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Sydney Withdraws From Worlds 🌍
Photo: Justin Britton
No matter how hard Bobby Kersee tries, I still refuse to sign up for the LA Times’s limited-time offer to new subscribers – $1 for 6 months of digital access! That’s infinitely more expensive than following Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone on Instagram who shared in a story, “After consulting with my doctors and coaches, I need to take care of a minor knee issue so that I can be fully healthy for next year’s Paris Olympics. I look forward to seeing everyone back on the track soon!”
That sort of bombshell deserves an in-feed timeline post!
I am not on Sydney’s medical staff so who knows to what extent this knee pain is minor. It was a bit over three weeks ago that the same injury was cited for pulling out of the Monaco Diamond League and this was announced nine days before the first round of the 400m. Seems sort of serious.
The reaction to this news is fairly unsurprising. People are upset. But not necessarily at Sydney. Remember, this news came just days after coach Kersee made some comments about the possibility of Athing Mu training rather than competing this summer, and so there was already ample criticism swirling about his methods and commitment to the health of the sport.
From a competition perspective, Sydney ran 48.74 at the US Championships and was poised to break the American Record. There was still quite a bit of distance between her and Marita Koch’s 47.60, but that didn’t stop fans from daydreaming. And with eight women entered at the World Championships who have already run under 50 seconds this year, there was potential for some great racing.
But the main reason fans are screaming, “this is why we can’t have nice things!” from the rooftops is that Sydney is popular and actually transcends our little bubble. Where are all the rockstar runners you ask? Well, at least one lives in Los Angeles but goes back to New Jersey for Thanksgiving.
Fans’ outrage was to be expected. Much weirder was how track’s various governing bodies handled it… or rather, didn’t. The greatest draw to any modern track meet suddenly withdraws the week before the biggest championship of the year, and not a word is said by World Athletics or USATF. Just crickets. The same week Sydney drops out of the World Championships, there were two interview posts highlighting her World Record from last year, another graphic of the match-up between her and Paulino, her face in the center of a Team USA poster, another asking the rhetorical question of who the greatest 400m hurdler of all time is, and finally an animation wishing her a happy birthday. But no acknowledgment of far and away the biggest news story of the lead-up.
Like, I empathize with the amount of energy that is put into promoting one athlete only to have that strategy crumble before the social media team’s eyes. But bad news is news and it’s part of the sport and that drama is what makes it interesting to follow. Have we learned nothing during the post-Usain Bolt era? One athlete will not save us. But making the sport easier to follow by telling the important stories might.
This isn’t just Sydney, but the quiet omission of other major stars’ issues, like world record holder Tobi Amusan currently being under a provisional suspension for whereabouts violations. After multiple unfounded reports of the Nigerian star’s clearance to compete this week made the rounds in the news cycle, World Athletics finally came out in an email message to journalists saying those reports were false.
My weekly call to action for more communication and transparency from organizing bodies and athletes continues!
It’s a tired analogy, but imagine if the MLB didn’t mention a missed Justin Verlander start in the World Series. Or if Patrick Mahomes just never ran onto the field for the Super Bowl. There might be some confused fans in Budapest wondering why Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone isn’t there. They came all that way to wish her a belated happy birthday!
Tinman Announces Departures ⚒️
As many organizations, teams, and athletes continue to make moves in the shadows, it’s doubly appreciated when a team like Tinman Elite openly shares roster changes. On Instagram, the group announced that Aaron Templeton, Brian Barraza, Jamaine Coleman, Jordan Gusman, and Tori Gorlach will be moving on to new groups or into retirement. The transparency hit like a breath of fresh air!
Hopefully, other teams can take note that this strategy is preferred to quietly removing a roster photo from the website (or, pro tip: you don’t have to remove a roster photo if you never even bothered to upload one in the first place!) that no one visits. Everyone involved in these sorts of moves ought to be able to maturely handle change. If we want pro track to be treated like a real pro sport, we’ve gotta adopt another adage from the world of ESPN sound bites when it comes to rosters changing year to year – ”it’s a business!”
Say It Ain’t So — Issam Asinga 🇸🇷
The general reaction to most announcements from the Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU) is an uncomfortable mixture between disappointment and relief. We hate to see you cheat, but love to watch you get caught! Instead, this week’s blow was all sadness for me as teenage phenom Issam Asinga’s name was not one that I would have ever expected.
As an eternal optimist and true lover of the sport, I have made the decision to believe that athletes competing on the track are clean – that’s how I can continue to enjoy the action as a fan. Now obviously this is not a foolproof system and occasionally I am made to look like a real dummy. But a high schooler is not someone that I would ever expect to be bending the rules unless a cafeteria chicken patty was suddenly placed on the banned list.
The 18-year-old posted season’s best of 9.89 (+0.8) and 19.97 (+1.3) and was entering the World Championships as a potential medal threat. His urine sample had the presence of GW1516. This substance, known colloquially as SARM is not something that is part of the standard senior biology curriculum. It’s used for its fat burning, endurance aiding properties, and has been linked to development of certain cancers in studies conducted on mice.
Now as far as athlete statements go, this one was excellent. After the Peter Bol situation and his eventual exoneration, I am holding my breath here and praying for the little remaining faith in humanity that I still have left.
Overlooked but packaged in the same news drop was Kenya’s Rodgers Kwemoi’s suspension for a biological passport violation. Kewmoi was 4th in the 10,000m at Worlds in 2019 and 7th at the Olympics. For those unfamiliar with the term, the passport in this case is not the document used to fly between training camps in Japan and Kenya, but the AIU’s tracking of various blood levels and looking for inconsistencies. If after years of testing someone’s testosterone levels suddenly double then that raises a suspicious red flag.
What are the odds? Let’s crunch some numbers! 🎰
Photo: Johnny Pace | @pacephoto
First off, you don’t have to email me your thoughts about sports gambling. I know that some readers will disagree about its place in track and field – that’s fine. But one consistent theme in the formation of my opinions about how to improve the sport is to look outside our bubble to see what is working elsewhere. Betting on track is not that radical because it already exists, it’s just not ubiquitous in the United States, despite just about every other form of sports gambling being pushed upon us.
Trust me when I say that I am behind the scenes sending LinkedIn messages and building decks to try and change that. Until then we are going to look at some of the odds set by Bovada and DraftKings to see what financial opportunities may be present and how we can become more invested in these championships.
(For the record, this is not financial advice. For the love of god please don’t look to a track & field blog for financial advice!)
Most Gold Medals: Team USA (-5000) - Normally it’s not worth the effort to place a bet on such terrible odds, but this is literally free money. I’m tempted to put together a family and friends funding round to come up with every available dollar to put towards this. The only potential risk I’m assuming is that the website crashes or my account gets hacked.
Last year the United States won 13 golds and the next best was 4 by Ethiopia. At the 2019 World Championships, it was 14 to 5 over Kenya, and that same match-up was 10 to 5 in 2017. The closest call there has been in recent history was at the Olympics when the United States only won 7, yet somehow Italy won 5, which actually was more like 4.5.
Theoretically, you could put $10,000 in and in two weeks it’ll turn into $10,200. Not even your Marcus account can guarantee this sort of savings rate.
W 100: Shericka Jackson (+450) and/or Sha'Carri Richardson (+550) - Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce has won the 100m title on seven occasions so it seems fair that she’d be the favorite. Except a late start to her season has resulted in what would be considered a relatively slow season’s best of 10.82. The gamble here is on how much has SAFP improved in the last month.
I am not personally betting against the Pocket Rocket. But I am acknowledging that there is tremendous potential value to placing wagers on the two women who have run consistently and significantly faster this year.
Heavy Favorites Parlay: Yulimar Rojas (-3500), Mondo Duplantis (-1000), Femke Bol (-1600), Faith Kipyegon (-1100), Jakob Ingebrigtsen (-650), Ryan Crouser (-1000), Noah Lyles (-280)
If, like my editor, the only thing you know about sports betting is that it took place in Uncut Gems, then this could be the bet for you! (I haven’t seen the film, personally, but I trust the protagonist won big on his parlay and then nothing bad happened to him.)
These seven athletes each have a VERY good chance of winning. They’re literally the odds-on favorites and have been dominant all season long. But combine them and all of a sudden… all it takes is one twisted ankle or stomach bug and this thing tanks. Any cross country runner could tell you that seven people have never all shown up on the same day. Don’t take this bet, unless you desperately want to be nervous for nine days straight just to turn $100 into an additional $125.
M Discus: Kristan Ceh (+125) and Daniel Stahl (+150)
We don’t talk much about the discus in this newsletter and that’s on me. To quickly catch you up, Sweden’s Daniel Stahl won Worlds in 2019 and the Olympics in 2021. And the younger Slovenian Kristjan Ceh won last year in Eugene. In the lifetime head-to-head match-up, Stahl has the advantage 17 - 14.
Though my move would be to hedge the odds, all but guaranteeing I’d win a small amount of money. That’s because in their 25 competitions together since 2021, one of them ended up winning the whole thing every time except once. That essentially means on a $100 bet, there is a 96% chance at winning at least $25 (or maybe $50)!
M Steeplechase: Lamecha Girma (+200)
Honestly, I am feeling second-hand disrespect on behalf of Lamecha Girma seeing the way that he’s being treated here. The Ethiopian broke a 19-year-old world record to run 7:52.11 THIS SEASON and yet they are saying he’s a long shot against Soufiane El Bakkali (-200).
I get it in the sense that the Moroccan is the defending champion and owns a 7-1 record against Girma. But this is not the same Girma anymore! This year he also ran 3:29.51 for 1500m and 7:23.81 for the indoor 3000m world record. In their one matchup, Girma won the flat 3000m in Doha and El Bakkali was nowhere close. Yes, he has four global championship silver medals, but if the best time to win a gold medal was last year then the next best time is this year.
Other bets I like: Steven Gardiner (+120), Letesenbet Gidey (+650), Gabby Thomas (+300), Daniel Roberts (+600), Berihu Aregawai (10K, +250)
Why Fans Should Watch The World Athletics Championships
Photo: Johnny Zhang | @jzsnapz
Last week I was asked by a reader to help write a pitch to convince impressionable friends to tune into the World Championships. Naturally, I had some fun with it. But my harshest and most attractive critic – who I happen to be married to – challenged me on what I wrote, saying it was a missed opportunity to truly express why I believe more fans should tune in. So let’s try again…
Well, it is basically the Olympics, except the athletes get paid. Minus sponsors on the bibs and some rings painted onto the track, every aspect of the nine-day competition would be virtually indistinguishable from the viewing experience of what will come in Paris. And in Budapest, the running IQ of an average fan in the stadium will be infinitely higher than those who will have to overpay for their seats next year. These are informed fans, not your Olympic year bandwagoners! (Though we want those too.)
As a quadrennial swimming fan, I understand the barrier to entry. No one told me that those world championships were even on until they were over. My very active Twitter timeline, which is meticulously curated specifically to the track world, makes no mention of such an event. Had I known our aqua-cousins were competing, then I would have loved to watch.
In thinking deeply about what it is that I like about being a diehard track fan, I keep catching myself maybe overdoing it with the passion plea. But something that sticks out to me as a legitimate, approachable point of persuasion is this clip of Reddit’s founder (and Serena’s husband) Alex Ohanian and the arguments he makes for the growing importance of sports in society and entertainment.
“We need things in our lives that are not scripted, that are not controlled, that are fundamentally human… The value of sports is the fact that if you miss it, you miss it. There are real stakes in everything. There’s an unequivocal champion at the end of the day.”
Essentially, the algorithm has become so optimized that we are constantly being served exactly what we want at all times without even having to ask for it. There is no longer an act of exploring to find art or media or event coverage that rewards us for our efforts. We don’t have to wade through an entire newspaper just to find that one article worth cutting out for a friend – someone else already did it, and it’s gone viral. But as entertainment is served up to us on a platter, especially in a more condensed format, it lacks that element of surprise.
There is too much content and we are being asked to choose from a Cheesecake Factory menu of options to consume. And then everyone orders something different and eats at a different time. It all lacks that community element of a shared experience. Remember how much fun it was to know that everyone was watching Game of Thrones together and having that water cooler conversation on Monday morning? That’s sports!
And what is normally the problem with track and field is non-existent for nine days. It is no longer too difficult to follow, there are suddenly not too many meets, you know the (healthy) stars are going to show up, and everything is on the line!
There is no sport more accessible and universally competed in. There will be 202 countries represented at this World Championships, with athletes across all disciplines making up the full range of athletic bodies. And no individual sport has a lower barrier to entry for its competitors or barrier to understanding as a spectator. Rather than just one winner crowned there will be 49 and every single one matters. This is the Super Bowl… again and again and again!
Rapid Fire Highlights 🔥
The Olympic and World Championship bronze medalist from Uganda Jacob Kiplimo is an unfortunate scratch from Worlds due to injury. He ran 12:41.73 for 5000m earlier this season and I wanted to see this battle vs Jakob with a ‘K’ again.
More bad news in the week lead up to Worlds as Belgium’s Nafi Thiam will not return to defend her Heptathlon title due to an achilles injury.
The New York City Marathon announced some of the studs that will be taken through the five boroughs, including defending champion Sharon Lokedi, 2021 champ Peres Jepchirchir, world record holder Brigid Kosgei, and Boston winner Hellen Obiri. It’ll be difficult to win but should be one of the easier years to finish as the top American!
Two names to remember from the U20 European Championships will be double gold winners Niels Laros of the Netherlands and Agate Caune from Latvia. Laros closed in 51.3, looking effortless in the 1500, which he will also contest at Worlds. Caune soloed a nine-second personal best in the 5000m (15:03) – she’ll be Latvia’s only distance runner in Budapest.
Justyn Knight, who joined the Reebok Boston Track Club in 2018 after graduating from Syracuse as a two-time NCAA champion, has been announced as the newest member of the Bowerman Track Club. The Canadian Olympian with a 5000m personal best of 12:51 is currently recovering from achilles surgery following two years of injury.
Germany’s Konstanze Klosterhalfen shared that a foot injury will keep her from competing in Budapest.
Norway apparently has its next young prodigy as Per August Halle Haugen ran 15:52 for 5K at just 13 years old.
The first edition of the World Road Running Championships hasn’t even happened yet, but now we know where the next two will be! In 2025, athletes will take to the streets of San Diego, and in 2026 they’ll head to Copenhagen. Also announced, Lima will host the 2024 U20 World Championships and in 2026 the meet is heading to Eugene.
The reigning 400m world champion Michael Norman will not compete in Budapest. Rather than citing injury, he acknowledged a frustrating season. Norman had a bye from last year’s win, however, his plans to shift to the 100m did go as planned and the vibes were just never right.
Thank you to ASICS for supporting this week’s newsletter and ALL of the upcoming CITIUS MAG coverage from the World Championships in Budapest! There will be a lot of action each day and it will take a full team to be on top of everything from the daily show, to interviews, photographs, podcasts, newsletters, and more so appreciate ASICS’ support to power us through it.