Friday, June 4, 2010

A Fast 800 and 5000 American Record Highlight Oslo

Track and Field: IAAF World Indoor Championships

Oslo is often a distance runners paradise and today was no exception as several fast middle and long distance events stole the spotlight in Oslo.

The event that drew the most pre meet interest was the men’s 800 featuring David Rudisha (KEN) and Abubaker Kaki (SUD). The race was a burner from the beginning as the rabbit took the field through a fast 48.97 first lap. Rudisha and Kaki were just off the pace and went by the rabbit down the final backstretch. Both athletes sizzled around the track but Kaki was never able to make a serious challenge to Rudisha as they ran 1-2 on the final lap, well ahead of the rest of the field. The result a world leading 1:42.04 for Rudisha and a new PR of 1:42.23 for Kaki. Both men were under the meet record of 1:42.33 – a world record at the time it was set by Sebastian Coe back in 1979.

Hopefully we will get more of these two competing against each other this year. Both should be able to run under 1:42 this season – which would give us the first ever season with two men under 1:42. More importantly, they have the potential to run each other close to Wilson Kipketer’s venerable mark of 1:41.11! A standard that has now lasted for over 12 years.

Taking to the track right after the 800 men were the 5000 meter runners. Prior to the meet, I expected Eliud Kipchoge to dominate the race, but such was not the case. Instead the group ran like a swarm of bees for most of the race – no one ever too far out front and no one ever too far back. The result was a finish that saw TEN men run under 13:00! Leading the way was Ethiopian Imane Merga in a new PR of 12:53.62 – taking down his previous best of 12:55.66. In what looked like the finish of the 400 meters, just off the pace in 3rd was Bernard Lagat in a new American Record of 12:54.12 – taking down Dathan Ritzenhein’s 12:56.27 from last year! Chris Solinsky just missed that mark as he finished close behind in 6th in 12:56.66 – making him the #3 all time American.

This should be a very exciting race for American’s. Before last year, we only had Bob Kennedy (12:58.21) and Bernard Lagat (12:59.22) under 13:00. Now we’ve added three more in just the last two seasons – Solinsky, Ritzenhein, and Matt Tegenkamp (12:58.56, last year). With Lagat barely under the mark – and it being nearly four years since he had broken 13:00 – and advancing in age, I had left him off my Thirty Watch list, figuring he “should” be slowing by the ‘11/’12/’13 championship cycle. Looks like I was wrong. Lagat looked as spry and competitive as ever, and given his competitive nature will probably be a factor in Daegu.

I also liked the way Solinsky hung with the “big boys” in this race. Though the one thing I would like to see him add is a bit more speed/turnover. He’s clearly strong and can hold pace. If he can develop enough speed for a “kick” he may be able to challenge in the final stretch the way Lagat did today. As Lagat showed that even at 35 he can still sprint to the finish with the best of them.

Another athlete that showed her competiveness was Chaunte Howard-Lowe. Fresh off her American record earlier this week, she went toe to toe with the current queen of the high jump, Blanka Vlasic. Both women women were flawless up to 6’ 7” – a height Vlasic cleared with no misses and Howard-Lowe cleared after one miss. The one miss gave Vlasic the victory as neither athlete was able to clear 6’ 8”. Howard-Lowe was once again consistent at the high heights, and showed that she can compete under pressure. More and more I’m liking her chances in the majors.

The Bislett track also once again did its magic in the mile giving us the top NINE times on the season lead with two under 3:50 – Asbel Kiprop (KEN, 3:49.56) and Mekonnen Gebremedhin (ETH, 3:49.83). The second fast “miles” by this duo coming off 2nd and 3rd place (and corresponding marks on the yearly list) in the Shanghai 1500.

The track also gave us four men under 10.00 in the 100 meters – albeit slightly wind aided. Asafa Powell JAM, (9.72w) lead Richard Thompson (TRI, 9.90), Churandy Martina (AHO, 9.92) and Michael Frater (JAM, 9.97) in the fastest sprint ever seen in Bislett. Powell lead start to finish in what has become standard for Powell – minus Bolt & Gay. With 62 legal sub 10 marks to his credit (7 under 9.80), we know that Powell is fast. But so far his best in either a major or against Usain Bolt or Tyson Gay was the 9.84 he ran for 3rd in last year’s World Championships. Powell seems to be in fine form this season, its unfortunate that we’re not seeing him against Bolt and Gay – perhaps not until the end of the season in Brussels – as it would give him the opportunity to try his form in the true heat of battle. Something that the Diamond League promised but so far isn’t delivering – lots of big time match ups.

Today’s 800 showed just how exciting track can be when you get top level athletes together on the track – as Rudisha and Kaki pushed each other to the edge of the 1:42 barrier. With both Rome and New York on tap within the next seven days hopefully we will get more of this kind of excitement.

Below is the 800 from Bislett

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