Zurich is once again in the position of following a global major, which means that it could serve as a “redemption meet” for several athletes – especially since there are only a handful of meets left before the close of the 2011 season. Most top athletes tend to shut things down once the championship meet is over. At best they compete in one or two meets to make a bit more money. So seeing top level head to heads is now going to become a premium. Making Zurich a meet to watch as this will be one of the few meets still loaded with top level competitors.
Following are six events that I find especially interesting. Because now that the World Championships are over the next goal is London, and everyone wants to end the year on a good note heading into the Olympic year!
Men’s Long Jump
The favorite for the World title was Aussie Mitchell Watt. He lost in Daegu however, to a man that was barely on the radar entering the meet – four time World Champion Dwight Phillips. They get to go head to head once again with Phillips looking to prove that Daegu was no fluke, and Watt looking to show that he is indeed a worthy opponent. Watt was having a sterling season heading into Daegu and had jumped 8.54m/28’ 0.25” in Stockholm. But Phillips was vintage Phillips at Worlds and if Watt wants to upend the World Champion he’s going to have to produce another 8.50m+ jump. Of course Phillips has nine career leaps over 8.50m of his own – five of which came in 2009. Watch the first two rounds, because that’s where the damage was done in Daeagu. Phillips won the gold but could use another win or two over Watt to earn a number one ranking for the season. I expect Phillips to be out over 28 feet.
Prior to Daegu the only woman that had Allyson Felix’ number was Veronica Campbell Brown, who defeated her twice in the Olympics last year in New York. However short sprint queen Carmelita Jeter has been spending some serious time in the 200 this year, and pushed Felix down to bronze in Daegu. Friday they get to go at it again, along with several other women from the Daegu final. By the way, Daegu was the second time this season that Jeter has defeated Felix, as she also turned the trick in Monaco. She’s been fierce on the bend and if Felix wants to exact a bit of revenge on Ms. Jeter she’s going to have to get up on her horse and get around that turn. There are no rounds this time – just get in the blocks and go. I’d like to say that Felix is the favorite, but Jeter has proven that she’s for real, and suddenly Felix has competition right in her own backyard. Felix needs this race for her morale, because she’s not used to playing second fiddle in this event. But first off the bend will win again – and right now that favors Jeter.
Kirani James became the youngest ever World Champion over 400 meters in Daegu. He did so by holding off defending champion LaShawn Merritt. If he wants to win in Zurich he will once again have to defeat Merritt - a very daunting task indeed. I’m a big fan of the young Grenadan, but his winning time (44.60 PR) was well off of previous winning marks at the World Championships – even off of the WL opening round run 44.35 run by Merritt earlier in the meet. An under raced Merritt made a couple of mistakes that I don’t think we will see him make in Zurich. I expect Merritt to be much closer to 44.25 this time around – can James improve that much? This race will say more about London than Daegu did in my opinion, as James will face a man more prepared than the one he ran against two weeks ago. Look for Merritt to set another WL.
I’m not looking for redemption here for anyone, but rather an attack on the World Record. Sally Pearson already proved just how much better she is than everyone else in the world. She’s faster of foot and clearly better technically. And she’s the first person I’ve seen in the last decade that seems capable of taking down the record – and Gail Devers wasn’t nearly as solid technically as Pearson. With no rounds and a fast track, I’m very curious to see what Pearson is capable of producing! The window of opportunity for most athletes is small, so when you are “in the zone” you have to strike while the iron is hot! Pearson is in that zone right now, and her challenge is less in winning the race than getting from 12.28 (her PR) to 12.21 (the WR). The best ever mark in Zurich is 12.46. I expect at the very least a new MR will be set.
There will be no Bolt in Zurich, so we still won’t get to see him finish a 100. World Champion Yohan Blake is in town however, along with silver medalist Walter Dix and bronze medalist Kim Collins. They will get to ply their wares against Berlin bronze medalist Asafa Powell, who some believed was destined to win in Daegu with Tyson Gay home and Bolt “subpar”. Powell, however, missed Worlds with a groin injury, though he worked out while in Daegu. With Bolt out of the race, Blake had his way in the Daegu final, and unless Collins finishes stronger or Dix starts better, could do the same in Zurich. Powell, however, has a habit of running his season’s best after the close of a global major, and he will be more rested than the others. So the question is just how healthy is he – was two weeks time enough to heal the groin? I think there will be a lot of discussion after this race.
The first five from Daegu are all in the race. But don’t expect to see the same order of finish. I have my own thoughts on Semenya (who was second in Deagu) which I will discuss after this meet. Suffice it to say, however that I expect a big win from the South African in Zurich. I’m more interested in what happens in places 2 and after and how these athletes fare – especially Montano and Morgan Uceny who is running the 800 this week. Montano because she was so close to medaling and I want to see consistency from her as it will bode well going forward – potentially for London. For Uceny I just want to see her out there and doing well. I still think she is one of our best hopes for London, and with this race essentially a replay of the World final, both will get a good test of their fitness and race strategy. I hope to see a new PR for Uceny (currently 1:58.37) and I would love to see Montano try to run with Savinova.