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.
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