Some Parting Thoughts From The World Athletics Championships
I had visited Eugene, Oregon once before - on a rather pass-by occasion years ago, but one in which I did manage to get a look at the hallowed track & field grounds of Hayward Field through a chain link fence. Obviously, this time around, I'd be sitting in the newly renovated stadium and getting an in-person look at the much discussed venue. And, of course, a good fan's view of some of the key action.
Kara Winger and Haruka Kitaguchi really, really, were happy with their women's javelin medals. Gold medalist Kelsey-Lee Barber, too, but Winger (silver) and Kitaguchi (bronze) were certainly soaking up the lap of honor. You couldn't get Winger off the track!
It Is a Nice Stadium!
Attendance concerns aside, Hayward Field delivers a great experience for a track & field - intimacy, great views from multiple vantage points, and clean, sleek feel, and an homage to the sport at every turn. I'd love to see Eugene remain on the calendar for years to come. But the city needs to work on its hotel inventory! We stayed in Albany, 45 minutes away, where the availability was best.
Having seats in the stadium to watch heats of all four 4x100 and 4x400 relays was a treat. And watching the 4x100s at the 1st changeover was a unique experience - on TV, that is the most-difficult point of the race for me, as that first curve is often obscured by a the infield's throwing net. And what visual madness the 4x100s are at those early changeovers!
Decathletes Do Work
The decathletes, and I assume, heptathletes, may have something to say about 'an even pace'. They sure do work, with maybe ~ 30 minutes in between event competitions. That's not a lot of rest. Respect.
The men's pole vault qualifications topped out at 'only' 5.75 meters (Mondo Duplantis would clear a world record 6.21 meters in the final for gold), but, man, that's impressive at how high they get. Those men - and women - must be adrenaline junkies. Respect II.
The afternoon sessions were scheduled for just about three hours, and the flow seemed paced right, with dedicated moments to focus on field events happening without opn-the-track action. Overall, on both of my in-person sessions, there wasn't much dead time to wander from my seat - even including Day 9's women's 5,000 meters, which produced an unusually competitive multi-runner sprint finish.
Long-Distance Doesn't Mean Slow
Speaking of that 5,000 meters...they sure do go fast. From a non-athlete's armchair perspective, it sure is easy to see such long-distance running as slow and measured. But they're obviously professional. The medalists all finished under 15 minutes. It'd take me 15 to do two laps probably. Respect III.
And more from that women's 5,000 meters...the finish and celebration was marred by a security breach in which a supporter of Tigray - an Ethiopian region brutalized by civil war, and from where winner Gudaf Tsegay is from - was able to not only approach Tsegay but also hug and lift her. Trackside security had a visible lapse in response time before escorting him off the track, but not before a lull over the crowd settled in with the bewildering scene. Tigray flags - so that's what those were! - were visible throughout the stadium; two supporters were seated briefly next to me at one point. Improbably, the interloper was even let back into the stadium. Security should and needs to do better. (That said, we all should be aware of what's happening in Tigray.)
Most amusing conversation overheard over my two days there...a track fan walking toward the stadium passed by, and stopped a relay quartet in green & yellow tracksuits. He asked for a photo with them, as his son was 'stationed in Australia'. In unison, the quartet replied, "We're South Africa." Note, their suits were clearly labeled 'South Africa'. I wonder if he did get a picture anyway.
In Flesh and Blood
It's always a bit of fun seeing celebrities 'in real life', and, for a track & field fan, athletes are no exception. The initimacy of the Hayward Field venue and the proximity to the athletes' quarters made for great opportunity to often be in the same space. At various points, I found myself walking past Mujinga Kambudnji, Dina Asher-Smith, Kyle Langford, Trevor Bassitt, Andrea Vargas, and the women's relay squads of Team Poland, Ireland, and the aforementioned South Africa. I got to say 'congratulations' to Valarie Allman, too. Can't get that close experience at a lot of professional sports events!
Bonus - Legendary Legend!
What a fun mascot!