September 2007 – World Athletics Championships, Osaka, Japan

Osaka Experience…

Upon the conclusion of my first world track championships, I would have to say I have mixed feelings. First, being at any major championships, at least in my experience, is extremely exhilarating and motivating: a stadium filled with hyped up fans, stepping on the line with full-powered competitors, being surrounded by lean-mean, yet empathetic athletes who are all in the same boat; having worked so hard all year towards the same goal of succeeding at the year-end clincher of all competitions – the championship. All of these things made Osaka a great experience. And, in addition, the fact that I had a great competitive experience where I learned I CAN compete and run with the best in the world. Even though I didn’t make the Final, I was able to kick just as fast as my competitors, I just had a little bad luck and bad positioning – an experience of which I learned a great deal from that will only help catapult me to another level for next year’s Olympic Games. So, all of these things I see as very positive aspects of my championship experience.

On the other hand, I will be honest and say that I went into the championships with a goal to make the Final and I was very disappointed when I did not succeed in this goal. But, I think it’s that disappointment that makes me a good competitor and will continue to fuel my fire to keep fighting. I learned that championship racing is a whole different ball-game than a regular race. Not only do you have to be strong enough to go through three rounds, but you also have to become a cunning tactician who can position themselves at precisely the right moment, which I would say is before or in the last lap, especially coming down the homestretch (at least in the 1500m). I felt I did a good job at this in my heats, and during much of my semi; however, when the final sprint came in the semi, I found myself a little stuck and missed the top-5 kick for home. I am determined to get this right for next time though! Alas, all was not lost: in not making the Final, I was able to watch a great race and see my friend Maryam take the title. I also was taking notes in my head for what it will take to come out on top in a championship final.

Other than the actual racing aspect, I have to say that being in Japan was definitely a NEW and interesting, but maybe not so exciting, experience. The Japanese people are very accommodating and helpful, but there were definitely not as many English speakers as I had hoped or expected…and, no matter how many times they keep trying to speak to me—I don’t speak Japanese! I suppose it’s common nature to try to communicate in the language you know, even when someone on the other end doesn’t understand, but I can’t tell you how many people I just starred blankly at as they continued to speak Japanese, which included the constant bowing and repetition of “Hi”. So, I guess I got that down…when in doubt just say “Hi” (pronounced “Hi” with a quick breath out as if you are simultaneously hand-chopping a block of wood). Okay, okay, I don’t mean to mock the culture because I have a lot of respect for the Japanese people: they are very hard-working, disciplined people, not to mention endlessly helpful. Twice I found myself lost in Osaka (for those of you who know me well this likely doesn’t come as a surprise, although I can guarantee I was NOT the only one who got lost in their underground world of subways and shopping malls!), and both times I had locals stop and ask if they could help and literally walked me in the right direction, one time immediately to my destination. Both times I was extremely grateful and relieved since most signs are actually symbols of which I could never begin to
decipher from another. I think this was likely the most difficult thing for those coming from any language that originates from an alphabet of letters rather than symbols. Even in Scandinavia I can at least read the writing, even if I can’t begin to pronounce it.

As for tourist info, the city of Osaka is a big metropolis full of people and tall buildings – and quite posh; the people are all dressed to the nines (I definitely could not keep up with the women there – always in heels!). I can’t say I ventured out too much because I was focusing on competing, but we did visit Kyoto one day, which had some amazing temples, surrounded by beautiful gardens and bamboo forests – this was about a 45min train ride outside Osaka. I also should mention that their public transport system was very efficient, yet there still remained to be an amazing amount of traffic – I guess this is just because of the sheer number of people living in the city. One highlight in Osaka was visiting the New Balance store. New Balance USA coordinated a visit to the Osaka flagship store for all their athletes, where we could pick out various items that you can’t find in the U.S. As well, they made us all our own spikes with our name on it – very cool!








I’m not sure I would have any reason to go back to Osaka, and if given the choice, I would prefer to see some country-side in Japan. I suppose the fact that Osaka isn’t a great tourist city is probably good for athletes trying to focus on a championship. Either way, I learned a lot from this experience and I still feel my preparation for the championships was nearly perfect in terms of how training went, I just think I need another year under my belt to get stronger and use the tactical experience I’ve gained. I will race a few more times this season in hopes that I can capitalize on my fitness with a pb.

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