Saturday, September 12, 2009

World Athletic Final - Day One

IAAF World Athletics Final - Day 1

It's been a long season and it's starting to show, as times and marks on the first day of the World Athletic Final were generally a notch below what we saw at the World Championships in Berlin. While the marks were a bit off however, the competition itself was as good as it gets, as the world's best went toe to toe and continued to push each other to the line in Thesseloniki Greece.

None were any closer than the women's 200 where World 200 champion Allyson Felix squared off against World 400 champion Sanya Richards. 100 meter speedster Kerron Stewart (JAM) lead off the turn but that's where the strength of the long sprinters kicked in as first Felix, then Richards surged down the straight with both hitting the finish nearly simultaneously! A review of the tape found only 7 thousandths of a second between the two with Felix prevailing as both clocked 22.29.

Such was the competition in Greece. Similar situation in the men's 3000 as a slow pace saw the kickers prevail in the end as first Kenenisa Bekele (ETH) and Deresse Mekonen (ETH) then Bernard Lagat (US) screamed around the final lap with Bekele flashing down the finish straight with Lagat in hot pursuit coming up on the inside of he track - Bekele holding him off 8:03.79 to 8:04.00 completing the final lap in 52 seconds!

And perhaps the most exciting race of the day was the final event on the track - the men's 100 meters. Asafa Powell (JAM) got a classic start burying the field at the gun. Tyson Gay (US) meanwhile looked to be stuck in his blocks a good meter and a half down - where he stayed through 60 meters. But then Gay found another gear and with every step closed on Powell until just before the line as he surged through to edge the Jamaican 9.88 to 9.90!

Of course there were some events where individuals showed their dominance over their peers. In the men's shot put Christian Cantwell (US) seems to have gotten the monkey off his back with his Berlin win as here all of his legal throws eclipsed those of second placer Tomasz Majewski. His winning mark of 22.07m (72' 5") the second best mark of the season.

Then there was David Rudisha (KEN) fresh off his 1:42.01. He won here in 1:44.85, well off his seasons best, but it was the dominant fashion in which he won that was impressive. Not since Wilson Kipketer was setting records and winning with ease in the mid to late 90's have I seen a half miler control races so easily. Whether a 49 second opener as in his 1:42 effort or a 53 second opener today, Rudisha's long fluid stride seems to be custom made for the 800 meters. Only 20 years old, Rudisha could be the one to challenge the exciting marks left behind by Kipketer.

It was a great day of competition overall including solid performances by Lashawn Merritt (US), Britttany Reese (US), and Yelena Isinbayeva (RUS) among others. Full results can be found here. Tomorrow's competition will highlight Usain Bolt in the 200, Kenenisa Bekele in the 5000, and Dwight Phillips in the long jump. Should be another very exciting day of competition.

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