Spoiler alert: If you don't want to know anything about the Olympic Women's 10,000 meter final just yet, stop now.
The race was amazing on several fronts, but before I go any further, it will be broadcast on NBC tonight at 10:45 PM. I just finished watching the race on CBC. I can't give a lot of comment on the race for reasons I'll explain in a moment, but the winner and second place runner finished under 30 minutes; Ethiopia's Tirunesh Dibaba in 29:54.66 and Turkey's Elvan Abeylegesse in 29:56.34. Both were under the old Olympic record (Ethiopia's Derartu Tulu's 30:17.49 in 2000) although they did not break the current world record (29:31.78 by China's Junxia Wang in 1993, although that record is so far afield that some observers consider it tainted, either via doping or a short track).
So, the women's 10,000 is under 30 minutes, and if both gold and silver finishers pass the drug tests, there will be no reason to dispute it. Mental barriers are perhaps greater than physical ones at this level, and I would be willing to bet that times will drop further in the coming year or two, just as they did after the 2:20 women's marathon barrier was broken.
But wait, it gets better! For the bronze, we find the USA's Shalane Flanagan in 30:22.22, setting a new American record! Kara Goucher was tenth overall in a personal best 30:55.16. Full results may be found here.
Regarding those details that I mentioned earlier, I have always felt that one of the advantages of living in central NY is that we receive Canadian TV broadcasts (they tend to air superior quality Olympic coverage). Unfortunately, the CBC seems to be taking its cues from NBC's coverage of earlier Olympic Games. The coverage of the women's 10,000 was dismal. For starters, they didn't introduce the major players in the field (granted, it was a very large field so I can forgive not mentioned everyone, but two or three is woefully insufficient). The starting few laps were shown and then it was off to commercial. On return, we saw a couple minutes of equestrian after which the race was picked up about half-way through for perhaps another lap before leaving again. The final action resumed with a couple laps left. By this time the order of the field had changed completely, some runners had been lapped, and there was no indication of who was where in the finishing order. We managed to see the closing lap duel, and the announcers did note that they would probably go sub-30, but it was a train wreck. Absolutely terrible. The camera then showed Flanagan finishing with a look of surprise on her face. I was unsure of her position and at the time simply assumed that she had set the USA record. Shameful coverage, especially considering how they showed nearly two hours worth of coverage for a prelim women's soccer match (USA vs. Canada, sure, a great game, but it wasn't even a semi and we get maybe five or seven minutes of actual running).
I will be watching the NBC broadcast tonight. Having seen the middle and the finish, I know that there's a lot of action in between. If they do their usual crappy coverage of distance events, especially since this is the first time an American woman will be on the podium for the 10,000, NBC should simply forget about showing any track and field anymore, and instead hand it off to some interested third party so that NBC can concentrate on every available minute of beach volleyball.
As usual, NBC outdid themselves in terms of a piss-poor job. In spite of the fact that their web site stated the race would be shown at 10:45, it wasn't. Instead, we got to see yet more of Michael Phelps. I gave up around midnight, hoping that Flanagan's great performance would have warranted some improved (albeit delayed) coverage. Apparently, there was some coverage around 1:30 AM according to comments posted at the popular letsrun site. Here are a few:
That 10k was some of the worst coverage they've ever done for any track race. I don't have an exact clocking but I think it came out to maybe 8 minutes. I really feel cheated.
NBC knew this race would be exciting and worth showing because of the tape delay. I thought the tape delay would improve coverage since they'd be able to more effectively pack in coverage in a limited time. Yet at least for the 10k the opposite was true.
Well, even past midnight, they can only manage spare 3 free minutes of air time of the first 18 minutes of the race.
I now know that two guys with a cell phone camera could give us better distance event coverage than we get from General Electric.
But it's not like this everywhere:
Really I am shocked by the accounts of NBC coverage. We were fortunate in Britain. We had live coverage, with no commercials and an excellent commentary from Steve Cram.
Before the race we had about thirty minutes of introductory discussion, profiles of all the leading contenders etc. During the race there were discussions of the splits at each km, analysis of different tactics, focus on the leaders, with flashbacks to the race for bronze and then also some coverage of the main British contenders.
After the race there was also discussion of how this race fits into the history of women's 10,000m running etc!
No doubt about it. If distance runners want to get some time on NBC, they had better make sure that all of the female athletes run in bikinis.
THat is very exciting to hear about Shalane taking the bronze in what was most certainly the race of her life. I too am not expecting much from NBC on the coverage this evening. I am eagerly anticipating the men's marathon which is on the final day of the games (the morning of the 24th for us here in the States). However, I have no idea if that race will get any television coverage.
10km under 30 minutes? Those women are crazy, I say.
For me, as a fundamentalist sport agnostic, such results aren't really comprehensible.
As for the crappy media coverage. The Olympics are broadcast in the net in several countries. You could try using a proxy to watch them perhaps. (I'm lucky in that regard. We've got stations from 5 different countries which broadcast all the Olympics, which probably covers all and anything twice. At least, that's what my mother tells me who watches them. :) )
Living in England, the BBC coverage is obviously GB-focused, but compared to what I have seen in other countries it is excellent. It helps that there are lots of channels, especially for those ofus with digital, and no commercial breaks.
But however great the women's race, the moment of the games so far was the bolt of lightning at 10:30 pm local time. Phenomenal.