Wednesday, August 31, 2011

World Championships – Intermission

Wow. We’re already half way through the World Championships, and so far we’ve had a bit of everything. Some controversy; exciting competitions; and lots of young people stepping up! imageI know that the controversies are dominating most conversations – the Bolt & Robles DQ’s – but to me the most exciting thing to come out of the first few days has been the number of new/young champions that have been crowned.

Looking at athletes like David Rudisha (KEN), Kirani James (GRN), Tatyana Chernova (RUS), Jason Richardson (USA) and Pawel Wojciechowski (POL) tells me that we are in the midst of a youth movement in the sport. I suspect that the podium in London is going to look a lot different than the podium in Beijing. Not just because I expect to see the names change significantly, but also because if you look at the young people making these finals they are from all over the globe.

I can remember a time not that long ago when the sport was dominated by athletes from the U.S., Germany, Britain and Russia. In Daegu we are witnessing the rest of the world catch up. France had two men in the 100 final, so did Grenada in the 400 final. Botswana won the women’s 400 for the first time. Brazil the women’s pole vault. The French team appears to be growing, as does the Cuban team – look for both to make a serious impact by meets end. And the biggest little country in the world of track and field just might be Kenya. We often complain about the various problems in the sport, but it seems that diversity isn’t one of them.

The headlines heralding this World Championships revolved around Allyson Felix’ attempt at a double, and Usain Bolt continuing his championship domination – both of which went by the wayside with Bolt’s imagefalse start and Felix’ oh so close silver in the 400. There was also the comeback of LaShawn Merritt which also ended in silver and the summit meeting of the three fastest hurdlers in history in the men’s 110 hurdles, which went to up and coming Jason Richardson. This meet has not been kind to those in the headlines! Or to favorites in general, just ask Jessica Ennis about her javelin debacle in the Heptathlon.

So, what do we have to look forward to for the second half of the meet?

Well there’s the 200 meters where Usain Bolt and Allyson Felix will both be looking for redemption – and Felix will be attempting to win her fourth title in a row. Bolt should have a fairly easy run at a medal with only Walter Dix appearing to provide any real opposition. Felix’ job will be much tougher as Carmelita Jeter is now looking to complete a double and Veronica Campbell Brown will be attempting to transfer her Olympic success (two Olympic titles) to the World Championships.

Then there are the men’s jumps – high jump, long jump, & triple jump – where all three fields are deep and fairly evenly distributed with talent. They could be among the closest and most exciting competitions of the meet. Australian Mitchell Watt will be looking to claim his countries first gold – a la Kirani James and Amantle Montsho earlier this week. And Americans Jesse Williams (high jump) and Christian Taylor (triple jump) will be aiming to add to the U.S. medal count.

I expect another hot distance race with Mo Farah trying to upgrade from silver to gold in the 5000 meters against a field that once again contains a strong contingent of Kenyan and Ethiopian athletes, and evergreen American Bernard Lagat.

And then there are the relays. The sprint picture has changed dramatically since the start of this meet. Bans and injuries have taken their toll, and many athletes are not looking as sharp as one would have expected. In the short relays it looks like passing will be even more critical than ever. The Bolt lead men’s Jamaican squad may be without teammate Asafa Powell. The U.S. only moved one man to the 100 final. The Trinidadian women could be lurking on the women’s side – they only had one 100 finalist but left two more in the semis. And look for the French to be in play on the men’s side, as quietly they had two 100 meter finalists.

In the long relays I imagine we will see some personnel changes among several squads based on fitness levels. Both Belgium and Grenada had two finalists in that 400 final – more than the U.S., Jamaica or the imageBahamas! And the U.S., Russia, and Jamaica all had three finalists in the women’s 400 final – but uncharacteristically American Sanya Richards Ross and Jamaican Novlene Williams Mills did not look strong while the Russians both came to play!

So there is a lot more action to come in this meet. Hopefully we are past the drama and controversy and can pick up where we left off at the break – with more stirring action. Next up we get that men’s high jump with Jesse Williams (USA) taking on the tough Russian contingent of Ivan Ukhov, Aleksander Shustov, and Aleksey Dmitrik. Misses at low heights in in this competition could be deadly. The women’s 1500 final could be the best of the day. It looks to be a fairly wide open field, but Maryam Jamal (BRN) is twice defending champion and knows how to run in a championship setting. I’ll have my eye on Morgan Uceny (USA) who I think has the best shot at upending the defending champ.

The day will end with both the men’s and women’s 400 hurdle finals. After the semis these are more wide open than they appeared at the opening of the meet as some athletes have emerged while some others are not looking as sharp as expected – putting lane assignments in the wspotlight. In the women’s race, lane draw could make a difference as defending champion Melaine Walker (JAM) drew lane eight, and teammate Kaliese Spencer (an early favorite) drew lane two – both off less than stellar semifinal runs. The best of the semis – Lashinda Demus (USA), Zuzana Hejnova (CZE), Natalya Antyukh (RUS) and Vania Stambolova (BUL) will populate lanes three through six. This is going to be a wild one. Lane draw may also determine the outcome of the men’s race, as early favorites L.J. van Zyl (RSA) and Angelo Taylor (USA) will bookend the field in lanes eight and one respectively. Meanwhile those middle lanes will have Javier Culson (PAN), Cornel Fredericks (RSA), Bershawn Jackson (USA) and David Greene (GBR). This will be very interesting. Take note that Taylor’s first ever global medal was Olympic gold in 2000 – out of lane one! Can he repeat that performance in Daegu?

The best is yet to come in this meet – trust me.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Worlds Day Four – New Stars Crowned

Just as the opening day was clearly the day of the Kenyans, today was the day for new stars of the sport to get crowned! As we saw several new faces take on some old ones and emerge victorious.

The most exciting event of the day was the last event of the day as the men’s 400 meter runners took to the track. Defending champion LaShawn Merritt (USA) lined up in lane four flanked by Jermaine Gonzalez (JAM) inside him and Kirani James (GRN) to his outside. Having run a WL leading 44.35 in the opening round and following it up with another 44.76 in his semi, one had to wonder if Merritt was headed for something special or if perhaps he left a bit on the track too early. From the gun it was clear that James intended to find out as he took off around the bend and down the backstretch with Merritt right behind. In the third 100 Merritt made his move and went by the youngster to emerge off the turn with a lead of a couple of meters. At that point it looked like Merritt was headed for something special, James began his drive heading up the straight. Over the final 50 meters James gained a bit with every step as Merritt’s legs started to look a bit heavy. Then with some 15 meters left Merritt began to uncharacteristically tighten up and James imageedged by right at the line as Merritt struggled to stay up. Behind them Kevin Borlee (BEL) outran Gonzalez down the straight to get the bronze. It was a gutsy win for the young Granadan who at eighteen became the youngest ever 400 champion in this meet. The sport now has a new King James, and one has to wonder just how many more titles he may be able to add over the years.

44.60 – Kirani James (USA)

44.63 – LaShawn Merritt (USA)

44.90 – Kevin Borlee (BEL)


I have the same question for David Rudisha who took the 800 meter title in what amounted to a canter for him, as the field let him have his way. Leading from the gun, Rudisha went right to the front and controlled the pace in an easy 51.33 first lap, as the rest of the field decided to play the wait and kick game against a man they can’t outkick. Former champion Yuriy Borzakovskiy (RUS) tucked in behind Rudisha heading into the bell lap as the rest of the field strung out behind them – jockeying for position down the backstretch. With 200 to go Abubaker Kaki (SUD) began to try to close on the leaders, but Rudisha was beginning to open his stride and methodically pull away. Heading down the fisnish imagestretch Rudisha simply poured it on with Kaki attempting to overtake Borzakovskiy. Rudisha crossed the line several meters clear to become champion with Kaki just edging Borzakovskiy at the line. It’s scary just how easy he made 1:43.91 look, and barring injury or illness I can see several more titles in store for the twenty two year old Kenyan.

1:43.91 – David Rudisha (KEN)

1:44.41 – Abubaker Kaki (SUD)

1:44:49 – Yuriy Borzakovskiy (RUS)


In the women’s pole vault we saw an official changing of the guard as Yelena Isinbayeva (RUS)was unable to mount the podium. With the real vaulting starting at 4.70m/15’ 5” Isinbayeva, Fabiana Murer (BRA)and Svetlana Feofanova (RUS)all passed to the next height. Meanwhile Martina Strutz (GER) made it on first attempt and Jenn Suhr (USA) on second as the fight for medals began. At 4.75m/15’ 6.5” Murer &Feofanova made the bar on their first attempts. Isinbayeva missed on first try and passed to the next height. Strutz made on her second try while Suhr bowed out. At 4.80m/15’ 9” the two Russians bowed out and it was the end of an era for Isinbayeva. Strutz made the height on first attempt to move into the lead as Murer took two tries. At 4.85m/15’ 11” imageMurer cleared the bar on first attempt while Strutz missed, forcing her to pass to the next height to try and win gold. Neither athlete cleared another height as Murer became the first World Champion in what could become the post Isinbayeva era.

4.85m – Fabiana Murer (BRA)

4.80m – Martina Strutz (GER)

4.75m – Svetlana Feofanova (RUS)


We also got a new young champion in the Heptathlon as twenty three year old Tatyana Chernova (RUS) took advantage of a very poor javelin by favorite Jessica Ennis (GBR) – only 666 points – to surge by for the surprise win. Ennis was leading throughout and was having a fine competition. Chernova began to close when she boomed 6.61m/21’ 8.75 “in the long jump to make up 21 points.image Then came the javelin and a huge 246 point swing and Chernova only had to hold off Ennis in the 800.

6880 – Tatyana Chernova (RUS)

6751 – Jessica Ennis (GBR

6572 – Jennifer Oeser (GER)



Tomorrow is essentially a rest day with only the 20K Race Walk on the docket. But semifinals were held earlier in both the men’s and women’s 400 hurdles – the finals of which will be held Thursday. In the men’s semis defending champion Kerron Clement was eliminated running only 52.11 for last in heat two. In heat one Javier Culson (PAN) looked strong as he won in 48.52, leaving Angelo Taylor (US) in third and waiting to qualify on time – which he finally did. The winner of heat two was David Greene (GBR) who also looked very strong. Heat three was won easily by Bershawn Jackson (USA) while runner up L.J.van Zyl, the yearly leader all year long, looks hard pressed to pull this one out on Thursday. This race suddenly looks to be very wide open as early favorites are not looking sharp.

The results were similar in the women’s semis. In heat one Kaliese Spencer (JAM) looked to have heavy legs and finished only third (having to wait to qualify on time) as Vania Stambolova (BUL)looked very strong as she won easily. Heat two saw Natalya Antyuhk (RUS) power away for the win as defending champion Melaine Walker (JAM) looked a bit sluggish. The one early favorite that looked in form was Lashinda Demus (USA) who ran easily to the fastest time of the day with a 53.82. And judging from today’s semis Demus has a shot at upgrading from her previous two silver medals in this meet.

We also had heats in the men’s 1500 and semis of the women’s 1500 earlier today. In the men’s event we (USA) had both Matt Centrowitz and Leo Manzano qualify to the next round. Andrew Wheating, however, looked horrible in his heat running a non-qualifying eighth. He languished well back in the pack for the majority of the race and had none of the “oomph” he showed last year. In the women’s semis most of the primary characters moved on to the final. A major casualty, however, was nancy Langat (KEN) who like Wheating was just never in it. Morgan Uceny (USA) once again showed tremendous race smarts and qualified easily. The other American in the race, Shannon Rowbury, was another that just didn’t seem to have it finishing in twelfth place. The women’s 1500 final will also be held on Thursday.

Tomorrow I’ll take a look back on the first few days of the meet. As well as a look ahead to the final days.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Worlds Day Three – Montsho Derails the Double

On day three of the championships head to head competition finally took center stage. It wasn’t about World Records, as none were in any imminent danger, but rather stirring competition that brought the focus back where it belongs – on the sports’ outstanding athletes!

After a couple of semifinal races (I’ll talk about the men’s 400 in a bit) the first final on the track was the women’s 400 meters. Yesterday’s semis left defending champion Sanya Richards Ross (USA) starting in lane one, and effectively out of contention. Race favorite Allyson Felix (USA) was in lane 3 with Amantle Montsho (BOT) in 4, Francena McCorory (USA) in 5 and Ana Kapachinskaya in 6. At the gun Felix was out quickly down the back stretch and went to the front of the pack. But coming around the second turn Montsho closed and coming off the bend it was Montsho with a slight lead. Felix with her smooth strides came up to Montsho’s shoulder with 50 meters left but could get no further as Montsho held her off. For 50 meters it was Felix trying to get that one step past Montsho and the Botswanan keeping her at bay. With one final surge at the line it appeared that Felix may have gotten the job done, but it was Montsho by a hair gaining Botswana’s first ever gold medal, with Felix taking silver in her first Major competition over 400 – and the double derailed! The rest of the field was never in contention,image as Kapachinskaya and McCorory closed hard and outran the others down the final stretch, the Russian getting to the line for the bronze. Felix now heads to her pet event the deuce looking for a fourth consecutive title.

49.56 – Amantle Montsho (BOT)

49.59 – Allyson Felix (USA)

50.24 – Ana Kapachinskaya (RUS)


There wasn’t much let up in the competition however, as next was the men’s 110 hurdles. Earlier the semis had set the stage as Liu Xiang (CHN) & Dayron Robles (CUB) ran toe to toe in the first semi – Robles leading from the gun, Liu methodically coming back to edge him at the line. In the second semi, Jason Richardson (USA) continued his stellar running once again leaving David Oliver (USA) at the gun to win comfortably. As they lined up for the final, it was Richardson, Oliver, Robles, Liu in lanes 3 through 6 in the middle of the track. At the gun it was Robles out quickly to the first hurdle shadowed by Richardson. Liu hit the gas and around hurdle 4 began to move even with Robles then at hurdle 6 started to go past and it looked like Liu was headed for victory. Then coming to the final two hurdles just as it looked like a win for Liu suddenly he clipped hands with Robles over both the 9th and 10th hurdles actually freezing Liu over the final hurdle as Robles and Richardson surged past to the finish line – Liu holding on for the bronze medal. Or so it appeared. Robles was subsequently disqualified for hitting Liu for the contact as on the second contact it looked like Robles may have held the arm of Liu. In either case, Richardson imagemoved up to gold, Liu to silver, and the bronze to Andy Turner (GBR) who had edged Oliver by thousandths. For the second consecutive World championships we have an unexpected champion!

13.16 – Jason Richardson (USA)

13.27 – Xiang Liu (CHN)

13.44 – Andy Turner (GBR)


The final event on the track was the women’s 100 with as deep a field as I’ve seen since the mid 90’s. The lane draw put Marshevet Myers (USA) & Veronica Campbell Brown (JAM) out in lanes 7 & 8. Defending champion Shelly Ann Fraser (JAM) was in lane 3 with Carmelita Jeter (USA) in 4, Kelly Ann Baptiste (TRI) in 5, and third Jamaican Kerron Stewart in 6. At the gun Fraser blazed away from the blocks, but Jeter was only a step off the pace. Fraser stormed through 50 meters then Jeter pulled even and began to power past and separate over the final 20 meters. Meanwhile to their right Kelly Ann Baptiste and Veronica Campbell Brown were moving up quickly – VCB out in lane 8. As Jeter powered across the line in first, Fraser, Baptiste and Campbell Brown all leaned for the remaining medals. Campbell Brown gaining silver a hair ahead of Baptiste who was another hair ahead of imageFraser Pryce. After two bronze medals, Jeter finally upgraded to gold and suddenly she’s the one chasing a double.

10.90 – Carmelita Jeter (USA)

10.97 – Veronica Campbell Brown (JAM)

19.98 – Kelly Ann Baptiste (TRI)


The day’s excitement wasn’t confined to the track however. In the finals of the women’s shot put Jill Camarena Williams (USA) opened the competition at 19.63m/64’ 5” to set the pace and show she was a contender. In the third round things really got hot as Valerie Adams(NZL) hit 20.04m/65’ 9” to take the lead then boomed 20.72m/67’ 11.75” in the next imageround to take a lead she would never relinquish as she finished up with a huge 21.24m/69’ 8.25” throw in the final round to set a PR and Championship Record – finally taking down Natalya Lisovskaya’s 1987 mark! Behind her Camarena Williams threw a big 20.02m/65’ 8.25” in the third round to move into silver position, until Nadzeya Ostapshuk (BLR) edged her out with a 20.05m/65’ 9.5” toss in round five. It was a great competition.

21.24m – Valerie Adams (NZL)

20.05m – Nadzeya Ostapshuk (BLR)

20.02m – Jill Camarena Williams (USA)


The day ended, literally, with the men’s pole vault which continued after the events on the track were over – and it gave us a few surprises. I was expecting a battle to ensue between Renaud Lavillenie (FRA) and Pawel Wojciechowski (POL) as both entered the meet vaulting well. Lavillenie the man the past couple of seasons, Wojciechowski the upstart this year, but I don’t think Cuban Lazaro Borges was on anyone’s radar. That changed quickly as he cleared a new PR 5.75m/18’ 10.5” after two misses and found himself in the top seven and in medal contention! He had a first time clearance at 5.85m/19’ 2.5” along with Lavillenie & Lukas Michalski (POL) and suddenly he was a serious medal contender as Wojciechowski missed and moved to the next height. At 5.90m/19’ 4.25”image Lavillenie and Michalski went out, Wojciechowski cleared on second attempt, and Borges on third and the medals were set as favored Lavillenie took bronze behind upstarts Wojciechowski and Borges.

5.90m – Pawel Wojciechowski (POL)

5.90m – Lazaro Borges (CUB)

5.85m – Renaud Lavillenie (FRA)


It finished off the best day of competition yet. But things are just heating up. Tomorrow we have finals in the men’s 400 and 800 and both are setting up to be fantastic races. Earlier today during the morning session, they ran the semis of the 400. In heat one LaShawn Merritt (USA) once again looked dominant in running yet another sub 45 – 44.77. Kevin Borlee (BEL) 45.02, tried to give him a race but Merritt was both too strong and too fast down the stretch. Heat two was a similar story with Kirani James (GRN) 45.20 taking control in the final straight and easily running away from the competition. James actually cruised in the final 25 meters or so. In the third semi Jermaine Gonzales (JAM), Jonathan Borlee (BEL) and Rondell Bartholomew (GRN) waged battle down the final straight to finish a close 1,2,3 – 44.99, 45.14, 45.17. If all holds to form watch Merritt explode off the turn tomorrow with a line of contenders behind him down the stretch.

We’ll also get to see if Abubaker Kaki (SUD) can get out ahead of WR holder David Rudisha (KEN) in the final of the 800. Kaki has been employing a hard charging strategy early on lately and we will see if his 1500 strength will be of any help against perhaps the biggest favorite of the meet. Tomorrow is promising to be as exciting as today was!


Tomorrow’s Finals

  • Women’s Pole Vault
  • Men’s Discus
  • Men’s 800
  • Women’s Steeplechase
  • Men’s 400

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Worlds Day Two – Bolt One and Done

One and done, that’s what we fans of the sport call the “new” false start rule. Simply put, it means that if you false start you’re done, thrown out of the race. There’s no “oops”. No do overs. You can’t wobble, flinch or shake. You can’t say you heard a camera click, it was too noisy near the track, or the plane flying overhead distracted you. Your day is done. It’s over. One and done.

Since the inception of this “new” rule two years ago I’ve been saying that it is a disaster waiting to happen. That one day it was going to bite the sport “where the sun don’t shine”. That day is today! Because today Usain Bolt became the most well-known casualty of “one imageand done” when he false started out of the final of the men’s 100 meters! The world record holder. The man who cruised through his qualifying rounds. The favorite to perhaps win yet another sprint double, was somewhere other than on the track as the race he has dominated in the last two Major championships was run without him. Not because he lost during the rounds, but because he had an “oops” moment at the wrong time. And as the gun went off, the sport shot itself in the foot, as its marquee athlete walked off the track defeated by perhaps the dumbest rule in sport!

Sadly I saw it coming, as on day one there were several false starts – just none quite this big. First there were false starts in the decathlon 100, but the rules are different for them – no one and done. Then in the first round of the women’s 400 we lost the defending Olympic champion, Christine Ohuruogo (GBR), but she had a poor season and was low profile, so not much noise was made. But I made note after these occurrences that at some point in this meet something bad was going to happen.

During the morning session we had more false starts in the decathlon 110 hurdles, but they don’t have the same rules – they get a second chance. Then in the heats of the men’s 400 we had another false start and Nigeria’s Abdou Samma was tossed – but he didn’t even have a qualifying time and it was said that someone should have taught him the rules. Then as the afternoon session began another Brit was lost to the rule as in semi one of the men’s 100 Dwain Chambers was tossed out to a false start – he knew the rules – and that sparked a little interest. Then shortly thereafter, in the 3rd semi of the women’s 400 Joanne Cuddihy (IRL) was lost to a false start! Which lead us to the “shot heard round the world” as Usain Bolt became the rules most famous casualty.

Not that’s a LOT of false starts – and it’s only day two of the meet. I doubt if any of them were trying to cheat – because that’s one of the primary reason we’re told that we have the false start rule, to stop the cheaters. The other reason is to speed up the sport – because false starts cost time and TV doesn’t’ have time to waste. Well, I don’t think Usian Bolt was trying to cheat, because he was clearly the dominant athlete out there on the track today. And if it’s about TV, well television LOST its biggest drawing card when Bolt walked off that track!

For as long as I can remember, for as long as there has been modern track and field, the rule was that if you false started you got another chance, and if you false started again you were ejected from the race. And that was fair, fair to the athletes, fair to the fans, and fair to the sport. Because frankly, while yes there were those times when an athlete or two might try to get an advantage out of the blocks, there were infinitely more times when it was noise, nerves, the flinch of someone besides you, a plane overhead, or infinitely more reasons why an athlete might leave the blocks a hair early! And the RIGHT thing to do was to reset the athletes and let them try again. After all, it’s the athletes that EVERYONE came to see.

But somewhere along the line, there were a few too many false starts in a race or two and the meet went a little too long and the sport decided it needed to do something. It started with the NCAA (whenever have THEY had the best rules for anything) who went to one and done. Then for some reason so did the National High School Federation – because we have to nip this cheating thing in the bud early! Then two years ago the IAAF adopted the rule, because you know those sprinters are hurting the sport with their false starts. Ironically I will tell you that there are more false starts in the hurdles than the sprints because it is so much more important to get to that first hurdle, well first! But for two years I, and others, have said it’s a disaster waiting to happen. And today lightning struck Bolt!

I’ve ranted enough, but today was important to the history of the sport I believe. And I hope that this will wake up the rule makers of the sport – and that we go back to what actually worked for a hundred years or more. And that in the future we make rules because they are what’s right for the athletes and the sport, not because we are trying to manipulate something as innocuous as time!

Now the 100 was THE key final on the day. Everything was scheduled to build to this moment. Ironically at the start of the year it was supposed to be a summit meeting of the three fastest men in history – but none were in this final! And as I predicted yesterday the semifinals were brutal. In semi one Chambers was lost to DQ, and Trini Keston Bledman failed to advance. imageSemi two saw recent 9.85 man Richard Thompson (TRI) and Asafa Powell replacement Michael Frater (JAM) eliminated. And semi three saw the end of the road for Justin Gatlin (USA) and NCAA champion Ngoni Makusha (ZIM). A lot of speed was watching this final from the stands. At the gun it was Yohan Blake (JAM) and surprise finalist Kim Collins (SKN) bursting from the blocks. 40 meters out Walter Dix (USA) & Christophe Lemaitre gave chase, and Blake burst from the pack – running away to a clear win! Dix caught and out leaned the flying Collins in the final stages to finish off the day’s events. A bit anti climatic with the loss of Bolt.

The 100 overshadowed everything else on the day. Brit Mo Farah lost a thrilling dual in the 10,000 as he was beaten not by Kenenisa Bekele (ETH) who ended up dropping out of the race, but by unknown Ethiopian Ibrahim Jeilan, as this pair and Imane Merga battled over the final two kilometers of the race. It also overshadowed a rather thrilling decathlon competition as Tre Hardee (USA) became a reapeat champion and teammate Ashton Eaton had to run for his life in the 1500 to take silver by 4 points ahead of Cuba’s Leonel Suarez.

In other field event finals, Brittney Reese (USA defended her long jump title and Yanfeng Li (CHN) won the women’s discus.

In earlier qualifying in  the men’s 110 hurdles all the top men came through unscathed including Dayron Robles (CUB), Liu Xiang (CHN), David Oliver (USA) and Jason Richardson (USA). Third American Aries Merritt also looked very sharp in his opening round.

The men got underway with the 1st round of the 400 meters with early world leader Rondell Bartholomew(GRN) getting back under 45 seconds winning heat one in 44,82 with Reny Quow (TRI) right there in 44.84. Then in heat three defending champion LaShawn Merritt threw down the gauntlet with a sizzling 44.35 that left everyone shaking their heads. Merritt looked like the man that ran 43.75 in Beijing and it’s going to take something special for someone to stop him from defending his title this week.

In the semis of the women’s 400 defending champion Sanya Richards Ross got a scare as she struggled in 3rd place in her semi and only made it through to the final as the last qualifier on time! The other top candidates looked sharp including Allyson Felix (USA)also saw the prime candidates get through as Allyson Felix (USA), Francena McCorory (USA) and Amantle Monstsho (BOT) were all semi winners.

I apologize for the lateness of this post but after getting up at 2:00am to watch it all I had to take a nap! Tomorrow should be exciting with semis and finals in the 110 hurdles, and finals in the women’s 100 & 400.


Tomorrow’s Finals

  • Men’s Hammer
  • Men’s Pole Vault
  • Women’s Shot Put
  • Women’s 400
  • Men’s 110 hurdles
  • Women’s 100

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Worlds Opening Day – All Kenya

The opening day of every major is filled with qualifying rounds, and day one in Daegu was no different with only two finals on the docket. If there’s such a thing as making a statement on opening day however, the Kenyan women did just that in those two finals as they swept the medals in both the marathon and 10,000 meters – and added a non medaling fourth place in the 10K!image

In the marathon the Kenyan’s set the stage for the day, and possibly this championships, as they went to the front early on and worked as a team, methodically burning away the competition. By the latter third of the race they were solidly in control and it was just a matter of what the order would be as they closed out a rare sweep, lead by New York Marathon winner:

  1. 2:28:43 – Edna Kiplagat – KEN
  2. 2:29:00 – Priscah Kiptoo – KEN
  3. 2:29:14 – Sharon Cherop – KEN

How rare is a sweep in the marathon? The last sweep in a championships setting was in the men’s event at the 1994 European Championships when Spain swept the medals!

Ah, but they weren’t done, not with the 10,000 meters still to be run. Once again the Kenyan women went into “team” mode. With Shalane Flanagan taking the early lead with  a slow pace through 3K, the Kenyan’s stayed together then went to the lead around 4K and passed through the half way point in a dawdling 15:47.50. Then they hit the gas, stretching things out with a pack of 8 women. First Sally Kipyego, then defending champ Linet Masai kept the heat up as one by one the pack got smaller until over the final kilometer it was the four Kenyans and Ethiopian Meselech Melkamu, who was imagedesperately trying to break up the Kenyans. But to no avail as they unleashed a withering final 800 to go an astounding 1,2,3,4 in the event with 5,000 favorite Vivian Cheruiyot emerging as champion smoothly running away from everyone:

  1. 30:48.98 – Vivian Cheruiyot – KEN
  2. 30:50.04 – Sally Kipyego – KEN
  3. 30:53.59 – Linet Masai – KEN
  4. 30:56.43 – Priscah Cherono – KEN

Cheruiyot, better known for the 5000, set a PR with her win with 3rd placer Masai setting a season’s best. The last time we saw a 1 through 4 sweep in any event was in the men’s 200 in Helsinki when the U.S. took a “super” sweep. I said before the start of the meet that I would be shocked to see a sweep of any event on the track, now I wonder how many sweeps they just may have as Kenya made both of these finals look much too easy! Early leader Shalane Flanagan (USA) ran a very respectable 31:25.57 for 7th, but looked merely mortal against the Kenyan juggernaut.

As exciting as these finals were the day was about qualifying with opening rounds in the several field event, the women’s 400, and the men’s 400 and day one of the decathlon. In the 400 all the major players made it through to the next round. The one shock being the disqualification of Britain’s Christine Uhuruogu to a false start. The starters held the sprinters a lot on the opening day, and ironically the first person DQ’d was a Korean athlete in the preliminary (run in) round of the men’s 100. I wouldn’t be surprised to see some drama in the starts before this meet is done! Uhuruogu aside (she’s not had a stellar season) everyone of note eased their way through including early favorites defending champion Sanya Richards Ross (USA), Allyson Felix (USA), Anastasia Kapachinskaya (RUS) and Rosemarie Whyte (JAM).

The story was the same in the heats of the men’s 100, where qualifiers headed to tomorrows semi finals. Both full contingents from the U.S. and Jamaica made it through quite easily. Usain Bolt (JAM) lead all qualifiers at 10.10 looking MUCH sharper than he had on the circuit. He nailed his start, had a solid drive and transition, and was blowing away the field by 30 meters. If he executes like that in the semis and finals he will repeat as champion. Also looking good was veteran Kim Collins (SKN) who was in control of his heat from the gun and won easily in 10.13; Christophe Lemaitre (FRA) who started better than usual and ran strongly to win his heat in 10.14; and Yohan Blake (JAM) who showed swift turnover mid race to the tape to finish in 10.12. Best of the Americans appeared to be Walter Dix who looked very relaxed and un-pressed in his 10.25 win. Tomorrow’s semis are going to be BRUTAL!

The final qualifying of note was the first day of the men’s decathlon. Final scores are not yet posted as I write this, but through the first four events things were fairly close with Tre Hardee (USA) leading slightly over Ashton Eaton (USA) and Aleksey Drozdov (RUS). As the day closed with the 400 Eaton blasted a huge 46.99 over Hardee’s 48.37, which should be good for about a 150 point swing. Closing out another big first day for Eaton – his stronger of the two days. The question now is how well he can hold off the competition on day two which is primarily field events. I have a feeling this one is going to come down to the final couple of events.

A great way to open a World Championships. Typically the excitement starts on Day Two with the finals of the 100, but the Kenyans certainly turned that on its head with perhaps the greatest set of opening day performances ever. Two finals, six medals. It doesn’t get better than that! I wonder what else Kenya has in store?

Tomorrow we get the semis and finals in the men’s 100! We will also be treated to another hot 10,000, this time defending champion Kenenisa Bekele going up against this year’s sensation Mo Farah. And speaking of hot events, the women’s long jump is shaping up as a deep event if today’s qualifying is any indication, with half a dozen women looking very good.


Sunday’s Finals

  • Men’s 20K Walk
  • Women’s Long Jump
  • Women’s Discus
  • Men’s 10,000
  • Men’s 100

Friday, August 26, 2011

Daegu – a Final Peak before the Gun

It starts tomorrow – the year’s biggest meet. So what are we looking at as we get ready to name the sport’s champions?

For starters we’ll be missing some big names in the sprints. Injury took out Tyson Gay (USA, 9.79) at the U.S. Trials. Drug bans this summer have taken out Steve Mullings (JAM, 9.80/20.11) and Mike Rodgers (USA, 9.85). The 400 lost Jeremy Wariner to injury this summer. Then on Thursday we got word that Asafa Powell (JAM, 9.78) is withdrawing due to injury. clip_image001There’s still a lot of talent left, however, and with Bolt still not looking in ‘08/’09 form things could be very interesting. The female sprinters, by comparison, have all arrived intact, and we should see some terrific battles. Keep a close eye on the women’s 200, with what should be Veronica Campbell Brown (JAM), Allyson Felix (USA) and new threat Carmelita Jeter (USA).

The middle distance runners have been very quiet this summer. The only thing that is certain is that David Rudisha leads a strong Kenyan contingent of 800 & 1500 meter runners that should pick up the bulk of the hardware being handed out in Daegu. Ditto the long distances where athletes from Kenya and Ethiopia will be out in full force. But keep an eye on non-Africans Mo Farah (GBR) and Bernard Lagat (USA) who should break up any African sweeps. Also keep an eye on Shalane Flanagan who should make the women’s 10,000 interesting as well.

The hurdle races could be among the most competitive events of the meet. All the major players have survived the summer and are in Daegu and ready to rumble. The men’s 110’s have the three fastest men in history – Dayron Robles (CUB, 12.87), Liu Xiang (CHN, 12.88) & David Oliver (USA, 12.89) – and new threat Jason Richardson (USA, 13.08). Also look for something special in the women’s 400 hurdles where the meet record could be under pressure from Kaliese Spencer (JAM, 52.79), Zuzana Hejnova (CZE, 53.29), Lashinda Demus (53.31) and Melaine Walker (JAM, 53.56). I expect this stretch run to be one of the best of the meet!

The field events also lost a couple of stellar names to injury this summer. The triple jump lost world leader Teddy Tamgho (FRA, 17.91m/58’ 9”) while the Decathlon will be without defending Champion Bryan Clay (USA). They were threats to be on the podium and will be missed. But both events will still be competitive and exciting with lots of young talent looking to crash the party lead by Ashton Eaton (USA) in the Decathlon and Christian Taylor (USA) in the triple jump. In the field watch the return of Yelena Isinbayeva in the pole vault after a year off from the sport, and a potential “Summit Meeting’ in the men’s vault between Renaud Lavillenie (FRA) and emerging Pawel Wojciechowski (POL). I also expect close fought battles in the men’s long jump, women’s long jump, and men’s shot put, and for Kibwe Johnson (USA) to join our strongmen in the shot as a throws medalist.

Just a few final thoughts before the starter’s gun fires.

My “Lock of the Meet” is David Rudisha in the men’s 800. The most dominant athlete of 2010 just may be the most dominant of 2011.

My “Upset Special”, look for Will Claye to get on the podium in the long jump.

My “Battle Royale”, tie between the women’s 200 and the men’s 5000 & 110 hurdles.

I won’t be surprised if:

  • Morgan Uceny wins the 1500
  • We see a WR in the 110H
  • Jessica Ennis scores 7000 points
  • The U.S. wins all four relays

I will be shocked if:

  • The winner of the men’s 100 isn’t Jamaican or American
  • There is a sweep in any event on the track
  • We fail to medal in the men’s shot put
  • We fail to improve our medal count from  Berlin

Saturdays Big Events:

  • Finals in the Women's Marathon & 10,000 meters
  • Day One of the Decathlon
  • Opening rounds of the Men’s 800 & 100, and Women’s 400

OK. Nothing left now but for the athletes to file into the stadium and the starter to announce “On Your Mark” ! 

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Six Underdogs I’m Rooting for in Daegu

It’s easy to throw your support behind a favorite. Bandwagons are full of those rooting for athletes like Usain Bolt, Yelena Isinbayeva, David Rudisha, and Allyson Felix. But while I too have favorites that I am pulling for, someone has to give the underdogs some love. So here are six underdogs that I am rooting for. Athletes that don’t always get the respect that I think they should, but that I think are very capable of making a big splash in Daegu.



Morgan Uceny – 1500 meters


I’ve watched the rise of Uceny over the past few seasons and she has become one of my favorite “milers” of all time. Her runs this year have been impressive, not just because she has been winning but for the way she has run. She’s become the most race savvy middle distance runner of all the Americans – and one of the best in the world. The final 800 of her 1500 has become almost surgically precise. As she works her way into position over the third lap, then attacks with purpose in the final stages. She faces tough opposition in the 1500, but she is capable of getting on the podium – even of winning. I’ll be rooting every step of the way.



Christian Taylor – Triple Jump

Decathlon champions are usually given the title of “World’s Greatest Athlete” but if a poll were being taken I would have to cast a vote for Christian Taylor. This young man can do it all. He’s run 45.34 in the 400 and 20.76 in the 200, running them only on rare occasions. He’s split sub 45 in the 4x4 and run the backstretch on a 38.53 4x1 – he’s good enough that he could be used in either event in Daegu if the need arose! All that and he’s a JUMPER! Good enough to be a 26’ 10.5” long jumper and a 58’ 0.25” triple jumper. And it’s the triple jump where he’ll be competing in Daegu. This kid is a competitor – whatever event he’s in he finds a way to be in contention to win. If our national teams were loaded with his kind of competitive heart, we’d be talking about winning 40 medals instead of struggling to get to 25. He’ll be a rookie at Worlds, but I don’t think that will matter to him – somehow, someway he will be near that podium.



Walter Dix – 100 & 200 meters

clip_image004If Rodney Dangerfield ran track he’d be Walter Dix, because Walter gets no respect. Yet, like Christian Taylor, he just always finds a way to get up on that podium. He stayed all four years in college, and was on the podium every year – mostly on top! He qualified for our World team in ‘07 but chose not to go and attended summer school instead. He then made the Olympic team and won double bronze in Beijing. Injury kept him out of Berlin, but he’s been national champion in ‘10 & ‘11. Yet when you talk about who has a shot to win the 100 or 200 in Daegu his name rarely surfaces! In the 100 meter poll I ran last month he didn’t get a single vote – yet even newbies Makusha & Lemaitre got votes! He’s as tough a competitor as Tyson Gay, and with PR’s of 9.88 & 19.69 is among the best in the world. Yet no one says he ever has a chance. Well I think he has a chance – a chance to go home with two more individual medals. And I’m saying so today before that bandwagon starts loading up with people saying, “I knew he could do it”.



Justin Gatlin – 100 meters

Not too long ago, in the middle of the last decade, Gatlin had all the respect in the world. Then there was a positive test in ‘06. That’s all it took to send the Olympic & World Champion away from the sport for four long years. He returns to a sport that has advanced during his absence. He is no longer the defending Olympic and World Champion – that honor belongs to Usain Bolt. The 100 record he once set has long been erased and dropped nearly two tenths of a second – huge in such a short race. And the accolades and respect he once had now belong to others he once dominated – specifically Bolt and Tyson Gay. But Gatlin hasn’t returned crying. He has returned determined to show that he didn’t need anything but hard work to be an elite sprinter. He has returned to make yet another World Championships team – and now is attempting to return to the podium. Whether you believed he doped or not, one has to admire the perseverance of the man. He waited four years to prove himself once again on the big stage and I wish him luck in Daegu.



Shalane Flanagan – 10,000 meters

When you think of distance events you think of Africans, because after all, runners from the continent of Africa have dominated everything above one lap since the 1990’s. Kenya, Ethiopia, Morocco, these nations and others are routinely atop the podium at major interclip_image006national competitions. Occasionally, however, a runner comes along that believes he/she can work hard and compete against those that seemingly are unbeatable. On the women’s side, Paula Radcliff and Gabriella Szabo come to mind – and now Shalane Flanagan. In an event dominated by athletes from Africa (10,000 meters), Shalane sits at #2 on the yearly list – ahead of athletes the stature of Mesert Defar (ETH) and Vivian Cheruiyot (KEN). Flanagan garnered the bronze medal at the Olympic Games in Beijing. In Berlin, however, she was only 14th. Flanagan is once again among the truly elite, and I am rooting for her to return to the podium – possibly with an upgrade!



Kara Patterson – Javelin

Patterson had a great year last year. She set a new AR in the Javelin at 218’ 8.75” (66.67m); was routinely over 60 meters; and was often in the top 3 in DL meets (including a win at Pre). This year has been different, as this year she has only had one meet over 60 meters and her highest finish in a major meet was her 5th in London. But I’m happy with that 5th in London, because it was the last meet before Worlds and Kara said at the end of last year that she peaked too early; that she was tired late season; and that she was going to time this year to peak in Daegu! And I believe her. I believe that she knows what she’s doing and that we will see her best in Daegu. I also thing that her best means a potential top three finish at Worlds. So I’m rooting for one of the few female field event stars that we have.



U.S. Men’s 4x1 Squad

clip_image008I know this makes seven, but it’s not an individual either. I’m rooting for them, however, and put them on this list, because like the others listed above, they are underdogs. It’s not easy for an American relay team to be considered an underdog, but this one is. After all, the men’s 4x1 hasn’t completed a final in a global Major since 2007 – which was a gold medal by the way. In some ways that team was very similar to this one. Defending World Champion Justin Gatlin had been suspended the year before, so we were without his services. Trials #2 & #3 in the 100 chose not to go to Osaka – Trindon Holliday to pursue professional football; Walter Dix to go to summer school. Then 4th place finisher Mark Jelks got injured prior to Osaka. Forward to this year and once again we’ve lost our top sprinter from the previous year (Tyson Gay), this time to injury. And we’ve lost Trials 3rd placer Mike Rodgers to a suspension. So here we are once again trying to put the pieces together heading into a Major. But you know, things turned out pretty good last time. Using out best available 200 man (Wallace Spearmon) and 6th place from the Trials 100 (Leroy Dixon) we out passed and outran the Bolt/Powell Jamaican squad to win the gold medal in Osaka. Proving just why it’s called a relay and the members are called a team. This time around it looks like we are once again using the best available 200 man (Darvis Patton), and throwing in a wrinkle with the man who should’ve been on the squad in Daegu save for suspension (Justin Gatlin)! And I’m rooting for them to once again out pass and outrun the rest of the world – including the tandem of Bolt/Powell – and show just why it’s called a relay and they are called a team. So Trell Kimmons, Justin Gatlin, Darvis Patton and Walter Dix go get ‘er done! Cause no one thinks you can – well I do.

Final U.S. Medal Predictions

It’s here. Two days until the start of the World Championships. – which means it’s time to make my final predictions for U. S. medal hopes in Daegu.

On the one hand, this list looks very good, as it contains a potential of 31 medals – one more than the stated goal of 30 for London.  At second glance, however, this medal count is highly dependent on multiple medals in several events – specifically the sprints and hurdles. If we fall to just one medal per multiple medal events, we’re looking at 25 medals – a much more realistic expectation. Then there is always the specter of injuries, fatigue, and underperformance – and dare I say, bobbled batons. 

That said however, I believe in every name that is on this list – 30 medals IS possible, but athletes have to bring their “A” Games.

U.S Medal Prediction List for Daegu

Walter Dix
Justin Gatlin
Carmelita Jeter
Marshevet Myers
Walter Dix
Carmelita Jeter
Allyson Felix
LaShawn Merritt
Allyson Felix
Sanya Richards Ross
Morgan Uceny
Bernard Lagat
Shalane Flanagan
Jason Richardson
110 Hurdles
Danielle Carruthers
100 Hurdles
Dawn Harper
100 Hurdles
Angelo Taylor
400 Hurdles
Bershawn Jackson
400 Hurdles
Lashinda Demus
400 Hurdles
Kimmons – Gatlin – Patton – Dix
Men’s 4x1 Relay
Barber – Felix – Myers – Jeter
Women’s 4x1 Relay
McQuay – Taylor – Berry – Merritt
Men’s 4x4 Relay
McCorory – Felix – Demus – Richards
Women’s 4x4 Relay
Brittney Reese
Long Jump
Christian Taylor
Triple Jump
Jesse Williams
High Jump
Jenn Suhr
Pole Vault
Kibwe Johnson
Christian Cantwell
Shot Put
Reece Hoffa
Shot Put
Tre Hardee