Wednesday, May 4, 2011

A Look Ahead to Doha


The pro season will get started in earnest Friday in Doha, Qatar. Judging from the lineup for the meet, and the large number of top level athletes on tap, the pros will be using the Diamond League to get paid while they prepare for Worlds. We may not see them all at the same time, or get the head to head “showdowns” that we want, but it looks like the Road to Daegu will run down the middle of the Diamond League.

The Start Lists for Doha are now available: Men’s List. Women’s List.

Let me say that the event I was most looking forward to was the men’s 800, but earlier this week both David Rudisha (KEN) and Abubaker Kaki (SUD) pulled out due to injury. I was hoping we would get a nice early season show down of note. However, there are still lots of athletes to keep an eye on. With that said, based on the current entries, here are a few events that I will be watching closely.  

Men’s 110 Hurdles. David Olver (USA). Until we get Liu &/or Robles on the track, Oliver should be running time trials in his preparation, as no one else has yet risen close to the stature of the Big Three. So the question in Doha for me is how close will Oliver get to 13.00? Because this year could be his shot at the WR if he can get the competition from Liu and Robles.

Men’s 200. Walter Dix (USA). After his Penn leadoff beat down by Asafa Powell (JAM) I want to see if Dix bounces back in Doha. He needs a pro like race here badly – meaning a victory near or under 20.00. Dix has shown the potential to be a great sprinter. He’s also shown a tendency to be up and down. His demeanor in championships is as good as any – but he’s got to get there first. He should get a fair test here from Saidy Ndure (NOR). And running a deuce gives us another look at Dix running around that turn.

Men’s Triple Jump. Teddy Tamgho (FRA). I would love to see a long 58 footer out of Tamgho. I think he is capable of challenging the 60 foot barrier (and Edwards’ WR) and getting out well beyond 58 feet early should move him towards 60 feet by season’s end. IMHO Tamgho is capable of being this year’s Bolt / Rudisha – that athlete that makes a “major” breakthrough.

Men’s Pole Vault. Renaud Lavillenie (FRA). Another athlete approaching a barrier as Lavillenie seems to have the potential to reach 20 feet. So does Steven Hooker of Australia. Their season’s bests last year were only .01cm apart. While they don’t grab the headlines their road to Daegu, and the battle once there, could be as epic as any in the sport this year.

Women’s 1500. Gelete Burka (ETH). Burka is one of the top 1500 runners out there. She should be in the mix for a spot on the podium at Worlds. With the current yearly leader only at 4:06, I expect this race to begin to set the standard for the season. Daegu should go sub 4:00, I expect to see Burka around 4:02 here.

Women’s 400. Allyson Felix (USA). Felix is in good shape – she split 50.3 in the 4x4 at Penn. Her speed is fairly sharp – she looked good on the backstretch of a 42.34 4x1 at Penn. She is considering making an attempt at the 200//400 double at Worlds and this will be her first open 400 of the season. It should be an interesting race. Amantle Montsho (BOT) is always tough and should give Felix all she can handle. I’ll also be watching Nicola Sanders (GBR). She ran 49.65 and was the silver medalist in Osaka (‘07). She’s had injury issues since, but could be a factor if healthy. She could be a sleeper.

Post Penn, this will be an excellent way to finally get the season rolling.

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