Saturday, August 6, 2011

London GP, Day Two – U.S. Step Up Day


With the close of the London meet, there are only a handful of small meets left until the opening of the World Championships on August 27th. This was it for any “big” tests until Daegu – and the final day gave us a few things to ponder, as a group of American athletes stepped up and asked to be counted. 

Chief among them being the place of Sanya Richards Ross (USA) among the 400 meter hierarchy. As recently as earlier this week when I put the 400 meter poll up on this site, Sanya was no where near being considered a factor for Daegu – I almost didn’t put her name on the poll. Today, however, after covering 400 meters of real estate in 49.66 sec (the #2 time this year) she is suddenly smack dab back in the middle of the conversation! Richards Ross ran a vintage type race for her – out fast; strong around the second turn; and holding off challengers down the finishing stretch. He closest pursuer was Jamaican Rosemarie Whyte who ran a PR 49.84 by running a similar race pattern to Richards Ross, though not quite so fast through the first half of the race. Suddenly, within the last couple of weeks, the women’s 400 has gotten a bit crowded. And what looked perhaps to be the easiest part of the 200/400 double for Allyson Felix may now be the hardest part. More when I begin to look at event previews.

A few other individuals moved into the Daegu conversation today, perhaps the most unexpected being triple jumper Christian Taylor (USA). Taylor has had a long season,taking second at the indoor NCAA meet after setting an indoor PR 56’ 11.5”. He improved to a PR 57’ 1” to win the outdoor NCAA title (with a windy 58’ 4.75”) before winning the Trials for Daegu with another PR of 57’ 4.5”. Today he took on defending World Champion Phillips Idowu (GBR) and emerged victorious with a PR 58’ 0” and suddenly we have a challenger in the men’s triple jump! Taylor’s jump featured a beautiful final phase, as Taylor seems to get better and better as the competition ramps up. And with 59 foot leaper Teddy Tamgho out with injury there is no one out there that is clearly better than Taylor. The triple jump just got a bit more interesting.

As did the men’s sprints with this meet. Yesterday it was Jamaican Yohan Blake stepping up and winning a not so close 100 meters from the field. Today it was Walter Dix (USA) toeing the line in the deuce and running well clear of the field. Dix’ early acceleration was not the best, but from mid turn to the line, his power and speed endurance were clearly superior to anyone else in the field. And with Tyson Gay out, only Usain Bolt looks to be in the same class as Dix in this event – and with a decent start Dix should factor in the 100 as well. Dix won double bronze in Beijing in the sprints and with 3 weeks to sharpen looks to be in shape to challenge for both podiums again.

Another sprinter who looks ready to “upgrade” in Daegu is Carmelita Jeter (USA) who went head to head with defending World Champion Shelly Ann Fraser Pryce (JAM). Fraser Pryce has had very few competitions this summer, and she and Jeter hadn’t faced each other since Pre back at the beginning of June (Jeter 10.70, Fraser 10.95). Today Fraser Pryce once again displayed her quick getaway, and Jeter her top end. Once again top end won out as Jeter took a 10.93 to 11.10 win over the defending champion. And moving strongly into the conversation for Worlds was Kelly Ann Baptiste (TRI) who ran stride for stride with Jeter over the final stages to take a close second in 10.97. Baptiste has to at least be mentioned with Marshevet Myers (USA) and Kerron Stewart (JAM) as strong medal contenders, and has shown a top end capable of competing with Jeter and Veronica Campbell Brown (JAM) in the gold medal hunt. This is shaping up as another hot race in Korea.

Finally, it was nice to see a pair of middle distance runners step up into the mix. First was Shannon Rowbury who, though third in Berlin, hasn’t had the most exciting of seasons so far. Today she stepped up and took a close third in the 1500 in a seasons best 4:05.73. A very good effort for her and with 3 weeks to go potentially a sign that she may yet give the big girls a strong run in Daegu. The athlete that really got my heart pumping, however, was Leo Manzano. Manzano was third in London last year with a PR 3:50.64 in the mile, today he ran the mile again – and upgraded to first place in 3:51.24 – very close to his PR. What was exciting was the manner in which he won, and who he beat for the victory. Because after staying competitive throughout most of the race, Manzano outran Bernard Lagat (USA) and Augustine Choge (KEN) – two well established milers with strong kicks of their own. Manzano looked strong and unafraid as he sailed down the finishing straight – and looked ready to compete well at Worlds. It was certainly nice to see someone other than Lagat look ready to perform over 1500 meters – especially since Lagat will only be contesting the 5000 in Korea.


Time now to try and put it all together. I’ll be taking a look at many of the events for Worlds over the next three weeks, before the opening gun on August 27th. And if London showed us anything, it’s that things are just starting to get interesting!

Full results for London can be found here. And below are videos of some of the exciting action that took place today.





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