Day Ten - Sunday, October 6th
Thanks and CongratulationsBy James O'Brien, reporting from Doha
Day 10 at the World Track and Field Championships in Doha, Qatar, the last day of a meet that has invited praise and criticism, but which, from an NYAC perspective, must be viewed as a spectacular success. The selection of Doha as host was greeted with a skepticism borne out of the generally poor attendance. It could never be said, however, that the Qatari hosts failed to invest every resource imaginable into making this championships as successful as it could possibly be.
In the Khalifa Stadium, a beautiful architectural construction, the air-conditioning was such that, while the mercury hovered around 100 degrees outside, jackets were required on plentiful occasions; a tad chilly for spectators, perfect for competitors. And the light show preceding most track finals had to be seen to be believed. Even outside the stadium, for the road events - the marathons and race walks - the hosts went above and beyond in providing fluids and medical assistance; the former were used liberally, the latter, thankfully, minimally. Even the decision to schedule those events at or close to midnight, after some initial grumbling, was conceded to be astute.
That is not to say that there were not plentiful - how shall I say? - anomalies. One has to question the strategy of awarding a major global championships to a country with no tradition of or interest in that sport. The scant attendance gave weight to that question. Event scheduling, with literally hours passing without competitive action, was bewildering and certainly did not cast the sport in its best light, and this before an audience already with scant interest. All of those issues, and many more, have been subjects of animated discussion as these championships have unfolded over the past 10 days. Add to those, the matter of the ban imposed on celebrated coach Alberto Salazar and the pall cast over his athletes at the Nike Oregon Project and it becomes clear that international track and field may be at a significant crossroads.
No such crossroads exists for the NYAC’s T&F program. Already renowned, the evidence of this meet is that the Club’s program may be on the verge of successes beyond compare. This final day of competition, sees no Club athletes in action; thus, the winged foot tally is in: two gold medals (Deana Price in the women’s hammer throw and Joe Kovacs in the men’s shot put) and one silver (Will Claye in the men’s triple jump). Say it fast and it may not sound like much; stand back and take a better look and the truth becomes clear. All three of those athletes earned their hardware in competitions of a stratospheric standard. Kovacs’ gold, in fact, was claimed in a shot put competition that is being generally hailed as the greatest of all time. A single centimeter - less than the diameter of a dime - covered the three medalists, with Kovacs claiming the title with his last throw. Add to those performances, the fourth place finish of Erica Bougard in the heptathlon, the fifth place of Kara Winger in the javelin, and the sixth place of Roberta Groner in the marathon, and you gain the truest perspective: that the NYAC program is enjoying an era of remarkable success. All of these athletes, and many more, will be at next month’s All Sports Dinner, where Price will speak on behalf of all the Club’s elite competitors from all sports. For right here and right now, however, as these World Championships conclude, we celebrate those of our track and field program.
As it has been at the Olympic Games, track and field has been the elemental sport at the New York Athletic Club since its founding 151 years ago. Through that span of years, many of the greatest competitors of all time have proudly worn the winged foot. It is significant that that tradition continues to this day, ensuring that the NYAC logo remains renowned in sporting circles around the world. Consider: were it not for the NYAC’s athletes, the jewel in the crown of the City House - the Hall of Fame - would not exist. It is appropriate, therefore, to take a moment here to thank the Club’s Officers and Board, to thank our Athletic Committee and to thank our sports’ chairmen for enhancing and perpetuating the tradition of elite athletics that makes the New York Athletic Club stand apart from, and above, every athletic club on the planet.
In closing out these World Championships, the most fitting thanks must go to those athletes who claimed their places on the teams of three countries and who represented their club in Doha with such sportsmanship and such competitive fire. By name, they are:
Deanna Price, Women’s Hammer Throw, 1st place, 77.54m/254’5”
Joe Kovacs, Men’s Shot Put, 1st place, 22.91m/75’2”
Will Claye, Men’s Triple Jump, 2nd place, 17.74m/58’2.5”
Erica Bougard, Heptathlon, 4th place, 6470 points
Kara Winger, Women’s Javelin Throw, 5th place, 63.23m207’5”
Roberta Groner, Women’s Marathon, 6th place, 2:38.44
Valarie Allman, Women’s Discus, 7th place, 61.82m/202’10”
Michelle Carter, Women’s Shot Put, 9th place, 18.41m/60’4/75”
Tori Franklin, Women’s Triple Jump, 9th place, 14.08m/46’2.5”
Sam Mattis, Men’s Discus, 11th place, 63.42m/208’1”
Rudy Winkler, Men’s Hammer Throw, 11th place, 75.20m/246’9”
Rachel Seaman (CAN), Women’s 20K Race Walk, 34th place, 1:45.40
Aisha Praught-Leer (JAM), Women’s 1500m, 7th place (heat, non-advancing), 4:09.81
Conor McCullough, Men’s Hammer Throw, 14th place (qualifying round), 74.88m/245’8”
Gwen Berry, Women’s Hammer Throw, No Mark
Devon Williams, Decathlon, DNF
Reviewing these results only reinforces the privilege that it was to witness the performances of the Club’s fine athletes here in Doha. Mention must also be made here of Track and Field Chairman John Schutty and former Co-Chairman John Hricay who made the arduous journey to Qatar to witness, support, encourage and congratulate all of the NYAC’s proud competitors. To them all, on behalf of the New York Athletic Club, congratulations and thanks. See you in Tokyo. #GreatThings