D.A.M.N.! If today’s meet in Doha was the”opening act” of the Olympic year, I can hardly wait for the denouement in London – it’s going to bring down the house! Today’s events were Olympic in quality across the board and began to fuel plot lines that will only be answered by a gathering of all the world’s best into one stadium. As several athletes were clearly looking to send/answer statements to and from their peers.
Take the sprints for example. Last week Usain Bolt’s 9.82 in Kingston let the world know he was up to the challenge of defending his Olympic title. Mid week Yohan Blake said, not without a fight, with a 9.84 of his own. In Doha two “veterans” signaled that they two “want in” as Justin Gatlin (9.87) ran down and out leaned Asafa Powell (9.88) in a race that was nearly a mirror image of their 2005 Prefontaine showdown. They were the fastest openers ever for both athletes – Powell did run 9.84 in May in ’05, but opened the season at 10.08w. Their times give us four men in the 9.8′s for the first time ever in May with legal wind – and Dix just missed making it five with his 9.85 (2.4) at Mt SAC! Oh, and that’s without Tyson Gay. Suddenly we’re looking at what may be the fastest / deepest group of sprinters in recorded history – and dare I say weather permitting London could surpass Berlin’s screaming final. By the way, after today Gatlin is officially back folks!
Yet that was only one of many statement races in Doha. You want a statement, how about Allyson Felix defeating Veronica Campbell Brown – in the 100! That’s not a misprint. The two 200 meter rivals met on the 100 with Felix (10.92) talking the measure of VCB – and Shelly Ann Fraser, and Kerron Stewart, and Sherone Simpson! Can I get a D.A.M.N.? I said after Penn that Felix looked speed sharp in that 4×1 and might want to consider a 100/200 double instead of the 2/4 that seemed to wipe her out last year. After today I’d almost bet that that’s the plan. Felix’ start is still nothing to write home about, but if she keeps showing this kind of speed she’ll run under 22 in the deuce – and at the end of the day that’s what she really wants!
Speaking of wants, fast races, and statement wins; LaShawn Merritt’s stretch run on his way to a 44.19 was faster than all but only two other active quarter milers have run – Jeremy Wariner (43.45) and Angelo Taylor (44.05). Taylor was 3rd today in 44.97, well back of Merritt. Wariner’s best this season is 44.96 in a losing effort to Martyn Rooney who tan 44.99 for 4th here. Bottom line, Merritt ran well clear of the field literally and figuratively today and anyone wanting to beat him – Kirani James – will have to run a serious PR to do so. James clocked a 43.9 anchor on the 4×4 at Penn. He now must do that from the blocks. Stat of the week: we haven’t had two men run under 44.00 in the same race since Osaka ’07 – Wariner 43.45, Merritt 43.96. Will it happen in London?
Now those were individual statements. There was also a national statement being made in Doha – a statement add perhaps the most powerful nation on the track. No not the United States or Jamaica. I’m talking about Kenya. Rudisha, 1:43.10 and he never left 3rd gear! Pamela Jelimo, forgotten about for 3 years, and passed on the backstretch in Doha, powering down the stretch for a 1:56.94 storming victory that said,”how ya like me now”! Silas Kiplagat (3:29.63) over countryman Asbel Kiprop (3:29.78) as they turned the 1500 meters into a sprint – and the rest of the world onto spectators. Because unless someone else can seriously step up London is a two man race!
Paul Koech (7:56.58) and Richard Mateelong (7:56.81) repeated the Kenyan trend, turning the steeple into another sprint and everyone else into spectators with front row seats. And if that wasn’t enough there were two statement 3000′s. The most exciting being the women’s race as Vivian Cheruiyot (8:46.44) and Meseret Defar (8:46.49) thought they dropped all the easy down to the quarter as they went toe to toe a la VCB and Felix earlier in the meet – there was as much sprinting over 400 meters in Doha as there was under! There is no love lost between the Kenyans and Ethiopians and you can bet that both will relive this race several times before London. This battle is far from over. The men’s race will have impact in London as well. It’s not often that Ethiopia’s Kenenisa Bekele is beaten into 7th place. But that’s exactly where he finished in Doha as Augustine Choge (7:30.42) and Eliud Kipchoge (7:31.44) led a Kenyan assault as they took five of the first seven positions! Today Kenya served notice that it may win every event on the track above 400 meters! in London, and THAT would be a stunning achievement – especially if they’re able to throw in a sweep or two, which isn’t inconceivable.
Like I said to start this off – D.A.M.N.! And I have yet to cover the field. How about Piotr Malachowski (POL) tossing the discus 67.53m/221′ 6.5″. Or Maria Abakumova (RUS) winning the javelin at 66.86m/219′ 4.26″. Both easily in medal territory. But today the track reigned supreme, as Doha proved to be everything that the Diamond League was supposed to be – and then some. Full results can be found here. Next stop is Shanghai in a week. Let’s hope it keeps up the pace.