|OLYMPICS/ self introduction
Asia makes its mark as destination for top athletes
Updated: 2007-09-03 11:47
OSAKA, Japan - As hundreds of sprinters, jumpers and throwers scrambled to catch flights from Osaka's world championships on Monday, their agents were making deals for return trips to Asia.
Late-season meetings in Shanghai, China; Yokohama, Japan; and Daegu, South Korea are becoming increasingly popular, especially in this pre-Olympic year.
Triple world champion Tyson Gay, world record holders Liu Xiang, Asafa Powell, Yelena Isinbayeva, Kenenisa Bekele and Meseret Defar and Olympic and world champion Jeremy Wariner are among numerous elite athletes considering or signed up for one or more of the meetings, their agents say.
"With the world championships in Osaka, the 2008 Olympics in Beijing and the 2011 world championships in Daegu, there are going to be lots of things happening in Asia in track and field," Powell's agent, Paul Doyle, told Reuters in an interview.
The Olympics are the primary reason, but not the only one.
"It's a strange phenomenon," Gay's agent, Mark Wetmore, told Reuters. "The meets in the US are getting better. The prize money in Europe seems to be diminishing a bit and the Asian meets are coming up."
Liu, China's Olympic and world 110 metres hurdles champion, has decided, for example, not to journey to Europe for any post-worlds competitions.
"I don't want to go because it is so tiring," Liu, who will run in Shanghai, said at a news conference.
Wariner will also be there said Deon Minor, who along with Michael Johnson manages the 400 metres standout.
The Shanghai meeting is scheduled for Sept 28 with the Yokohama competition on Sept 30. The Daegu meeting follows on Oct 3.
"Most of the winners from Osaka will be in Shanghai, some in Yokohama and some in Daegu," said agent Jos Hermens, who is organising the Shanghai meeting.
The Asian competitions will not supplant the long-established European circuit, but they could be another stronghold, Doyle said.
"I would love to see a North American and Carribean season, a European season and an Asian season," Doyle said.
Asia looms especially large this year because of the familarity it gives to athletes headed to Beijing.
"It's getting used to doing the trip, getting used to coming across 13 times zones," Doyle said.
There are financial rewards, too.
"Asia is a place where you are getting a lot of sponsors in the sport," Doyle said. "So if you can become popular in the region, you can do quite well with sponsors."
Minor, Wariner's agent, agreed.
"From a business standpoint, everything we negotiated (with Shanghai) we did without any difficulties," he said.
"The meets like Yokohama are certainly on a par (with Europe)," Doyle said. "They may not have as much depth in paying the fifth and sixth (place) type people, but they certainly do have decent enough budgets."
For Wariner, even the long haul to Asia has its rewards.
"When we go to Europe from the US, it's morning time when we get there," he said. "We come over this way, it's night time already. So it's easier to adjust."