Friday, July 8, 2011

Men’s 100 Meters – The Race with Many Stories


At the beginning of this track season the most anticipated race in Daegu was the men’s 100 meters featuring Tyson Gay and Usain Bolt – the two fastest men in history. Their showdown was to be THE story of the year. Unfortunately that story will never make it to press, because the new story of the year is the end of Gay’s season to injury and the surgeon's scalpel.

Ah, but that is not the end of the stories yet to be spun in this high profile event. You see the men’s 100 almost always is full of narratives and backstories. Injuries such as Tyson Gay’s are usually the most obvious – Steve Williams, Silvio Leonard, Harry Jerome, and Mel Lattany making for some interesting 100 meter injury backstories. But there are stories other than injury, such as the return of Ben Johnson in 1992 which made for a tale of hopeful redemption. Or Maurice Greene’s attempt to repeat as Olympic champion in 2004 making for high drama in the Athens final.

This year, leading off with the story of Tyson Gay, there are ten stories (one for every 10 meter segment) that intertwine this year’s race making it potentially one of the most interesting 100 meter finals in World Championships history.


1. Tyson Gay (USA)

The lead story going in, and the story which will most shape this race as it changes the dynamics of the event. Injured and out of the meet. Tyson’s sub tale being that he has now missed two of the last three finals in majors due to injury. Healthy he has won gold (‘07) and silver (‘09). Will he be ready to go in 2012?


2. Usain Bolt (JAM)

It’s hard to talk about Tyson without talking about Usain. From their early days competing head to head over 200 meters, to the last few seasons as the two fastest men in history, their careers have intertwined. But there is also a sub tale to Bolt as he has set world records in his last two major 100’s. Is it too much to expect that he will do so again in Daegu? Coming off his own injuries in 2010, and with his main competition out of the race can he cross the line first again in a new standard?


3. Asafa Powell (JAM)

Speaking of world records, Powell is a four time world record setter with zero gold medals to show for his effort. In four major finals he only has two bronze medals to show for his work. With over 60 sub10’s and 4 world records to his credit,, his trophy case is ominously empty. Will this be his legacy, or like Dirk Nowitzki will 2011 be the year he overcomes a seemingly unbeatable foe and gets the monkey off his back?


4. Justin Gatlin (USA)

Before the emergence of Bolt, before the emergence of Gay, it was Justin Gatlin keeping Powell from the top of the podium. Gatlin preceded  Bolt as both Olympic & World champion and world record holder. Now the former “everything” is coming back for a four year suspension – his 9.95 the fastest ever run by a sprinter returning from a four year suspension. Many said that after a four year layoff he would never return to this level. Now that he has, can he retake the podium as well?


5. Steve Mullings (JAM)

While Gatlin draws the attention for his return from a drug suspension he is not the only formerly suspended athlete in the field. Mullings, ironically, was also suspended for testosterone – serving a two year suspension between mid ‘04 through mid ‘06. And his 9.80 makes him the fastest sprinter ever returned from suspension. Is his next stop the podium, as he and Gatlin could be having a race within the race to become the highest placing post suspension sprinter in history.


6. Walter Dix (USA)

Then there are the newbies – and believe it or not Dix is a newbie to Worlds. You see, he turned down a berth to Osaka (‘07) after making the team. Then failed to get out of his semi at the U.S. Trials for Berlin. So in spite of taking bronze in both the 100 & 200 at the Games in Beijing this will be his first appearance in a World Championships. A sub story for Dix is that he has medaled in every major competition he has competed in going back to high school. Florida state high school  championships; every year for four years in college; double medalist in his appearance at the Olympics. Will he continue his streak and medal in Daegu?


7. Christophe Lemaitre (FRA)

Not just a newbie, but a newbie with a twist as Lemaitre became the first white sprinter to break the 10.00 barrier in the 100 meters. A newbie to the sub10 club in 2010, he’s run under than mark in his last three races over the distance and as of today heads to Daegu equal on the clock to Justin Gatlin & Yohan Blake, and only .01 off Walter Dix. Raising the question: can he become the first white medalist in this event since 1980?


8. Mike Rodgers (USA)

Rodgers was a newbie to the World Championships when he made the U.S. team for Berlin in ‘09. It showed as he failed to get out of his semi (placing 5th) after entering Berlin as the American champion. Rodgers is hoping to become a newbie once again in Daegu – as in a newbie finalist. Can he make amends for Berlin and make the final. Better yet can he continue to PR and reach the podium?


9. Yohan Blake (JAM)

Now here’s a young newbie with experience. While he’s new to the Senior World Championships, he’s had two prior appearances in the Junior World Championships placing 3rd (‘06) and 4th (‘08) in Beijing and Bydgoszcz. He exploded last year with huge PR’s in both the 100 (9.89) & 200 (19.78) and has become the Jamaican heir apparent within the core of young sprinters rising up in Jamaica. Will he continue to play second fiddle behind his elders in Daegu or is now his time for a more prominent role and a place on the podium?


10. Ngoni Makusha (ZIM)

Here is the ultimate newbie. Not just new to majors, but basically new to the event! Yes he ran it a tad as a youth, with a best of 10.52 back in ‘07. But this was the first year he took the event seriously and the results have been staggering – 9.97 at the ACC championships and 9.89 at the NCAA championships! Sound familiar? He’s a raw talent and with only a couple of races under his belt it’s unknown what he is capable of. But as a 27’ 6.75” long jumper he could replicate Carl Lewis and medal in both the long jump and 100. And if he can take to the podium in the 100 he will become only the second African ever to medal in a major 100 (Frank Fredericks being the only other). At the end of the day, Makusha’s story could be the best of all.


Those are my stories and I’m stickin to ‘em. There’s always more than one way to look at an event. And for me it’s always more fun when I look at the stories within the competition.

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