IAAF stays cool, chooses London
While the international track-and-field federation made what should have been the obvious choice last week when it picked London over Doha as host of the 2017 world outdoor championships, what’s telling is that 10 of the IAAF council’s 26 voters opted for Qatar’s scorching heat, just as the international soccer federation did last year when it awarded the 2022 World Cup to the oil-rich sheikhdom.
The only reason to select Doha, where temperatures run to triple figures even in September, was petro-bucks. Its $236 million bid, which would have required renovating and air-conditioning the Khalifa stadium, included $29 million in sponsorship cash for the IAAF.
What London offered was its $780 million Olympic stadium, a track-mad populace that would fill it, and decidedly more favorable conditions for the athletes. Once London agreed to keep the stadium track after the Games there was no reason other than money to go with Doha, which wanted to stage the planet’s three biggest sporting events, including the Summer Olympics, within five years.
The IAAF, which is not renowned for making logical decisions, made another head-scratcher last week when it reversed itself and declared that Paula Radcliffe’s world marathon record of 2 hours, 15 minutes and 25 seconds, would stand after all. The federation had said last summer that women’s marks set in mixed-gender races would not count. But after catching flak from race organizers and runners, the IAAF reversed course. “Nobody will cancel the record of Paula,’’ declared council member Helmut Digel. “That is sure. Her record will never be diminished.’’ What the IAAF may do, and should have done years ago, is list separate world records for all-female and mixed-gender races. As it is, Radcliffe would hold both . . . Will the Kenyan federation have a spring raceoff to decide who makes its Olympic men’s marathon team? That may be the best way to decide which of its champions are odd men out. The selectors already have tapped world recordholder Patrick Makau and global champion Abel Kirui, and Geoffrey Mutai would appear to have locked up the third spot after winning both Boston and New York in course-record times. That would leave out two of the year’s three fastest men, though, in Emmanuel Mutai (a course-record 2 hours, 4 minutes, 40 seconds in London) and Wilson Kipsang, who ran 2:03:42 in Frankfurt last month. The simple solution would be to have those five go head-to-head in London in April, but that would require them to peak early and run their Games’ race four months ahead of time. In any case, it’s a luxurious problem to have.
Joe Frazier’s death last week brought back memories of the Olympic glory days for US amateur superheavyweights during the ’60s. Not only did he, George Foreman, and Cassius Clay (as a light heavy) win gold medals, they also went on to win undisputed heavyweight crowns as pros. No American superheavy since 1968 has won the Olympic title against a full field and none has medaled since Riddick Bowe in 1988. Michael Hunter didn’t qualify for the 2008 Games and Lenroy Thompson lost his second bout at the recent world championships and missed a chance to earn his ticket to London . . . Should female boxers wear skirts instead of shorts in the Olympic ring? That’s what the international federation will debate in January as the women prepare to make their Games debut in London. So far their response has been predictably negative - only two fighters at last month’s European championships wore skirts. “I don’t even wear miniskirts on a night out,’’ said Ireland’s Katie Taylor, the three-time world titlist. “So I definitely won’t be wearing miniskirts in the ring.’’
Apolo Anton Ohno, who won eight Olympic short-track speedskating medals circling a 111-meter oval, developed some world-class cramps in his 26-mile debut in New York. “I guess I can check this off on my bucket list,’’ he said after finishing the marathon in 3:25:14. Ohno, who hasn’t competed on skates since last year’s Olympics, hasn’t made up his mind about whether he’ll try to make his fourth Games in 2014. “Time is definitely ticking,’’ he said. “I’ve never completely ruled it out.’’ . . . Shani Davis and Heather Richardson, who each won individual event titles last season, will anchor the US speedskating team for the World Cup circuit that begins next weekend in Chelyabinsk, Russia. Davis, the two-time global all-around champion who also has earned a sprint crown, is favored to win the 1,500 and Richardson is the woman to beat in the 1,000. Also in the mix will be distance skater Jilleanne Rookard, sprinter Tucker Fredricks, and Olympic pursuit medalists Jonathan Kuck and Brian Hansen.
Michael Phelps laid down a marker at last weekend’s Grand Prix opener in Minneapolis, going 5 for 5 in the 100 and 200-meter butterfly, 200 freestyle, 100 backstroke, and 200 individual medley. Phelps easily won his head-to-head-meetings in the 100 back and 100 fly against domestic archrival Ryan Lochte, who’s still getting up to speed . . . Brandon Mroz made a historic leap last weekend at the NHK Trophy event in Sapporo by landing the first quadruple lutz jump in international competition. Problem was, the US skater went splat in the long program, finishing in last place among the nine entrants. Watertown resident Ross Miner, though, jumped up from sixth to win the bronze medal for his first Grand Prix podium finish and put himself in title contention for the January national championships . . . The US men’s soccer team will get to play the Olympic regional qualifying tournament on home turf next spring. After prelims in Nashville and Carson, Calif., the semis and finals of the eight-country event will be held in Kansas City, with the top two earning tickets to London.
The star-spangled empire struck back in Sweden last weekend as the US women’s ice hockey team, which earlier had lost by two goals to the Canadians, busted them, 4-3, in a shootout to win the Four Nations Cup for the first time since 2008, when the Americans did it the same way. Their next big meeting will be at the April world championships in Burlington, Vt., where the archrivals face off in the opener . . . Roger Christian, who died last week at 75, had what might have been the greatest 18 hours in Olympic ice hockey history at Squaw Valley in 1960. After setting up brother Billy for the tying and winning goals against the Soviet Union on Saturday, he scored four himself, including a third-period hat trick, in the come-from-behind victory against Czechoslovakia for the gold medal on Sunday morning . . . Clarence DeMar, the legendary marathoner who competed in three Olympics and won a record seven Boston Marathons, will be enshrined next month in the National Track and Field Hall of Fame. DeMar, whose 1924 bronze was the last medal by an American until Frank Shorter’s 1972 gold, will be joined by Craig Virgin, the 1981 Boston runnerup, as well as gold medalists Gail Devers, Maurice Greene, and Vince Matthews and Bob Timmons, who coached seven Olympians, including Al Oerter and Jim Ryun.
John Powers can be reached at email@example.com; material from Olympic committees, sports federations, personal interviews, and wire services was used in this report.