Let’s dive right into part two of my London Olympic 2012 track preview.
Let’s dive right into part two of my London Olympic 2012 track preview.
With a month to go before the 2012 London Olympics, all eyes, bets and conversation will be centered on the many track events that will be hotly contested and as of right now, wide open.
Last week at the US Olympic trials, Allyson Felix and Jeneba Tarmoh tied for third in the 100meter finals. The top three spots are guaranteed a spot on the Olympic team competing in the 100, with the fourth joining the pool for the relay team.
For those unfamiliar with the story, Brett Murray, a South African artist, did a painting of the country’s leader which was displayed in the Goodman Gallery. The painting was a skewered take on the old iconic Lenin poster (below) with a prominent distinction.
The ANC, the party of Nelson Mandela and South Africa’s ruling political party, immediately denounced the artist and his work and called for its removal, saying it was, and I am quoting the ANC spokesman Jackson Mthembu: “…an abuse of freedom of expression.”
The President himself claimed that it “perpetuates a shocking new culture by sections of the artistic world, of using vulgar methods of communicating about leading figures in the country, particularly the President.”
Now bear in mind that the ANC has been the ruling party in South Africa uninterrupted since 1994. Their leadership and membership is predominantly black, and their record is somewhat uneven.
Zuma is the definition of a political lifer; a man who walked the walk in support of freedom during the 70’s and 80’s of white minority rule. He was incarcerated on Robbins Island with Mandela and was instrumental in coalescing the ANC’s power with that of the powerful Zulu tribe, of which he is a member.
He ascended to the Presidency and continued the ANC’s hold on power over the last 15+ years. Zuma has also been involved in an obscene number of political scandals, questionable decisions and comments that could be considered at best ill-advised.
In brief, over the last decade Mr. Zuma has been:
1. Part of a corruption investigation regarding a government arms deal
2. Investigated regarding misappropriation of millions in government funds
3. A defendant in a rape trial involving a HIV positive woman (which led to his comments that he “took a shower after sex to protect him from HIV infection,”)
4. Got married to two women and
5. Fathered a child with the daughter of one of his long time colleagues, his alleged twentieth (20th) child.
Mr. Zuma has also vociferously opposed homosexuality saying that same-sex marriage was “a disgrace to the nation and to God,” and said that the solution to high numbers of teen pregnancy is to “confiscate their babies and have the mothers taken to colleges and forced to obtain degrees.”
Against this backdrop, Zuma was depicted by the artist with his privates on display. Naturally, the majority of South Africans were upset at the caricature. The government threatened to censure art in this vein, demanded its removal from the public view, and filed defamation charges in court papers against the gallery. A supporter of Zuma subsequently went to the gallery and defaced the painting by covering certain parts with paint (L.)
This is a completely hypocritical stance by a party that suffered for decades under some of the worst government sanctioned discrimination ever, but the party that won the minds of the local people and the world at large under Mandela is clearly not the party that now governs under Zuma.
Now while I do think that the painting was in poor taste, and the obvious disrespect for the sitting head of state is curious at best and at worst inspired by some latent racist motives by Mr. Murray, who is white. I also believe however the truth lies somewhere in between.
In his defense, Murray has said: “In the apartheid years, I created satirical images which attacked abuses of power. For many years I have used, and continue to use symbols with sexual connotations representative of political power and patriarchy,”
He furthered stated: “It is an attempt at humorous satire of political power and patriarchy within the context of other artworks in the exhibition and within the broader context of South African discourse. I never intended the artwork to cause any hurt or to harm the dignity of any person.”
I believe Mr. Murray and support his right to free expression, but I do not believe for a second that last part about not intending to harm the dignity of President Zuma. His point is obvious, no pun intended.
Jacob Zuma is the elected head of the country and as such demands a certain amount of respect and gravitas. This respect and gravitas does come with significant responsibilities, and Zuma has not shown a willingness to shoulder the burden of moving the country forward, preferring instead to rely on the old divide and conquer tactics.
As such he has shown his office considerably more disrespect than any work of art could portray. He is a shining example of power corrupting the corruptible and he continues to pursue his personal agenda with impunity towards any opposition.
The ultimate irony of this latest debacle swirling around Zuma is how far he is from Lenin, whose political life and struggles served as a roadmap of sorts for Zuma.
Lenin has been described as one of the most influential people of the 20th century, his rhetoric has been used in relation to every regime change in Russia since his death. Lenin has inspired revolutionaries worldwide, including Castro, Mao Zedong, and Ho Chi Minh.
Or as Lenin himself said:
“There are no morals in politics; there is only expedience. A scoundrel may be of use to us just because he is a scoundrel.”
Heading into the 2012 London Olympics, fans of track and field are gearing up for some amazing contests across the spectrum. From the sprints to the middle distances, hurdles to the jumps, the competition has never been tighter and more unpredictable.
It is fitting that on the 50th anniversary of Jamaica’s independence, the country is poised to continue its domination of the sprints that had previously reached a zenith in Beijing four years ago.
I watched a replay of the recent Penn Relays where an interview was conducted with the great Carl Lewis. As a young runner and fan of the sport back in the 80’s I was a huge fan of Carl Lewis. After the Ben Johnson scandal that rocked the entire sport, I supported his vocal opposition to cheating in track and field, particularly his pointed remarks about (among others) Florence Griffith-Joyner alleged use of performance enhancing drugs (PED’S.) As the greatest American runner since Jesse Owens, I felt he was sorely under-appreciated in this, his homeland.
When looked at in that context, I can understand it to some degree but I still have been more than slightly turned off by his continued bitterness towards every great runner to come along since he retired. He has been quite vocal in his skepticism about Jamaican sprinters and what he has said is their ‘sudden emergence’ on the scene. He stayed true to form at the Penn Relays interview, making another comment about the Jamaicans ‘coming out of nowhere’ before trying to backpedal and discuss ‘the long history of Jamaican runners.’
Now I could make the obvious statement about the multitude of American runners caught up in the BALCO scandal, and how the American sprinters have disappeared from the medal podiums since that saga came to light. I could also point at Lewis’ admitted failing a test for PED’s; an act that makes his comments seems more than a little hypocritical.
I won’t go to any lengths about that, rather I will merely highlight some facts that might shed light on the ‘sudden emergence’ Mr. Lewis referred to:
Since the middle of the 20th century we have been consistently well represented in the sprints, first our men and within the last thirty years, both our men and women. In a sport that had struggled with PED use for decades, we have been consistent winners with very few cheaters in our ranks.
Even before independence, starting with the 1948 London Olympics and through to the 1950’s, there was the golden generation of George Rhoden, Arthur Wint and Herb “Herb Mac” McKinley, the men who first showed the world the talent in our little island in the sun.
During the 60’s and 70’s Lennox Miller and Don Quarrie won medals on the world’s biggest stage.
The 1980’s and 1990’s ushered the women onto the podium next to the men; Juliet Cuthbert, Merlene Ottey (shown with her arm around Cuthbert) and Grace Jackson joined the great hurdler Winthrop Graham in winning medals wearing the green and gold.
In addition, the number of sprinters Jamaican born and of Jamaican descent furthered highlighted our status as world beaters; Donovan Bailey won gold for his adopted homeland of Canada, Linford Christie did the same for Great Britain and Inger Miller, daughter of Lennox, won several medals running for the USA.
That dubious part of Jamaica’s tradition continues today with Sanya Richards-Ross and Debbie Dunn representing the Stars and Stripes over their ancestral homeland.
It’s hard to make the argument that Jamaican runners have suddenly emerged when looking at that lineage.
Many will say Jamaicans have overachieved as a nation, stepping up on the world stage in a manner that a tiny country the size of Rhode Island and with less people than Brooklyn has no business doing. When you have been as consistently great as Jamaican athletes have been however, it is difficult to consider it overachieving. It’s most likely a case of being right where we should be.
With this current plethora of talent, what I will call the Greatest Generation of sprinters in our history, we are poised to stamp our pedigree once again. The Beijing Olympics of 2008 was a stunning introduction to the casual fan of what we can do. This time around there is no surprises, but 2012-our 50th year of independence-it will be an affirmation of who we are: World Beaters. And as we continue to rise, people like Lewis continue to shrink in stature.
To Mr. Lewis and those who question it as he has, I say this; Recognize greatness, Mr. Lewis. It’s always been there, maybe you just were too busy looking at yourself to notice.
Oh, The Places You Can Go
A DOZEN WELL-TRAVELED SPORTS ILLUSTRATED WRITERS NAME THE NO. 1 FAN EXPERIENCES IN THE SPORTS THEY KNOW BEST
Sports Illustrated April 9th 2012.
The last weekend in April. Spring is in full bloom and the Northeast USA begins the annual reawakening from the winter doldrums. This year though, was a little different. The winter season, unusually warm and strangely devoid of snow, raced along, giving everyone in the region hope for an early Spring and great Summer.
Alas, the last weekend of April comes along and it resembles what the last weekend of February should have been. Rainy. Cold. Less track weather and more NFL on the television weather.
Against this backdrop, teams of boys and girls, men and women of all levels of competition and abilities congregated at Franklin Field for the 2012 Penn Relay Festival. The overall vibe was different. The London Olympics are a scant few months away, so while several countries trying to reach qualifying times sent teams to Philadelphia, other countries and their stars stayed away, preferring to focus on the upcoming Diamond League races and getting ready for London.
So on a rainy, chilly April Saturday, the caravans of track and field fans-most of them Jamaican-from near and far entered the stadium on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania for the penultimate day of the meet. Many of the fans were there to support their alma maters or support friends. Some came to support family members, running for schools in their new homeland, building new legacies. Others simply came to Franklin Field to soak up the atmosphere, enjoy the food and mingle with one of the greatest crowds you will ever come across at a sporting event anywhere.
Both of the USA versus the World 4×100 relays (L) were won by the USA over watered down Jamaican teams. Not even the presence of the Jamaican Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller could brighten the fortunes at that point.
After the US victories, the large crowd awash in green and yellow was subdued and in need of reason to cheer. They got it in the first College men’s 4×100 relay as UWI won in a time of 39.94. Despite the weather, the buzz was coming back. That race was followed by UTech (39.46) running a creditable second to Auburn University (39.34.)
Wolmers Boys and Jamaica College (R) ran first and second in their race, putting the crowd-estimated to be the fourth biggest Saturday crowd all time-into a nice buzz.
That was extinguished quickly however, as Junipero Serra High from California took down both St. Jago and Calabar in their 4×100. Kingston College had the fastest times pre-meet in the 4×100, but in their final with an unbeatable lead, they dropped the baton on the last exchange.
The USA versus the World 4×400 further served to quiet the crowd, as Jermaine Gonzales basically jogged the second leg and the USA again won going away. Ditto the women’s race, with Sanya Richards-Ross running better than she has in a couple of years now anchoring the US to a convincing victory.
So it was left to UTech to try and get the crowd back into it, and they did, easily defeating Texas A&M in the College Men’s 4×200 relay, even as their third leg runner appeared to suffer a cramp before the handoff.
Quite possibly the best race of the day was the High School Boys 4×800 relays, and again the Jamaican schoolboys came up short, as KC, St Jago and Holmwood all fell to the number one US team, Westfield from Virginia. The anchor leg runners of KC and Westfield ran a stirring final 150 meters that had the entire stadium on there feet down the stretch.
What is usually the crown jewel event of track, the 4×400 relay, was the last stand for the Jamaican high schoolers. With the sun peeking out (just barely on what I can attest was the coldest day in recent memory) Munro College took it home, winning ahead of Kingston College, Lodge HS of Barbados, Manchester High, Calabar and STETHS. Delano Williams of Munro, who provided a stellar performance in the 100 and 200 at the recent Boy and Girls Championship, sprinted the anchor leg as if it were a 100 meter race to finish in an astonishing 45.8 split. He will be a force to reckon with in the future.
Despite the cold and the bleak weather conditions the Penn Relays did not disappoint, and as the season progresses and culminates at the Olympics, fans will be watching the stars of today on the world stage. And the next generation of young men and women who make track special and the purest form of competition known to man will be getting ready. People like Edward Cheserek, Delano Williams, Danniel Thomas and Mary Cain.
Ready for the next run, the next race, the next season and on the last weekend of April, their moment in the sun.
Thanks to Sportingeventsfotos.com for the great shots!
2012 is a big year for track and field participants and enthusiasts. The London Olympics are naturally the biggest event on the calendar, but there are a multitude of other events that should make this a very interesting season.
Already in 2012 we have had the World Indoor Championships, which featured a great couple of races for Sanya Richards-Ross, (400 meters and anchoring the silver medal 4×400 team) and a triumphant Justin Gatlin winning his first championship since his drug suspension, taking the 60 meter in a season best 6.46 seconds.
We also had the Boys and Girls Championships in Jamaica, where Calabar High School won the boys title with a great team effort. The girls title was won by Edwin Allen HS (R) breaking the nearly decade long stranglehold of Holmwood on first place.
And now, on the last weekend of April, comes the Penn Relays. This year Penn will be missing some of the biggest names. No Usain Bolt, Yohan Blake or Asafa Powell for Jamaica, but that doesn’t mean the stars wont be present.
Sanya Richards-Ross, Allyson Felix, the aforementioned Gatlin, Nesta Carter, Walter Dix and Kirani James are all named as participants in what should be a great weekend of races. I don’t see any real challenges to the American teams in the USA versus the World events, as while they have loaded teams competing in Philly this year, the other countries don’t seem to have the depth this year to beat them. As history has shown however, upsets at Franklin Field do happen.
Watch the Great Britain team competing in the Women’s 4×400 relay in particular; they could spring a major surprise.
The high school relays are of particular interest to Jamaicans living in the US. Coming into this week, the top schools by time and event are as follows:
High school boys 4×100:
Kingston College 40.17
Wolmers’ Boys School 40.21
Munro College 40.41
St. Elizabeth Technical High 40.44
Herbert Morrison Tech. 40.55
Jamaica College (under 16 team) 40.75
DeSoto HS (Texas) 40.59
High School Boys 4×400:
Calabar HS(R) 3:10.19
DeSoto, Tx 3:14.88
Kingston College 3:12.64
Laurel HS (Maryland) 3:15:65
Boys & Girls, Brooklyn, NY 3:15.12
Jamaica College 3:13.64
Long Beach Poly 3:18:55
High School Girls 4×100:
Edwin Allen 45.28
Herbert Morrison 45.61
Boyd Anderson HS (Florida) 45.66
Long Beach Poly 46.04
Vere Technical 46.00
St. Jago HS 46.60
St. Andrews HS 46.93
High School Girls 4×400:
Vere Technical High 3:38.91
American Heritage HS (Florida) 3:43:15
St. Thomas Aquinas (Florida) 3:44:50
Holmwood Technical 3:44.04
Edwin Allen High 3:44.51
St. Andrew High 3:45.07
There should also be some great college races, with UWI, UTech and GC Foster competing with the traditional US college relay powerhouses; Florida, Texas A&M, LSU and Arkansas, who have all run under 39.70 this season.
One thing is for sure, this meet is not going to disappoint fans of track and field, and should give us a early look at some of the names we will see in London and also, maybe Brazil 2016.
The modern footballer is a wealthy, globally recognizable star. The top players on the big teams, elite guys like Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney are icons, and the players who are not on that level or playing for non-traditional powers are still well known and major attractions for advertisers and headlines. With that being said, I also say this: Lionel Messi, as great as he is, is not Pele. He’s not even Maradona. And he may never be.
Messi is so good that the mythical title of world’s greatest player has not been in dispute the last two years. Actually Messi and Ronaldo, the clear second best player have separated themselves so much from the rest of the pack the only comparisons for them that can be made are with the all time greats. And therein lies the biggest knock on Messi.
As great a player as Messi has been, his achievements have been almost exclusively on the club level. Barcelona has used their considerable resources to surround Messi with some of the most talented players in the world. They, along with Real Madrid, Chelsea and Manchester City have created a chasm between themselves and the other teams domestically by throwing millions of dollars at player after player to win every year. George Steinbrenner would be proud of the zeal in which these team owners collect stars and assemble teams.
More than half of the World Cup winning team from Spain wears the red and blue of Barcelona and that incredible collection of talent and cohesiveness is breath taking to watch and almost impossible to defeat. Champions League, La Liga and World Club titles have all been won by Barcelona in the last three years, prompting talk of them being the best club team of all time.
Messi has not been able to even come close to matching those accomplishments with his Argentine national team. And when you want to be named among the greatest of all time, the measuring stick is World Cup titles. Pele won his first at seventeen in 1958 and his 3rd in 1970. Maradona went to two finals, winning in 1986 and finishing second in 1990.
While the Brazil teams of Pele and Maradona’s Argentina teams were comprised of some of the best talent in their eras, the Argentina team that played in the 2010 World Cup also had very good not great players and a plethora of world class strikers. But led by Messi and coached by Maradona they couldn’t even make the semi-finals. Its worth noting that the only international title Messi has won is the 2008 Olympics gold medal.
One of the true marks of greatness is elevating the play of others around you. While the current crop of Argentine players may not be as good as some of years past, they are still one of the top 10 national teams, and that doesn’t figure to change before the next World Cup.
Having the transcendent best player of this generation should make them the prohibitive favorite for the next trophy in 2014, but if Messi doesn’t raise his game even higher when he puts on the Albiceleste jersey, his place in the pantheon of greats will reside below the likes of Pele, Maradona, Ronaldo (Brazil) and Zidane.
I’ve been closely following this crazy NBA season, and the more I see him, the more I think Derrick Rose’s playing style is the closest I have seen to Allen Iverson (minus the cornrows.) Like Iverson, I don’t see him having a long NBA career, because at the rate he’s getting dinged up, he will quickly lose his speed and once he does, he’s an average PG.
The baseball season starts this week, and my NY Yankees are reloaded for another pennant run. The AL is going to be stacked this year, with Texas, Detroit, Anaheim, Boston and Tampa Bay all legitimate contenders for a World Series spot.
In the National League, I don’t think any team can beat the Phillies, but I do think the Washington Nationals will be a contender this year. They are putting together a good young team in DC, and they will make the NL East interesting this year. Pitching is the major factor in a 162 game season, and the Nationals have some good arms on their team. They will be fun to watch.
Congrats to Calabar High School and Edwin Allen High School for winning the 2012 Boys and Girls Champs respectively. Penn Relays is coming up, and should be quite competitive. Some of the best individual performers at Champs; Shauna Helps, Delano Williams, Tiffany James and Shericka Jackson look like they will have very bright futures in track.
Check out the times below for the fastest US high school 4×400 times in all of 2012:
3:14.88 DeSoto, Tx
3:15.12 Boys & Girls, Brooklyn, NY (indoor.)
3:15.16 Timberview, Mansfield, Tx
Below are the times for the top three boys finishers at Champs 2012:
3:10.19 Calabar HS
3:12.64 Kingston College
3:13.64 Jamaica College
The Girls 4×400 breaks down like this:
3:43.01 Wakefield, Raleigh (indoor)
3:45.16 Lancaster, Tx
3:47.49 Garden City, NY ( indoor)
3:47.56 Aquinas, Fort Lauderdale
3:47.70 DeSoto, Tx
3:48.86 American Heritage, Plantation, Fl
3:49.25 Medgar Evers, Brooklyn (indoor)
The top three HS girls finishers at Champs 2012:
3:38.91 Vere Tech
3:44.51 Edwin Allen
Here’s to a great, competitive track season coming up in 2012!
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