Olympics 2021

The Olympics are over.  Eliud Kipchoge ran a masterful marathon and put away the competition in hot and humid conditions, throwing in a 14:28 5K (that’s a 4:40 pace!) at 30K.  Kipchoge now joins two others as the only runners to repeat in the Olympic marathon.  He looked good; Kipchoge always looks good and probably will if he’s still running at 70!

Reflecting on my last post about whether to hold the Olympics in light of Covid, I admit my fingers were crossed that outbreaks would be avoided among the 11,000 athletes and the games would be viewed as a success.  I believe that is now a given (sigh of relief!)  Certainly, the heat and humidity (which translates into the Wet Globe Index) were major factors in the races 1,500 meters and above.  Under those conditions, athletes respond differently.  In a way, it opened the door for non-favorites to medal.  Not having crowds didn’t seem to materially affect the performances.  In fact, athletes probably were able to focus better without loud crowds.

There were some truly outstanding and memorable performances.  Granted, my focus was on the distance running events.  In that vein, four things stand out.

  1. Kipchoge’s marathon.  He showed at age 36 (almost 37) one can maintain their running prowess as they age.  Hopefully, us runners can incorporate some of his effortless rhythmic stride into our gait!
  2. Sifan Hassan’s three medals: 1,500 (bronze), 5,000 (gold), and 10,000 (gold), the first time a woman has medaled in all these distances in a single Olympics.  She ran six races, including qualifiers, to do this.  In the 1,500 heat, she fell in the last lap but rose to win the heat.  In the 1,500 final, she changed her normal tactic from running behind to leading, maybe costing her gold.  The 10,000 was just 23 hours after the 1,500 final and her final surge carried the day to win by just .6 seconds.  She’s special!
  3. Elle Purrier St. Pierre, a Vermont phenom, who made the 1,500 finals, then finishing 10th in a very respectable 4:01 considering the conditions.  She will have to decide if she has reached her peak, as it will take another big step up to contend with the Africans.  If she retired today, she’d could do so holding the indoor mile and two-mile American records and savoring a proud Olympic achievement.
  4. Molly Seidel’s bronze in the women’s marathon.  In only her third marathon, she pushed the pace and was in the lead pack right to the end, placing behind the world record holders for the half marathon (by 26 seconds) and marathon (by 10 seconds).  As the race unfolded, it seemed problematic she would hold her own with these international runners, but Seidel was fearless and not to be denied.

So, another summer Olympics is in the books.  Strange in many ways, but familiar in others.  Some surprises and that is why the races are run.  Only three more years until the next round!

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