Thursday, August 4, 2011

London GP Preview


The London GP Friday/Saturday will be the last big meet until after the World Championships. And looking over the start lists, I’m not sure we are going to get any more clarity than we already have heading into Daegu. This has been a season with a lot of questions, and it looks like we are going to have to wait for the starters’ gun to go off in Korea to get most of our answers. 

That said, I think there are some matchups worth watching in London.


Men’s 110 Hurdles

Jason Richardson threw his hat into the ring as a contender with his upset of David Oliver in Stockholm. We should find out this weekend just how serious a contender as he gets a turn at both DAvid Oliver and Dayron Robles this time around. If Richardson can execute as well in London as he did in Stockholm and come away with either a win or a very close competitive loss against this due, Daegu could become a four man race for three medals instead of the battle of the Big Three we’ve been anticipating. I don’t say that lightly as the Big happen to be the three fastest men in history, but Richardson looked VERY good in Stockholm and his win came with daylight between he and Oliver.


Women’s 400 Hurdles

List leader Zuzana Hejnova (CZE) has had a fine season so far. After a 4th place finish at Pre she’s won 4 races in a row, the last two in NR times (53.87 & 53.29). We’ve only seen Lashinda Demus (USA), #2 on the yearly list, once this summer and she won’t be in London, but fast rising Kaliese Spencer (JAM), #3 on the list, will be. Spencer looked good in Stockholm defeating teammate, and defending World Champion, Melaine Walker quite handily. The race between Hejnova and Spencer should be HOT, and could begin to define a pecking order for Daegu.


Men’s 800 Meters

David Rudisha (KEN) has been running roughshod over the world the past couple of seasons. He’s set the WR and is capable of running 1:42 at will. The one man who might be able to challenge him is WJR holder Abubaker Kaki (SUD), who has shown improved strength recently with a PR 3:31.76 1500 in Monaco. The question in London will be whether or not this improved strength will help Kaki against Rudisha late in the race. If so, we could see an epic battle in Daegu. If not, we could have the anticipated run away by Rudisha.


Women’s 100 Meters

We’ve seen defending World Champion Shelly Ann Fraser (JAM) twice this year. A 10.95 (+2.0) in Eugene (good only for 4th), then an 11.11 (-0.1) in Lignano. Not quite in the neighborhood that Carmelita Jeter (USA), Veronica Campbell Brown (JAM) and a couple others have been running in this year. She gets a shot at Jeter (10.70) here, along with yearly sub 11 performers Ivet Lalova (BUL, 10.96) and Kelly Ann Baptiste (TRI, 10.91). This will be a solid test ahead of Worlds for the defending champion. As it has been extremely tough for anyone to withstand Jeter’s mid race/late race bursts this year.


Men’s Long Jump

Australian Mitchell Watt is starting to look like a golden favorite for Daegu. He became the only jumper over 28 feet this year in Stockholm and has been the most consistent of an inconsistent lot of long jumpers this year. Several of these men will be in London this weekend, including potential contenders Dwight Phillips (USA), Godfrey Mokoena (RSA), Irving Saladino (PAN) and “hometown” favorite Chris Tomlinson (GBR). Another big jump win here and Watt could go into Korea with a strong psychological advantage over the field. Something that I think is going to happen.


Men’s 400 Meters

This event is as wide open as it’s been since around 2003, yet we’re just starting to get a look at some of the main protagonists. Last week we got our first look at LaShawn Merritt. This week we get our first look at Kirani James (GRN) since he won the NCAA title way back in June. The same question I had for Merritt last week I have for James this week; how sharp is he? James is arguably the most talented of the young quarter milers coming up, but to date his only foray under the 45 second barrier was his SEC win (44.86) back in May. With Merritt “back” this event just got faster, and James is going to have to show he can get much further under 45. He’ll have strong competition in this field with Angelo Taylor (USA), Kevin Borlee (BEL), Jermaine Gonzales (JAM), and Chris Brown (BAH) all running well recently. This is another event where “pecking” order could start to get some clarity.


London is the one Diamond League event where every event is contested. So while we won’t see nearly all of the main characters ahead of Daegu, we should get a fair sprinkling of them. London also will include a pair of 4x1’s, though I don’t expect to see everyone’s squads “on the table” ahead of Worlds.

There will be 21 days left until Daegu after London is done. There will be much to review and consider ahead of the World Championships. London could help clear up a few things or, more likely, give us more to ponder. Either way, it should be a very good meet.

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