The double meet weekend that started Thursday in Lausanne, ended early today in Birmingham – and just as it was in Lausanne, speed was on display in Britain. In a meet with several Olympians in attendance the highlight of the day was turned in by Aries Merritt who is on an unbelievable streak of hurdling consistency.
Merritt started the weekend by getting DQ’d in Lausanne for a false start. Actually for a flinch – and personally I’d like to see starters take more control in these sorts of situations. The final word on false starts comes down to the human in charge, and when machines detect something the eye can’t see then clearly we simply need a reset! That said, no reset was needed in Britain as Merritt was a hair slow off the mark, but fast thereafter battling Jason Richardson to the line 12.95 to 12.98.
This was Merritt’s 6th legal sub13 (8th including windy races)! Incredibly all 6 have been in a row (all 7), as the last time Merritt ran a final that wasn’t under 13.00 was on May 19th when he ran 13.26 in Shanghai. Since then he’s run 12.96 (2.4) at Pre, DQ in New York, 12.93 (1.2) at Trials, 12.93 (0.6) at Aviva London, 12.93 (0.0) Monaco, 12.94 (0.1) Oly semi, 12.92 (-0.3) Oly final, DQ Lausanne, and 12.95 (-0.9)! Only Dayron Robles, with 7, has had more sub 13’s in a season, and no one has run as many consecutively as Merritt – and one can only imagine what he would have without the 2 DQ’s. Bolt, Rudisha, Blake and others have garnered the majority of headlines, but no one is having the season that Merritt is having. He’s competed more often and at a consistently high level throughout. Props to Aries Merritt.
By the way, Richardson has been strong competition for Merritt all season with three 12.98’s of his own this season – two previously at Trials. He also had another four clockings between 13.04 & 13.08, as he too is having an outstanding season – he just continues to race against Merritt. I must say however, that this is what the sport should be about – the best competing against each other regularly and bringing out the best in each other. There’s no shame on a loss when you’re leaving for the line and performing at a high level. Someone please send the memo to the male sprinters!
The female sprinters already got the memo and they’ve been going at it all season. Thursday Olympic champ Shelly Ann Fraser Pryce (SAFP) and World champ Carmelita Jeter went toe to toe in Lausanne finishing in a near dead heat with both at 10.86 – Jeter microscopically ahead. Today in Birmingham they went at it again, except this time SAFP didn’t nail that blitzkrieg start. She got a good one, but a "good" start isn’t enough to get away from Jeter as she reeled SAFP in early and won by daylight 10.81 to 10.90. Great theater, the kind of competition that builds sport. The more events we get with this type head to heads, the better off this sport will be. With some luck we’ll see them again this week in Zurich. Yes you rack up wins AND losses, but you gain more in respect from the fans (at least this one) when you’re competing than when you’re not. Fans want to SEE you, and all they want on any given day is your best. Frankly, when you lose and come back to even the score it’s more meaningful than running and winning big ONCE a year!
For example, that’s one of the things that made the high jump so exciting in Birmingham. In Lausanne both Ivan Ukhov and Robbie Grabarz cleared 2.37m behind the huge 2.39m for Barshim Moutaz. Today in Birmingham, Moutaz was only able to clear 2.24m for 4th, while Ukhov went over 2.28m (2nd) and Grabarz negotiated 2.32m in front of the "home" crowd. Another great competition, and being forged in the fire of competition I believe we’re seeing the emergence of Grabarz as a force in the event – another benefit to frequent high level competition!
Similarly we saw what a lack of competition does in the men’s 200 as Tyson Gay took on his first deuce in two years. Gay blitzed the turn and led into the straight, but began to tire and tighten as the line approached – opening the door for Nickel Ashmeade to take him in the final meters 20.12 to 20.21. It was a reminder that a) Tyson hasn’t run the event in two years (practice makes perfect); b) he did have hip surgery last year and was actually originally doubtful for the Trials in June; and c) he’s only been training for some 50 days. Hopefully we see more of Tyson in 2013 as opposed to the limited seasons we’ve seen from "star" athletes in recent seasons.
As expected, the competition in Birmingham was exciting – though some marks were not as “good” as one would expect this time of year. Angelo Taylor won the 400 in a seasons best 44.93 to erase a bit of the sting from London. Mariya Savinova took control of the 800 early, then blasted a 28.6 final 200 to run away from Pamela Jelimo. And Mo Farah laid waste to the two mile field as they once again let the pace dawdle then watched Farah run away and hide over the final two laps. I’m sorry, but even if the other runners haven’t gotten the memo yet, it’s plastered on billboards all over Britain that Farah is possibly the best kicker in the distance world right now! So why they keep handing him these races on a silver platter is beyond me?
The full results for Birmingham can be found here. Thursday brings Zurich and the first half of the Diamond League finals with three second half in Brussels the following week. While we’re waiting I’m going to take a look at the hurdle events and where they’re headed.