This was a very big weekend for track and field at this early stage of the season. The Diamond League opened in Doha on Friday. Saturday we had a sprint fest in Kingston. Late Saturday saw more big names taking to the track in Guadaloupe. And Sunday we got another surprise in the sprints.
In what was reportedly rainy weather in Guadaloupe, Lashinda Demus (USA) took her first run over the 400 hurdles this year and finished in a world leading 54.92 – the year’s first mark under 55.00. With a best of 52.63 Demus is one of four women currently competing with a PR under 53.00 – Melaine Walker (JAM, 52.42), Natalya Antyuhk (RUS, 52.92) & Sheena Tosta (USA, 52.95). Walker and Demus went 1,2 in Berlin in ‘09 and appear headed for another showdown in Daegu as Walker currently sits right behind Demus on the yearly list at 53.60.
Another hurdler debuting in Guadaloupe was Dayron Robles (CUB) the WR holder in the 110 hurdles. He won here in 13.35. A fair time for the conditions, but more importantly showing fitness and health – and putting him on a path to meet AR holder David Oliver (USA) in Daegu. Now we just need to see Liu Xiang in action to set up what could be one of the greatest hurdles races of all time as Robles (12.87), Liu (12.88) and Oliver (12.89) are the three fastest hurdlers in history! A Worlds final with all three healthy has the potential to produce something special – perhaps the best of the meet. So it’s nice to see that two thirds of the trio is currently healthy.
Jeremy Wariner returned to good health last year. And while he has been competing for several weeks now, his victory in Guadaloupe was significant in that it was his first sub 45 of the season (44.88). Wariner didn’t break 45 in 2010 until June 10th (44.72) so it looks like he is ahead of last year’s schedule and more in line with previous seasons when he ran under 44.00. In other words we could see Wariner back to his 43 second form, which would make him very difficult to beat in Daegu. Because believe it or not we haven’t seen a sub 44 quarter since 2008 – Merritt 43.75, Wariner 43.82!
Speaking of the quarter, Andrew Howe (FRA) keeps convincing me that what he really is is a sprinter. The long jumper (27’ 9.5” PR) ran a sterling 20.28 as a junior athlete. Coming off a couple of years of serious injuries he ran a 200 last year and scoots 20.30. This past weekend he runs the 400 for the first time in five years and runs a European best 45.70! I know he was good enough to take silver in the long jump in Osaka (‘07), but given his history of injuries I can’t help but wonder what would happen if he gave the sprints some serious consideration.
This last weekend was awesome – yet we’re just getting started. This weekend will see the second leg of the Diamond League in Shanghai, and the collegiate season turns to championships in earnest with several of the top conference championships on tap. There is much to talk about this week.