Observing the World Championships Track and Field in Beijing.

The World Championships are always a mixed batch of confirmations, fulfilled expectations and unexpected surprises.
Let’s have a look: Usain Bolt (100m and 200m), Shelly- Ann Fraser (100m) and both Jamaica 4×100 m relay teams: no surprises here, gold, gold and gold again. This suited most of the predictions.
Mo Farah won the 5 and 10 km: what else could we expect? Asbel Kiprop winning the 1500 meters again.

Some surprises:
Daphne Schippers won the 200m: big surprise for most of you.
(The Dutch women were disqualified in the 4×100 meter and no surprise here either, if there would be a championship for dropping the baton or disqualifications for female 4×100 meter teams, Holland would win the gold medal)
Belgium discus thrower Philip Milanov wins silver.
Russian hurdler Sergei Shubenkov wins the gold in the 110m hurdles.

We thought for a long time “white men couldn’t jump” : but Greg Rutherford (long jump), Shawnacy Barber (pole vault) and Derek Drouin (high jump) decided to prove this wrong. And Guowei Zhang with his silver in the high jump, proved that Asian man can jump (but we oldies already knew that since Ni Chi Chin or Ni Zhiqin).
Some people think that black people can’t throw, but we saw Kenian Julius Yego winning the javelin and Cuban Denia Caballero win the discus women. And we also saw a Chinese silver in the women’ s shot put, Lijiao Gong, another silver in the women’s javelin, by Huihui Liu, and also silver in the hammer with Wenxiu Zhang. I almost forgot to mention the Chinese sprinter in the final of the 100 meter and the silver medals in the men’s 4×100 meter.
And to finish Jamaican shot put O’Dayne Richards gets a bronze medal in the men, while we thought these guys could only sprint!

I hope my point is clear: despite the general perception that some people, based on race, skin color or country are better suited for a certain discipline than others, we can see that it is possible to excel despite this limiting perception. How many US sprinters come from Alaska or Michigan?

It’s too bad that in one of the few fields in life where skin color, religion, IQ, economic status, sexual orientation, etc. do NOT play a role, this issue always comes up. The stopwatch or measuring tape doesn’t care if you are black, white green or purple, if you are straight or gay, if you are millionaire or if you have no money in your pocket. To me that is one of the beauties in sport and track and field. For me the world population is divided into two kinds of people: those that run fast and the ones that don’t.
Sprinting fast is a matter of probability and dependent on many different factors.

Maybe geographical situation is one of the pillars of success, in this case: temperature or sun exposure. Coming from Holland where in the past we were not able to sprint decently from November until April due to the low temperature and snow. Can you imagine what that means for sprinting at high intensity? And the lack of indoor facilities (just improvising in parking garages, tunnels or shopping malls). Nowadays this is compensated, as in Scandinavian countries, by having indoor facilities, but we still don’t have decent access to a 200 m track. Another option is to organize a training camp in the US, the Caribbean or South-Africa, but here the costs are the limiting factor.

Of course, there are other countries where the temperature suits explosive events, but lack of sports culture, lack of facilities and coaches, or an inadequate political or economic situation play a role. But more and more athletes are able to overcome these limitations and we could see quite a few of them winning medals. Great!

About Henk Kraaijenhof

My name is Henk Kraaijenhof and I started this blog as a random collection of concepts, ideas, stories and events that are important or interesting to me in my work as an international performance consultant in a wide range of fields, and sometimes outside of my work. I will try to post a new entry every 3-4 days. Feel free to comment if you like.

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