Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Vessey Crushes PR in a Monaco Grand Prix Filled with Highlights
With the sports' big headline makers this season - Tyson Gay and Usain Bolt - taking a break today, one would have thought that the Monaco Grand Prix would be a bit lackluster. Nothing could have been further from the truth!
Today's meet may have been the most overall exciting to date - as it should have been with the World Championships just a few weeks away. In a meet filled with highlights, I have to say that for me the most exciting was Maggie Vessey's (US) 800 meter victory. Vessey has been teasing with the 2:00 barrier all season with tactics reminiscent of '72 Olympic champion Dave Wottel - sit way back in the pack and see how many competitors you can catch in the home stretch. All season I've been waiting to see what she could do if she would just stay close during the race. The answer came today as she did just that and then used her finishing strength to outrun Russia's Mariya Savinova 1:57.84 to 1:58.39 - Vessey's first foray under the 2:00.00 mark! It gave her the fastest time in the world so far this year, and more importantly gave her the "A" standard for Berlin. Vessey only finished 4th at Nationals, however, 3rd place finisher Phoebe Wright has only met the "B" standard, so Vessey should get a spot in Berlin based on today's race. A good thing since she is clearly our best hope in Berln.
Vessey's race was just one of a number of highlights to what was a very outstanding meet. Among other highlights on the day:
• In the women's 400H Lashinda Demus demolished the field by nearly two seconds - including Olympic champ Melaine Walker - with a stunning 52.63! The #4 time in history, and only .02 off Kim Batten's AR. Olympic champ Walker was a far back 54.20. Demus has been consistently fast this year and just became a very strong favorite for gold in Berlin.
• The men's 400H produced the year's first clockings under 48 seconds as vet L.J. Van Zyl (RSA) won a close one over Bershawn Jackson (US) 47.94 to 47.98.
• Mehdi Baala (FRA) put himself in the medal picture for Berlin with a solid win 1500 meter victory in 3:30.96.
• Sally McClellan ran clear of a strong 100H field to run 12.50 for an Oceania record, backing up some other nice runs this year and putting herself in the medal picture. The time was the #2 time in the world this season.
• Abubaker Kaki (SUD) looked strong over 800 meters winning in 1:43.50. He held off the final straight charge of Borzakovsky (1:43.58) - which is bad news for the rest of the world given that Kaki is just returning from injury. In third place Nick Symmonds (US) set a personal best at 1:43.80. It's looking like Symmonds can be a finalist in Berlin and once there perhaps use his competitiveness to earn a place on or near the podium.
• Lashawn Merritt looked easy in the 400 in 44.73. It was an easy and almost effortless win.
• Shelly Ann Fraser parlayed her quick start into a 10.91 victory. Veronica Campbell Brown tried to hold on early but Fraser was smooth in holding off Brown and the charge of Debbie Ferguson McKenzie who improved her best to 10.97 in second. Fraser equaled her time from Rome and is putting herself in possibly add the World title to her Olympic win.
• Dayron Robles appeared to be over his previous bout with the flu as he flew past the field and won clearly in 13/06.
• Moses Kipsiro (UGA) added Uganda to the mix of potential distance medal winners in Berlin with his 7:30.95 victory.
• As expected the women's 1500 came down to Maryam Jamal (BRN) and Gelete Burka (ETH) over the final lap, but Jamal never let Burka go by as they rounded the final lap. Jamal maintained her position in front and eased away a bit around the final turn and down the straight to win in 3:58.83 over the 3:59. for Burka. Anna Willard finished just off her PR with a 4:01.68 in 4th.
While I've enjoyed watching the Tyson and Usain show, the season has seemed a bit down overall. Today it finally felt like a championship season. Only one more to go - Stockholm - before Worlds.
Full results of Monaco can be found here.