This was supposed to be one of those “super events” with the three fastest men in history going head to head for hurdle supremacy in 2011. And for a quick minute it seemed like that was going to be the case – but at the end of the day things weren‘t quite what we had anticipated.
David Oliver (USA) started things off hot once again running a WL 13.16 to open up his season on Apr 9th. Then he went to Daegu to test things out at the Pre Worlds competition on May 12th – the result a swift 13/24. Then three days later in Shanghai, we would get a peek at two of the Big Three, as Oliver and Liu Xiang (CHN) went head to head with Liu coming out the victor in 13.07 – a signal that he was indeed back in form.
Two weeks later, the third of the Big Three, Dayron Robles (CUB) would run his own 13.07 in Hengelo; then two days later he would win in Ostrava in 13.14 – and we looked like we were on course to one of those epic confrontations that we anticipate, but rarely get. But just a few days later in Eugene, Oliver and Liu went head to head once again, this time Oliver scorching 12.94 to Liu’s 13.00 – and things definitely seemed on the right track. But shortly after Pre, word came that Liu was again nursing injury – and he wouldn’t be seen on the track again until the Asian Championships in July.
Meanwhile Oliver would win the U.S. Championships in a fine 13.04 – and back in third place Jason Richardson (13.15) would both PR and seemingly begin to hit his stride. Dayron Robles would win in Lausanne (13.16) and Reims (13.09) to signal that he was indeed ready for the season. Then he and Oliver would go head to head on Paris – running to a virtual dead heat with Robles being declared the victor 13.09 to 13.09!
Then the final two big meets before Daegu – Stockholm & London – things would begin to change. In Stockholm, Oliver would go up against Nationals 3rd placer Jason Richardson once again – except this time the tables would turn. While Oliver would hit the final five hurdles in the race, Richardson would run cleanly and score a near PR of 13.17 INTO a -2.3 mps headwind. Suddenly it appeared there might be another addition to the podium chase in Daegu. That was confirmed in London as Robles, Oliver and Richardson all toed the line in their final tune up for Worlds, with Robles (13.04) finishing just ahead of Richardson (13.08 PR) who once again finished in front of Oliver (13.19). And so they headed to Daegu.
In Daegu it looked like we were going to get even more than anticipated, as the Big Three had become a foursome with the addition of Richardson to the fray. Defending champion Ryan Brathwaite (BAH) was in town, but was eliminated in the heats (5th place) as the Big Four all moved into position – the three fastest men in history, plus the young would be usurper. At the gun it was Robles and Richardson looking like mirror images of each other as they edged in front. Then mid-race Liu began his patented move, as it became clear that Oliver was not going to be in the hunt. With three hurdles to go it began to look like Liu was going to go by the leading pair when Robles and Liu hit arms, then again over hurdle 9 – this time with a force that clearly sent Liu backwards. As Liu stumbled backwards, Robles and Richardson headed to the line – Robles scoring a narrow 13.14 to 13.16 win, temporarily. After protest and a review of the video it was deemed that Robles impeded Liu and he was DQ’d – making Richardson the World Champion and moving Liu into silver medal position.
Liu would run no more. Robles, Richardson and Oliver would run again in Zurich – finishing in that order. They would meet once more in Zagreb, with the same result – and Robles getting his seasons best of 13.00. Then Robles would go on to run in the Pan Am Games, where he would win once more.
Now it’s time to sort it all out. And I will say that just as a review of the video in Daegu resulted in a change of the results, so has my review of the season. Because my #1 today is going to be different than the #1 I named when I put out my initial list of #1’s at the end of the season. I will explain why shortly.
Initially I looked at the Daegu race and said “but for Robles interference of Liu, Liu would have been World Champion – and Liu’s loss was not his fault”. I still feel that way – Liu was on his way to becoming World Champion. That aside, however, Robles had the better season! Robles was 12 – 2 on the year, clearly better than anyone else. He won in Hengelo, Ostrava, Lausanne, Paris, London and Zurich. And aside from Liu, he beat everyone, and did so multiple times. He did everything except win the World title – and he beat the man who did on every other occasion.
|#2||Jason Richardson||United States|
Richardson was 8 – 6 on the year, better than everyone else. At the end of the day,, he was the World Champion – and defeated Liu in their only matchup. He won Ponce and Stockholm, and was 2nd in Reims, London, Zurich and Zagreb – beaten only by Robles.
At the end of the day, Liu’s record was just too short to be ranked #1. He was great when he ran, but with only four meets he can rate no higher. But with a 2 – 1 record over Oliver he does elevate to this spot.
|#4||David Oliver||United States|
Oliver started out like a repeat of 2010. But an injury during the season slowed him enough that he just could get by the top three at the end of the year. Still, he was better than everyone else as 2nd in Shanghai, Paris & Stockholm; and 3rd in London, Zurich, and Zagreb attest to.
|#5||Aries Merritt||United States|
Merritt was clearly better than anyone not in that top four. He was next on the clock at 13.12. He finished behind them in every race but Daegu, (Andy Turner sneaking in for bronze there) as he finished 3rd in Shanghai & Eugene; and 4th in Paris, Stockholm, & London. Merritt was easily the best of the rest.
That’s my story and I’m stickin with it this time. It’s not often I go back and change my mind, but I had to this time, or I would have done an injustice to Robles’ season – and Richardson’s too. I was wrong initially, but I fixed it! Next I’ll take a look at the women’s 100 hurdles.