13 AUG 2005 General News 14 August 2005 – Helsinki, Finland

Dunaway’s ‘Helsinki Herald’, Day 8

General View of the men's marathon in Helsinki (Getty Images)General View of the men's marathon in Helsinki (Getty Images) © Copyright

Helsinki, FinlandThe United States just can’t seem to get it right when it comes to the relays. Yesterday, the men’s 4x100m dropped the baton on the first exchange. Today, the women’s 4x400, which ran away with its qualifying heat in the 4x400, was disqualified for an unspecified lane violation. The United States team officials appealed the DQ, but their appeal was denied.

The American team ran its heat in just under 3:24 by my stopwatch, compared to the 3:20.32 which Russia ran while winning the other heat without its best runner, Svetlana Pospelova, who will almost certainly run in the final on Sunday.

But two of the U.S. runners were also substitutes, giving the two best American 400 women, Sanya Richards and DeeDee Trotter a rest day.

If the U.S. had made the final, they figured to push the Russians and possibly beat them, as they did in Paris in 2003.

In any case, the U.S. would have almost certainly have finished no worse than third, which would have added to the American medal total.

The American women’s 4x100 team won its race tonight quite handily in a good-but-not-great 41.78. Interestingly, unlike the men’s team, the U.S. women’s plan was to run exactly the same four women in both the qualifying heat and the final. And it worked.

Quite a contrast compared to last night’s men’s 4x100 fiasco, in which two of the four men were substitutes who were giving two faster sprinters a rest day. A friend who keeps close track of international relay results noted that while the running order of the American men’s 4x100 team that dropped the baton Friday night probably wasn’t fully determined until the 200-metres final the night before.

By contrast, the French and British men’s teams, which finished 1-3 in tonight’s 4x100 final, practice as a team year-round. So does Trinidad and Tobago, which took second, but which had to use a substitute after Arron Armstrong was injured earlier in the week.

Is there a lesson in there somewhere for Uncle Sam’s boys and girls?

Good Sports, Those Finns

The clapping was non-stop tonight as the arena full of Finnish fans kept the volume control at “High.”

It was especially noticeable during the fiercely contested Long Jump, and especially each time it was Finnish hero Tommi Evilä’s turn to jump. The clapping reached a crescendo as he sprinted down the runway and jumped. If it was a good jump, it got louder. If not, there was a collective sigh of “Ooohs.”

Tommi made it dramatic. After two fouls, he needed to reach 8.03 to make the three final jumps. His third jump looked good, and it wasn’t a foul.  Then there was silence – waiting for the result to go up on the scoreboard.

Finally it came…8.16!

In the fifth round, to get a medal, Tommi needed to beat the 8.24 of Joan Lino Martinez. Again, the clapping, the jump, and a roar – a good jump! But how good? A moment later the answer came…8.25…and the stadium went wild.

In the sixth and final round, five jumpers had a chance to take Tommi’s bronze medal away. And like real sports, the crowd clapped for each one, just as if each were also a Finn.

That’s sportsmanship.

Notes

- I was both pleased and disappointed by Dwight Phillips’ performance in the long jump. Pleased that he confirmed my expectation that he would win, but disappointed that after his first-round jump of 8.60 he fouled the next five jumps. He won’t get quite as good a situation for a really long long jump, with a fast runway, a favorable wind, and most of all the noise and excitement of a great crowd at an important meeting.

- I was hoping, somehow, that Vanderlei de Lima would win the World Championships marathon, but he didn’t make it to the finish. After his graceful acceptance of the Athens incident, it would have been nice to see him get a gold here. But Jaouad Gharib’s 2:10:10 over one of the tougher marathon courses you’ll see was impressive enough – only Rob de Castella’s Worlds victory (on a different course here) in 1983 was faster, at 2:10:03.