Monday, July 25, 2011

LaShawn Merritt – Is There Time?


With a month to go to the World Championships, every performance is put under the microscope to try and decipher what it could mean for prospects in Daegu. The buzz last week was the still shaky form of defending double sprint champion Usain Bolt. Soon the form of another defending champion will get sliced, diced, and questioned multiple times – that of defending 400 champion LaShawn Merritt.

The status of Merritt has been well documented. Suspended for using an over the counter male enhancement product (not of the track and field kind) Merritt’s suspension will be up in two days – July 27th. At that time he will be eligible to begin competing again. As the defending World Champion he has an automatic bye to Daegu. A bye he will be able to use thanks to USATF granting him an exception from competing at the National championships – a must for all U.S. team members barring exemption by USATF.

So, as of Wednesday, Merritt will have thirty days to get sharp and attempt to defend the title he won in Berlin. Perhaps not as daunting a task as one would have envisioned a year ago, as the event is in the midst of a serious down cycle heading into the World Championships.

The current world leaders in the event are:

44.65 Rondell Bartholomew GRN
44.68 Tony McQuay USA
44.74 Kevin Borlee BEL
44.78 Demetrius Pinder BAH
44.83 Tabarie Henry ISV

Not exactly the kind of performances that should put fear into a man with a PR of 43.75. When last we saw Merritt on the international stage he was winning the World title in Berlin at 44.06 – well ahead of runner up Jeremy Wariner’s 44.60. He was undefeated in 11 finals with 6 of them faster than this year’s current world leader. So, based on the performance level of this year’s crop of quarter milers it’s conceivable that he could repeat as champion. That is if time has not taken the edge off of his race.

Time being the operative word this year for Merritt. Did his nearly two years off take the edge off of his race? Will a month be enough time for him to get that edge back? Just what kind of times can we expect from him when he gets on the track? But the biggest question of all is: where will he compete to even get a time in to see where he is competitively?

Beginning with his “return” date of July 27, here is the schedule of meets leading up to the World Championships

27 Joensuu, Finland
29 DN Galan, Stockholm, Sweeden
30-31 Nambu Memorial, Sapporo, Japan
31 Gyulai Memorial, Budapest, Hungary
2 Karlstad, Sweden
5 Sidlo Memorial, Sopot, Poland
5-6 Aviva GP, London, England
9 Tallinn, Estonia
10 Cuxhaven, Germany
11 Copenhagen, Denmark
13 Bochum-Wattenscheid, Germany
13 Lappeenranta, Finland
13-14 U.S. v Germany Multis, Chula Vista, California
17-22 WUG. Shenzhen, China
**27** World Championships, Daegu, South Korea

Those are the opportunities that are out there. I will be keeping an eye on all of these meets for any results coming from Merritt. Right now the 400 is wide open, and we could use Merritt’s experience there and in the 4x4 relay. According to the entry lists for Stockholm, Merritt should get his first test in Sweden.  I’m sure the chatter will start once the results from this race are posted!

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