Undoubtedly, the star so far of this Track and Field World Championships in Moscow is Russian pole vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva, that is, until she opened her big mouth. The world record setting Isi grabbed her third world championship gold medal on Wednesday. Then she decided to take time to criticize her fellow competitors for showing support for the gay and lesbian community.
For those of you asleep at the switch, Russia recently passed some pretty stringent laws, aimed at gays and lesbians. I have personally experienced the paranoia over homosexuality in Russia. I was interviewed four years ago in St. Petersburg for a television program hosted by Vladimir Posner, yes, that Vladimir Posner, for an American's view on the issue. Russians honestly believes that gay people are out to recruit children into their lifestyle. It's a freakish kind of paranoia.
My take during the interview is that people fear what they don't understand. I explained how my views have changed 180 degrees in the last 30 years and that the same thing is slowly happening in America. We all know someone who is gay. We all work with people who are gay and if you don't think you do it's only because the folks you're working with who are gay don't advertise it.
Isinbayeva is retiring after this competition. It's a good thing because it's a safe bet that her major sponsors, namely Adidas, will probably walk away from this attractive track and field superstar. I imagine if she planned to have any future in the IOC or IAAF, the ruling bodies for the Olympics and track and field, that bridge has been burned. It was refreshing to listen to the BBC commentators at the event thoroughly rake Isi over the coals for her repugnant remarks.
The controversy wasn't enough to overshadow a great day of racing. Jenny Simpson cemented her place as one of America's greatest distance runners by winning a silver medal in the 1500. The Colorado grad ran a bold race from the front and forced Sweden's Abeba Agregawi to dig down deep for the victory. The silver goes along with Simpson's Daegu gold won in 2011.
Nearly forgotten in 10th place was high school phenom Mary Cain. The high school senior to be once again showed her lack of racing experience. She allowed herself to get sucked into the slipstream of Simpson's tough early pace instead of racing off the back of the pack where she's enjoyed her best success. The hard early pace left Cain without her patented kick. She wouldn't have medaled had she run smarter but a top 5 finish was left on the track because of her poor tactics.
But in her defense, Cain ran to medal, she ran to win. She simply lacked the stamina to handle the aggressive running. In another year, an American record could well be within reach, unless Simpson gets there first.