Aug. 12, 2013
An afternoon off from competition gives me a day to catch up on my report from this end. There are still multiple events going on in the stadium today but none of the distance athletes are competing so I have a respite from the meet in any official capacity. This morning, the men's steeplechase prelims were contested and one of our men, Evan Jager, advanced through to the finals.
So far, in the events which I am responsible for, we have had two rounds of the 800 (with two of our three - Nick Symmonds and Duane Solomon qualified through to the finals), the 10k, and the 20k walk in addition to this morning's steeple. Tomorrow brings the first round of the 5,000 in addition to the 800 finals tomorrow night. Attendance on opening day, Saturday, was surprisingly low; it left some of us wondering whether the meet was going to draw at all.
Last night proved those of us that doubted Moscow's track fan base wrong. The Olympic Stadium was jammed and LOUD last night as Russia won their first gold (in the men's 20k walk) and turned out in force to watch the meet that included the men's 100 meter finals. Usain Bolt's popularity in Moscow is rock-star status! If any of you watched the meet on TV, I am sure that the rainy conditions were evident. I am not sure however whether the "off the track" lightning bolts were shown on TV - while it was somewhat poetic that while Usain struck "the pose" in the stadium, there were numerous lightening strikes immediately outside. Those of us on the warm up track quickly realized that our lightening delays and severe weather policies are uniquely American.
One thing that has struck me since I arrived is that we are the first US team ever to compete in this stadium, built 33 years ago for the largest track meet of the year 1980 - the Olympic Games that the US boycotted. One of my best friends and long-time assistants at Occidental, Kate "The Great" Schmidt was the world record-holder at the time in the javelin and the favorite to win a gold (to go with her two bronzes from '72 and '76). Kate harbors great resentment over the denied appointment with destiny that could have been hers and I have always felt for her as she recounts the long hours of training, preparation and disappointment from not having the opportunity to compete here. It makes me appreciate even more my opportunity to represent our nation on this stage, in this stadium.