If we were to paint a picture of the world we live in, the brushstrokes chosen would unmistakably be strong, vivid and bold. Although opinion may divide as to whether such an expressionist element works, its matter-of-factly approach pretty much drives the message home. Boldness yields an unflinching portrait.
A similar thread appears to also be running through sport. The portrait sketched is one that shows rich rewards from making sport more fast paced...and bold. Take the Twenty20 format of cricket that is loud and brash. It has resonated with fans in a way that the 50-over or five-day variants can only dream of.
Now athletics also appears to be jumping onto the bandwagon. Plans have been mooted that will see Diamond League meets cut to just 90 minutes starting 2020. This will ultimately see 5000m and 10,000m races scrapped as the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) seeks to make the sport more compelling to fans.
Unsurprisingly, the radical changes have been greeted with fierce displeasure here in East Africa. IAAF has become the punching bag for distance running enthusiasts that yearn for both answers and retribution. Many of them have regarded the radical plans as unfavourable. Something akin to pulling the rug from under the feet of the likes of Jacob Kiplimo. IAAF, however, remains unmoved in its assessment that longer races slow things down.
These are tough times for distance athletes. Sure there will always be the road races to look forward to, but these will increasingly not be televised. Knocked sideways, the kitty staked at road races will also undoubtedly take a nosedive. This will in turn prompt a domino effect of loss perpetuating loss, with brands moving not to endorse distance athletes.
Yet as distance athletes take the impending threats seriously and prepare for the worst, their counterparts running middle distances stand to gain something from the radical changes. These middle distance athletes -- especially those in Uganda -- have always been the archetypal second cousin. They are barely known and what little people know of them they don’t much like. Could more opportunities on the Diamond League not only put more money in their pockets, but also earn much-needed fame and acclaim? Hopefully.
Winnie Nanyondo offered us a glimpse when in placing third at the Shanghai Diamond League, she broke the national 1500m women’s record and qualified for this year’s Worlds.