Tuesday, August 16, 2011

World Championships Preview – 200 Meters

Ah the deuce. Taking place as it does near the end of the meet, it is somewhat difficult to predict. Sometimes athletes are tired by the time the deuce rolls around, as it’s often the second half of a double. Sometimes injuries come into play. There’s the opportunity to become a double winner for some, and the redemption factor for those that lost earlier in the week. All of those things should come into play in Daegu, as we have two races with some outstanding players that I believe are going to follow the script – historical scripts that may surprise some.


Men’s 200 Meters

World Record 19.19 Usain Bolt JAM
Meet Record 19.19 Usain Bolt JAM
2009 Gold 19.19 Usain Bolt JAM


2011 Best

  19.86 Usain Bolt JAM
  19.96 Nickel Askmeade JAM
  20.02 Walter Dix USA
  20.05 Rakieem Salaam USA
  20.11 Steve Mullings JAM
  20.16 Bruno de Barros BRA

First let’s take care of the news in this event. As with the 100, the injury to Tyson Gay takes a major player off the table – the only man truly capable of competing with Bolt at his best. The Mullings’ news of last week also take a major player off the table, as I felt he was a serious contender for a medal.

I mention these not because they are new news, but because in the move up from 100 to 200 meters, the list of true contenders drops dramatically. So taking Gay and Mulllings out of the equation leaves us with only a few names to discuss.

First of these is Usain Bolt, who in spite of his “sub par” season is still atop the yearly list in this event – due in large part to the fact that he is still one of the world’s best turn runners. So while he has been struggling to gain good early position in the 100, he is still emerging first off the turn in the deuce and controlling the race down the stretch – which is what he has done in his three races/wins in Oslo, Paris and Stockholm. At 19.86, he is still faster than the PR’s of all but two of the men he should be facing in the final. Making this potentially an “easier” race for Bolt.

His primary competition should come from Walter Dix (USA). After Bolt, Dix has the next best PR in the field at 19.69. He’s a tough competitor here as he’s proven with NCAA titles in ‘06, ‘07, & ‘08; U.S. titles in ‘08 & this year; bronze in Beijing; and a sizzling win last year over Tyson Gay (19.72 to 19.76) at Pre. The win at Pre critical to the conversation because it showed that he can run the turn with the likes of Gay and Bolt. Dix heads to Daegu undefeated having won in Doha, Pre, Nationals, Luzerne and London – and as the only sprinter truly capable of challenging Bolt.

After Bolt and Dix sit two intriguing men – Christophe Lemaitre (FRA) and Nickel Ashmeade (JAM). Most are familiar with Lemaitre as the first white sprinter to break the 10.00 barrier, but he’s not doing too bad here  – and frankly it could become his better event with some work. He set the French Record last year at 20.16. This year he has run 20.21, with a slightly windy (+2.3) 20.08. While he’s spent most of his time in the 100, when he runs here it is clear that with just a little work he should be under 20.00! In four races this year his only loss was to Bolt in Paris.

Even more intriguing is Jamaican Nickel Ashmeade. One of the young guns emerging out of Jamaica, Ashmeade opened up blazing at 19.95 in Kingston. When next we saw him however, he was struggling to come second behind Mullings at the Jamaican Trials (at 20.32). We haven’t seen the young man since – making it very difficult to judge him. On the clock he sits at #2 on the season behind Bolt, but with such disparity between runs and nothing more to go on it’s difficult to know just where to place him. 

Two others bear mention. One is Panamanian Alonzo Edward, who blazed to a PR 19.81 to take silver behind Bolt in Berlin. He was hampered by injury last year but is back in ‘11 and down to 20.28 heading into Daegu, with 3 wins (Ponce, Cork, Reims), a second (Stockholm) and a 3rd (London) to his credit. He’s been here before and clearly can run the event. The other is Darvis (Doc) Patton. Patton was the silver medalist in this event in Paris back in 2003. In subsequent seasons, however, he began to focus more on the 100 making international teams to Beijing and Berlin. This year he has returned to the deuce with 20.25/19.97w results at Nationals. His European results have only seen him run 20.49 for 4th in Reims and 20.59 for 3rd in Paris. But he has run 9.94 in the 100 this year, leaving me wondering what we will see in Daegu.

With questions surrounding Ashmeade and Patton, I see this race playing out similar to Seoul in ‘88. A two tiered race with Bolt & Dix burning the turn for position heading into the homestretch. The key question being Bolt’s level of conditioning in this “sub par” season? Some five meters behind the fight for gold, will be a four man battle for the bronze medal between Lemaitre, Ashmeade, Patton and Edward. In both tiers, pay close attention to the first 30 meters off the turn – that’s where the medals will be decided. The Seoul 200 held some surprises, Korea may provide another.

Gold Walter Dix USA 19.65
Silver Usain Bolt JAM 19.70
Bronze Christophe Lemaitre FRA 19.95
Just Missed Darvis Patton USA 20.00





Women’s 200 Meters

World Record 21.34 Florence Griffith Joyner USA
Meet Record 21.74 Silke Gladish Moeller GDR
2009 Gold 22.02 Allyson Felix USA


2011 Best

  22.15 Shalonda Solomon USA
  22.20 Carmelita Jeter USA
  22.24 Kimberlyn Duncan USA
  22.26 Veronica Campbell Brown JAM
  22.28 Jeneba Tarmoh USA
  22.32 Allyson Felix USA

This race will provide yet another thrilling battle among the women. Because coming on the heels of both the 100 & 400 we should have three “hungry” women taking to the track.

The “story” at the start of this meet is Allyson Felix, who is attempting a 200/400 double. The deuce is her favorite event, and with good reason as she has won three World Championships in a row, and is gunning for an unprecedented fourth! Standing in her way will first be her attempt at winning gold in the 400. An attempt that could leave her a bit tired by the time she gets to the deuce – we will see. Heading into Daegu Felix has had mixed results in this event as she has juggled racing over both long sprints. She’s won in Daegu, Manchester and New York, come 4th in Rome and 2nd in Monaco. Easily the strongest of the world’s sprinters, the key for Felix is being close coming off the turn – because she’s not beaten coming down the home stretch. When she is close coming off the turn, she pulls away down the straight. When she’s not close it’s usually a tough race.

Her “arch enemy” in this event is Veronica Campbell Brown. Just as Felix has dominated the World Championships, “VCB” is a two time defending Olympic Champion having won in both Athens and Beijing. Twice she has beaten Felix in the Games. Twice Felix has beaten her at Worlds. So this race will constitute the “rubber match” in their ongoing battle in Majors. VCB is also lightly raced in this event this year with only four races – wins in Kansas, Jamaica Nationals and Budapest, and a 2nd in Kingston. Just as they have each dominated a different Major, their race patterns are also Yin & Yang – VCB is a beast on the turn. When she wins the turn, she wins the race. Trouble on the turn means trouble down the stretch.

This year there looks to be a new element – Carmelita Jeter, the second fastest woman in history. I’m not sure if she took the race seriously when she entered at Nationals or if it was just something to do, but the results then, and since have been quite exciting. She PR’d twice, in the semis and in the finals, taking second to WL Shalonda Solomon with her 22.23. Then a win in France, a 3rd in Birmingham, and another win in Monaco in 22.20 and she heads to Daegu as a legitimate threat. Especially given that she is starting to look quite strong in the stretch – strong enough that she held off Felix for the win in Monaco! Suddenly this is legitimately a three woman race.

Not that there aren’t a couple other women capable of breaking up the party. Shalonda Solomon is the world leader at 22.15, and the veteran looked very good in doing so at the National Championships. Unfortunately she hasn’t looked as sharp since, finishing 3rd in both Monaco and London – losing to both Jeter & Felix in Monaco. Third American Jeneba Tarmoh is young, talented, and 5th on the yearly list, but has only one international race – 6th in Monaco – and may not be ready for this level yet. One other that deserves mention is Jamaican Kerron Stewart. Her times have been less than stellar (22.63 SB) and in four races she’s had mixed results – 2nd in Rome and Jamaican nationals, 1st in Padova and 5th in Monaco. BUT she has run 10.87 in the 100 this year, has  a PR 21.99 in the event, won the bronze medal  in Beijing, and must be taken seriously when she takes the track in Daegu because she is a competitor.

So what’s the medal breakdown? Ro Sham Bo.  I’ve played the race out several times and each time come up with a different winner and order of finish. Never before have I seen a 200 where the turn will be SO important – because I’m not seeing a lot of change once they straighten out in the stretch. Jeter has the potential to win big on the turn – and has shown improved strength to hold off the rush of the others. VCB usually wins the turn – the amount has usually determined the winner in her battles with Felix. Felix never “wins” the turn, but when she’s right there it’s a wrap. All three top contenders will be coming back on the second half of a double – Felix 2/4, VCB & Jeter 1/2. All three have mad top end speed in the 100 – so a good turn is a possibility for all.

I’ve rerun every Major I can remember in my head inserting these women as replacements for the actual finalists. The one that sticks most in my mind is 1987, so I’m going with Rome like results – and another upset.

Gold Carmelita Jeter USA 21.80
Silver Veronica Campbell Brown JAM 21.95
Bronze Allyson Felix USA 21.99
Just Missed Kerron Stewart JAM 22.05



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