We Must Be Ready to Meet the Challenge
By Vin Lananna
EUGENE, Ore. – In six years, the 2021 IAAF World Championships come to the U.S. for the first time in history.
The single largest sporting event in the world that year will take place on American soil in a modernized and renovated Hayward Field. This represents an extraordinary opportunity for all of us who share a deep passion for the sport of track and field.
We must be ready to meet the challenge. By the time that meet arrives, we want the athletes who proudly wear the Team USA uniform to be household names in this country.
How do we accomplish that task?
First, as we embark on an Olympic year, we should make certain that all of our athletes – the world’s No. 1 team in track and field – have everything they need to perform at their absolute best on the most prestigious stage of them all in Rio de Janeiro.
It’s important that we work together to form a collective voice that will be a tireless advocate for those athletes, ranging from the grass roots programs which introduce the joys of running, jumping and throwing to our youth, to the gold medalists and world record-holders who capture the imagination of the entire world.
That mission begins today.
While it’s true that Team USA has led the medal count in each of the past six IAAF World Championships, and our athletes have won more Olympic medals in track and field than any other nation by a wide margin, all of us in the sport must work hard to ensure that Team USA has the necessary tools and support to maintain that position.
We applaud the recent revenue-sharing agreement announced by our national federation – USA Track & Field. It’s a monumental step. When TrackTown USA hosted the U.S. Olympic Trials in 2008, we provided direct financial benefits to our athletes. We boosted that support in 2012 and plan to do so again in 2016 for a total investment of millions of dollars in athlete travel stipends, increased prize money and the addition of elite-level competitive opportunities in the U.S. throughout each Olympic cycle.
In order for our sport to grow and thrive, we must do more.
When the IAAF World Junior Championships made its U.S. debut in TrackTown USA in the summer of 2014, we added a High Performance meet for elite American athletes, similar to past High Performance meets at Hayward Field in 2006, ’07 and ’08.
The success of those meets presents an ongoing challenge: How do we create a professional track and field series in the U.S. that is easy to follow and captures major media and public attention?
We’re currently working on the launch of the TrackTown Summer Series in 2016 which we hope will do just that.
With a simple format and sound business model, we already have strong support from a major broadcast sports network. Our objective is clear: celebrate, elevate, reward and promote hometown heroes.
We are convinced that when mainstream American sports fans have the chance to see our stars compete, they will want to see more. We fully support USATF initiatives to reward our athletes, and it is our belief that the TrackTown Summer Series and the commercial partnerships developing around that project will move us further in that direction.
Besides the addition of homegrown meets, it is incumbent on all of us who support track and field in this country to do our best to make sure our athletes have outstanding training and coaching opportunities; readily available technical and medical support; and the financial means to stay in the sport long enough to achieve their potential.
And this isn’t all about elite athletes.
We must be certain that the 57 statewide associations which comprise USATF are healthy and thriving. In addition, we should take great care to ensure that the needs of all of our constituencies are met – Youth, Masters, Race Walkers, Ultra & Trail Runners, Cross Country, Road Runners, Clubs, Coaches, Meet Directors, Volunteers and Officials.
We’re all in this together and I’m confident that as long as everybody’s voice is heard, we can move forward.
The countdown to 2021 starts now.