The hurdles are always exciting and there should be no shortage of excitement in Daegu. Heading into the World Championships, we have two events that each have four athletes capable of taking to the podium – unfortunately only three get that privilege!
Men’s 110 Hurdles
|World Record||12.87||Dayron Robles||CUB|
|Meet Record||12.91||Colin Jackson||GBR|
|2009 Gold||13.14||Ryan Brathwaite||BAR|
This is one of those rare moments when a party is held and all the main guests arrive!. The yearly list is lead by the top three men in history. Atop the list sits last year’s #1 hurdler, David Oliver – the only man to run sub 13 this year. Oliver has found the going a bit tougher this year however. Undefeated last year, he suffered his first loss in May to former WR holder Liu Xiang. He returned the favor with his sub13 run at Pre, won the U.S. Trials then went to Europe where he lost three races in a row – twice to WR holder Dayron Robles, and once to up and coming Jason Richardson. Oliver hasn’t lost three in a row since 2007 – but that is the record he takes into Daegu.
Second on the yearly list, Liu Xiang (CHN) is no stranger to top level hurdling. The former WR holder (still #2 all time) was the ‘04 Olympic champion and ‘07 World Champion. Injury kept him out of Beijing and Berlin, and we didn’t see a healthy Liu until the fall of 2010, where he ran an encouraging 13.09. He’s only raced three times this year, two of them against Oliver where he is 1-1. But make no mistake, he is the savviest hurdler on the track, smooth, and very competitive. He only takes to the track when he is absolutely ready to compete – and healthy he has proven to be extremely difficult to beat.
Also coming back from injury this year is WR holder Dayron Robles (CUB). The Beijing Olympic champion, was also fourth in Osaka, but like Liu was hampered by injury in 2009. He competed during the first half of the 2010 season but withdrew in July due to aggravated injury. He’s come back this year to very quietly put together a 9-1 season, heading into Daegu with wins over everyone except Liu who he has yet to race in 2011. Daegu will be their first head to head since 2007 – a win for Robles in Shanghai after losing the World title to Liu in Osaka!
This was supposed to be a three man race for the gold medal among the three fastest hurdlers of all time. However, on July 29th that began to change as Jason Richardson (USA) began to tap into his potential with a big win over David Oliver in Stockholm. He proved that it was no fluke defeating Oliver again in London while running a very close second to Robles. Suddenly there is a potential usurper in the room as Richardson takes aim at crashing the Big Three’s party!
These are the men that should be battling it out for the top of the podium – and a very interesting race it should be. Oliver is power personified, and with a good start is able to put pressure on his foes, and move away mid race. In a normal race this would easily be his race to lose. HOWEVER, this is not a normal race, it is a race with the three best in history – and all apparently are healthy. That means in addition to Oliver’s power, we get Robles’ silky smoothness – perhaps the “prettiest” hurdling form since Renaldo Nehemiah. Robles will flow over the hurdles, which should all remain standing when he crosses the line – he will beat you with technique. The man who never looks like he should win, but nearly always does is Liu. Where Oliver is powerful and Robles smooth, Liu doesn’t make mistakes and may be the toughest competitor on the track. He simply stays close, doesn’t panic and finds a way to get to the line first – almost like the finish line is metal and he is a magnet! The party crasher, Richardson, is most like Robles – smooth. A point well shown as he literally mirrored the WR holder nearly stride for stride in London.
Who wins? This one will be decided by at the gun. Getting out quickly and to the first hurdle is a MUST. Because anyone not in the race at hurdle two doesn’t medal. And past hurdle three, mistakes will be deadly. This field is that fast and that close! In a race among the best of all time mistakes become magnified, which is why I think this race goes to the man who just refuses to lose when he’s healthy:
|Just Missed||David Oliver||USA||13.00|
Women’s 100 Hurdles
|World Record||12.21||Yordanka Donkova||BUL|
|Meet Record||12.34||Ginka Zagorcheva||BUL|
|2009 Gold||12.51||Brigitte Foster Hylton||JAM|
This has been a weird season for this event. Priscilla Lopes Sliep out on maternity leave. Defending champion, Brigitte Foster Hylton sub par, and that’s being kind, at 12.99 on the season. Lolo Jones sub par early, and finally succumbing to surgery just days ago. Leaving the event wide open at the mid season point.
Kellie Wells was the first to step up, running to a win in Doha in 12.58, then reeling off a string of 2nd place finishes in Daegu, Rome, Hengelo and New York, before taking the U.S. title. Europe was tougher, however, with a 6th in Lausanne, and a 4th in Birmingham, before winning again in Lignano and taking 2nd in Monaco.
Teammate Danielle Carruthers has been a bit more successful, following up her 3nd place at Nationals with 2nd place runs in Lausanne, Birmingham and London, to go with a 4th in Monaco. Meanwhile 3rd American, Dawn Harper, has had only one race since her 3rd at Nationals – a 5th place in Monaco. Harper, however, is the reigning Olympic champion and has shown the ability in the past to be ready when she needs to be.
Which brings me to the quiet star of the season, Australian Sally Pearson. Pearson spent the Australian season (Jan – Apr) honing her speed running the sprints – where she was undefeated; became national champion at both 100 & 200; and had season’s bests of 11.20/23.05. She also set a PR of 53.86 in her only run over 400 meters – a race she also won. On the last day of March she took to her pet event, the 100 hurdles, opening at 12.85. She also contested that at her national championships and won giving her titles over 100/200/100H. Since then she has focused on the hurdles winning in Lausanne, Birmingham, Monaco and London. She’s undefeated, has twice run under 12.50, and is quietly the hottest athlete on the track in 2011.
Finally, there is Derval O’Rourke (IRE) who is also a returning Berlin, as she finished 4th. But like Foster Hylton, she is having anything but a stellar season as she has only managed to run 12.84 on the season and has no top finishes in major competitions this year.
So where does all this leave us? The foursome of Pearson, Harper, Wells and Carruthers simply dominate this event based on placings in the big races, and they own the bulk of the yearly list – they own 20 of the 25 top clockings on the season! That said, Pearson is undefeated and owns five of the top ten times this year. They are close on the clock and this is the hurdles – meaning mistakes cost dearly. Like the men this one should be decided early – probably by hurdle three. All four ladies are quite talented, but I have to go with the hot hand going into the meet:
|Just Missed||Kellie Wells||USA||12.58|