Usain Bolt

IAAF announces candidates for World Athlete of the Year

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Usain Bolt is a candidate for track and field’s athlete of the year award, as expected, but he’s by no means a sure bet to take home the title for the fifth time in six years.

Bolt had a stellar 2013, winning the 100 meters, 200 and 4×100 relay gold at the World Championships and losing one race all season, but he did not break a world record. He graded his season an eight out of 10.

“I won, but I wouldn’t say it was in Usain Bolt fashion,” he said earlier this month.

Bolt won the IAAF World Athlete of the Year Award in 2008, 2009, 2011 and 2012. Kenyan David Rudisha, the world record holder in the 800 meters, won in 2010, when Bolt was hampered by injury and lost a 100 to Tyson Gay.

Who could beat Bolt this year? Here are the other nine men up for the award:

Mohammed Aman (ETH) — World champion, 800 meters
Bohdan Bondarenko (UKR) — World champion, high jump
Ashton Eaton (USA) — World champion, decathlon
Mohamed Farah (GBR) — World champion, 5,000 meters and 10,000 meters
Robert Harting (GER) — World champion, shot put
Wilson Kipsang (KEN) — Berlin Marathon winner in world record time
Aleksandr Menkov (RUS) — World champion, long jump
LaShawn Merritt (USA) — World champion, 400 meters
Teddy Tamgho (FRA) — World champion, triple jump

The strongest candidates appear to be Bondarenko, Farah and Kipsang.

Bondarenko was the only male track and field athlete to win a specific event at five Diamond League meetings this season and capture a world championship. The lanky Ukrainian also made several failed attempts to break Javier Sotomayor‘s world record of 2.45 meters from 1993.

Farah was the only man other than Bolt to win two individual world championships in 2013. The Somalian-born, Oregon-trained Brit became the first man to sweep the 5,000 and 10,000 at worlds the year after sweeping the events at the Olympics.

The top candidate, though, could very well be Kipsang. The Kenyan became the only track and field athlete to break a world record this year Sunday, winning the Berlin Marathon in 2 hours, three minutes, 23 seconds.

The last time Bolt did not take World Athlete of the Year, the winner, Rudisha, also broke a world record (twice, actually) in 2010.

The women’s winner will likely be Jamaican Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, who, like countryman Bolt, swept the 100, 200 and 4×100 at worlds. She became the second woman to win three golds at a single worlds, joining Allyson Felix.

Fraser-Pryce starred on the Diamond League circuit, too, winning the season titles in the 100 and the 200. She posted the world’s three fastest times of 2013 in the 100 and the two fastest in the 200.

The other women’s candidates:

Valerie Adams (NZL) — World champion, shot put
Abeba Aregawi (SWE) — World champion, 1,500 meters
Meseret Defar (ETH) — World champion, 5,000 meters
Tirunesh Dibaba (ETH) — World champion, 10,000 meters
Zuzana Hejnova (CZE) — World champion, 400-meter hurdles
Caterine Ibargüen (COL) — World champion, triple jump
Sandra Perkovic (CRO) — World champion, discus
Brianna Rollins (USA) — World champion, 100-meter hurdles
Svetlana Shkolina (RUS) — World champion, high jump

Defar is the only nominee to previously win the award (2007). Felix, whose 2013 was cut short by injury, won the award in 2012 after taking triple gold at the Olympics. If Fraser-Pryce wins, she’ll become the second Jamaican woman to take it, joining Merlene Ottey (1990).

Her biggest competition would appear to be throwers. Adams posted the six farthest throws in the world this year and won the Diamond League season title in the shot put. Perkovic won all seven Diamond League meets this year with the five farthest discus throws in the world.

There’s also Hejnova, who won seven of eight Diamond League races in the 400 hurdles and posted seven of the eight fastest times of the year.

The lists will be narrowed to three finalists for each award after an email poll of track and field officials closes Oct. 27. The winners will be announced Nov. 16 after a council decision.

U.S. track and field athlete’s Olympic bronze medal stolen

Bobsled Olympic medalist Steve Langton retires

SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 03:  (BROADCAST-OUT)  Steve Langton of the United States Bobsled team poses for a portrait ahead of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics on February 3, 2014 in Sochi, Russia.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
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Steve Langton, who was described by driver Steven Holcomb as the “best push athlete in the world,” announced his retirement today.

A collegiate sprinter and jumper at Northeastern University, Langton decided to try bobsledding after watching the 2006 Winter Olympics. He filled out an online athlete resume, and, by the 2010 Games, he was an Olympian.

At the Sochi 2014 Games, Langton teamed with Holcomb to win a bronze medal in the two-man race. It was the first Olympic medal in the event by American sled since 1952. He claimed another bronze medal as a member of Holcomb’s four-man “Night Train.”

“In Sochi I competed on the world’s biggest stage, I won two medals for my country and I did so along not only the best teammates but best friends anyone could ever ask for,” Langton told USA Bobsled.

Langton, who has a 62-inch standing box jump and can squat more than 500 pounds, was described by Men’s Health as “the most powerful winter Olympian” in the lead-up to 2014 Games.

“[Langton’s] work ethic and discipline rubbed off on the other athletes and made everyone better,” said USA Bobsled & Skeleton Chief Executive Officer Darrin Steele. “I have no doubt that he’ll find success in the next chapter of his life as well.”

Langton appeared on “The Amazing Race” in 2015 with his girlfriend, Aly Dudek, an Olympic short track speedskater.

None of the push athletes on the current U.S. roster have Olympic experience. Holcomb will compete in the World Cup opener this Saturday with Sam McGuffie, a former University of Michigan football player. The race will be McGuffie’s World Cup debut.


Dan Jansen explains recent flurry of world records

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Dan Jansen has significant experience rewriting the speed skating world record book.

The 1994 Olympic 1000m champion broke the 500m world record in 1992, and then lowered his mark another four times. He also set world records in the 1000m and sprint combination.

Yet even Jansen is shocked by the number of edits to the record book over the last two weeks.

“I haven’t seen anything like it,” Jansen said. “Not this many.”

Four world records were broken this past weekend at the World Cup in Kearns, Utah. The weekend before, world records in three Olympic events fell at the season-opening World Cup in Calgary.

There is no surprise about the locations of the record-breaking performances.

The Utah Olympic Oval claims to have the “fastest ice on earth,” and for good reason. The venue is located 4,675 feet above sea level. At such a high altitude, the air is less dense, meaning speed skaters experience less air resistance and are therefore able to achieve faster speeds.

It is the same reason baseball players hit more home runs at the Colorado Rockies’ stadium, Coors Field, and football kickers are able to make longer field goals when they travel to play the Denver Broncos.

The Calgary Olympic Oval is also at a high altitude, although not as high as at the venue in Kearns. All of the current Olympic event world records have been set in either Utah or Calgary.

What is surprising, however, is the large number of world records broken during a two-week stretch.

Brittany Bowe started the revision of the record book by breaking her own women’s 1000m world record on Nov. 14 in Calgary. Just three minutes later, her U.S. Olympic teammate, Heather Richardson, claimed the world record for herself. Then, this past Sunday in Utah, Bowe broke the world record once again. NBCSN will televise the coverage from Utah this Friday at 10:30 p.m. ET, with Jansen providing the commentary.

Richardson also stole a world record from Bowe in the women’s 1500m. Bowe broke the world record on Nov. 15, only to have Richardson lower the time on Nov. 21.

“It’s pretty easy to tell that we bring out the best in each other,” Bowe said to U.S. Speedskating on Sunday. “When we’re racing together something special happens almost every time.”

In the men’s competition, Russia’s Pavel Kulizhnikov broke the 500m world record  on Nov. 15, and lowered it again on Nov. 20. Canada’s Ted-Jan Bloemen shattered the men’s 10,000m world record, taking 5.39 seconds off Sven Kramer’s mark from 2007.

Jansen attributes the women’s world records to the continued development of Bowe and Richardson. Both are converted inline skaters who have become more confident racing on the ice.

Bowe started inline skating when she was eight years old. After graduating from high school, she was offered the opportunity to move to Utah to transition to speed skating for the Vancouver 2010 Olympics. But she decided hang up her inline skates to focus on playing collegiate basketball at Florida Atlantic University.

She only started speed skating after being inspired by watching Richardson compete at the 2010 Games.

“Brittany learns more almost daily,” Jansen said. “She is still going to get better.”

Richardson quickly adjusted to racing on the ice, despite being described as “Bambi on ice” when she first started speed skating in 2007. She married Dutch distance skater Jorrit Bergsma in 2015 and moved to the Netherlands. Richardson’s endurance has improved since she started training with her husband, the 2014 Olympic 10,000m champion.

“Those two ladies are dominant right now,” Jansen said about Bowe and Richardson. “It is hard to see anybody else closing the gap they have in the middle distances.”

Jansen, the first speed skater to break 36 seconds in the 500m, seemed surprised that it took so long for the men’s 500m and 10,000m world records to fall. Canada’s Jeremy Wotherspoon held the men’s 500m world record since Nov. of 2007. Kramer’s 10,000m time, which was recorded in Feb. of 2007, was the longest-standing Olympic event world record.

“It’s about time,” Jansen said. “These guys are flying right now.”

No more world records are expected to be broken this season, as the rest of the competition venues are located closer to sea level. Similarly, no world records are expected to be broken at the Pyeongchang 2018 Olympics.

“It’s a little bit of a bummer because you would like to see world records at the Olympics, but our sport is not conducive to that,” Jansen said. “Unless you have the Olympics up high.”

Jansen believes U.S. Speedskating will continue to experience positive momentum.

At Sochi 2014, losing became contagious, and the U.S. contingent departed Russia with zero Olympic medals. Jansen now expects the recent success to reverberate throughout the entire team.

“It’s an exciting time for U.S. Speedskating,” Jansen said. “They are making statements, and I don’t think they are finished.”