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After Olympics, Uceny moving on

August 13, 2012

So, what now for Morgan Uceny?
Well, back to work, that’s what.
The 2003 Plymouth High School graduate is a professional track athlete. Running races is the way she makes a living.
Regardless of what happened at the Olympics, she still has bills to pay. And track season is far from over.
“I’m not sure what races I am doing yet,” said Uceny in an e-mail Sunday afternoon. “I’m heading back to Lucca tomorrow and plan on racing out the season.”
Lucca is a city in Italy where Uceny’s European training base is located.
For many Olympic athletes, the next stop on the tour is a huge meet in Stockholm, Sweden, this Friday. Almost every woman who was in the Olympic 1500 final a few days ago will be there, including Uceny.
Strangely enough, Gold Medal winner Asli Çakir Alptekin of Turkey was not on the entry list, as of Sunday night. More about Çakir Alptekin below.
While it is four years until the next Olympics, track athletes have some huge prizes to shoot for in the meantime. Chief among them is the World Championships in Moscow, Russia, exactly one year from now.
GOLD MEDAL ISSUES
Uceny’s tragic fall wasn’t the only issue raising questions Friday after the women’s 1,500-meter run at the London Olympics.
A 1-2 finish by runners from Turkey had several track & field experts asking how a pair of relative unknowns — who had never run particularly fast before this year — could snare the Gold and Silver medals.
To be fair, the championship won by Asli Çakir Alptekin was no tremendous surprise — she was the pre-race favorite, according to Track & Field News magazine.
But a second place from Gamze Bulut — who?? She outsprinted two-time world champion Maryam Yusuf Jamal of Bahrain to the finish line.
Prior to this year, Çakir Alptekin had never performed particularly well in huge championship meets, and her best time in the 1500 was only 4:02.17. But she magically improved her best time by seven seconds in one race a couple months ago, pushing her into the Olympic favorite spot.
Bulut, meanwhile, literally came out of nowhere to take the silver medal. Prior to this year, her best finish in a big race had been eighth-place in a preliminary heat of the steeplechase at the 2009 world youth championships.
To make the Olympic final, Bulut magically improved her best time by 17 seconds — 17 seconds!
Runners — at least, world-class runners — simply don’t drop their personal best times like that. In junior high school, maybe. But at the Olympic level, improvements come in tenths and hundredths of a second, not a quarter of a minute.
That must be one heck of a training system they’ve got going in Turkey.
Plain and simple, a lot of things don’t add up. In several Olympic blogs, the implication was made that performance-enhancing drugs may be involved, even if nobody will outright say it.
It’s a fact: Çakir Alptekin was suspended from track & field for two years after she was caught doping at the 2004 world junior championships. And Bulut — well, she’s never run well enough to draw any attention to herself in the past. So, who knows?
The track & field website Flotrack.org immediately raised a red flag.
“Questions swirl about the sudden Turkish success,” the Flotrack bloggers wrote. “Asli Cakir was banned for 2-plus years as a junior on a doping incident. Cakir, the former steeplechaser, ran a 7 second PR this season at Paris and before 2012 had never made a championships final in her life.
“Bulut, who just turned 20 years old, virtually came from nowhere. Before 2012 Bulut was a (steeplechase runner) with a 10:13 PR to her name and a 4:18 in the 1500, both times from 2011. This year her times saw massive drops of 39 seconds (9:34) in the steeple and 17 seconds in the 1500 (4:01). Bulut had never been at a global championship in the past, but found her way on the medal stand in London.”
Hmmm.
BEST COMMENT, HANDS DOWN
Overheard during Sunday breakfast at a Bob Evans restaurant in South Bend:
“I don’t feel sorry for Morgan Uceny. I feel sorry for the women she will be running against next year.”
Amen, brother.

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