The Israeli Track & Field championship was held in the beginning of July, so I figured I might as well write about it. I planned on writing this post earlier, but hey – classic planning fucking fallacy.
Now, one must admit, Israeli T&F is not in a good state. It never was great, but there were times when it was good. But huge variability is what characterizes our T&F over the years. Some events enjoyed great athletes of once in a lifetime, that sometimes pulled with them some young athletes, but most of the events suffered from poor results. The only time when Israel had several athletes in a single event – athletes that were really high-profile and world-class, was in the pole vault in the end of the 90’s, when we simultaneously had Alex Averbukh (who needs no introduction), Dani Krasnov (PB: 5.75m), and Konstantin Semyonov (PB: 5.76m). But they were all the result of the Russian immigration (hey, you know who else is the result of that immigration? Michael from the Michael’s Sports Statistics blog!). It’s been a very long time since Israel itself produced a world-class athlete.
Anyway, as a T&F fan, I like the Israeli T&F championships. I must admit that I don’t watch it every year, but when I do I do enjoy it, because it keeps me in touch with T&F here, not just with the famous track & fielders (is it a word yet? no? damn!) who compete on the big stages – Olympic Games and the World Championships).
So… what did we have in the 2015 edition? Well, I won’t write about every competition there was, there is no point in that, not everything is worth mentioning and not all the competitions were shown on TV. However, I will write about some of the things that we did get to see, and I will separate the things I have to say to “Good Ones” and “Sad Ones”, because it was really that dichotomous. Some things were good and some were sad. Let’s start with the good ones, shall we?
The Good Things
1) Olga Lenskiy – the champion in both the 100m and the 200m, is the princess of Israeli T&F. Her mother (and trainer) – Irina Lenskiy, was the greatest female Israeli T&F athlete since Esther Roth-Shahamorov, who competed in the 70’s. Irina was a semi-finalist in the 100m hurdles at the 2003 World Championships and set a very respectable Israeli NR in that event – 12.80 seconds. Olga, her talented daughter, was destined for greatness from the start, and I remember her competing in the senior events when she was merely 12 years old.
It’s great when you have a great athlete like Irina Lenskiy as both your parent and trainer, and soon enough Olga began to develop a name for herself in the sprint events. There was a time when both mother and daughter competed together in the Israeli championships (and took the top 2 spots on the podiums), and there were several years when they were both part of the Israeli 4x100m relay team, until Irina retired in 2013, at the age of 42.
Olga, unlike her mother, dropped the hurdles and decided to concentrate on the sprint events. She dominated the 100m and the 200m for years now, even though she’s only 22 years old. Her results are not eye-popping at the international level, but they are at the national level. Still only 22 years old, she came very close to breaking the national 100m record, which belonged to Roth-Shahamorov since the 70’s, and she’s also close to the 200m record, which is held by her mother.
In this year’s championships she easily won both sprint events, clocking 11.57 seconds in the 100m and 23.45 seconds in the 200m. Again, not impressive results if one compares them to what we’re used to see in the Diamond League, but nevertheless impressive at the national level. Two more titles for Lenskiy, who is still fighting for setting the criterion for the Athletics World Championships in Beijing later this year.
2) Donald Sanford – the champion in the 400m, needs no further introduction. Therefore we will still give him one. A bronze medalist at the European Championships last year, and one of Israel’s only few real world-class track & fielders, he easily won the 400m title with a 45.52 seconds run. Still, it was 2 hundredths of a second off the Beijing 2015 criterion. Nevertheless, he still has some time to set the criterion and I hope he’ll make it, since his PB is 45.21 seconds. You go Sanford!
An update: A few days after I wrote the paragraph above, Donald not only set the Beijing criterion, he shattered his own NR and PB (they are not the same, duhhh), when he clocked 45.04 seconds in some competition in Russia. 45.04! That is a really top-level result! Donald Sanford, you’re the man!!!
3) Hanna Knyazyeva-Minenko – the triple jump champion, is probably Israel’s best and most well known track & field athlete today. While still representing Ukraine, she finished 4th at the London Olympics, and back then I really took a liking to her, just to find out later that she married an Israeli athlete, emigrated to Israel, and started representing Nepal. Er, or was it Israel? I always confuse the two… Anyway, Wow! A real world-class athlete who represents us?! I mean – she finished fucking 4th at the Olympics! Damn! Her PB is a world-class result of 14.71m, and as an Israeli her best result is 14.61m. So she’s right there with the elite triple jumpers in the world. I mean, sure, she’s maybe not Ibarguen’s caliber but who IS Ibarguen’s caliber? That girl is in a league of her own.
Anyway, she won the Israeli title easily, miles ahead of her nearest rival, with a result of 14.37m. And when I say miles I’m not exaggerating – 2nd place jumped 3 meters less… But we have the “Sad Things” category for that, and we’re not there yet. Anyway, Hanna is the best and I’m already drooling over the fact that we’ll get to see her both in Beijing this year and a year later in Rio.
4) Marharyta Dorozhon – the javelin champion, is another track & fielder of world-class caliber that Israel got to enjoy due to marriage. Dorozhon, also originally from Ukraine, became an Israeli citizen just recently – in December of 2014. However, unlike Knyazyeva-Minenko, she already surpassed her pre-Israeli level. Her PB – 64.56m, was set just a month ago, when she won the Diamond League meet in Oslo (the second Israeli to do so, after Averbukh), and this result is really top-level. A final in the Athletics World Championships or the Olympic Games is a reasonable expectation, although in order to be in medal contention she must edge closer to the magical 70m barrier.
5) Maor Tiyouri – the 1500m champion. Not an internationally recognizable name, and the 1500m is not really her specialty (she is more of a distance runner), but her triumph at the event was really awesome, as she came back from behind to win the title in 4:28.07 minutes (yeah, I know… not the time legends are made from). She is currently the national record holder in the 5000m, with 16:08.83 minutes, and although that result is also still far from international level results, she set it this year and I hope she can continue to improve further.
6) Maayan Shahaf – the high jump champion. Managed to jump 1.85m, which is decent. However, people talk too much about the Beijing criterion – 1.94m and the possibility that she will make it. Spoiler alert: she won’t. Her PB is 1.92m and she hasn’t jumped higher than 1.90m since 2013. People can’t accept the fact that this is simply her ceiling and that’s it (she’ll be 29 years old in November). And I’m not being a party pooper, just realistic. Hey, you know who did jump 1.94m? Danielle Frenkel, one of all-time my favorite Israeli T&F. However, she jumped this height back in 2011 and she’s been plagued with injuries for several years now. Now she’s already 27 years old and although I’m keeping my fingers crossed for her return – I’m starting to realize she will probably never return to her glory days… Well shit, this is really depressing. Aren’t I supposed to be writing about the good things?
7) Aleksandr Averbukh – Israel’s greatest T&F athlete of all time was shown many times standing and instructing some of his young protégés in the men’s pole vault. It was great seeing him, even if he didn’t jump by himself. I’m guessing that even now, at 40 years of age, he still would have won the title easily, since the Israeli champion only cleared 5.05m…
Well, after we covered the good things, it is time to move to the less pleasant part of our post.
The Sad Things
1) Dima Kroyter and Niki Palli – now, this is really sad. Both were very talented high jumpers in their youth, but succumbed to injuries very early in their careers (there is a recurring pattern of injuries in Israeli high jump, a sure sign that someone is really fucking things up). Dima Kroyter won the title this year, but his winning jump was a mere 2.21m – 7 cm less than his PB, which he set as a 17 year-old. Back then it was a really good result, and he even won the World Youth Championships and the Summer Youth Olympics in successive years. However, now, at only 22 years of age, he already looks like a past athlete, and he hasn’t jumped higher than 2.24m since 2011… did I say that this is really really sad? Well, brace yourself, Niki Palli’s story is even sadder.
Palli was like a meteor in his youth, and many people, including myself, predicted him a bright future. After all, this is the dude who won the silver medal at the 2006 World Junior Championships, finishing ahead of one, Bohdan Bondarenko – who won the bronze. Still in 2006, when Palli was 19, he set a huge PB of 2.30m, and became the second best Israeli high jumper ever, after the great Konstantin Matusevich (PB: 2.36m). And still in 2006 – Palli, aged 19 I remind you, finished 6th at the European Athletics Championships in Gotheborg! I was travelling with my folks in Sweden during the championships, and I went with dad to a local pub to see the competitions that day. We were immensely proud that we are countrymen of this 19 year old youngster, who finishes 6th in the continent, beating several well known jumpers. The Swedish barman and several other people in the pub were all rooting for Stefan Holm, obviously, and I was rooting for him as well – he was one of my favorite high jumpers too. But he only managed to win a bronze medal. Anyway, since then this huge potential succumbed to injuries as well, had to work in a factory to support himself financially, and hasn’t jumped higher than 2.20m since 2008. He participated in this year’s national championship, but managed only a result of 2.07m, less than the women’s WR… it was really really sad watching it. 😦
2) All the female triple jumpers who are neither Hanna Knyazyeva-Minenko or the Russian triple jumper who was invited to provide competition for Hanna (but who eventually jumped a mere 12.80m). The organizers actually had to put a second take-off board, closer to the sand pit, from which they started their jump. Otherwise they wouldn’t have reached the sand-pit… 😦
3) All the female javelin throwers who are neither Marharyta Dorozhon or the foreign import from Belarus that was invited to provide competition. You should have seen it, it was sooo embarrassing: some of them, girls who weighted even less than the javelin, simply took 3 steps and threw the javelin – without any momentum behind the throw. The girl who finished last achieved a result of 22.82m, only 19cm further than the female shot put WR… 😦
4) And speaking of shot put… All the female shot putters. The Israeli champion at this event, Inbal Cohen, achieved a distance of only 12.74m, 8 and a half fucking meters behind Valerie Adams’ PB! And in an event in which the whole range is a little more than 20m! 😦
5) All the male long jumpers. Let us not leave the male track & fielders out of our sad list. The Israeli champion, Roei Elyakim, won the event with a 7.33m jump. The first recognized WR, from 1901? 7.61m… 😦
6) That Russian dude who was invited to take part in the pole vault competition, Artem Burya. His PB was 5.61, while the PB of the best Israeli pole vaulter who competed was a mere 5.22m… Burya entered the competition only when the bar was raised to 5.35m, weeeeeell after all the Israeli vaulters were eliminated. What the fuck was the point of inviting him to the competition?! 😦
7) The female pole vaulters. The female pole vaulting in Israel is in a really sad state. The situation is so bad that multi-sport athlete Olga Dogadko managed to win the Israeli title this year, at the age of 39. And it was her 30th overall title, including all the hurdles and the jumping titles she won over the years. Jesus, I remember her from my high-school days, competing and winning in multiple events at the national level. So many years have passed and nothing really changed… Well, kudos for Olga, but it’s not like she’s this Jessica Ennis or Carolina Kluft who are really high level in many disciplines. She won because the level of competition here is bad. Her winning height – 3.65m… 😦
8) The visualization of the results. Or actually – the lack of it. We’re in fucking 2015, Israel is considered a hi-tech empire, and still there is absolutely no way of knowing what are the results in the national T&F championships unless you listen to the commentators. And listening to them is sort of a gamble, because they get the results right only about 80% of the time… Anyway, it was really depressing watching the competitions, after getting used to watching the Diamond League. No visualization, nothing. Only a day later we can see the full results on the internet. You want the results in real time? Go fuck yourself. 😦
So yeah, that concludes my experience of the Israeli 2015 Track & Field championship. Let us hope that next year’s blog post about it will be more cheerful. Well, not really about IT. I meant the 2016 edition. It’s not like I’m going to write two posts on the same competition a year apart. That would be ridiculous as hell… am I pushing this joke too much? I probably am. So let’s stop here before the post deteriorates even further. Happy Yom Kippur everyone.