11 December, 2017

On bizarre page views

In November 2016 something happened to the blog. All of a sudden the monthly page views skyrocketed, going from roughly 500 to 5000. Moreover these views concerned the 2016 posts and not the older ones. This went on for a little bit over 6 months. Then, in June 2017, it stopped. June and July had around 700 views and August, slightly over 1000 (certainly due to the increased interest in Athletics due to the World Championships). September and October went back to sub-1000 views but then in November I was greeted with an unexpected view surge.

Over one week there have been more than 1000 page views and, quite surprisingly, most of them were concentrated on one post: The javelin controversy. It's an article, essentially, on the "spanish style" and it is to date the one that has been the most frequently viewed. 
The second most viewed article of mine is the first of a series of three on pole vault: Pole vault, before and after. Over the last year it had had systematically more views than the javelin one. Thus I was thinking that one day soon it would surpass it in popularity. And then came the incredible surge for the "javelin controversy" putting it ahead of pole vault by some 800 views.

I am at total loss when it comes to explaining the views of my blog posts. One thing is possible: both the javelin and pole vault article may owe their popularity to being linked to from well-frequented sites. For the javelin controversy there is a discussion in the Athletics Weekly forum on the Spanish Style Javelin Technique and somebody gave the link to my post. (By the way, I am amazed at some persons' statement that they do not believe that one could throw 80 or 90 m with the spanish style. How can people be so ignorant of the history of athletics?). The pole vault post is linked to in Pinsdaddy through the photos of my post (which, in fact, are not mine since I found them through Google), in an article called the "Evolution Of Pole Vaulting". I don't believe this link suffices in order to generate the views of my pole vault post. The latter's popularity is most probably due to the fact that pole vault exerts a kind on fascination on people and, thus, there are many people who seek information on this discipline, ending up in my blog. 

Be that as it may, this last unexpected surge in page views is once more messing up my blog stats. On the other hand I am writing this blog just for my pleasure, so, who cares about statistics.

01 December, 2017

A great article on women's pole vault

In a series of technical articles published in Athletics Weekly, sports scientists from Leeds Beckett University analysed several events that took place during the London, 2017, World Championships in Athletics. A full report will be published by the IAAF in 2018 but in the meantime one article, on women's pole vault, drew my attention. The fact that the event was won by a greek athlete (K. Stefanidi, nominated European athlete of the year for 2017) and that a greek scientist (Dr. A. Bissas) was heading Leeds the team did certainly play a role in myself being interested in the article

The study of the biomechanics team was based on 3-dimensional motion analysis from video obtained during the event. The run-up velocity, something regularly studied in the biomechanics of pole vault, was also obtained by the Leeds team, measuring the speed of the athlete in the interval between 5 and 10 m before the jump.  As expected (from empirical observations) S. Morris was the fastest with Stefanidi being OK but not outstanding.  

The analysis has also shown that Morris is the one taking off the furthest from the box (a full 4 m) while Stefanidi is edging closer, at just 3.2 m. This results to Stefanidi having the steeper take-off angle. (I do like a lot the sketch below).

It is in fact my personal feeeling that Katerina is not relying on her speed in order to jump high. Her approach is one based more on force and well executed technique. This explains also her consistency. Compared to R. Lavillenie, who is probably the fastest pole vaulter but also one somewhat unpredictable, with inexplicable misses and frequent no-heights, Katerina's technique looks decidedly safer. Also it allows her to opt for higher starting heights with fewer risks.

One other interesting feature of the Leeds study was the bar clearance height. Quite expectedly Stefanidi's clearance was the smallest one, a mere 21 cm, compared to Ryzih's 37 cm, but then one has to take into account the fact that Katerina was adding that to a bar at 4.91 m (Ryzih's clearance was for her 4.65 m jump). I do hope that in the detailed report the biomechanics team will explain how they did measure the clearance. Could it be a new way to appreciate the height of a jump as recommended by A. Juilland? I guess we'll have to wait till the report comes out.

12 November, 2017

IAAF's choice of athlete of the year finalists

I could not believe my eyes. For the second year in a row Wlodarczyk has been eliminated from the "athlete of the year" final. In my personal selection she was not only a finalist but the athlete of the year title winner. 

I simply cannot understand IAAF. What did Ayana do in order to justify her position among the top three? She did win the world title over 10 km with a reasonably good performance (but nothing to write home about) and then she lost the 5 km race. A bis repetita of her last year's Olympic performance. At least, last year she surprised everybody with her our-of-this-world record (but I am somehow distrustful of extraterrestrial records). I just cross my fingers for one of the other two finalists to win the title, instead of Ayana. 

Speaking of the other two, I would be happy if either of them won. Both Stefanidi and Thiam have dominated their discipline and amply deserve this distinction. Given that Stefanidi was nominated European athlete of the year I have the feeling that the final choice will be Thiam. And to tell the truth, with her model looks she would be perfect in the official photo alongside Barshim. 

But I'm getting ahead of myself here. Given the choice of the final three men I am afraid of a bad surprise. For me there is no question that the athlete of the year is none else but Barshim. Van Niekerk's chance was last year and he was eliminated in favour of Bolt, an inexplicable choice. This year, despite his world title, he was slightly below par and it would be sad to offer him the title as a consolation prize. And then there is Farah, whose presence in the final three I cannot understand. Given the rumours that circulate concerning his coach and the fact that Farah managed to end his track career losing the world title over 5 km on a beginner's tactical mistake, I just hope that the IAAF does not  prepare a bad surprise for us, an "adieu" title for him. (I know, I know, he did win the Diamond League 5 km. But should this change anything?).

I would like to add a word on the choice of the "rising stars" finalists. I did not include Warholm and Rojas in my choice since they had both secured world champion titles (and, to be honest, in the case of Rojas, because I do like her style). The remaining two women, Levchenko and Naser, are indeed among my choice of three. This is not true for the men, the IAAF 's choice being Coleman and Duplantis. I have hesitated for the latter. His 5.90 m vault has been an incredible performance. Unfortunately the remaining of the year he did not confirm it (despite his European U20 title in Grosetto) finishing 9th at the World's in London. Still, given his age I am sure that, barring injuries, he will be part of my "rising star" choice in the years to come. Coleman on the other hand is, to my eyes, more of a shooting, rather than a rising, star. I have seen many young US sprinters shine during one season, only to disappear the next one. So I will wait for Coleman to confirm his talent and I will keep an eye open for someone like McMaster who, together with Warholm and Samba, could signal a new era for the 400 m hurdles. 

Added on November 27th

 The final decicion for the athlete of the year was in favour of Thiam and Barshim.

For me these are excellent choices. To tell the truth I did not expect Stefanidi to be nominated after she had won the European athlete of the year title. (Has she jumped 5 m though ...). Barshim was my favourite and he went on to win. Thiam is also a great athlete that I have been following closely. (I was somehow disappointed by her sartorial choice of a really tame black dress). 

The nomination of Rojas and Warholm for the year's rising stars was expected. Given that they are already world champions I wouldn't have chosen them, preferring Naser and McMaster instead, but I must admit that choosing them was an excellent decision.

The only thing I cannot admit is that Wlodarczyk has been passed over once more.