Wednesday, June 3, 2015

V 5 N. 49 The Pre Classic 2015 (Part One)

How do you begin to report on an event that conveys to you some of your wildest adolescent dreams in real time?  I guess I can only tell you how it affected Roy and myself as it unrolled.   For me it started on Thursday by stopping in Seattle to meet Jim Allen and his family.   We featured Jim in an earlier posting,   Jim Allen     but this was our first face to face meeting. Jim was #2 in the world in the 400IH in 1963 running for the US team on their tour in Europe.    But in 1964, an injury kept him off the US Olympic team.  Thirty years later his son Jeff would duplicate Jim's time in the 400IH and both would be All Americans in Track and Field.  (I'll talk more about this meeting in a later posting.)  Here is a picture of Jeff , Jim, and Jim's wife Rae.
Jeff, Jim, and Rae Allen

Friday afternoon I attended the press conference before the meet and was able to interview several of the featured athletes at the Pre including Renaud Lavillenie, the current world record holder in the pole vault.

The Press Conference

Jeff Oliver ran a great press and information center for months before the Pre Classic which on May 29 became a reality.   Nine of the top athletes in the meet were brought in to answer questions of the press, including Sanya Richards-Ross, Allyson Felix, Renaud Lavillenie, Justin Gatlin, Jenny Simpson, Kirani James, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Genzebe Dibaba, and Mutaz Essa Barshim.  Each athlete was given one question to answer before they adjourned to individual places in the hall where we could do in depth interviews.    Lavillenie was sporting a bandage coming down his right arm and some of that colored medical tape going up the back of his neck.  So the question to him was would he be able to jump next day.  He indicated that he would.   I decided to approach him at the individual interviews and find out more.   My French and his English made for an interesting exchange, but he was certainly delighted to communicate in his native language.  So I asked how the injury had occurred, knowing that he  has raced motorcycles at Lemans.   The response was very enlightening.   "I was running a 4x100 meters relay for my club team two weeks ago and fell down at the finish line."   This was indeed fodder for a news story.   The world pole vault record holder is injured running a relay in a club meet?    Renaud went on to suggest that he was 95% ok, which to me meant anywhere from 25% to 80%.  We would see next day.   I related that info to the NBC interviewer Lewis Johnson who jumped on it some more, and I was pleased to see that the injury incident did get mentioned on the television coverage next day.    My next question.   "What's the fastest you've ever driven a motorcyle?"    His eyes lit up a bit and he stated,  "about 280 km/hour"   My mental arithmetic determined that was about 173 mph.   But Renaud was quick to suggest that that kind of speed was not so dangerous on a straightaway on a closed circuit where there is no oncoming traffic and plenty of safety fences.   He thought it was more dangerous on turns at lower speeds.   I related that statement to a shot put coach later, and his reply was,  "You know pole vaulters,  they're the crazies of our sport."  Anyway he was a great interview and a very personable and approachable individual.

Here are a few pictures from the press conference.

Lavillenie, Felix, Simpson, Fraser-Pryce, Gatlin

Fraser-Pryce, Gatlin, Dibaba, Barshim, James

Lavillenie and Barshim, a combined 28' of height 

Lavillenie and your reporter

Mutaz Essa Barshim

Barshim and Lewis Johnson, NBC

Sanya Richards-Ross

From there Roy, Rick Lower, and I visited Bill Dellinger at his home and then went on to the Paddock Bar where Pre had once been a bartender.  Many of Pre's old teammates and friends were there to celebrate and remember him and tell some stories about him.  Then on to the Friday night events highlighted by the men's 5,000 and 10,000 , shot put, women's long jump, and the boys and girls high school mile runs.   Saturday of course the sprints, hurdles, jumps, pole vault, and women's 5,000, women's 1500m, and finally the men's mile.    That's a summary, I 'll try to give you my version of the weekend.  We'll  talk more about  the weekend in  postings to follow.

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