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Ryun vs. Keino (was Track History)


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  • #46
    Re: Track History

    I agree with the post that states Ryun was never the same after mono. He wasn't, as many other people aren't either. Mohammed Gamoudi spent TWO YEARS in the Pyrenees to prepare for Mexico City, look it up. Would two years of altitude have helped other sea level runners. Probably.

    Keino was a great all around runner. But nowhere near as talented as Ryun. At his peak, Ryun was dominating. At his best, Keino was still beaten here and there. Take a look at Cordner Nelson's book on Milers, and look at his record. Great runner, yes. Also fortunate to be facing a Ryun that was a few months past a case of mono, at a mile above sea level. PC journalists will tend to rave more about any Kenyan or third world athlete, while downplaying the accomplishments of European or American athletes. This was as true in the mid 60's as it is today, with the blind worship of any, dare I say, non-white athlete from the thid world. Some of this has led to the spectacle we now see of European and American distance runners seemingly getting slower, become more and more mediocre.

    I think most of the people posting in Ryun's favor are looking at his races and records during his pre mono years. His fast finishes, average margin of victory, etc. are awesome. Including his wins over Keino in 66 at two miles, a WR 1500 and a mile race in London in 67. For a healthy Ryun, Keino wasn't much of a threat. Is Ryun the greatest ever? He would certainly be in the battle for the top spot, while Keino doesn't merit consideration. (Yes, Ryun beat Keino indoors in their first meeting after the 68 games. Keino could not finish as fast as Ryun, even after Ryun being taken down a few notches by mono)

    Morceli, as mentioned above, has been ignored by a lot of people. Coe, despite two 1500 golds, was more dominant in the 800. Cram is overlooked as well. Elliot, for all the raving, certainly didn't have the leg speed to match Morceli, Coe, Ryun, El Guerrouj or Cram if it were possible to set up some type of perfect race scenario.

    Using the 'rankings' as the way to figure out who is best is probably a shaky proposition in many ways. There are many occasions where we know a better athlete has been beaten by sickness, injury, bad luck, etc. and that's the way it goes. Ryun is one of those. Steve Williams is certainly another, he was mentioned above also.

    Keino hung around for a long time. But his record pales in comparison to Morceli's over the 1500/mile. Ryun set records, and still managed to grab a silver while not at his best, in Mexico City. If Mr. Squires doesn't think altitude makes a difference, I invite him to run in Denver someday. Naturally, none of the arguments mean anything, as things are as they are. But speculation makes things interesting.

    Maybe we should start another thread dedicated to the 800/1500.

    The other choices made by people are good. The info on Harbig is great.


    • #47
      Re: Track History

      I don't think we can really compare athletes from different eras in a fair manner. With all the advances in track surfaces, shoes, "supplementation" and so forth, modern athletes would wipe the floor with most of their predecessors. It's not necessarily because today's guys are more talented, but they do have many more advantages.

      That said, there are athletes from the past that we are all fairly sure could compete today. Bob Hayes undoubtedly. Based on talent. Peter Snell in the 800, based on exhibited talent. Jim Ryun in the mile, again, based on exhibited talent (despite Mr. Squires dislike of Ryun), Tommie Smith, Rudy Harbig, Randy Matson, Ron Clarke. It's a long list. The perfermances of most of these guys back in their prime would get them on the world list today. That is what is so amazing. The world rankings are one way for someone to come up with their own list of the top ten in each event. But it's always going to be one guy's opinion.

      Above everyone else, I think Carl Lewis makes a good case for being the greatest of all time in the LJ. No matter what criteria are used. He didn't set the WR, but he did everything else.

      Longevity? In the past, some guys didn't care to stick around that long. For others in the past, it was their way of making a living. Until they were caught.

      Since the Ryun question has come up on several posts, I'll weigh in. Ryun probably possessed the most natural talent of any middle distance runner to date. He didn't reach his potential, however. Of course, neither did Herb Elliot. Ryun does not have the best overall record, no matter which way anyone looks at it. Most talent, but not the best record. The records are hard to match, but Coe has two gold medals! Sure, luck is involved also, but you beat who steps on the line next to you that day. You aren't racing the guy who's out with an injury, or a ghost. Keino scored well in the rankings, but isn't as highly regarded as a real force in the 1500 as were Coe, Morceli and Elliot, three big names with gold medals. Who is the greatest? Who knows? I'll bet Coe, Ryun, Elliot and the rest don't really care. They were each the best in their day.


      • #48
        Re: Track History

        Let's talk about Elliott for a minute here. No one can be a bigger fan of him than me, and he should have been bringing in the torch in Sydney, boy did he get gypped on that one, but how can you talk of him being # 1 when he only ran on center stage for 2 or 3 years ? Really, just 1958 full bore, then a relative disappearance until the Rome OG in '60. He's like a guy that had a 3 year baseball pitching career, winning 30, 20, and 30, then retired. Even Koufax was on top for a lot longer than that.


        • #49
          Re: Track History

          The direction I was trying to take the mile thread when I responded early on was that of an idealiized, put them in a time machine, race. Which is why I said I couldn't see Elliott losing (of course, I also said I couldn't see Snell or Ryun losing either!).

          Trying to rate people on "accomplishments" is a virtually impossible job, now that the guys of the last 10 years have a World Chamionships every two years to "earn points" with and also have the financial incentive to hang around.


          • #50
            Re: Track History

            >I agree with the post that states Ryun was never
            >the same after mono. Keino was a great all around runner. But
            >nowhere near as talented as Ryun. At his peak,
            >Ryun was dominating. At his best, Keino was
            >still beaten here and there. Take a look at
            >Cordner Nelson's book on Milers, and look at his

            Hey, Herb Score was a great pitcher before he got hit in the face. But he's not in the Hall of Fame. Discussing Ryun's "talent" is idle speculation. The full sum of Keino's career is, in my eyes, much better than Ryun's. Put another way, if their respective careers were a single season, T&FN's World Rankings would have placed Keino ahead of Ryun.

            >PC journalists will tend to rave more about any
            >Kenyan or third world athlete, while downplaying
            >the accomplishments of European or American
            >athletes. This was as true in the mid 60's as
            >it is today, with the blind worship of any, dare
            >I say, non-white athlete from the thid world.
            >Some of this has led to the spectacle we now
            >w see of European and American distance runners
            >seemingly getting slower, become more and more

            That's a statement that riles a lot of people on both sides. In "The African Running Revolution", published in 1975 by Runner's World (actually a serious publication at the time), Dave Prokop says that no champion athlete he ever interviewed attributed his success wholly or even primarily to innate talent, and in fact would be insulted if it was so suggested. When we dismiss Kenyan success to mere talent we ignore all the hard work that each and every one of them has done. Dismissing the white man's recent lack of success to not working hard enough similarly insults those struggling to achieve world-class status. The issues involved are much more complex than that; America does in fact have the best marathoner in the world (Kannouchi) and also someone who could have been the greatest distance runner in the world (but Armstrong selected cycling instead).

            Finally, the white man in general has not slowed down. Kennedy ran faster than Aouita ever did; Joe Falcon's PR was real close to Ryun's. The white man just isn't speeding up like the rest of the world.


            • #51
              Re: Track History

              >Discussing Ryun's "talent" is idle speculation.<

              If you're not into idle speculation, perhaps you should find another thread.


              • #52
                Re: Track History

                What I mean is that there is literally nothing to back up a claim of "talent". T&FN's annual world rankings do not use "talent" as a criteria, nor does any Hall of Fame. It's like arguing who was a nicer guy -- maybe worth arguing about, but who's going to produce any worthwhile evidence?


                • #53
                  Re: Track History

                  Whoa, Mr. Squires!

                  Let's use a baseball analogy. Two Dodger pitchers in the Hall of Fame. One had a great 20-year career, won 300+ games, and made it into the Hall of Fame.

                  Another was brilliant for a few years, but injuries cut short his career. He won nowhere close to 300-games. Still, he made it into the Hall of Fame.

                  Who would YOU rank higher as a superior pitcher --- Don Sutton or Sandy Koufax?

                  Yes, you can infer greatness from short careers, even small snatches . . . Ryun running the last 330 yards of a mile in 36.8, Hayes running 8.6 or whatever in his Tokyo anchor leg. Such stuff is not only fun to debate, but it hints at a greatness that surpasses a career's worth of sterile stats.

                  Let me throw down a challenge. If you exclude Ryun from the top 10 in your list of milers, you will be laughed off the stage. It just won't conform to the reality of Ryun's brilliant career. Now, you can salvage your biast toward long careers free of injury or bad luck by having two lists, as Bill James does in baseball, to distinguish long careers that add up into a greatness, like Hank Aaron's, from Mickey Mantle's, demonstrably superior during his peak.

                  Otherwise you will make an error on the order of ranking Don Sutton over Sandy Koufax.

                  My $0.02 worth.


                  • #54
                    Re: Track History

                    I agree with Bill James' assessments wholeheartedly, but I acknowledge that others may disagree. James ranks baseball players purely on calculations that figure out how many more games teams won with that player than they would have without, which may or may not fit a definition of "greatness". But at least it's objective.

                    In the world of track, we do have a commonly-agreed-upon set of criteria for comparing accomplishments (as opposed to abilities), called the World Rankings. Every year, the ranking committee repeats the mantra that they are not saying who is better or who would win an idealized competition, but attempting to establish relative merit of athletes' seasonal accomplishments as a whole.

                    Let's pretend we have two athletes, one who destroys the competition in the early season with the season's best times but falls off considerably through the middle and late season, and gets beaten in the biggest meet of the year. Another athlete splits his meetings with the first, meets the best competition and loses rarely while running well for the whole season, and wins the biggest meet (but runs unspectacular times). T&FN might admit that the first athlete is "better" but would clearly rank the second athlete #1 in the world. They don't say "well, this guy was injured so the other guy's accomplishments don't mean much."

                    That pretty much sums up Ryun vs Keino. At his best, Ryun was clearly better. But I still maintain that Keino's career, TAKEN AS A WHOLE, is superior to Ryun's. What everyone seems to forget is that Keino was #1 or #2 in the world for eight years in a row! No other miler has ever done that (although El G will probably equal it this year). And that's just in the 1500/mile; if you include all events, Keino has even more accomplishments to point to.

                    I will re-edit my all-time rankings for the 1500/mile and post it online. ( I'll stand behind my rankings; while I may decide to put Ryun back in the top ten of all time, I most certainly would not rank him ahead of Elliot, Coe, Morceli, El Guerrouj, Keino, or Hagg. Ryun is more in the company of milers like George, Nurmi, Lovelock, Snell, Walker, and Cram.

                    By the way, how many people were this bothered about it when T&FN did their 50th Anniversary and 20th Century picks? I'll have to check, but I think they left out Ryun completely. And they get paid to do this!


                    • #55
                      Re: Track History

                      Didn't Ryun get an honorable mention in the mile? I know the TFN staff mentioned him in the 800, the staff made pretty much the same statement as one of the guy's above did.

                      I think that Squires has decided that he needs some type of criteria to put his list together, so he is using the TFN rankings as the closest thing to concrete as can be used. Theoretically. Realistically, anyone that saw Ryun at his peak knows that Keino was nowhere near as good a miler as Ryun. He was the number two talent at the time. I also agree with a couple of other guys who say Morceli is being overlooked. Look at his record vs. Keino's in the mile/1500. The baseball analogy has some merit. While it took a few years to teach Koufax to pitch, there is no doubt he is one of the greatest pitchers ever to take the mound. Likewise with Ryun. At his peak, he was untouchable by his peers, including Keino. I don't think the talent aspect is all idle speculation. Ryun running a 36.4 300 at the end of a race is amazing. I wonder how many milers could run 300 meters that fast period, never mind at the end of a 3:38 race. That, his other fast finishes, records, etc. do obviously make him one of the best ever.

                      BTW, Jefferson Buffalo is still around? I thought he was dead! I remember when he was called the biggest toad track fan ever.

                      So, using Squires's reasoning, Ryun does not make his top ten list. So? He says Herb Elliot is the best. Elliot set records in 1958. Nothing in 1959, was he even ranked? Won the gold in 60, then retired. Not a lot of races, giving him a better chance to go undefeated. No longevity. But still, so what?

                      Most people that know track and field, really know, and understand, realize Ryun was a far better miler than Keino. That he wasn't as good after mono is tough luck. I remember reading something that remarked on 'endocrine system burnout' being heightened in people who have had mono and similar problems, but again, that's the way it goes. Just make up your own list of top 10 runners and argue it out. The arguments for Ryun in the top ten seem to have more weight than Squires's arguments against, but he is using the criteria he wants to use. Using those, he doesn't have Ryun on the list. I can sympathize, because Ryun ruled the roost for a short time. It's his overwhelming dominance, and huge margins of record breaking that have most fans realize how far ahead of his time he was. Man, this is a long post. If anything, I think Elliot is overrated because of so few races under his belt. When he is considered as the best of all time, much of that is based on a limited competitive record and speculation. Again, so what?

                      Morceli is the best overall, in my book. If the big fantasy race were able to take place, most experts would probably pick Ryun to be one of the competitors, with a chance. Keino would probably not be considered by most experts. I believe Keino lost three of his four fastest races at a mile and 1500(to Jurgen May and Ryun). Not so for the others in the pantheon of greatest milers. Keino does have a couple of gold medals, and in my book goes down as one of the great all-around distance runners in history.

                      As for the white man getting slower. Track has lost a lot of popularity in the US, and in a lot of Europe. Soccer is one culprit, but there are so many things for kids to do today, it's not surprising that putting in mileage is way down the list. This isn't the case in Kenya or Morocco, where a distance star can recieve celebrity treatment, and the money made from winning races is like winning the lottery. The African dominance in distance running is probably a bit artificial, in terms of numbers, because of the low participation in Western nations. In England, I believe they had less than 80 competitors in the national junior XC race this year (if I'm thinking about the right race). It used to be hundreds.

                      No one is ever going to agree on this stuff, but it's fun to fire off an opinion.


                      • #56
                        Re: Track History

                        I may be off topic, but has there ever been a runner like Herb Mckenley, world class from the 100-400. Olympic medals at 100, 400 and a 4th place at 200. I may be the only one here old enough to have seen he run i always felt he never got the credit he deserved.


                        • #57
                          Re: Track History

                          I was just thinking about Herb McKenley today. Arthur Wint, too.

                          Herb had a golden opportunity to grab golds in '48 and '52, but he didn't, which is why he's kind of forgotten.

                          Still, he was a great, versatile sprinter.


                          • #58
                            Re: Track History

                            Track performances can only really be judged in the context of their time. For example, I'd (seriously) suggest that the greatest mile performance to date isn't the current WR, or any other race that anyone alive today has seen--it's Walter George's 4:12-3/4 of 1886. This time wasn't bettered by anyone for 29 years, and not by another Englishman for nearly a half century. In essence, George was the 19th century Beamon, except his record lasted LONGER than Beamon's!

                            Certainly, some historical athletes got more out of their talent than others--Zatopek, for example, trained a whole lot harder than, say, Bannister. Nevertheless, as a general rule, we should assume that ANY great historical figure would be at--or very near--the top of heap today, too. Why? Not simply because of all the obvious advantages now--better tracks, training methods, "nutritional supplements," etc. But, most importantly, because of the psychological factor: where once it was thought that 4:10 or 4:00 was the "natural limit" for milers, we now believe it to be about 3:40. Knowing that certain levels of performace ARE possible naturally pulls the exceptionally talented athletes up to (or at least toward) that level... Thus, a 3:45 mile today is far inferior to a 4:12 in 1886, a 3:59 in 1954, etc.


                            • #59
                              Re: Track History

                              Jesse Squire wrote

                              <<By the way, how many people were this bothered about it [gh: "it" being relative worth of Ryun & Keino] when T&FN did their 50th Anniversary and 20th Century picks? I'll have to check, but I think they left out Ryun completely. And they get paid to do this!>>

                              Sometime soon we'll put up all the All-Century Team picks for reference, to make discussions like this easier (or harder?).

                              What we did, in an attempt to judge people fairly within different timeframes, was pick a "winner" for each of four earas (1900-24, 1925-49, 1950-74, 1975-99). The choices were made by the senior members of the T&FN World Rankings team, R.L. Quercetani and the now-late Don Potts.

                              The milers they chose were, in chrono order, Nurmi, Hägg, Elliott and Morceli, with Morceli picked as the best of all.

                              Then an "honorable mention" category was added (because there were people who weren't best in their era who may well have been better than the winner in another). For the mile (alphabetically), Coe, El G, Lovelock, Ovett, Ryun and Snell were chosen. No Keino.

                              Two years earlier, in the 50th birthday issue, the staff (not Potts & Quercetani) picked a 1-deep All-Star Team for the period 1948-97. Elliott was the mile pick.


                              • #60
                                Re: Track History

                                In terms of putting Ryun vs. Keino into proper perspective in terms their all-time careers, I think it rather instructive to put a really fine point on it, and see how they rated against people outside their event.

                                By that, I mean TFN Athlete of the Year voting. Remember that Ryun was twice named World AOY, almost unanimously each time, and those two years (1966 and 1967) were years in which Randy Matson and Tommie Smith were absolutely revolutionizing their events.

                                Ryun's impact on the sport simply cannot be overstated.