Zurich’s Weltklasse invitational lived up to it’s storied tradition with some outstanding races on the track. In a meet with several standout events, the men’s 400 was especially sweet because, for me, it marked the true return to form of Jeremy Wariner. Now THAT is how Jeremy Wariner is supposed to look. Fluid, flowing in rhythm and running away from his competitors looking effortless. That’s the race that Wariner ran in Zurich as Jermaine Gonzales (44.51) did everything right in the first 300 meters, but just couldn’t hold off the final stretch charge of Wariner. The race was reminiscent of gold medal runs in Athens, Helsinki, and Osaka and with another year to work back to form, could mark the start of another Trifecta run in Daegu, London, and Moscow.
Also back on the winning track was Wallace Spearmon. Seemingly on his way to becoming “The Man” in the 200 during the ‘05 season, he watched first Tyson Gay (‘06/’07) then Usain Bolt (‘08/’09) emerge with superior form. Battling injuries the past couple of seasons, Spearmon began to look a bit more like his old self earlier this year. Zurich appears to have been a watershed meet for Spearmon too as after running a better than usual curve for him, he ran down Jamaica’s 2010 find Yohan Blake in the stretch to win in a seasons best 19.79 – his second fastest time ever. Spearmon was strong and fluid coming down the stretch as he reeled in the young Jamaican, who had defeated him earlier in the year in his personal best 19.78. This time around it was Spearmon looking quite confident and in form – and perhaps ready to get back in the game with Gay and Bolt.
Allyson Felix’ confidence is running at a very high level as well. Taking on the world’s top 400 specialists this year, she again was simply too strong in the stretch and as she rolled to a 50.37 victory. World leader Debbie Dunn, along with several others, gave valiant chase down the stretch, but once Felix took over coming off the final turn it was too late. Felix holds form late race as well as anyone in the world, and I would think that only a completely healthy Sanya Richards may be able to truly challenge Felix. It will be interesting to see if she goes for the long sprint double next year in Daegu.
The track continued to be hot for American’s as David Oliver once again dominated the 110 hurdles. Oliver broke cleanly from the blocks and was never pressured as he breezed across the line in 12.93. Not quite the WR, but his fifth sub13 of the year – four of them in the top 15 of all time, two in the top five! Whether he finally get the record or not, this has been one of the top seasons in history for any hurdler, and Oliver will be the man to beat in 2011. If we can get him, Robles and perhaps a healthy Liu Xiang on the track in Daegu, something magical could happen. Because, no disrespect to the competition, but Oliver has spent most of this season racing against the clock.
Chris Solinsky, on the other hand, has taken American distance running from being happy to run PR’s on the clock to being truly competitive against the world’s best. In Zurich he stayed with the leaders throughout the 5000 meter race. And when the going got hot, he went with the kickers and held his own for most of the final lap! Eventual winner Tariku Bekele (ETH, 12:55.03) opened up day light on everyone in the final 150 or so of the race, but Solinsky ran with the rest through the line finishing in 12:56.45, just off second place Imane Merga’s (ETH) 12:56.34. More importantly Solinsky finished ahead of every Kenyan in the race including Eliud Kipchoge, Vincent Chepkok, and Kucas Rotich, among others. That in itself is a tremendous achievement and a watershed run for American distance runners. Solinsky proved himself to be a true competitor and a factor in this event. And he should be fun to watch in Daegu – I’m assuming he IS going to make the team.
Finally, the final event of the day, proved that US 4x1 relay running is NOT dead as a modest team of Trell Kimmons, Wallace Spearmon, Tyson Gay and Mike Rodgers, won the event in 37.46 – the #2 US time ever, = #5 all time, and the 2010 world leader. Spearmon to Gay on second and third legs has been what I have called “the internal engine” for the US in it’s most successful relays of late, including wins in ‘the 06 World Cup and ‘07 World Championships. In Zurich they gave anchor man Rodgers a lead that not even Usain Bolt would have closed had he been in the race! I’m hoping that this paring is the “base” around which we build our international teams heading into Daegu and beyond. It’s hard to argue with success and this paring has proven successful. Are you listening out there?
All in all it was a very satisfying day for the US on the track. Hopefully the performances in Brussels next week will be just as electrifying!