Monday Myriad, July 21: Spike and strike

This week: A couple of U.S. teams won world championships (one official, one nearly official), and we had a track meet with a series of dizzying performances.

We are the champions (I): U.S. men in the World League volleyball final.

We are the champions (II): U.S. women’s saber team in the fencing world championships.

And individually, Mariel Zagunis rocks on …

Don’t say I didn’t warn you: Remember when I did a few posts on the War on Nonrevenue Sports? (No you don’t, please don’t lie.) Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby, also a U.S. Olympic Committee board members, sees a post-O’Bannon suit future in which men’s Olympic sports are gone.

Best doping excuse: Want to know why athletes often claim they doped accidentally or tested positive because of a contaminated supplement? Because it happens. Just ask biathlete Evi Sachenbacher-Stehle.

Speaking of the complex morality of doping …

“Daddy, can we ride the white elephant?”: No, because Barcelona is actually making good use of its Olympic venues.

Big things that happened at the Herculis Diamond League meet:

Take a look — Gatlin goes so fast he can hardly stay in his lane …

(Always a cynic …)

Over to the women’s 5,000 …

[youtube-https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bo58gX-ML9c]

Then the women’s 800 for a big upset in a world-leading time by American Ajee Wilson, which you wouldn’t have expected even with 200 meters left …

And the men’s 1,500, where most of the top nine set some sort of mark …

And Tori Bowie — from unknown quantity on the track to dominance …

See the Daily Relay wrap.

Fond farewell: Thanks to Betsey Armstrong, you’ll no longer think of your 100-year-old distant cousin when you hear the name “Betsy.”

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Monday Myriad, July 14: Steeple-caught

A few things you might have missed while waiting for Argentina to get a shot on frame:

BEST RECORD PERFORMANCE

Emma Coburn wanted the U.S. record in the women’s 3,000-meter steeplechase. Ethiopia’s Hiwot Ayalew just wanted a Diamond League win. The result: a terrific duel down the stretch, a world-leading time, and a record.

CLOSEST FINISH

OK, you tell me who won this race.

The answer is Nickel Ashmeade in 9.97, with Mike Rodgers second (also in 9.97) and Nesta Carter third (9.98).

BIGGEST UPSET

https://twitter.com/americantf/status/487682963874652161

BEST PHOTO FINISH

BEST BEER FIGHT

Mass quantities being exchanged here after a triathlon mixed relay.

But how’d Gwen Jorgensen do? She merely won her fourth straight women’s event. Here’s her explanation:

BEST STREAK

Jorgensen. Then this …

https://twitter.com/ESPNOlympics/status/488780647377276928

BIGGEST STATEMENT BY A DECATHLETE

BIGGEST DUEL WON BY SOMEONE ELSE

WORST CARNAGE

BIGGEST U.S. WIN

FAREWELL AND THANKS

Monday Myriad, July 7: Meb passed a lot of you

Best and worst in myriad sports this week:

BEST CHARITY RUN

Meb Keflezighi started at the back of the Peachtree Road Race. He couldn’t pass everyone — the top runners were had been done for more than an hour by the time he started — but he reached his goal of passing 25,000 runners.

WORST COMPETITION

We were used to the idea of Ronda Rousey being a better grappler than every woman in MMA. Once she got you in her grasp, you were likely to fall prey to the armbar she honed as an Olympic judo medalist.

In her last two fights, Rousey has faced two accomplished grapplers — Olympic wrestling medalist Sara McMann and jiu-jitsu black belt Alexis Davis. She knocked both of them out in a combined time of 1 minute, 22 seconds. McMann, at least, is a relatively inexperienced MMA fighter. But Davis should have the kickboxing experience to avoid being knocked out in 16 seconds. And really, it was over in about 12.

Unless everyone can quit making excuses and let Rousey face Cris Cyborg, the woman who demolished the game but overwhelmed Gina Carano in the biggest pre-Rousey women’s MMA bout, who’s left to face her?

MOST EXPERIENCED YOUTH OLYMPIAN

The USA is sending 94 people to the Youth Olympic Games. One, table tennis player Lily Zhang, is the first U.S. athlete to have been in the regular old Olympics before she was in the Youth Olympics.

WORST OLYMPIC BIDDING PROCESS

The three finalists for the 2022 Winter Olympics are the only cities still bidding — Beijing, Almaty and Oslo. And you can almost hear the IOC saying, “Please be Oslo, please be Oslo.”

BEST GIF

MOST LEAD-FOOTED SWIMMER

BEST SHOWDOWN

Justin Gatlin needed a world-leading time of 9.80 seconds to beat Tyson Gay (9.93), who was returning from a one-year doping suspension.

Gay got a win on Monday.

BEST RALLY (EXCLUDING WIMBLEDON)

Not “rally” in the sense of a comeback. World League volleyball, USA-Russia.

(Start at 1:25 if you’re not already taken there.)

BIGGEST RECLAMATION PROJECT

MOST DIVERSE COLLECTION OF CELEBRITIES

The World Series of Poker main event is underway.

https://twitter.com/pamelam35/status/486308526004772865

BEST RACE

Jenny Simpson got out in front and nearly stayed there in the 1,500 meters in Paris. The quick tempo wound up dragging five runners under the four-minute mark. The Netherlands’ Sifan Hassan posted the top time of the year, Simpson just missed the American record (Mary Slaney, 3:57.12), and fellow American Shannon Rowbury (DUKIE!) set a personal best.

BEST RIVALRY

Kirani James vs LaShawn Merritt, once again. This time in Lausanne. No spoilers. Just watch.

BIGGEST TIE

World League volleyball, Pool A: Brazil, Italy, Iran, Poland. Each team played 12 matches. Brazil’s record: 6-6. Italy’s record: 6-6. Iran’s record: 6-6. Poland’s record: Basic match tells you what it has to be. A four-way tie.

By tiebreakers, it’s Italy, Iran, Brazil, Poland. And that leaves Poland out of the next round. But their fans were still great.

Meanwhile, the USA traveled to Serbia, needing a win to clinch a spot in the final.

BEST ROUNDUPS

The Daily Relay’s Monday Morning Run rounds up the record chases in track and field this year, along with a Tim Howard save. Also in that roundup is the shocking revelation of a massive mistake — when Emma Coburn ran away from an elite field to win the steeplechase in Shanghai, a couple of runners assumed she was just a pacemaker. They didn’t even realize she finished the race, crossing the line and thinking they had finished first and second.

They’re not making that mistake again.

And as always, Ollie Williams’ Frontier Sports roundup is a must-read. The Monday wrap features a lot of cycling (including a third sport for Dutch short-track/long-track speedskater Jorien Ter Mors) and the odd story of a judo athlete who won her appeal against a positive test for cocaine, spurring a new investigation to find out who might have slipped her the powder.

Track and field Diamond League: Is this good?

Today is the opener of track and field’s Diamond League, which will be the best competition we have in this non-Olympic, non-World Championship year. (Watch on Universal Sports at noon ET.)

I’m excited, and I know most of you aren’t.

I think part of the problem is that we don’t really know what qualifies as a “good” performance. We see that someone ran the 100-meter hurdles in 12.62 seconds. That doesn’t capture the imagination.

So I’m experimenting with a chart that will help you figure out what’s what. You’ll see the world records (some of them set in an era of sketchy or nonexistent drug testing), the best performance of the 10th-best performer of all time, the U.S. record, the best performance of 2013, the best performance of the 5th-best performer of 2013, and the best performance of 2014 (through May 7).

Then you’ll see what the complex IAAF scoring tables, set by statistical analysis way above my mathematical abilities, tell you are elite-level performances — the 1,300- and 1,200-point levels. In several disciplines, no one has ever reached the 1,300-point level. But in most disciplines, a 1,200-point performance is needed to win.

Then I tossed in the worst time (or distance or height) of the winning Diamond League performances from 2013. Take those with a grain of salt. Every now and then, you get a sprint into a headwind, a field event in driving rain, or a “tactical” distance race in which everyone goes slowly (by their standards) and figures they’ll win with a big kick at the end.

But those Diamond League marks can sometimes tell you we’re about to see things rev up in a big way. See those events in which the best performance of 2014 (so far) is worse than the worst winning performance of last year’s Diamond League? Yeah. Time to go faster, higher, farther.

[gview file=”http://www.sportsmyriad.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/Track-and-field-performance-Sheet1.pdf”%5D

For more on today’s Diamond League, see Nick Zaccardi’s preview for NBC or the weekend preview at the Daily Relay.

Woly Award: Mary Cain, class of 1:59.51

What were you doing with your weekends when you were in high school?

Mary Cain uses hers to break U.S. track and field records. She took down a few indoor and junior records in the indoor season, and she’s doing it again outdoors. In May, she ran the 1,500 in 4:04.62, smashing Suzy Favor Hamilton’s junior record of 4:09.10 and her own high school record.

Saturday at the Prefontaine Classic, Cain took advantage of a rare opportunity to break not just a record but a round number. No U.S. high school woman had ever run the 800 meters in two minutes.

Cain’s time: 1:59.51.

And she’s a little excited about it:

The flower is from U.S. champion Alysia Montano, who barely held off Cain for fourth place in the race. Montano then hugged Cain and transplanted the distinctive red flower from her own hair to Cain’s.

(Fourth place? Yes, this race was fast. Winner Francine Niyonsaba of Burundi won in the fastest time in the world this year and the fastest time ever on U.S. soil – 1:56.72.)

Cain takes this week’s Woly Award, given to the top U.S. athlete in Olympic sports over the weekend.

The Pre kicked up a couple of nominees, including 100-meter champion Justin Gatlin. In the men’s 400, LaShawn Merritt won a thrilling duel with Olympic champion Kirani James.

And we had a rare steeplechase skirmish.

Elsewhere:

SOCCER: You may have noticed that the U.S. men and women each won on Sunday. Clint Dempsey and Alex Morgan had two goals each.

TRIATHLON: Gwen Jorgensen finished fourth in Madrid but still leads the World Triathlon Series.

SWIMMING: Ryan Lochte and Missy Franklin are tuning up nicely for the U.S. Championships with Grand Prix wins.

BEACH VOLLEYBALL: Two runner-up finishes for the USA at the FIVB stop in Brazil: Jake Gibb-Casey Patterson and April Ross-Jennifer Kessy.

MODERN PENTATHLON: Margaux Isaksen was sixth in the World Cup final.

Full recap at TeamUSA.org

Woly Award: Tyson Gay beats the elements

If we told you Tyson Gay ran a 10.02 in the 100 meters over the weekend, would you be impressed?

No? How about if it was cold and raining?

A little better? OK, shall we add that it was into a headwind?

Interested now? Let’s finish with this: He eased up over the last 20 meters because he was so sure he would take the Diamond League win in New York. And he did.

So Tyson Gay takes this week’s Woly award for outstanding achievement by a U.S. Olympic sports athlete.

Also at the adidas Grand Prix:

Women’s long jump: USA’s Janay Deloach-Soukup was nowhere near Brittney Reese’s world lead (7.25), but she set a meet record (6.79) to edge Britain’s Shara Proctor by 0.07. Reese fouled twice in her three attempts.

Men’s shot put: World leader Ryan Whiting was 1.01 meters off his season best of 21.27 but still won comfortably and led a U.S. sweep of the top four places with Reese Hoffa, Cory Martin and Joe Kovacs.

Women’s pole vault: Jenn Suhr entered the competition at 4.63 meters and cleared it on her second attempt. No one else did.

Men’s 400 hurdles: Good race – USA’s Michael Tinsley (48.43) held off Puerto Rico’s Javier Culson (48.53) and world leader Johnny Dutch (USA, 48.78).

Women’s 3,000 steeplechase: USA’s Bridget Franek interrupted the Kenya-Ethiopia hegemony with a fourth-place finish, less than five seconds behind Kenyan winner Lidya Chepkurui (9:30.82).

Women’s discus: Croatia’s Sandra Perkovic dominated — meet-record 68.23 meters extended her own world lead and beat the USA’s Gia Lewis-Smallwood by more than 6 meters.

Men’s triple jump: No one was getting near the world lead in these conditions. France’s Benjamin Compaore (16.45) held off the USA’s Christian Taylor by 0.03 meters.

Women’s high jump: The athlete who most looks like a Bond villain, Croatia’s Blanka Vlasic, tied the meet record at 1.94 meters. The USA’s Brigetta Barrett, fresh from a mention in SI’s Faces in the Crowd, finished third at 1.91.

Women’s 1,500: Brenda Martinez had the top U.S. finish (third, 4:06.25), finishing one spot ahead of world leader Nancy Jebet Langat of Kenya and two ahead of the USA’s Shannon Rowbury.

Women’s 400: Botswana’s Amantle Montsho (49.91) broke the meet record of Sanya Richards-Ross, who was a late scratch from the race. Natasha Hastings and Francena McCorory finished 2-3.

More Diamond League: Recap | Results | Analysis

Elsewhere in Olympic sports, the weekend was light.

BEACH VOLLEYBALL: Jake Gibb and Casey Patterson were second in the FIVB Grand Slam in Argentina. April Ross and Jen Kessy were fourth in the women’s competition.

WATER POLO: Some lopsided scores in World League continental qualifying.

FENCING: Mariel Zagunis was second in saber Grand Prix competition.

Woly Award: Jordan Burroughs rules the mat

Wrestler Jordan Burroughs is the winner of this week’s Woly, the weekly award for U.S. Olympic-sports athletes.

I used to give this award for USA TODAY, and it continued for a while after I departed. They stopped, so I’m restarting.

Burroughs, the Olympic and world champion, capped a big weekend for his sport with two massive wins, running his international record to an astounding 54-0. He needed to rally to win his match against Russia’s Saba Khubetzhty at Wednesday’s “Rumble on the Rails,” but under new international scoring rules, he roared past the same opponent Sunday in Los Angeles.

The USA lost to Iran in the first head-to-head matchup Wednesday at Grand Central Terminal, rebounded to swamp Russia, adapted after Iran withdrew from the L.A. event, then won seven matches in L.A.

A couple of other events from Olympic sports last week:

TRACK AND FIELD: “WL” = “world list,” the top performances in the world this year.

At the Diamond League meet in Shanghai, the USA’s Jason Richardson and Ryan Wilson finished 1-2 in the men’s 110 hurdles and moved into first and third on the world list at 13.23 and 13.25.

 

Other results:

Men’s 400: Kirani James (JAM, 44.02) and LaShawn Merritt (USA, 44.60) top two WL.

Women’s 100: Shelly Ann Fraser-Pryce (JAM) 10.93, top WL.

Women’s 400 hurdles: Top two WL: Zuzana Hejnova (CZE, 53.79) and Angela Morosanu (ROU, 53.85).

Men’s long jump: Top two WL: Li Jinzhe (CHN, 8.34) and Aleksandr Menkov (RUS, 8.31)

Men’s javelin: Top two WL: Tero Pitkamaki (FIN, 87.60) and Vitezslav Vesely (CZE, 86.67)

Men’s 3,000 steeplechase: Top seven times WL, all Kenyans. Winner: Conseslus Kipruto, age 18, 8:01.16.

Women’s 5,000: Top eight times WL, all Kenya and Ethiopia. Winner: Genzebe Dibaba (ETH, 14:45.92)

In Los Angeles, three U.S. runners moved into third, fourth and fifth on the world list: Jennifer Simpson (2:00.45), Phoebe Wright (2:00.58), LaTavia Thomas (2:00.68). No. 1 is 2:00.33. Also, Mary Cain demolished the U.S. junior record in the 1,500 (4:04.62).

In Ponce, Puerto Rico, U.S. hurdler Johnny Dutch ran a world-leading 48.02 to upset the host country’s Javier Culson (48.36, 2nd WL).

CYCLING: Tejay van Garderen proved he can win a multistage race and that a cyclist can win a multistage race with a newborn at home. He’s the new Tour of California champion.

The rest of the week in Olympic sports: the U.S. men won bronze in ice hockey’s World Championships, U.S. women won eight gold medals in Continental Championship boxing, and Olympians Brady Ellison and Khatuna Lorig won mixed-team gold in the archery World Cup opener.

Diamond League action not too surprising

A few quick words on today’s Diamond League meet:

– Tyson Gay hasn’t been running the 200 a lot. He was second here but still the top American.

– Hey, Angelo Taylor is suddenly back in form.

– U.S. steeplechaser Donald Cabral is getting into the mix. Third today.

– 110 hurdles: Aries Merritt 12.95, Jason Richardson 12.98. Whoa.

– Women’s 100: Carmelita Jeter 10.81, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce 10.90.

– Still sharp in field events: Jenn Suhr, Valerie Adams. Not as much: U.S. men’s high jumpers.

Full report/results: 2012 Birmingham Diamond League Results.

Diamonds for Bershawn Jackson, Allyson Felix

A couple of quick updates:

Shot put (men): Reese Hoffa upsets Christian Cantwell, though Cantwell has long ago clinched season title. (Results)

High jump (women): Chaunte Howard Lowe didn’t jump. Blanka Vlasic completes the sweep in her absence. (Results)

400 hurdles (men): Bershawn Jackson wraps dominant season. (Results)

200 (women): Season champion Allyson Felix wins a close one. (Results)

800 (women): Caster Semenya, cleared to run after some gender confusion, places third. (Results)

100 (men): Tyson Gay wraps up title with a 9.79, 0.01 off his world lead and 0.02 off Usain Bolt’s meet record. (Results)

1,500 (men): Kenya’s Asbel Kiprop takes win and season title, with USA’s Leo Manzano second in a personal best 3:32.37. (Results)

100 hurdles (women): Canada’s Priscilla Lopes-Schliep, who came into the race tied with USA’s Lolo Jones, wins to clinch the title. Jones, who finished the season in a slump, takes fifth. (Results)

Midweek Myriad: PanPac swimming, Diamond League finals

Yes, I’m spending some time away from the computer this week. Coincidentally, I’m pondering a remake of SportsMyriad.com. The experimental phase should be at an end soon; the question is what follows.

This is an unusually busy midweek for Myriad sports — CONCACAF Champions League group stage games, UEFA Champions League playoffs featuring teams you might be able to find on a map, plus the culmination of some swimming and track and field seasons.

Track and field: The Weltklasse Zurich meet wraps up roughly half of the Diamond League events. The shot putters got an early start. The rest of the meet is Thursday on Universal Sports online. Events to watch: men’s long jump (Dwight Phillips leads but hasn’t clinched), women’s 400 (Allyson Felix, who has clinched 200, leads here as well) and women’s long jump (Brittney Reese has narrow lead) . You’ll also see victory laps for Jeremy Wariner (men’s 400), David Oliver (men’s 110 hurdles) and Carmelita Jeter (women’s 100). The most curious event is the men’s 200, where runaway leader Walter Dix has withdrawn, leaving Wallace Spearmon a chance to clean up.

Swimming: The Pan Pacific Championships — mostly USA, Australia, Japan, Canada and South Korea, but with a handful of people from non-Pacific places like South Africa — are on Universal Sports and Swim Network.

Soccer: Seeing Joe Public FC play at home in Trinidad carries a reminder of a sad incident in international youth soccer. The stadium is named for Marvin Lee, a Trinidad & Tobago Under-20 player who was paralyzed in a collision during a game and died a couple of years later. The player with whom he collided — Landon Donovan.

MMA: Sorry for the lack of advance warning, but you’ll want to get to a TV now to see WEC on Versus. Dominick Cruz and Joseph Benavidez are in the main event.