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.
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.