Monday, August 2, 2021

On To The Finals

Someone who has been working for certainly did his or her homework. 

If you look at the profile of Julia Ratcliffe, it mentions this nugget:

She began athletics as a hurdler in New Zealand. At age 12 her father bought her a hammer and began to coach her.

And to whom does the site give attribution? None other than TigerBlog himself. It was in a blog he wrote about Ratcliffe back in March, when Ratcliffe finally broke through and beat the Olympic qualifying standard in one of her last opportunities to do so. That standard - 72.30 meters - had haunted her for five years after she narrowly missed it prior to the 2016 Rio Games.

From that early introduction as a hurdler, Ratcliffe finally became an Olympian - in the hammer throw. And she made the most of the chance.

Ratcliffe has had many other impressive achievements in the sport before she ever reached the biggest stage. She had an all-time career at Princeton, winning the NCAA title in 2014 and finishing as runner-up the following year (to current USA Olympian DeAnna Price).

Perhaps most impressively Ratcliffe has the 134 best hammer throws in Ivy League history. That gets more insane every time TB writes it.

She made her Olympic debut over the weekend in the first round of the hammer, representing her native New Zealand. To advance, she needed to either throw 73.50 meters or be among the best 12 in the qualifying round to advance to the final.

Her first throw of three was her best, traveling 73.20 meters. It was just short of an automatic qualification, but it did leave her fourth in the first group. If fewer than eight from Group 2 threw it better than 73.20, then Ratcliffe would be on to the final Tuesday.

As it turned out, only two in the second group beat her. As a result, Ratcliffe is headed to the final round, which will be contested tomorrow at 8:35 pm in Tokyo, or 7:35 am in Princeton. TB is pretty sure that's also 10:35 pm in Hamilton, New Zealand, Ratcliffe's hometown.

Lizzie Bird's hometown is St. Albans Herts, in England, about 20 miles outside of London. It'll be Wednesday night at 8 in Tokyo, or noon in St. Albans Herts, when Bird also competes in the Olympic final in her event.

It was an extraordinary half hour or so for Princeton women's track and field Saturday in Tokyo. You can actually say it was an extraordinary half hour for Princeton women's track and field athletes who graduated in 2017.

First it was Ratcliffe who made her bid for the final in the hammer. Even before the second hammer group was finished, Bird - Ratcliffe's teammate and classmate - ran in the third and final heat of the 3,000-meter steeplechase.

To reach the final, she needed to either be in the top three in her heat or have one of the next six fastest times of all the runners in the three heats. And speaking of heat, they were running in heat that was just short of three digits. That is not ideal running weather.

Despite that, Bird had an amazing performance, running 9:24.34 and finishing fifth in her heat. Her time sent TB immediately to the other two heats, and a quick check of those times revealed that Bird was also headed to the Olympic final.

For Princeton, that's three straight Olympic Games in which an alum has reached the steeplechase final, after Donn Cabral did so in 2012 and 2016. Rising senior Ed Trippas ran for Australia in the men's steeplechase earlier in these Tokyo Games. Want to get to the Olympics in the steeplechase? Come to Princeton.

Bird was a two-time Ivy League Heps steeplechase champion at Princeton, as well as a Heps cross country champion. She has grown into one of the very best steeplechasers in the world.

Now the two former teammates will be in the Olympic finals, one day apart in Tokyo, going for medals for two different countries but united together as always as Princeton teammates and classmates.

As TB said, it was an extraordinary few minutes for Princeton women's track and field. 

Actually, make that an extraordinary few minutes for Princeton in general.

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