Competing, not cash, lures big names to meet

Competing, not cash, lures big names to meet

The prospect of successful prize cash isn’t what brings excessive jumper Vashti Cunningham, sprinter Andre De Grasse and different high names in observe to an indoor meet in Arkansas this weekend.

As a result of there’s none.

As an alternative, the athletes are going for one thing that feels each bit as helpful lately, and will even result in an Olympic gold medal. It’s precise competitors — a lot in demand with the coronavirus pandemic shutting down giant swaths of their sport, and with the Tokyo Video games quickly approaching in July.

The American Observe League begins a four-week indoor sequence Sunday on the College of Arkansas. It’s an opportunity for athletes to see how they stack up in a time when COVID-19 has made coaching generally tough and touring abroad for meets virtually unthinkable.

The league — based in 2013 to supply a condensed, fast-paced meet format — doesn’t have a serious sponsor for the time being and can function on a shoestring price range, that means no prize cash for the winners as of now.

And nonetheless, there’s a ready checklist to enter.

“Everyone seems to be so hungry to compete,” meet organizer/agent Paul Doyle mentioned by cellphone.

Doyle has assembled a star-packed discipline of principally North Individuals. There’s Cunningham, the bronze medalist on the 2019 world championships, together with De Grasse, a three-time Olympic medalist for Canada. There’s additionally 2016 Olympic shot put champion Ryan Crouser, who trains at Arkansas, and Omar McLeod, the Olympic 110-meter hurdles champion representing Jamaica who as soon as starred at Arkansas.

There will probably be loads of publicity, with all 4 competitions — held on consecutive Sundays — televised on ESPN networks. The lineup of occasions adjustments, too, with a number of — males’s and ladies’s 60 meters — contested all 4 weeks.

The quantity of assist for the meet has astonished Doyle. From fellow brokers to athletes to coaches, everybody’s on board.

“Athletes that might usually be getting $20,000 to $30,000 to point out up and race are coming simply because they wish to race,” Doyle mentioned. “They’re really grateful for the chance, which blows my thoughts and makes me actually humbled.”

Doyle hoped to line up sufficient sponsors to reward the winners as a result of it is “by no means the intention to have athletes run without spending a dime.” However on this financial system, it did not pan out.

To avoid wasting on bills, he’s really hauling observe and discipline gear from Atlanta to Fayetteville, Arkansas, in his camper.

Something to stage a meet.

Often round this time, athletes are beginning to put together their calendars for European meets and the Diamond League sequence. Given the journey restrictions, lining something up has been more and more tough.

“The meet administrators can’t threat (an invite) by saying, ‘Let’s decide to 4 or 5 North American athletes at every occasion,’ solely to seek out out three days earlier than they’ll’t get on the aircraft,” Doyle mentioned. “We find yourself with no alternatives for North American-based athletes.”

This meet additionally gives good publicity for the athletes’ sponsors — and potential sponsors.

“A number of athletes are in limbo, with contracts that ended,” defined Crouser, who renewed a take care of Nike. “They’re desirous to compete and present sponsors, ‘Hey, I haven’t simply been sitting on the sofa for the final 10 months. I’ve been working exhausting.’”

It is also an opportunity to “mud these cobwebs off,” mentioned American sprinter/hurdler Keni Harrison, particularly with the Olympic Trials simply 5 months away. This will probably be Harrison’s first competitors since July.

She’s wanting ahead to racing within the 60- and 300-meter occasions Sunday to check her new dash approach, the one she’s been honing throughout the pandemic.

“I’ve been placing in some nice work and will probably be good to lastly see the place we’re at after which prepare for the outside season,” mentioned Harrison, the world document holder within the 100 hurdles who trains in Texas. “It’s actually essential to get again to the competitors once more.”

Her purpose: To win, in fact.

Crouser’s looking at a quantity: 22.66 meters (74 toes, 4¼ inches), which occurs to be the longstanding world indoor shot put document.

The 28-year-old threw 22.58 meters (74 toes, 1 inch) at a meet in Manhattan, Kansas, on Dec. 5.

“I am in fine condition to throw far,” Crouser mentioned. “For me and the opposite athletes, we’re all simply completely happy to compete and showcase the diligence and dedication we’ve by this tough time.”

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