I'm sitting here this morning, watching Roger Fererer absolutely vivisect this guy who has only one (real) vowel in his last name: Hrbaty. I was talking with Tread this morning, about how Federer's not favored to win Wimbledon this year, a dubious honorific that goes to his Grasshopper and rival, Rafa Nadal. With Tiger's fourth knee surgery and Federer's (perhaps) dimming brilliance, maybe we're passing out of an era dominated by these two athletes, a stretch in which we simply expected them to win more than half of the events they entered. We've had these eras before, always in sports in which one player can exert his or her will on the game (I'm exempting baseball, which, except for closers like Mariano Rivera, Jonathan Papelbon, and Trevor Hoffman, is an alchemical game of skill and luck, based on too many bizarre variables for one player to routinely lift his team to victory): Jordan, Kobe, and Bird (among many others) in basketball, Gretzky and Crosby in Hockey, Brett Favre and Tom Brady, and, of course, Lance Armstrong. I'm not so naive to suggest that we're entering a period of parity (remember the NFL trumpeting the victory of parity in the early aughts, before New England won three out of the next four superbowls?), but the (again, perhaps) diminution of Tiger and Federer means something, if nothing more than a new sheaf of dominant players (Djocovic for tennins? No one at all for golf?).
Yesterday I got to race against a 19 year-old kid named Andrew Yoder. Last year, in his rookie season as a pro, he had a bunch of solid, middle of the pack finishes. This year, he's absolutely killing it. After coming in second at the Columbia Triathlon (ahead of, admittedly, a Chris McCormack who got lost on the bike), he lead the pack off the bike yesterday before getting run down by a very determined David Thompson. Yoder is the kind of athlete that should make the established order of triathlon squirm. For a not-flat course (Philly has several short but steep hills), he managed to average 27.7 MPH. His run wasn't great (although much better than mine), but he's 19, and certain to speed up.
Federer has just finished off One-Vowel, exerting as much effort as if he were at a tea party (looks like it, too, in those whites).
I got a great look at Yoder and Thompson yesterday, as I was stuck in about third gear. After a good swim, for me (right around 20:00 flat for a non-wetsuit swim, or 1:21 per 100m), I biked and ran sub-par. My bike was a pedestrian 1:01:20 compared to Yoder's blazing 53:41, and my run a slow 37:16. Sure, it was a sticky day, and sure, I came in 8th this year in the pro field, instead of 10th, but the field was stronger last year, and I averaged almost a full mile an hour quicker on the bike. I was, in fact, almost four minutes slower than last year's time. It's this kind of result that deflates an athlete. If I'd had this result three months ago? Fine, no problem. Here, in late June, entering the meat of my season (three half-irons and The Lifetime Fitness race in mid-July), I'm worried.
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