Most years, I do a couple updates for BBC Sports on the US Champs and a few other North American events during the season.
This weekend, being that it is Wimbledon Weekend, BBC is All Wimbledon, all the time.
As a public service to our friends across the pond who love athletics as well as tennis, here are 11 Takeaways on the US Champs:
Eugene is a great host for the US Champs, except for the excessive hotel prices, incredible airline ticket prices, and until 4 days ago, ticket prices for meet. Eugene, Oregon, is a lovely city of 170,000, but it is a challenge to get to. Hotels have decided to charge more than NYC city prices for the champs, and pricing until 4 days ago on the tickets for the meet was too high. Even with that, the crowd has grown each to, to 9000 on Saturday.
Sha’Carri Richardson entertains. Sha’Carri ran 10.71 in round 1, 10.75 in the semi-final, and 10.83 in the final. She is incredibly popular with fans and huge on social media. Sha’Carri will compete in 200m as well. She is on fire.
Men’s 100m was a big surprise, but it should not have been. Cravont Charleston ran 9.90 and 9.95 in Europe prior to US Champs. He caught Christian Coleman and Noah Lyles unawares. He is fast, and he will be around for a while now. Cravont competes for Tracksmith, a boutique performance sports apparel company that has been building a nice team of track & field athletes.
Sydney McLaughlin ran 48.74 and will continue to improve. Sydney McLaughlin looks to be taking a break from the 400m hurdles. In my opinion, Sydney will have WR in 400m by Paris. Her WR of 50.68 suggests that she can run around 47.4.
Athing Mu has a new event. Another of Bobby Kersee’s athletes, Athing, improved 13 seconds in two 1,500m, making team for 1,500m, in a race won by Nikki Hiltz. Athing could compete in 800m and 1,500m, but not sure if she will defend the 800m title. That is up to her coach, Bobby Kersee. Bobby told this writer last February that Athing would break the 800m record someday and also be a player at 1,500 meters. Never bet against Bobby Kersee, no matter how crazy you think his banter is. The guy has the vision thing.
The US team has surprises and veterans. Steeplechases were incredible last night; Kenneth Rooks, NCAA champion, had fallen, like Lasse Viren in the 1972 Olympics, got up, won the steeple on a kick, and set PB. in Women’s steeple, Krissy Gear beat Emma Coburn, Olympic medalist, World Champion, 11 times at US nationals. Down the stretch, running huge PB!
Many brands support the sport, but lots of unattached athletes. Athletes from adidas, Brooks, New Balance, ASICS, HOKA, PUMA, On Running, Tracksmith, and NIKE. While NIKE has drastically cut back on hits sponsored athletes, it continues to have the majority of medals, just not like years prior. Many are unattached from making the teams.
Even the world’s best track team is not on Prime Time. Believe it or not, after paying billions of US dollars, NBC TV is producing broadcasts for Peacock, some segments on CNBC, their cable affiliate, but most of America will not see anything from US Champs as NBC and USATF could not find a TV window for live broadcast, as Wimbledon and golf is on this weekend. In the TV window for USATF, they are putting on reruns of America’s Got Talent. So much for the second most popular sport in Summer Olympics.
Great media turnout. Media numbers are up, with new media and social media folks in attendance. Nice to see print media still has a presence and more traditional digital media covering one of the finest US champs in my 40 years of attendance.
Fans love the meet, loving the athletes. After all of the above, Fans came from far and wide. At my Motel 6 in Springfield, Oregon, I met a family that drove from San Diego, having never been to a US Champs before to see the new Hayward Field and the meet. I met a young Mom in the stadium who brought her 8 and 10-year-olds to the meet.
Athletes are the stories. Some incredible moments of joy but also of sadness. One sometimes forgets that many have spent most of their young lives aspiring to qualify for the meet, and those who make the team are a small minority of the participants. Last night, while I had dinner at a local hotel, I witnessed a moment that reminded me of humanity. I watched an Olympic medalist hugging two young pole vaulters who did not make the team, and were inconsolable. He told them that their time would come. It was one of those moments that I could feel the tears welling up, witnessing the thoughtfulness of these sports warriors. I will remind myself of that rather unique moment in my fifty years in this sport.