The early spring was very quiet this year as many top level athletes extended their "base" training well past April. While it made for a relatively quiet early track season, we’re reaping the benefits now though as we get another meet that promises some hot competition with things shifting to Ostrava this Friday. While Ostrava is not the “Diamond League”, many athletes are now trying to get sharp ahead of their Olympic Trial meets – and that means many of the next several meets should be loaded with top level athletes.
Ostrava is going to give us another look at Usain Bolt (JAM) in the100 meters, this time facing off against Darvis Patton (USA), Dwain Chambers (GBR), and Kim Collins (SKN). Admirable competition, but all would have to PR to equal Bolt’s 9.82 opener. And with Bolt saying earlier that he’s looking for a 9.7x in Ostrava, what we really have here is a time trial, and then a secondary race – I say he goes .78/.79. Nice for the folk in the Czech Republic to get a chance to see Bolt compete, but once again it would be nice to see him up against suitable competition.
Now to get the competitive juices flowing, we get one of our first previews of the US Trials as Wallace Spearmon (US) and Walter Dix (US) square off in the 200 meters. Spearmon has a 19.95 to his credit run almost a month ago now, while Dix opened up in this event last week with a 20.02. With Tyson Gay already saying he’s not running the deuce at the Trials, Spearmon and Dix are easily the top two men in this discipline heading into Eugene. This race should begin to set the sprint table for the Trials – and the stretch run should be very interesting. I think we need to something close to 19.75/19/80 if they are going to be competitive in London.
Speaking of stretch runs, there should be very interesting ones in both the men’s and women’s 400 meters. On the men’s side we get another look at LaShawn Merritt who blew it out big time in Doha with his 44.19 – making everyone else look like they were running in boots up the stretch. Here he will face Doha runner up Luguelin Santos (DOM) who looked like one of the season’s early finds with his 44.88 behind Merritt in Doha. They’ll face another up and comer in Nery Brenes (CRC) who stole the indoor title away from Kirani James in Instanbul. I expect Merritt to once again handle the field – and maybe even get close to 44.00 – but the race among Brenes, Santos and the rest of the field could begin to give a peak at who the finalists outside of the US may be in London.
On the women’s side Sanya Richards Ross (US) will get to test herself after her recent loss to current WL Novlene Williams Mills (JAM). This time against Christine Ohuruogu (GBR) who is also known for her strong finishing kick. Richrds Ross went out too fast in Kingston and had to succumb to Williams Mills finish down the straight. We’ll see if she has adjusted her race plan, or gotten stronger, as Ohuruogu is running well for this time of year – she usually doesn’t show up until July or Majors time. Sanya needs this one to get her mojo back, because she was looking nearly unbeatable early on. As a matter of fact, I dare say she needs to get under 50 here.
Staying with the one lapper, let’s throw in some hurdles and the trio of Lashinda Demus (US), Vania Stambolova (BUL) and Zuzana Hejnova (CZE). Demus is the World Champion and #3 all time. Stambolova just ran a WL 54.04 a few days ago in a place called Izmir. Hejnova gets to open her season at home against this pair. Iit will also be Demus’ opening race, so all three will have lots of incentive – Demus and Hejnova to run well in their openers; Stambolova to stay ahead of both. This could be one of the more entertaining races of the meet!
Moving up another lap in distance we should be treated to a pair of very good 800 meter races. Especially on the women’s side where Pamela Jelimo (KEN), and Caster Semenya (RSA) are set to square off. Semenya ran 1:59.58 in Pretoria in April, but Jelimo looks to be back in stride as she screamed 1:56.94 in Doha! At her best Jelimo is one of the best of all time – and she’s looking like she’s approaching that form – so Semenya can’t play this wait and kick and not look too strong game against Jelimo. This race will tell a lot about where both runners are this year – and I wouldn’t be surprised to see the winner come away with a 1:57.
Of course all the hot action won’t be confined to the track, as the field will have it’s share of matchups. The deepest being in the women’s javelin where AR holder Kara Paterson gets to test herself against the events last two WR setters Maria Abakumova (RUS) and Barboa Spotakova (CZE). Spotakova is the reigning Olympic champion, but Abakumova defeated her for the gold on Daegu, and again in the Diamond League opener in Doha. They sit at 1 & 2 on the yearly list and there is no love lost when these two compete add theirs is one of the top rivalries in the sport!
Similarly, we get a hammer matchup between reigning Olympic champion and current WR holder Betty Heidler (GER) against former WR holder (still #2 all time) Anita Wlodarczyk (POL) – gold medalist in Berlin. Perhaps a preview of coming attractions in London.
Ostrava will also give us Veronica Campbell Brown (JAM) in the deuce; Renaud Lavillenie (FRA) in the pole vault; and Andreas Thorkildsen (NOR) in the javelin. AND there will be a 4×1 relay – every meet should have a 4×1 relay! Ostrava is annually one of the top meets on Europe and this one promises to be of "Diamond" quality. This should be a good one, and I can hardly wait to wear how it turns out.