Sunday, August 24, 2008

NBC Commentary- Usian Bolt or Kenenisa Bekele

NBC again highlighted Usian Bolt as perhaps the most electrifying star of this Summer Olympics, or some hyperbole like that.

I'm certainly not going to question the appeal of the Jamaican sprinter or the absolutely amazing quality of his record times. What he did, and how he did it, certainly is a shot in the arm for a sport full of posing, doping, and just plan bad acting people- and I'm a dues-paying USATF member and administrator and that's my opinion of the sport. He is young, flashy, fun, and really freaking fast.

But lost in the enormousness of what he did is the fact that Kenenisa Bekele won his own double. And it wasn't the 100 and 200 meters either. Granted, Lightning Bolt had to run in more qualifiers, but Bekele won the 10,000 meter and then came back and won the 5000 meter. Not only that, but he set the olympic record at both distances and was dominating in both races.

If you've run 5K and 10K road races you sort of have an idea what we're talking about here but to really appreciate it you have to have contested these distances on a track. these are two grueling middle-distance races that are just mind-blowingly difficult to contest on an oval. And unlike short track races like the 100, you have way more than 8 guys and everyone is on top of each other. These are tough races.

Bekele isn't the first to dual medal at both distances. And he's not a 6'5" flashing sprint. he's a 5'4", 123 pound Ethiopian who earned gold-silver in the same double in 2004. And while he didn't have to run a lot of qualifiers he did have to run a 13:40 5K semifinal to qualify for the finals. That's a 13:40 5K. Then he won the 5K by running 12:57.

Electrifying ? No. They cut away to women's high jump during the 5000. But did he dominate that race ? You bet he did. And his double. Quite a feat, done before or not.

I'm not saying Bolt isn't amazing. But I think it's too bad the quiet Ethiopian isn't getting a little more due...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your commentary. While I do not agree with comparing athletes e.g. Bolt vs. Phelps, Bolt vs. Bekele, etc, I think your point is important and highlights the preference in the culture for show and marketability. Kenenisa and Dibaba's accomplishments were amazing but, unfortunately, they will not get the global recognition they deserve except from those interested in running and from Africans. I realize they are not running for media recognition, but as an Ethiopian, it frustrates me that their accomplishments are underappreciated.