A book closed last week when it was announced that the Millrose Games, the most venerable of all indoor track meets, would be moving out of Madison Square Garden (cap. 18,000), its home since 1914, to the Armory in New York's Washington Heights (cap. 5,000). The event began in 1908 when the Wanamaker department store wanted to hold a track meet and did so at a local Armory. When the meet simply grew too big, it moved to Madison Square Garden, where it would become the venue's longest standing annual event.
EUGENE, Ore. -- Long after his race was finished Friday evening, Justin Gatlin dressed in sweats and swapped his sprint spikes for a pair of clunky sneakers. He walked along an iron barrier near the warmup area behind the grandstand at Hayward Field. A friend approached from inside and snatched up Gatlin in a long embrace, chiropractor Dr. David Pascal. Then another friend did the same, former U.S. Olympic coach George Williams. Tears formed in Gatlin's eyes and then rolled down his cheeks, and not for the first time on this evening.
BEIJING -- That's why they run the races, and throw the disks and jump the bars. So that, with the taste of gold on their tongues, Lolo Jones can heartbreakingly hit the ninth hurdle, and Sanya Richards can tie up with 80 meters to go in the 400. So that Tyson Gay can get knocked out in the semifinals and miss the baton in the 4x100, and so that Stephanie Brown Trafton, who finished third at the U.S. Olympic Trials, can use her first throw to win the first U.S. gold in women's discus in 76 years.
EUGENE -- The news came late yesterday afternoon that Justin Gatlin's last attempt at judicial intervention to enable his participation in the Olympic Track and Field Trials had been turned aside. (In a hilarious Blackberry World moment, this information was delivered in a press conference here by a colleague of mine who first asked U.S. 100-meter favorite and world champion Tyson Gay how he would feel -- hypothetically -- if Gatlin ran and then modified his question 15 minutes later to ask how Gay felt -- actually -- that Gatlin was, in fact, not running). Gay's answers, in summary: Bad, and then better.
Here was a novel idea. In the summer of 1999 U.S. shot-putter John Godina, who had already won two world titles and an Olympic silver medal, interrupted an interview with a business proposition: "How about if SPORTS ILLUSTRATED pays to drug-test me every day between now and the [Sydney] Olympics?" said Godina. "Blood, urine, the works. Then when I win the gold medal, you've got a big story: a guaranteed clean athlete."
Justin Gatlin has two jobs. One is to run fast, performing in the manner expected of the reigning Olympic 100-meter champion by constantly testing the limits of human speed. The other is to help rebuild the fragile credibility of professional track and field by constantly suggesting--BALCO taught us that you can't prove such things--that he runs without the assistance of steroids. These are heavy and often contrary endeavors.
One by one they stepped up to the 15-foot-long megaphone, 18 women looking like Jack in the Giant's lair. Only they're Jills. And they're done trying to fit in the Giant-sized world. Their message was simple: we're done being judged as female athletes and are ready to drop kick the female qualifier.
A sprinter writes his legacy in contrary moments, trying to mix desperate athletic passion with the calm required to sustain perfect running technique. The body wants to thrash like a child on the playground, flailing toward the finish line. The mind must make it chill, for thrashing is slow and inefficient and leads to defeat. In fractions of a second, champions are divided from the merely swift.
The track coach has a strange and limiting job. He writes the workouts and provides whatever motivation he can offer and when race day arrives, he finds a place among fans in the bleachers and hopes that the lessons have stuck. It is an unusual vocation under the best of circumstances: Part trainer, part planner, part shrink. And on race day, he has absolutely no control.
It is a fact of life in modern track and field that major events are defined as much by the athletes who are absent as by those who are present. This is the unfortunate reality that attends a sport where euphoria is attended by suspicion and fans are advised to embrace a primal and terrific game with great caution, lest they be burned for loving too much.
SI.com: Gail forceupdated: Sat Feb 03 2007 00:43:00
Five things worth knowing from Friday night's 100th Millrose Games at Madison Square Garden: