Features (38)

Thursday, 11 July 2013 09:36

Running Around the World, by Kevin Mangan

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            In my travels I have found that one of the best ways to enjoy a new city (or a familiar one, too) is to run it. Running allows you to see a great deal in a short amount of time, but also retain the intimacy of being in the middle of it all. With a few exceptions, traveling on foot is the only way to get up-close-and-personal to a city. Although running through a crowded city center can really be a pain for both you and other pedestrians, many of the best sights are removed from such downtown areas. These normally tourist clogged areas which are also filled with locals going about their business can be thoroughly savored in the early morning hours, before businesses open and camera-laden tour groups form giant blobs around the best sights.

Since moving to Seattle in 2010, I have learned a fair amount about the state of running in Washington. Just after moving here from California, I noticed a rather large difference in attitudes about running in general. Running is much more, well, I don’t know if accepted is the right word for it, but it actually might be. Growing up as a runner in California, I couldn’t help but notice that I was virtually the only kid who actually ran. I always felt kind of strange running the streets and trails of my town, especially when wearing split shorts (“real running shorts”). My teammates and competitors in high school didn’t know much about any other level of track and field. But once I came to Washington, I felt much more, again I don’t know if accepted is the right word for it, but it might actually be. Other people my age ran outside of track practice, some even wore split shorts. Other people actually knew about other levels of track and field.

All of today’s running gains and popularity in Washington I believe can be traced directly back to one of the true Godfathers of American running, Gerry Lindgren. Before there was Pre, there was Lindgren. His high school feats are legendary. He smashed every high school record from 1500 meters to 3 miles. His high school 5k record lasted 40 years until Galen Rupp broke it. His high school PRs were better than Pre’s. He would often run 200+ mile weeks. Runners of that era probably most fondly remember him for being the teenager who beat the Russians at 10,000 meters in the LA Coliseum.

Sunday, 26 May 2013 14:12

The Proper Motivation, by Kevin Mangan

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The Proper Motivation, by Kevin Mangan

Written on May 20th

"To be honest, we're just having a lot of fun, and don't want this thing to end"

    I love this very recent quote from one of my favorite athletes, San Jose Sharks Captain Joe Thornton. To me it really captures what I believe is a healthy approach to sports in general. To put Big Joe’s words differently, when you do something you are passionate about, you don’t want to stop, you don’t want to get tired; you don’t want to the race or game or match to end because it is that enjoyable.

To put the quote in context, the Sharks are currently down two games to one in a best-of-seven playoff series. When asked about his team’s confidence about trailing in the series, Thornton responded with this quote. I absolutely love his response. I have had this attitude in my best races. All of my pb’s, all of my best competitive races, I have had an unusual amount of confidence, simply because I was enjoying the moment; I was having fun. Back in high school and now in college, I have noticed that the best seasons we have had as a team were also the most fun.

My high school had never made it to CCS (Central Coast Section in CA) ever; we finally made it my junior year. It was the first time our team had made it to the postseason and, needless to say, we were stoked. I still remember the week before CCS, every one of the top seven guys was the most excited at practice that I ever saw. Even the JV guys kept training with us that week; that’s how fun our sport can be, they weren’t even going to race but they shared in the joy of being part of a great team. We ended up finishing eighth out of ten teams at CCS, five places away from a berth to the state meet. We never had a realistic shot of making it as a team, but you wouldn’t have known it if you watched us at practice that week.

All seasons must come to an end, and like Joe and the Sharks do now, we did not want our season to end. We were just having a lot of fun.

After thought: this made me really excited for the cross country season. I’m already looking forward to toeing the line with the guys at regionals with the goal of getting to Terre Haute.

"Adidas does not condone Luis Suarez's behavior and we will be reminding him of the standards we expect from our players."

Adidas released this statement in response to Luis Suarez of Liverpool FC biting an opposing player during a match on Sunday.

Despite being one of the best players in the world, Suarez has a checkered past. He is perhaps best remembered for his infamous "Hand of Satan" handball against Ghana in the 2010 World Cup. His most egregious offenses to date include racially abusing an opposing player and defying the Football Association throughout the ensuing investigation, as well as biting a player in 2010 when he played for Ajax.

Although he apologized for both of his biting incidents he saw a lengthy ban for the first one and will face another lengthy ban for this latest incident, he was very unapologetic about his racism charge and remained defiant long after the incident. Throughout his career he has shown himself to be unrepentant for his wrongs.

I must commend Adidas for distancing themselves from their athlete for his violent act. In fact, I think this sets a great example of how sports companies like Adidas can manage the people they pay to represent their brand. Although Suarez made £6.24 million last year in salary from Liverpool FC, I'm sure he would miss the millions of pounds he makes from Adidas if they were to discontinue their endorsement deal with him. Liverpool FC could also suffer, as it almost did in 2011 when their £20 million per year shirt sponsor, Standard Chartered, publicly expressed concern of being associated with the club following Suarez's racist incident.

Sponsors rarely distance themselves from their athletes and breaking ties with them is almost unheard of. There have been many times when sponsored athletes have done absolutely reprehensible things both during and away from competition. However, there have only been a handful of times when a company has stopped endorsing an athlete because of his or her actions.

When it comes to anti-doping efforts in athletics, I think sponsors can play just as big of a role as USADA, WADA or any governing body. This is especially true in our sport because the vast majority of professional track & field athlete’s sole or primary source of income is their shoe contract. I look at this potential role that sponsors can play in fighting doping in athletics not as an obligation to them, but as a great opportunity for them to benefit the sport.

For many companies, it seems winning is the most important thing, especially when it comes to the athletes who represent their brand. However, the winning is everything ethic is the same thing that motivates people to use performance enhancing drugs, which is very problematic. I have come to realize during my own athletic career, that if all I got out from years of competing and training that there are much greater, tangible things to be gained from sports than winning.

After an athlete is convicted of doping, which is still unfortunately common in our sport, it is always sad to see shoe companies ready to take them back after their two-year ban is over. Thus, I was disappointed, but not surprised to see Mariem Alaoui Selsouli win the Pre Classic 3k last year, in a Nike uniform. This was one of her first races back after testing positive for EPO in 2009. It was unfortunate that she took away sponsorship money from deserving athletes and that she ended up winning the race over clean athletes. Two months later she tested positive for a banned diuretic after running a world leading 3:56 in Paris.

Right behind Alaoui Selsouli in Paris was Asli Cakir Alptekin, who also had a prior doping ban. Cakir Alptekin also ran for Nike and would later go on to test positive for a banned substance, after winning Gold at 1500 meters in London. Both of them face lifetime bans for their second doping offense.

Cakir Alptekin first tested positive for a banned substance at the 2004 World Junior Championships. On March 22nd of this year WADA reported that she again tested positive for a banned substance. The IAAF has put the onus on the Turkish federation to punish her and a lifetime ban is certainly possible. With the vote for the 2020 Summer Olympics only a few months away, the Turkish Olympic committee cannot afford to be seen as being weak on drugs. Making a strong statement against the doping of one their own Gold medal winners will only strengthen the Istanbul bid. Cakir Alptekin was recently left off the Turkish team for the Mediterranean Games in light of these most recent doping allegations.

I think that if Nike, and other companies that have shown a committed investment in athletics are serious about helping grow the sport, they should be wary of signing athletes that have been convicted of doping in the past. Regardless of where their fitness is at the end of their ban, they proved in the past that the way they achieved what they did before their ban was by using banned substances. So they shouldn't be surprised when they do it again.

These companies can use the powerful tool of money, in the form of shoe contracts, to show athletes everywhere that doping truly does not pay. I recommend that, if they aren't doing it already, companies that sponsor athletes put a clause in the contract that an athlete has to repay all or part of the salary and bonuses given to them if they are found guilty of doping. Luis Suarez has been given a warning he might lose money unless he keeps his nose clean. All sponsored athletes, especially those with troubled pasts, should be given the same warming.

Perhaps the same should apply to countries as well. Turkey gave Cakir Alptekin $1,000,000 in gold after her victory and before her doping came to light. I wonder if she'll have to give it back.

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Images: 2016 Olympic Games