The second of the 14 meet Diamond League meets will be run tomorrow in Shanghai China. Overall Shanghai has a solid set of fields as the series seems to be hitting it’s stride. We should be getting a Liu Xiang sighting tomorrow and a feel for how well his comeback is coming. But while the hurdles have been the highlight of the meet in the past, taking on Diamond League status this year has brought several strong fields to China. Following are the events that I think bring the best set of match ups to Shanghai.
|Women’s 100||WL: 10.94, Carmelita Jeter - USA||Best Entry: 10.94, Carmelita Jeter - USA|
Perhaps the best early season sprint matchup of the season – men or women – as #2 all time Jeter goes head to head with current World and Olympic champion Shelly Ann Fraser (JAM). Jeter ran her PR 10.64 on this same track late last season, so we know the track is capable of delivering a fast time. Fraser set her PR of 10.73 while winning gold in Berlin. The race will be a contrast in styles as Fraser is a classic starter, and Jeter a classic finisher. We should see Fraser burst from the blocks and separate early with Jeter kicking in the jets mid race. The race will come down to who can execute their weakness better – can Jeter stay close early and can Fraser maintain form late. Fraser has yet to run a 100 this year while Jeter has already run under 11.00. Advantage Jeter, who should run under 10.90 tomorrow.
|Women’s 400H||WL: 54.02, Lashinda Demus - USA||Best Entry: Lashinda Demus - USA|
This race features the current world leader, Demus against reigning World and Olympic champion Melaine Walker (JAM) and sub 53.00 performer Sheena Tosta (USA). Walker has won her titles with a very strong finishing kick in the final stretch – a kick that found her running past a fading Demus last year in Berlin. 2009 was Demus’ first back from maternity leave, so we will see if having a full season and off season under her belt will help late in the race. Even though this is the first race for both Walker and Tosta, both are more than capable of coming in and running fast. Demus should be the first half leader. How well all three run the final turn should have a strong bearing on the outcome of this race. Watch for stumbles over hurdles down the stretch as all three should pressure each other. Demus has the advantage having already competed this year, but Walker is tough when close late.
|Men’s 400||WL: 44.81, Calvin Smith - USA||Best Entry: 44.86 – Ben Offereins - AUS|
This race could tell us a lot about the immediate future of this event with all eyes focused on Jeremy Wariner. Jeremy opened his season earlier this month with a narrow loss to David Neville – who is also in this race. Wariner’s time was a pedestrian (for him) 45.47. With Lashawn Merritt gone from the event, Wariner should immediately be declared King. But with sub par performances all last season, and starting this season with a loss to a sprinter he would have beaten easily in past seasons, there are questions about where Wariner is at this stage of his career. The race will also tell us just how good Offereins is. He ran very fast very early, having run sub 45 way back in February – dropping his PR from 45.69 all the way down to 44.86. Will we see further improvement or a reversion back into the 45’s? Another 44 and he could emerge from China as a serious contender in this event. Britain’s Michael Bingham could also stake a claim as a contender in this race. He has a best of 44.74 run last year and his 45.14 run just over a week ago is both close to the 45sec barrier and better than both Wariner and Neville so far this season. This event is waiting for someone to take charge. I think that the winner here could have a lot to say about who controls the rest of the season.
|Men’s LJ||WL: 27’ 4.75”, Alain Bailey - JAM||Best Entry: 27’ 4”, Chris Noffke - AUS|
Here’s an event that should be ultra competitive. Noffke joined the 27 foot club with his 27’ 4" last month – joining what has become a very talented group of long jumpers in Australia. Among them is Fabrice Lapierre. A legal 27’ 4.75” jumper who blasted a huge 28’ 1.5” mark last year – albeit windy (+3.5). Both will get the opportunity to prove themselves against two of the best the event has seen in the last decade as Dwight Philips (USA) and Irving Saladino (PAN) have won every available championship since 2003 and sit =5th (Philips, 28’ 8.25”) and 8th (Saladino, 28’ 7.75”) all time. Philips seems to have gotten a second wind to his career the past couple of seasons as he’s been jumping better than ever. He enters this competition as the favorite in my mind. Saladino has been less consistent at the higher levels, but still has the ability to bring it on the day. Watch for Lapierre, however. He was very consistent last year and has become a very strong competitor – and has shown that he is capable of hitting something big.
The above should produce the best match ups on the day. There are two other events that bear watching, not so much for their competitiveness as to see how well two athletes will perform.
One is the men’s pole vault. Aussie Steven Hooker has already vaulted 19’ 4.75” outdoors this season. Doing so back in February. Indoors, however, he vaulted a huge 19’ 8.5” at Worlds and is on a mission this year for the 20 foot barrier. Being very consistent at well over 19 feet this year, any venue could produce a huge vault given good conditions. His competitions are something to watch as he attempts to join the great Sergei Bubka over 20 feet.
The other man to watch will be Usain Bolt. Bolt is entered in the 200 here and has already gone 19.56 this season. He ran 9.86 earlier in the week in Daegu after watching Tyson Gay run 19.41 in this event on the straight in Birmingham. With no head to head’s between the two, we will have to compare notes as they compete in separate venues. So Shanghai will give us the next salvo in the Bolt v Gay lead up to a showdown.
With no one else in the field having a PR under 20.39, this will be a solo run for Bolt, but he could lead two interesting entrants to new PR’s. One is young sprinter Ryan Bailey (USA) who has been compared to Bolt as both are very tall sprinters. Bailey got his first win on foreign soil last week winning the 200 in Daegu which should help his confidence going into this race. The other that I expect to PR is 400 hurdler Angelo Taylor. Taylor is the second fastest entrant in the race having run 20.39 earlier this season. Angelo has been using this “off year” to run a bit of everything and appears to be in stellar shape. It will be interesting to see just how fast both he and Bailey will run. I suspect that Bolt will run somewhere near 19.40 so if either can attempt to stay close early they could get caught up in the race and get near 20.00.
Should be a good set of competitions.