2018 Year in Review: Athletics Illustrated’s most searched athletes and stories

0

© Copyright – 2018 – Athletics Illustrated

2018 Houston Marathon Weekend
Houston, Texas January 13-14, 2018
Photo: Victah Sailer@PhotoRun
Victah1111@aol.com
631-291-3409
www.photorun.NET
#run.Photo

Athletics Illustrated’s (AI) annual recount of the previous year’s traffic includes the most read stories, general traffic numbers and most searched athlete names and stories.

AI started publishing on Thursday, Aug. 11 in 2011. The first post was an interview with Sir Richard Branson, which was originally conducted while author Christopher Kelsall was writing for the fledgling Flotrack publication based in Austin, TX.

Branson had just signed a 17-million Euro, five-year sponsorship deal with the London Marathon, hence the former name, Virgin London Marathon.

There are now well over 1,000 athlete interviews and many more with coaches, administrators, physiologists, and various other interesting personalities involved with the sport.

It was especially rewarding to provide the legendary Ron Clarke with his final interview before he passed away.

The online publication has gone through two layout changes over the years as well as spending time as the Canadian affiliate with MileSplit.us. The other managing partner was hockey scout and former NCAA runner, Andrew Maloney, who at that time, had just published the biography, John McDonnell: The Most Successful Coach in NCAA History. You can read the review at AI; it’s a good book.

MileSplit built a network of 52 state-named websites as well as the parent site MileSplit.us. They ventured into Puerto Rico and added Canada via Maloney and his old and very popular Canadian message board website that is no longer active. Trackie.ca has taken over the Canadian message board duties. Athletics Illustrated had a message board but was removed. One may be brought back in the future, with a better layout and design.

Like a 400-metre track, things came full circle as MileSplit went on to purchase FloSports, owner of FloTrack.

AI’s latest overhaul took place in 2017. All data available indicates views that took place after the renovation only, for example, an interview from prior to 2018 may indicate 1000 views, but may have actually had 5,000 to 50,000 in its lifetime, not including some that originally ran at FloTrack or Canadian Running Magazine or various other publications – the odometer was reset to zero.

So which was the most read story for 2018?

The number one read story in 2018 was read 18,491 times. Although there are quite a few articles and posts with nearly that many reads, this one had the most individual website visitors; it struck a cord.

Title: Chaos in the Clubhouse: Trinity Western University Spartans claim abuse.

Chaos in the Clubhouse is the result of investigative journalism with current and past students, athletes and non-athletic staff at Trinity Western University. The story details the apparent abuse and manipulative behavior by an athletics coach, who is now no longer employed by the school.

Typically, the more frequently read articles at Athletics Illustrated are boosted by the help of Let’s Run and other websites linking back to the story; however, not this time. This one stood on its own. Chaos in the Clubhouse rivals the article: “To the IAAF: Ban Russia Now”, which currently indicates just 528 views, however, pre-renovation was over 50,000. It was the very first article in the world to recommend to the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) that Russia be banned from the sport of athletics and it provoked the then-campaigning and would-be IAAF president Sebastian Coe to quip to the media, “we will not be banning Russia,” which he subsequently did, once elected.

The article also rivals the one titled “Hajo Seppelt – Kenyan Doping Exposed”. This one was the first article in English from the German investigative reporter from ARD TV to speak about his time as an undercover agent trying to buy performance-enhancing drugs on the streets of Nairobi. The interview garnered 100,000-plus views (pre-renovation). The investigations by Seppelt are now legendary and are often cited by The Guardian, Washington Post, New York Times and Let’s Run among others.

Seppelt went on to help expose Russia and we were right there interviewing him during the process.

Seppelt and Athletics Illustrated also played a part in the charges and convictions of Lamine Diack and Papa Massata Diack, the father and son team that extorted and bribed athletes and would-be hosts of meets and covered up positive drug tests. They have both been incarcerated for their crimes.

We are honoured to have received a cease and desist letter from Papa Massata’s New York lawyer, which we subsequently published.

The most searched names within AI’s search bar are two world record holders. It helps when the athletes make news of their own. As you will see, it also helps to write about people or subjects, to begin with. Visitors that purposely arrive at the website, then search internally for a subject, probably already know that there is a story on-site, which is different than the more common traffic referral process of organic searches in Google and other external search engines; the visitors don’t yet know which site they will land on.

Eliud Kipchoge:

Eliud Kipchoge’s (kip choge ee) name garnered 21,973 searches in 2018. He broke the world record in the marathon, which was set at 2:02:57 by fellow Kenyan Dennis Kimetto. Kipchoge ran a 2:01:39 on the BMW Berlin Marathon course in 2018 and he auspiciously ran the 2:00:25 on the Mondo, Italy speedway course in a time trial, the year before. Athletics Illustrated interviewed Kipchoge in 2016 before he set either record. He had just run a 2:03:05 in the London Marathon. Now often referred to as “Buddha” or the “Buddha of the Marathon”, Kipchoge’s name is currency in the page-views world – not that, that’s solely why we write about him – he is fascinating, as is.

Kipchoge told Athletics Illustrated, “I am running because I love the sport and above all, it has earned myself a life. Even after retirement, I will still jog in all big city marathons. I will also travel the whole world to sensitize kids on the importance of sport and above all how sport helps to kick out lifestyle diseases.”

Paula Radcliffe:

Source: Charlie Crowhurst/Getty Images Europe)

The most searched women’s name on the website was Paula Radcliffe of England who continues to own the marathon world record of 2:15:25 from the 2003 running of the London Marathon. The record is as notable as Kipchoge’s is now, partly because of how long it has been since she set it, which was more than 15 years ago. The IAAF helped bring the record back into prominence when they had announced that they would like to remove it because she was shielded by men for the entire race. She and the media protested and the threat slipped away into the abyss.

Radcliffe is known for her staunch anti-doping attitude. It was well-documented that she protested an Eastern European’s performance during the Edmonton IAAF World Championships. Her name is as searched nearly as often as Kipchoge’s is, at 20,901 times for 2018.

Excerpt from 2013 Athletics Illustrated Interview:

CK: In light of the recent rash of positive tests in Jamaica, Turkey and a few in Kenya, how close do you think we are from having punishment from a first offense as a four-year ban, which you have advocated for?

PR: I think we have always needed a minimum of that, if not lifetime bans. We need to make the risks greater than benefits to potential cheats. Right now the deterrent is not strong enough. Cheats should be banned, fined, have to repay monies. Plus sanctions for the entourage and providers and countries where there is reasonable doubt it is institutionalised in any way.

Geographically-speaking:

Athletics Illustrated publishes stories of international subject matter, but it is published from Canada and therefore has a Canadian focus. The writing is Canadian Style English,  which may confuse the odd American and even some Canadians; in the many varied laws and best practices of writing, there are some blurred lines. Likewise, Chicago Style English can confuse the odd Commonwealth-based reader too – for example, why did the Americans change “grey” to “gray” yet kept the British in “Greyhound” shouldn’t it be Grayhound?

Traffic primarily comes from the following countries: Canada, America, England, Australia, New Zealand, Kenya, Finland and Germany. Nearly 100 countries are represented in the Geo Report. India hit the radar as did Mexico. The assumption is that the traffic from both of these countries is from vacationing Canadians and Americans, much like the winter traffic from Florida, So-Cal and Maui. The same assumption is made about triathletes and middle and long-distance runners training at altitude in Flagstaff, AZ, Boulder, CO, and Albuquerque, NM.

The Canadian hotbeds of traffic to Athletics Illustrated are in this order:

Toronto Area (GTA)-Southern Ontario
Greater Vancouver-lower mainland
Vancouver Island
Calgary
Montreal
Halifax
Ottawa

On at least one occasion, a visitor showed up from Iqaluit. As of this writing, the temperature in Iqaluit, Nunavut is -34 with blowing snow. It is never too cold to snow – that is (pardon the not-politically-correct colloquialism) an olde wive’s tale. The Iqaluit visitor was probably someone Google-searching: how to outrun a seal; they have lost some of their culture up there, by the way.

The top-two Canadian names searched in 2018 were Cameron Levins and Rachel Cliff. We will divide the most searched names by gender as we do with race results (please, nobody care – that would be so refreshing).

Women:

Rachel Cliff
Rachel Cliff at Canadian Championships in Vancouver at Jericho Beach. Photo credit: Christopher Kelsall.

In 2018, Cliff broke the national half-marathon record with her performance from The Woodlands Marathon and Half Marathon in The Woodlands, TX in March. She finished in the time of 1:10:08. The Vancouver-based runner then went on to run the fastest marathon debut in Canada at the Berlin Marathon with her 2:28:53 performance in September. It was a big year for the quiet runner and her performance in Berlin suggests a wonderful marathon career may be in front of her. Cliff had run very well in cross-country and the 5,000-metre distance event for years before venturing up to longer distances. She started showing glimpses of her distance running prowess in the 10,000-metre event.

Fellow Vancouverite Natasha Wodak was the second-most searched female in the internal search feature as she ran an inspiring performance at the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games 10,000-metres. She ran a fast 31:50.18 and rolled out a very quick final 800-metres, picking off other runners in the late stages of the race. She continues to hold the national 10,000-metre record of 31:41.59.

Two months later, she set a new personal best in the 5,000-metre distance, finishing in the time of 15:29.44 in Portland.

Kinsey Middleton ran a strong debut marathon, finishing as first Canadian in Toronto in the time of 2:32:09. Middleton also ran a new personal best in the half-marathon distance in Houston in January, finishing in the time of 1:12:30. She improved her own 10,000-metre best to 32:33.38 in June. The Boise-based athlete holds both a Canadian and American passport, but the IAAF identifies the 26-year-old as Canadian.

Kinsey Middleton winning Toronto Marathon. Photo submitted by Kinsey Middleton.

Sage Watson is a two-time national champion in the 400-metre hurdles event. She competed in the 2016 Rio Olympics helping Canada’s 4 x 400 relay team with their fourth-place finish. The 24-year-old Medicine Hat native ran a 55.55 400m during the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games to finish fifth.

Scarborough’s Crystal Emmanuel is an unprecedented 11-time national champion, six times in the 100-metres and five times in the 200-metres. She finished fifth in the 200-metre event at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games and helped the 4 x 100 team to a fourth-place finish.

Her personal bests are a world-class 11.11 (and 11.06 wind-aided) and 22.50 for 200-metres, which is the national record. Angela Taylor Issajenko in 1982 ran 22.25 but the performance is no longer valid due to a positive test for performance-enhancing drugs.

Christabel Nettey at Harry Jerome Track Classic. Photo credit: Christopher Kelsall.

Christabel Nettey is the queen of the long jump in Canada. She owns both the indoor and outdoor national records. Her indoors best is 6.99m from February of 2015 from the XL Galan meet in Stockholm, Sweden. Her outdoor record is the same 6.99m distance from the May 2015 Prefontaine Classic.

She is a Pan American and Commonwealth Games gold medallist and finished fourth in the 2015 Beijing IAAF World Championships.

Melissa Bishop-Nriagu didn’t compete in 2018. Her biggest news piece was having a baby in a non-global championships year – good timing. She also made some news with her return to training. Expectations are high with “Bish”, who is the national record holder in the 800-metre event with her world-class 1:57.01 performance from the Monaco Diamond League meet in 2017. She is a four-time national champion. Her fourth-place finish during the 2016 Rio Olympic Games was 1:57.02.

She is a World Championships silver medallist. Some people feel that she is the rightful owner of the gold medal from Rio. The only athletes to beat her are suspected of living with the condition called Hyperandrogenism – a divisive and contentious issue ensued.

The IAAF have tried in the past and are currently trying again to limit the naturally-occurring levels of testosterone in female athletes who live with hyperandrogenism, however, the Court of Arbitration for Sport has in the past sided with the athletes and may continue to going forward.

Nevertheless, Bishop-Nriagu is looking forward to the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.

Top searches for Canadian women:

Rachel Cliff – Vancouver, BC – Marathon: 4,371
Natasha Wodak – Vancouver, BC – 10,000-metres: 4,001
Kinsey Middleton – Boise, ID – Marathon: 3,796
Sage Watson – Lethbridge, AB – 400m/4x400m: 2,992
Crystal Emmanuel – Toronto, ON – 100m/200m: 2,989
Christabel Nettey – Toronto, ON –  Long jump: 2,085
Melissa Bishop-Nriagu – Eganville, ON – 800m: 2,001
Genevieve Lalonde – Moncton, NB – Steeplechase: 1,831
Brogan MacDougall – Kingston, ON – Cross Country: 1,831
Liz Gleadle – Vancouver, BC – Javelin: 1,819

1000-plus:

Lanni Marchant – Chatanooga, TN – Marathon
Krista DuChene – Brantford, ON – Marathon
Dayna Pidhoresky – Vancouver, BC – Marathon
Phylicia George – Toronto, ON – 100m hurdles
Taryn O’Neill – Winchester, BC – 1500-metres
Victoria Tachinski – Winnipeg, MAN – 800-metres
Malindi Elmore – Kelowna, BC – 5,000-metre (retired)
Diane Cummins – Missoula, MT – 800-metre (retired)

Men:

Levins broke the very old national marathon record of 2:10:09 that Jerome Drayton set back in 1975. Over the past decade, the effort by Canadians to break the old and by today’s standards slower national record has been in the media as a constant as Reid Coolsaet, Dylan Wykes and Eric Gillis have come within spitting distance to pulling it off multiple times, but to no avail.

Cameron Levins breaking the Canadian Marathon record by finishing in 2:09:25 at Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon.

Levins ran the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon in October in the time of 2:09:25 – there was a collective sigh across the nation when he did it. Levins, who twice won NCAA Championships and then went on to temporarily set the national 10,000-metre record at 27:07:51 in 2015, ran into a series of injuries and illnesses that would curtail his training and performances. Once he or Nike – not sure who – had, had enough of the other, the Black Creek, BC native went back to his Southern Utah University coach, Eric Houle and back to the higher training volume that had brought him his initial success. It worked, he was resurrected to the national consciousness with first setting a half-marathon personal best in Valencia, Spain with his 62:15 in March, then taking the national marathon record, proudly sporting his Hoka One One brand toque and race kit.

The run continues to garner media attention.

With Cliff, Middleton and Levins debuting so well in the marathon, Canada looks strong in the event for the first time since Coolsaet, Wykes, Gillis, Marchant (NR – 2:28:00) and DuChene and a few others like Rob Watson gave the event a serious go.

Ben Flanagan, who attended the University of Michigan and was coached by the legendary Kevin Sullivan, won the NCAA 10,000-metre title with a furious kick. He finished in a new personal best time of 28:23:53. Immediately, upon finishing he started asking where his mother was, nothing else mattered, it was an indelible moment when he found her in the stands.

Flanagan continues to race well, post-grad. In Toronto, in September, he ran a road 5K and finished in the time of 13:57 for a new personal best at the distance. He also set a new mile (1609m) best of 3:57.75 that same month, demonstrating good range.

Evan Dunfee at GoodLife Fitness Victoria Marathon, where he racewalked the half-marathon, plus a warm-up of 5K and finished with the kid’s 1K run after – for charity – KidSport. Photo credit: Christopher Kelsall.

Evan Dunfee of Vancouver first showed undeniable class during the 2016 Rio Olympic Games when he was competing in the 50K Racewalk and positioned in third place. Late in the race, he was bumped by the eventual bronze medallist from Japan. Dunfee could have protested and possibly could have won the medal, but decided to take fourth position. He was thrown off of his rhythm by the bump which was quite clear on video replay.

Dunfee’s name was also searched a fair amount due to his fundraising efforts. In the fall, he racewalked 25K daily for 25 days to celebrate the 25-year anniversary of KidSport. The not-for-profit charity raises funds for kid’s registration for sports. At the GoodLife Fitness Victoria Half Marathon he ran a 5K warm-up, the 21.1K race (in 1:37) and then ran with the kids in the Thrifty Foods 1K kids run.

Connor Black from 2017 U Sport Cross Country Championships in Victoria, BC. He finished second. Photo credit: Christopher Kelsall.

Connor Black with the University of Guelph Gryphons won the U Sport Cross Country Championships in Kingston, ON in November of this year. The race was held at the historic Fort Henry Park. He finished second to Yves Sikubwabo in 2017 at Beacon Hill Park in Victoria, BC. He told Athletics Illustrated, “I don’t think that there was a day in the past five years I didn’t think about wanting to win the U Sport Cross Country Championships.”

Although Mohammed Ahmed and Justyn Knight had quiet years for their standards, they continue to be popular athletes in Canada. Knight ran three new personal bests in indoors clocking a mile in 3:55.82, 3,000-metres in 7:45.86 and the 5,000-metres in 13:50.79. The Torontonian also came up with a pretty solid performance in the 1500-metres in April, running an outdoors pb of 3:36.07.

Ahmed ran a best for the rare two-miler in the time of 8:22.29 in May at Eugene. The St. Catharine’s, ON athlete, doesn’t need to wow the nation every time he steps on the track, but he often does. Currently, he owns the national record for the 10,000-metres with his 2016 performance of 27:02.35 and the national 5,000-metre record of 13:01.74.

Brandon McBride, photo credit: Jesse Austin.

Windsor, Ontario’s Brandon McBride is Canada’s new 800-metre national record holder with his performance from the Monaco Diamond League meet in July where he ran a 1:43.20. He took down the long-standing record that was held by Kamloops, BC native Gary Reed who held the record from 2008 with his best of 1:43.68 from the same meet.

Searches for Canadian Men:

Cameron Levins – Black Creek, BC – Marathon: 4,316
Ben Flanagan – Kitchener, ON – 10,000-metres: 4,212
Evan Dunfee – Vancouver, BC – 50K Racewalk: 3,981
Connor Black – Guelph, ON – Cross Country: 3,645
Justyn Knight – Toronto, ON – 5,000-metres: 3,007
Mohammed Ahmed – St. Catharine’s, ON – 5,000/10,000-metres: 2,867
Brandon McBride – Windsor, ON – 800-metres: 2,009
Charles Philibert-Thiboutot – Quebec, QC – 1500-metres: 2,009
Andre De Grasse – Toronto, ON – 100/200-metres: 2,002
Shawn Barber – Las Cruces, NM – Pole vault: 1,419

900-plus

Reid Coolsaet – Guelph, ON – Marathon
Jon Brown – Victoria, BC – Marathon (retired)
Rob Watson – Vancouver, BC – Marathon
Tyler Dozzi – Terrace, BC – Cross Country
Adam Campbell – Calgary, AB – Mountain Runner
Mike Tate – Heatherton, NS – 5,000-metres
Jerome Drayton – Toronto, ON – Marathon (retired)
Bruce Kidd – Ottawa, ON – 5,000-metre (retired)
Mark Bomba – Langley, BC – 10,000-metre (retired)
Lucas Bruchet – Vancouver, BC – 5,000-metre