19th October 2017

Talking Sport … with Jim Tait

The World Athletics Championships taking place at the London Stadium has unfortunately been making headlines for the wrong reasons.

Apart from Mo Farah’s victory in the 10,000 metres there has not been a single Great Britain medal, and team captain Eilidh Doyle felt the need to reply to media criticism of the overall squad performance.

There have been several near misses, however, among them Doyle’s fellow Scots Laura Muir and Callum Hawkins finishing fourth respectively in the women’s 1,500 metres and men’s marathon.

Muir, who is just coming back from injury, was especially unlucky, missing a bronze medal by a fraction while Hawkins, young at 25 for a marathon runner, recorded a personal best. You cannot ask for more than that.

Most of the aggrieved reaction so far though has been reserved for the men’s 100 metres, where favourite Usain Bolt was beaten in the final by Justin Gatlin.

Gatlin, who has served two doping bans, was roundly booed before and after winning the race, and then criticised by BBC commentator Steve Cram and also former star runner and Tory MP Sebastian Coe.

The IAAF president, now Lord Coe of course, stated that he would not “eulogise” about Gatlin walking off with “one of our glittering prizes”.
In that pompous and annoying way he pontificates, Coe added that it “was not the perfect script”.

That may well have been his belief, but it was rather a silly statement considering it was the body he represents which reinstated the American.

Cram, meanwhile, got into a tiff with fellow pundit Michael Johnson, the former US sprinter, over the issue. Johnson accused him of singling out Gatlin when there were dozens of other drug offenders back competing.

Much as I abhor cheats, I feel that Gatlin’s coach Renaldo Nehemiah was correct in his analysis of the situation.

Coe is a part of the IAAF which sets the rules, sets the punishments, administers the punishments and allows athletes back into competition once they have served that punishments.

If he is willing to accept Gatlin back competing, but unwilling to accept him back winning, then Coe would be better off saying nothing. Neither he nor Cram can have it both ways.

Drugs in various forms are unfortunately a huge part of many sports, not just athletics, in this era. You just have to look at the size of those taking part compared with a few decades ago to realise that.

Away from the controversy, I feel they should add another event to the range of disciplines – the fastest person to interview a race winner.

It would be a foregone conclusion, however, as the BBC’s Phil Brown would win hands down. He doesn’t even wait until they get their breath back, rambling away and asking ridiculous questions which they barely understand. One of these days someone will surely tell him where to go.

And as for studio mainstay Gabby Logan, I’d put her in the same category as Clare Balding and Gary Lineker. Over-exposed, over-rated and, certainly in the case of the latter, over-paid!

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It is beginning to look as though a somewhat different name will be inscribed on Shetland’s premier league trophy this season.

Whitedale and Ness United remain locked at the top on 33 points apiece, with champions Spurs eight points adrift although with a game in hand.

The next two of the three remaining matches look slightly tougher for Ness, with two visits to Lerwick to take on Thistle and Spurs. Whitedale, on the other hand, are at home against both North Isles and Celtic.

If both contenders keep up the challenge, however, the final game would see them go head to head at Strom. Whitedale must now be considered favourites, but Ness have a young and mobile outfit which may see them prevail.

Whatever happens, it will be a change to what we have been accustomed to in recent years. Whitedale’s last title win was in 1990, ending a period of dominance when they lifted the Association Cup eight times in 13 years.

Ness have never got their hands on the trophy, but were unofficial Shetland champions for the only time back in 1966 when they won five of the seven pieces of silverware available that year.

Since 1991 the league title has been won on various occasions by Spurs, Thistle, Celtic, Delting and Whalsay. While those clubs would no doubt think otherwise, a different name would probably be a good thing for isles football overall.

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Once again, with the new Scottish football season only a week old, only Celtic remain in a European competition.

Rangers exited the Europa League’s first qualifying round at the hands of Luxembourg side Progres Niederkorn and St Johnstone only slightly less embarrassingly so to Trakai from Lithuania.

Aberdeen went slightly farther before losing out to Cypriots Apollon Limassol in the third qualifying round last Thursday. But despite holding a narrow first-leg lead at home the Dons were unable to progress.

Celtic only just made it past Rosenborg in Norway but have now secured a play-off tie with Astana from Kazakstan and have an excellent chance of making the league stages.

What this surely tells us, as if anyone needed telling, is that Scottish sides are totally unprepared when it comes to early excursions in the European stakes.

The obvious thing to do is change the season so that it becomes more in line with other countries. Begin at least a month earlier and close down in January and maybe part of February.

There are of course people in positions of power who argue that would be doing away with tradition. They presumably think it is better to shiver in stadiums at the beginning of the year because it has always been that way.

They need to remove the blinkers, I’d say, and do it as soon as possible.

About Jim Tait

Jim Tait is news editor at The Shetland Times.

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