Thursday, August 5, 2010

Preview – Stockholm Diamond League

Aug 17, 2009; Berlin, GERMANY; Men's 100m winner Usain Bolt (JAM), center, poses with silver medalist Tyson Gay (USA), left, and bronze medalist Asafa Powell (JAM), right, at the 12th IAAF World Championships in Athletics at Olympic Stadium. Photo via Newscom

August has arrived, and with it the final four events of the inaugural Diamond League. The competition has gotten better as the season has progressed and these final four meets promise to be some real barn burners. August should get off with a big BANG as we get our first real sprint showdown with the big three of men’s sprinting – Usain Bolt,  Tyson Gay and Asafa Powell. Many of the European Championships top field event performers will also be in attendance, as well as a strong contingent of distance runners from Africa. So, without further adieu, here are the events I’m most looking forward to in Stockholm.


Men’s 100 WL: 9.82, Asafa Powell – JAM
       9.82, Usain Bolt – JAM
Best Entry: 9.82, Usain Bolt – JAM

This has been an interesting season for the short dash. Typically in an off season we have seen explosions in this event. 2006 saw Asafa Powell with two WR tying runs and the emergence of Tyson Gay. 2002 gave us a WR by Tim Montgomery and a European Record by Dwain Chambers – and BALCO. 1998 saw Ato Boldon twice run within .02 of the WR and Obadele Thompson get within .03. And 1994 gave us a Leroy Burrell WR. This off season has been rather tame in comparison. Powell started off HOT, running several windy 9.7’s. Tyson Gay sizzled a 9.89 en route to his 19.41 straight 200. And Bolt opened up with a 9.86 back in May. But injuries have hampered Bolt and Gay, and Powell has struggled in his head to heads with each. With Bolt and Gay both having defeated Powell in their seasonal returns the questions on the table are: how healthy are they and how will they do against each other? The start will be the key, putting the spotlight on Bolt’s Achilles. IF the Achilles is still tender, Gay (easily the worst starter of the troika) could finally be close enough at mid race. Which I think could lead to a reading of the photo at the finish. If Bolt nails the start then it’s a repeat of Berlin.

Late Note: Word coming out late Wednesday is that Asafa Powell has withdrawn from this race. While I do not think that it will affect the original outcome, it is rather unfortunate. I will comment more later.


Women’s 1500 WL: 3:57.65, Anna Alminova – RUS Best Entry: 3:57.65, Anna Alminova – RUS

This has been a hot event in the Diamond League. Alminova was on a role until she was upset in Barcelona. American Christin Wurth Thomas set a new PR behind Alminova  in Paris, and has been running fearlessly as usual all season. Geleta Burka (ETH) won with her season’s best in Lausanne and wields a deadly kick. And Lisa Dobriskey (GBR) and Nancy Langat (KEN) have set new personal bests this summer – Dobriskey getting under 4:00. Add American’s Shannon Rowbury (fresh off a PR at 5000) and Anna Pierce (beginning to round into form) and we have the potential for another very fast race. With Alminova losing in Barcelona to a tactical race, I don’t expect her to let the pace dawdle this time – and with Wurth Thomas in the field the odds of that happening are very slight. Anyone wanting a shot at the win will have to keep pace with these two. This should be another sub 4:00 affair with some fierce racing over the final lap. Wuth Thomas will keep everyone honest but look for Alminova and Berka late.


Men’s 5000 WL: 12:51.21, Eliud Kipchoge – KEN  Best Entry: 12:51.21, Eliud Kipchoge – KEN

It’s time for another sizzling 5000 – we haven’t had one since the burner in Oslo – and this field has the potential to give us one. World leader Kipchoge is in the field, but he hasn’t gone under 13:00 since his WL run back in May. He will have plenty of incentive with Ethiopian rivals Imane Merga and Tariku Bekele in the field – the first and second place finishers in the Oslo race. Throw in Kenyan Vincent Chepkok (2nd in Doha, 5th in Oslo), world 10000 leader Chris Solinsky (US) and Galen Rupp (US, looking for a sub 13:00) and you have the ingredients for a fast race.  For the Americans the key will be trying to stay with the early pace and not lose contact.  The Africans are capable of kicking off just about any pace put out there and the Americans have to stay close. Kipchoge is a veteran of the sub 13:00 crowd and will certainly push the pace in that direction – and the rivalry between Kenya & Ethiopia in the distances is a heated as that between the US & Jamaica in the sprints. Look for Kipchoge to win near 12:50 with a rush of fast times behind him.


Women’s 400 WL: 49.64, Debbie Dunn – USA  Best Entry: 49.64, Debbie Dunn – USA

The Russians seemed to be at their peak in Barcelona and this has become one of their signature events. Russia’s European Champion Tatyana Firova and bronze medalist Antonina Krivoshapka get to test their mettle against world leader Debbie Dunn. To make things real interesting we have Jamaica’s top duo of Novlene Williams-Mills and Shericka Williams; NCAA champion Francena McCorory (US); and current world #4 Amantle Montsho (BOT) among the entrants. Look for the Russians to take the race out hard early – and for Dunn to join them near the end of the backstretch. McCorory and the Jamaicans will turn it on near the end of the final turn. The homestretch of this race could resemble the 100 meter dash with several women close heading towards the line. The Russians and Montsho are sharp, coming off championship meets and new personal bests for Firova and Monstsho – but everyone else is fresh. Dunn has looked good all year and I’m going with her to win. But I wouldn’t be surprised if veteran Novlene sneaks in for the win as she tends to run well late season.


Men’s 400H WL: 47.32, Bershawn Jackson – USA Best Entry: 47.32, B. Jackson – USA

The big guns are all here. Jackson, Culson, Taylor, Phillips, Clement, Sanchez – they have most of the medals won over the last decade and lead this year’s annual list. Only young buck Johnny Dutch is missing. And the last Diamond League get together saw Jackson and Taylor literally run each other to the line with Jackson (47.78) just edging Taylor (47.79). So this promises to be another hot event! Given the way this race has gone this year, I don’t expect anyone to play a wait and kick game. So the key will probably be what happens on the second turn – who is able to get the best position. Jackson has been the master of that this year, but Taylor matched him on the turn in Monaco setting up their battle down the stretch. Expect a repeat here, with the real question being whether or not either Culson or Clement, or both, can muster the form they showed earlier in the season. If so we could see a championship type battle down the stretch. If not it will be another close one between Taylor and Jackson – flip a coin.


Women’s PV WL: 16’ 0.5”, Jenn Suhr – USA Best Entry: 16’ 0.5”, Jenn Suhr – USA

Another event where the big guns are all in attendance – world leader Suhr, Euro champion Feofanova, the year’s #2 and most consistent jumper Murer. With Isinbayeva out this year, the event has been waiting for a new leader to emerge. And at various times this year, each of the above has appeared like she was ready to do so. Fabiana Murer (BRA) looks the part having won in Rome, Eugene and Monaco – and a second in Gateshead. Suhr has the world’s best vault set at nationals, but having come back from injury the rust is still showing and she’s been on and off this year. Feofanova (RUS) looked stellar in Barcelona, but hasn’t quite cleared the heights the other two have. And then lying in wait is Silke Spiegelburg (GER) – second in Barcelona and Rome and very consistent around 15’ 5”. This should be a strong competition. If Suhr is on she could put it away, but my gut says Murer will pull this one out.


Men’s SP WL: 73’ 6.25 Christian Cantwell - USA Best Entry: 73’ 6.25”, C. Cantwell – USA

Another LOADED field. Cantwell, Hoffa, Majewski, Martin, Nelson, Taylor, Whiting. The only problem is that for the most part these guys have not all thrown well at the same time! With the season starting to near an end I’m going out on a limb and saying that this is the meet where we get at least three of them well beyond 70 at the same time. Nelson, Taylor and Hoffa have been there too many times in the past, and Whiting was very consistent early in the season. And Cantwell is Cantwell – the MAN in this event at the moment. Would love to see one of the youngsters hit one early – Martin or Whiting – putting some pressure on the old dogs to “get er done”. That would really spice up the field on Friday. Cantwell should win, but Nelson and Hoffa have done some nice things before when under pressure. My gut says this is going to be a good throwers meet.


While I expect these to be the highlight events, there will be more than enough top level action to go around. The men’s triple jump will pit Teddy Tamgho (FRA) against Christian Olsson (SWE), David Giralt (CUB) and Yoandri Betanzos (CUB). Tamgho coming off a big loss at the Euro Championships. Euro champion Andreas Thorkildsen (NOR), Petr Frydrych (CZE) and Tero Pitkamaki (FIN) square off in what should be a good javelin duel. On the women’s side we get to see Allyson Felix (US) over 200 and another high jump show down between Chaunte Howard Lowe (US) and Blanka Vlasic (CRO) – one of the most entertaining head to head match ups of the year.

This should be another outstanding meet as most of the Diamond League events have been since the “summer session” has started. Some outstanding results should be in store. Another must see meet.

No comments:

Post a Comment