Dalilah Muhammad (USA): broke world record with 52.20 at the US Championships, improved her own world record to win the world 400m hurdles title in 52.16, won world 4x400m title / Salwa Eid Naser (BRN):  won world 400m title in 48.14, the third-fastest time in history, won Diamond League title and three gold medals at the Asian Championships, undefeated at 400m outdoors / Hellen Obiri (KEN): won world cross-country title in Aarhus, won world 5000m title in a championship record of 14:26.72, ran a world-leading 14:20.36 for 5000m in London / Yulimar Rojas (VEN): won world triple jump title with 15.37m, jumped world-leading 15.41m to move to second on the world all-time list, won nine of her 12 competitions, including the Pan-American Games.

A three-way voting process will determine the finalists. The IAAF Council’s vote will count for 50 per cent of the result, while the IAAF Family’s votes and the public votes will each count for 25 per cent of the final result, the statements said.

(The authors, Latha Venkatraman and Shyam G Menon, are independent journalists based in Mumbai.)

TWO WORLDS

Illustration: Shyam G Menon

“ The runners of the Berlin Marathon 2019 should expect a wet track. The forecast for Sunday sees a few hours of rain for Berlin. On Saturday it will be partly cloudy, partly sunny. However, thunderstorms are expected from Saturday afternoon on. Meteorologists therefore give the athletes in the capital little hope for a finish in dry conditions on Marathon Sunday (29 September 2019). According to Deutscher Wetterdienst (DWD), it will be wet and cloudy. At first the meteorologists expect rain only in the northern half of Brandenburg, but in the course of the day the rain will spread to the south. The maximum temperature will be 21 degrees Celsius.’’ – This was the weather forecast for the 2019 Berlin Marathon as provided on the website berlin.de two days ahead of the event.

On Marathon Sunday Ethiopian running great Keninisa Bekele created history in Berlin. He ran the second fastest marathon on record, covering the distance in two hours, one minute and 41 seconds, a timing that was off the world record by just two seconds.  Ashete Bekere of Ethiopia won the women’s race; she completed in 2:20:14. It was also occasion for the winner of the first women’s marathon at an Olympic Games (1984, Los Angeles) to rejoice afresh. Sixty two year-old Joan Benoit Samuelson of the US, completed the 2019 Berlin Marathon in 3:02:21 breaking the World Masters Association record for the 60-64 years age category, news reports said. Berlin’s weather wasn’t comfortable and supportive for all. Among the runners from India that day in Berlin was Anjali Saraogi. She texted in that the temperature was alright but the rain bothered. “ I was feeling very cold and was shivering. The rain was terrible. But the volunteers were out braving the brutal weather and supporting us. Immense respect for that. The course was easy, that’s why we could all run in that rain,” she wrote.

Almost 5000 kilometers away it was a different thermal experience for race-walkers and marathoners at the 2019 IAAF World Athletics Championships as they battled the heat and humidity of Doha, Qatar. On Wikipedia, the average high temperature in September for Qatar is 39 degrees Celsius; the average low, 29 degrees. During the 2019 world championships, outdoor endurance events like the marathon and race-walk, were scheduled for midnight to escape the weather conditions. It was a first for the world championships. Aside from training to run in warm weather, athletes have to reset their wakefulness to coincide with night hours.

Midnight, September 27-28; the women’s marathon underway in Doha (This photo was downloaded from the Facebook page of IAAF and is being used here for representation purpose. No copyright infringement intended)

In the women’s marathon held in the intervening night of September 27-28, only 40 runners from the 68 who started the race, finished. The timing was slow. Ruth Chepngetich of Kenya was the winner; she covered the distance in 2:32:43, significantly slower than her personal best of 2:17:08 or for that matter, the winning time for women at the 2019 Berlin Marathon. According to IAAF reports, the race had begun in temperatures of 31-32 degrees and humidity of 73 per cent.  From the women’s marathon, a memorable photograph was that of a bunch of elite runners who quit midway, making it to the finish line in a golf cart. Some of the others who withdrew were stretchered off and at least one athlete spent some time under medical observation. “ Amid the havoc, Kenya’s Ruth Chepngetich emerged triumphant, claiming gold in two hours, 32 minutes and 43 seconds – the slowest ever World Championships winning time and more than 15 minutes slower than her personal best. The winner then collapsed some time after the race while talking to the media,” a report in UK-based publication The Telegraph, said. While deciding to proceed with the marathon, the authorities had backed it up with precautionary measures and support services matching the weather conditions. They followed the book. In January 2019, the IAAF itself had highlighted the issue of thermal stress, hosting on their website information about a study done ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and discussing the need for organizers of any sport event to have suitable protocols in place (https://shyamgopan.com/2019/01/25/spotlight-on-thermal-stress-impact-on-sport-events/).

Some of Doha’s race-walks were also slated to be held the same weekend as its women’s marathon. At a media interaction ahead of the 50 km race-walk; world record holder in the discipline, Yohann Diniz of France, minced no words in describing the weather conditions. In particular, he highlighted the contrast between the ambiance within the main stadium and the warm conditions outside. Within the stadium it was 24-25 degrees Celsius. His sport as well as the marathon, is held outside. The walkers had been taken for “ idiots,’’ the 41 year-old Frenchman was quoted as saying by the website france24.com. In the early hours of Sunday – the same Sunday that was Marathon Sunday in Berlin – Diniz was among those who didn’t finish the 50 kilometer-walk. It was won by Japan’s Yusuke Suzuki (the first world title for Japan in 50km race-walking; Suzuki is the world record holder in 20km race-walk) who told the media afterwards that he “ was just desperate to finish.’’ It was a relief to get it over with. Numbers don’t lie and as in the women’s marathon, the timing from the men’s 50km race-walk speaks for itself. Suzuki crossed the finish line in 4:04:20. Diniz’s world record, established in 2014 in Zurich, is 3:23:33. In the women’s 50km race-walk, the winning time for China’s Liang Rui was 4:23:26; the world record set by Liu Hong earlier in 2019 is 3:59:15. In the women’s 20km race-walk wherein China swept the podium, Liu Hong won in 1:32:54. The current world record held by Elena Lashmanova of Russia is 1:23:39.  There were those, who reacted differently too. After winning silver in the 50km race-walk for women, China’s Mocou Li told the IAAF’s official channel (she spoke through a translator), “ I am not so tired. But I feel that I cannot speed up; maybe because of the weather. This is not the worst of conditions for me. I feel relaxed today.’’

Illustration: Shyam G Menon

Television coverage of the 2019 IAAF World Athletics Championships has been spectacular. Technology made the coverage rich in terms of data, details and camera angles. You could conclude – even if athlete in one’s living room is mere pixels on screen, it made more sense to watch the world championships on television than in the stadium, where you wouldn’t get to see the action this close. The bulk of the telecast was around disciplines taking place in the main stadium. Technology works best in contained environments; containment is also part of the emergent business architecture of sport and media properties. The IAAF had informed well ahead that the media-technology mix in Doha would set new benchmarks. There were complaints too. Some athletes found the new block cameras (cameras attached to the starting block in sprint events) intrusive and unethical. On September 30, CNN reported that the IAAF had decided to restrict the use of images from these cameras after the German Athletics Federation highlighted the issue. Amid the emphasis on telecast, media reports said that the number of spectators at the stadium fell as opening weekend gave way to working week. Plenty of empty seats showed up on TV screens worldwide. Famous athletes had only family, friends and a modest clutch of spectators applauding them in the stadium. Questions were raised in social media on why the biennial athletics championship traveled to Doha.

According to published reports, the organizers then promised to make an effort to get more people in but pointed out alongside that a made-for-television schedule of events meant few wanted to stay that late into the night in the stadium. By Day 4 as endurance disciplines like the men’s 5000 meters final and the women’s steeplechase final got underway, there was a sizable presence of East African supporters in the stadium, to cheer. The atmosphere was festive. The Ethiopians; the Kenyans, the Ugandans – they got to celebrate their victory. Daniel Stahl of Sweden broke into a run and jumped over a hurdle as he celebrated his triumph in the men’s discus throw.  Mariya Lasitskene competing as an authorized neutral athlete and crowned world champion for the third time in the women’s high jump did a victory lap. For those looking at it all as panoramic story, it was also moment to reflect about weekend gone by. The strong performances and cheering within the stadium were a contrast to the struggles and timings reported in endurance sports staged outside.

(The author, Shyam G Menon, is a freelance journalist based in Mumbai.)