I started doing college athlete of the week awards because no one else does it on a national level. No one does a worldwide athlete of the week award for pros, either. Sounds like a job for me! Here we go…
Women’s athlete of the week: Nadine Müller, Germany
At the European Cup Winter Throwing on Sunday, Müller twice extended her PR and ended up with 68.89 meters, the best mark on record since 2004 and the third-best of the millenium. It’s the seventh-best throw in March or earlier — and, more significantly, it’s the best this early in the year since worldwide random out-of-competition dope testing programs began back in the early 90s.
Müller, the 2011 World Championships silver medalist, has never won a major international championship. Besides last year, her only international medals were in age-group competition, in 2003 and 2004. Will 2012 be the year she gets it together? This is a fine start, no doubt.
Men’s athlete of the week: Wilson Loyanae, Kenya
How is it that a guy runs a 2:05:37 marathon and it barely even gets any mention? That it’s only fourth in a Let’s Run weekend wrap titled “Kenyans Excel Across The Globe”? Is that how the marathon has become?
Loyanae ran that fast to win Sunday’s Seoul International Marathon. He made a surge just before 40k (25 miles) to separate himself from a lead pack of nine, and went on to win. Little is known about Loyanae; his IAAF profile lists only a birthdate of 1/1/1986 (meaning it’s almost assuredly an estimate) and a previous PR of 2:09:23 in Gyeongju last October.
National record: Sultana Frizell, Canada
Frizell, competing at the Willie Williams Classic in Tucson, broke her own Canadian hammer throw record with 75.04 meters, a massive increase of 2.80 meters over her old record. Only six women worldwide threw farther all of last year, and I believe this is her first competition of 2012. She is part of the Kamloops training group coached by former Soviet Dr. Anatoliy Bondarchuk, recognized as one of the best throws coaches in the world.
Comeback trail: Wallace Spearmon, USA
Spearmon had a poor 2011 due to achilles problems, but appears to be a bit better now. He won the 100 meters at the TCU Invitational with a wind-aided 10.06. Under wind-legal conditions, Spearmon, a 200 specialist, has broken 10.00 just once, at the end of the 2007 season. So this is a very good sign for him.
Miracle worker: Mary Wittenberg, New York Road Runners Club
I have said that indoor track is pre-season track. To stretch the metaphor, March half-marathons are pure scrimmages. Who wins is of little importance to the athletes; they’re all using the race as a tune-up for something else, either a spring marathon or summer track. Sunday’s NYC Half Marathon was no exception, and virtually all of the elite US entrants were just two months removed from the do-or-die Olympic Trials marathon and still in a rebuilding phase.
Yet the race received massive press coverage. What other non-championship event gets coverage from both ESPN (Bonnie D. Ford) and Sports Illustrated (Jeff Pearlman)? The NYRR’s new contract with ABC/ESPN includes this race for a possible live broadcast next year. And this is all for a race that doesn’t matter.
Making the most of his second chance: Clement Langat, Kenya
With no World Cross Country Championships this year, the toughest team-based competition was Saturday’s African Championships. Langat, based in Japan, came back to Kenya to run their national trials race and hopefully gain a spot on the national team. Langat was sixth at the 2011 World XC race but only recently returned to action after bing out some 14 months with ankle problems. He finsihed sixth at the trials race and didn’t qualify for the Kenyan team, but was put on it after trials champion Bedan Karoki pulled out.
At the African Championships, Langat led through the first 2k of the 12km race, then fell back into the pack. In the final 2k he again pulled into the lead along with Eritrea’s Teklemariam Medhin, and pulled away for a seven-second win.