This is the time of year when you submit your wish list to Santa Claus in hopes that come Christmas morning you will find something special beneath the tree. While that list has already been sent off, I do have another list that I’m hoping the “Santa” of track and field will fill. And that list is headed by the establishment of some real hot rivalries in the sport.
Every year we are promised some exciting head to head action in track – the kind of competition that once made this sport exciting and great. Something similar to what we had this past year with Chaunte Howard Lowe and Blanka Vlasic – two women at the top of their game who went head to head several times. Their battles often went down to the final count back, with both women giving their best and pushing each other to outstanding seasons.
That type of competition used to be a staple of the sport, but somehow has gotten lost among the hype of record chasing and the politicization of professionalism. So my request from “Track Santa” is the establishment of some hot and heavy rivalries in the 2011 season.
Now when I say “rivalry” I’m not talking about two athletes competing separately all season until the World Championships with a single competition being used to proclaim supremacy. I’m talking about 3 or 4 head to heads where the prospect of a “bad” day isn’t the determining factor in the outcome of the season. With that said, here are my suggestions for some rivalries I would love to see in 2011.
Alison Felix v Veronica Campbell Brown - 200 meters
Can you believe that the single race between these two last year was the only time we’ve seen them compete outside of a major championship? Easily the two best female 200 meter runners on the planet, when they get together there are always fireworks. Turn blazer Campbell Brown v blitz finisher Felix is a must see event – and we need to see it more often.
Rudisha v Kaki – 800 meters
David Rudisha broke the WR in this event last year, but it was Abubaker Kaki who looked like he was on his way to greatness when he set the WJR of 1:42.69 in ‘08. The two 21 year olds (Rudisha turns 22 this month) are clearly the world’s best right now in this event – and young enough to have a long and storied rivalry. Time for Kaki to step up his game so we can see some 1:41 battles!
Robles v Oliver v Liu – 110 hurdles
The only men to run the event in under 12.90 sec (Robles 12.87, Liu 12.88 & Oliver 12.89) are scheduled to take to the track healthy in 2011. Each has had some superb seasons with multiple races under 13.00. It’s time we got the three of them together for should be some titanic battles! Liu just ran 13.09 at the Asian Games to show he is back to health, so all we need is for Robles to show form to go with this year’s leading hurdler Oliver and we could be off to the races.
Bolt v Gay – 200 meters
It’s bad enough that we’ve only had one race a year between these two over 100 meters for the past three years, but it’s a complete travesty that we have not seen them race over 200 meters since 2007. Yet that is the case, their last encounter being the World Championships in Osaka. The world’s two best turn runners. The world’s two fastest human’s ever over 100. So similar in race pattern over this event. We’re looking at the Irresistible Force v the Immovable Object as this event is probably each athlete’s best. Time to get it on. Bolt has twice broken the WR running solo as Gay was in neither race. Gay has run 19.58 & 19.41 (straight) to start his last two seasons with no Bolt in sight. It’s time to run them head to head a few times and see what we can come up with. With Bolt at 19.19 and Gay with 9.69/44.89 credentials, this match up has me drooling even more than running them over 100 meters!
There are lots of other potential rivalries out there as this sport is full of outstanding athletes. It’s time to get them going head to head and really build up this sport.