Archive for the ‘Athletics’ Category
I’ve put down some words of advice for nervous London Marathon runners. It’s so indispensable it will probably be read out over a loudspeaker on the start line on Sunday. Regular readers will recognize it as a amalgamated revival of some posts I wrote a year ago. I would say about 50% of the text is new so you may just want to read every other word. Here it is.
I wrote a piece on Monday which contained some denigrating comments about Ortis Deley, the anchorman for Channel 4′s coverage of the World Athletics Championships. Yesterday there was no Ortis, relieved of his responsibilities. Today there was no athletics at all, although the internet says that it is a scheduled rest day.
In my own very optimistic understanding of cause and effect, my post effected the removal of the stricken presenter. An example of how public protest can peacefully bring about regime change.
With this in mind, my friend Wutton has uncovered another crime against humanity: Match of the Day 3. If watching this oddly smug shambles of a programme isn’t persuasive enough then read this article from the Surreal Football website, a far more coruscating polemic than I could manage.
Colin Murray, your day is numbered.
International athletics began to pall some time in the middle 90s. Some commentators blame the pandemic steroid abuse. The drug testers unmasked more junkies in the sport than in a heroin high-rise and public confidence was corroded. But I blame ITV and the decision to strip its Friday night schedule of the Golden 4, a glittering quartet of continental meets in which competitors raced, leapt and hurled for actual bullion. All of which exhilarating action was presided over by Jim Rosenthal, nearly always from under a golf umbrella it seemed.
Athletics absorbed the grave privation that the loss of Rosenthal represented, and has more recently snuggled down in the cosier surroundings of the BBC on the sofa next to Countryfile and Eggheads. Hosted by the sportscasting equivalent of soft furnishings, humans in knit form. Sue Barker. Sally Gunnell. Jonathon Edwards. The type of folk who could be spotted enthusiastically manning a tombola at the local church fete.
But things are changing. Athletics has now migrated to Channel 4, the cradle of ‘yoof’ television, and is shedding the fleece cocoon like a very cool teenage butterfly. The World Athletics Championships being presented to appeal to the textspeak demographic, tessellating sweetly with the stratagem pursued by the London 2012 organising committee who have littered the inner cities with nu-rave outdoor gymnasia and unveiled a logo that looks like it has been sprayed onto some railway sidings.
Channel 4 have played safe by recruiting some robust pillars of the BBC athletics community: John Rawling, Dave Moorcroft, the lugubrious Michael Johnson, and sprinkled it with fresher, less lucid sorts like Iwan Thomas (peroxide – yeah!) and Dean Macey, whose childlike mania for proceedings make it sound more like We Are The Champions than top-level sport. And then there’s Ortis. Ortis Deley is younger and blacker than Sue Barker, and anchors with the conviction of a man who didn’t know that athletics existed before last week. Ortis is umbilically attached to the clipboard in his lap, the crib sheet on which probably shows a hastily-etched picture of a hurdle with an arrow that says ‘this is a hurdle’. Ortis is a wandering refugee from Saturday morning children’s television (seriously, what happened to Saturday kids’ programming – do young people really prefer Rick Stein and his dover sole recipes?)
The commentary team is always keen to name-check the potential audience of ‘kids’, particularly during the possibly inspirational yet unsuccessful run of Mo Farah to 10,000m gold. Although I’m dubious as to why any child would aspire to screaming desperately as if being chased rapidly down by a peckish velociraptor.
The IAAF have also waded in on the initiative by introducing a vicious false start ruling that could have been dreamt up by a diabolic reality televsion producer. The one strike regulation has done for Christine Ohuruogu, Dwain Chambers and the posturing Usain Bolt, who was then compelled to go and posture next to a curtain.
All this ‘faster, stronger, higher, bling blinger’ is great, but of course Channel 4 is only borrowing championship athletics from BBC, who retain the Olympic rights for 2012. Expect to see Steve Cram in a backwards baseball cap somewhere in East London next August.
I ran a marathon once. This is what I learnt:
1. The immediate pre-race preparations are vital. The difficulty lies in achieving the delicate balance between taking on board the requisite fuel and not turning your stomach into a disused cement mixer. Eat as early as possible on the day and then evacuate yourself at your leisure in your own lavatory. You’ll then avoid the sensory degradation of the oncourse portaloos. There are things I saw and smelt in the toilets in Barcelona that will pollute my eyes and nostrils forever. If you are overcome after you’ve arrived in the starting area, be warned that loo roll may be sparse. I had to use two facewipes. Miraculously it worked. It was the anal hygiene equivalent of the loaves and fishes.
2. Don’t be afraid to change your race strategy. My tactic was to start slowly and gradually build up pace throughout the duration. My execution of the first part of the gameplan was magnificent. I started slowly. But then maintained the same speed before slowing even further before the end. It wasn’t so much running a marathon. More mincing one.
3. Being last out of 15,000 is funny at least. And you won’t get overtaken from there. Don’t fret if Rupert the Bear/plump women in bras/a man pushing a piano whizz past you. You’ll overtake your rivals later when proceedings resemble less of a foot-race and more a slow-moving queue of sweaty desperation.
4. Make the most of the end. It’s the only bit you’ll enjoy. Get shitfaced on Powerade, molest a steward, prance around in one of those tinfoil pashminas they give you. If you’ve got the energy.
5. Wear your medal. Everywhere. At work. In the shower. In bed. Wear it until an unsightly welt appears on your neck. You’ve earned it.
I became a runner about six weeks ago. My little sister threw down the gauntlet and in an act of misplaced bravado I picked it up and slapped her in the face with it. Now I’m racing in the Barcelona marathon in March.
To train I’m running home from work most nights along the Grand Union canal. I might have to plot another route though. As the nights get longer the towpath is beginning to resemble a location from Crimewatch. I’m definitely going to get raped down there. There’s even a grubby tent pitched among the undergrowth on the canalside. A badger lives in a sett. A fox lives in an earth. A rapist lives in a tent by the canal.
Currently my right leg hurts. It’s like Joe Pesci put it in a vice and is screaming at it to find out where the loot is. I feel bad that I dragged my legs into this sorry escapade, but I don’t think I can do this without them. To make it easier for them, I went to a special trainer shop where the helpful staff put you on a treadmill and film you at it. They make most of their profits from submissions to You’ve Been Framed.
The video was enlightening. The shoe operative discovered that I am overpronating onto my right foot which is putting my knee and hip out of alignment. I discovered that my slender ankles and enormous feet together make a bizarre-looking combination when committed to film.
I now have new trainers to help me run properly. It’s always a good start when attempting to run a marathon.
P.S. I know it’s a cliche to write a blog about this sort of thing. But the Ashes is a month away and I refuse to talk about Wayne Rooney. So sorry.
I think the below clip answers a lot of questions asked by most cricket fans that have a passing interest in athletics. Whenever I watch Usain Bolt break another world record I can’t help wonder what would happen if he had a ball in his hand and he was heading very rapidly towards Asad Rauf. I have the same thoughts about most people from the Caribbean. I reckon Rihanna might be a rangy opening batsman.
And now I’ve got confirmation about Bolt’s cricketing prowess. He’s awesome. Obviously. Perhaps my favourite part of this footage is the sight of Bolt and Gayle walking off smiling like the two West Indian legends that they are. With a small man holding a polysterene cup.
So the dust begins to settle on the Ashes. Which not only creates an awful powdery mess but also gives the opportunity to reflect elsewhere in sporting globe. This summer I have treated cricket like the favoured child of the family, ruffling its hair and generally showering it with attention. But other stuff has happened too.
The World Athletics Championship in Berlin seemed like a jolly lark. I only caught about 30 seconds of it but that was time enough to watch Usain Bolt sprint off with a couple of world titles and crack both his records in the process. He may have gone even faster had he not been watching Andrew Flintoff at mid-on while he was on his starting blocks. The massive talking point of the meet was Caster Semenya. It won the ladies’ 800m final at a Jonathon Trott but then found itself at the centre of an as yet unresolved gender controversy. I feel sympathy for it. Maria Mutola competed at the top level for over a decade without so much as a suspicious glance at the upper lip, despite the fact she could quite easily have been Devon Malcolm’s more rugged younger brother.
Something tells me I haven’t got over the cricket yet. Pesky kid.