Category Archives: Amateur and Olympic Sports

Just let her run!

It seems that the world can’t stop talking about Caster Semenya….and casting dispersions.  After her 2nd place finish in the 800m final at the London Olympics, commentator Colin Jackson suggested she wasn’t trying (so she could avoid renewed controversy). I understand that her story is at once complex and fascinating, but it’s high time we just let her run and let the results speak for themselves. Here’s how the Buenos Aires Herald reported on Semenya’s return to South Africa:

Olympic silver medalist Caster Semenya has defended herself against allegations that she did not try to win the 800 meters at the London Games.

The South African who was forced to undergo gender testing after her 2009 world championships triumph, started poorly in the final, sitting at the back of the field until she produced a late burst to finish second to Mariya Savinova, 1.04 seconds behind the Russian.

Her performance led to speculation by television pundit Colin Jackson, three times the 110m hurdles world champion, that Semenya had deliberately avoided winning so as not to stir up fresh controversy like that in 2009.

“I tried my best, whatever people say. There is always talk but these people know nothing about athletics,” Semenya said at Johannesburg airport on Tuesday, where she received a heroine’s welcome.

South Africa’s sports minister Fikile Mbalula praised Semenya, a shy 21-year-old from an obscure rural village in South Africa’s northernmost province of Limpopo, as an inspiration to all those coming from similarly modest upbringings.

“I don’t know about her strategy in the race but she has made us very proud. Nobody gave her a chance but she showed the greatest guts of a young African woman,” Mbalula said while choking back tears.

“She has toiled out of difficulty to become a symbol of greatness and has shown that it doesn’t matter where you come from. From her small village in Limpopo, where the people are full of poverty, she has become the symbol of a courageous young woman.”

Semenya, who clocked one minute 57.23 seconds in the final, said she was satisfied with a silver medal but would be looking to go one better in the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

“I am happy with silver but it was hard work. I said to myself that I must get something from the race and I saw that the other ladies were tired. I had to pull out my turbo-boost,” she smiled.

“I’m concentrating now on next year, the world championships in Moscow, that is my main focus. The Olympics are still four years away and we learn by mistakes so hopefully I can do better next time and win the Olympics.”


From losing weight to one of the world’s fittest

Rich Roll is considered one of the world’s fittest people.

Rich Roll says he “unlocked a more authentic version of” himself by training for and competing in endurance events. It started with trying to get in shape by paying attention to his diet and his weight, and morphed into a love of the endurance world. He’s a top ironman triathlete, competes in ultraman events, and is the author of several books, including Finding Ultra: Rejecting Middle Age. You can hear a brief interview he did with NPR’s Weekend Edition by clicking here.

He describes his journey as a spiritual one, but are the incredibly long hours of training the best way to achieve internal transformation? Critics of endurance events and training claim that the activities are self-centered and potentially damaging. It’s not uncommon for ultra endurance athletes to be told by some friends and families that they’ve lost their  minds. Yet, the athletes themselves feel fulfilled in a way that they never have before.

I’ve competed in some endurance events (not ultras) and spoken to many, many athletes who are totally committed to the endeavor. There’s not a single, unifying reason why they do it. However, increasingly, people are looking for ways to distinguish themselves from the “average” person – as Roll says in his interview, to line-up next to some of the top elite athletes in the world.

The Metric Mile – a contact sport?

Jim Ryun falls in 1972 Munich Olympics 1500 metres race

Great piece from the Wall Street Journal, as part of the lead-up to the London Olympics. The story looks at the riddle of running middle distances, and dealing with inevitable contact:

“For a sport that divides seconds into thousandths, physical contact is poorly measured. The incidence of touches, trips and tumbles is anybody’s guess. Even the rate of disqualifications for physical contact isn’t readily available. But it’s an open secret that track is a contact sport.

In sprinting, violations are easier to police, for each competitor is required to stay within his lane. And in distance running, slower paces offer the fallen a second chance, as when Finland’s Lasse Viren got up from the ground to claim the lead and gold medal in the 10,000-meter race in Munich.

But in middle distance running, physical contact is frequent, hard to police and not always accidental. A runner near the front can wreak havoc behind her by suddenly slowing down. Or “a runner gets behind you and tactically shoves you into the lead,” throwing you off pace, says Joan Hansen, a former U.S. Olympian who took a fall during the 3,000-meter run at the 1984 Olympics.”

The piece by Sara Germano and Kevin Helliker notes the 40th anniversary of American Jim Ryun’s disqualification in the preliminaries at the Munich Olympics. He was the world record holder in the 1500 metres at the time, but was hit from behind and fell with a third of the race to go. He claimed the hit was deliberate, but his appeal to be re-instated for the semi-final heats fell on deaf ears.

The contact element is even more interesting because running with the pack, and not out front alone, is a common strategy in the middle distances.

Long may you run

Chad Loeven with his three boys in Boston

It wasn’t the Boston marathon and it wasn’t a medal finish, but it was just as significant.

The day before the 2012 marathon, Montrealer Chad Loeven completed the Boston Athletic Association’s 5 km run.  He crossed the finish line behind his three boys, and his wife Melodie – a leading marathoner featured elsewhere on this blog. It’s not a cliché to say this one was just about finishing, and not about where he finished.

The back road in New Hampshire, where Loeven and his family suffered a head-on collision three years ago.

In the spring of 2009, Loeven was in the front passenger seat when an oncoming car crossed the centre line of a New Hampshire road and hit his vehicle head-on. His lower leg was shattered, and doctors prepared him for a possible amputation. Fortunately, they saved the leg — but it would take six surgeries and two years before he could walk again.

The BAA 5k represents the closure of one of the most difficult chapters in Chad’s life. Here’s the Good4sports Q+A about this most remarkable day and race.

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Running into the clouds

Melodie Sullivan, in the orange, fights her way to the top of Mt. Washington

There’s hill training, there’s suffering, there’s near-death experiences, and then there’s the Mount Washington Road Race. The latter is a thing onto itself. Just ask Montreal marathoner Melodie Sullivan. Continue reading

“Never once did I want to give up, so I had to find ways to deal with the pain. “

Rob Callard is beating cancer, and one of his docs says it’s because of cycling. Read on about one of Montreal’s best-known restaurateurs and his nascent journey on a two-wheeler. Continue reading

“Intense workouts…the fountain of youth”

Lenny Lighter, in black, pedals against the clock.

An unexpected mix.

The man running Montreal’s landmark steak house also happens to be a competitive cyclist. Read on to find out more about what drives Lenny Lighter and post a comment.

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