World Campionships, Helsinki - 2005

Rolling Diary by Mark Foyer (Half Moon Bay Review)

World Champs Photos

Day 9

Hello from Helsinki, where the weather is perfect for a late season cross country meet. The sun has gone into the witness protection program since early Tuesday evening. All of yesterday's events were contested in the rain. The final for the women's pole was postponed until Friday due to significant winds that were blowing at Olympic Stadium. Just about everyone that there was no morning session Thursday. We could all catch up on some sleep. There have been plenty of surprises. Probably none was more surprising that Tianna Madison of the US winning the women's long jump. She in fourth heading into the fifth round when she unleashed a wind-legal jump of 21-11.5 to take the lead. No one came close to surpassing Madison, the second youngest member of the team by nine months. Of the seven youngest members of the team, three have medals (Madison, Sanya Richards took silver in the 400 and Chaunte Howard got a silver in the high jump) one (Jeremy Warnier, 400) is in the final of his event, another (Allyson Felix, 200) is in the semi final of her event and Kerron Clement is in the pool for the 4x400 relay. Triple jumper Erica McLain is the youngest team member. The mix zone, where the athletes meet the reporters, has proven to be pretty tame. That's unlike Paris where pushing and shoving seemed to be the normal. The lowlight came on the final day at Paris when a little female 5-foot something TV reporter from the Carribean Broadcasting System, claiming to be the most important person in the entire mix zone, punched in the mouth a female writer from Australia. While the writer shoocked and seemed to take it in stride little Miss TV Star acted like a prima donna, claiming that she needed the interview at that moment. It wasn't a live feed. The reporters seemed to be much more tame this year. At that adidas gathering last week, everyone was very patient while waiting to talk to whoever they wanted to talk to. It was the same thing in the 1-on-1 session with Carolina Kluft of Sweden. We'll see how long the tameness lasts. The marathon is coming up this weekend. It will be a challenge as part of the course has the runners going over some of the cobblestones of Helsinki. Despite the weather, Helsinki is a beautiful city. If you have a chance, come see Helsinki.

Day 8

Hello from Helsinki where the fourth night of the World Track and Field Championships ended like all the other nights, with an American standing on the top step of the podium. But Bershanw Jackson's victory in the 400 took second billing to Mother Nature. A slight rain hit the Olympic Stadium shortly after the evening session had begun. An hour into the session, the rain turned into an intense affair, forcing the meeting to be suspended for two hours. At the time of the postponement, the high jump portion of the decathlon was winding down and the second heat of the women's 100 hurdles just about to begin. The runners were in the set position as the deluge intensified. Instead of hear the starters gun, the runners were called out of the blocks and sent back to the warm up room, where they were able to dry off and wait out the rain. They along with the fans and the media wait for some two hours for the rains to stop and the meet to continue. At times, the storm brought strong winds, blowing over umbrellas and a little shelter used for the decathletes to try and stay dry. But that portion of the storm, the infield was cleared of most people and most fans not lucky enough to be sitting under a covering left their seats. Some people were drying to dry the high jump apron when it appeared that the storm was letting up. But once the rain intensified, they just left and waited for the rain to stop. Not all the events scheduled for Tuesday were contested. Both the quarterfinals of the men's 200 and the men's triple jump trials were pushed back to Wednesday. The women's discus finals take place Thursday. As for the 400 hurdles, it was rain in a light rain. Jackson ran a solid race, pulling away from the field down the stretch to get the win. James Carter, who in the last two Olympics finished four, was second. Kerron Clement barely missed out on the bronze, finishing fourth. Helsinki could be considered the one place where if someone doesn't like the weather, wait a few minutes, for it will change. The afternoon session took place under sunny skies, with a stiff breeze. Grace Upshaw, living in the Peninsula, and Jackie Edwards, competing for the Bahamas and living in San Jose, both advanced to the finals in the long jump. The decathlon concludes Wednesday. It could be a battle as Bryan Clay holds a slight lead over Roman Serble of the Czeck Republic. The women's long jump, pole vault and 400 will be decided Wednesday, along with the men's 1,500.

Day 7

Hello from a wet Helsinki where a couple of American women have to create some space in their luggage for medals. Lauryn Williams claimed the top prize, after winning the 100 in 10.93 seconds. Veronica Campbell of Jamaica was second with France?s Christine Arron third. Meanwhile, in the women's high jump, Chaunte Howard was second at 6-6.75. Williams flew out of the blocks, ran a smart race and came away with the gold. She finished second in the Olympics last year. Campbell came charging down at the end. But Williams had enough at the end to claim the title. It was obvious from watching the race on the monitor in the mix zone that she had won. However, Williams didn't believe that had the race won until she saw the results on the scoreboard. She didn't want to celebrate too soon. It had rained for most of the day in Helsinki. But the rain let up for the start of the evening session. However, the rain came back in full just as the 100 runner were standing at the blocks. The rain continued long after the race ended, with Williams getting pelted by the moisture while holding up the American flag. It was almost like back in 1968 when Wyomia Tyus stood at the victory podium in a heavy shower. Williams has a great personality. In the mix zone, she stated that she had drunk her milk that morning. She proceeded to repeat the Milk Board line, "Milk, it does a body good." Hey Milk Board, I got someone for you. Howard and champ Kajsa Berquist of Sweden battled make for make in the high jump. Even after knowing that a medal would be hers, she still had that fight to get the gold. It came up just a bit short. One other note from the track was the strong showing by Alan Webb in the 1,500 meters. In his semifinal heat, He built a 10-meter lead for most of the way, before Rashid Ramzi of Bahrain caught Webb and pulled away at the end. The final for the 1,500 will be Wednesday night.

Day 6

The second day of the 10th World Track and Field Championships have come to a close, and what a close it was. Justin Gatlin, last year's Olympic champion didn't just win the 100 tonight, he blew away the field. His margin of victory 17/100ths of a second, is the largest in World Track and Field Championship history. He didn't look good in the semifinals, but he got the job done. On the other side of things, another great champion may be saying farewell. Staci Draglia, the great pole vaulter, failed to advance to the finals. The wear and tear may be starting to take its toll. But don't cry for her, for her career is of what legends are made of. She won the first pole vault title and the first Olympic title. For this event, go with Yelena Isinbayeva of Russia. The current world record holder is clearly head and shoulders above the rest. Her final clearance of the day was at 14 7.25 The way she flew over the bar, she could have easily cleared 16-6. She is the current record holder, having cleared 16-4.75 just a few weeks ago. Speaking of world records, a record was set in the 20 kilometer race walk. Olimpiada Ivanova of Russia completed the course in 1 hour, 25 minutes, 41 seconds. the previous best of 1:26.22 was held by Yan Wang of China (set in 2001) and Yelena Nikolayeva of Russia (set in 2003). Making it more impressive was when Ivanova entered the stadium, someone threw her the Russian flag. She maintained the proper form while unfolding the flag. Finally, Carolina Kluft of Sweden claimed the title of the best woman athlete in the world by winning the heptathlon. Not only did she have to battle herself, she also had to hold off a fierce challenge of Eunice Barber of France. Kluft claimed the title by 63 points. Not only is it safe to say that Kluft is the best female athlete in the world, but Barber is the second best. Monday's session includes the finals of the women's 100. Look for Lauren Williams, last year's silver medalist in the Olympics to claim the title. If she doesn't do it, then it could be Lisa Barber. Christine Arron of France, Chandra Sturrup of the Bahamas and Serone Simpson of Jamacia should also be in the hunt. The race should be closer than tonight's finals.

Day 5 (1st day of RACIN')

Hello from a damp Helsinki. The first day of the meet ended on a rainy night in Helsinki. But for Adam Nelson, the weather was not an issue. He won the shot put. It's his first major international senior title. He was a Junior world champion about 10 years ago. As you probably know, he got off his winning throw with his first throw. As soon as the ball landed, the crowd knew he did something special. They roared their approval. Nelson gave it right back to the crowd. Off the track, Nelson is very laid back. But once the competition starts, it's a very different story. He places his shot put near the ring, then walks a few feet back. He then yells a bit, rips off his short and tosses it aside, walks to the ring, picks up the shot, then enters the ring. He gives a solid spin, and lets loose. The crowd, already giddy with two Finns among the finalists, fed energy to the competitors. When it was over, Nelson turned into a very humble but satsifed winner. He was back to his normal self. But he was humbled by the win. On the other side of the coin was John Godina. The three-time world champion, failed to advance to the finals. An array of injuries had taken their toll. He stated that in meeting with the media after the qualifying round. Though nothing is finalized, it's safe to assume that this will be it for Godina for the year. But not his career, he said that wants to compete until he's 40. That will be the year of the London Olympics. Now, for a few other thoughts off the track. There was a media party on Friday night. It was held near the docks. This was a quality gathering because music and entertainment was provided. But one of the hosts, telling a Dick Emberg story, wasn't aware if he was still working. Naturally, I had to inform the host of the fact that Emberg is still with CBS. Oh my. The whole area around the stadium is filled with an array of excitement. Across the way from the stadium is a large food court. Not only can one get a wide variety of food, but also a wide variety of drinks. There are also plenty of sponsored shops along the compound toward the stadium. Being that is 2005, security is very tight here. There are X-ray machines for bags and people. Those of us in the media, have to go through both twice. The first time is when we enter the media centre. Then when we leave the centre, we are joined with the general public. While we enter in a different part of the stadium then the fans, we have to go through the same security checks again. It's part of the times we live in. It's different from Paris where everyone's bags were searched but not placed in an X-ray machine. The press still had to go through one. The schedule for today includes finals in heptathlon, men's discus, women's triple jump and men's 100. In the 100, don't expect a fast time since the weather has been cool for the last few days. It rained during the Opening Ceremonies last night. Though the sun has come out now, the weather is a bit cool, but comfortable. Two hours before the finals in the 100 are the semis. The U.S.īLeonard Scott, Shawn Crawford and Portgualīs Francis Obikwelu should move on from Heat 1. Heat 2 is loaded. Justin Gatlin, defending champ Kim Collins and Darrel Brown from Trinidad and Tobago should advance to the finals.

Day 4

Here we are, minus one day until the start of the meet. It's easy to tell that the meet is coming up soon. More members of the media are in the media centre. Three days ago, the centre was so empty that you could have fired a cannon ball through the center and not hit anyone. That's not the case today as members of the media are coming and going, situated by one of the dozens of computers, either sending e-mails or doing research. I'm guessing that the room is about 20 yards in length and 20 yards in width. There is also an array of tables lined up for the media to do their work. It bears repeating. Helsinki should be the permanent home of the World Track and Field Championships. The US held one final press conference this morning with Allen Johnson, Michelle Perry, Joanna Hayes and Sanya Richards. I guess Richards was there to prove that Americans can do things besides just hurdle. Richards hopes to medal in the 400, where she has the leading time in the world. She finished sixth at the Olympics last year, and wants to make it to the podium this year. She was happy with getting the gold in the 4x400 last year, but an individual medal would mean something to her. If Johnson wins, he will be the first runner to win five world running titles. That's giving him plenty of motivation. He knows that with all the quality sprinters here, this will be an effort. If it rains for the finals of the women's 100 hurdles and Hayes is in the field, don't expect to wear her sunglasses. The water could cause a hindrance. She won without them on in a race in Paris. If it's not raining, expect anything. Perry, who was good in the heptathlon, has turned into a major star in the hurdles. She said she might return to the hep next year. The heptathlon starts tomorrow and there's an overwhelming favorite in Sweden's Carolina Kluft. She has cleared the 7,000-point barrier. Just a kid at 22, she already has won the Olympics and claimed the World Title two years ago. Comparisons are being made to Jackie Joyner-Kersee. She however hates any comparisons. She says they are not fair. She doesn't have time to think being the next Jackie. She has too much work trying to be a better Carolina. If she can surpass her personal best by one point, she will be stoked. Perry knows that to win the world title, one must be better than perfect in six events to beat Kluft. Kluft has a big following in Sweden. However, according to one member of the Swedish team, she's not as big as the great band of the 70s and 80s, ABBA. The first competition starts in less than 17 hours. Let the fun begin

Day 3

Here are some thoughts as we reach two days to go until the meet begins. This is my Third World meet. Without having one race run, or field event contested, the first gold medal of the meet can already be awarded to the meet organizers. This group has looked at the big picture of the meet, and broken each picture down to such a small size, figuring out the needs of all media people, about 3,500 of us, including about 1,000 writers. Take USA Track and Field. Its two media people, Susan Hazzard and Tom Surber, are helping the press arrange interviews. The USATF offices are right next to the press tent, which is located a few feet away from the mix zone which is right next to the stadium. Unlike in Paris, it's a short walk for a member of the media to get information on a US athlete who did something that no one predicted. Speaking of the USATF, the media officers do a great deal of good work to make sure that the media knows everything about the athletes. In addition to setting up interviews, they provide daily media releases, and have produced a book on all the athletes in the media, as well as a suppliment, updating those athletes who last-minute additions. That includes members of the relay pool. USATF understands its roll in trying to get the word out. In addition, Tom Surber and Susan Hazzard are two quality people. They work very hard. That shows. Four members of the track team held a press conference yesterday. Kerron Clement has burst on the world scene in the 400 hurdles. It should be tough for him to win the 400 hurdles, since Felix Sanchez of the Domincan Republic is still the favorite. Clement has gained success in the 400 dash as well. Look for him to do both races next year. Long jumper Dwight Phillips is bursting with confidence. The defending Olympic and World Champion welcomes all challengers. He feels that anyone who has a desire to win must go through him. Winning does breed that confidence. Sprinter Justin Gatlin shows a quiet deal of confidence. He does understand the sport. He knows that if he wins, which he is the favorite, people will still be talking about how he won without Asafa Powell in the field. (Powell withdrew from the 100 due to an injury.) Allyson Felix, entered in the 200, has talked about maybe doing the 100 someday. She's still learning about it. In the meantime, she's still a college student. She returns to the US on Aug. 27 and resumes school at USC on Aug. 29. She hopes that her brother will buy her books. For those who always wanted to be a sports writer, this morning's gathering put on by Adidas. After introducing a new line of gear, woth Polar, some of the Adidas athletes were available for interviews. They put Maurice Greene in a little run with a cage outside of it. Plenty of reporters gathered around to hear from him. When they were done, TV people came by asking the same questions. Maurice was a good sport about it, but it would get tiring. Before the introduction of the athletes, Adidas and Polar introduced a new line of products to help make athletes faster. It includes a heart monitor for the chest area. So, far all you women who want to pluck down about $700, you will get the shoes, the shirt, the monitor and the cardiobra. Isn't technology wonderful? Which brings us this item. The mix zone, and there will be more written about the mix zone as the meet progresses, is the area where the athletes and the journalists gather for post competition interviews. I have just leanred that next to the mix zone, and this is a first for me, is a beer concession. I have no further comment. That's all for now.

Day 2

Here I am in the Main Media Centre in Helsinki, the site of the 10th World Track and Field Championships. The centre is located about 150 meters to the west of the stadium. Right now, all is quiet here as work is being done to get ready for the start of the meet. It's here in the centre. But it will get busy over the next two days. I think they said about 10,000 media people will be here. I got in yesterday and discovered to my great joy that the two people working as media liasons from U.S.A. Track and Field are at my hotel. I wasn't here but 10 seconds when I just threw my stuff in my hotel room, changed shoes and headed out to the stadium to get my press badge. (We need stinkin' badges!) After being up for nearly 23 hours, I headed back to the hotel, slept for a few hours, ate some dinner, then slept some more. The next few days will be devoted to get some sightseeing done. The meet starts Saturday and it will busy time. One thing to look forward to off the track: Monday I'll be taking a tour of the venues used for the 1952 Olympics. The touir guide? The one, the only the GREAT Lasse Viren. For those not in the know, Viren won the 5,000 and 10,000 meters at the 1972 and 1976 Olympics. He also entered in the marathon in 1976, where he finished fifth. There's a statue of him outside of the stadium. That's all for now.