The countdown to Daegu is on and for the next several weeks each meet, each performance, will be scrutinized for clues to what may happen at the big event. The Paris Diamond League meet tomorrow will certainly provide an opportunity to begin to put things into focus, as it is loaded with potential medalists.
Having recently put together my list of potential U.S. medalists I will be looking very closely at events that will have an effect on our medal hopes at Worlds. Here are some events that I will watching closely in Paris.
There has been much talk about Usain Bolt’s level of fitness this year as to this point in the season we’ve “only” seen a pair of 9.91’s and a 19.86 from him. While the field lacks anyone else with a best under 19.80, it does contain Beijing runner up Alonso Edward (PAN), who himself has been “off” since ‘08. So this race will present a snapshot of the fitness of both Bolt and Edward. It will also give U.S. Nationals runner up Darvis Patton, and 2010 European champion Christophe Lemaitre (FRA) a chance to see how they currently stack up against the World and Olympic champion. Anyone that wants a shot at a medal in Korea needs to be able to run sub20 – Paris would be a good place to start. Also, for me, Patton would be next in line for a relay spot after my first four. Sub20 could help his cause. So a lot of people have much to prove in this race!
Men’s 110 Hurdles
We’ve seen Liu v Oliver twice this year. In Paris we get to see another “Big Three” matchup with Oliver v Robles. U.S. champ Oliver is 1-1 with Liu and gets his first run this year against WR holder Robles who is coming off of a victory in Reims France last week. This will be a contrast in styles – the powerful Oliver against the fluid Robles. As with the two earlier races between Oliver and Liu, look for the first two hurdles to tell the tale of this race. Also look for something under 13 seconds as both men have run big races here in the past – Robles 12.88 in ‘’08, Oliver his AR 12.89 just last year.
Our potential to medal in something over 400 meters will get a stern test in this event as Andrew Wheating and Leo Manzano get to test their chops against a group of medal front runners in Asbel Kiprop (KEN), Anine Laalou (MAR) and Mekonnen Gebremedhin (ETH). Kiprop (3:31.76), Laalou (3:31.92) and Gebremedhin (3:31.90) have already proven to be in good form this season and know how to race, as does Bernard Lagat who will also be in the field. Wheating seemed a bit off at Nationals. This race will test both his fitness and racing savvy, and that of Manzano as well. Both need a good showing here in the lead up to Daegu.
Men’s Pole Vault
The pole vault is an event that we have traditionally done well in in international competition. At U.S. Nationals, however, performances were down compared to previous years and to the vaulters’ abilitites. U.S. champion Derek Miles gets to get back up on that pole in a big way in Paris as he will be going against prohibitive Deagu favorite Renaud Lavillenie (FRA). The field contains list leaders Brad Walker, Lavillenie, and Malte Moht (GER) and with Renaud competing in front of his home fans he will have the incentive to jump high. So Miles will have to be prepared to bring it and get up over that 19’ barrier – where the medals should be handed out in South Korea.
Time for U.S. champ Kara Patterson to begin her run for the Daegu podium as it looks like the gangs all here with Barboa Spotakova (CZE), Mariya Abakumova (RUS) and Christina Obergfoll (GER) all throwing in Paris. These are the women, in my opinion, that stand between Kara and a medal – a medal that she is capable of winning. Step one will be a solid performance in Paris. A performance that hopefully is at or above the 200 foot range. With well over a month until Worlds I don’t want to see he peak, but she does need to be in range of these women and be competitive against them.
I don’t talk about this event very often. One because Valerie Adams (NZL) (nee Vili) was so dominant for a long stretch. Two because we just haven’t been in the ball park competitively. Both could be changing. Nadzeya Ostapchuk (BLR) had a huge season last year with only 1 loss and several wins over Adams. Both are in Paris and are 1, 2 on the yearly list. On the American front, Michelle Carter and Jill Camarena Williams had major breakthroughs at Nationals and currently sit 4, 5 on the yearly list – and they too are in Paris. This is a great opportunity for both to show that they can be competitive against the world’s best shot putters. And while I’m not expecting any upset wins the prospect of moving into a more competitive position is quite exciting.
Competitive position is exactly what I’ll be looking for in this race as U.S champ Alysia Montano gets to gauge herself against podium threats Caster Semenya (RSA), Kenia Sinclair (JAM), Sviatlana Usovich (BLR) and Halima Hachlaf (MAR). It’s a very deep and diverse field and Montano’s front running style will be tested. She needs to be able to take on a field of this caliber and hold them off in the stretch as she did at Nationals in order to have a serious run at the podium next month. Her run in Eugene was very strong – the kind of run that typically wins medals. The pressure from the field should come much earlier in Paris, however. How well she handles that pressure will say much about her chances at Worlds.
Paris is loaded. Wariner, Alekna, Kanter, Ukhov, Campbell Brown, Defar, Ejigu, and Dibaba are just a few of the names that will be performing in Paris – always one of the top meets on the circuit. The Fourth of July was a few days ago, but expect a show of fireworks anyway in Paris.