Thursday, August 11, 2005

I've been watching the world track and field championships on TV; one good thing about Spanish TV is they give us all the races and just the races, none of those dumb features about so-and-so overcoming her personal demons in order to triumph like those they always run during the Olympics in the States. Of course the commentators are biased in favor of the Spanish competitors, which is perfectly understandable and happens in every country.

So they ran the men's 1500 finals yesterday. It was a slow race, with the winner, Rashid Ramzi, crossing the line more than ten seconds short of the world record. I saw no fouls and no one was disqualified. The greatest 1500 runner ever, world-record holder, four-time world champion, and 2004 Olympic champion El Guerrouj or however you spell his name, wasn't there. Without him, it wasn't a bad race or anything, I'm not complaining, and these guys are a hell of a lot faster than I was in high school; my best time for the mile in a real race was 4:52, and I barely broke sixty seconds in the quarter, which is why I never got to run it in real races.

Here's the AP's story.

HELSINKI, Finland (AP) -- Morocco played a major role in the men's 1,500-meter final at the world athletics championships Wednesday, although the greatest Moroccan wasn't even there.

With four-time defending champion Hicham El Guerrouj missing the championships because of illness, Moroccan-born Rashid Ramzi gave his adopted nation of Bahrain the gold medal with a time of 3 minutes, 37.88 seconds.

Adil Kaouch of Morocco was second in 3:38.00, barely holding off Rui Silva of Portugal, who settled for bronze in 3:38.02.

Ramzi became a citizen of Bahrain after moving to the Gulf nation to take up a job in that country's armed forces. But he retains a Moroccan passport and trains with old coach Khalid Boulami.

"This medal is very important for me and my country," Ramzi said. "I am very proud to have been able to deliver this gold medal."

Ramzi stayed near the front and stepped up the pace coming out of the final bend and safely cruised home on a wet, windy and cool night.

"There were no tactics in the race," he said. "The weather was a big problem, we just couldn't get the right rhythm.

"I was hoping we would spread it out a little so I would have more space to run my own race, but I had to wait until the last lap to beat them with my speed," Ramzi said.

Kaouch once ran as El Guerrouj's pacemaker and returned to competition in 2004 after two knee operations.

"I am not even tired at all," he said. "I focused on the 1,500 this year, prepared well for Helsinki and it paid off. ... We are all very happy and very proud of this result today."

So guess what La Vanguardia's take was? It's natural that they would focus on the Spanish competitors, and I wouldn't expect anything else, but this is a bit excessive. They gave two whole pages in the sports section to this one particular competition, in which there were three not-particularly-good Spanish runners. Their best, Reyes Estevez, won bronzes at the world championships in 1997 and 1999, and is now way over the hill. The three came in fifth, sixth, and eleventh (Estevez), and none was ever a factor in the race. Here we go with La Vanguardia's conspiracy theory, however, and you'll never guess the nationality of the bad guy. Also check out the warlike imagery.

Casado, Higuera, Estevez fail in dirty 1500 meter final

American Alan Webb committed suicide...a dirty and mysterious one expected the American's attack to be so savage, so desperate, so cruel...Webb's attack was very violent, absolutely disproportionate..."Webb committed suicide. His attack made no sense," said Reyes Estevez.

It seems that Mr. Webb committed the awful sin of trying to win the race by running fast.

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