Mountain Climbs: 2008 Will be Tough to Surpass

By Eric.

The proverb from George Washington was that if you don't learn from history, you're doomed to repeat it. Considering what banner year track and field had during this, the finest-ever championship season, then let doom, gloom and gnashing of teeth await me tomorrow as I embark on a new year arm-chair quarterbacking this sport.

Ok, let fools not rush in so quickly.

I can deal without all of the Russian doping drama in any of its various forms. The lesson learned with Yelena Soboleva is that no matter how stunning an athlete can be on the track, one shouldn't be so willing to trust that a Russian who wins a championship or sets a world record has done so fairly.
Gosh, I didn't just paint their programme with such a wide brush, did I?

Elena Isinbaeva, who set three world records this year - one indoor and two outdoor, is also Russian, so let's re-think that. How about only trusting Russians who train in the IAAF's backyard and who compete often on the Grand Prix circuit. That should do.

Well, almost. Gulnara Samitova, who set an Olympic record in the steeplechase preliminaries and a world record in the final, is also Russian, and accomplished a first-ever for the sport: she became the first - and only - woman to break the nine-minute barrier in the steeplechase. Let Gulnara repeat that history once this upcoming season before the jury reaches a decision on that one.


As for the rest of history not repeating itself part, I'm ready for the shock and awe treatment and the terror on the track which may make my heart stop... are you?
The bigger question I would like to pose to you is if you can handle any more of history being re-written.

In Susanna Kallur's case, I certainly wish that history could have again been re-written indoors, as she smashed the world indoor 60m hurdles record in Karlsruhe, Germany on 10-February.

By the time the eight women-strong final would take place, at 16.42 Central European Time, nearly every resident in Sweden had their televisions tuned to Eurosport or had their radios turned on to a newscast either waiting to watch history unfold literally in the blink of an eye, or to be interrupted from milking cows and shoveling snow if only for a minute to let out a loud "yes!"

American Lolo Jones, who would go on to win the world indoor championships the following month, broke the 19-year-old meet record with a 7,87 run in the first heat. Sanna, blocking out the distractions and focussed on her own plan, erupted for a 7,78 in the following heat.

An entire stadium erupted in cheer when the gun sounded. Sanna Kallur had a decent reaction to the gun and started off quickly toward the first hurdle. She flew over all of the barriers between the start and the finish tape, and, with her lean at the finish, flew through a barrier which had stood since Sanna was but seven years old.

The clock stopped at 7,68 seconds -- a time 1/100th of a second faster than the previous world-record, and the first time Sanna had broken the 7,80-second barrier.

Sanna stared at the clock a moment, not knowing if the time would be adjusted up or down, as often occurs when the official time is given.

When the official time was announced, Sanna Kallur, who tured 27-years-old five days later, realised she had broken the world record, and was immediately congratulated by Damu Cherry, an athlete who had been previously banned for two years for steroids abuse. Sanna didn't appear enthused to embrace the controversial hurdler, but shook her hand, nonetheless.

Then she took her laps of honour in front of a class of people who had assembled for the possibility that they again would witness history on German soil.

Jones placed second in 7,77 seconds, the 10th-fastest ever recorded. So loaded was the field that six of the seven finishers set new personal bests in the race.

That Sanna would catch and pass a ghost of the sport's past in her fourth meet of the season was not remotely in her thoughts before the race began, and her reaction to her time and place in history says it all.

"This is absolutely unbelievable," the IAAF reported. "I can’t put my feelings into words. In comparison with my race last week in Stuttgart, today was much better."

Engquist would later send her congratulations to Sanna through a message she sent to Sportbladet, the sports division at tabloid newspaper Aftonbladet. Sanna also spoke with Jenny Kallur and received an SMS congratulation from Christian Olsson, who has the world indoor triple jump record.

Said Engquist through Aftonbladet:

"Sanna! An emornously big congratulations for a fantastic and well-deserved record. I wish now that you will be injury-free, for then you will win the Olympics."

However, as history would have it, Sanna Kallur would face injury at the world indoor championships and, ultimately, be unable to finish her marquee event at the Olympics. That she is skipping the 2009 indoor season, and not allowing herself to re-write history, may change her luck outdoors for the better.

Barely four months past Beijing, and Bolt's coach is talking two more world records for his pupil. And Bolt's eating that up, one word at a time. The Guiness Book of World Records has barely had enough time to etch Bolt's name in their annual, and the Jamaican superstar is already making a reservation for a spot in the 2009 edition.

So is Isinbaeva, the greatest female jumper with a stick to ever grace the earth.

Isinbaeva has improved her personal best each and every year since she began vaulting indoors in 1999. She has won ever major championship since taking home the bronze medal at the 2003 IAAF World Championships, and 2008 was no disappointment for the former gymnast from Volgograd. Isinbaeva had become the first female vaulter to ever clear the 5-metre barrier, when, in 2005, she jumped a world record 5,01m at the world championships in Helsinki. Unfortunately for Isinbaeva, she set a mark which would take her three more years to eclipse.

As the final hours draw near on the greatest championship year in modern history, I'll gladly look the other way on the subject of Usain Bolt as he prepares to assault the two individual world records he produced in Beijing. I'm keen on pretending that his coach, Glen Mills, didn't tell the Italians today that Bolt can run 9.58 and sub-19.00, for in so doing, I'm bound to let history take us by surprise again come Berlin.

The question is, can Bolt learn from history and not repeat it?

If Bolt, who notoriously slowed during the final stages of the Olympic 100m final in a demonstration of boyish showmanship which drew the ire of International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge, runs full speed ahead from naught to the finish line, he won't simply make history, he'll leave a mark and time which shouldn't be broken for a quarter century at least.

Come to think of it, however, that is what was said of Michael Johnson's former record as well.

Eight hours remain between a clean sheet of paper and one covered with accomplishment greater than the 1988 Olympics and the 1993 IAAF World Championships where the world's finest graced tracks in Seoul, Korea and Stuttgart, Germany with four new world records and tied one other one.

Furthermore, 2008 will soon conclude with new world records in eight men's disclipines and five female ones around the tracks, in the fields and on the roads. And that was just outdoors. Isinbaeva and Kallur did the world a favour by claiming world records indoors, respectively.

The world championships are headed back to Germany in eight months.


The Latest on Your Favourite Stars

By Eric.

You want to know what the stars are up to, so sit back this week-end, catch up on the latest news about the movers and shakers in the athletics world, and check back for the New Year's special on Monday night.

The latest on many of your favourite athletes in the sport of track and field:

  • Abebe Dinkesa ran what was described as "a mind-boggling" 41.45 11,5km race on 29-November to win the $50,000 first prize money and also set a new course record in the 4th Obudu International Mountain Race - a steep and hilly course which has never yielded a defending male champion in the meet's history.

  • Alan Webb, the American-record holder in the mile who failed to advance past the US Olympic Trials in the 1.500m, was signing red t-shirts and providing his support on 27-December at the Friends of Indoor Track Invitational at Prince George's Sports & Learning Complex in Landover, MD, where nearly 1,300 supporters signed a petition to be forwarded to members of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors to save indoor track from the chopping blocks for local high school students. At issue is whether or not indoor track is necessary as Fairfax County Public Schools faces a $170 million shortfall in its 2010 budget, though track costs only $50/student according to Dan Woolley, FIT president.

  • Allyson Felix has been quiet this off-season, with planned time-off giving her much-needed rest from the Olympic preparations she and Bob Kersee put in last year. Felix, who travelled to Jamaica on holiday during the off-season, hosted her family for Christmas last week. Felix, the defending 200m world champion, is in a long-repetition training phase she gears up for the 2009 World Championships.

  • Andréas Thorkildsen, the two-time Olympic javelin champion, was awarded the gold medal for the ‘Performance of the Year' by Norwegian daily newspaper Aftenposten at a ceremony organised by the Norwegian Ministry of Culture in November. The sports Journalist Association of Norway also presented a statuette to Thorkildsen for becoming the Performer of the Year in Norwegian sport.

  • Andrew Hinds, heir apparent to Obadele Thompson: "My plan for next year is to make an impact at the World Championships and I am looking forward to the European circuit, but my goal next year is to break the sub-ten barrier. I think I have got in me to run 9.9.

    "I am doing some serious hard training right now. My work-outs are now more intense as the aim is to get stronger. I am doing more weight-training and will be better prepared .

    "I would like to clock under ten seconds before the World Championships and hopefully repeat it in Germany," said Hinds, who is back home on vacation.

  • Anna Chicherova was spotted with other high-profile athletes and dignitaries at a Real Madrid match on 18-December, but not the famed Spanish team of the football variety. Russian basketball team CSKA were playing the Spanish basketball team in Moscow in an epic showdown which Real Madrid won in front of the Russian hosts in stunning play. Chicherova is confirmed for competitions to be held in two Czech cities, Trinec (21 Jan) and Hustopece on (24 Jan) in what is known as the Moravia High Jump Tour.

  • Asafa Powell, the greatest Grand Prix sprinter to never win an individual global title, has not yet responded to Michael Johnson's public statements and assertions that Powell does not know how to handle his nerves and focus - two keys to Powell's inability to win the big ones (World Championships and Olympics). Johnson, who believes he can help Powell, has stated that the biggest mistake an athlete can make is deluding him/herself into thinking that there is no pressure. Dwain Chambers backs Powell to win a medal before the end of his career.

    Glen Mills, the coach of Jamaica’s triple Olympic champion and sprint double world record holder Usain Bolt, is also hopeful that Asafa Powell can shake off his major championships disappointments and win some accolades before his career is over, but warned that with Bolt around, Powell's time is running short.

  • Augustine Choge will kick-start his cross country campaign on 10-January at the Great Edinburgh International Cross Country meeting in Scotland. Choge, who finished 12th at last year's World Cross Country Championships in Edinburgh, has not raced since finishing 10th in the 1.500m final in Beijing.

  • Berhane Adere, who faltered in the Beijing Olympic marathon, is scheduled to defend her Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon title next month, one year after setting a course record (2.22.42) and collecting $250,000 in the process. Adere, who is in a class by herself, should only face challenges from Bezenushe Bekele and Askale Tafa Magarsa.

  • Bernard Lagat will attempt to tie the Wanamaker Mile win-record of seven owned by legendary Irish great Eamonn Coghlan when he competes 30-January at the 102nd Millrose Games at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Lagat will then turn his focus to Europe, where he will be targeting his fourth win at the Aviva Grand Prix in Birmingham on 21-February, where he will run the 1.500m.

  • Bershawn Jackson has spent part of his off-season visiting children and providing advice to work hard, stay in school and never lose sight of their dreams - words of wisdom he provided kids at Hillcrest Elementary School in Somerset. "You have to face adversity and overcome it," he told the students. "Champions don't give up, and I consider myself a champion. I made history because I worked hard and I trained hard."

  • Blanka Vlasic is rested and ready for the 2009 season following a disappointing Olympic silver medal and her second-consecutive Golden League season jackpot miss. Vlasic will have another shot at the $1M jackpot as the IAAF announced the women's high jump will be part of the 2009 campaign. Vlasic was recognised last week in Zagreb with a Croatian Olympic Committee award, a distinction she was not expecting, but one upon which she promised to deliver in the future. Vlasic will have an opportunity to jump against Ariane Friedrich at the BW Bank Meeting in Karlsruhe on 16-February and avenge for the one loss the German had against Vlasic in 2008, causing her to lose her share ($500.000) of the Golden League Jackpot.

  • Carolina Klüft travelled to Addidas Ababa Ethiopia late last month to be part of the Great Ethiopian Run - a race which UNICEF is a partner to help raise awareness and funds to fight HIV/AIDS in Ethiopia. Klüft, a UNICEF ambassador, lended her support to the fundraising project, one which helps orphans and vulnerable children through the "Dream Campaign" by raising about $11.000 for four charity homes. Klüft was there on a similar visit in the winter of 2006. Trackside, Klüft, who followed her one-week visit to Ethiopia with a training camp in Potchestrom, has again opted to skip the heptathlon, which means that the 2009 IAAF World Championships - as were the Beijing Olympics - will be contested without the second-best ever in the event. Klüft will tackle the long jump event, one which she sees as a challenge.

    Svenska Dagbladet stated on 27-December that Klüft was the smartest and bravest athlete in Sweden in 2008. Moreover, Klüft was picked by the Swedish public as being the number one favourite athlete in 2008 ahead of Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

    Said Klüft:

    I think I would have answered both "Sanna" and "Zlatan". Peter Forsborg seems to also be very sympathetic. But it isn't easy, and one is influenced, naturally, if one has a personal relationship with other athletes. Anja Pärson is also an athlete whom I like, and I met the handball girls during the Olympics in Beijing. There are so many great athletes with different conditions, that it is difficult to compare.

  • Chris Brown, after finishing in the unbearable fourth place position at the last three major championships, is hoping for some good fortunes at next year’s IAAF World Championships in Berlin, Germany. He is taking things a day at a time in search for an elusive medal and a podium spot.

    "My main goal is to make the podium in Berlin at the World Championships," Brown said. "Already on three occasions I have had the bronze taken from me.

    "I guess the Lord has something bigger in store for me so I am taking it one day at a time," he added.

  • Christian Malcolm was denied a true opportunity to earn a medal in the 200m according to Linford Christie, Malcolm's coach who is banned from any Olympic team contact for a positive drugs test late in his career. Christie claimed last week that UK Athletics and the BOA didn’t give Malcolm the chance to prepare as best as he possibly could. Nevertheless, UK Athletics paid Christie to coach the world and Olympic finalist in the run-up to Beijing despite the fact that Christie was prevented from accompanying the Olympic squad to either the athletes' holding camp in Macau or the Games themselves.

  • Christine Ohuruogu's stock continues to rise, with Lord Sebastian Coe this week naming Ohuruogu, the Olympic 400m champion and defending IAAF world champion, his sporting hero of 2008. On a side note, Ohuruogu recently donated a pair of her trainers to an art work which will be a representation of the shoes which people who perished at Nazi concentration camps were made to remove before they died.

  • Doping: ProCon.org, a nonpartisan 501c3 nonprofit research organization, created a new website, http://sports.procon.org, to explore the question "Should performance enhancing drugs (such as steroids) be accepted in sports?"

    The online project contains nearly 30 questions about drugs in sports with over 250 sourced responses from more than 200 sports experts. Those experts include professional athletes (from Lance Armstrong to Gene Upshaw), doping authorities (from Dr. Don Catlin to Dr. Gary Wadler), sports writers, academics, physicians, league commissioners, politicians, and many other knowledgeable sports fans.

    Some subjects of discussion include whether or not:

    * Tiger Woods' alleged LASIK surgery to improve his vision to 20/15 is ethically different than an athlete taking a banned substance

    * there is a correlation between the 5% (approximate) of middle schoolers who take anabolic steroids and the use of such substances by their athlete role models

    * the testing labs, such as the one that found cyclist Floyd Landis guilty of using banned drugs, are credible and reliable

    * the teammates of sprinter Marion Jones should return their Olympic gold medals. None of them tested positive for banned drugs although Jones confessed to having used them.

  • Dorcus Inzikuru, the former world steeplechase champion, refused to testify last week in a personal assault case where she was a principle witness and plaintiff against her husband and brother-in-law. Both defendants were attributed to have stated two days before their arrests that they would kill Inzikuru, with Inzikuru's husband charged with physically assaulting and harming her. The case was dismissed.

  • Jenn Stuczynski, the Olympic silver medalist in the pole vault, has become a Christmas ornament - a silver bulb in her local area with a picture of Stuczynski participating in the pole vault. The decorative pieces sold out before Christmas, and more were on the way.

    On the track, Stuczynski was yesterday confirmed for participation in the upcoming Millrose Games.

  • Jeremy Wariner is training and looking ahead to London 2012 according to today's Star-Telegram. "It’s a good way for me to relieve a lot of stress," he says about running. "When I’m on the track, I forget about everything else that’s going on. So it’s a good place for me to get away from things and just be me and enjoy myself."

  • Johan Wissman is currently training 11 times a week in order to gain more strength needed to reach the goals he has for the 400m. Wissman is scheduled to contest the GE Galan here in Stockholm 18-February - the second-best indoor meet in the world (Stuttgart). Wissman returned to Helsingborg yesterday following three weeks of winter training at his "home away from home" in Stellenbosch, South Africa.

  • Kara Goucher will visit the City of Duluth (MN) Wellness Committee program on Tuesday, 30-December, to honour city exercisers. Goucher, home in Minnesota for the holiday season, is preparing for the Boston Marathon following a successful debut in New York.

  • Kelly Sotherton is currently training to take part in all three of the major UK Athletics indoor events in 2009, starting with the Aviva International Match at Glasgow on 31-January. Sotherton will then compete at the Aviva European Trials on 14-15 February in Sheffield, before taking on Olympic Champion Natalia Dobrynska in Birmingham in the 60m hurdles, long jump and 400m.

  • Kim Collins is preparing for the upcoming Aviva Internternational Match in Scotland, where the ex-world 100m champion will contest the 60m and 200m events at Glasgow's Kelvin Hall on 31-January.

  • Kim Gevaert, though now retired from athletics, was recently named along with Justine Henin as goodwill ambassadors for the Belgium and Netherlands bid to co-host the 2018 World Cup.

  • Lisa Dobriskey trained twice on Christmas Day - a Thursday - as she always does, and is more than determined to make up for the bitter disappointment she felt when she placed out of medal contention in Beijing. Despite heading into the Olympics full of optimism, Dobriskey finished fourth in the Beijing 1.500m final.

  • Liu Xiang's recovery from achiles surgery is going well, as he has now been able to walk without crutches - though he is still required to wear a special shoe. He'll be able to walk in the pool in two weeks according to his coach, Sun Haiping, accompanying Liu during his U.S. rehabilitation. Yao Ming has requested Liu receive space and time to heal.

  • Lolo Jones was named Visa Humanitarian Athlete of the Year earlier this month for her help in assisting flood victims in her home state of Iowa.

  • Nick Willis will compete in a Wellington (NZ) street race on 10-March before competing in a mile race at an international track and field competition three days later in Christchurch.

  • Richard Thompson, the Beijing silver medallist (9,89) in the 100m behind Usain Bolt's world-record (9,69), earned $750,000 cash and $250,000 in units from Unit Trust Corporation in Trinidad last week as a reward for his accomplishments in the 100m and 4x100m relay, which set a national record (38,06). Thompson, the NCAA indoor 60m champion and outdoor 100m winner, resumed training 3-November, and stated to Trinidad's Newsday that the 4x100m relay team will race together several times next season.

  • Stefan Holm has ended his career in grand fashion - at least nationally. Holm, the fourth-place finisher at the Beijing Olympics, was last week selected Sweden's best track and field athlete for the first time in his career.

  • Steph Twell, the three-time European Junior Cross Country champion, will be racing in the Antrim International Cross Country - the third meeting in this winter’s UK Cross Challenge series - on 3-January.

  • Susanna Kallur, who finished second in balloting to Stefan Holm for Sweden's best track and field athlete, has split with coach Karin Torneklint. Torneklint, who coached Sanna and her sister, Jenny from 14-15 years old and joined forces again with them in 2004, left the training solely to Torbjörn Eriksson, who had different training philosophies than did Torneklint.

  • Usain Bolt is in almost every news story of note at the moment as the doors prepare to close on 2008 and the year which produced a record season which likely will never be repeated. Bolt took delivery of a BMW M3 (reported here earlier this week) just before Christmas, and was recently selected Track & Field News Athlete of the Year.

  • Victor Conte is in the news this week because he stated he supplied "the cream" and "the clear" to somebody, somewhere... one has lost count to the claims Conte has made.


Usain Bolt's Three Gifts Kept on Giving

By Eric.

Christmas eve has drawn nigh, and one wonders what has been left under Usain Bolt's tree.

He has captured nearly every imaginable and conceivable award and adulation for his accomplishments in 2008, and has been handsomely rewarded with name and brand recognition which stretches around the globe.

What gift will Bolt unwrap this year which can top those he received at this time some 52 weeks ago? Is there any solitary imaginable one which could rival the six-fold one he received with his Olympic ticket, namely three gold medals and three world records to match?

If he needs a ticket to fame, he needn't look any further than a click of the mouse: Usain Bolt's name is splashed on every news feed of note, even to this day, as 2008 winds down and the fairytale season is remembered on top-10 lists in a newspaper near you.

Bolt drew the ire of International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge for showboating during the men's 100-meter dash on the biggest stage of world sport, but drew the adoration of hundreds of millions of fans for his childlike demonstration of sheer excitement for winning a race against competitors far more experienced than he.

What about just giving the man a car and some alone time following an off-season which appeared to be more hectic than his in-season travel and commitments? On second thought, hold off on that one. BMW and Puma have already teamed up and done just that. Mr. Bolt took custody of a black BMW M3 which Puma had shipped to him just before Christmas.

Perhaps a suitable gift for Bolt would be Sports Illustrated unveiling their Sportsman of the Year award, a single-copy edition which could serve as motivation for 2009—a world championship year which will be filled with higher expectations than Bolt could possibly have dreamed of when he took up the challenge of dropping down in distance this year, and tackling a man who had won his island nation's heart, captured the citizens' imaginations, but had not won any global title of note.

Sports Illustrated missed a beat when it had Michael Phelps lean ahead of Bolt to win Sportsman of the Year Award. The IAAF, Track & Field News and L'Equipe, didn't, however, each awarding the lanky Jamaican sensation its top honours, respectively.

We as fans received an extra gift this year, as the Olympic Games were held during a leap year and were kicked off on a very sacred and superstitious day for the Chinese, namely the eighth day of the eighth month of the eighth year of this century.

Eights may have been wild for the 21 percent of the world population located in the host country, but there is only a single integer which will remain in the history annals for all-time, whether or not the times, themselves, are lowered by Usain Bolt—and that is the number "one".

Try these on for size:

  • Usain Bolt ended the 2008 season as the number one sprinter in the 100m.
  • Usain Bolt ended the 2008 season as the number one sprinter in the 200m.
  • Usain Bolt ended the 2008 season as the world record-holder in the 100m.
  • Usain Bolt ended the 2008 season as the world record-holder in the 200m.
  • Usain Bolt ended the 2008 season as history's quickest from 0-100m.
  • Usain Bolt ended the 2008 season as history's quickest from 0-10 under 10,00.
  • Usain Bolt ended the 2008 season with the greatest cumulative average for his top-10.
  • Usain Bolt also ended the 2008 season with one loss, bringing full-circle the true value of that number.

Taking a closer look, Bolt ended the 2008 season with the best average time for his top-10 races in a season, though Asafa Powell ran the season of his life as well:

  • 1. Usain Bolt, JAM, 2008 -- 9.820 (9.69, 9.72, 9.76, 9.77, 9.83, 9.85, 9.85, 9.89, 9.92, 9.92)
  • 2. Asafa Powell, JAM, 2008 -- 9.837 (9.72, 9.77, 9.82, 9.82, 9.83, 9.87, 9.87, 9.88, 9.89, 9.90)
  • 3. Asafa Powell, JAM, 2006 -- 9.867 (9.77, 9.77, 9.85, 9.85, 9.86, 9.86, 9.89, 9.91, 9.95, 9.96)

Powell needed to run 9.81 and 9.80 in his final two races in order to drop 9.90 and 9.91 from his top-10 and finishes, .01 ahead of Bolt's top-10 season average—no easy feat, despite one's willpower; the season had already been long enough, the Olympics had come and gone, and the chances at redemption were slimming down.

Powell failed in those attempts at the World Athletics Final (9.87) and at Pedro's Cup (9.89), however, he did conclude his season by running exceptionally well, stopping the clock under 9.90 in seven consecutive races. Moreover, Powell was able to legally stop the clock under 10.00 on 15 occasions in 2008—seven more than he did in 2007, and three more than in 2006 when he twice ran world-record times of 9.77 seconds.

In keeping with the integer "one", here's one more: Only one other man in history has been able to run faster without stopping than the sum (19.41) of Bolt's top-two 100m times, a man whom Bolt removed from atop the totem pole in the men's 200m dash and carved his name with the immortal ones who have defied belief.

358 days ago, the New Year's bells were clanging, many fans were set out for their festivities and the favourite to win the Olympic 100m and 200m titles—as well as the 4x100m title, was prepping for his spring campaign, one which would see him run excellent 4x100m relay legs in order to race into shape without laying down the hammer ahead of the strenuous rounds he'd have to endure at the USA Olympic Trials, and again in Beijing if everything went well.

It didn't matter that his name was Tyson Gay, and he was fresh off of winning three gold medals at the IAAF World Championships in Osaka, Japan—two individual ones and a team gold in the short relay—he still had to put in the work, perfect his timings and hope that he'd have it all on the days which mattered.

Another man was attempting to find a magic formula to enable his own successes, despite the fact that he was entering the season as the 100m world-record holder (9.74, Rieti). Asafa Powell put on excellent displays of speed at stadiums around the globe, but he'd never managed to win the big one when it counted. He was hoping 2008 would provide that break-through, rather than relegating him to just a great Grand Prix racer.

Then there was Bolt, a young man who was entering the new year 138 days past his 21st birthday, setting his sights on a 400m workout to start his season, then working his way down to the 100m, a distance his coach promised he could attempt in a season which turned out to be the finest in the history of athletics for male sprinting.

Usain Bolt upped the ante early, running a 46.94 400m on an ugly day in the Jamaican capital on Jan. 26. Bolt won the 10th heat with the fastest time of the day—running 1.66 off his lifetime best set on the exact same day a year earlier. He also defeated Powell (48.76) as he had the year before.

Powell's finish behind Bolt wasn't yet an omen of things to come, as he had managed to outclass his younger competitor in the overall rankings at the end of the 2007 season, but it was the start of something Powell would become quite accustomed to seeing the rest of the 2008 season, namely Bolt's back.

Powell didn't see Bolt's back at the Melbourne Grand Prix in February, winning his signature event, the 100m, in a modest 10.04 seconds. He'd shaken off the dust from the previous year and competed very well despite a nagging injury he carried during training down in Australia. Powell would wait an additional four months to the date before he'd next step on the track for a 100m race, though he would team up with two of the eventual three teammates he'd share 4x100m glory with in Beijing for an early 39.22 clocking in Kingston on March 22.

Expectations for Bolt, meanwhile, were beginning to rise as the world junior 200m record-holder had accepted an invitation to compete in his first-ever senior 100m dash, with Spanish Town serving as host to what would be Bolt's launch into immortality—er, the record books. American Michael Johnson's half-lap record was once thought untouchable. Bolt finished first in the 100m dash that day—March 8—speeding to a very respectable 10.03 seconds.

Gay, the hands-down favourite to win the coveted title of "world's fastest man," meanwhile, played anchor to three four-by-one relay teams, helping the United States win the Texas Relays in 38.63 seconds, an adidas all-star team capture the Mt. Sac Relays (38.51), and bringing home another national team to a fourth-place finish at the Penn Relays (39.38).

Seven weeks of training and focus—coupled with an apetite to push his tall frame under the 10-second barrier in front of his home crowd—led Bolt to the starting line at the Jamaica Invitational on May 3. Many of the world's major players were at the meet, with Wallace Spearmon—Bolt's 200m nemesis—as well as Darvis Patton, Kim Collins, and Mike Rodgers in Bolt's heat, and Gay opting for the 200m dash.

That Bolt would win the premiere event of the day against the Americans was fathomable—he entered with the fastest time of the year in the field. That Bolt would scream through the 10.00 barrier, under 9.90, and well under 9.80 in his second professional race is another "first" for the history books. Bolt stopped the finish-line clock at 9.76 seconds—only 0.02 seconds off of Powell's world record, and the second-fastest clocking in history. No man had ever chopped so much time off his personal best whilst crossing the magical 10-flat barrier, and no man's margin of victory—0.32 seconds—had been larger.

Bolt was suddenly thrust into contention for the heavyweight title of track and field, the coveted 100m title. Gay took exactly 20 seconds to go from 0-200m without stopping, but the attention had clearly shifted to Bolt, who would agree to a man-to-man 100m sprint to be contested against Gay and others in New York exactly four weeks later.

Bolt had another appearance to make ahead of that scheduled stop, however, and he didn't fail to deliver, winning the Hampton Games in Trinidad on May 14 in a blistering 9.92—his second-consecutive race under 10.00 and a time which was still faster than any man had run up to that point in the season. Gay would respond with a 10.05-20.08 double victory at the adidas classic in Carson, Calif., the following day, with the 200m run into a negative 1.7 wind.

Road to Beijing: Christmas Present Number One

Countdown: T-minus 13 days to the clash of the world champion against the man who had a faster personal best, but who lost to that deserving champion over double the distance the previous year.

Bolt smashed Gay's pride, stole his thunder and erased Powell from the record books in one fell swoop on the 31st day (+1) of May in New York, crossing the line first at 9.72 seconds—a 0.04 improvement over his previous best; his third consecutive race under 10.00; more than 1/10th of a second ahead of Gay's best (9.84); and the fastest ever legally run on American soil.

Gay, who won the 2007 edition in a windy 9.76 (+2.2 m/s), finished with a superb 9.85 clocking, but was left to concern himself with the upcoming USA Olympic Trials. The night in New York belonged to Bolt, the man who was attempting to become the world's fastest.

You know the rest of the drill for Gay: he reigned supreme in the USA Olympic Trials, the timing system in Eugene, Ore., came under heavy suspicion from pundits, Gay was carted off the track during his 200m qualifying, and he disappeared until such time that the Oympics were to commence—where eights were straight, ones were wild and Usain Bolt wasn't playing by conventional rules.

OK, Gay did a bit more than run wild at his national championships, he broke through with monstrous performances in the quarters, semi-final and final, where he ran a personal best 9.77 (qf), followed up with a 9.85w in his semi, and recorded history's fastest under all conditions, a 9.68 (+4,1 m/s)—removing Marion Jones' husband, Obadele Thompson, as the title holder.

Bolt opened his Olympic experience with a 10.20 and 9.95 during his first two races, and followed those up with a 9.85 semi-final run—his third race in 24 hours with the final coming a few hours later. That he would not only blow logic out of the window during the final with his 9.69 after easing during the latter half of the race, but would run nearly as fast as had Gay had with a hurricane wind behind him and equal the second-fastest under any conditions, was unreal, unbelievable, and ultimately un-human.

Somewhere in the middle of it all was Asafa Powell, who, again, failed to win the big one despite the incredible in-season CV (9.88 victory over Bolt here in Stockholm and a 9.82 final tune-up in Monaco) he brought to the final.

Christmas Present Number Two For Bolt

Bolt, who has a penchant for speed and a need to demonstrate it—he was able to test his new M3 at the BMW Vehicle Test Facility in Aschheim, near Münich following the Olympics—didn't disappoint in the 200m, either, despite the media frenzy and circus which followed his coronation as world's fastest man.

One day before his 22nd birthday, Bolt, contesting his fifth 200m final of the season—the previous four were all victories, and each under 20.00 (three under 19.90, two under 19.80 and one under 19.70), flew off the curve on a mission to the finish line, driving, pumping and leaning with all of his might as the clock read 19.30, a new world record.

Michael Johnson, once accused of having his braids twirled too tightly during some trash-talking with Maurice Greene back during their heated rivalry, meet Usain Bolt, who had been accused of show-boating and not respecting his competitors. Mr. Bolt has just taken over your record, one which many a fan stated would last their lifetimes.

Christmas Present Number Three

Finally, as the season of giving is upon us, and was so at this time last year, let's think about the third and final gift Usain Bolt left the sport in Beijing, namely the best demonstration of speed, willpower, teamwork and hand-offs to ever circle once around a track. Ever.

Puma threw Bolt a great birthday bash during the heart of the Olympic Games. Their man delivered on the grandest stage of them all, and the company was not at all reluctant to reward their superstar with a grand bash which included Asafa Powell and others. Following Bolt's birthday, however, it was back to business for one final event on the track: the 4x100m relay.

Jamaica, which made it through the semi-final unscathed as they watched the Americans fail to finish due to botched hand-offs, fielded a team of Nesta Carter, Michael Frater, Usain Bolt, and Asafa Powell. As previously mentioned, Powell, Carter, and Frater had contested this event on two previous occasions, with Bolt, the Olympic champion, being the replacement guy on the team.

The initial stages of the race are a blur—something which Youtube has enabled me to recollect for later use. That's of least consequence here, however, as the third leg—which Usain Bolt ran to hand off to Asafa Powell—must have been the fastest curve ever run by anyone under any conditions, stick or sans. Bolt, passing off the baton to Powell, came up on his countryman and friend with a fury, full of run, up to his neck in foot speed and with a mouth full of encouragement for his teammate unrated for general viewing here. He appeared to be running with Powell for several metres as Powell began the descent home, and may have held off the remaining competition had he taken the stick and run a full 200m, instead of handing it to Powell.

Powell dug deeper than I have ever seen him do before, struggled to keep his form as he neared the finish line, with the collective crowd at the Bird's Nest roaring in delight as he leaned and stopped the clock 37.10 seconds after it began ticking on command from the firing pistol.

Bolt was part of his third world record in as many races, and his name and fame have not died down since, nor did his speed as he ended his season on high notes of 9.83-19.63-9.77 in the subsequent three meets following the Olympic Games.

I last wrote to you that I've finally taken the foot off the gas and have had an opportunity to reflect on the greatest sprint season which ever was—only to discover that 2009 is fast approaching with all of its suprises—both good and bad.

As Usain Bolt sits by an open fire and celebrates Christmas with his relatives and friends, I can only imagine what Bolt has wished for himself for the 2009 season. All of his wishes last season came true, and his gifts keep giving even as we speak and write. Scientists hope that Bolt can run completely through the finish line once at full speed, because they have predicted he can run 100m in 9.5 seconds.

Only Bolt knows what it feels like to drive that M3, loaded with 414 horse power, at full speed. Here's to hoping he will demonstrate the equivalent on the track as well.

Usain Bolt's 2008 season over 100m:

  • 10.03 (+1.8) Classics Spanish Town 8 Mar
  • 9.76 (+1.8) Jamaica Inv Kingston 3 May
  • 9.92 (+0.6) HamptonG Port-of-Spain 17 May
  • 9.72 WR (+1.7) Reebok New York NY 31 May
  • 10.19 (+1.0) National Champs Kingston 27 Jun
  • 9.85 (-0.1) National Champs Kingston 28 Jun
  • 10.40 (-2,0) National Champs Kingston 28 Jun
  • 9.89 (+0.4) DNG Stockholm 22 Jul
  • 10.20 (-0.2) Olympics Beijing 15 Aug
  • 9.92 (+0.1) Olympics Beijing 15 Aug
  • 9.85 (-0.1) Olympics G Beijing 16 Aug
  • 9.69 WR (+/- 0.0) Olympics Beijing 16 Aug
  • 9.83 (-0.5) Weltklasse Zürich 29 Aug
  • 9.77 (-1.3) Van Damme Bruxelles 5 Sep


Is It Already Track Season? 2008 in Review

By Eric.

I don’t know about you, but I’m quite pleased the Olympics only occur once every fourth year. Any other years like the one which is winding down and has long since ended in terms of competition, and I’m not sure how much emotion, turmoil, ups and downs I’d have left in the tank to offer the sport as a fan. The summer season seemed to just conclude, and already, we’re looking at Bernard Lagat attempting to win a seventh Wannamaker Mile competition in New York in about a month.

Has it already been four years since Hicham El Guerrouj flashed two fingers up at the camera in complete disbelief that he’d won not only his first, but snuck by Kenenisa Bekele to win his second-ever Olympic gold medals in the same championships?

Was that the same Bekele who smashed the socks off his competitors in the 10.000m, and, following an additional 12,5 laps of qualifying, smashed his sly Kenyan rivals to smithereens with shifty pacing and a furious kick? Were those the same Kenyans who had to endure an indescribable hell to even reach the Olympics?

Watching Bekele come through in the 5.000m was breath-taking, but nothing took hold of my attention and belief than did the performances Usain Bolt put up individually in the short sprints and collectively with Asafa Powell and compatriots in the short relay. Four months later and quickly approaching a new year, I’ve finally let off the gas and have attempted to make sense­ – any – of times, marks and efforts which defied belief.

There are only so many times in a two-week time frame one has been able to listen the Russian national anthem or watch a gob-smacking number of Jamaican fans wave their hands in the air and shed tears for a boy who turned into a man by breaking two individual world records and helping his hapless team mate turn the tables on his own bitter-sweet championship record.

The Jamaican women didn’t fare too shabbily, either, one can say.

I don’t have a desire to re-hash all the happenings from this past year, but a few stand out to my liking and recollection, though others will be higher on your own personal priority lists and lodged deeper in your memory banks.

The anticipation surrounding the medal chase is so exhausting from a distance that I can only imagine what athletes must face from the indoor kick-offs to the final dash to the finish lines at a track stadium near you as they put their years of training to the test to determine if it would net them a medal in front of the world’s biggest audience. When the roof caves in and the rain falls on your parade in front of your own home fans, as it did for former 110m hurdle world-record holder Liu Xiang, the personal tragedy can be greater than one can ever imagine – even with the wildest of thoughts.

Closer up, however, that anticipation of winning was also so great, that it has caused many an athlete to turn to the darker side of sport, namely, doping, and attempt to squeeze on by through the corridors between right and wrong straight for the medal stand, lofty pay-outs and extreme adornment despite the methods by which they were to have been achieved – mark that, stolen.

Seven Russian women went down that path of destruction this season, caught in one of the largest doping conspiracies to hit the sport in the past 20 years – a time which also happened to be an Olympic year, and a location which also happened to be held in an Asian city. Ben Johnson has long since been removed from this sport, with his steroid-enabled times replaced by legal ones which raised the hair on the arms and laid the foundation for any number of clichés, questions and superlatives to be used.

Whilst on the topic of doping, let it be known that Marion Jones, who won honour and privilege by method of fraud eight years ago in Sydney, was confined to a prison unit many worlds away from the glittering flashes capturing images of greatness by athletes competing at the Bird’s Nest. She was released about two weeks following the extinguishing of the flame – a fitting image as her career can finally be extinguished and put to rest following years of denials about her involvement in performance-enhancing drugs. Six months of thinking time didn’t make Marion Jones smarter, however, it made her deny on national television in the United States in front of Oprah Winfrey that Marion Jones can and will take full and complete responsibility for her illegal actions rather than blaming someone else.

Lyudmyla Blonska, the outcast Ukrainian heptathlon competitor who was banned following a positive test in Beijing, has made it a case to blame someone else – in this case, that someone being her husband. She’s facing a lifetime ban from the sport if she is unable to clear this case with CAS. Carolina Klüft, our Swedish star who won every major heptathlon title available and decided to concentrate on the long and triple jumps this season, has been vocal about Blonska’s inclusion back in the sport following her first ban.

I didn’t get stung by the whole Marion Jones saga, but I got hit in the head and knocked over by Yelena Soboleva, instead. I picked Soboleva as my Indoor Athlete-of-the-Year on my blog following her incredulous runs at the World Indoor Championships in March, and believed with all honesty that she was competing clean. She tested clean, but with someone else’s urine. Yep, one star athlete’s chances went right down the toilet...literally.

I was anticipating a Soboleva match-up with Pamela Jelimo, the Kenyan teenager whom I can not truly describe with any adjective which correctly sums up her ability, year and mark left on this sport. Those match-ups never occurred, with Soboleva, who ran a world-leading 1.54,85 in Kazan in June, getting temporarily banned prior to the Olympics and unable to compete in the IAAF Golden League series.

That didn’t stop Jelimo, who broke on to the scene with death-defying times and eventually went on to win the Olympics, set a World Junior Record, a Kenyan National record and record one of the top-five times ever recorded for a female over two laps. Jelimo wasn’t simply precocious. She wasn’t fast in terms of having great wheels, either. She was more than dynamic, and she was more than dominant. She went from rags to riches – one million dollars richer – in one simple season which saw her line up for 15 races (including heats, rounds and finals), and win every single competition in which she entered over the 800m distance, running under 1.57,00 on nine of those occasions.

On the topic of Russian match-ups, I had two other ones to which I was greatly looking forward this season, namely those of Yuriy Borzakovskiy and Abubaker Kaki and Yelena Isinbayeva and Jenn Stuczynski in the pole vault.

Kaki, who concluded 2007 by running a solo 1.43, gained my uttermost attention this past winter season, running a world junior record in the 1.000m 10 minutes down the street at the GE Galan at Globen and then going on to win the IAAF World Indoor Championships in Spain in March. He kicked off outdoors on a high note, running a 1.42,69 at the Oslo Golden League meeting, setting up what was to be a very high expectation for great things to come on the men’s two-lap circuit.

Borzakovskiy, who anchored Russia to a national indoor record in the 4x800m this past winter, also notched a blistering time over the two-lap distance outdoors, running 1.42,79 three weeks ahead of the Beijing Olympics, and one week after setting a national record over 1.000m here in Stockholm at the DN Galan (2.15,50).

Sadly, neither athlete was anywhere near the medal stand following Wilfred Bungei’s surprise victory. I haven’t heard from Kaki since our two meetings this summer, and Borzakovskiy has vowed to return for more at the London 2012 Olympics, though by then there will be other Kaki-type athletes who will have cropped up by then, and Kaki, if he’s healthy and not burned out by then, will be the Wilson Kipketer of this generation.

First up for either athlete, will be the opportunity afforded Jelimo in 2008, namely a stab at a portion of (or all the proceeds outright of) the $1,000,0000 prize money for winning each of the Golden League competitions.

Isinbayeva, on the other hand, was one of two Russian athletes who came through for poor, selfish me this season. I’m a fan, dammit, and wanted a world record from the queen of the vault. Wow, did I get the best of two worlds this season: Isinbayeva got great competition from a gutsy challenger in Stuczynski, and Isinbayeva was able to set one world indoor record and establish three outdoor ones, culminating with an in-your-face 5.05m clearance in Beijing – some 25cm up on the American.

Olympic steeplechase champion Gulnara Galkina, was the other Russian who shone brightly in Beijing, capturing the event with history's first sub-nine clocking - a world record.

And these Olympic Games, ladies and gentlemen, were following the Olympic-size performances prep star German Fernandez put up in June in at the California State Meet and the Nike Outdoor Nationals, where, on successive occasions, he not only outclassed the best in the Class of 2008, he obliterated national federation (8.41,10) and national records (8.36,3) in the 3.200m and 2-mile, respectively. The 3.200m time was achieved following a 1.600m race which saw the lanky kid, who now attends Oklahoma State University and has already established a line of credibility on the NCAA scene, average just over 60 seconds per segment without stopping.

Prep athletes Jordan Hasay (USA Junior Record 4.14,50 in the 1.500m) and Jeffery Demps shone outstanding at the USA Olympic Trials, with Demps setting a new world junior record (the third in the group of five juniors listed here!) in the 100m at 10,01 seconds. Hasay won the girl’s 3.200m run (9.52,13) at the state meet minutes before Fernandez set chase to Dathan Ritzenhein’s Federation record, running the second-fastest time ever by a high school girl. After enduring a long season, which brought Hasay from the West Coast of the United States to the World Junior Championships in Poland, Hasay won every cross country race she entered this autumn, capping off a season of excellence by winning her second Footlocker Cross Country championship two weeks ago – three years after earning her first victory.

Usain Bolt stole (earned) the show(boating) in Beijing, becoming an instantaneous favourite the world round. The Olympics have a way of measuring your ability to succeed on exactly the right queue, and Bolt delivered. So did André Silnov, the Russian high jumper who was not initially selected for his team, delivered a world-leading 2.38m in London a month before the Games, was then selected to compete in Beijing and brought Russia joy in winning the event.

Stefan Holm, the 2004 Olympic high jump champion, won’t have any more opportunities to push his small frame through the air and take down the giants in his path – athletes like Jaroslav Rybakov, a perennial rival. Rybakov, who won a silver in Beijing to Holm’s fourth-place finish, is still very much on the scene, alive and well, and will be for some time coming. Holm, on the other hand, announced that this would be his final season, and he gave it everything he had.

Maria Mutola, the evergreen of the 800m crop, did, as well.

Christian Olsson, our triple jump specialist and 2004 gold medal winner, is also at a cross-road in his career, one which has been terrorised by injury since his winning jump in Athens four years ago. Olsson, like Holm, may have taken his final jumps on the field.

There were also a lot of disappointing moments in 2008, with Blanka Vlasic holding top spot in that category. Vlasic, who had a 20-plus win-streak going heading into Beijing, lost her bid to add an Olympic crown to her world title, as Tia Hellebaut, who is now retired and expecting a baby, earned the coveted crown in a magnificent fashion – and at a personal best height (2.05m). Vlasic eventually lost out on the Golden League jackpot as well, one which Jelimo was able to keep completely to herself as she headed back to Kenya following the season finale in Germany.

Susanna Kallur and LoLo Jones, two of the year’s best 100m hurdlers – with Kallur the world indoor record-holder and Jones, the fastest outdoors, both running into troubles over the hurdles in Beijing and being knocked from their four-year goals of making it to the medal stand. The semi-final was a bitter moment for Kallur, as she had to again endure a defeat at the hands of circumstance rather than the competition; Kallur also had an injury during the world indoor championships in March and missed the final, which Jones won.

There were a thousand small wonders in the world of athletics which made the 2008 season special, unique and a memorable one, for sure.

Did it honestly take me this long to mention LaShawn Merritt’s accomplishments in the 400m? Undisputed heavyweight champion at 400m over the previous Olympic champion, Jeremy Wariner. Or Dayron Robles in the men’s 110m hurdles? Rachid Ramzi’s perfection when it counted in Beijing, despite his show-boat semi-final?

Turning the attention back to the women, has it taken this long to speak of Veronica Campbell over Allyson Felix, with the former running a 21,74 in the Olympic 200m final? Christine Ohuruogu in the women’s 400m after falters at the shorter sprints appeared to have derailed her plans? Last, and not least, the efforts two other Ethiopians, Tirunesh Dibaba and Meseret Defar, put up in the 5.000m and/or 10.000m this summer? When will they feed off one another instead of ducking? Will the 14-minute barrier be breached if they worked collaboratively?

What will 2009 hold which can surpass this past season in overall greatness and provide an even greater degree of amazement? Is it fair to put this expectation on the sport, the athletes and the meeting arrangers?

Will more athletes like Craig Mottram, who broke off a working relationship with his coach, follow suit as Jeremy Wariner did earlier in the year? Will Alan Webb, the world's fastest miler in 2007 who did not advance to the Olympic Games, finally split with a coach who has mentored him since high school? As American distance runners continue migrating west to Eugene, will any superstars here in Europe join forces? Then again, we don't have many superstars left, so we're waiting on the Africans to trek here for spring cleaning.

I got my world record(s) from Isinbayeva, and Bolt single-handedly brought back life, spunk and a punkishness to the sport which it desperately needed in terms of a face-lift from the past. Can he run faster than 9,69 and/or 19,30 this season, and, if he does, how much faster? Would it be a failure if he doesn’t achieve those marks, but still wins the IAAF World Championships?

Time will tell in more ways than one.


2008 Season-Leaders (Final):


100m. 9,69 WR Usain Bolt JAM
200m. 19,30 WR Usain Bolt JAM
400m. 43,75 LaShawn Merritt USA
800m. 1.42,69 Abubaker Kaki SUD
1500m. 3.31,49 Daniel Kipchirchir Komen KEN
Mile. 3.49,38 Andy Baddeley GBR
3.000m. 7.31,83 Edwin Soi KEN
5.000m. 12.50,18 Kenenisa Bekele ETH
10.000m. 26.25,97 Kenenisa Bekele ETH
Mar. 2.03.59 WR Haile Gebrselassie ETH
3.000SC. 8.00,57 Paul Kipsiele Koech KEN
110mH. 12,87 WR Dayron Robles CUB
400mH. 47,25 Angelo Taylor USA
HJ. 2,38 Andrey Silnov RUS
PV. 6,04 Brad Walker USA
LJ. 8,73 Irving Saladino PAN
TJ. 17,67 Nelson Évora POR
SP. 22,12 Adam Nelson USA
DT. 71,88 Gerd Kanter EST
HT. 84,51 Ivan Tikhon BLR
JT. 90,57 Andreas Thorkildsen NOR
Dec. 8832 Bryan Clay USA
20KM W. 1.16.43 Sergey Morozov RUS
50KM W. 3.34.14 WR Denis Nizhegorodov RUS
4x100m. 37,10 WR JAM
4x400m. 2.55,39 USA


100m. 10,78 Shelly-Ann Fraser JAM, Torri Edwards USA
200m. 21,74 Veronica Campbell-Brown JAM
400m. 49,62 Christine Ohuruogu GBR
800m. 1.54,01 Pamela Jelimo KEN
1.500m. 3.56,59 Yelena Soboleva RUS
Mile. 4.18,23 Gelete Burka ETH
3.000m. 8.33,66 Vivian Cheruiyot KEN
5.000m. 14.11,15 WR Tirunesh Dibaba ETH
10.000m. 29.54,66 Tirunesh Dibaba ETH
Mar. 2.19.19 Irina Mikitenko GER
3.000mSC. 8.58,81 WR Gulnara Galkina RUS
100mH. 12,43 Lolo Jones USA
400mH. 52,64 Melaine Walker JAM
HJ. 2,06 Blanka Vlašic CRO
PV. 5,05 WR Yelena Isinbayeva RUS
LJ. 7,12 Naide Gomes POR
TJ. 15,39 Françoise Mbango CMR
SP. 20,98 Nadzeya Ostapchuk BLR
DT. 67,89 Iryna Yatchenko BLR
HT. 77,32 Aksana Menkova BLR
JT. 72,28 WR Barbora Špotáková CZE
Hep. 6733 Nataliya Dobrynska UKR
10KM W. 42.29 Tatyana Kalmykova RUS
20KM W. 1.25.11 Olga Kaniskina RUS
4x100m. 42,24 JAM
4x400m. 3.18,54 USA


Hasay Earns Second Footlocker Title

Mission San Luis Obispo (CA) senior Jordan Hasay, the national high school 1.500m record-holder and Olympic Trials finalist, won her second national cross country title today at Balboa Park in San Diego, charging past 2007 winner Ashley Brasnovan with 150m remaining to become only the sixth repeat winner in meet history.

“It was kind of crazy,” said Hasay, who entered the race as the first four-time West Regional champion, to the San Luis Obispo Telegram-Tribune.

“I didn’t know if I was going to win the race until the last 100 meters. When I crossed the line, I was just so happy.”

Brasovan, a senior from Wellington, Fla., moved ahead of pacesetter Allie McLaughlin with 300 metres left with Hasay also moving up. Then Hasay made her move on the final downhill, which she noted isn’t usually her strongpoint.

“Before the downhill, I thought I was going to get third,” said Hasay, who improved from third place last year (17:31). “I was OK with that. But I’m never going to give up. I’m really competitive. So I kept going.”

"I ran my hardest, and I am still happy with my race. Jordan is an amazing runner, and it was just an honor to race her," Brasovan said to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

Hasay, who finished third in a Brasnovan victory last season, finished her senior cross country season undefeated.

McLaughlin, the Colorado State 5A state champion, finished fifth (17:34).

"I took it out hard," McLaughlin said to the Denver Post. "If I didn't win, I wasn't going to be happy, but I was pretty excited. After the race I felt like I ran the way I wanted to . . . that's just how it is until I work on my finish."

Kathy Kroeger, the 2006 Footlocker national champion and runner-up at last year's edition, placed sixth today (17:42).


Foot Locker Cross Country National Championships
Scoring Teams and Points:

1. Midwest 49 (3 5 9 14 18 21 22)

2. Northeast 51 (7 8 11 12 13 16 17)

3. South 60 (2 4 6 23 25 27 28)

4. West 65 (1 10 15 19 20 24 26)

1 Jordan Hasay (12) (W) Arroyo Grande CA 17:22
2 Ashley Brasovan (12) (S) Wellington FL 17:25
3 Megan Goethals (11) (MW) Rochester MI 17:30

4 Chelsey Sveinsson (10) (S) Dallas TX 17:31

5 Allie McLaughlin (12) (MW) Colorado Springs CO 17:34
6 Kathy Kroeger (12) (S) Franklin TN 17:42

7 Shelby Greany (12) (NE) Suffern NY 17:45

8 Chelsea Ley (11) (NE) Clarksboro NJ 17:49

9 Lindsay Flanagan (12) (MW) Roselle IL 17:50

10 Jessica Tonn (11) (W) Paradise Valley AZ 17:53

11 Emily Lipari (11) (NE) Greenvale NY 17:53

12 Aisling Cuffe (10) (NE) Cornwall On Hudson NY 18:03

13 Emily Jones (12) (NE) Harvard MA 18:11

14 Chelsea Oswald (12) (MW) Medina OH 18:11

15 Danielle Menlove (9) (W) Sandy UT 18:14

16 Laura Vigilante (11) (NE) Brookside NJ 18:14

17 Melanie Thompson (12) (NE) High Bridge NJ 18:18

18 Ashlie Decker (11) (MW) Des Moines IA 18:19

19 Alex Dunne (12) (W) San Clemente CA 18:22

20 Taylor Wallace (12) (W) Klamath Falls OR 18:24

21 Becca Addison (12) (MW) Spring Lake MI 18:24

22 Jordan Tomecek (11) (MW) Milan MI 18:25

23 Lauren Smith (12) (S) Lake Jackson TX 18:27

24 Megan Morgan (11) (W) Del Mar CA 18:30

25 Amanda Russell (11) (S) Cedar Park FL 18:30

26 Jessica Zangmeister (12) (MW) Fairview Park OH 18:30

27 Katie Kellner (12) (NE) West Windsor NJ 18:34

28 Shalaya Kipp (12) (W) Salt Lake City UT 18:37

29 Emily Sisson (11) (MW) Chesterfield MO 18:37

30 Jacque Taylor (11) (W) Petaluma CA 18:38

31 Kirsten Kasper (12) (NE) North Andover MA 18:40
32 Kayla Hale (12) (S) Indialantic FL 18:45

33 Jennifer Lynn Bergman (12) (W) San Jose CA 18:47

34 Sheree Juliann Shea (12) (W) San Diego CA 18:53

35 Adrianne Soo (12) (S) Chapel Hill NC 18:53

36 Diane Robison (11) (MW) Chesterfield MO 18:54

37 Ashley Isham (11) (S) Cedar Park TX 19:00

38 Megan Marsico (11) (S) Salem VA 19:06

39 Kimberly Spano (12) (S) Huntersville NC 19:07

40 Erin Cawley (12) (NE) Newark Valley NY 19:08

Senior Solomon Haile, who won the Northeast Regional title by 12 seconds, defeated Alaskan Trevor Dunbar by seven seconds to win comfortably.

Dunbar finished third at the West Regional last Saturday at Mt. Sac College.

Boys Scoring Teams and Points:

1. Midwest 32 (4 5 6 7 10 13 15)

2. West 51 (2 8 11 14 16 22 23)

3. South 71 (3 12 17 19 20 21 26)

4. Northeast 77 (1 9 18 24 25 27 28)

1 Solomon Haile (12) (NE) Silver Spring MD 15:15
2 Trevor Dunbar (12) (W) Kodiak AK 15:22

3 Thomas Porter (12) (S) Fredericksburg VA 15:26
4 Drew Shields (12) (MW) Fishers IN 15:27
5 Jakub Zivec (12) (MW) Grand Rapids MN 15:29
6 Evan Appel (12) (MW) Littleton CO 15:36
7 Futsum Zeinasellassie (9) (MW) Indianapolis IN 15:40
8 Chris Schwartz (12) (W) Bakersfield CA 15:41
9 Joe Whelan (12) (NE) Hamburg NY 15:44
10 Joseph DeMoor (12) (MW) Buena Vista CO 15:44
11 Brian Shrader (11) (W) Flagstaff AZ 15:45
12 Leoule Degfae (12) (S) Alexandria VA 15:46
13 Danny Pawola (12) (MW) Naperville IL 15:46
14 Shane Moskowitz (11) (W) Bremerton WA 15:47
15 Dylan Sorensen (12) (MW) Zionsville IN 15:48
16 Zachary Torres (12) (W) La Crescenta CA 15:48
17 Andrew Berberick (12) (MW) Littleton CO 15:54
18 CJ Brown (12) (S) Southlake TX 15:54
19 Michael Moverman (12) (NE) North Easton MA 15:54
20 Kyle Satterwhite (12) (S) Charlottesville VA 15:55
21 Matt Sonnenfeldt (12) (S) Knoxville TN 15:56
22 Bill Matthews (12) (S) Birmingham AL 15:56
23 Steve Sulkin (12) (MW) Elmhurst IL 15:58
24 Steve Magnuson (11) (W) Oro Valley AZ 15:59
25 Cody Helbling (11) (W) Coeur d'Alene ID 16:00
26 James Cameron (12) (W) Rancho Santa Margarita CA 16:00
27 George Galasso (12) (NE) Holmdel NJ 16:01
28 Andrew Springer (12) (NE) Westerly RI 16:01
29 Clint McKelvey (11) (S) Maryville TN 16:04
30 Philip Wood (12) (NE) Yardley PA 16:04
31 Ben Furcht (12) (NE) Haverford PA 16:07
32 Phil Galebach (12) (NE) Medford MA 16:11
33 Chase Rathke (12) (S) Katy TX 16:17
34 Tyler Udland (11) (NE) Short Hills NJ 16:18
35 Joseph Manilafasha (12) (MW) Denver CO 16:19
36 Evan Hibbs (12) (S) Georgetown TX 16:25
37 Wyatt Landrum (12) (W) Oakley CA 16:27
38 Karreem Tyre Johnson (12) (W) Gonzales CA 16:44
39 Alex Ott (12) (S) Weyers Cave VA 17:30
40 Brett Johnson (12) (NE) Ocean City NJ 18:41


Final Verdict on Marion Jones: Vol. 63

Written by Eric.

This is the 63rd and final submission in a long series about Marion Jones, a former elite sprinter who won (stole) honour and earned (stole) endorsements, fame and fortune by method of fraud.

This story, now in its final segment, is being told in its entirety, because Marion Jones is unable to do it herself inasmuch as she is more complicit in the BALCO affairs and her own drug-taking than she has led on.

As this series on Marion Jones now draws to a conclusion, one important question continues to arise throughout, namely: Can people prone to dishonesty in certain circumstances ever, under any non-compulsory situation, simply tell the truth?

Marion Jones, following years of nagging, begging, pleading and admonishing you to do just the opposite, wants you to believe anything is possible.

Fortunately, we are not here to solve that mystery of when, if and under which of circumstances they’d be more apt to act accordingly.

However, I’m basing much of my argument over the fact that, yes, indeed, mendacious people can and will do so sans reward, but will also even do so when the very real threat of direct punishment and punitive damages looms overhead.

Your job as peer adjudicators of this case is to first presume that Marion Jones has a clean slate and has never tested positive for any drugs. You owe it to her to reserve judgment until all of the facts in the matter of this case are collected and digested individually despite what my prejudices in the matter are.

You have a fantastic opportunity afforded to you to think critically through logic and reasoning to determine if there is enough convincing evidence to remove every reasonable doubt you could have as to assertions that Marion Jones has deceived, conned, tricked and lied about her involvement with performance-enhancing drugs – from the on-set of her career through to her final brush with danger in the form of a positive EPO test turned negative. If you have a single reasonable doubt about the veracity of her claims, you will be obligated as honorary deliberators to vote “not guilty.”

However steep your path rises in interpreting the truth of what Marion Jones states, nevertheless, the course upon which you will embark will involve an individual detailed mental self-examination of your feelings, thoughts, and motives as they relate to this case compared to the evidences provided on both sides – suggestions of exoneration and those which point to undeniable guilt. Those self-awareness activities have an integral relevance and impact on your belief system and judgment capabilities, and are, therefore elective courses of action for which you will be required to take in order to fairly and accurately play your role in this case for which you have been called.

Marion Jones wanted you to count partial evidences and statements of facts which actually omit fact to determine that, based on those “near truths,” you would be able to make good use of those assets and advantages to help her obtain success in this case. Triumph for Marion Jones and her camp, ladies and gentlemen, would have been a permanent, binding and final judgment on her character leading to no less than a “not guilty” verdict on the whole of her actions and associations, and no deviation from journalists, fans and any investigative agency down paths looking into the sum of the parts making up her character, reputation and achievements. Had she have been exonerated, that is, she would have wanted a cease-and-desist order placed on speculation – present or past.

She was granted no such reprieve, however, and was cast further into the spotlight.

It is because of her past that you sit here looking at her present situation, however, and are being asked by peers prosecuting this case in the public’s court to declare that Marion Jones, the former world an Olympic 100m champion, ineligible from all competitions as a professional athlete and to have her marks, times, places, honours and achievements stricken from historical accounts achieved by clean athletes – or those who have failed, themselves, to have thus far been caught. She has had a block of her history removed – a period between 2000 and 2006, but that accounts only for the time Marion Jones was willing to provide U.S. Federal authorities concerning her drugs-taking.

You, having demonstrated tremendous patience in sifting through the many thousands of words written to establish a case against Marion Jones, will also be requested to indebt Marion Jones to the sport in a manner and fashion appropriate and just for hoodwinking general fans who’d never imagined the degree of deception spun in the inner circles. Forcing Marion Jones to finally speak on her own behalf truths and more truths – and nothing but truth, so help her God – whom she relies on to take care of her financial needs and future, will remove doubt as to how clean waters in Marion Jones’s life turned into mud, why she willingly crossed into deserts wrought with danger, and how she grew wings in 13 weeks to rise past competition which was unmistakably superior in form and experience.

Though details about Marion Jones’s life will present you with factual information on her personal acquisitions and obligations, you are not here to judge the life and times of Marion Jones the free-spender and payment-skipper.

However, in concert with that spending, nonetheless, you will be asked to have her explain in reverse order the sequence of events from her alleged phone call to her attorney back to her testing day at USATF in order to factually capture those events as they occurred – leaving no stone unturned.

You have been told the “truth” as it was presented through Marion Jones and her counsel. You will and shall ask for Marion Jones to verify the truth in reverse chronological order without hesitation to establish if, indeed, the facts fall into place much as she did when preparation of those facts was made.

The significance of this exercise, ladies and gentlemen, is to utilise a manner of truth extrapolation which enforcers of the law who are chosen to investigate claims made under oath to speak the truth operate to better determine veracity of facts provided them. It has been proven effective, and, as Marion Jones has shown a propensity to utilise methods enforced by law officials to verify truths, it should so be carried out.

Establishing truth in that matter will uncover compelling evidence which demonstrates that Marion Jones did have – and used – motive, means and opportunity available to sweep a positive drug test under the rug, and, in so doing, to mask that deception by participating in – or allowing – leaking of those details to cover up her misdeeds.

Those misdeeds, recall, are a long period of performance-enhancing drug use which had previously been called to light, but had never been captured as such until the 18th day of August, 2006.

Inasmuch as untruthful people are also able to have integrity and speak forthrightly on occasion – and sometimes do reach out in peculiar ways as to reveal a misstated fact or omission of accuracy, one can and should trust that those who have previously testified about Marion Jones are persons fully able to reason and act with consequence to the benefit of truthfulness.

That is a fact which you must carefully consider, as said testimony provided on previous occasion in courts of arbitration have condemned – not exonerated – athletes who have made certain claims about themselves. Having been declared guilty based on the information they provided about they, themselves, you shall also carefully consider their testimonies when associating a factor of truth relevant to what they have stated about Marion Jones.

When they have had means and opportunity to make condemning remarks which would have imminently linked Marion Jones to their legal, binding testimony whilst facing their own perilous futures in arbitration courts, each witness has remained conspicuously silent on any and all matters thereof.

The chief provider of information concerning Marion Jones was outspoken on several occasions and faced a lawsuit initiated by Marion Jones’s attorneys on her behalf in an attempt to vigorously explore the possibility of his having defamed her by his statements made on television and through an internet media source. It is due to this previous drugs provider that several athletes were found guilty – both through analytical and non-analytical evidence – of using substances deemed inappropriate and illegal.

Marion Jones escaped a collision with truth and evidence when, having been issued a grant to avoid testifying in his case by means of a plea bargain, the defendant refused to help authorities solve mysteries known solely to the defendant, himself; the cornerstone of evidence available was stowed away and locked.

You now have the terrific responsibility of ascertaining if those statements he made about Marion Jones were authentic and carried with them any significant measure of weight to tie her to wrongdoing.

You will also provide Marion Jones, herself, an opportunity to be as determined to demonstrate the same amount of resolve to be as open about life as she was about concealing her athletics death – with no possibility of an afterlife. This may prove to be a tall order, nonetheless, as prompting Marion Jones to show any true remorse – not a shower of tears – in the matter can be akin to attempting to draw water from a desert weed, as in this instance:

My life does not revolve around having to prove to anyone that I am drug free. I am probably one of the most tested athletes in the world. I have never tested positive for a steroid. The people that know me ... know I would never do anything illegal. I would never take any performance-enhancing drug. I'm not going to degrade myself to prove I'm drug free. I know I am.”[1]

Instead, she degraded herself by changing out of her street clothes into her prison-issued Khaki clothes.

Pause for a moment, if you will, and consider this: It couldn’t be more shocking or more “degrading” for an athlete unprepared for the drugs-testing procedures to submit to those tests the first time they are required to do so. They are followed, watched and observed as they relieve urine into a bottle whilst a person of the same gender watches to ensure no substances are introduced to the specimen and ensure that the specimen content being delivered is that of the selected athlete.

One athlete, Brit Jason Gardener, the four-time European indoor 60m champion who announced his retirement in the early summer of 2007, lamented the idea of anti-doping officers’ participation in the testing process, stating:

And I won't miss someone calling at my house and accompanying me to the toilet, standing less than a metre away and watching me provide a urine sample. I always thought that was an invasion of a human right.”[2]

Having submitted to these tests more than 100 times, there is nothing degrading for Marion Jones as a professional athlete submitting to a process performed by a professional in collecting such samples.

She was, consequently, required whilst an active, non-retired athlete to submit to random testing procedures as agreed upon by her athletics federation, the International Olympic Committee and the world athletics governing body, IAAF.

More than that, she will be banned from the sport for taking illegal drugs.

Had she been further involved in the sport without the drugs confession, she would have been subjected to random and selected testing time and again to prove that she was not taking a drug – the same as every other athlete who is tested is obligated to substantiate.

If Marion Jones had not found the process of frequently leaving random physical specimens degrading, how would the thought of one being requested by an ascertaining body have been considered to be humiliating to establish the same facts?

The results would have proven devastating.

Alas, lest we forget, Marion Jones had a flare for being dramatic to the point of anything which called into question her moral code and values, though it be a combination of choices and associations she had previously made and been a part of which do just that, namely question her claims of being drugs-free.

You now having the means, motive and opportunity to deliberate and reach a verdict on both Marion Jones’s believability and her credibility prior to her confession and testimony. As you take thoughtful, methodical steps to consider the evidences accordingly, I would like you to consider the old biblical parable of the farmer planting his seeds, since Marion Jones is leaving it up to God to sort out her future:

The farmer, whose livelihood depends on skilful seed scattering and crop growing, toils long and hard to spread seed across four lots of property. Some of that seed falls on a path, but pigeons and other birds come and eat it; his first attempt at bringing food to his table will prove unsuccessful as that seed has no chance to spring up and bear fruit.

Having left his future to fate and nature, some of the farmer’s scattered seed will unfortunately be strewn across stony places – which, having no depth to the soil and no cover from the sun, will be parched by the sun’s harsh overhead heat and dies.

Having hope that scattering seeds would grow a crop which would yield food and draw cash for subsistence – but not having any control over where the seed ultimately landed, the farmer would regrettably discover that some seeds consequently tumbled into un-ploughed areas which were unprepared for harvesting with the existing vegetation crowding out the plants and causing them not to grow.

However, given his experience as a farmer – whose life and pursuit of basic needs is reliant on his ability to farm – he knows some seed will fall where he wants it to go, namely to the fertile soil – where they will grow, produce a lively crop and put food on his table until the next season.

Let’s make this practical to your experience here as members of this public discussion.

You, dear friends, are meant to be a representation of the various types of soils, and the seed is reserved to be the message you have been provided to impart knowledge to reason, reason to understanding, understanding to action, action to closure.

The seeds – or impartations of knowledge – in the first three instances in the parable represented information provided to jury members who were given direction but lacked hearing and understanding – people who had made certain determinations in their minds prior to allowing evidences to come into play – being partial rather than impartial in their judgments. They also represented persons who were unable to translate those words of testimony into practical application, and were unable to receive those instructions with all readiness.

Those seeds, as you know, bore no fruit for the farmer.

Now I, believing that you are rational people who, having withstood the duration of this dialogue, are keenly aware of the previous issues at hand sans Marion Jones’s confession – unlike those who would rather have had you hardened to the sum of the truths spoken and softened to the half-truths delivered to conform to a point, also have a willingness to listen and a desire to learn how the facts in this case stacked up against what Marion Jones had stated and what those who had spoken out against her had issued as far as decrees. I don’t believe you would have been allowing yourselves to be susceptible to deceptive speak-talk from Marion Jones nor from me as your guide through this maze of influence.

Consequently, nevertheless, I implore you – having been equipped to carry out such a vital task – to take with great responsibility the burden of toiling in your fields in order to allow fruit to be borne. Take action as you conclude deliberating within yourselves to turn over the soil as it were, and allow new seeds in the sport to grow in place of the withered weeds which, if they were to have continued to root deeper into the garden of athletics life, would have choked and rotted life out of all else in its field.

You face a challenge of uprooting – digging out – the choking, wild vegetation which resembled Marion Jones in the sport, and removing with it all records of note; all recorded times and distances; all marks and placing; all medals won outside of the statute of limitations; and all remnants which remain of Marion Jones planted into the sport as a wild weed by way of abuse of performance-enhancing substances. The issue that presents itself is what amount of punishment is sufficient, but not greater than necessary, to impose a just sentence in Marion Jones’s case. Reaching your agreed-upon conclusion may cause inconvenience insofar as you may hold an unpopular viewpoint, though in light of her confession (and apparent lack of sincerity), you may have more support than you had counted on.

It is the power which you have – of a public with a singular opinion – which can ensure life, liberty and the pursuit of athletics achievement can be done with passion for the sport and respect for those who also wilfully partake in such endeavours in a manner and fashion which is both legal and ethical, and holds the sport in a good light.

Marion Jones is not such a person who has any respect for the sport, though she wanted you to have believed otherwise, as demonstrated pursuant to her Millrose short-sprint victory, which followed a 14-month absence for child-birth and rearing.

That buzz, the feeling was so overwhelming,” Jones said. “I looked around the arena and said, ‘This is where I belong - among people who love this sport.’”. [3]

People truly in love with the purity of the sport don’t want Marion Jones, however. Perhaps they are in the minority – at least according to an ESPN report in 2007:

But do you see any kind of mass revolt by fans demanding a cleanup? Anyone boycotting the ballpark? Not according to attendance figures pretty much across the landscape of major sports.

We're too emotionally invested to pull out. We love the great performances too much. We want to believe in the 70-homer season, the 40-year-old Olympic swimmer, the world-record sprinter. Sometimes, we want to believe it too much.

Maybe that willingness to suspend disbelief is why athletes always plead their innocence despite evidence to the contrary. They figure we'll buy anything. [4]

Marion Jones-Thompson, a married woman, has moved on with life and, following her penal code issues – including prison and probation, will follow the pursuit of her goals outside of the track stadium. She will attempt to turn over her own new leaf with her husband, their infant child and her previous one from Tim Montgomery, but she will first reap in prison what she sowed far away in North Carolina.

This series hasn’t been about the movement of Marion Jones-Thompson, nor is it about the private steps she, as a non-athlete, has decided to take much the same as with the end of her previous existence – alone and secluded.

Marion Lois Jones the athlete, however, had a passion for winning, but did not have a respect for self, for others or for the sport which provided her a platform upon which to seize the opportunity to vigorously – yet legally – pursue those winning achievements against her desired goals. That Ms. Jones, ladies and gentlemen, did wilfully and deliberately make conscious choices to cheat the sport of athletics, of which the nature and circumstances of her offenses require a public-opinion sentence imposed that reflects the seriousness of her misconduct and promote respect for the law which governs her sport.

Based on the foregoing, I trust that you, the fans of this sport who have also stood by throughout the course of this manuscript, having been led to it by your unending support of the sport of athletics through continued engagement of activities and participation – having respect for the principles of fair competition and of the laws which govern the application of those principles – will agree that a term of lifetime exile from this sport’s esteemed places – with all of its rewards and adulation – will be sufficient but not greater than necessary to end the rain of deceit and cover-up of those actions by Marion Lois Jones, a former Olympic and World Champion who achieved these distinctions by method of fraud.

Gail Devers, the USA 100m hurdle record-holder, speaking on the Marion Jones topic following the self-confession, stated:

My first thought was to say a prayer for her and her family and whatever she is going through. That's all we can do is pray. I am not the judge or jury,” Devers said. “All I ask is that she asks God for forgiveness and that her family and particularly her son will be shielded from any harm.”[5]

Paul Doyle, Asafa Powell’s agent, was less than forgiving on the matter, believing much harsher penalties should await Marion Jones.

I think personally athletes should be going to jail if they knowingly cheat. It is fraud, and sport is a big business now, and if you commit fraud in business, you should go to jail. I think honestly the only way we can deter young, upcoming kids who think drugs is the only way to be successful is if we can get really harsh and have jail time.”[6]

I by no means am casting the first stone at Marion Jones, nor the second or the third... or any for that matter. I realise completely that none of us is perfect in word or deed. Moreover, despite what injustice one may perceive that Marion Jones has committed against them, her athletics governing body, the international body governing them and the anti-doping folks really are virtually the only ones who own the right to take aim at her athletics career.

And, they have chopped hard against the grain of cheating which had been Marion Jones’s career.

My personal wish has been for enough people to gather small pebbles and create a cloud of dust, to provide Marion Jones the point to take a long hike back into the wilderness and simply disappear into the night away from the sport in any capacity forever. Her records from 2000-September-1 onward – including 24 of her sub-11 second 100m performances – have been annulled, providing a great doorway for her to move on through.

Then again, in being prejudiced on this topic, I am not one for much wishful thinking. Somehow, Marion Jones will never simply go away.

That is good news for the IAAF, which hopes to bank on the account of improprieties Marion Jones has stashed now that she has been released from prison.

There is a lot of sadness for Marion and her family.

Six months in prison is a lot, but you do hope that it will be a deterrent to others.

Hopefully when she is out of prison she can help the IAAF and other organisations to ensure that other people don't follow the path that she certainly followed.

It (her doping) has certainly hurt the image of the sport.”[7]

Lauryn Williams, whose agent spoke vehemently about Marion Jones as quoted earlier in the book, hopes Marion Jones also can contribute something positive back to the sport. Perhaps Marion Jones can find it in her calloused heart to give graciously and freely of herself in order to provide positive change and direction for the many thousands of children, teens and even young adults who were waiting on her every race with great anticipation.

Said Williams on her WCSN.com blog:

Why I believe her situation is unfortunate is because she has created a life outside of track and field. And that life consists of two children and a new husband. Her children, will have a period in their life w/o a mother due to the decisions she’s made in the past and/or the people she chose to associate herself with. That is unfair to them.

So now maybe u can understand ‘unfortunate’ because now her past has caught up to her present and will effect not only her future but her children’s future.”

I asked this question before I met her in 2004. What did she contribute to our sport so far? I saw plenty of commercials and interviews but I have never heard about anyone saying that Marion contributed anything to the sport off the track.

It is 2007, and I still wonder what other than run fast did she do to improve the sport for everyone??

I think Marion owes us something. She should make an effort to redeem the sport. She shouldn’t go hide now in shame. She should speak to children about how not to make the same mistake. She should discuss with USADA what they can do better, and at meets make herself available to answer questions to fans of the sport. She should serve on a panel at the USATF national convention this December where we can ask her whatever we want about how this happened and explain to her how we feel. Also there should also be a tell all that explains the whole story and how it unfolded. Many people don’t condone writing a book that tells a story of conspiracy, fraud and other negative behavior by an author.”[8]

I hope and trust that you tend to agree, and will shun away any such attempts from Marion Jones should she ever decide to tell all just for the money.

Everything she has done from 1997 onward with respect to track and field has been about the money. It would be wiser counsel to have her simply escape into yonder to raise her two children and attempt to be a good wife... now that her prison sentence has concluded.

Then, and only then, can she follow her dreams and wishes to tell her children the story about the life and times of a woman who twice lied and wasn’t home to put them to sleep.

My passion in life has always been my family,” Jones said.

I know the day is quickly approaching when my boys ask me about these current events. I intend to be honest and forthright ... and guide them into not making the same mistakes.”

As everyone can imagine, I'm very disappointed.

But as I stood in front of all of you for years in victory, I stand in front of you today. I stand for what is right.

I respect the judge's order, and I truly hope that people will learn from my mistakes.[9]

Those were truly costly mistakes, and, unfortunately ones to which she still has not completely erased by virtue of withholding important information from the beginning stage of her career.

And of Victor Conte, whose connections to Marion Jones have been both for better and for worse?

I feel very sad for Marion and her family. Marion did make some very poor choices and she does deserve serious consequences.

There is no doubt in my mind that she has learned gigantic lessons.

Hopefully, she will be able to serve as an example to others and help them to make good decisions.

I certainly don't condone her repeated lies, but I do feel especially bad for Marion's mother and her two children.

Marion was one of the most celebrated athletes in Olympic history and her mistakes have caused her to be stripped of everything she worked so very hard to achieve.”[10]

Marion Jones-Thompson will have time to change her course and add back to society whilst performing a number of community-service hours – 800 to be exact – 400 for each of the two years of probation she will be on now following her incarceration’s completion date. Judge Karas, who spared her a fine due to her stated lack of money, recommended that Marion Jones-Thompson work with the USOC and USATF to educate children and school-age athletes about the importance of competing without cheating.

According to Karas, Marion Jones’s involvement with children would “take advantage of Ms. Jones-Thompson’s eloquence, strength and her ability to work with kids,” and would teach children that “it’s wrong to cheat and to lie about the cheating.”[11]

Six months of confinement in the detention centre should have provided Marion Jones-Thompson some reading time and many an hour to contemplate her future steps in life. They should have also provided her time to read about the Federal government laying into Graham and associates in his Federal trial – one which she was on standby as a witness.

If she has learned her lesson in this case – one which ends with her forced to spend time away from two sons – one of whom is still nursing, she will tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help her God. If she has decided to take criminal advice from inmates whose own strokes of luck didn't help – rather hurt – their short- and medium-term free movements and ability to choose when they want to arise and go to bed, she'll land in an even bigger mess with harsher consequence and an upgraded prison facility with higher walls and an extra set of razor-wired fence the next time a trial of any significance comes her direction.

The choice is now Marion Jones-Thompson's to make. She, wanting to be a catalyst to help others, must start off by being truthful to herself. Once she has her inner-demons figured out - those which bring out the sociopathic tendencies in her - she can seek advice to begin changing her ways. She's been in prison - a place where lies, lies and more lies have gotten a majority of the women in there, and where lies, lies and more lies rule the inner walls where it is challenging to trust your neighbor in the two-floor dormitory setting which houses the 1.000 women there.

If she has made good use of her time in helping others help themselves, Marion Jones-Thompson may find that honesty really is the best policy to ensure she has a decent shot at a good future and can be a respectable member of society who works for a living and pulls her own weight legally, lawfully and respectfully.

Carswell Federal Medical Center in Fort Worth, Texas would have allowed Marion Jones-Thompson to use her college degree within the prison walls had she spent any considerable time at the prison. Though a communication specialist, she could have been granted an opportunity through the prison system to tutor and mentor women who are working toward earning their GED certificates; her short, six-month stay will keep her on simpler duties, however.

Notwithstanding, she will have witnessed no greater truth than observing the varying levels of education women in the facility will possess as she interacted with them – from describing a chore to asking to have the salt passed across the chow table. There is little wiggle room for a person behind on math or without a good grasp of the English language to fake their way to a passing score.

The women with whom she interacted – each with a specific inmate number and offense committed against the government, just like Marion Jones – were on her level, not beneath it. To some she will have wished to have been invisible. To others, she may have befriended on cordial terms – especially the three women with whom she will share a living quarters; room inspections occur five times weekly as well as a unit inspection. Marion Jones was responsible for her room. Teamwork – something Marion Jones has previously taken for granted for her own gain – will have come in handy at Carswell Federal Medical Center, as inmates in her unit are likely to co-operate on duties to get the work done quicker.

The important lesson she will have needed to learn on the prison premises is that lying – misstating the truth – can – and often does – have disastrous consequences, as rules behind the walls are often harsher than rules on the outside – even if those walls are erected around minimum-security facility.

Marion Jones-Thompson had an opportunity to make a difference to these women in food-service job (dish detail or a cooking duty), and by doing so, to start making a difference to herself. It can provide an excellent platform for her – an individual who needed time away from being in the centre of attention with a captive audience.

Her alternative was to work on the compound landscaping, scrubbing washroom walls, showers and toilets depending on what availability the prison, listed on the Federal bureau of prisons, as being approximately 10 inmates short of capacity, has available.

Her postal codes changed significantly over the past year, as she occupied space in a building located at Carswell Federal Medical Center in Fort Worth, Texas – a facility located more than 100 miles from her home, and, subsequently in the half-way house where she spent her final two weeks before being released. Perhaps moving from her castle to shantytown to the slums – where writings on the walls tell stories of worry, frustration and a longing to be free will lbe the liberation Marion Jones needed.

Then again, as time has shown on more than one occasion, it may only turn her resolve to maintain her inner strength ever the more powerful resulting in hardness and another facade under which to live, hide and escape when the pressures mount. She appeared on Oprah in late October to be the same person she was prior to entering the penal system: a calculating liar.

She had two months to prepare herself for entry into the penal system and her boot camp. She's had six additional months to figure out what to do with the rest of her life as well as the two years and 800 hours to commit to a plan to give back to the sport from which she robbed.

Until such time that her Department of Corrections obligations are satisfied, she can practice playing the children's game “Truth or Dare?” with her eldest son and see how many times she can pick the former, rather than the latter. She has more than her tattered and permanently damaged reputation on the line.

And so it was, and shall always be, important to tell the truth one word at a time in order to avoid daring anyone else to sue, to judge or to throw away they key for any period of time, however great or small.


[1] San Francisco Chronicle, “Marion Jones isn’t running ... steroid controversy”, 2004-05-14 [2] The Evening Standard, “Gardener Dig At the Cheats as He Hangs Up Spikes,” 2007-08-03 [3] New York Daily News, “Marion Jones back on track at the Millrose Games,” 2004-02-09
[4] ESPN.com, “Forde: We love ’em and can’t leave ‘em”, 2007-08-09
LA Daily News, “Track star Marion Jones admits lying about use of banned drugs,” 2007-10-06
[6] International Herald Tribune, “Marion Jones makes right decision, but truth comes too late”, 2007-10-09
[7] The Guardian, “Officials hope Jones sentence will be deterrent”, 2008-01-11
[8] WCSN.com – Lauryn Williams Blog Entry, “Thoughts on Jones”, 2007-10-09
[9] Sportinglife.com, “Jones Hopes Prison Sentence Is A Lesson To All,” 2008-01-11
[10] BBC Sport, “Jones punishment is fair – Lewis”, 2008-01-11
[11] MSNBC, “Marion Jones sentenced to 6 months in prison,” 2008-01-11