16 August 2009

Summer Fun

It's not summer here yet (although reports from friends who weren't asleep all day yesterday tell me it's on its way) but it is in Berlin, where the IAAF World Championships in Athletics are now in full swing.

Providence-based New Zealand runner, Kimberley Smith, placed 8th in the women's 10,000m. She recorded a season's best time of 31:21.42. I just don't know what I would do with myself if I could run 10km that quickly. Although at a guess it would be something like representing New Zealand at Worlds. The race was won (in the notable absences of Tirunesh Dibaba and Elvan Abeylegesse) by a Kenyan - for the first time in twelve years - the same Kenyan who beat Dibaba earlier in the season at the Reebok Grand Prix, in the shorter 5,000m event, Linet Masai. Ethiopians claimed the rest of the medals, and the minor placings were filled by more Africans, along with an American, two Japanese girls and Kim.

In what seems to be becoming something of a global event - the women's pole vault - qualifiers for the final include the freakishly talented Elena Isinbayeva, along with my personal favourite, Polish Anna Rogowska, Fabiana Murer of Brazil, Kate Dennison from the UK, Isinbayeva's countrywomen (but I can almost guarantee they're not friends) Yuliya Golubchikova, Aleksandra Kiryashova, and Tatyana Polnova, the Germans Anna Battke, Silke Spiegelburg, Kristina Gadschiew, Monika Pyrek of Poland, and Chelsea Johnson of the USA. Okay, okay - so it's Germany versus Russia in the final, and not that global after all, but qualifications featured athletes from Finland, Cyprus, Malaysia, Greece, Italy, Switzerland, Portugal, France, the Czech Republic, China, Canada, Spain, Japan and Korea. Fun.

The men's 100m - an event I have less and less interest in each time it's run, will be into the semi-final stages tomorrow and will feature an array of mostly black and Caribbean men (Japanese Naoki Tsukahara the noted exception) including that American showpony Tyson Gay and the Jamaican superstar Usain Bolt. Zambian Gerald Phiri set a national record of 10.16s to be the fastest non-placed qualifier.

Tsukahara of a different kind: semi-finalist Naoki at last year's Olympics

The New Zealand highlight for tomorrow will no doubt be current World, Olympic and Commonwealth Games champion and the nation's favourite enormously tall daughter, Valerie Vili, who competes in shotput. She has a personal and season's best of 20.69m (okay seriously kids, that's throwing a heavy metal ball almost the length of a short-course swimming pool) and is the favourite to retain her title. Valerie's event gets underway at 8:20pm local time, and I got so confused looking at the world clock just now that I'm not even going to attempt to tell you what time that will be where I live. Anyway, I'm sure she'll do us proud yet again.

From track to gymnastics (it links in because of that Tsukahara guy!) and the US Nationals are all but over now. Can you believe they're having a "Nastia Liukin Cup"?! I admit I became more of a fan when she pulled it out when it really counted (winning the Olympic All-Around over the more decorated Shawn Johnson), but... I don't know. The Nastia Liukin Cup? She has a good marketing department. Anyway, her teammate Rebecca Bross, who the last time I saw her was still landing bars dismounts on her back to relieve pressure on the foot she broke earlier this year - yikes, was first after day one but in finals was beaten by old hands Bridget Sloan and Ivana Hong. Anyway, I'll tell you who my new favourite is and that's Kytra Hunter, out of Frederick in Maryland.

USA Gymnastics is the governing body for a whole bunch of gymn-related sports, including the ever-crazy Acrobatics. It's competed in teams - pairs and trios which are either men, women, or mixed. Mostly they just throw each other around and wear sparkly outfits. Kind of like cheerleading without all the yelling. Here's an example.

Anyone else thinking, how is that girl suspended in mid-air in a straddle position? Creepy.

Alright well, I think I've talked more than enough for this weekend. What was I saying about being softspoken? HA.

Over and out, yo.

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