Sunday, 16 July 2017 09:25

Thompson Hunts Another Big Win

RABAT, Morocco:

OLYMPIC champion Elaine Thompson will lead the charge for Jamaica at today's Diamond League meet in Rabat, Morocco.

It's the tenth in the series and 14 Jamaicans will be in action in a meet where eight reigning Olympic champions will be on show.

This is the penultimate Diamond League meet before the London World Championships and for most of these athletes their final competition, so they will want to send out strong messages before going to London.

Thompson, the Diamond League leader in the women's 100 metres will be gunning for 14 straight wins in the event. With a world leading 10.71 seconds and fresh off her 10.94 run a week ago in London she looks well set to continue her winning run.

The vastly improved Marie-Josee Ta Lou of Cote d'Ivoire who was a close second to Thompson in Paris will be hoping to surprise the Jamaican. The Trinidad and Tobago pair of Kelly-Ann Baptiste and Michelle Lee Ahye, Nigeria's Blessing Okagbare and Jamaica' s Christania Williams and Jura Levy are also in the line up.

An event which will attract a lot of attention today will be the women's 400m. Two Jamaicans are in the field, Rio de Janeiro Olympics bronze medallist, Shericka Jackson and Diamond League leader Novlene Williams Mills.

Olympic champion Shaunae Miller-Uibo of the Bahamas has been in solid form this season, going sub 50 seconds twice over the distance, 49.77 seconds in Shanghai and 49.86, 11 days ago in Budapest. She is now ranked number three on the IAAF top list or the event, behind the United States duo of Quarena Haynes and Allison Felix. It was a confident Miller -Uibo who spoke at the IAAF press conference yesterday.

"I am coming to bring it on tomorrow (today) as I fear no one in the event and I am happy people are running fast because this will keep me on my toes," said the Bahamian who is eyeing sub 49 seconds in the event this season.

our Jamaicans will be involved in the women's 400m hurdles where there are two sections. Ristananna Tracy and her sister, Nikita will compete in the B final while new National champion Ronda Whyte, in her first Diamond League appearance, will face countrywoman, Janieve Russell in the A final. Russell is the fastest Jamaican in the event this season.

Kimberly Williams will be the other Jamaican female in action today as she will compete in the triple jump.

Jamaica will have two entrants in the men's 200m as Warren Weir and Rasheed Dwyer will go up against he likes of Andre De Grasse of Canada, Diamond League leader in the event Ameer Webb of the United States and Fred Kerley the USA champion in the 400m.

National shot put champion Odayne Richards will compete in his pet event while little known Tajay Gayle, formerly of Papine High, will line up in the men's long jump.

Schedule for Jamaicans

12 p.m: Shot put Men - Odayne Richards

12:10 p.m: Triple jump Women - Kimberly Williams

12:52 p.m: 400m hurdles B final (Women) - Ristananna Tracy, Nikita Tracy

1:03 p.m: 400m Hurdles A final (Women) A final- Ronda Whyte, Janieve Russell

1:30 p.m: Long jump Men - Tajay Gayle

1:50 p.m: 200m Men - Warren Weir, Rasheed Dwyer

2:12 p.m: 100m Women - Elaine Thompson, Jura Levy, Christania Williams

2:37 p.m: 400m Women,- Novlene Williams Mills, Shericka Jackson


Blake Reassures Fans After Pulling Out Of Rabat DL

Raymond Graham, Gleaner Writer

RABAT, Morocco:

Jamaican sprinter Yohan Blake is reassuring fans that he will be ready for next month's World Championships in London, England, after his withdrawal from tomorrow's IAAF Diamond League meet in Rabat.

Blake was pulled from the meet after feeling pain in his groin during a training session on Friday for what is being described as precautionary measures.

Addressing reporters at a press conference on Saturday, shortly after it was revealed that the 2011 World 100m champion would not take his lane in the men's 100m at the latest Diamond League stop, Blake explained what exactly led to the decision but underlined his belief that he will be ready in time to push for a medal at the August 3 - 14 World Championships.

 

Blake said he felt tightness in the groin area during his training session but does not believe the situation is serious. He will be heading to Germany for assessment and treatment.

"After doing a few run throughs, I felt some discomfort in my groin and with the World Championships coming up I decided not to take any risk by competing at the meet tomorrow," said Blake, who only last season returned from a couple injury-plagued seasons to finish fourth in the 100m final at the Rio Olympics.

"I am very sorry to disappoint the fans but I am confident that I will be ready for the big show and I will still be going to Germany for some assessment to be made," added Blake.


Ristananna Tracey Hoping For Good Time In Rabat

RABAT, Morocco:

EUROPE has not been kind to Ristananna Tracey so far this season, with the Rio Olympics 400m hurdles finalist finding herself at the rear of the field in back-to-back races in Lausanne and London.

Tracey, now running on a different continent at tomorrow's Rabat Diamond League meet, is ready to change all that and enjoy some success in the final weeks before the World Championships in London.

The two-time national champion was upbeat ahead of tomorrow's assignment, and despite seventh- and ninth-place finishes in her last two meets, she remains confident that the problems she has experienced this year will be taken care of as her season progresses.

"I have been having some rhythm problems this season, and as you all know, the 400 metres hurdles is a rhythmic event, and I got back in training last Monday, and my coach and I worked on the problems I had, and I am confident of doing much better this time," she said.

It has been an extremely busy season for Tracey, who says that she is looking to get as many races in as possible after a quiet build-up to the National Senior Championships. Tracey only featured in two 400m hurdles races before the National Senior Championships.

IMPROVING RHYTHM

"Basically, heading to the National Senior Championships, I did not get in enough races, so heading into World Champion-ships, I want to get in as many races as possible so I can better my rhythm so I can manage the rounds properly," Tracey said.

As it relates to tomorrow's race, Tracey, whose 54.49-second run for second place in the final at the National Senior Championships remains her season best, says she is looking to register a good time.

"I am hoping to go out and execute a good race, and once I do so, a good time will come, and once this happens, it will give me a lot of confidence going into the champion-ships," said Tracey.


Olympic champions collide in Rabat

Rio 2016 winners in the women’s 400m and 800m go head to head over one lap in Diamond League clash

Olympic 800m champion Caster Semenya steps down to 400m to take on a strong one-lap line-up in Rabat as the IAAF Diamond League series moves to Morocco on Sunday.

Semenya faces Olympic 400m champion Shaunae Miller-Uibo of the Bahamas, plus Quanera Hayes and Natasha Hastings of the United States in a fascinating sprint clash.

With the IAAF World Championships only a month away, Olympic 100m and 200m champion Elaine Thompson will also be sharpening up in Rabat. Seven days after she won at the Diamond League in London wearing “splats” (a combination of racing flats and spikes), the Jamaican races 100m against a line-up that includes Briton Daryll Neita.

Thompson also won in Rabat 12 months ago when the Moroccan venue became the first Diamond League event to be held on African soil.

Elsewhere, Canadian sprint star Andre de Grasse tackles a 200m field that includes Briton Zharnel Hughes.

The 100m, meanwhile, sees former world champion Yohan Blake of Jamaica take on Britons Nethaneel Mitchell-Blake and CJ Ujah.

Further Brits in action in Rabat include Laura Weightman in the 1500m, Eilidh Doyle in the 400m hurdles and Robbie Grabarz in the high jump.


Relay work set to help British Athletes in their search of gold

Brass bands are being asked to get involved is helping boost the profile of the upcoming World Para Athletics Championships and IAAF World Championship.

London is about to become the first city to host the World Para Athletics Championships and IAAF World Championship in one summer.

England Athletics is keen to get all communities involved in creating a buzz around the events and is hosting a competition specifically for brass bands.

Bands involved
It has been set up by Heidi Bradley, founder of Brass Bands England's 'BandSafe' programme after she was challenged by England Athletics to get bands involved.

Heidi told 4BR: "We wanted to do something fun that is also easy for bands to get involved in and doesn't need a lot of organising on their part.

Some of the ideas we came up with wouldn't get past the local health and safety officer, but what we have come up with is will be really enjoyable."

The 'Brass the Baton Conducting Relay' follows the success of the like-minded event linked to the 2012 Olympics. This year, bands are challenged to host a conducting relay made up of members of the audience during one of their performances over the summer.

Passing the audience baton
Heidi added: "Most bands can get at least one person from the audience to come to conduct a piece, but this competition involves getting as many as possible conducting during a piece! Each member will conduct a few bars before passing the baton on to the next person."

The leading music publisher Pennine Music is supporting the competition with a prize of a £100 music voucher and there will also be an athletics themed trophy awarded to the winner.

"The leading music publisher Pennine Music is supporting the competition with a prize of a £100 music voucher and there will also be an athletics themed trophy awarded to the winner" - 4BR

Fitting involvement
Jane Stewart, Head of the Inspiration Program at England Athletics told 4BR: "We are encouraging members of many different communities to get involved in supporting the championships. Brass bands are a cornerstone of our heritage so it feels fitting to get them involved.

We are asking bands to film their relay and send it in to us where it will be judged. Consideration will be given to the number involved in the relay as well as originality, humour and fun. There will bonus points awarded for bands that demonstrate that and include a link to the championships, so get your thinking caps on."


World Championships Wonders - Tom Pappas

In the latest in our World Championship wonders series we look back on Tom Pappas’s glorious decathlon success at the 2003 edition in Paris.

BEFORE It is somehow fitting that former decathlon star Tom Pappas today runs a CrossFit gym only a mile from the iconic Hayward Field in Eugene.

For it was through the accomplishments of older brother, Paul, a former multi-eventer at the University of Oregon – which boasts Hayward Field as its home - which acted as the catalyst for Pappas’ involvement in the decathlon.

Inspired by his older brother, the former high jump and long jump specialist started his multi-events journey in 1995.

A quick learner just two years later the 1.95m tall American started to make his mark under the coaching of Bill Webb at the University of Tennessee.

“This is when I started to mature and develop and I realised that some of the marks I was hitting in training were as good as some of the best decathletes in the world,” he explains.

Just two years later at the age of 22 he qualified for the US team at the 1999 IAAF World Championship in Seville. However, badly compromised by injury – which was to curse so much of his career – he no-heighted in the pole vault and failed to finish in southern Spain.

Nonetheless, he refused to be scarred by the experience. “The biggest thing I took away from that meet was I realised the top guys were just human and I was capable of competing with them.”

His new-found confidence was not misplaced. At the 2000 Sydney Olympics, he finished fifth with 8425pts – just 42pts short of his PB set when winning the US title two months earlier.

Shoulder surgery derailed his ambitions to compete at the 2001 World Championships in Edmonton but in 2002 he further improved, posting a new PB of 8583pts to place second at Gotzis behind Czech great and world decathlon record holder Roman Sebrle.

In 2003 and under the guidance of coaches Webb and Brian Brophy, Pappas had enjoyed an injury-free build-up and felt ready to challenge.

Training out of Knoxville, Tennessee, he started the year with a bang causing a big upset to strike gold in the heptathlon at the World Indoor Championships in Birmingham two places ahead of Sebrle.

“Looking back, I might physically have been in the best shape I’ve ever been in,” he says of competing at the 2003 World Indoors. “I went in not even projected to finish on the top five but after winning, it gave me the confidence I could beat Roman at the 2003 World Championships.”

Not even an early season defeat to Sebrle by more than 200pts in Gotzis could dent the Oregon native’s confidence. Better conditioned than an any point in his career he had made particularly exciting progress in the long jump as evinced by his performance when setting a lifetime best score of 8784pts later that year to win the US title, which include stunning breakthrough leap of 7.96m.

“I had been a long jumper in the 7.35m to 7.45m range but it was a huge confidence boost to jump 7.96m,” he explains. “I knew in Paris, if I was firing on all cylinders and competing well it was going to be between me and Roman.”

DURING

It proved a prescient prediction.

After opening with a solid 10.80 in the 100m, Pappas made a huge statement in the long jump by leaping 7.62m - within 2cm of his Czech rival.

“Roman was typically an 8m jumper, so for me to jump around the same mark was a victory,” he says. A 16.11m shot further extended his advantage over the Czech.

After a disappointing 2.09m in the high jump --“I thought I was capable of 2.20m”-- he responded in outstanding fashion to wipe 0.64 from his 400m PB to run 47.58.

At the end of a satisfying first day he sat second on 4546pts – 53pts adrift of surprise overnight leader Dmitriy Karpov of Kazakhstan – but with a 123pt buffer on third placed Sebrle.

With “less room for error” on the technical second day he was relieved to run close to his PB with a 13.99 in the 110m hurdles followed by a “respectable” 46.94m in the discus. Holding a 146pt advantage from Sebrle, the tall American dared to dream after seven events -- “At this point I started to think it was mine to lose.”

Although it should be worth noting he was still second overall after seven events trailing Karpov by some 67pts, albeit with his weakest events - the pole vault and javelin - to follow.

Pappas finally assumed leadership of the overall competition for the first time after the pole vault gaining more ground on Sebrle after clearing a best of 5.10m compared to 4.80m.

However, Sebrle was an outstanding javelin thrower and the American - who was watching Sebrle throw in the first pool (Pappas was throwing later in qualification pool two) from the Nike hospitality tent - received a huge fright. Sebrle had nailed a 69.79m effort in round two only to launch the spear out to what appeared to be 75m in round three.

“My heart leapt (when I saw the throw) but luckily he fouled,” says Pappas.

Pappas responded superbly in the second pool, hurling the spear out to 65.90m – a PB by almost a metre-and-a-half.

“I then crunched the numbers in my head and realised I had a 28-second lead on Roman going into the 1500m,” he says. “I knew I could run 4:45 but I felt I could run 4:35, so I thought Roman needed to run around 4:05 to beat me.”

Despite starting aggressively, Sebrle slowed on lap three and at 1200m Pappas knew gold was his. He crossed the line in a PB of 4:44.31 – a little under ten second behind Sebrle, the silver medallist.

“It was hard to explains my emotions,” he says of the wake of winning gold. “My mind was racing, although I recall thinking a lot about all the people who helped me in my journey. I was very thankful for them.”

AFTER

The following day he went sightseeing around Paris with his family and girlfriend and now wife, the US heptathlete Kim Schiemenz – not that the experience lasted long.

“The day after a decathlon is often rough. I remember feeling so sore, I just wanted to lay down and relax,” he says”

Unfortunately, Pappas could not follow up his golden year of 2003 as persistent injuries dogged the remainder of his career. He DNF’D at both the 2004 Athens Olympics and 2008 Beijing Olympics because of foot injuries and also failed to finish at the 2007 World Championships in Osaka. After placing second at the 2010 US Championships he retired from the sport aged 33.

Around the time of his retirement he was introduced to the sport of CrossFit through his younger brother, Billy. A self-confessed “weight room junkie” he felt a “natural attraction” to the high-intensity fitness regimen and in 2012 he and Billy opened Lane 5 CrossFit in Eugene.

“I love it,” says Pappas of his current role. “We have a great membership and it is fun to be around energetic people, achieving their goals. It is very rewarding.”

Pappas also personally competed in the highly-competitive 2015 and 2016 CrossFit Games after his team won the Western Regional competition, although this year he is taking a break to devote more time to his family life.

Married to Schiemenz, the 2003 World Championships heptathlete, and father to four children - Kinley, 11, Kendall, 7 and five-year-old twins, Max and Tucker - his life is understandably full.

Yet despite the years of injury torment the 40-year-old American looks back with pride on his career. “It was all worth it,” he says. “There were all those years when it didn’t go my way but to win those two world titles in 2003 are memories I will cherish for a lifetime.”