Even with a world record in the decathlon and American record in the triple jump, Team USA was dismayed at the IAAF world track and field championships ending Sunday in Beijing after winning only six gold medals.
But it wasn’t the only track game in August.
Two weeks earlier in France at the World Masters Athletics Championships, Team San Diego alone came away with 11 medals, including seven golds.
And former San Diegan Babatunde Ridley, 37, won silvers in the 100-meter dash (10.87) and 4×100 relay. He now works in Washington, D.C.
Competing in five-year age groups, six San Diegans led by Rita Hanscom endured triple-digit temps in the east-central city of Lyon. Nearly 430 Americans took part in the 21st biennial meet attracting 8,000 athletes from 98 nations. Team USA won 160 medals, including 57 gold.
Hanscom, 61, a deputy state attorney general, opened with a meet-record heptathlon in the 60-64 age group and followed with golds in the high jump (4 feet 5 1/2), long jump (14-2 3/4) and pole vault (8-10 1/4) plus silvers in the 80-meter hurdles (13.66 seconds) and 300-meter hurdles (56.35).
At 81, Dick Richards of Encinitas was the oldest local entrant.
Having had the fastest time in the 100-meter semifinal in a field of 24, he was favored in the final. But the result was what he called a “gut-wrenching, heartbreaking loss.”
“I led and never saw my opponent (Hans Bloechlinger of Switzerland) until the final meter, having thought I had won,” he wrote from Europe where he was traveling with his wife. But at least he recovered from what he called Montezuma’s Revenge — an illness triggered by steak tartare and raw eggs before the meet.
“I ran my best race of this season — 15.02,” he said. “I should have dived at the finish.”
Richards qualified for the 200-meter dash but withdrew. He struck gold in the long jump, however, going 12-4 3/4.
“Sorry I could not afford you a record this time,” he said. “I had one really good jump that would have made it [a 13-9 American record]. However, I touched my derrière [on landing, leaving a mark closer to the takeoff]. Conditions were marginal. There was no takeoff board, just white lye powder for our age class.”
James Chinn of San Marcos, a local architect who helps coach track at CSU San Marcos, couldn’t grab another world title in the 400 meters, clocking 57.47 for sixth in the 55-59 group. But after taking fifth in the 200 (25.21), he teamed with three other Americans to win both the 4×100 and 4×400 relays on the final day, Aug. 16.
He anchored the longer race.
“We had several 100-degree days at the beginning,” Chinn said. “But then a week of low 70s. So in other words, it was very similar to San Diego’s temperature swings in the summer.”
- Results: World Masters Athletics Championships in Lyon, France.
- Related: Rita Hanscom Wins Heptathlon, Leads San Diegans at World Meet
A veteran of many world championships, he said his most memorable experience was renewing friendships with athletes “from around the world that I’ve met at previous world meets.”
The final San Diego medalist was Clyde “Chip” Crowl — a 60-year-old decathlete who Chinn persuaded to try the 300-meter hurdles for the first time.
“I made it to the semis, missing finals by 0.12 seconds,” he said. “It reminded me of the first time I ever ran at masters level with the anticipation, anxiety and overall rush. I will be back.”
He’d especially want a chance at the decathlon pole vault. He failed to clear a height and scored no points after standing in eighth place on Day 2.
“It broke my heart,” Crowl said. “I trained for 1 1/2 years for that event. Sports can break your heart. I ended up 15th.”
He also ran the 400 (18th in 62.92), 100-meter hurdles (16th in 18.85) and ran both relays — and finally saw his efforts bear fruit, winning bronze in the 4×400 event.
Longtime local track volunteer Graeme Shirley of San Diego, at 69 among the oldest in his age group, had the 34th-best time in the 800 meters — 3:11.59.
Patricia “Pat” Kelly, a newcomer to the sport, ran the 400-meter dash at one of Lyon’s four track stadiums two months after meniscus surgery.
“Being my first Worlds, it was very emotional walking to the start line with my heat,” she said. “I was the only American, and I felt a strong connection to my competitors. The love of running and the thrill of competition connected us — a group of 65-year-old women from around the world.”
Even though she hadn’t run the lap sprint since February, she managed an 11th-place time of 1:27.69. A bigger prize came while watching the shot put.
“I started talking (in my five words of French) to a French woman,” Kelly said. “I told her how pretty the park was and she then told me to visit another park – Tête d’Or. We did, and it was one of the most beautiful city parks that I’ve ever seen.”
Another moment she won’t forget: “I met my twin! I met Pat Kelly, who had attended Boston State College. So had I. … When I was starting the 4×100, I heard her voice above the crowd saying, ‘Come on, Pat Kelly!’ She told me she had always wanted to say that.”
More memories are ahead for Crowl the decathlete.
“I thought I was prepared for the level of competition,” he said. “I underestimated the quality of my peers, especially the Brits, French and Germans who were deep in squad. Yet at the end of the day I made great new friends. Saw outstanding age performances.”
He called Lyon a great experience that would enhance his tenure in track as he prepares for the October 2016 world meet in Australia.
His French efforts, he said, will “motivate me to get better for the next WMA in Perth.”