Timing trials

by Listener Archive / 31 May, 2008
Marathon running is not just a race against time.

Small wonder Liza Hunter-Galvan has been appealing her omission from the New -Zealand Olympic marathon team - she has been running not just for herself but for her daughter Amber.

The Galvan family was involved in a car crash in the US early last year. Their car crashed at 110km/h into an 18-wheeler truck attempting a U-turn on a highway. All six members of the family were injured but 12-year-old Amber suffered a fractured skull and was in a coma for three weeks.

Her memory loss included forgetting seeing her mother run in the marathon at the Athens Olympic Games in 2004.

"In that moment when we thought we were going to lose Amber, I lost my desire for everything," Hunter-Galvan told the Herald on Sunday last year. "I didn't even care about running any more."

With Amber restored to health, Hunter-Galvan's quest to make the Beijing team was also spurred by her daughter. "I knew she had no memory of me competing at Athens [Hunter-Galvan finished 51st] and I want to make new memories for her. I knew I had to qualify for her. The last 5km of the Amsterdam marathon, I was running with Amber at the forefront of my mind."

Hunter-Galvan beat the New Zealand Olympic qualifying time by finishing fifth in the Amsterdam marathon last year, running 2hr 30m 40s, three minutes faster than she had run before.

And that's where the trouble began. Beating the qualifying time is not the only criterion for the marathon.

Marathon courses are subject to factors such as the numbers and gradient of hills, prevailing winds, heat, cold, the weather on the day, race tactics and more. World rankings are also misleading. What really matters is the athlete's psychological battle with the course, with the conditions, with other athletes, with the limits of the human body. Reputations mean sod all. Rankings mean less.

The conventional wisdom is that Amsterdam is a flatter, faster course than Beijing will be; Hunter-Galvan's race was run in cool, clear conditions, not the choking heat and pollution of China's capital.

In addition, Hunter-Galvan had to show she had consistent past performances, a good record in major championships and an ability to make the world's top 16. Her record in major championships has not been good and there is no way she has threatened to break into the top 16 in the world.

So therein lies the dilemma for the selectors and one big, puzzling question. If times are not relevant in marathons, why have them as a selection criterion?

And which is best - select only those we think can make the top 16, or give our athletes a chance to develop?

If you talk to New Zealand athletes who have competed and won at the highest levels, it is clear that there is a feeling too many have worn the black singlets when they may not have deserved to, that their race was run in just getting to the Games, rather than winning a medal.

It's fair to suggest too that the new era of Sparc funding means there is far more focus on success than development. Athletics New Zealand is trying to build a culture in which the goal is winning - or at the least strong world-ranked performances - rather than just being selected.

There are points on both sides. For my money, Hunter-Galvan may not have done enough to get to Beijing, as heartless as that sounds given the effort and talent required to be an international--class marathon runner.

At the time of writing, she was pursuing a legal appeal through the Sports Disputes Tribunal. In the backbiting, political, rather bitchy world of athletics, there were murmurings that she was due to spill some beans at the hearing.

That would be a shame. Maybe she'd be better off quoting the example of Barry Magee, the marathon bronze medallist at the 1960 Rome Olympics whose only other major meeting was the 1958 Commonwealth Games in Cardiff, where he finished eighth in the six miles.

Maybe someone could ask Magee what going to Cardiff did for his career.

Email: sportscolumnist@listener.co.nz

MostReadArticlesCollectionWidget - Most Read - Used in articles
AdvertModule - Advert - M-Rec / Halfpage


Vincent O’Malley: Why we need to open up about past Māori and Pākehā conflict
106234 2019-05-26 00:00:00Z History

Vincent O’Malley: Why we need to open up about pas…

by Sally Blundell

Calls are growing for us to take a more honest look at our past, particularly the wars over land and power that shaped the country.

Read more
Scott Morrison: How a 'doomed' PM stormed the country with one killer line
106291 2019-05-26 00:00:00Z World

Scott Morrison: How a 'doomed' PM stormed the coun…

by Bernard Lagan

As Australia’s tourism tsar 13 years ago, Scott Morrison oversaw the rollicking “So where the bloody hell are you?’’ ad campaign.

Read more
What you need to know about knee replacements
105774 2019-05-26 00:00:00Z Health

What you need to know about knee replacements

by Ruth Nichol

Replacement knee joints are giving thousands of Kiwis decades of service, but don’t rush to get one.

Read more
How a hit romcom took indigenous Aussie star Miranda Tapsell back to her roots
106072 2019-05-25 00:00:00Z Movies

How a hit romcom took indigenous Aussie star Miran…

by Russell Baillie

Miranda Tapsell tells Russell Baillie how she came up with Top End Wedding and why its Northern Territory setting means so much.

Read more
The link between cardiovascular health and dementia
105915 2019-05-25 00:00:00Z Health

The link between cardiovascular health and dementi…

by Nicky Pellegrino

New research into the brain has found that cardiovascular ill health is linked to cognitive decline and dementia.

Read more
Following the call of New Zealand's abandoned freezing works
106317 2019-05-25 00:00:00Z Life in NZ

Following the call of New Zealand's abandoned free…

by John Summers

John Summers wonders if his abiding interest in New Zealand’s abandoned freezing works is actually a long farewell to his grandfather.

Read more
Tech Week: Time to celebrate Aotearoa’s own overlooked moonshot
106359 2019-05-25 00:00:00Z Tech

Tech Week: Time to celebrate Aotearoa’s own overlo…

by Peter Griffin

“We bow down to this idea of Elon Musk or Jeff Bezos going to Mars, when here in our own country, we had the equivalent."

Read more
Kiwi composer John Rimmer: An instrumental figure
106331 2019-05-24 11:09:35Z Music

Kiwi composer John Rimmer: An instrumental figure

by Elizabeth Kerr

Contemporaries and students are paying tribute to composer John Rimmer and his musical legacy.

Read more