With each race we get a little closer to Daegu, and as the clock winds down there are only two more Diamond League meets until the big dance. The next one is in two days in Stockholm Sweden and there are potential stories in abundance.
The return of Usain Bolt to a venue that has seen him lose two 100 meter races in the last three years – this time in the deuce. The return to action of defending World 400 champion LaShawn Merritt after a near two year layoff via suspension. Another Oliver / Robles head to head. And American milers get to test themselves ahead of Daegu.
Events on my radar.
This could be the most important 400 meter race of the year outside of the World Championships since it will be the first race in nearly two years for LaShawn Merritt (USA). This race will tell us exactly where he is, or isn’t, with a month to go before Worlds. He should get a stern test with list leader Rondell Bartholomew (GRN), and top contenders Chris Brown (BAH), Jonathon Borlee (BEL), and Jeremy Wariner (USA) all scheduled to be in the race. For my money if he can open up with anything under 45.50 and/or finish in the top three in this race he will enter the medal fight. If he shows up and runs under 45.00, everyone else better look out!
Men’s High Jump
This is one of those field events where we have a serious shot at a medal – even potentially gold. U.S. Champion and current world leader Jesse Williams (2.37, 7’ 9.25”) gets a real strong test against a deep Russian crew of Aleksey Dmitrik (2.36, 7’ 8.75”), Aleksandr Shustov (2.36, 7’ 8.75”) and Ivan Ukhov (2.34, 7’ 8”). A good outcome against this trio would bode well for Williams’ chances in Daegu. Which would be nice since we haven’t seen a medal in this event since the ‘04 Games in Athens.
Right now, I’m not sure we can win a medal in either the men’s or women’s 800 meters. With time growing short, U.S. champion Alysia Montano, and teammate Alice Schmidt will get a very stern test against former world leader Sviatlana Usovich, (BLR), Caster Semenya, (RSA) and Halima Hachlif (MOR). All have run in the mid 1:58 range so are well paired based on the clock. It will be tactics and heart that will begin to separate individuals in this race. U.S. 1500 champion Morgan Uceny is also scheduled to run – fresh off of PR runs of 1:58.37 & 4:01.51 within the past week, as she prepares for the 1500 in Daegu. She could be the hottest runner in the race. Montano will take the pace out, can she hold off the rush of the field? That will be her big test before going to Korea.
Speaking of tests, we get another look at two of our milers as Lopez Lamong, and Andrew Wheating get to test themselves against the two men I feel are shaping up to be prime competitors for gold in Daegu – Silas Kiplagat (KEN) and Asbel Kiprop (KEN). Kiplagat is coming off a season’s best 3:30.47 in Monaco and is hot having won in Nairobi just prior in 3:31.39 – I expect him and Kiprop to drive a hard pace. So we should get a very good look at the conditioning and racing tactics of Lamong and Wheating. Both are capable of being competitive in this kind of race, the question is will they get in there and do so. With only weeks left until Daegu, this could be a “dress rehearsal” for them.
Talk of the men’s 100 meters had dominated much of the talk this summer. But, quiet as it’s kept, the women’s race should be every bit as exciting. Four of the top five women heading into Daegu will go at it in Stockholm with Carmelita Jeter (USA) leading the way. Jeter has run 10.70 this year – and is #2 all-time with a PR of 10.63. She and teammates Marshavet Myers (10.86) and Miki Barber (11.09) will go toe to toe with Jamaican #2 Kerron Stewart (10.87) and Trini Kelly Ann Baptiste (10.91). With only Jamaican’s Veronica Campbell Brown (10.76) and Shelly Ann Fraser (10.95) missing this will be somewhat of a mini final just ahead of Worlds. Jeter has been running the 200 lately and showing improved strength. We’ll get a glimpse of whether or not that has also improved her race in the 100.
Men’s 110 Hurdles
It’s been conceded for most of the year that the run for gold in Daegu will be a three man race between Liu Xiang (CHN), David Oliver (USA) and Dayron Robles (CUB). In Stockholm we’ll get another head to head between Oliver and Robles. It will be the second such meeting between the two, the previous meeting in France resulting in a near dead heat as both men clocked 13.09 – Robles winning by thousandths of a second. It was the technical grace of Robles vs the power of Oliver with Robles’ lean coming out on top. Expect something similar in Stockholm. They will be challenged by Aries Merritt (USA) and Dwight Thomas (JAM) currently #’s 4 & 5 on the world list. But this race belongs to Oliver and Robles, as Oliver will be looking to even his season record against the Cuban. Oliver is already 1-1 with Liu and should be well tested heading into Daegu.
The most anticipated race of the meet could well be the men’s 200 – as any race involving Usain Bolt seems to draw attention these days. Lately it’s not for the fast times he’s put down in the past, but rather to try and gauge just where he is in terms of fitness and race sharpness. When we last saw him in Monaco, he won a hard fought 100 against countryman Nesta Carter in 9.88 – not exactly what the world has become accustomed to seeing from Bolt. Leading to much conversation as to whether or not he will be vulnerable in Daegu. I don’t expect there to be any such competition for him in this race as his SB is 19.86 and the closest men to him have yet to run under 20.26 – Marvin Anderson (JAM, 20.27), Alonso Edward (PAN, 20.28) and Saidy Ndure (NOR, 20.25), so for Bolt the question will be how fast does he run the race and how does he look doing it? My guess is that to be where he wants to be in the 100 – running sub 9.80 – that we will need to run something in the 19.55 to 19.65 range to show that ability based on his previous seasons.
With the World Championships so close, I’m sure there will be much chatter following this meet, with the condition of both LaShawn Merritt and Usain Bolt dominating the conversation.